Is Writing Difficult for Your Child?

The question of the day: is writing difficult for your child? And by difficult, I don’t just mean the content, thinking up the words. Is the actual physical act of writing difficult for your child as well?

When August was in second grade, I finally was able to get him an IEP. I’d been asking since the day he walked into the building. I knew he was going to need extra help. First of all, he wasn’t first language English so he was behind the curve right there. Second, after preschool and what I’d been seeing from working with him at home, I knew he was behind. Our IEP meeting included an occupational therapist and the decision was made to have her evaluate him. That was a God-send.

Her conclusion was that his fine motor skills were underdeveloped. Possibly from his early delayed development and possibly from his ADHD but she wanted to include OT with his IEP plan. I was find with his getting any and all help that was offered! She worked with him every couple of weeks. writing in shaving cream, strengthening exercises with balloons, all designed to help his writing.

After elementary school, this aspect of his IEP translated to middle school as a typing class. He was pulled out and given a typing class to make him better at typing to replace his inability to write well. Now this one I had mixed feelings about. Yes, the whole world lives on computers and smart phones. And he probably won’t ever miss not being able to write quickly or all that legibly I thought. But guess what you don’t have in prison? A computer or a smart phone.

And then his IEP was further modified so that when he did all his papers, he was allowed to go directly to typing them. Most of the time the requirement was there was a written first draft and then the students typed the final draft. Anything that lessened the anxiety of the part of school that stressed him out the most seemed like a good move. And when he finally got a smart phone boy was he ready!

But there’s also the content side of writing. Crafting stories with creative words and painting pictures on paper. Or being able to read something and then digest it and summarize what you’ve read into a paragraph or paper. This is a problem of a different kind for young writers. And often much harder to overcome.

August has been tested every which way over the years. He has never officially been diagnosed with a learning issue, I have always believed he has some sort of issue where language is concerned. I don’t know if it’s connected to his ADHD, or RAD or something completed different. But his reading has always been so hard for him. So being able to read and then write about what he
read was challenging. We even added extra tutoring at Sylvan when he was in
fifth grade to help improve his reading and writing. All that did was
exacerbate the rages and fights over school because of the added time spent in
“school”. I’m not sure it moved the needle much if any.

Not every child will develop a love for writing. But there are ways to help
your child improve their writing skills. If they have an IEP, they can also be
evaluated by an OT to check their fine motor skills. If they also have fine
motor skills issues, an OT can be added or, as was done with August, typing can
be introduced. The ability to write shouldn’t get in the way.

And of course you can find everything online, so here is a website
with some great games and ways to encourage writing for your child. It helps
with learning both content and typing skills.

Teachers say that writing is something that will be useful no matter what
career your child will choose. And it is probably true. So help your child
overcome their fears and insecurities. And help them learn to appreciate the
value of writing.

Until next time,

Shannon

 

When you get “that” phone call…

It took about two weeks most years for me to have the phone number of August’s school memorized so that when it appeared on my phone I knew who was calling. And you all know that feeling. You may be shopping, working, at the gym, anywhere when you get “that” phone call. And your breath gets tight and your skin crawls and you think just a bit about whether or not to answer. Right?

I confess, I have not answered more than once. Just to have a couple minutes to collect myself. And then called back and apologized. Because I just couldn’t get hit with whatever “it” is. Maybe I’d go sit in my car if I was somewhere in public, just in case. But I didn’t want to be blindsided always by whatever was on the other side of that phone.

So what could happen when you get “that” phone call? Well it could be anything like the simple, “Your child forgot their lunch” or, “Your child isn’t feeling well.” But with our RAD kiddos there is an equal likelihood that it’s something way more complicated. With August it was the interesting things he chose to bring to school like the pocket knife and the water bottle full of vodka. Or the behaviors like looking in the women’s restroom or run-of-the-mill anger. Then there were some bigger issues like the stolen cell phone or when he ran away from the residential treatment center.

So what do you do when you get “that” phone call? I think there were days when we immediately would have sided with our child and blamed the teacher. Or sided with the teacher and blamed the child. But those of us with RAD kiddos know that nothing with our children is that clear cut. Ideally, you have established a close relationship with your child’s teachers so that when situations occur, communication is easy. And hopefully, your child’s teachers have an understanding of their behavior and can put the incident in that context.

The key here is this is where all your work at the beginning of the school year pays off. And if it hasn’t been done yet, now is the time to get it done. For example, I was working as a substitute teacher a couple of weeks ago in a high school social studies class. There was a student who was giving me a lot of back talk from the moment I walked in. Now I’m not saying he was a RAD kiddo, but he did remind me a lot of August. This kept up until he asked to go to the bathroom. I said yes at which point he took all his books and left. I asked the class if he was coming back and they said probably not so I notified the Dean who let me know later they had him.

At the end of the day he came back to the room and apologized. He said he knew he wasn’t doing well so he left. He apparently has medication that he takes and he knew he needed some. I told him I understood and that I had a son very much like him. What I wish I’d been able to suggest but couldn’t is why didn’t he have a behavior plan that gave him the opportunity to leave without the chance of getting into trouble. The class knew him as a trouble-maker. There was no information from the teacher. He didn’t have any “out” to help him. I was pleased he knew himself enough to remove himself from the situation but I wish he had some support to make it easier for him.

Hopefully when you get “that” phone call you will already have the relationship that will allow you to process whatever prompted the call in the context of RAD and your child’s unique behaviors. If not, consider this your open door. One of the reasons we moved August between third and fourth grades was that he was labeled in his prior school by a teacher who wouldn’t work with us. Getting teachers informed and knowledgeable about RAD generally and your child specifically is critical to a successful partnership in handling behavior.

Of utmost importance is for the teacher to understand that you know RAD doesn’t excuse your child’s behaviors; it explains them. And you’re not using this illness to let your child get away with anything. Here’s a very good article for teachers on how to deal with a traumatized child. It may be a good reference for starting a conversation with your child’s teacher. Don’t be afraid of the phone…it’s all part of the process.

Until next time,

Shannon

How to find out what your child thinks of school.

For many years I would ask August at the end of a school day what was his favorite part of his day. That had to be quickly followed by, “Besides lunch and recess.” Otherwise, I got one of those two answers. Which was pretty predictable. For a child with ADHD and other undiagnosed learning issues as well as reactive attachment disorder, school can be a pretty tiresome and frustrating place. So I’ve put together some ideas on how to find out what your child thinks of school. In case you’ve experienced the same dilemma.

Every child usually has a favorite subject or a favorite teacher. That is the best place to start. Asking open-ended questions like, “What is your favorite teacher’s favorite word?” or “What did you work on in [insert favorite subject]?” These kinds of questions will hopefully get you more than one-word answers. And will then foster more questions and more conversation.

Asking questions about peers is also helpful. You might not be able to learn about specific children but you might be able to get a read of the room. Questions like, “Who said something funny today?” or “Who would you like to sit beside?” Now a quick word, this last question can be very helpful. August had a gift. He could seek out in any situation, the one child who could get him in the most trouble. Like a heat-seeking missile, he had the ability to find the one child he could connect with who had just as much ability to get into mischief as he did. He did it in school, summer camps, extra-curricular activities, you name it. It really was a gift.

I would recommend keeping some notes, particularly if some of the answers give you pause, to discuss at teacher conferences. You and the teacher can compare notes and it may give you both a more well-rounded picture of what your child is feeling about their school experience.

I found this article which has many more questions, some of them really funny! Whatever questions you ask, make sure your children know you are interested in more than their grades and their homework. Make sure they know you care about how they feel about being in school. Particularly with RAD kiddos, that may be harder to get to but it’s much better to put in the work than be caught off guard when the explosion happens, right?

Until next time,

Shannon

After School…What Happens Now?

When August was in later elementary and middle school, the end of the school day would send me into a panic. I was about to pick up a child who was by then unmedicated, who had homework to do that he hated, who was tired and hungry. And there was a younger brother to take care of as well. So there was the same question every day: After School…What Happens Now?

We always tried to get the homework knocked out first. This had mixed results. And the negotiations would rival the purchase of a new car. Food was always involved because when the ADHD medication wears off (it has an appetite suppression side effect) he was ravenous.

But many days homework would lead to rages and running away and battles that were so out of line with the work that needed to be done. It was one of these rages that lead to his eventual RAD diagnosis. And this is something many of you can relate to. Once he started to “spin” as I would call his raging, it would last for hours. It was a long, agonizing process which may or may not have ended with finished homework.

Extra-curricular activities worked well most of the time. He loved sports because he had endless amounts of energy. The problem with that is, if there was a game or a practice that occurred right after school, there would still be homework to tackle when we got home. And the later it got and the more tired he got, the worse the chances were that any homework was going to get done.

As I mentioned, it was one of these after school failures that helped us finally discover August had reactive attachment disorder. We had spent an afternoon after school arguing over homework which devolved quickly. His anger moved into raging and violence. He threw things at me every time I got anywhere near him. I’d never seen anything like it.

The next day we took him to the doctor instead of school and there was a moment when we considered hospitalization. Instead we got an appointment with a psychiatrist and a prescription for Seroquel. For those who don’t know, this is a super-powerful anti-psychotic used mostly to treat bi-polar disorder. We were told to give it to him until he calmed down. I had a friend with bi-polar disorder. She said she took 1/4 of one. August needed four. The psychiatrist we got in to see a couple days later was the blessing that gave us the RAD diagnosis and finally set us on the correct parenting course.

This is a cute way to show early readers what needs to be done in an after school routine.

So these are just some of the things I experienced in trying to manage the after school world. One year we added in tutoring after school. You’d have thought I was taking him to the dentist twice a week. That speaks for itself. What I learned from it is that my unmedicated, tired, hungry child is not in a good place to do ANYTHING. Least of all more schoolwork. But it’s not going to get any better later in the evening. So it’s a matter of pay now or pay later. But there are a few things I found that can help:

  • DEFINITELY food
  • Some kind of outdoor exercise for a period of time (even August knew he needed that!)
  • If your child can do homework after dinner and some downtime would be a better choice, go for it!
  • Have some flexibility on the homework environment. Can they do work outside? Then let them. Can they work lying on the floor? Sure!
  • Be an advocate for your child. If the amount of homework is just too much for them, negotiate with their teacher on what fulfills the needs of learning the material without stressing out your child. Get their therapist involved if necessary.

Here is a great article about ideas for spending time after school. Some of these ideas would be great for bonding and engaging your child and might qualify for school credit depending on what your child is studying at the time. After school doesn’t have to be a crazy, stressful angry time where we are all just counting the hours until bedtime.

I loved this and certainly it shows the complexity of everything that can happen from after school to bedtime! There was also a blank one and I dropped in on the resources page in case you’d like to create one of your own!

Find a routine that works for you and make sure your child(ren) agree to the plan. Their buy-in is crucial to the success!

Until next time,

Shannon

The Philosophy of Homework

I don’t know about you all, but homework was a problem from the first day of kindergarten. It was never smooth sailing no matter how easy or how challenging the assignment. And sometimes it was a knock-down, drag-out fight. In the end, there were no winners. My relationship with August was further strained. More often than not the homework still wasn’t done. And both of us were angry and stressed at the end of an already long day. So today I impart the philosophy of homework.

As August got older, I began to be more of an advocate for him where homework was concerned. Some nights it just wasn’t possible to do homework. His head just wasn’t in the right place. We’d added tutoring one year, and after a full day of school then tutoring there was no way I could get him to sit still for yet more schooling. We’d get home and the car would barely be in the garage before he would take off. Running away rather than do homework told me all I needed to know about his anxiety where homework was concerned.

And true, some of it was good ‘ole RAD manipulation but some of it wasn’t. And now that I’m substitute teaching fairly frequently, I’m adding to my knowledge of what’s necessary when it comes to homework. I remember long ago when I was in school and got loads of homework from every teacher I’d complain, “Do they think they’re the ONLY teacher we have?” Students today have agendas and online systems and telephone systems to keep up with assignments. And so much of what they need to do can be done on computer (This is just a little whining about how good kids have it today compared to my generation!) But it seems like it’s creating a generation of students with no executive function skills at all.

But there will always be a need for homework but also a love/hate relationship where RAD kiddos are concerned. And here is what I believe the philosophy of homework should be. Homework is not:

  • Punishment
  • Busy work
  • Filling out curriculum requirements because the teacher can’t plan

Homework is:

  • Reinforcing material already taught
  • Only if necessary (if it appears the class isn’t getting the concept)
  • Only enough work to grasp the material

Now what if getting your RAD kiddo to do homework is a cage fight like I had with August? This is where your IEP can come in handy. You do have the ability to put in writing that you can negotiate the amount of homework that your child will need to complete. And in most cases your child’s teacher will work with you even if it’s not in an IEP. But absolutely do not compromise your child’s well-being and your relationship for the sake of a few math problems. Let your child know you believe homework is important, but strike a balance that preserves the calm in the home.

As soon as I started explaining August’s anxiety where homework was concerned and he and I started coming to agreements about what amount of homework was sufficient for him to complete (many times he was able to complete it all!) life got much calmer.

For some more official commentary on the pros and cons of homework check out this article from Psychology Today. And Time published research on whether or not homework is good for kids. This was in response to teachers announcing they were not giving it out anymore. As always, the solution is that you know your child best and can be their best advocate. And in the end, you don’t want to be the one doing the homework!

Until next time,

Shannon

Does Your Child Have an IEP?

This can be a loaded question when it comes to a RAD kiddo. Because of the misunderstanding surrounding reactive attachment disorder. And because of the fact that it doesn’t (shouldn’t) have anything to do with learning ability. Many times RAD alone will not enable your child to qualify. So the question, “Does your child have an IEP?” turns into “Does your child need an IEP?”

August was diagnosed with ADHD four years before he was diagnosed with RAD. And of course being adopted from Russia, he also qualified for ESL (English as a Second Language) services. I knew there were issues with his learning. There was something wrong with his cognitive ability where reading was concerned. We had him tested every which way and he tested at the low end of average. But the ADHD qualified him for services under the OHI (Other Health Impaired) category.

Yet it took until second grade for me to get him approved for an IEP. They waited until he was two full grades behind before they would give him an IEP. And I knew what I was doing. I knew what he was eligible for. It amazed me and amazes me still how people who maybe aren’t in a position to do the research and ask the questions (I wasn’t working full-time at the time) are able to navigate the IEP quagmire.

August has only ever qualified for an IEP based on his ADHD under the OHI category. In middle school we added a behavioral health plan. But his reactive attachment disorder never factored into any of the accommodations that were made in either plan. I always spent a long time explaining RAD in IEP meetings, what it was, how it impacts his thinking, his behavior, his focus and why accommodations might be helpful. But legally he has never been entitled to anything based on that diagnosis.

Now I never tried to get him any services under Section 504. This is another option which provides equal treatment for individuals with mental or physical disabilities. Again, since there is no evidence that RAD impairs education, this is a hard sell. I would love to hear from any of you that have had success getting a Section 504 or an IEP on the basis of RAD alone. Every parent I’ve ever met has had to get their accommodations based on a second disorder or disability their child also has. Fortunately or unfortunately our children almost always have one of those!

Most of us have are already good at being an advocate where our RAD kiddos are concerned. Getting an IEP needs you to have just a strong a voice. I find that making sure you have in writing everything they are eligible for even if they don’t use it is better than assuming that they won’t need a special service. Don’t be proud. They may get great grades. Maybe they have good reading ability and don’t need to have things read to them. That’s great. Check the box that enables them to have things read to them anyway if it’s an option. You never know when they’re going to have a bad day and having a test read to them may be the thing that calms them down.

If you do not have an IEP for your child and want to learn how to get one or see if your child might be eligible, this will explain the process better than I ever could. If you’d like to check out a Section 504, here’s where to look.

For either situation, always remember, you are the expert on your child. Do not be intimidated. And also remember, everyone wants your RAD kiddo to be successful. They are on your side!

Until next time,

Shannon

Developing a School Crisis Management Plan

Every child has their own triggers and pressure points. It’s hard to know what will set them off. Your RAD kiddo may have completely different “freak out” points than my August. And probably does. So when it comes to what happens at school, there’s no telling what’s going to be the thing that breaks them. But developing a school crisis management plan can go a long way toward being prepared for any situation.

August had a variety of different crisis plans over the years. And they dealt with a variety of different situations that would set him off. We have always worked with both his teachers and administrators to set up plans that would benefit him but not be disruptive to the class. Because the goal was to help August stay calm but also to make sure the classroom can function. 

The conversation always took place with me, the IEP teacher (or even better the whole team), his primary teacher and someone from the administration (Dean, Principal, counselor). It helps to get all angles on the issue and to make sure we are doing what is allowed. My job is to explain August. What will set him off, how will he react, what might work to diffuse any situations.

With August it was a couple different things. He had ADHD on top of the RAD so his energy had energy. And sometimes his anxiety over being cooped up for long periods would get the better of him. We made a plan with his fourth grade teacher that when that happened that he could sign out just like he was going to the bathroom and go run the track. Now this was made much easier by the fact that his classroom that year was in a trailer. He could go out and the teacher could see him on the track. And being outside was also very calming for August in addition to burning energy. And no one knew he wasn’t in the bathroom!

The other thing that set him off were substitute teachers. He developed bonds with his primary teachers and subs didn’t know him. Plus all the students in his classes were louder and more rowdy when there was a substitute. And we were finding that he was getting in trouble a lot when there was a sub. So we gave him an “out”. If he felt overwhelmed, he was allowed to tell the sub he wanted to go to the office. That would remove him from the environment that would tempt him to act out. Then he could spend whatever time he needed in the office doing work or just reading. 

Middle School was more difficult. It seemed to be harder to get something that worked. We tried a lot of things. One of them was a “blue card” which was just a simple laminated blue card. He kept it with him at all times and any time he was feeling overwhelmed or like he was about to lose it, he could just put the card on his desk. Once the teacher saw it, he could leave and go to the office and see the counselor. That way there didn’t need to be a big conversation or argument, the teacher couldn’t say no (that was HUGE) but August wasn’t allowed to abuse the tool either. 

Expectations in high school were such that it was harder to put a system in place to handle any meltdowns. I explained (again) what reactive attachment disorder was all about and why it was different than other disorders. Also why it needed different considerations. He was allowed to wear a rubber bracelet (thinking Live Strong) to help with anxiety and we did implement the “blue card” system we had used in middle school. They were just less willing to accommodate “out of the box” behavior at that age. 

As with everything when it comes to your RAD kiddo, you know them best. Don’t be afraid to suggest whatever you think will make it easiest on both them and the teacher. Make sure the teacher understands you are trying to keep the classroom calm as well as your child. And if your child is of an appropriate age, bring them into the conversation. I also included August’s psychiatrist in a call with the Middle School team at one point. I needed him to help explain RAD when I wasn’t getting my point across. Once trouble starts for your child at school…at least this is what I experienced with August…it seems like it follows them from grade to grade.

But find something that will work and help your RAD kiddo manage the times when their minds get the better of them. And continue to work with them to develop better coping skills of their own. Celebrate every quarter or semester that the “escape valve” doesn’t need to be used as a moment of growth and maturity! And hopefully over the years you won’t need it at all!

Until next time,

Shannon

 

Organizational Ideas for RAD Children

NOTE: This didn’t get done on Friday as I enjoyed my last few days with my youngest. He left yesterday (ugly crying!) so I am back to work! Thank you for your patience while I rearranged the schedule a bit!

One of the biggest issues that children with reactive attachment disorder have is with what is officially termed “executive function”. This encompasses everything that has to do with organizational skills. And for our RAD kiddos this is an area they have a real problem with.

I know for years August and I struggled to find ways to make it easier for him to keep school papers together and keep track of assignments. It seemed like we tried every combination of folder, notebook, agenda and calendar system we could find both for school and home. With mixed successes because of both his lack of executive function and unfortunately his lack of interest in school. With a dash of ADHD thrown in for good measure!

This can be a great source of stress and tension with you and your RAD kiddo. Because it’s a never ending game of “the dog ate my homework” when you are constantly trying to find assignments and papers. When schoolwork in many cases is already enough of a struggle, just finding the paper shouldn’t add to the anxiety.

So how to make the whole organization process work? There are several things you can do at home. But it really needs to be a school/home partnership to make it truly successful. 

  • Establish A Relationship with the Teacher – Of course you’re going to go to Back to School night or Meet the Teacher night or whatever it’s called where you live. But you’re going to need a method of communicating that probably goes beyond the norm. When August started school I debated about volunteering in his classroom just to be another set of ears. But I decided that it would create too much anxiety for him. But not being in the classroom means you have to have a relationship with the teachers that lets them know you’re involved. You aren’t going to let your child slide but you can communicate their issues and problem-solve together. Sometimes I would tell teachers that their homework assignments were too much for him. It just was. You know your child best. Help them help your child be successful.
  • Write it down – When August was in middle school they issued each child an agenda. They were school year-based calendars customized for their school. They were to be used to keep track of homework and projects. Teachers had the students write their homework in the agendas for that class for that day. Well that works fine if your child knows what day it is and isn’t distracted by well…everything. And fails to write it down. Nowadays I know much more information is available online but that is only if the teacher chooses to use that tool. You can make it a part of your child’s IEP (and if you don’t have an IEP, GET ONE) that their homework notes are signed off on by the teacher. That way they bring home an accurate accounting of what they need to do.
  • Try Different Timelines – When August was in kindergarten, his teacher would give them a packet of homework at the beginning of each month. That way they could work at their own pace. If they had a bad day, then they could take the day off. This is also an excellent plan for our RAD kiddos. Depending on the age, a whole month of homework may not be feasible. But maybe you could talk to the teacher about a week at a time. That way, if there was a day in the week that your RAD kiddo just isn’t in a good place, you have time to recover and move on.
  • Let them be part of the process – When setting up a homework station, let your RAD kiddo help with the location (within reason), design, colors, pens, pencils, papers, etc. RAD is very much about control and the more they feel like they have made the choices, the more likely it is they will use the space. The same will go for other aspects of organization: picking out a backpack, an agenda, folder colors and on and on.

These are some ideas that have worked for me in the past. Here are some other tips for both school and home. And this article helps to teach organizational skills outside of the school environment. Please share your tips and tricks that have worked for you. We all get better when we work together!

Until next time,

Shannon

Talking to Your Child’s New Teachers

So it’s the first day of school and your RAD kiddo is starting with a new teacher. Now if you’ve done some pre-work, hopefully you’ve picked the best possible teacher match for your child. One who will understand your child’s special issues. But you still haven’t been able to talk directly to them. Now that you have the chance, here’s how talking to your child’s new teachers will be the most effective.

Depending on the age of your RAD kiddo, it may be important to consider what “baggage” may have followed them to their next grade. One of the reasons we changed schools with August after third grade was because we didn’t think he’d get a fair shake in fourth grade at the same school. And it was a good move because he had a great fourth grade year. Hopefully a new teacher will start the new year clean but it’s always hard to know.

Next you might want to make sure you have all your RAD kiddo’s “tricks” laid out for the new teachers to understand. For example, if August couldn’t be right he liked to be first. He’d always finish his tests first even if he got the answers wrong. He thought that made him seem just as smart as getting all the answers right. Something I shared with his fourth-grade teacher. Other specific learning issues can be shared in an IEP meeting but there may be some things that are not necessarily learning-related that the teacher needs to know. These things may be more about RAD behaviors than learning so you will want the teacher to understand.

We made a plan with his teacher to give August an “escape plan” for when he feels overwhelmed in the classroom. A way for him to get out of the room (he was in a trailer due to overcrowding) when his anxiety level got too high. And we did the same thing in high school. These are conversations to have as early in the year as possible. The more systems in place, the better chances for success.

If your child has any quirks or eccentricities, make sure the teacher knows about them. August preferred to stand. He would stand next to his desk rather than sit down. It wasn’t disruptive but he did it starting in kindergarten. So I made sure teachers knew he might do it so they wouldn’t continually reprimand him. It wasn’t a big deal and it made him calmer.

And definitely make sure you talk about RAD. Manipulation, triangulation, hoarding, control, impulsivity…all the big guns. One of the posts I see most on Facebook during the school year is from parents who have been called into school or worse yet by DFS because the child has made claims to their teacher about their treatment at home. Or that they aren’t being fed. Since they spend so much time at school and teachers are mandatory reporters, RAD kiddos can triangulate easily with a teacher to get parents in trouble over false claims. Make sure the teacher is aware, particularly if it has happened before. Write it down if you have to. Write it down anyway.

For a great letter to teachers that I probably have shared before, click here. And to cover all the bases, here’s one for bus drivers and bus monitors! 

While I’ve never used any of Nancy Thomas’ methods personally, the letter I’ve linked to above is from her website and it is incredibly thorough. It covers a lot of things I would have never thought of like: don’t be alone with the child, do not sympathize with the child, if you hear something from the child that sounds weird call the parents, make eye contact and many more. Use it as a checklist to remind you of behaviors of your own RAD kiddo that you want to make sure you talk over with the teacher.

Now all this may sound like you’re going to leave the teacher with a picture of your child as a devil-child. One that is going to scare them to death before the first week of school is even over. That is not at all what I’m suggesting. Make sure you are balancing their story with lots of information about what they are great at and what they are passionate about. That will help tons when they might need to be redirected or they’re feeling overwhelmed and need to take a break. And the more the teacher knows your child, the more comfortable they will feel when maybe things go off the rails. You know your child best; laying a good foundation with their teacher will go a long way to ensuring a successful school year.

Until next time,

Shannon

The Importance of the Teacher Match

When it’s back-to-school time one of the most exciting things for school children to find out is, “Who is my teacher going to be?” The learn from older brothers and sisters and friends what the personalities of the teachers of the higher grades are and they know who they want to have. And they hope their friends get in the same class! But for RAD kiddos, the importance of the teacher match is even greater.

When August was in 3rd grade, he had a teacher (whose name I’ve blocked out) that was a disaster. Not just for him, but there were so many things that I didn’t agree with. Making reading scores public on the board among other things that were demeaning to all the children. August had just gotten his IEP the year prior and I wasn’t good at advocating for him yet.

So when she started having problems with him I didn’t quite know what to do. She put a presentation board around his desk to block him from other students. They were in a mobile classroom and she lost him once when he ran away. After Christmas break we were meeting with her and she asked if we’d ever thought about homeschooling. When we said we were looking at lots of options for the next year she replied, “You don’t have to wait until next year.” That’s when we decided to move schools…

I had gotten enough of an education from that experience to be on it when it came to knowing what would work for August for 4th grade. He got a male teacher who was cool and athletic. When we had his IEP meeting in October, the team was astonished reading his file from the previous school because of how well he was doing. The importance of the teacher match.

The next example showed up in middle school. August had always done best in science and math. He seemed to have a block when it came to anything language-based. Nothing we could identify by testing but reading was very tough for him. We show up in middle school and the system is to team teach with a pair of teachers: one does math and science and one does history and English. All of the sudden August is doing great in history and English and awful in math and science. He raves about his English teacher and he can’t stand his math teacher. What do you know? The importance of the teacher match.

What I learned from these and from conversations about this with August’s psychiatrist is that this is RAD in all it’s glory. RAD kiddos do not trust. And very quickly they size people up and label them as good or bad. And once they get into one of those categories, it is hard if not impossible to get out. August did not trust the teachers he had problems with because they did not choose to understand him. In spite of my efforts to let them know what would work, they chose to try and make him conform and the result was disastrous. The teachers that listened and learned and were willing to give just a little had a great year with a great kid.

I had conversations with the principal about August’s teacher choices. Do not be afraid to start at the top. Everyone will benefit from your child having a good year. Bring your resources; I even had August’s psychiatrist in a meeting to explain the “good person/bad person” concept so they didn’t think I was making it up. And if the teacher match isn’t working, get the IEP teacher and principal involved and make a change as soon as possible. I was trying to be nice and assume it was always August’s fault. When I recognized the pattern and saw that it wasn’t always and took charge, it made a world of difference!

Until next time,

Shannon