we believe in him

we believe in himBefore we began this year, we didn’t even know which grade our son would go into. The school didn’t believe our son could manage 2nd grade material or even sitting in a classroom like other children, so they wanted to hold him back. I fought it with every fiber of my being because I knew he could do more. It took much persuasion to get them to agree to put him in the grade he belonged in, but he’s there. And yes, we had a rocky start, but not nearly as rocky as one might have predicted. But, it’s turning around and I’m glad that we believed in him and we believe in him still.

The past week, we’ve seen Squeaker go from having lots of frowns on his behavior chart to getting more and more smiles. We had reports in the beginning of him refusing to work and sleeping in class. Since we’ve been working with his teacher, coordinating with his doctor, and reinforcing things at home, he’s gotten more cooperative. Even at home, we’re not seeing nearly as much resistance on the homework front. This past week, he’s had so many ice cream sandwiches for good behavior, and he’s loving it!

And then today, he brought home this:

behavior chart believing the best

Yes, that’s right. He’s got smiles all the way down his chart. And I see he fell asleep at the end of the day, but he made it through the bulk of the day first. He made it through both maths, reader’s workshop, reading, writing, fundations (another reading program), and his elective classes, before finally zonking out. When I dropped him off this morning, he didn’t want to get out of the car because he wanted to sleep more. He had fallen asleep on the long drive to the daycare, so I wondered about his day, but I told him to make sure he had a good day so he didn’t lose his reward. He followed through.

This demonstrates a huge amount of growth on his part. Growth that no one, aside from his parents, thought he could show. When I went to a parent information meeting last night, I spoke to his special education teacher. She said she feels like they’re starting to make some real progress with them. I told her that he can do so much more than he shows and that I really meant what I said when we had all those meetings before school started. When he says “I don’t know,” it doesn’t mean “I don’t know.” It just means “I don’t feel like talking to you.” He has to have someone to push him. She says she’s starting to see that, and I’m glad to hear that. He needs someone there in his corner that will cheer for him, encourage him, and tell him that he can do more.

I want my son to grow, learn, and know the value of hard work. I want him to realize his potential. He hears every day that we’re proud of how much he’s grown up. Every day that he does something else that he’s never done before, we cheer for him. He beams with pride and sits a little higher in his seat. It makes him want to do it again.  It’s all because we believe in him. We believe and he knows, so he does. Imagine what he will conquer next.

immediate rewardsOddly enough, we’re already in the fourth week of school here. The adjustment process for Squeaker, though not terrible, has been a slow one. The school works with him on his schedule, but, admittedly, as I continue to see him putting his head down or refusing to work or making noises, on those days that they work around him, I wish for more from him and wonder about his productivity in the long haul. We take away favored items on the bad days, and he earns things on the good days, and we know that immediate rewards will drive him much faster than consequences, if only we can get him to earn the rewards.

On Friday, we finally saw a behavior chart worthy of rewarding. He had almost all smiles on this one, with only for frowny faces. So, maybe had a difficult transition during a nonacademic time and yelled three times and chose not to participate during an elective, but in the academic classes, he completed work. He even did six problems independently during math class, and the major struggle the past few weeks has included getting Squeaker to work independently. What a good day! So, The Manager bought some Klondike Bar Ice Cream Sandwiches and we rewarded him after dinner that night, making a big fuss about how well he did that day. We made sure to let him know we had no problem rewarding him any time he had days as good as that one or even better than that. behavior chart

When we left for school this morning, I reminded him of our special treat from Friday. I got really worried, honestly, because when I dropped him off, he had that sleepy look about him. Usually, the sleepy look leads to him trying to sleep in class and a refusal to do work. Before I left him at the daycare, I had a private little powwow with him and told him he had to stay awake at school because trying to sleep prevent him from getting smiles, and we wanted to make sure to reward him today. He had to do good work to get his ice cream treat.

It felt great to pick him up this afternoon and have him tell me he had a good day at school. I looked in his backpack and saw a bunch of smiles on his sheet with only two frowns. He got another ice cream sandwich tonight after dinner, much to his delight!behavior chart

This feels something like progress. Like maybe we’re doing something right here. It speaks to the need for immediate rewards when trying to manage behaviors in children with impulse control problems. Charting, like his teachers do for him, also helps him to track his own progress and it gives him a visual to see how he really did throughout the day. He gets two things out of this system: immediate feedback from the charts and immediate rewards when he maintains positive behaviors.

Now, Squeaker also thrives on praise, so I could probably praise him all day long for all the smiles and get good results, but it definitely helps to give extrinsic rewards. On the bad days, knowing he has consequences outside of school also does a lot of good because he knows he can’t get away with doing whatever he wants to do and still get to play his tablet. However, I caution against just using consequences to get a point across. I can’t tell you how many parents say, “Well, I’ve taken everything away and Johnny still won’t listen!” By the time you’ve taken everything away, your child has nothing else to work for. Give Johnny something to work for, even if it’s something simple, and see if that helps.

I’m just thankful that we’ve gotten two good days out of Squeaker so far. I told him today that if we got a day of all smiles out of him, I might just give him two ice cream sandwiches, I’d be so happy. Maybe that’s a bit excessive, but seeing him do well means a whole lot to us and I can at least say that getting him to complete homework has become less and less of a battle each day. We’re really getting the hang of this new routine.

We may need to buy Klondike bars by the case.

my secrets

I’m taking a page out of Mary Lambert’s book and revealing all of my secrets in my version of Secrets.

I’ve got anxiety disorder
I like things in order
I overstate
Hate being late
I’ve got too much stuff on my plate

I got bad genes
Sad dreams
Way too sensitive feelings

My thyroid isn’t functional
Something that I get from my mother

They tell us from the time we’re young
To hide the things that we don’t like about ourselves
Inside ourselves
Mary’s not the only one who spent so long
Attemping to be someone else
And I’m over it

I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are,
secrets are
I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are,
secrets are
So what
So what
So what
So what

My brain’s dead
I can’t sleep
Sometimes I cry
A whole week
I care too much
And I never give up
And never know when to budge

I have major depression
I’m afraid of judgment and oppression
I hate my butt and hate my gut
And I wish I never grew up

They tell us from the time we’re young
To hide the things that we don’t like about ourselves
Inside ourselves
Mary’s not the only one who spent so long
Attemping to be someone else
And I’m over it

I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are,
secrets are
I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are,
secrets are
So what
So what
So what
So what

my secrets

What are your secrets?

social growth

The more I work with children with disabilities, the more I recognize the need to see them as regular kids with different abilities. They have goals and dreams just like their peers. They want us to treat them the same as anyone else. When they don’t get to do what their peers do, they feel left out.  Why? First, because they know the situation is unfair. Second, because they need that social growth opportunity.

social growth

For the past two days, I’ve heard one of my students lament about the school dance. At thirteen years old, she just wants to attend a social function like any other middle school student. She tells me about her younger sister going to dances and she doesn’t understand why her mom won’t allow her to stay for the dance. Her little sister gets to go to dances. Why can’t she? It is because she has a disability? Her parents feel terror at the thought of something happening to her at a social function because she has a disability?

Even she knows what’s fair and what isn’t. If we wish for our children  to grow and mature in today’s world, they must learn to function in all sorts of settings. Maybe that means a school dance, even if we’re terrified. We must have goals for our kids. Goals beyond academic development. Children need to grow socially, emotionally, and academically.

What can we do?

  • Sign them up for clubs that they wish to join
  • Let them try out for regular sports teams if they show an interest
  • Put them in band if they like to play musical instruments
  • Allow them to participate in Church Youth Groups
  • Take them to social functions, like birthday parties
  • Allow them to go to school functions as appropriate (for age), like games and dances

Worried about safety or supervision? Volunteer to help chaperon at school dances or volunteer to help set up at games. This way, you feel secure knowing that you can watch over your child, but your won’t do it in a way that feels intrusive.

After all, you want your child to grow up with good communication skills, social growth, and the ability to navigate a variety of social situations, right? Likely, I will require reminders when my child gets this age, but middle school can be a jungle. If ever there were an opportunity for growth and learning in the area of navigating social situations, middle school provides it.

What goals do you want to achieve with your child?

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I don’t have time. That’s my mantra lately when it comes to anything me-related. I don’t have time for me. This blog entry? I honestly don’t have time for it.

time for me

I have an IEP meeting tomorrow during my one planning period and I didn’t know about it until moments before I stepped out of the door to go home today after helping a kid after school. I lost my planning today because I sacrificed it to help out with another student who needed me.  And that’s okay. Sort of. I mean, if someone needs me, I’ll do what I need to do for them. Some of the best parts of my day include rescue missions. I just wish I knew how to make up for that time.

Meanwhile, I come home, I work on homework with my son, who hates working on homework, do what I have to do for the kids, and then I should get the work done that I didn’t have a chance to do at work. By the time everything gets done, I’m up later than doctors recommend and I’m exhausted the next day. I don’t have time to sleep.

The weight loss program I’m on suggests that I exercise for 30 minutes at least 5 days per week. Perhaps I should get up early to fit in that exercise. I get up at 5:10 every morning. Shall I get up at 4:30? I’m on my feet all day at work. I barely eat all day. I come home, I hardly have energy to move, and I make myself eat dinner. I should go for a walk after dinner. That’s when I should fit it in. Then again, Squeaker has homework he must get done. When we do fit that in? I’ve stayed at work until 5:00-5:30 by this point. The minutes in the day speed by, and I find the time for exercise doesn’t exist.

I should do the things that I enjoy so that I can relax. I’m no good to anyway if I’m stressed out. This suggestion coupled with the suggestion that I not bring work home makes me wonder if people really have any real perception of what I’m going through. For instance, I literally just had a meeting scheduled for me  for tomorrow. The paperwork doesn’t just do itself. Lesson plans don’t magically appear on my desk. “Winging it” never works out very well. With all that’s going on right now, I’m forced to bring home work, which leaves me with little time to enjoy the things that I want to enjoy.

At work, I’ll tell people not to worry about me. I’ll tell them it’ll work out. I’m okay, I say. I just need a little sleep. No worries. I’m not going to spend extra time complaining about something no one can do anything about. What’s the point? This has just become my life. Which, in the end, kind of makes me feel all the more hopeless. Like I’m stuck in the endless loop of fatigue and thinly veiled depression. When I don’t have time for me, I get lost and I don’t even know who I am anymore. I sure wish I had time to figure it out.