Monday, September 27, 2010

School Frustration

Let me just say that I am about to rant about school but I feel a little guilty doing so because I know I live in a state with some of the best special education services. I know people in other states and countries might willingly give their left arm for these programs.

I feel very frustrated with Sam's school at the moment. When I feel this way I am never completely sure whether I am angry with the school or frustrated that Sam can't seem to progress - Whose "fault" is it? Is he more capable? Is the school good enough?

The seeds of my frustration were planted early. Right when Sam started school he developed an obsessive need to throw. At first it was food and small objects and he woudl just toss them again and again and again. . .Sam's program provides 12 hours a year of behavioral consultation. I had the behaviorist come and evaluate. Her first suggestion was to ignore the behavior (which RARELY works with Sam) and then to make him "pick up" every time he threw. He just incorporated the pick up into the stim. The behavior became a problem at school as well so they "took data" and developed a behavior plan for use in the classroom. That sounds great right? It took over 4 months for the behavior plan to be developed.

This seems to be a problem with the school. They take a "wait and see" approach to behavior problems at first, then they have to take data, then they have to consult with their outside group to develop the behavior plan, then implement. It takes FOREVER. With a kid like Sam this is not appropriate. Behaviors are very addictive to him and the longer they are allowed to brew, the worse they get.

Once a behavior plan is developed, I have to look it over and sign off. I sometimes have a good laugh. For example, a behavior plan was developed for Sam's vocal stims which are socially stigmatizing and very distracting for him. The first step in the plan was to tell Sam "shh" when he inappropriately vocalized. THe second step was to lightly touch his lips with a finger and say "shh". Seriously. This is what someone was paid to come up with. I signed off and added a note in which I told them the plan was not strong enough and wouldn't work. SUrprise - it didn't work and was discontinued. No plan was developed in its place.

Right at the start of school this fall, I requested a consultation with the behaviorist to discuss Sam's sleep problems. We were dealing with the chemical end with the neurologist but I knew there must be a behavioral component as well. The behaviorist confirmed that she got the request . . . . and that is it. There is no appointment scheduled or anything. It has been nearly a month. I understand that everyone is busy at the start of school. WIth all the budget issues, this person is being pulled in many directions, I am sure. But this is not some small issue. Sam's lack of sleep was affecting his mood, his behavior and his family. How can you let a family go this long without even a phone call? I went ahead and tackled it as best I could but I would have felt better with some expert guidance.

I am also frustrated because Sam didn't make much progress at all last year. His progress reports were terrible. His teacher was lovely but far less experienced than the one he had the year before. Sam liked her very much but he got away with too much. For example, in Sam first year at school, with the strong teacher,(age 3-4) he began using an open cup in the classroom, he transitioned from a Riftin (sp?) to a regular chair, his need for edibles was reduced and he worked for other things. His second year, last year, he went back to the Riftin, went back the sippy cup and not only went back to pretty much all edibles but he began working for lollipops. This is the teacher he is with again this year and I am not happy about it. SHe is lovely and sweet but he is a nudge and he needs some one stronger.

I try to keep telling myself that the problem might be Sam and not the teacher. If I have trouble with him, I can't expect he will work perfectly for her. But really. Really?

I called my case manager last week because there is another public school program for Autism and they have much more experience. I KNOW from my various sources that some autistic kids in town have transferred there due to concerns with my son's school. I want to visit the program and see if it seems more "appropriate" (have to watch how you say things to the child study team!). I just told the case manager that I had some concerns I wanted to bounce off her. She said she would call me a work at 2:30 today. My cell phone was nearly dead so I called her ahead of time to set up an alternate number. She was out for the day. I am sure there is a good reason. She was probably ill but I bet she properly cancelled her other appointments. I cleared that time slot during my extra help schedule to talk to her and I am booked the rest of the week. I guess I will have to call her on every prep period until I get through. grrrrrr.

Plus, I am getting fat.

1 comment:

Stranded said...

Limit setting is a tough job and not everyone wants to put in the hard work, becuase 1) its hard to deal with the storm that comes, you need a lot of nerves 2) he is still a kid and watching him suffer is hard.

But you know when they are having the same meltdowns at 13 it gets harder and its not sad anymore, just really annoying or sometimes dangerous.

(I am better at limit setting than my husband and consequently Khaled is better with me than with him, he tries harder. But where I am always about getting some results, my husband is better at letting things slide and being more creative, so it depends on the kid and your goals at that moment - if you are tryign to elminate a behavior, you have to be strong and if your goal is something else then you can be casual).

I dont know what its like for him at school, but go with your instincts, because you know him better and you've seen the other (tougher) approach show progress right?