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!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Getting Kitty What She Needs

My good friend Struggling To Stand gave me some good advice in a comment on the last post, so I thought I would share it and my response here:

Get IEP support ASAP. CALL THE ARC. (And, Mary, I strongly suspect you have not done that yet.)

OK, I remember you suggesting this before, and you probably answered this question, but what about the fact that Kitty is not mentally retarded? Her overall IQ is 91 (although in processing and memory it drops to 70 - causing her learning disabilities and some of her other issues). Her primary diagnosis from the school is Emotionally Disturbed with a secondary of learning disabilities.

One in-the-long-run option is to try to get her to be educated at home -- not home-schooled, but where they send a teacher to your house. They do that when kids are too physically fragile to be in regular schools.

We tried to get this at the end of last year when Kitty was obviously unable to handle school. Without a letter from her psychiatrist it is out of the question, and even then the school will fight it tooth and nail. The only person I know who got this without a physical disability or illness (and she had to hire a lawyer and continuously fight) had a child with a severe concussion that took months to recover from. The school found a way to keep us from getting it even though the psychiatrist was willing to give approval (they waited until the IEP meeting to let us know they hadn't gotten hold of the psychiatrist - who we had waiting to sign/write any form or letter they required). Now of course we're between psychiatrists so don't have access to this option at all.

if you keep Kitty out of the start of school, send letters to the director of special education, the school administrator and possibly even the school board. (SHORT letters, Mary. Don't explain anything.

Love this! How does this look?

“Because the last time Kitty attended {regular school} full-time, she became depressed and suicidal requiring her to be repeatedly institutionalized, and because the school has been unwilling to hold an IEP to determine appropriate placement for the new school year in a timely manner, I am keeping her at home until a proper placement has been made for her. I am officially requesting in-home education for her during that time. Thank you.”

At her last IEP meeting, what was indicated about when the next one would be? Is there anything in writing from them talking about when the review for the special school would be?

The IEP team at the last meeting said that because Kitty was emotionally unstable (and they obviously assumed she would be going back to "normal" by next year), they didn't want to make decision about next year (beyond adding a Study Skills class) until an FBA was complete (Functional Behavioral Assessment). Because there was so little school left by the time we got the IEP meeting we finally decided that there wasn't time to do the full FBA so they just did an assessment of whether or not she should go to the therapeutic school. I was told the assessment was done and someone would be talking to me about it, but that person never returned my calls, and most of the people on the IEP team don't even know it exists.

Now the school psychologist has quit, the person doing the assessments works several different schools and is "unavailable," and Kitty's old case manager who apparently received a copy of the assessment last year is supposed to share the results with me "before school starts"... which is Tuesday.

Kitty has the overall appearance of being back to "normal." All last year I tried to convince everyone that "normal" for Kitty was NOT functional, but was unable to get them to see it until the med changes (adding anti-depressants) that prevented her from being able to hide what was going on inside. Everyone seems willing to acknowledge that the mess that Kitty was after the first hospitalization, required changes in the school, but now that the meds are out of her system they all seem to feel everything can go back to normal. No one will acknowledge that we need to address the issues that got her hospitalized in the first place.

In looking at Kitty's old FIE (Full Individual Evaluation - psych evaluation done by the school, last updated 2 years ago while Kitty was in private school), I realize that they had much more insight into the emotional mess that Kitty was/is, and now I'm worried that a new FIE will be watered down because the teacher/ school staff interviews will have almost no insight (the private school teachers had a much closer relationship with Kitty and she opened up to them). I REALLY wish we'd been able to got the new neuropsychological exam completed before now.

If you do have to send Kitty to regular school, perhaps you can create a sticker chart sort of thing so that she can visually see how often she has meltdowns or calls you ... If she goes a day without calling you and at home not having a meltdown (the definition is the hard part), then she gets a smiley face. If she has 4 smiley faces in a 5-day week, she will go back to school the next week... Something like that.

I like this idea. Not so much for Kitty - she's determined not to show any meltdowns right now, because she knows the consequences so she's moving into a dissociative/"honeymoon" state - but a mood chart that she's not aware of so I can document this.

By the way, I'm really freaking out about the "flipping a switch" stuff. We had a tough therapy session yesterday, in which she was angry, crying, shut down... and about 5 minutes before we left she flipped the switch and became compliant and distant. In the car I was asking her about what happens when she flips the switch and discovered that she remembers NOTHING about what happened in therapy except that she "cried a little" - she didn't even remember what about.

She may be wanting to avoid the special school because of stories her brother has told her or some incorrect assumption. Try to tease out of her the what-is-negative about the special school (vs what is positive about regular school.)

I know exactly why she doesn't want to go to the special school. She tells me often and loudly:

  • Kitty wants to be with her friends. Especially the seniors who will be going off to college at the end of the year. She's afraid if she's not with them, they will forget her (abandonment issues).

  • The new school only has about 12 kids, many of which Kitty knows as kids with major issues (of course) that she doesn't like. She will have "no one to flirt with."

  • Kitty is assuming the kids at the special school are all like Bear (like she still sees Bear - angry, out of control, scary, threatening...).

  • Kitty doesn't deal well with people who misbehave. It causes her great stress to witness others doing things they shouldn't and she feels the need to fix/ rescue them and/or bear silent, impotent witness to their indiscretions. The kids at the special school all have "issues" and misbehave (of course so do the people she gravitates toward at the regular school and there are much fewer supports there).

  • There is only one other girl. A family friend who is in Bear's grade (which means they won't have classes together). Kitty gets along with this girl, but they don't have the stressful, teasing, gossipy relationship that Kitty prefers (and I'm sure are part of the problem).

  • Kitty doesn't want to be different. She lives in the land of denial. Obviously going to the special school makes it harder to pretend she's just like everyone else.

  • Going to the school means she's "bad, wrong, not a good person, stupid... and going to turn out like her brother." It triggers her abandonment issues because she's afraid we'll get rid of her and no one will like/ love her anymore if they find out she's flawed.

  • She believes if she wants something badly enough then she can make it happen. If she ends up at the special school anyway then she doesn't have control/ special powers.

  • If she goes, it will be my (Mom) fault and she will "have to" hate me for it, and hating your Mommy is scary.

  • There's probably a little, "What if they like Bear better than me since he's been there for so long." or "What if everyone thinks I'm 'bad' like Bear and is mean to me."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You could have emailed me to let me know there was a post ... Anyhow.
1. THE ARC HELPS ANYONE WHO NEEDS IEP SUPPORT. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO HAVE A KID WITH A LOW IQ. Was that loud enough this time? Besides that, a phone call is FREE.
2. I suspected that bit about needing an MD (psychiatrist) to give the say-so. ... Nobody at the place she inpatiened can say anything useful? (Dx, risks, etc?)
3. The letter looks good. You can still use it if Kitty freaks to much to stay at school. IMO it is a good stalling tactic and if the idiotic courts decide they need to tsk you for allowing the absences, the letter will mean a lot (even if you and the school both know the in-home teaching isn't going to happen.)
4. Let me rephrase that. What was written on the IEP summary about the need for assessment and how it was gonig to be handled? ... If there is anything in writing about the need for an FBA before the start of school, include that info in your letter. It is valuable. It shows incompetenecy and, I believe, borders on being illegal. It will certainly wake up the director of special ed.
5. The school won't acknowlege the need to address the issues because to acknowlege it may put them in a position of having to provide for, accomodate for, or pay for that. It is why you NEED NEED NEED a qualified, trained ARD support person.
Understand this: Your school is doing its best to get you and your kids to go away. Every time you walk into an IEP meeting by yourself (no professional support) you are giving them permission to do things their way. Period. No matter what you say, they know how to slip around it. It SUCKS that such things are so very often parent-against-school but they ARE.
Did I have that happen to me? Yes! Did I try to educate myself about what to say? Of course. My biggest problem often came when I relaxed into thinking we were all on the same team, working for the same goal.
6. It isn't necessarily DID! Trauma affects the ability to store memories, remember? (Or are you too traumatized to remember ?) Kitty goes into FFF mode so quickly ... her amigdala is primed to NOT store memories of upsetting times.
7. Kitty's list of reasons appears to be too long to be able to address them all. But with a bit of effort they can probably be consolidated down to a few core issues. One that pops out is the friend and flirt thing. Find after-school ways of handling that. [Right, Ms STS, YOU try finding an after-school acivity that Kitty can do and will have understanding "peers" at it. OK! OK! ... I wonder if there are support groups for mentally unstable teens? ...]