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!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

New School Year Letter to Teacher - Kitty

What do y'all think?

Dear High School Teachers and Staff,

My name is Mary Themom. I am the parent of 9th grade student, Kitty. Kitty is served by the district as a student with an Emotional Disturbance (RAD, bipolar, C-PTSD), Other Health Impaired (medicated ADHD), and Learning Disabilities (cerebral dysrhythmia). If you have any questions or concerns regarding any of these diagnoses or the others that she has, please feel free to e-mail me at or call me at (###) ###-####.

It is my hope that Kitty will have a successful school year. To help ensure this I would like to share some information with you.

Kitty is a former foster child, who was discarded into foster care at age 9, because she was “out of control.” This was due to the lack of proper parenting provided by her mentally ill mother, abusive male caregivers, and Kitty’s untreated mental health issues. It is rarely seen in her behavior at school now. I bring this up to help you understand Kitty’s reactions, anxiety and issues, so you can better support her and help her learn. Kitty responds best to caring structure. If she doesn’t believe the person cares about her she will attribute all sorts of negative motives to them (especially males).

Due to trust issues, Kitty’s reactions are often subtle at school, but believe me she is frequently under major emotional distress at which point she “shuts down” (not learning or remembering!) and is extremely emotionally fragile and at risk. Some things to watch for:
  • Gentle teasing, constructive criticism, or even just the feeling of disapproval, is often perceived as yelling, accusing, and hateful. Kitty has difficulty with teasing, (both peers and adults). She “dishes it” (we are working on this), but she can’t “take it.” Kitty’s usual response to this at school is to dissociate (freeze, change the subject, or tattle – based on her interpretation of events).
  • If Kitty’s speech or laughter sounds loud and pressured, she appears agitated, is overly sensitive, or she is popping her knuckles – she is very distressed.
  • Although fairly stable now, Kitty has been both suicidal and aggressive. Due to her attachment issues, the child you see at school is not the same one that lives with us.
  • Kitty’s distress frequently exhibits as physical illness (nausea, stomach aches, tiredness, ear aches, headaches…). This feels very real to her, and occasionally it is real. We suggest asking her to rate the pain on a scale of 1 to 10. I believe this is in her BIP. If this is not done she will be in the nurse’s office frequently - days with substitutes almost guarantee this. Calling me as needed is fine.
  • FYI, she has some bladder issues and may not be able to “hold it.” I strongly recommend letting her use the restroom if she requests it. We can keep a spare change of clothes at school if needed.

Kitty has many gaps in her education – some of these are due to her:

  • Cerebral dysrhythmia (brain damage) and learning disabilities.
  • Constant moving and changing schools throughout her traumatic childhood.
  • Severe Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – which even now can cause her to react as though she is in a highly stressful environment. It’s difficult to learn math and spelling when you’re in the middle of a war zone.

Please contact me for any and all issues with Kitty. I need to be kept abreast of all situations, and I will do the same for you. I am available 95% of the day. I do work, but have flexibility on my job and can be reached by phone at almost any time. I will return your call as quickly as possible if I am in a meeting, or you can reach my husband, Hubby, at ###-####.

Yours in Partnership,

Mary Themom



GB's Mom said...

Very tactful and team building :) I dread school starting again :(

Mama Drama Times Two said...

Your letter gives lots of good info on Kitty- I'm wondering if offering the teacher some concerete tips would be helpful for Kitty (like what to do when she freezes, how to redirect her when she is popping her knuckles, how to descalate her when she is feeling teased or starts to tattle, does she go to the nurse if it is a 1 or a 5 or only at an 8? The background info is amazing but the concrete "what to do and how to do it" might help Kitty even more. That said, can I jack your letter to send to Bobby's school as much of what you described for Kitty can be applied to him. Though we haven't seen agression...yet.

Mama said...

I'm a high school teacher who would very much appreciate such a letter. Due to privacy laws, teachers often do not know these facts about kids in their classrooms. As you know, IEP's don't give this kind of info, but it's crazy to place a child under the care of a professional for a good part of the day and NOT allow that professional any information, but it especially happens in the secondary classroom.

Like Mama Drama, I would like a few simple suggestions so that I would be prepared to de-escalate her or avoid problems altogether.

Also, may I suggest you begin with a brief introduction to her as a person. For example, what are her strengths? What does she enjoy, etc.

Good letter. Wish more parents took the time.

marythemom said...

Mama Dx2 - Great suggestions. I've been fighting with this letter for a week trying to keep it all on one page. So what to drop? hmmmmm...

You may certainly copy the letter, mine is adapted from someone else's. I'm going to be putting Bear's letter on here too - as soon as I figure it out. His is much harder for me.


RADMomINohio said...

This is awesome! I'm in the task of writing a letter for school. Kitty and Penelope have a lot in common. These are great tips on what to have in it. I keep revising it but know that I need to get it to her teachers. We had a meeting the day before school but they are still rather in the dark. She's been in school one week and is still in the honeymoon period.
You have a great letter there. I need to edit. I'm too wordy.

marythemom said...

RMinO - one page! Keep telling yourself, one page! I'm wordy too. Think concrete tips! This is mostly to open the lines of communication and get the issues on their radar. I am struggling sooo hard with Bear's letter. It's about 4 pages long so far! *sigh*

I have a handout or two on Attachment disorders. Here's a good letter I'll probably include (