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!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Kitty's Senior year IEP meeting

Wow!  After the conferences I went to this weekend (future posts I promise!), I came home charged up with an unwillingness to tolerate status quo any longer.  Hubby and I both agree that Kitty's decision, that the only way to handle feeling overwhelmed, stressed and anxious by her life was to shut down and "freeze" at home and in therapy, is not acceptable.  His solution has been to spend an hour with her in her room (where she's been hiding with her iPod 95% of the time).  My solution is to give her an ultimatum - she has to choose the "basic plan" and be basically a boarder in our home (which means respectful of us, responsible for herself and maintaining her environment, and NO more family privileges- like access to free WiFi) or she can choose to be a "family girl."  (future post will show the documents I've devised).

Kitty has an IEP meeting next week.  This will determine what she'll be doing her final semester of high school, and transition plans (high school to real world).  I wrote this e-mail to the principal of her special school (she splits her time between the regular high school and a special school for kids who are "emotionally disturbed), in the hopes that he can use his pull to work behind the scenes and get some of the things the school district have fought us on. 

Hi {principal of Kitty's special school},

I have a few concerns I wanted to mention before Kittys’s IEP meeting on the 22nd.

  1. Immediate Health Concern:  Are you aware that Kitty does not eat lunch on B days because she doesn’t want to face the cafeteria?  Instead she comes home and gorges on the packaged food and candy that she gets from {special school} in addition to the food she would normally eat for afternoon snack.  Lately she’s been trying to skip dinner (although I usually have her eat a small portion) – I assume because she’s full from the sheer amount of food she eats at 5pm, but also because she’s trying to lose weight quickly.  We’ve discussed healthy eating a lot over the years, but she still thinks that because the pretzels/crackers are whole grain or it’s frozen yogurt versus ice cream, she can eat a huge portion or even the whole box.  I’d like to discuss having a tray brought to her or finding another way to get her meals.
  2. Transition Planning:  If someone could have some information available about Kitty’s options after graduation that would be helpful.  Currently we are planning on having her live at home and work part time while she takes a remedial class or two at {local community college}, but we’d like information about options like {local assisted living group homes for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities} or some place more appropriate.  I recently discovered that Kitty may qualify for the DADS program (the IQ cut off is 75 not 70 and Kitty’s full scale IQ is 74) and if someone could help us navigate this system that would be greatly appreciated.  Once again I’d like to mention that we’re very interested in the Super Senior program {students graduate with their class, but continue to attend the vocational program through the school} for Kitty.  We’re also interested in having a last FIE {Full Individualized Evaluation - school's version of an academic psych eval} done as well.
  3. OUR BIGGEST CONCERN:  Kitty is currently at her MAXimum stress level with school, work and family, and it has caused severe traumatic emotional debilitation (I realize that you may not be aware of this issue, as Kitty has always been able to hide her issues from the public – even when she was in and out of psych hospitals every other week for suicidal ideation and the psychiatrists were recommending she be homebound until residential treatment was secured, she was able to keep the school from seeing the majority of her struggles).   She has stated several times that due to her need to people please, she has chosen to sacrifice her relationships with the family and progress in therapy because she believes (most likely correctly) that any more stress/anxiety from ANY source will push her over the edge and she will end up back in the psych hospital.  

Currently when she is not shut down and isolating herself, she is lashing out and unable to handle even minor upsets without a major reaction.  Obviously we consider work and school to be important, but Kitty’s emotional/mental health must be a higher priority and she cannot learn and grow when she is overwhelmed and in her “trauma brain.”  Plus, there is a strong possibility that Kitty’s brother will be returning to the home from prison in a few months – an additional cause of stress for Kitty.  We agree that to prevent an emotional breakdown and return to the emotional stability that Kitty needs to function and heal, that stress/ anxiety needs to be lessened in some areas of Kitty’s life.

Obviously there is little we can do about the stress of school and family; therefore, we feel that Kitty needs a less stressful job that doesn’t activate her auditory processing issues (loud, chaotic environment), doesn’t trigger her trauma issues (alcohol, illicit behaviors, and social anxieties), doesn’t continuously overtax her skills and abilities (she feels devastated by her “failures,” every time she makes mistakes and needs assistance – which since her tolerance level is so low right now feels overwhelmingly frequent), and doesn’t occur during family time (Friday and Saturday evenings - she works 5-9pm Friday and Saturday only).
We realize that Kitty dislikes (is afraid of!) change, and she has learned a lot from her time at {Giant Amusement Center -GAC}, but we believe it is in her best interest, despite her current objection,  to have a job more suited to her aptitude and abilities, that will challenge her without incapacitating her.  We also realize that she finds her current volunteer work at The Book Store “boring” and unchallenging.  We appreciate that you have encouraged her not to quit – at least until the semester is over.

We know that next semester Kitty will have even more electives (due to the completion of Economics and Government).  She has mentioned she’d like to take a Nutrition class at {special school}.  Our concern is that the school will propose again that she come home at 2:30 each day (or earlier).  I know you appreciate why Kitty should not just get out of school early each day (she needs supervision and I may not be available, if her brother is home she absolutely cannot handle being alone with him, she WANTS a job or classes where she can be active and learning needed vocational and living skills…)

We are optimistic that you and the VAC {school's vocation} program will find a job that meets Kitty’s needs, whether it is a paid position or not.  I know there are a lot of small businesses around {special school} that she might do well at – including a florist and many food places.  I regret that we have to “force your hand” by no longer being willing and able to transport Kitty to GAC on Friday and Saturday evenings after this semester ends.  If you are unable to find another job that can get her on the bus in time to go home, Hubby and I are willing to pick her up from work (on school days), as long as she is done by 6:30pm (she has therapy on Tuesdays, so we have to leave our home no later than 5:00pm).  We are OK with her working the occasional Saturday with the same stipulation that she be done by 6:30pm.

Thanks for reading this huge e-mail!  Sorry it’s so long, but I wanted you to understand our concerns.  As always, please contact me with any questions or concerns!

Thank you,

Mary Themom
cell:  (###) ###-####


Anonymous said...

If she's been isolating at home in order to cope (not a positive strategy, of course) what's plan B if she finds the new changes at home too overwhelming? It may be a bad coping strategy, but it is her strategy, and there may be some serious fallout when she is faced with changing it.

I feel bad for the kid, skipping lunch rather than face the lunchroom. Sounds like home isn't the only place where she is isolating.

marythemom said...

Honestly, I've decided that I want to risk overwhelm now while she's still in school and has the support and services in place (could help her access more services too - if we can demonstrate that she is struggling with life now, how would she handle living independently and working full-time? Add in relationships and possibly young children... I'd prefer she is faced with changing coping strategies or even having a breakdown NOW, rather than later when it effects a lot more than our immediate family and she's even more deeply entrenched in her current "coping" strategies.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, there's definitely a window of opportunity here that is closing as she nears the end of her high school time. Not saying you shouldn't do it, just that an emergency plan would probably be a good idea. Time to put the therapist on speed dial. ;-)

Campbell B. said...

As a former foster kid who lived in dozens of foster homes until I aged out at 18, I have to say that treating her like a tenant and not family sounds so awful to me. It would have made me totally give up and shut down. When we grow up bouncing from family to family, we lose the ability to trust that anyone really loves us at all. We lose the ability to trust that we are safe. Borderline personality disorder is a common diagnosis for people who have experienced extreme abuse (and just being in foster care counts as that). But there is evidence now that those who have been diagnosed with Borderline may actually suffer from Complex PTSD.

An ultimatum like that for me at 17 or 18 would have destroyed any self worth or sense of family I had at her age.

Isolating in her room is very much what I did at that age. Part of it is just age appropriate. Part of it is dealing with trauma and the the intense fear I had of my foster family. Music helped me cope and it helped me dissociate from my environment. It helped me feel ANYTHING else than the extreme emotions I was constantly feeling.

This is a very hurt child. Children who have experienced trauma (foster care is extreme trauma in itself) are delayed in their development. When I was 18, I was probably more like an 11 year old emotionally.

I fear your strong ultimatums are going to backfire and add to her trauma. She sounds like a difficult family member and I feel for you as someone who is caring for her schizophrenic sister. She need to feel like you are her family no matter what. I'm not saying that means you have to tolerate her bad behavior, but treating her like a roommate/prisoner/tenant isn't going to help her in the long run.

I work with traumatized kids. May I suggest you take a look at "Collaborative Problem Solving" with I have seen it work wonders with the kids and their families in my residential treatment center. Perhaps their is a professional in Collaborative Problem Solving therapy methods in your area?

Thanks for listening.