This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Too picky? Too late anyway?

We talked to the therapist yesterday (Saturday) about taking the Summer as a time to increase therapy. Therapist said it would be OK, but he only wants to see Bear weekly. I'm OK with that because I need someone with whom I can communicate, and maybe a different therapist would be able to do this. This therapist has offered no outside support at all. Am I expecting too much? Kitty's therapists have always been supportive of me and offered suggestions when we're trying to make a decisions regarding the kids.

FYI, I complained about the lack of response when we were in crisis last week. I'd left a message and sent an e-mail the day that Bear cussed and yelled at me because he found out he was going to be escorted and supervised at all times for the last week of school. The therapist's response was, "but I did answer your last e-mail." Not true! This was sent in response to an e-mail sent the week before that crisis:

Hi Mary.

All I can comment on is what is presented in session.

As far as his progress.... He is talking. He is engaged in the conversations and demonstrates the ability to deconstruct thoughts, feelings, concepts and behavior. At this point I feel like that's were the work is. He still has a lot to work through and get past. I think its realistic to expect that he has more poor choices to make based on the belief system he holds (Self / world / others).

My understanding of the email tells me your conflicted as to your next move is with him. My clinical opinion is that he needs a "Secure Base" (you and your family) to fall back on and trust. I feel his behavior is testing your resolve as it is meant to. He's going to push because he doesn't believe you're real or that he doesn't deserve it.... So he may be acting in conscious and unconscious ways to destroy rather than be abandoned or disappointed.

All in all. I think his issues are more about attachment rather than psychopthology.

I look forward to seeing ya-all on Sat. Sounds like we have a lot to talk about.

Thank you for your e-mail

[Bear's therapist]

Bear has been with us 4 years. I don't know that we can give him more of a "secure base" than we have been. Anyway, here was the e-mail he was responding to:

Hi [Bear's therapist],

I wanted to check in with you and see how you feel things are going. Does it seem like this is beneficial to Bear? I realize in a lot of ways this is early days, but at the same time we are pretty short on time because he’ll be 17 in just 2 months, and he’s
convinced he’ll be an adult then.

Some things under discussion.
· He’s still failing math and ROTC, and although they’ve made it ridiculously easy for him to pass everything else if he just turns something in… someday… he doesn’t even have to have done the work himself… he’s still been failing.
· He’s tardy or skipping class entirely 3-4 days a week. No explanations or excuses as to where he’s been.
· He’s sleeping through the first 2 periods each day. (We’re trying for a sleep
study, but finding one that takes Medicaid and will call us back…). He wants to go to football camp so he’s trying to improve, but this is apparently the best he can do?
· He’s not going to qualify for Summer school because they don’t offer what he
needs.
· He’s still totally untrustworthy so a Summer job is just asking for trouble.
· Ditto with a driver’s license.
· We’re looking at whether or not we should continue with legal guardianship after he turns 18, but are not sure what the qualifications are or whether or not this
would be right for him.
· He’s getting even more distant (if that’s possible) with the family.

I have no idea what we’re going to do with him this Summer.

Mary

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Analogy beaten to death

Hubby and I had a long discussion this morning about why we seem to have a disconnect on whether or not Bear is more intelligent than the IQ tests indicate. Long story short we finally agreed that whether or not he is more or less intelligent than 100 IQ, we need to treat his issues and remember that his IQ can sometimes cause him to get into worse trouble. We also agreed that we need to present a united front to the school. So now you can completely skip the analogy.

Here's the analogy (warning, I know diddly squat about cars!):


If Bear is like a car, then his intelligence (IQ) is the engine of the car. Neither of us think that Bear has the IQ of a race car engine.




Hubby thinks that Bear's behavior when it comes to being sneaky and manipulative may indicate that Bear's IQ is more like a Lexus engine.



I agree with the school that Bear's IQ is more like a Mazda GLC hatchback (I drove one of these - it's a good car, but not a lot of power or speed).





The school says his overall IQ is about an 80 with which I mostly agree. He scores higher in verbal reasoning 90s, and much lower when it comes to things like working memory and working things through. I believe that a lot of what Hubby sees as examples of a higher IQ are actually learned behaviors and parroting. According to Bear's caseworkers, he had the example of a master manipulator, Biomom.


I finally figured out Hubby's reason for insisting that Bear's IQ is higher, If Bear really can do better, he doesn't want Bear to be given a break because,"he's not smart enough to do better," and he doesn't want Bear to get away with anything. I think I keep insisting that Bear's IQ is lower because I feel that is the only way to get the services, support and supervision, Bear needs and the few times Bear has surprised me, I think might be learned behavior or street smarts, not IQ. Bottom line is we both worry that people are not requiring Bear to live up to his full potential


Bear's main problem is that no matter what the size of his engine, it's housed in a clunker. The clunker symbolizes all disabilities, issues, history and gaps in his knowledge that prevent him from actually using whatever is under the hood. Even if he had a race car engine, having a messed up starter, alternator, carburetor... whatever, keeps him from being able to use it.

Another problem is the body of Bear's car is a clunker, but the school and most people often only see the shiny paint job and don't seem to notice that it covers a lot of rust. It took the school 9 months to realize that Bear was charming, manipulative and his appearance was hiding a lot of negative behaviors.



So to take the analogy yet another step.


What to do with Bear, especially this Summer.

I think Bear needs to be put up on the rack to be worked on. The rack is restrictive and structured with pretty much no freedom, but it allows working on and potentially solving some of Bear's problems. When Bear leaves home he's going get out on the highway and race away, whether his car is working well or not. His drive control doesn't work and he will have a lot of wrecks.


It feels like everyone else is saying, he's going to be on the highway soon enough so we have to let him "try it." Most kids start out on bikes with training wheels and work their way up. Parents show them how to drive right by first acting as examples, then sitting next to them and giving them advice. By the time they do highway driving they have learned a lot from parents, and are basically polishing their skills.


Kids of trauma are not capable of learning by example or from role modeling. Bear is not able to ask for help. Hubby might be able to force Bear to listen a little for awhile, but the only way Bear is going to listen to any woman, especially me, is if he's up on "the rack" and has little choice.

Yesterday Hubby took Bear for a scuba lesson (Hubby is an instructor). One of the skills that's supposed to be learned is to signal they need air, and then breathe off the auxillary tank. Hubby said because it was his tank he could hear Bear's breathing and Bear was practically hyperventilating. Bear later agreed that he was feeling a lot of stress. Trusting someone else to provide him with something as basic as air was really tough for Bear. (not a picture of Bear and Hubby)



I think Hubby now agrees with me. He'd rather not do it this way, but it's the only way Bear can get the help he needs in the time he has left with the people he has to work with (Grandma and I). If Hubby were home all the time then he could maybe let Bear try things with training wheels and Hubby doing ride alongs, but Hubby is not home. Hopefully Hubby is behind me when we continue to work with the school too.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Resuming detective work


Time to start searching again. Picked Bear up after school on Thursday. I'd let him stay after for 10 minutes to take an oral final exam in ROTC that he'd missed because of his ARD on Tuesday. When he got in the car he REEKED of tobacco chew/dip.
I didn't become a RAD mom yesterday so I waited till we got out of the car and I was walking ahead of him into the grocery store to ask, "So how long ago did you start using tobacco again?" And he answered! It was mumbled, but I think he said about a few months ago.
The rest of the grocery trip he started back peddling, and saying something about a crunch bar looking the same as tobacco (No idea what he was talking about). I just said, "I didn't see the tobacco on you, and you already admitted to it so just let this drop." When he kept going, I finally said "Bear, I'm not going to do anything about this, so quit trying to deny it and let it drop."
When Hubby talked to him about it, Bear said it was only one time and that I heard him wrong. Yea right.
Bear still reeks of tobacco, which makes me think there's a possibility that he really wasn't doing it for long before or I would have smelled him sooner. I searched his room, but found nothing much. Hubby refused to search his person and bag he had with him. *sigh*
So do I not let him do anything to earn money this Summer (not that he apparently needs money to buy tobacco since we don't give him any money now and he apparently has a never ending supply of candy, soda, and tobacco).
Do I keep him under line of sight supervision?
Do I make him view those pictures and films of people with mouth cancer? Obviously he's seen them before and it hasn't had any effect.
Do we punish him for this?
Do we ignore it?
Do we just chalk it up to one more reason not to trust him and continue as we have been?
I have absolutely NO idea what I'm going to do with him this Summer.
Did I mention school is officially out and we are now on Summer vacation?!! *eek*

Friday, May 28, 2010

I'm not mad

I thought long and hard about what to do about Bear passing English undeservingly. I decided that:

  • I didn't really want Bear held back or to have to repeat a class. He's already older than most students. He's already at great risk for dropping out.
  • If he failed, it's not like he'll attend Summer school anyway (he refuses and if we make him there are no consequences for failing - he probably wouldn't be allowed to fail anyway). Mainly though the point is that there are no special ed Summer English classes, and he wouldn't be supervised well enough if there were.
  • Bear probably didn't miss much. He's in special ed, and most likely isn't going to college. You can lead a Bear to water, but you can't make him think.
  • The teacher is a nice woman who was probably just doing her job - which is - pass them.
  • Bear had already learned the lesson that he would not be allowed to fail, so this was just another event, not a deciding issue.
  • It's really too late now even if there were a point to getting his grade changed.

So I decided to let it go. I did send her a letter:

Hi [Ms. S],

I have to admit I’m not very happy about Bear learning that no matter what, he will pass. I realize that he can probably do the work and is just choosing not to. Of course it is not really an option for him to attend Summer school. This is just so frustrating.


I heard you are not going to be his teacher next year after all? Are you staying at [Bear's high school]? Will you be teaching English I?

Thanks,
Mary

Here was her response:

Mrs. [themom],

Trust me when I say, that I understand your frustrations, because it is as equally frustrating for us, it seems as if admin/district forces us to give grades sometimes. I feel we (as the teachers) are caught between a rock and a hard place. I'm sure you can relate that when we were in school, you had to do the work in order to pass, that doesn't seem to be the case anymore. I invest lots of time planning and preparing for lessons only to have kids blow it off; and admin say they can turn it in when ever they want and receive a 50. Or they tell us, be creative, make -it work, try your hardest to see that they pass. It's extremely frustrating and I feel we are in many ways doing our students a disservice for when they get out of high school. I get very
upset that I have to always give credit when sometimes credit is not due. I'm
not speaking in terms of Bear, it's a general statement. I haven't shared these feelign with anyone this year, but I do want you to realize I understand how you feel, so I'm sharing this with you on a personal note only. Also know, that I did not give Bear credit for anything he didn't deserve, he did have to do work in order to receive points. It was not enough to pass, and he does understand why he is not passing this six weeks.

I have applied to other districts. It's no secret that I am currently looking to obtain a job somewhere else by choice; and that I plan to do a lot of soul searching over the next few weeks to see if I even want to continue teaching at all. Don't get me wrong, I love the students. It's the work load and policies of Sped that is burning me out. If I do come back next year I'm teaching Applied English II and Study Skills, with some English II inclusion classes.

Thanks for being supportive and keeping such close tabs on Bear and his progress at school. He may not appreciate or understand it now, but he will hopefully later on in his adulthood.

Take care and have a great summer!

-[Ms. S]

I think I'm going to write her something supportive back and let it go.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

No Child Left Behind.


This semester in English, Bear made a 54 for the 1st six weeks, a 64 for the second and on the progress report we received Tuesday he had a 25 for the 3rd six weeks. His final exam score was a 76. Last semester he received an 83 for the semester. If you do the math, this means he makes a 69 for the year - which is failing.

When I looked at Bear's grades online he suddenly had a 35 for the 3rd six weeks. Which brings his final grade up to a 70 - which is passing. (It's a miracle!).

I sent an e-mail to Bear's teacher asking what he'd turned in (classes officially ended last week) that brought his grade up so dramatically. The following is her reply. Remember, this is the teacher that sent me an e-mail last six weeks regarding a super late project that said:
"I showed him how to do the word splash and had another student work with him, I think she did most of the project but, it's done. I felt it was important that he turn something in, I will have to double check but I do think he is passing now or I close to it. "

So here's what she wrote to me regarding the jump in grade from a 25 to 35 that enabled him to pass English for the year. So would you report this? To whom?




Mrs. [themom],

[Bear] received 5 Extra Credit points for turning in his completed review and for taking notes during the review lesson. All of my students were given the option to apply these points to any major grade during the last six weeks including SSR or the exam if they did not pass. Bear and I looked over his grades and with the exam alone he had an overall grade of a 69 for the year without the extra credit points. He also received 45 points towards his SSR project for the work he did in Study Skills on the 5/20, which was not entered until yesterday when I was cleaning up my gradebook for that class. We decided then, to apply the extra credit to his SSR project [which he never actually turned in] giving him a 50. This still doesn't pass him for this six weeks, but did give him a 70 for the year. I hope this clarifies his grades. This is his final grade for the 6 weeks. I'm also attaching his cumulative grades. I will be letting the registrar know not to override his grade any higher than the 35, as the default is a 50.
Thanks, [Ms. S]




So would you report this? To whom? Bear is definitely learning that there are NO consequences for his actions. This teacher was copied on the letter I sent to the school about teaching Bear that he could coast on old grades and that teachers will not let him fail.

RAD: psychoses or syndrome?


J. over at Peace in Puzzles, recently posed a question, that I want to throw in my $.02 in on. Obviously her post was longer than the following quotes, I just wanted you to know what I was addressing.

"The real question I find myself pondering is at what point is RADs a psychoses that requires medication as opposed to a diagnosable syndrome that can be retrained and reconditioned through the often odd RAD therapy techniques? In other words, does trauma irrevocably alter brain CHEMISTRY and PHYSIOLOGY, not just cognitive reasoning and psychology? Does trauma induced RAD actually become a MEDICAL condition that would show altered brain functioning in an MRI?"


"And if you ask anyone that's been in mental health professions for any length of time, they'll admit to it. Individuals with unaddressed mental health needs are more likely to be attracted to other adults with unaddressed mental health needs so that they have children that have unaddressed mental health needs, children that are traumatized inadvertently BECAUSE of the parents' unaddressed mental health needs. It's a horrible vicious cycle that I suspect alters brain chemistry as opposed to just individuals perpetually modeling bad behaviors that psychologists say can be retrained by cognitive and dilectical behavior techniques."



Brain Damage


RAD most definitely causes permanent brain damage (I can show you my son's neurological assessments to prove it). There was this study done on kittens that might explain this: as an experiment, scientists sewed shut the eyes of healthy newborn kittens so that when their eyes would normally have opened they were unable to do so. Later they allowed the kitten's perfectly healthy eyes to open and the kittens were... blind. The part of the brain that should have developed for their brain to understand the input received from the eyes never developed. There is nothing physically wrong with the kitten's eyes, but the neural pathways that should have been made were not. This is permanent. Their brain has no concept of sight.


When children are under the age of two their brains are growing rapidly and making these connections constantly. In kids with RAD, not all the connections are being made - so if they don't get the concept of cause and effect or object permanence when they are infants...



That's not to say that they cannot learn some of these things later, but this is the brain working AROUND the permanent brain damage. It's like learning to use a prosthetic arm - you don't use the same muscles or pathways, but it's possible to approximate the original arm movements... mostly. Also, like learning a foreign language, the younger you are the easier it is to learn new things (like love, trust, object permanence). It also takes conscious effort and a strong desire to do the work. (Katharine Leslie's book "When a Stranger Calls You Mom" and her lectures are my biggest source for this). Some things cannot be worked around, and the child must learn how to accommodate this as well.


Treatment


Meds to treat symptoms, not to cure.


For kids with RAD, I believe meds are not healing or correcting the child's brain, but they can calm down all the outside/extra input so that the brain can focus on building those new pathways. Another example (can you tell I love examples) - imagine you are in the middle of a war zone with people running and screaming, soldiers chasing you, bullets flying, bombs going off... Are you going to be able to sit down and study your math homework? NO, of course not. You are totally focused on survival.



Like one of the commenters on J's post, I'm bipolar too, but luckily my disorder is not as severe. I can go without meds - if I'm taking care of myself and not under a lot of stress. Add in stress though and meds are not optional (needless to say I'm on meds right now!). The more stress, the more meds needed. So do kids with RAD and PTSD need meds even though meds cannot cure/fix them? I believe so. Otherwise you are asking them to try to focus on healing/therapy while still having to deal with the war zone.


Therapy to heal


On the other hand, you can't just treat with meds. Meds control the symptoms, but it takes a lot of work to retrain your brain to function in a new way. This is where therapy and therapeutic parenting come in. To help our kids you must have both.



Comorbidity:





People with issues being attracted to people with issues - creating babies with issues.





Heck yea! My son has a giant sign on his forehead that says, "If you are cute and have issues, be my girlfriend!" I believe a large part of this is because only girls with the low self-esteem that comes from having major issues will tolerate his issues (he wants them to say they love him instantly, tolerate his intimidation and mood swings, and of course tolerate his possessiveness. They must focus only on him, to the exclusion of all else -he is incredibly jealous of others and even the time they spend on other activities). The fewer issues the girl has, the shorter the time period they date. And by the way, it only takes one "date" to make a baby (my kids' biomom had 5 - all with different dads).



Plus we are usually attracted to those who "get" us, meaning they understand and sympathize with our issues - frequently this means they "get it," because they have experienced it - which means they have/had those issues too.



I think we feel most comfortable with situations and people we know. My kids spend an inordinate amount of time trying to recreate the chaos they grew up with because those are the conditions they understand and know how to operate under. They know what to expect (even though that's usually abuse and more chaos). There's a saying that girls grow up to marry men just like their fathers and boys do the same with their moms. I have seen that many times. I almost married a man like my dad. My sister's first husband was a lot like our dad. It takes a conscious effort and a lot of support to change things.



Poor Hubby, I even tried to force him to behave like my dad and former boyfriend would have. ("Wow, that girl is thin, you think I should look like that don't you?!" - because I was so used to being compared negatively to others in an attempt to nag/shame me into changing to what that person wanted. By the way, HUBBY IS AN AMAZING MAN (or a masochist)!! He let my "attachment disordered" self try to push him away and attempt to manipulate him into proving he thought I was the horrible person I was convinced I was, and HE STILL STUCK BY ME!!).


My kids' biomom is diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, ADD, has gotten treated for cocaine and meth addiction, aged out of foster care, and apparently prefers abusive men with issues. The biodads have major issues as well. So yes, I think my kids have issues because the people who raised them had issues. Genetics and environment were both pitched against my kids.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Suspicious Circumstances

Got Bear's first exam grade. English final exam - 76. Final semester grade: 57. Last semester grade: 83. Final grade: 70. He passed.



The progress report we were given just yesterday said he had a 25 for this 6 weeks so far. Suddenly he has a 35. Just enough to add to his average to give him a 70. This is the teacher who sent me an e-mail saying she thought the girl she'd assigned to help Bear finish a project Bear was supremely late on, had done most of the work, "but at least it's turned in." Coincidence?

Epic Fail


Hubby and I own a consulting service company. We were in the process of buying it when the kids' adoptive placement finally came through (the purchase was supposed to have happened almost a year before, but for one reason or another it happened 6 months after the kids arrived).


When we first decided to purchase the company it was so Hubby could use his faily newly acquired MBA and finally break out of engineering (he preferred working for start-up companies, but they would take one look at his resume, then offer to hire him as an engineer and promise him management jobs as soon as the company took off, but every time that happened they would realize they couldn't afford to lose his amazing engineering skills and renege.


At the time I had been working at a private preschool and hating every minute of it. I was 2nd in command, managing 60 staff, we had 275+ children, and the politics and crazy hours were horrid. The owner was a micromanager who literally thought everyone there, but me, was stupid. After awhile I even managed to change her opinion of me, by trying to protect the staff from her unbusinesslike behavior. My manager was constantly in ill health, and the woman who was my peer (except I had several years seniority on her) had figured out how to manipulate our manager like a puppet and used that power to vindictively eradicate any perceived competition... except me. She couldn't quite get rid of me. Until I shot myself in the foot with the owner. (The witchy peer quickly disposed of my manager after I left and took over completely. The company is limping along now - I like to think it's because they lost my sales, marketing, and management skills, and are now being run by a petty dictator, but it could just be the economy).


The hours and stress were killing me, and while I was making a big salary, for the industry, I was only making about a 1/3 of what Hubby brought in. I happily quit my job when Hubby acknowledged that the kids were going to need a full-time parent (Bear was getting kicked out of school all the time, Kitty was practically feral, and Bob had heart problems that required more and more trips to the ER - surgery a year later fixed the problem completely). We couldn't afford it for long, but the kids needed me.


I had started taking mood stabilizers because the overwhelming stress triggered my bipolar disorder. We had to experiment with many meds before finding some with fewer side effects. It was a difficult time.


When the purchase of the company was final, we realized that my skills in sales, marketing and design better fit the company and we couldn't afford for both of us to not draw a salary while we got the company back off the ground. So I became president instead of Hubby. Within a month, Hubby couldn't take his current engineering job any more though and quit too. Suddenly our company was supporting us both in addition to the staff. It wasn't designed to do that.


In addition, I felt undermined at the company because Hubby made all the financial decisions and really took over pretty much everything. I had wanted to work 3/4 time like the previous owner so I could focus on the children's demanding needs, but with Hubby there and only one car that wasn't an option - so I found myself escaping by spending more and more time on the internet. All I really did at work was decorate the office, do the HR paperwork (for less than 10 employees), create some of the marketing materials, and talk to people who came in (which were few as most of our work was done electronically). Hubby pushed and pushed for me to do cold calling sales, but I hated it. I'm good face to face (I'm an extrovert with a natural sales ability), but cold calling is just not the same.


Then the recession hit. Some of our biggest clients were in industries that were hit hardest. Most of them went under or had major layoffs. We waited way too long to do layoffs, we had clients renege on invoices for tens of thousands of dollars, we allowed the bank to foreclose on the company's property, laid off most of the staff and stubbornly hung on.


The already considerable debt from purchasing the company in the first place was mounting, we owe/d back salaries to most of the employees, but we were so far in the hole that it seemed the only way to get back out was to turn the company around. Going bankrupt wouldn't help much because we owed a lot of personal debt too (we borrowed a LOT from friends and family). We kept throwing more money in. Finally after over 2 years, Hubby gave up and took a contract engineering job to pay our bills. Which he detests. A lot.


I stayed at the company, but continued to do very little. We hired a sales guy for a ridiculously low salary with the promise of big commissions, but he had major health issues and financial issues that distracted him and that, in addition to the economy, means he brought in pretty much no business at all. Hubby still thinks I should have saved us the sales guy's tiny salary and done his job myself. Hubby even did it for awhile even though he's an introvert and wasn't good at it.


We were down to 3 clients and when one of them fired us last week (most likely because the engineer we laid off last week was incredibly slow and their project should have been done months ago), Hubby and I finally acknowledged that it was past time to close the doors. We still had the prospect of one big company that sounded like they were going to use our services and we had heard they had some big money to send our way, but we wouldn't hear anything till after the first of June. If they weren't everything we needed we would have to close our doors.


So yesterday our salesguy at work gave notice. He needs a job that pays well and on time or he loses his house. I don't blame him at all.


Based on the discussion with Hubby a few days before about closing the company doors mid June (assuming the big company jobs didn't come through), I naturally assumed that this was just one more nail in the coffin and talked to Hubby about me getting a part-time job. "Big mistake. Big. Huge!"


This morning we said some things that hurt each other's feelings (We don't fight. It's not our nature.). Apparently Hubby is not ready to give up on the company and is frustrated with me for not stepping up to the plate and fighting for it. *blink blink* I thought this was a given after the conversation we'd had over the weekend?!


Hubby wants to know what I do want to do since I obviously don't care about the company. I told him I thought I could get a part-time job to meet the bills that Hubby's check didn't cover and then Grandma and I would be free to deal with the kids all Summer. Then in the Fall I could look at getting a full-time job, doing... I don't know what. Turns out Hubby thinks I don't have enough confidence in myself (I should be going after jobs that pay $100K+ a year), and something is wrong with me because I never like my job(s) and am always stressed out.


I keep telling him most of my experience is in Social Work and childcare neither of which pay much. I don't feel that I have the experience needed to take a director position even in a non-profit, or in HR or something similar, because my experience doesn't directly translate. I have general knowledge in a lot of things, but the only areas I have lots of specific skills in don't pay well (if at all). Plus, the kids need me. My to-do list requires a lot of schedule flexibility and knowledge of the kids' needs. This offended Hubby. He feels a lot of what I do he could do.

Hubby wants to quit his job and go back to work at our company and save it. The problem is he makes over $100K and we still can't meet our bills. If we switch roles I'd have to take a job making over $100K a year too. Hubby is mad at me for not thinking I could/should do it.


I'm an overweight, overwhelmed, overscheduled bipolar mother of 4, with a weird work history. I've spent the last 2 years mostly staring at my computer screen blogging, reading blogs and list-serves and occasionally dabbling at our company. I don't sleep, just discovered I've been taking less than my full dose of meds, again, and right now am close to tears most of the time. I rarely smile and laugh anymore. I used to have hobbies like sewing (was a professional seamstress) and interior decorating (never got paid for it, but have decorated/painted many people's homes), and my dogs haven't been allowed in the house in years (mostly due to fleas, but neglect plays a big part in this). Now almost all I do is sit on this couch. I eat here, have my computer in my lap, parent from here, and watch trash TV from here. The only thing I don't do on this couch is attend meetings, do the shopping and therapy. My house is disgusting and smells.



OK. Time to shut up and get to work on my resume. Sharon, call me!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

ARDly worth waiting for


How did this ARD not meet my expectations? Let me count the ways.


1. The lady who wasn't running the meeting, but wouldn't shut up, who had never met Bear or read his file, kept saying things like, "Well, of course a teenage boy wouldn't be happy about that..." "When my daughter was a teenager she did that too..." "Bear, you said something earlier about going to the special school for one or two classes, was that because you got a warm, safe fuzzy feeling at the special school? (OK, not her exact words, but when we told her Bear was blowing smoke up our rears to get us to shut up and leave him alone, she wouldn't believe us and asked him again, and again.)" "Yes, Bear, please do talk to us about your feelings on this, because we really want to help you and we can't do that if you don't tell us what you want and only you can tell us what you want if there is anything we can do to help you be more comfy...." on and on without taking a breath (Bear usually needs you to wait a bit to give him time to answer and he was pretty shut down anyway.) "There's this great support program (Personal Center Planning) where you (Bear) would be in charge and could pick your support person, and they'll visit you once a month in your home and they can help you choose your new vocation and it will be so wonderfully supportive and will be just wonderful and you can pick..."


2. I was told (by my new favorite lady) that I should have scheduled the ARD when we "first started to see trouble"... because they need to try a bunch of stuff to a new Functional Behavior Analysis trying different behavior stuff (yes, I made them give me the permission slips). Ummm... helloo?!! I've been trying to do this!!


3. Because we waited until "too late." There is no way to get him back in the Special School even part time (although after 6 weeks it can be considered for part-time). It is considered the most restrictive environment available, and Bear's IEP that we just agreed to in January (before this huge downhill issue) reflects none of the accomodations we've been using recently (like the escorting) and addresses none of the behavior issues. We decided that this behavior was there during the Fall semester (although it's definitely worse), but that the teachers were probably cutting him slack and making allowances for his going back and forth between the special school and public school. Might even be that his worsening behavior lately is more because he's been more closely supervised (so they're catching more), and he's rebelling against he supervision, which makes his behavior worse, which requires more supervision...


4. The AP said straight out that there is NO way they can continue to escort Bear to all his classes and supervise him at lunch all the time next year. They just don't have the resources. We all agreed that a lot of the time Bear does not need this, BUT... when he does need it he NEEDS it, and there appears to be no way of predicting it (Loud Lady suggested just asking Bear - the rest of us just looked at each other and said uh, besides the fact that he LIES because he doesn't want the higher supervision, it changes in seconds. I tried to explain about Bear having the impulse control of a toddler, but she didn't get it.


5. Because the Loud Lady said we couldn't put him at the Special School next year, and the AP said he couldn't supervise Bear as closely as he and I agreed Bear needed, I did tell them, "I just want to go on record as saying I disagree with this decision. It's on your head if something worse than Poison Oak happens to Bear when he's skipping class because the school has stated they will not provide the supervision that Bear needs."


6. Bear's case manager sat quietly through most of the meeting. She spoke up to support the AP about not having the staff to escort Bear. She made a comment about the escorting that "Mary wants" not being possible with the school's resources (yes, she was sitting next to Bear). I did speak up and say, UH this is about me wanting Bear to be safe, and the AP supported me by agreeing that Bear needs the supervision. I had to laugh after the end of the meeting when Loud Lady was asking about Bear's support people at the school and I said I thought it was the AP. Case Manager agreed that he'd quickly grown to dislike all the behavior program staff. And I mentioned my pedestal theory (Bear puts people, especially women, on pedestals, and he's charming and tells them stuff to make them feel sorry for him - not necessarily lies, but not real issues. When they start to see through his b.s. and holding him accountable they are dumped off the pedestal and he hates them.). Loud Lady commented on the fact that Case Manager must be a support for him and Case Manager and I looked at each other and amiably agreed that no he didn't like her at all. Did I mention that Loud Lady doesn't "get it?"


7. There are no Summer school options for Bear, even though he cannot really pass English, because there are no special ed options and even if there were he cannot be adequately supervised. This semester his English grades are 54, 64, and 25 (not including the final). Wanna know what the English teacher wrote on his Progress Report under Academic Progress?



Bear failed to turn in his SSR Project for this 6 weeks. He is currently failing with a 25. He was doing well up until this point.

Umm... I don't know what her definition of "doing well" is, but mine does not include a 54 and 64! Still as the AP pointed out, what matters is the whole school year and Bear made As and Bs the first semester so he'd have to make obscenely low grades to fail and he is good enough at math to have figured this out


8. Bear will need another transition ARD now that his life choices have changed, but he needs to make some choices and maybe try some stuff out first. This Personal Center Planning person is supposed to be helping his with that.



So where are we now?


  • I still don't know what we're doing with Bear this Summer.

  • He's mad at me for fighting for him to have the increased supervision and making them consider the Special School (yes, AP and Hubby agreed with me, but they're men and not the Mama, so he's not mad at them).

  • He is VERY defeatist and negative right now with no end in sight.

  • Sometime right before school starts we'll have an ARD and can change a few of Bear's classes, but most of what he needs is not an option (ex. I suggested PE for first period instead of math which he slept through all semester, but there are no morning PE classes).

  • Someone will try to talk to this years' teachers about his behavior issues to do a Functional Behavior Plan, but most of the assessments will have to be next year. This must be completed before any decisions regarding increasing supervision for Bear can be made, let alone implemented so we're looking at 6 weeks before anything can happen. Honeymooning is a good thing because it means he might not get into any serious trouble before more strict supervision is in place, but bad, because they are assessing him during this period and will most likely decide he doesn't need the extra supervision. (Sorry is my pessimism showing?)

The one good thing was that most of the 12 people at the ARD had read my e-mail and it helped get us all on the same page. I want to say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to all the people who helped me write it!!

In which I'm thrown under the bus


MONDAY


Monday morning Bear "missed" the school bus. I deliberately delayed upstairs until he would be a few minutes late, and then we left. On the way to school we talked about the fact that Bear had an ARD/IEP meeting on Tuesday. Bear repeated that he thinks it is all my fault that he is having to be escorted and in ISS for lunch. I told him (again) that this is happening because of his choices and reminded him that he is being watched to decide what is going to happen next school year (so he should behave). I also told him that I can not make the school escort him or give him ISS - I do not have that power. He just kept saying it was my fault. I continued trying to get him to accept some responsibility, and also mentioned that this is happening because he is not being safe or making good choices, and I need him to be safe...
A couple of minutes away from the school I called the behavior program and let them know we would be there in a few minutes so they could escort Bear into the building. This did NOT make Bear happy, and of course he was mad at ME. When we got to school he refused to get out of the car. This was made even more fun by the fact that his escort was to be Mr. P, yes, the teacher he tried to get rid of by accusing him of sexual harassment. Mr. P did not approach the car. He stayed about 20ft away. Stalemate. Bear was yelling at me to take him home. I wasn't going anywhere.
Finally one of the other Behavior Program teachers came up to Mr. P. talked to him for a sec. and then walked up to the car. I rolled down the window and she told Bear they wouldn't be holding his hand; they'd be hanging back and following discretely. His friends wouldn't even know he was being escorted. Then she said IT.
"I know it bothers you that your mom wants you to be followed all day, but we'll try to keep you from being too embarassed."
The only good thing was, it did get Bear out of the car and into the school.
Guess I don't have to wonder why he's convinced this is all my fault.
Edited to add: At his ARD today his caseworker said the same thing. The AP talked about the escorting being a valid need, but it was way too late.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

It's not his fault


FRIDAY

Bear yelled, cussed and threatened to leave when informed that he was going to be escorted between classes and would have to go to ISS (in school suspension) for lunch. Not just at me, but apparently at the whole school. I've heard different versions. He ended up in the AP's office for an hour or so to calm down then went to ISS for the rest of the day (think Bear made the connection that his behavior made it worse for himself? If you said yes, then you thought wrong. He justified his behavior by saying he wasn't going to get what he wanted anyway so he might as well torture everyone. He thinks he has no reason to behave because no matter what he does he does we won't lighten up on him anyway. Apparently he acted the jerk for the rest of the day - disruptive and distracting in ISS).

I feel so sorry for the Behavior Program teacher, Mr. P., was apparently the one that got the job of telling Bear about the escorting and lunch in ISS, and then following him around all day. This is the man Bear thinks is out to get him and was accusing of sexual harassment (because the teacher followed Bear into the bathroom once - didn't say or do anything and didn't "look" just wouldn't go away and leave Bear alone).

After the blow-up, Bear spent an hour calming down in the AP's office then spent the rest of the day in ISS. He got on the bus and came home. Hubby met the bus so Bear wasn't alone with Grandma or I. I went to my therapy, Grandma took Bob to dinner, and Hubby took the rest of the kids to a end of year party for Kitty's behavior/special ed program at the house of one of her classmates. Bear was in the program a couple of years ago when he was in middle school so he knew and liked a couple of the teachers that were there.

After therapy I met Hubby and the kids at the party. Extrovert heaven for me! Other parents of special needs teens! Hubby had to drag me out by my hair at 10:30pm (1.5 hours after the kids bedtime). I met another mom with bipolar who was pretty manic, and I discovered that I don't just pick up other's accents to the point that I worry that they'll think I'm mocking them, but apparently I pick up their entire frame of mind. I was just as manic as she until I was away from her for about 10 minutes. Freaky!



SATURDAY

Hubby had to work (teaching scuba) so I had the 3 older kids by myself (Hubby took Ponito to the lake). The good thing about Bear is that he shoves his emotions in a box so while he's never really happy, at the same time he rarely stays mad for long (surly and pouting he can hang onto forever). So I took them grocery shopping. Yes, I know. It sounds masochistic... and it is, but it was better than sitting around the house all day (which he hates), or taking him to thrift stores (which he hates), or spending the day telling him no for all the things he wants to do that we can't afford or I can't trust him with.


Then I took him to therapy. (Girls stayed with Grandma). The therapist actually stepped up to the plate a little. He never returned my call on Friday or responded to my e-mail, but he at least acted as though he'd skimmed it. He asked Bear what happened on Friday and Bear said, "I don't know." When pressed, Bear started talking about something random that happened that morning (rough horseplay with a friend). By the end of therapy I was even more worried about Bear. Nothing was his fault. He is giving up, because no matter what he does he has no control over his life and everyone is out to get him so he might as well just be really "bad" and get to enjoy torturing adults.


Bear mainly just wanted everyone to leave him alone. He was going to go somewhere (it varied - a mountain, a ranch, a reservation, Mexico - he said repeatedly he didn't care if the country would cut off his hands or kill him if he got in trouble...) where he could be totally alone and do whatever he wanted. Therapist pointed out that he couldn't escape trouble - the trouble is in him. Bear had a defeatist/ blow up the world attitude. As usual we tried to talk him into construction/ building/ fixing instead of demolition, but I know it didn't "stick."



He was blaming me for everything that was happening with school. Not just the recent stuff. He said even when he was behaving he didn't get privileges like getting to hang out with his friends - so why bother. He also brought up the fact that every time he had a friend over I would hang out with them. Whenever I talked to his friend's parent, they no longer hung out with him. Of course this is because almost all of the friends he was talking about were girls, and always girls with mega issues (the only ones that will put up with his b.s.). And of course the fact that he is completely untrustworthy and every time we give him an inch, he acts entitled to a mile.



MONDAY was even more fun.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Bad News Bear


The good news is the ARD is scheduled for Tuesday at 2:30pm!


The bad news is Bear apparently just found out that he is going to be escorted between classes and has to eat lunch in the ISS room. He blames me (rightly so, the school wasn’t going to do anything about it until I made them).


Bear called me at 12:30 screaming and cursing and ordering me to come pick him up. I refused (don’t really want to be in a car with a 220lb angry gorilla for some reason) and tried to help him find a way to calm down. He continued to threaten to walk out and I continued to refuse to come get him. He slammed down the phone and stormed out, but was apparently intercepted by the AP (he was there for once!). I called the AP a minute later and told him I won’t come get Bear. This did not please the AP who said I was "tying thier hands." I told him he could call the police if needed.


I’ll call him back in a minute and tell him Hubby can pick up Bear in ½ an hour or so. I’ll also remind them to make sure he gets his mid-day meds.


I’ve almost stopped shaking.


What the heck am I going to do with this child all Summer?


The good news is that this can only help our case for getting him back at the Special School (assuming he doesn't run away this Summer when he turns 17). Is it wrong to hope he escalates to the point where he takes a swing at the AP? (Not hurting the man, just making the attempt.) He needs access to the services that would give him.


Struggling to Stand sent me info about getting an adult declared as needing guardianship. If Bear were younger or obviously mentally disabled (what's the current PC term?) in some way I would guess that the police would return him, but otherwise it is up to the police officer to decide whether or not to force him home (Bear looks like an adult). Gonna finish filling out the CRCG paperwork today and see if they can help me find more options.

Wow that was long! IEP description


I sent the letter to the teacher who started all of this (his English and Study Skills teacher), both of which classes he's failing, his school caseworker (who hasn't been returning my calls or e-mails) and the Assistant Principal (ditto), the Principal who's called me twice in the last two days to assure me that they are addressing this (now) and that she is calling an ARD* (IEP** meeting), the Assistant District Superintendent, the District Superintendent, Bear's therapist, the school psychologist, and the school guidance counselor. If I don't have an ARD date on Monday I will be hand delivering this letter to all the people at Bear's school (noting who else is receiving it) and mailing the rest. If I don't receive a meeting date by Wednesday I'll pay to resend the letter to the superintendent and principal by certified letter - with a cover letter demanding an ARD immediately.

In the meantime, the school says they would give Bear in-school suspension, but since all his classes are reviewing for finals they would prefer not to. Instead they will escort him between classes and he will be supervised at lunch.

Yesterday I got a call from Bear saying he had a project due in Science (another unfinished project in yet another class *sigh) and the teacher wouldn't let him take the materials he needs home to work on it so he needed to stay after school. I asked him lots of questions (which he hates) and discovered he could have been working on this in class but chose not to. I told him he had to have the teacher call me before I would approve it.

When the teacher called me she confirmed that she would be there, said Bear needed to use her reference materials (which she was very smart to not lend out) to classify his collection of shells (been there over a month). She promised that she would not let him out of her sight, and if they finished early or late she would call me.

5 minutes before school got out the teacher called me. She said that Bear claimed his materials were in the ROTC room and he needed to leave class to go get them. He's skipped out of her tutoring this way before so she told him she needed to escort him. He didn't like this and said he would just take the bus home then. She told him she would call me to let me know and he said, "No, she'll figure it out when I get there." The teacher called me anyway (obviously) and I reassured her she'd done the right thing (she didn't want to get in trouble). I asked her to have Bear escorted to the bus by the [behavior program] as he tends to "miss" it at times like this. She asked me if I wanted to speak to him and I screamed, "H*LL NO!" said, "Sure," but Bear refused to talk to me and walked out. I asked the teacher to call the [behavior program] and let them know what happened and see if they would check to see if he got on his bus.

I then called the bus driver's cell phone (she usually calls if he misses his bus), but she wasn't driving that day. So I called Transportation and miracle of miracles he was on the bus!

I rushed home so Grandma wouldn't have to deal with him. He was pouty, but we ignored that, and things were fairly smooth the rest of the evening. Could be because the whole family (including niece and nephew who stay with us on Thursdays) attended Kitty's choir concert I'd forgotten about. It was pretty bad and extremely boring lovely and very soothing so everyone came home very calm and almost immediately after that it was bedtime.

Oh yea, Hubby was extremely upset the whole evening because one of our clients fired us for no apparent reason when their project was almost complete. This takes us down to only one client and they aren't returning our calls. When is enough enough?!

* ARD is a Texas term for an IEP team meeting.
** IEP stands for Individualized Education Plan - it's for special ed students and lists the academic accommodations and behavior plan the school is providing. It is very thorough and progress is reported at the same time as report cards. The team that helps write the IEP must include a school administrator, a special education administrator, a general ed teacher, a special ed teacher, and the parents/ guardians, it can also include other people. Parents can bring in therapists, specialists, lawyers, really anyone they want for support and advice. The school can bring in school psychologists, psych assessment administrators... Once a kid starts middle school they usually attend the meetings too.

The team has to meet at least twice a year. Once to approve the IEP, and about a month later to assess how it's going. They can meet more often of course. Getting a meeting called for reasons like this is difficult.

I finally hit send!

Forgive me for being blunt, but as I look at Bear’s declining grades and spotty attendance over the last semester, send yet another e-mail, leave yet another unreturned message with the Associate Principal and [BEHAVIOR PROGRAM] office, talk to yet another counselor or [BEHAVIOR PROGRAM] Aide, talk to yet another teacher about major projects Bear hasn’t even worked on… knowing that none of my repeated requests for assistance with Bear’s steadily declining behavior are being addressed, especially now that there’s little more than a week of school left… I’m feeling a little FRUSTRATED to say the least. I am therefore officially requesting an immediate IEP meeting.

In my discussion on May 19 with the principal, Ms. D, she asked what I think would help Bear. Here are my suggestions for what needs to be discussed at the upcoming IEP meeting (in no particular order):


  • · Bear’s continuing absences and tardies
  • · Bear’s failing grades / subjects
  • · Bear’s return to the security and structure of [SPECIAL SCHOOL FOR EMOTIONALLY DISTURBED STUDENTS]
  • · Increase in supervision - escorting to and from the bus and when leaving classroom and between classes. Supervised lunch period (currently he wanders the halls rather than going in the lunch room where he'll be "trapped").
  • · Setting up effective discipline techniques and follow through : ISS, detentions, shadowing…
  • · Changes to IEP – Adding functional goals and life skills, chunking assignments (requiring breaking down large projects into smaller ones)...
  • · Transition Planning: Helping Bear find new, realistic career/ life goals
  • · Summer School
  • · Special Ed bus


[This is where I included a long list of "What My Son Learned from Not Getting Consequences at School" in this email. If I had it to do again, I would not have included this list in this email of things I wanted discussed at his next IEP meeting. It was mostly venting on my part. 

I am including the list at the end of this post, because it is important information that needed to be brought to the attention of the school, but not in a call-to-action email, and probably written in a completely different format that was more constructive rather than emotional and venting, which was unlikely to give us the desired effect (and in truth, did not).]

YOU ARE LIABLE!
Do you realize… that the things you are teaching my emotionally disturbed son are helping him get to jail much faster, where he will finally get the structure and rules he NEEDS to feel safe which he hasn’t been able to get at [Bear’s high school]?

Do you realize… the liability of keeping a child in your school, without vigilant supervision, who has openly stated that he WANTS to be in a structured, safe environment, like [Off Campus Detention] full of all the kids getting caught with drugs, fighting, violent... the "bad" kids that can teach Bear lots of fun stuff!, and that he is willing to hurt someone and/or do whatever it takes to get there?

LEGALLY YOU MUST PROVIDE F.A.P.E. (Free Appropriate Public Education) 
Let me be clear. I do not approve of what you are teaching him. I do not think he should be allowed to continue on this path until he graduates to behaviors you can’t ignore or he drops out of school. Let me be even MORE clear: You are failing in your legal duty to provide Bear with an individualized appropriate education while keeping him and his fellow students safe.

HE IS A DANGER TO OTHER STUDENTS 
Bear is not "normal."  He has very little conscience or impulse control, and if he thinks he won’t get caught or that his actions are justified he makes choices that have the potential to be lethal. For example: He has clearly stated he would not report someone with plans to blow up a public building (like a school). He was caught taking a very realistic air gun to school, and told the police he intended to trade it for drugs. He has taken drugs to school with the obvious intent to sell them. He very clearly does not understand that not taking his meds and trading/selling them to others can have lethal consequences (for himself and others) due to the types of meds and the dosages he takes.

HE NEEDS INDEPENDENT LIVING SKILLS NOT UNREALISTIC ACADEMIC GOALS
The school has repeatedly stated that Bear should not be told he cannot join the military or police. Over the Christmas holidays, we (his parents) decided that we and the school had exhausted all possibilities of getting Bear to choose a different career path than the military or police, and finally told him the truth – that he was not eligible for service because of his psychiatric history and medications. This should have been done years ago when Bear was still in middle school to give him time in high school to focus on vocational skills better suited to his abilities.  Instead of helping him find new goals and motivators, you have allowed him to fall through the cracks.

Bear is told by the school that he can take care of himself in the real world. 

  • He doesn’t even know what a resumé is! 
  • He cannot fill out a job application
  • He cannot fill out a medical history questionnaire. 
  • He has no job skills
  • He has only basic math skills.
  • He doesn't understand money, budgeting, banking, taxes...
  • His Independent Living skills are practically non-existent. 

Who’s going to help him how to fill medication prescriptions? Who is going to teach him how to apply for and maintain all the Medicaid paperwork? Who’s going to pay for his meds if he loses Medicaid (over $1000 a month)? What about when his Medicaid runs out when he turns 19? Someone has to do it and he won’t let us.

Transition Meetings
During Transition Meetings, Bear's skills and abilities are never mentioned. He's allowed to set and work toward unrealistic goals. He thinks he is capable of working full-time, supporting himself, graduating high school, and going to college.

He doesn't know how to study and has never even had homework. He receives many accommodations in high school and is not really successful there. As a special education student with limited capabilities due to his documented brain injuries causing significant memory issues among other things and multiple diagnoses. Why would he be told that college is even an option?

Without these skills and abilities, how would he even support himself in school? He is eligible for college scholarships because of his Native American heritage and his time in foster care; however as a special education student he would need to go to junior/community college first. He will need a lot of help, but because of his issues he cannot ask for or accept that help, especially from us, his parents, and he doesn't have the skills needed to apply for help.


WHAT BEAR NEEDS FROM THE SCHOOL

ADD FUNCTIONAL GOALS AND LIFE SKILLS TO IEP
Bear won’t graduate high school until he’s almost 19 (assuming he makes it that far). Knowing that he is at extreme risk for dropping out, his IEP must include some functional goals and life skills so he can at least have a hope of getting a job and taking care of himself.

Also, Bear's IEP should say that he is unable to handle long-term projects.
Example: He has a major project in World History due that if he fails to turn it in will take him from a 96 to failing. He manipulated his Grandmother into sculpting an art piece for him that, despite the fact that he hasn't done or turned in any of the required steps (like proposed topic, thesis statement, rough draft...) and it didn't really meet the assignment requirements, would probably have gotten him a good grade if I hadn’t let his teacher know. He needs his assignments "chunked," broken down into steps that are individually turned in and graded, rather than be expected to be organized enough to do this on his own.


SUPPORT BEAR STAYING HOME AND TAKING MEDS
We strongly suggest you support and encourage Bear to stay home and take his medications while in school, because without the structure provided by us, he will not have the support he needs to graduate. He has already stated that he plans to stop taking his meds when he leaves our home (he doesn't believe he has the "labels"/diagnoses so sees no need for meds). In addition to the fact that going off his meds suddenly can kill him, go back and look at Bear’s 7th grade records if you want to know what he was like when he wasn’t on the correct meds and dosages. This is how he qualified for [SPECIAL SCHOOL FOR EMOTIONALLY DISTURBED STUDENTS] and 7 months of residential treatment (not to mention the legal justice system).

 Are you aware of the liability of a 5’9” 220lb angry child who is raging and out of control because he is off his anti-psychotic medications? Recently a [BEHAVIOR PROGRAM] staff member observed what might have been Bear pocketing his mid-day meds. This type of thing needs to be followed up on and reported.

PROVIDE SUPERVISION
Bear has been skipping lunch to avoid detention and being “trapped” in the cafeteria [once they enter, students are not allowed to leave the cafeteria during lunch time]. He uses this unsupervised time to work out in the weight room, hang out in the ROTC hallway, play with the equipment in shop, steal things from other students and the school, and who knows what else.

MONITOR HIS MEDS AND LUNCH
Bear has been allowed to avoid the cafeteria (to be free to wander) so he is not eating lunch and his meds (if he's even taking the ones at lunch time) are not as effective on an empty stomach. He has also been observed gorging himself on sweets and drinking caffeinated beverages which can also effect his behavior. He has money on his lunch card and we do not give him “pocket” money (although he is very much an entrepreneur and is frequently seen with sugary snacks and drinks). He's

SPECIAL ED BUS
Bear takes a special-ed. bus because he was not safe on the general-ed. bus. He misses this bus often, requiring a family member to come pick him up. He does this whenever he wants to do something after school or just hang out with his friends. He needs to be supervised getting on the bus.

Bear does not have a driver’s license, nor do we intend to help him get one any time soon because he is not capable of handling the skills and responsibilities needed to operate a potentially deadly piece of machinery. He cannot be trusted to be where he is supposed to be when he is supposed to be there, cannot be trusted with money, cannot be trusted out of direct supervision (which he’d need to be able to handle to get a job to earn money for a car), and he cannot be trusted not to use the car for illegal, immoral and unsafe purposes. This means he must ride the bus.

PROTECT STAFF AND STUDENTS
We are extremely concerned that while we are able to supervise him fairly closely here at home, he is unsupervised for significant periods of time at school, and this could be endangering other students. Bear manipulates and is incapable of having healthy relationships. I know he tends to prey on students, especially girls, with issues like his own (like those in most of his classes). He has enticed others into joining him in risky behaviors (skipping class, being unsupervised in the shop classroom, going off campus in a "borrowed" car driven by him (an unlicensed driver), fighting...).
If he is allowed to be with others unsupervised, you are leaving yourselves open to a wide variety of liabilities.

By the way, the case of Poison Oak he got when he skipped class on Monday was in some places on his body that are usually never exposed by my son - who wears at least 3 layers of clothing at all times (he wouldn’t even let the doctor see the rash on his bellybutton or lift his shorts up even an inch - let alone what he claims is under his boxers. Luckily he was willing to remove his jeans and the doctor was able to diagnose him from the small amount of rash showing below his shorts). I strongly suggest that you see if any of the girls he’s been hanging around with lately that also skipped class at that time have poison oak --You might want to talk to them or their parents about personal health and safety issues (like using condoms).

Bear has learned that accusing staff of things like sexual harassment and discrimination can get him what he wants. Staff need to be warned to document any discipline, consequences, or unusual behavior to protect themselves. I also strongly advise being alone one on one with him.

RETURN HIM TO [SPECIAL SCHOOL FOR EMOTIONALLY DISTURBED STUDENTS]
While at [SPECIAL SCHOOL FOR EMOTIONALLY DISTURBED STUDENTS], staff was constantly saying that he shouldn’t be there because he was doing so well, but the truth is that’s why he was doing so well! To feel safe, Bear needs the structure, rules and support that [SPECIAL SCHOOL FOR EMOTIONALLY DISTURBED STUDENTS] gives him.
When Bear does not feel safe his focus becomes totally on controlling his world until he achieves that security. It is as if he is in a overwhelming, loud, terrifying active war zone all the time. Imagine trying to focus on and learn math while under direct enemy fire.

SUMMARY
Bear has brain damage. It will not go away, but with help from those involved with him and encouraging hard work and motivation on his part he can become a functioning adult.

Bear is not getting the education he needs and deserves, despite the fact that the accommodations he needs are required by law. He is under-supervised and is a danger to himself and others. HE NEEDS HELP. WE NEED HELP. 

Please contact me immediately to schedule an IEP meeting. 


Mary TheMom
[Contact Info]



WHAT [BEAR’S HIGH SCHOOL] HAS “TAUGHT” MY SON THIS YEAR:

No Consequences to Not Doing Schoolwork
Bear has thoroughly learned the lesson that as long as he turns in something, anything, eventually, whether he did the work himself or not, he will still pass. And even if he doesn’t pass there are no consequences.
 Bear has been told that late projects will not be accepted and even been given forms and contracts to sign to that effect, but when he doesn’t turn the project in, he’s told he can have an extension (although he might lose 10 points for each day late). He knows he is not held accountable for missing work, coming to class unprepared (if he shows up at all), and turning in major projects thrown together at the last minute.

He Can't Fail
He’s learned that he can coast on the good grades he earned last semester. He’s learned that teachers will not let him fail, especially if he’s “close” (i.e. pretty much anything above a 65). He’s learned that it’s only the final score that matters, and "creative accounting" means that will be a 70.

Adults are Easily Manipulated
This year, ROTC taught him that he can talk someone into giving him extra credit and teachers will even go back and change a grade from the previous 6 weeks from a 40 something to passing. He’s apparently about to learn that if he loses his uniform and does nothing about it that his parents will have to pay the $250 and have no way of making him pay it back (he still owes money for the neighbor’s lawnmower that he borrowed and destroyed, not to mention our lawnmower, everyone’s bikes that he “fixed” until they were ruined… but that’s not your problem).

Grades and Standardized Testing Don't Matter
Last Summer he learned the lesson that we can’t make him do any work in Summer School, and we can’t even make him ATTEND Summer School (the high school holding Summer school that year didn’t bother to tell us that he wasn’t showing up and even during the session he attended he couldn’t have done much or his grade would have been higher than a 30 something). He’s also learned that it doesn’t matter if he fails Summer School or the TAKS test{State Standardized Testing}, he still gets promoted to the next grade. This of course was most significant in 8th grade when he was promoted to high school after failing the Math TAKS 3 times. He has continued to fail the Math TAKS every year since.

No One Cares if You Don't Show Up
He’s definitely learned that school attendance is not important, tardies are no big deal, and if you don’t like a class, teacher or students, you have every right to get up and walk out. If you get caught, then you get to hang out with and enjoy the full attention of a male person (usually the AP) who listens and cares.

Detention is Fun
He learned that the worst that can happen to him is detention, which probably won’t happen anyway. I was told several times he would receive detentions that he never received. Not only did this make us, as his parents, look stupid (or worse, like liars) to Bear for our warnings, but it also reinforced his belief that he’d “gotten away” with something.

He did get a few detentions, but by the time they were given, the actual offense(s) was forgotten (or justified in his head) and it was no longer about his poor choices, but was “our fault” he was in trouble (because we’d pushed for the consequence).

Bear actually enjoys detention (I’m not sure what the rules are, but I suspect that he manages to get around them).

There are also no consequences to skipping or missing detentions. We had to pull him early from a couple of detentions because he had therapy, and he was supposed to make up the time at lunch, but he learned how to avoid that too (if he didn’t go into the cafeteria no one could make him stay there).

He Can Control Adults
He’s also learned that adults are stupid, easily lied to and manipulated, and not to be trusted (that last part he already “knew,” but this has reinforced it). Bear tries to be in total control of his part of the big, scary world. He’s learned he can even get adults to jump through hoops by accusing people of things like sexual harassment, and if they don’t get in trouble then it’s because they are liars who are “out to get him.” The one consequence to Bear’s actions that he hates - was being escorted everywhere, but he feels he got that to stop by accusing Mr. P of sexual harassment and threatening to take it to Dr. C (the school superintendent) when he realized no one was going to change anything, because they didn't believe him.

Even Real Crimes Have No Consequences
He learned that stealing, statutory rape, fighting, and taking drugs, tobacco, gang paraphernalia and weapons to school, are all fine because no one will catch you. Well, except Mom, who searches and investigates, but her findings don’t count at school. Even when caught red-handed by the school, he’s learned how to lie and manipulate the situation so that it can’t be resolved immediately and/or would require a thorough investigation, in which case it’s usually set aside and forgotten by the school.

He's "Normal" and Those Few Saying Otherwise Are Out to Get Him
Everyone keeps it a big secret from Bear that he’s not "normal.” This is not "helping his self-esteem," this is preventing him from learning how to cope with his disabilities.
Being told he's normal, means, Bear has no idea why he is put in places like [SPECIAL SCHOOL FOR EMOTIONALLY DISTURBED STUDENTS], has behavior staff following him, is unable to understand and control his emotions and behaviors, is in study skills class despite not having homework, and has “labels”/ diagnoses.

Therefore, he chooses to believe that people who say he needs this help are out to get him, or being mean, or lying to him. I do not believe you are going to be able to convince him that the labels are accurate, but he does not need to be lied to (even by omission) and have people reinforcing his belief that he is “normal.”

 If Bear believes, and thinks most people believe, that he is “normal,” then he has no motivation to do the very hard work of coping with and hopefully healing his issues, behavior and disabilities. The inappropriate defense mechanisms, memory and learning issues, maladaptive coping methods and inability to handle relationships appropriately that stem from his many diagnoses and traumatic childhood will continue intensifying and causing more and more severe problems for Bear and all who deal with him.

If you really think Bear is a “normal” teenage boy with “a few issues,” then you can keep telling him that, but I hope you truly understand the consequences (I know he doesn’t).

He Can Move Out at 17
Bear is hearing at school that he can move out at age 17 (in less than 2 months!). Texas legal code states that runaways MUST be physically returned home until they are 18However, I am aware that enforcement of this is often left to the discretion of the county, agency or department that finds them. Bear is being told by peers, school staff, and the SRO {police officer permanently assigned to the school} that no one will make him return home, and he shouldn’t have to put up with the strict supervision provided at home (despite the fact that he obviously needs it). What is the school’s policy on runaways? Assuming he shows up to class will we be notified?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Revised letter





Mary,

I understand your anger, but this is only going to turn your readers off. Instead of a diatribe to the entire school, exposing everyone's errors to everyone else, why not re write the letter in a mild and polite SHORT form, expressing concern that Bear isn't getting the message about ONE thing at a time.

I know you are about to explode with anger, but that's how the letter comes across. To the principal, just let him know that several areas at the school are not giving the students the message he is trying to give his students. Each teacher needs to know that he is using them, but it also needs to tell them how they can make a small change to get his attention and get him turned around.

Mom(You asked!)


Mom,

The problem is I’ve tried that. Over and Over. And NOTHING has really happened.

The first time, I managed to get them to start noticing that he was leaving classes and tardy a lot (not admitting it mind you, just willing to kind of do something about it). They briefly had someone escort him when he left class, but now he’s worse. He’s just coming to class late instead of leaving mid class (although he still does that), assuming he showed up at all.

The second time, I managed to get a parent teacher conference, but all that did was give his teachers info that they should have had the first month not three months before the end of the year. We didn’t address his attendance, grades, or loss of motivation.

The most recent time, I managed to get the to meet with me they agreed that there was a problem, and said they might have him escorted between classes (didn’t happen) and would give him detention (didn’t happen).

Now he has 3 days of class left. Only a week and a half until all stops because school is out. I don’t have time for one thing at a time.

FYI, he played you. Getting him the clay was fine (although he’s put it off for months – blaming it on me for not getting him what he needed - by always asking at the last minute when we couldn’t get any) However he got you to actually make his history project buffalo for him.

Looks great by the way.

Here’s the changes I made.
Better?

Mary

REVISED LETTER

RE: Bear’s Grades and Attendance

Please forgive me for being blunt, but as I look at Bear’s declining grades and spotty attendance over the last semester, send yet another e-mail, leave yet another message with the AP’s office, talk to yet another counselor or (School Behavior Program) Aide, talk to yet another teacher about projects Bear hasn’t even worked on, knowing there is nothing that anyone can/will do, especially now that there’s less than a week of class time left… I’m feeling a little “frustrated.”

I just want to say thank you all for everything (Bear's high school) has “taught” my son this year.

+ Ms. S, Why do you bother to write that late projects will not be accepted? You do realize that Bear has thoroughly learned the lesson that as long as he turns in something, anything, eventually, whether he did the work himself or not, that he will still pass? And even if he doesn’t pass there are no consequences. If we’re not going to hold him accountable, then at what point do we say that Bear is unable to handle long-term projects (he owes one in World History as well that if he fails to turn it in will take him from a 96 to failing)?

+ By the way he’s also learned that he can coast on earlier grades and that teachers will not let him fail if he’s “close” (i.e. pretty much anything above a 65).

+ This year, ROTC taught him that he can talk someone into giving him extra credit and even go back and change a grade from the previous 6 weeks from a 40 something to passing. He’s apparently about to learn that if he loses his uniform and does nothing about it that his parents will have to pay the $250 and have no way of making him pay it back (he still owes money for the neighbor’s lawnmower that he borrowed and destroyed, not to mention our lawnmower, everyone’s bikes… but that’s not your problem).

+ Last Summer he learned the lesson that we can make him go to Summer School, but we can’t make him GO to Summer School (Stony Point didn’t bother to tell us that he wasn’t showing up and even during the session he attended he couldn’t have done much or he would have gotten more than a 30something). Of course he’s also learned that it doesn’t matter if he fails Summer School or the TAKS test, he still gets promoted to the next grade. You’ll have to share the credit for teaching him that with Cedar Valley MS.

+ He’s definitely learned that school attendance is not important, tardies are no big deal, and if you don’t like a class, teacher or students you have every right to get up and walk out. If you get caught then you can hang out with and enjoy the full attention of a male person who listens and cares.

+ He learned that the worst that can happen to him is detention, and that's not so bad and probably won’t happen anyway. I was told several times he would receive some detentions that he never received. I do not appreciate that not only did this make us as his parents look stupid to Bear, but it reinforced his belief that he’d “gotten away” with something. He did get some detentions, but by the time they were given the offense(s) was forgotten (or justified in his head), and it was no longer about his choices, but was “our fault” he was in trouble (because we’d pushed for the consequence). Bear actually enjoys detention (not sure what the rules are, but I suspect that he manages to get around them). We had to pull him early from a couple of detentions because he had therapy, and he was supposed to make up the time at lunch, but he learned how to avoid that too (if he didn’t go in the cafeteria no one could make him stay there). By the way, who knows what he was doing during lunch time?

+ He learned that stealing things and taking drugs and weapons to school, are fine because no one will catch you. Well, except Mom, but that doesn’t count at school.

+ He’s also learned that adults are stupid, easily lied to and manipulated, and not to be trusted (that last part he already “knew,” but so glad we could reinforce it). Bear is in total control of his part of the big, bad world. He can even get adults to jump through hoops by accusing teachers of things like sexual harassment, and if they don’t get in trouble then it’s because they are liars who are out to get him.

The things you are teaching my son will help him get to jail much faster, and he will finally get the structure and rules he needs to feel safe, but have you considered the innocent people he will be hurting on his way there?

Let me be clear. I do not approve of what you are teaching him. I do not think he should be allowed to continue on this path until he graduates to behaviors you can’t ignore or he drops out . I believe that you have failed in your duty to provide him with an appropriate education.

Bear is not normal. He has very little conscience, and if he thinks he won’t get caught he has the potential to make lethal choices (even if it’s just not reporting that someone else has plans to blow up the school or selling someone his drugs that he doesn’t understand can be lethal in the doses he takes).

If you really think Bear is a “normal” teenage boy with a “few issues,” then you can keep telling him that, but I hope you truly understand the consequences (I know he doesn’t).

+ He’s hearing at school that not only can he move out at age 17 (less than 2 months people!), but that he can take care of himself in the real world. This is a kid who doesn’t even know what a resume is. He cannot fill out a job application. He is not capable of asking for help. How is he going to support himself at age 17, 18? Think his first priority will be making sure he takes his meds correctly for the “labels” he is convinced he doesn’t have? Go back and look at Bear’s records if you want to know what he was like when he wasn’t on the right meds. Or just multiply the way he is now by like a thousand.


+ Who’s going to help him fill those meds? Who’s going to pay for it (over $1000 a month)? What about when his Medicaid runs out? Not us. He won’t let us. He’s pushing us away so we can’t hurt him.

+ It’s reinforced to him almost every day that he’s perfectly normal, and that’s what he wants to hear. “All teens are separating from their parents at this age,” of course Bear never attached to anyone in the first place so he is not practicing what he’s learned from us, he’s falling without a parachute.


+ We won’t help him get a driver’s license. When Bear decides he deserves or needs a car and thinks he can get away with it, he’ll be “borrowing” one. He already think he “knows how to drive” (I’m thinking Rainman here). All of you who think he’s normal can pay the court fees and help him write apology notes to his victims’ families.


+ By the way, the case of Poison Oak he got when he skipped class Monday was in some places that are never exposed by my son who wears at least 3 layers at all times (he wouldn’t even let the doctor see the rash on his bellybutton let alone what he claims is under his (jeans, shorts, and boxers). Are those of you who have been teaching him that skipping class is OK ready to tell the mother of the girl he was probably with why my son won’t be the best baby daddy for her child?

+ Bear is incapable of having a healthy relationship. I know he tends to prey on girls with issues like his own (like those in most of his classes). We call them “Kleenex girls” because he goes through them like Kleenex. How many pregnant girls are you willing to counsel and support?

Bear won’t graduate high school until he’s almost 19, assuming he doesn’t drop out before then. He was doing well while he had the support of (Special Behavior School), but I’ve been told (Special Behavior School) is no longer an option. I need to hear options, because what is being done now is not working.

Please contact me when you’re ready to address this. ###.###.####.

Mary