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!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Therapeutic School


Last school year ended with Kitty in the psych hosptal twice. When she came back to school she was only able to attend for a couple of hours a day before she broke down and begged to come home. I'd been telling the school that she'd been stressed and anxious to an extreme since school started, but no one would listen until she went to the psych hospital the 1st time (when the police took her instead of charging her with domestic violence). Kitty falls through cracks at school because she internalizes everything and appears quiet, hard working, and helpful. She would come home every day and have meltdown after meltdown, but that wasn't their problem.

At the end of last year I took advantage of Kitty's inability to continue to hide her issues at school and had her assessed for the therapeutic program for emotionally disturbed kids that Bear attends. No one gave me the results of the assessment, but it was implied by the principal of the special school that she would be going. We've been prepping her for the possiblity all Summer (hoping to help her accept it). She adamantly HATES the idea (the school is VERY small and she wants to be with her "friends"). I think it's the only way I'm going to be able to go back to work and she's going to survive the school year.

So here’s part of my dilemma, I don’t see any big emotional changes for Kitty since last school year. Don’t get me wrong, I know that she’s more emotionally stable now then she was 3 months ago, she’s even occasionally able to use a calming technique when she’s starting to get upset (although once she's upset she's not able to access this), BUT she’s also not not having to deal with the stress of school yet, and that, added to where she’s at now (emotional outbursts almost daily, immature, defiant, occasionally dissociative…). .. well, it just tears me up inside to hear her pleading that she’ll be “good,” won’t have any meltdowns, can “handle” it now… and I KNOW she wants it so badly that she believes it, but it doesn’t change the fact that I don’t think she CAN handle it, and it’s not good for ANY of us to have to deal with the emotional strain. We’re barely coping now with the meltdowns and emotional fragility.

I know its going to be a BIG fight with the school to get Kitty in the special school. I also KNOW that when I push for the special school (which I feel is the least restrictive environment of our very limited choices) during the IEP meeting that Kitty is going to blame me and hate me for this. She’s already made many emotional threats and pleas (she was angry at me and totally distraught in therapy on Tuesday, but when we left, she flipped a switch and was “totally fine.” She stalked the backyard for an hour, but then asked to go to her little brother’s football information meeting just so she could be with me. Gotta admit the flipping freaks me out more than the meltdowns.)

I've asked everyone we're working with to give us a recommendation or put SOMEthing in writing to bring to the school for the IEP meeting for two reasons. One, I'm hoping that if it's in writing then I don't have to be the bad guy in front of Kitty. Two, since it's Thursday, and school starts Tuesday, then IF we get an IEP meeting before school starts then it will be too short of notice for anyone to come. So far all I've gotten is CYA (cover your... butt) excuses. We're in the process of changing psychiatrists and the old pdoc has washed her hands of us. We don't even meet the new pdoc until Thursday (2 days after school starts). {Did I mention Kitty's not on ADHD meds until we see the new pdoc?!} I was hoping to have the updated neuropsych report as backup, but it looks like it will be another 4-6 weeks at the earliest before we can get that done.

Tuesday I went to the school to pick up the girls' textbooks. Kitty is only enrolled in 4 classes - one of which is PE (she should have 8 classes). I hunted down the IEP meeting coordinator, who’s known us since middle school. I had all 4 kids with me (including a pouting Bear). When I asked when an IEP meeting was going to be scheduled (school started in less than a week!) she said, maybe Friday, maybe Monday… maybe after school started. I was shocked, and reminded her that we didn’t even know what school Kitty would be attending.

The Coordinator said she assumed Kitty would be at the regular school. Kitty instantly got all excited and stated several times she didn’t want to go to the special school. The Coordinator also stated that even if an IEP meeting was held after school started, then Kitty could just attend regular school until then. At that point I warned her Kitty would not be starting school without an IEP meeting, because I feel it would be cruel for her to go to school for a few days then have to transfer. The Coordinator restated that she didn’t have any reason to believe Kitty wouldn’t be at regular school (making Kitty ecstatic).

I mentioned that an assessment had been done, but that we still hadn’t heard the results. Of course the person doing the assessment and the principal of the special school were not available. The Coordinator again restated that she didn’t think Kitty needed to be at the special school, and then turned to Kitty and reminded her that kids in regular school need to be at school for a full day. Kitty of course sincerely promised that she was going to be at school (wish she really did have the control).

The Coordinator called me at 7:30pm tonight (Thursday). We talked about the recomendations Kitty's skills trainer, and Kitty's old FIE (school psych eval from 2009) had made for Kitty - small class sizes and emotional support from one person (preferable a behavior specialist who has worked with Kitty's skills trainer on the calming techniques Kitty's been working on). The Coordinator said she'd have Kitty's school case manager call me to talk about the assessment (which the case manager had seen at some point).

The Coordinator assured me the school will "throw together a schedule," and start my daughter back to regular school, and they'd see what they could do about additional supports, and have an IEP meeting "sometime in the next 2 weeks."

I'm furious! Any advice?


Anonymous said...

Get IEP support ASAP. CALL THE ARC. (And, Mary, I strongly suspect you have not done that yet.) Tell them you need advice. You might get "passed around" a bit as they try to find someone who knows your school system and/or has knowledge of mental health issues, but my experience has always been that they really try to find answers and resources.
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.
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. Say "Because the last time my daughter attended the normal school she went psychotic and had to be insitituionalized, and because her school has been unwilling to hold an IEP to determine placement 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". END.
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?
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.
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.)

Accidental Expert said...

First, you could have written this post about my daughter. She is the same way...internalizing everything, holding it together at school. It took us years to get her on an IEP because of this.

Can you get an advocate to help you through the IEP process. I guess first and foremost, I would write a letter to the school, IEP team and district coordinator describing your daughter's struggles and formally requesting a change in placement. In this letter, request a staffing meeting of the IEP team. By law, they must give you this meeting and in a certain time frame. They must present you with written notice of a meeting (with at least 10 days notice.) If you feel she cannot handle school, then the district MUST pay for a homebound tutor until this is straightened out. In order to do this, get a note from one of your doctors stating that going to school full time is detrimental to her health. Since a homebound tutor is expensive, it might light a fire under the school/district to deal with this more quickly.

Good luck with this. Feel free to contact me via email if you need any more info.