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, January 17, 2013

Books and Methods Review - School!

This amazing chart can be used when meeting with teachers to explain attachment disorders.  Details on it's use and ways to make presentations about your child, including a free download, are available here.
The most important thing I've learned is that my children need relationships and emotional healing WAAAYYYY more than they need an education.  Think about it, do you really want to raise a well-educated psychopath?

I'm a firm believer that what happens in school stays in school.  We have enough problems with relationships at our house; I don't need to fight the school's battles as well.  Advocate to make sure they get what they needed, but leave the rest to the school.  Family relationships are way more important, and you're not able to work on that if you're fighting about school.


Homework is NOT your problem.  If I force my kids to do their homework then in their mind it becomes MY problem (meaning no longer theirs!).  Also, the school doesn't get an accurate picture of my child's issues

Like most kids of trauma, my children have severe executive functioning and memory issues, which means they canNOT get/stay organized. A lot of times my child understands the assignment at school but has forgotten it by the time they get home, or they can do something laid out very concretely, but in the homework, they are supposed to apply the knowledge they learned - which process to use - which they just can't do!). My son would act out to hide the fact that he couldn't (or didn't think he could) do his homework.

I need the school to grasp and acknowledge my child's academic issues, and they won't get that if I walk my child through the homework. I do give my child adequate time to do homework and offer support and help (if they ask for it and remain respectful), but I will tell my child to put it down and walk away if it's obviously triggering him/her.  Maybe I'd encourage them to come back later.  Maybe not.  It depends on what's best for the emotional health of the family as a whole. (Prioritizing Yourself, Your Family, and Your Child - In That Order!)

I finally had to force the school to add "no homework" to my children's IEPs. Yes, it meant my children didn't do as well in school as I wanted them to, and my son wasn't able to participate in some extra-curricular activities (because he was failing classes), but it just wasn't a battle that needed to be fought at home. The school did try giving my children "study hall," but it was designed mostly to babysit kids while they did their homework/ school work and my kids either didn't have any, or needed a lot more active help/ support to get it done.

A good resource for Adoption Awareness in School Assignments.

Some advice on Advocating for Yourself, Your Family, Your Family, and Your Child - In That Order

Advocating for Your Child

When advocating for your child in school you need to use key phrases, like 

"My child has a right to a  Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), this (issue) is preventing him from being able to access that education." 

"These behaviors are caused by my child's Disability. In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), My child cannot be discriminated against/ punished/ reprimanded/ denied access to his FAPE for symptoms related to his Disability."

"My child has a right to be in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). The LRE for MY child to be able to learn and receive an education is in a smaller classroom with more INDIVIDUAL (one on one) attention. My child cannot learn in a large, chaotic environment like a general ed classroom therefore that is a MORE restrictive environment for my child and as such not APPROPRIATE. 

Dear School: STOP calling me to come pick up my kid!  by 

pick up kids from school
We all know the feeling. Your phone rings. You look. It’s the school phone number.
A zillion thoughts run through your head as you answer.
Sometimes we’re actually wishing that it was vomiting. Vomiting I understand. Vomiting, I can take him to the pediatrician.
Hi, Mrs. Smith? This is ‘school personnel’ and we need you to come pick up Jacob. Yes, he had quite a tantrum today and he’s really inconsolable. Yes, it’s been going on for at least 45 minutes.”
I honestly would rather that my kid have an upset stomach and throw up, than have an upset heart and be inconsolable and alone for an hour.
But, it’s common, it’s really, really, really (type in a few more) common.
 First, let’s talk about suspensions and kids with IEPs.
And you say, “Oh no, they said he wasn’t suspended, I just needed to come pick him up.”
Wrong answer!
wrong suspension IEP
In the eyes of the law, if your child was asked to leave school, that is a suspension. 

The school personnel just either truly doesn’t know this, or they are avoiding regs and paperwork (as far as reporting how many times they suspend kids with IEPs!) by just sending him home. If you didn’t go through the formal suspension process, it doesn’t matter. Your child was asked to leave school and his/her peers were not. That’s a suspension.
Here is the code. It includes the phrase “For purposes of removals of a child with a disability from the child’s current educational placement.” That’s what they are doing, removing him from his current placement.
Why send him home instead of helping?
I don’t want to get into the well why do they do this? because we could talk all day. I think the main reason is this: Our public schools have been financially starved into failure. Plain and simple, they simply do not have the resources to staff appropriately and so this is a knee-jerk reaction. They don’t have the resources, the knowledge or the patience to deal with the situation, so they remove the situation. Problem solved!
Except that it’s a very short-term solution. Being out of school when a child is already struggling will only lead to more problems. If you do not identify and fix behavior problems, they will only get worse. And, at the basic level, the child was unhappy at school and was just rewarded for acting out about it.
Don’t like school—> act out —>  go home! Yay!
If you haven’t heard of Ross Greene and you are having this problem, you need to become a follower of his. He sums it up well, below:
Why are they asking you to pick up your child from school?
Why are they calling you?
99.9% of the time, I bet that it’s undesirable or inappropriate behavior. Right?
Well, then address the behavior! And not by sending the child home. That punishes no one except the parents!
Is your child diagnosed with a disability? Even if the school system is not deemed to have “knowledge” of a disability, parents can request an evaluation when their child is being suspended or expelled, which must be expedited. (§ 1415(k)(5)(D) In that case, however, the child must remain in whatever placement is determined by the school pending the outcome of the evaluation.
——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————This also may help:
5 Things every Parent MUST DO in the IEP Process.How to write your Best Ever Parent Concerns Letter.A Parent’s Guide to FBAs, Behavior Plans and more.What to do when your child is suspended (with or without an IEP)

All behavior tells you something.
What is this behavior telling you? Without even knowing your kid, I can guess 3 things:

  1. Child does not have an IEP and needs one
  2. Has insufficient IEP
  3. Has appropriate IEP but is not being followed
Then it’s up to parents and the team to go back and revisit the IEP and adjust accordingly.
Other IEP items to consider:If the child has a 1:1 aide, where was this person? There is no “well, they were at lunch.” If the child is to have a 1:1 all day, that means all day.
So what should I do when they call me to come get my child?
First, know your child.
Do they have acting out behaviors? Crippling anxiety? (Acting In) Do you really think that you need to come get them? Go with your gut.
Is this a pattern? Is this the first time you’ve been called or the 50th?
Document each and every situation!
(Document! Document! Document!) 
Sign them out. Yes, go into the office just as if you were signing the child out for a doctor appointment. Sign them out. State the reason: ‘School called me to come pick up.
Things you should ask for:

Things mom and dad should do:

  • Educate yourself on IEPs and discipline. The rules are different and you need to know what to do.
  • Be solution oriented, beyond picking up the child from school.
  • Think long term. Behavior modification takes time. Be patient.
If you have time…you need to go down the rabbit hole. What I mean by that–read each of those bolded hyperlinks that I have provided you in this post. It’s a very complex issue. There’s not one IEP issue that can be solved in one blog post. All the IEP issues relate to each other and you have to educate yourself.
As I always say, “The knowledge base I wish I didn’t have to have!”
Exceptions: Sometimes there are exceptions to the discipline policy. These situations may include drugs, weapons, guns, extreme violence and/or bodily injury to another person or staff. In those cases, do not delay–do not try to handle this on your own, you need an attorney.
"Call the Police!"
There are times when you have to tell the school, "No! I will not come pick up my child."

I have gotten calls from the school saying, "Mrs. TheMom, we need you to come pick up Bear and please bring your husband." When I asked why I needed to bring Hubby, I was told, "Because he threatened to hurt you." Hubby and I (and the other kids since I had nowhere else for them to go) went and picked up Bear.

Looking back, I wish I'd told them, "No, if you feel he is a danger to himself or others. Call the police."

10 Smart Responses for When the School Cuts or Denies Services

Wrightslaw - go immediately to and become familiar with your child's rights!! 

Due Process - If the school is breaking the law then you can file a grievance or file due process - this is like suing the school. You may need an attorney for this. Most schools will offer mediation before it gets this far. Disability Rights Advocate

If the school is breaking the law then you can probably find a free Disability Rights Advocate 

  • If you Google (or Bing or whatever!) {Your State} Disability Advocate or Disability Rights you will probably find several state agencies.
  • You can also get free advocates through NAMI (National Alliance on Mentally Illness)
  • Your local MHMR (Mental Health and Mental Retardation agency) has changed its name to be more politically correct, but usually if you search {Your State or County} Mental Health and Mental Retardation you will find whatever they call it now and if you use their services (they usually provide doctors and psychiatrists that accept Medicaid) then they often provide family support - which can include an advocate
We have also used private Special Education Advocates/ Attorneys. Sometimes they will offer one free meeting.

Put EVERYTHING in writing. The school is required to respond. Keep it short (hard for me!) and stick to the facts. Tell them what you want to have happen. If you must speak to someone on the phone, document the conversation during or immediately afterward (do not delay - it's amazing how much detail you forget - and how much more readily people will accept a "transcript" over a "Someone said that my child couldn't be moved."  l  

A fantastic article about how to write a letter (or an e-mail) that will get your point across effectively.  
"When you write letters to a school, these letters will be read by strangers. Many important decisions about your child's education are made by strangers. What impression will your letter make on a stranger? Will the stranger see you as an angry, negative complainer? Or will the Stranger see you as a rational, thoughtful parent who is expressing valid concerns?When you write letters, keep this "stranger" in your mind’s eye." 

Get ORGANIZED and keep EVERYTHING! E-mails, school behavior reports, transcripts, psych evals, documents. Get letters from his doctors, caregivers, therapists... Get these Organized and keep them updated (you'd be amazed how many times the school will say, "Well we don't have access to, or record of, that, let's wait until it can be found..." When you open up your 3 ring binder and pull out a copy of your child's behavior reports, that medical report that you had put in to their records at his last IEP meeting, your list of topics you want discussed at the meeting (I usually send out a copy of this before the meeting and ask them to make a copy for everyone!)... it keeps them from slowing down the process. 


New School Year Letters.  I send a letter every year to my child's teachers telling them a little about my child and what works and what doesn't.  

Ask if you can make a presentation to all of your child's teacher or even the entire school about your child's disabilities in general.

Details on the use of the chart at the top and ways to make effective presentations about your child that teachers will actually read are in this awesome post written by an amazing fellow trauma mama at Serenity Links Coaching.

I have given a few school presentations, but have never actually blogged about them (working on that). I did, however, post the Spoon Theory which I think was helpful in making the teachers understand some of the difficulties with which my child struggles.

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Resource for helping teachers and children to understand what the effects of trauma looks like, feels like, and how to help. ­čÖî❤️

Download these FREE handouts for your child or young person’s teacher or trusted adult at school/college to help them understand what survival states look like in the school/college environment and what they can do to help ground them and subsequently improve their learning.

More Good Articles:

Trauma Informed Approach to Behaviors in the Classroom
About Parenting article - Preparing the School for your Child with RAD 
Nancy Thomas - Letter for Teachers
Nancy Thomas - Letter for Bus Drivers and Monitors
What Every Administrator & Educator Should Know: Separating
Difference from Disability 
Fostering in the Deep End Blog - Back to School with RAD
Attachment Disorder Maryland - School Interventions
Children of Trauma: What Educators Need To Know - good article to share with educators.
An Open Letter to Educators Who Work with Students Who Have Been Diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder or Have Suffered Early Trauma By Carey McGinn Ed.D., CCC/SLP
Children’s Mental Health Disorder Fact Sheet for the Classroom - Reactive Attachment Disorder

The Special Education System Really is Stacked Against Parents -

Why Texas parents have to fight even harder to get their child into Special Ed. 

Denied: How Texas keeps tens of thousands of children out of Special Education 

Did You Know?You absolutely can refuse to have your child be given State Standardized Assessments. 

IEP/ 504/ Disability  

What is the difference between a 504 and an IEP?

What are my child's rights without an IEP?
In some ways, your child has more rights without an IEP. Your child falls under the American's with Disabilities Act (ADA) which has stricter laws than an IEP or 504.

How do we get an IEP?

Requesting a special education evaluation for an IEP

Texas Project FIRST -  A project of the Texas Education Agency committed to providing accurate and consistent information to parents and families of children (ages 0 to 21) with disabilities. Including how to access ECI and the special education system.

What if my child is not old enough to go to school?
Getting an IEP for Your Very Young Child  by Kristin Stanberry
What to Do If Your Child Is Under Age 3
From infancy until age 3, children can receive help through early intervention services. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal law, requires that every state provide early intervention. You don’t need a referral. You can request a free evaluation from your state’s early intervention services program.If your child is found to have a disability or serious developmental delay, services such as speech therapy or occupational therapy will be provided in your home, at no cost to you. 
If your child qualifies for these services, you’ll work with a team of educators to develop an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) for your child. The IFSP is a legally binding document that specifies which services and supports the state will provide to your child.
What to Do If Your Child Is Between Ages 3 and 5 
IDEA guarantees that eligible preschoolers, ages 3 to 5, can get an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and special education services through the public school system. Like an IFSP, an IEP is a legally binding document. It spells out the services and accommodations the school district will provide to meet your child’s needs.If your child qualifies for an IEP, she’ll most likely be offered a free spot at a preschool run by the district.
Here’s how you can try to get an IEP for a child between the ages of 3 and 5:
  • Look, listen and list your concerns. Observe your child and keep a list of behaviors or other examples that make you wonder if there’s a learning or attention issue. Your list will help you present your concerns to people who can help.
  • Talk to the pediatrician and/or the preschool teacher. Share your observations and concerns with your child’s doctor and teachers (if your child attends preschool or daycare). Ask if what they see is typical for children that age. They may assure you that your child’s development is on track.
  • Get a referral for an evaluation. If the doctor or teachers share your concerns, you can ask for a referral to your state’s Child Find program. Child Find provides free screenings and evaluations for children who show signs of a developmental delay or learning issues. You also can send a letter to the school district’s special education director, requesting a (free) evaluation.
Your request for an evaluation can be denied. That’s why it’s important to describe in detail the reasons for your concerns. You also may want to include copies of any tests or doctors’ notes that support your concerns.After a complete evaluation, your child will qualify for an IEP if she meets these criteria:
  • She’s at least 3 years old.
  • The evaluation shows she has a disability or delay covered by IDEA.
  • She needs special education services to address those issues before she starts kindergarten.

My child has an IEP. How do I get them the services they need?

Always read the Procedural Safeguards. Legally the school has to provide them. 

{If we'd accepted every copy we were offered, we'd have enough to wallpaper our entire house!}

If your child has an IEP - the most important thing is DO NOT SIGN the IEP!!

  • You have proof that it says what the team agreed to (can't tell you how many times the school didn't include things agreed to in the meeting or added things in the "verbiage" that wasn't agreed to).
  • if you can't come to an agreement, 
  • the school disagrees and refuses to provide what you know your child needs, 
  • the school claims they cannot provide what you know your child needs.
  • If you don't understand the document. You have every right to take it home and look it over. 
  • If the document is not complete. A lot of times the school will pressure you into signing at the end of the meeting, saying they'll send you a copy of the document from the meeting. This final document may not accurately reflect what you thought was agreed to at the meeting. 
    Your signature states that you agree with everything being put into this document! 

Always insist on waiting until you have a chance to review the final document before you sign.
In Texas, if you don't sign your agreement at an IEP meeting (ARD) meeting, then they are required to hold another ARD within 10 days. 

Be Aware - Example: A school agreed to give a child an assessment to see if he qualified for additional services. The parent did not like one of the tools they were using to assess her child (an IQ test), because she felt it would not be accurate (the child had refused to participate in this type of testing before which skewed his score significantly). The parent informed the school she did not wish for them to use that particular assessment and revoked permission for that one test. The school documented this as the parent revoking permission for the entire assessment! Definitely not what the parent wanted! 

You can always refuse to sign/ give permission. 

You can also revoke permissions previously granted. 

When you're requesting services, accommodations, and changes -

  • Put it in writing! 
  • Stay calm and unemotional - this is not the place to editorialize. 
  • Stick to the basic facts. - Explanations and "backstory" can be discussed later. This is more like a police report - just the facts and nothing but the facts.
  • Know your child's rights and what they're entitled to (Get familiar with Wright's Law and IDEA).
  • State your expectations simply and plainly.
  • Give deadlines and consequences.  

If the school can't or won't provide a service (assessment, a one on one assistant, having a less/ more restrictive environment...), then you have a right to demand they pay for the service to be provided by an independent professional of your choosing. Unfortunately, you might need a Special Education or Attorney to back you up on this (it's often difficult to get money out of school districts!).

Defusing Phrases to Use in an IEP 

IEP/ 504 Strategies/ Accommodations 

Printable list of strategies for your IEP meeting  

IEP Goal Banks - 

Bridges4kids IEP Goals and Objectives Bank which includes pages and pages of goals, including 384 goals under English and 298 Social/emotional goals!!!
Behavioral Goals for an Individual Education Plan
IEP Behavioral Goals 

Developing SMART IEP goals for behavior problems.
Social Emotional IEP Goals
Writing Measurable and Meaningful Behavior Goals
Effectively Addressing Behavioral Concerns within the IEP

More sample goals:

IEP/ GOALS/ Accommodations for Reactive Attachment Disorder
Sample IEP for a child with Autism/PDD
Social Supports Handout- goal areas for friendship and employment skills (teens).
Measurable IEP Goals - includes goals excerpted from an article on Wright's Law, plus some interesting links.
Self-help goals for those whose functional skills are profoundly affected by autism.
Sample math goals.

When it's not working!

Top 10 Most Ridiculous Comments heard at an IEP meeting

Marythemom:  I've heard so many ridiculous things at an IEP meeting (including a lot of these!).  We've had the "professionals" on the team intimidate our advocates to the point they shut down; they even made one cry (and she was a big city lawyer).  An assistant principal (who the meeting before had compared the odds of our daughter - who had been hospitalized at least 4 times in the last few months for suicidal ideation - committing suicide-  to being struck by lightning indoors) ticked off our new special education advocate so much that her agency provided all their services pro bono, including the special education lawyer, when we filed due process - which is what they call it when you sue the school.  At school, Kitty tends to "act in" instead of acting out like Bear so we had a hard time getting her the services needed - even with written statements from 2 psychiatrists, 2 therapists, a skills trainer, social workers...

Special Education Advocate or Attorney

Be your own advocate -

Professional Advocates - There are many ways to find free or paid advocates.

  • Ask friends for help or referrals.
  • Look at local organizations or local branches of agencies and systems that you already work with. Ask if they provide advocates or Family Partners who can work as advocates.
  • Family Partner or Case Manager with your local MHMR. The term MHMR is no longer politically correct so all the MHMRs changed their names - unfortunately, they all got to pick what they changed it to (ex. Community Services, Integral Care...). The good news is that you can still search for "Your County's Name MHMR" and it will give you the name of your county's mental health and IDD service provider. You have to be a client, but they do accept Medicaid and sliding scale fees. 
  • Some school districts have Parent Liaisons and/or a special education parent support organization. 
  • Use a search engine and type Special Education Advocate and the name of your state, city or school district to find professionals.
  • Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates - COPAA is a community that works to increase the quality and quantity of advocate and attorney representation
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness - NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. We are an association of hundreds of local affiliates, state organizations and volunteers who work in your community to raise awareness and provide support and education that was not previously available to those in need.
  • Disability Rights Advocates 
  • ...

Filing Due Process/ Mediation 

When a dispute arises between a parent and the school in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting there are a few methods that can be utilized to work out the disagreement.  Most School Districts will have at least one Informal Dispute Resolution (IDR) system in place that can be employed to work out the dispute.

Mediation -A mediation is a meeting facilitated by a mediator used to find a peaceful settlement of the disagreement prior to starting costly litigation. If a resolution is reached at the mediation, a legally binding settlement agreement will be signed by all parties involved.  Once a settlement agreement is executed a new IEP meeting must be called to implement the services outlined in that agreement.  If a resolution is not reached the next step would be a Due Process Hearing.

Due Process -A due process hearing is typically held by the state department of education and presided over by an impartial hearing officer.  The Due Process complaint form must outline the complaint and the proposed resolution.   The other party has the right to respond and can file a Notice of Insufficiency (NOI) if they feel the complaint does not have enough information to proceed.  Since the School District will involve an attorney it is recommended that you consult with an experienced Special Education Attorney before filing for due process.

If the Parents file for due process they have the burden of proof and a resolution session must be held between the School District and the Parents prior to the hearing.  This resolution session can be waived if both parties agree and a formal mediation can be held instead.  If a settlement is not worked out in either the resolution session or formal mediation then the case would proceed to a hearing.  The hearing is similar to a court presiding and will include opening statements, presentation of evidence and cross-examination.

Hearing Officer Decisions are final unless appealed to either State or Federal courts.  You can’t file in State or Federal Court until after going through due process.  Hearing decisions shall be made on substantive grounds unless procedural violations impeded the child’s right to a free appropriate public education, significantly impeded the parents' opportunity to participate in the decision-making process or caused a deprivation of educational benefits.

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)

Least Restrictive Environment - Section 5A of IDEA 2004 (from 'To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled, and special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.'

Almost everyone you speak to, especially schools, assumes the LRE means a child should/ must spend the majority of their time in a general education environment, possibly with some inclusion help, but the reality is the least restrictive environment for your child may be what the school considers to be the MOST restrictive environment.

A Diary of a Mom said it very well:

Many of our kids get easily overwhelmed. Many of them have language processing challenges. Many of them have sensory issues that can make a typical classroom nearly unbearable. For some (and for many years, mine), trying to be taught in a class of twenty some-odd kids is like trying to learn French while your house is on fire. It simply isn’t possible.
The best part about inclusion DONE RIGHT is that it’s never an all or none proposition. It’s flexible, malleable, creative. It is, above all, INDIVIDUALIZED so that the needs of each individual are seamlessly incorporated into the every day routine of the group. And the best part? When generalized, the accommodations of individuals so often benefit the whole. Predictability? Visual prompts and learning tools? Movement breaks? Tools for emotional regulation? Social skills teaching? A little more time to process information? GOOD FOR EVERYONE.
But back to this least restrictive environment thing. Well, based on my experiences in the past and recent conversations with friends, it seems that the assumptions that we’ve begun to make based on that language have become a little, well, restrictive. We assume that LRE means the room with the most typical kids (or even just the most kids) in it. Well, no. It doesn’t. It might. But it might not.

Getting Financial Aid for a child going to college:

Some good books about kids of trauma and the school system:

Lost at School: Why Our Kids with Behavioral Challenges are Falling Through the Cracks and How We Can Help Them - Ross W. Greene  

From a distinguished clinician, pioneer in working with behaviorally challenging kids, and author of the acclaimed The Explosive Child comes a groundbreaking approach for understanding and helping these kids and transforming school discipline.Frequent visits to the principal's office. Detentions. Suspensions. Expulsions. These are the established tools of school discipline for kids who don't abide by school rules, have a hard time getting along with other kids, don't seem to respect authority, don't seem interested in learning, and are disrupting the learning of their classmates. But there's a big problem with these strategies: They are ineffective for most of the students to whom they are applied.
It's time for a change in course.
Here, Dr. Ross W. Greene presents an enlightened, clear-cut, and practical alternative. Relying on research from the neurosciences, Dr. Greene offers a new conceptual framework for understanding the difficulties of kids with behavioral challenges and explains why traditional discipline isn't effective at addressing these difficulties. Emphasizing the revolutionarily simple and positive notion that kids do well if they can, he persuasively argues that kids with behavioral challenges are not attention-seeking, manipulative, limit-testing, coercive, or unmotivated, but that they lack the skills to behave adaptively. And when adults recognize the true factors underlying difficult behavior and teach kids the skills in increments they can handle, the results are astounding: The kids overcome their obstacles; the frustration of teachers, parents, and classmates diminishes; and the well-being and learning of all students are enhanced.

  "Trauma in the Lives of Children: Crisis and Stress Management Techniques, 2nd Edition" Johnson, PhD

Help for Billy: A Beyond Consequences Approaching to Helping Challenging Children in the Classroom by Heather T. Forbes - is a pragmatic manual to help guide families and educators who are struggling with traumatized children. Based on the concept of the neuroscience of emotions and behavior, Heather Forbes provides detailed, comprehensive, and logical strategies for teachers and parents. This easy to read book, with tables, outlines, and lists, clears the way for a better understanding of the true nature regarding traumatic experiences affecting the brain and learning. It is a must-read for anyone working with a child in the classroom.

Financial Planning (including college) for the Adopted Child

Changing Schools/ Getting Your Child to School

Going to school, whether it's starting at a new school or just coming back at the end of the summer, is a major change. For many children, it's also a Traumaversary. Changes in routine, or for that matter changes in general, can be terrifying and dysregulating (Handling Dysregulation and Meltdowns).

So what happens if your child doesn't want to go to school? 

Enlist help

If your child has an IEP, I would get the IEP team involved, her included (although I would probably talk to the school first so we were all on the same page). I know for my daughter, she found change terrifying. I would remind her that change can be scary and of times when she felt that way and it ended up being something she enjoyed.

The Carrot and The Stick

For my kids making changes in the types of classes they were attending like moving to a special education program or even a brand new school, I would talk about the benefits of that situation versus the previous arrangements, but I also held a stick behind the carrots (if you don't attend school and do well in the classroom then you could end up in summer school or at a school with mandatory attendance like RTC). Future consequences didn't always work with my kids though since they didn't really have a grasp on the future (or consequences in general).

Address Their Concerns

Mostly, I would try to figure out and address what was scaring them about it (beyond "the unknown" and "change"). For mine, it was loud, chaotic, noisy environments - so we arranged for them to have a quiet classroom with a teacher to go to after getting off the bus in the morning and during lunch hour, we even had one child escorted to each classroom (requiring leaving class a few minutes early) rather than having to deal with the chaos of the halls.

We also came early and met the teachers and behavior staff whenever possible, or just walked the halls of the new school to help them feel more familiar. We pointed out the benefits of the new school - like the library and classes available music/ art/ sports...

We'd talk about where they could go and who they could talk to if they needed support. Calming Techniques. Anxiety Scale. We made sure school staff was aware of these plans and had a formal crisis plan written into the child's IEP if needed.

My daughter was often returning to school from a psych hospital or RTC. We would talk about what she wanted to say to people who asked where she was. Usually, she would say she was attending a private school for a while (which is true, most hospitals and treatment centers have a charter school).

To get them actually into school, we tried a few things over the years -

  • Hubby took them (they were more compliant with him), but this often meant they got there early, so we arranged with the school for them to hang out with a teacher.
  • School staff came to the car/ bus and escorted them inside. We often called ahead and warned them the child was coming in "hot" (upset or angry).
  • Went to school in PJs  This worked a little better with kids you could carry or frog-march into the car. It's also best to let the school know what's going on, and have a change of clothes ready.
  • Carpooled with a friend. Mine were Disinhibited "Charming" RAD so it was amazing what they'd do to keep others from thinking badly of them.
  • Hot breakfast - kids up, dressed, and ready for school, got a hot, yummy breakfast - pancakes or something special. Slowpokes got cold cereal or maybe a protein/ granola bar (not a favorite flavor) shoved in their pocket to eat at school. 
  • Be prepared - Having everyone frantically getting ready for school was often overwhelming for my kids. So we got up a little earlier (and I'm SO not a morning person), did as much as possible the night before (laid out clothes, packed lunches, put shoes and backpack by the front door), and had Routine Checklists posted (Get up. Go to the Bathroom. Get Dressed. Put Pull-Up in Trash. Brush Teeth. Eat Breakfast. Put Dishes in Sink. Put Lunch in Backpack. Get in Car. Off to School!)
  • Escort them. There were times when we had to make sure they actually got on the bus and/ or walked into school.


Diana said...

:-) Thanks for sharing (and for giving credit! This is a great resource post with lots of great information.

jdemonte said...

This entire post will save our lives. Thank you so very, very much!