Spectrum Warriors: Life Through The Autism Spectrum

Making It Visible: Inclusion in the Early Years – Conference Summary Part 4 of 4

The last post in our four-part series that reviews and summarizes guest-poster Kayla Wilcox’s take on the Making It Visible: Inclusion in the Early Years Conference, held in New Brunswick late fall, 2014 and hosted by the New Brunswick Association for Community Living,

For a refresher of Part 1, an overview of the conference – click here
And  you can read Part 2, a summary of the “Communication: Building Bridges to Children” here.
Part 3, “Tips for Transitioning Children to School” can be read here

This is by far my favourite post of the series. It really hits home and reminds me of how far we’ve come. Through the ABA therapy we received most of the time we are now responding to MJ’s challenging behaviours in the ways described below and it has made all the difference. Notice I say most of the time? Yeah, I’m not perfect and it can be really hard in the moment to react in the recommended way all of this. This post served as a great reminder for me to make more of an effort this year (call it my resolution) to strive for more positive than negative responses with my child, we were taught to always aim for a 4:1 ratio.

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A wonderfully-wise woman named Barbara Kaiser was the last presenter at the conference with her talk entitled “I Didn’t Mean to Ruin Your Day: Understanding, Preventing, and Responding to Challenging Behaviour in Young Children.” Ms. Kaiser is the co-author of Challenging Behavior in Young Children (3rd Edition, 2012) and Challenging Behaviour in Elementary and Middle School;Barbara Keisier - Challening Behaviour in Elementary and Middle School she presents workshops and speaks on challenging behaviour throughout the US and Canada. When I referenced receiving a course on parenting and life in an earlier post, it was Ms. Kaiser’s talk that I was referring to as it held a mirror up to my actions, and to my strengths and weaknesses as a parent and a person.

Ms. Kaiser addressed how challenging behaviour makes it impossible to achieve our goals and interferes with learning opportunities. Children rely on challenging behaviours to not only communicate their needs, but also to achieve a desired result. Challenging behaviour is difficult for everyone: the child exhibiting it, the children observing it, teachers, educators, and it can be confusing. Furthermore, challenging behaviour can harm others, interfere with development, and impede success with learning.

Given the potential negative outcomes of challenging behaviour, it’s important to do detective work to find the root cause. What led to the behaviour? Has a child been poorly transitioned to an activity? Are their senses overloaded? Are they hungry? Tired? Knowing what variables affect behaviour can assist us with helping children find better tools to respond to situations. Family stress, stress at school, the effect of media on families (parents being less present), punishment, can all increase stress—these variables do not build bridges, they build walls. Ms. Kaiser emphasized that in place of punishment, we should teach. If a child does not know how to read, we teach them to read. If a child does not know how to behave, we should model how to behave.

In order to effectively deal with challenging behaviour, we also need to self-reflect. What pushes our buttons? Our level of experience with children, our cultural beliefs, training, support, may all be an influence. Does not having control set you off? Does being interrupted annoy you? Some of the tools, or lack thereof, that we bring to parenting come genetically, others come as a result of how we were raised. Parenting styles, as well as biological and environmental risk factors, can make children prone to behavioural difficulties. Are we present when we’re with our children? Is the attachment insecure or disorganized? Parents who struggle with mental illness, alcohol, or drug abuse, single parents, or parents who fight, families who have large numbers of children, may all struggle to form secure attachments with their children. We have to shine a spotlight on our lives to understand what is driving our children’s behaviours. Increased exposure to stress can impact children’s long-term development.

After self-reflection, we need to examine ways that we can improve on how we cope with life so that we can better assist our children in coping with theirs. Ms. Kaiser provided a wealth of advice. To counteract the effect of our buttons being pushed, she advised that we remember our strengths. We’re all good at something – perhaps it’s playing with our kids, or coming up with creative activities, or being patient. We need to calm ourselves before responding because if our emotions get out of control, we lose our ability to reason, which may escalate the behaviour rather than manage it. When our children are exhibiting behaviours, we need to not only focus on what they are doing but on how we are reacting.

Adults tantrum too, and we really can’t expect any more from our children than we do of ourselves. We need to examine if the expectations we place on our children are too high. If we lose our patience after all of our years of experience, then it’s acceptable for children to do the same. Ms. Kaiser said it takes six seconds to take back control of our brain once we reach fight or flight mode. There is a STAR acronym for managing what she calls an “emotional hijack”: Stop, Think, Act, Review. If we stop, think about our favourite place to go, count to 10, or think about things we love about our child, it gives us time to center ourselves, which increases our reasoning ability and allows us to take back control of our response. Better yet, we can model that behaviour for the child by announcing that we are going to take a minute to calm ourselves and count out loud.

While the STAR acronym is a great tool, it’s not always possible to reflect in the heat of the moment, especially when we’ve had long days at work, when unpredictable stressful events happen, or when illness strikes. All we can do is try our best and apologize if we have an off day. I explain to my children that people have a range of emotions and talk about what triggers them. Something like, “You know how you get cranky when you’re sick, hungry, or tired… well mommies and daddies do as well; everyone does, and that’s okay. With a little rest and healthy food, we’ll feel better.” Our family uses the Zones of Regulation as a way to talk about emotions. I give my children the freedom to feel how they feel. My effort goes into modelling how to manage emotions to try to avoid losing control, and modelling how to regain control if it is lost.

Another helpful piece of advice was to assess how we describe behaviour. She recommended that we not say things like “He’s defiant,” and make a personal attack. Rather we could say, “When Bob is upset, he throws things.” This connects the emotion to the response and describes the behaviour rather than the child. How we respond to a child exhibiting behaviours not only affects how that child thinks we view him, but also how others view him. We’re modeling for all children in our environment.

Ultimately, our task is to focus more on our children’s strengths than challenges and make sure that our feedback reflects that. If your child put on one boot and threw the other across the room, what would your reaction be? Many parents might jump to scold the child for throwing one boot when it may have been better to say, “Thank you for getting ready. Let me help you with your other boot.” The child will take note of the action that elicited a response; behaviours that draw attention are likely to be repeated. Also, if children misbehave, it’s because it’s working for them—they have gathered attention, obtained a desired object, or changed their level of stimulation. Ms. Kaiser gave an example of a child who dumped all of the Lego blocks when asked to clean up. The child never performed this action in another class where the teacher assigned children toys to clean up. Turns out he was not behaving poorly, he was simply confused about what to clean up.

Ms. Kaiser stated: “Our best tool is our relationship with our children.” In order to build a positive relationship, we have to consider what relationship deposits and withdrawals we are making. Withdrawals come in the form of criticism, avoidance, intimidation, invading personal space, punishment, and making demands. Note that our body language is often more important than what we say. If we listen to our children, smile, comfort, engage, nurture, hug, eat with, reassure, and show that we care, these are all deposits that will strengthen our bond with them. Sharing things about ourselves and our day, as well as finding alternatives to punishment can also help. We should also use effective praise. That means “good job” doesn’t cut it—we should be specific. For example, say “I like how you’re being calm” or “It’s very kind of you to share your dog with your brother.”

Since children use their behaviour to escape things they cannot do, we need to provide options. Instead of saying “Joey, don’t run!” say “Joey, please walk.” This keeps the interaction more positive. If the way we respond to a challenging behaviour is not working, we need to reassess and not continue responding that way. Make sure to talk with the child privately, instead of embarrassing him in front of others.

I won the centerpiece at my conference table, which now sits on top of my living room cubby as a reminder that behaviour is a form of communication. There’s a lot of work I have to do as a parent to live up to my good intentions; but one thing I hope to keep in mind is that when my children are acting out, they are reaching out to me, trying to build a bridge; and I need to build one to them by staying calm, remaining patient, and using what I know about them to drive communication. I also need to understand myself—I need to know my triggers, and my strengths and weaknesses. Lastly, it’s important to live as balanced a life as possible. Not having time to decompress means I can be more anxious, less patient, and more reactive. If I don’t take care of myself, it will be hard to be who my children need me to be.

Parenting is difficult, and there are some extra challenges (but also wonders!) that come with raising a child with a disability. If it is difficult for us with all of our experience to navigate life, imagine how hard it is for our children when there are so many unknowns. It’s our responsibility to tune in and bridge gaps in communication.

Thank you Kayla for your fantastic reviews and insights. I apologize for the tardiness in getting these posts up on our site, as I found them really valuable, and I hope our readers did too.

– Rebecca

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Making It Visible: Inclusion in the Early Years – Conference Summary Part 3 of 4

 As part of our continued coverage of the Inclusion in the Early Years Conference in NB in late 2014, here’s post three of four by attendee, Kayla Wilcox. Kayla Wilcox

Having just transitioned MJ and the monkey to kindergarten, Sabrina and I were very interested in Kayla’s write up on this.  We think it’s a very informative summary and if you are transitioning children this coming fall, it is well worth a read.

For a refresher of Part 1, an overview of the conference – click here
And  you can read part 2, a summary of the Communication: Building Bridges to Children” here.

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EB will be attending Kindergarten fall of 2015, which is why my second workshop choice was the Transition for Inclusion presentation by Kristi Peterson (NBACL Early Learning Inclusion Facilitator) and Lise MacNaughton (Interventionist and Family and Early Childhood Educator). I learned that transitions are changes that can build self confidence, a sense of pride, help children feel happy, and are learning opportunities, if they are done correctly. If transitions are rushed, they can induce stress, isolation, and make children feel incompetent. Transitions are easier for some than others. Even as adults we may notice that we find transitions stressful. Think about the last time you moved or the last time you started a new job. By thinking about what transitions in our life have been difficult and how we managed them, we can gain insight into how to help our children.

When transitioning children into early learning and childcare, or into primary school, we need to have a plan which should be formulated with key players (teachers, directors, principals, education assistants). That plan will make a marked difference in helping children feel secure in their new environment. Additionally, taking your child to visit the school before she attends will go a long way to helping her feel comfortable. If she can meet her teacher and be able to visualize where she will be going, it will decrease her stress.

Something that many early childhood educators use that I feel would also be useful for parents is ABC charts. These charts document the Antecedent (A) – What specific activity occurred before challenging behaviour?; the Behaviour (B) – What specifically did the person do or say?; and the Consequence (C) – What happened as a result of the challenging behaviour? ABC charts can be used for positive or negative behaviours so we can determine what works or doesn’t work. As parents, especially those of you who are juggling a few children, we may find ourselves reacting to a behaviour in the moment. Sally bit Johnny, end point, dish out consequence. We don’t always have time to consider the sequence of events that happened before the incident, if we were even able to observe them at all. However, the behaviour is only a small part of the story. If it’s a behaviour we want to prevent, we need to take note of what caused it to help prevent it from happening again. Sally is likely not an angry child who simply felt like biting Johnny. Perhaps Johnny had a toy she wanted to play with and she did not have the skills to communicate that.

I also took note of Ms. Peterson’s advice on varying activities. She suggested that we break activities down into low, medium, and high-level activities. We can ensure a smoother transition from one activity to the next if we don’t go from a high level activity to a low one, such as recess to a nap. Kids need to be eased into transitions. Giving them advanced notice of a transition will help as well.

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Reading this was helpful to me after the fact, since the transition for MJ was done in a very similar manner. We transitioned her slowly, she started part-time, a few hours a day and we gradually increased her to full time by October. We were able to extend her intervention worker as they normally exit at the end of September, but we needed to be able to phase her out only after MJ was comfortable in school. The last part of the transition was layering in the bus. We still only bus her to daycare after school and I drive her in the morning, because a late bus in the morning can throw off the entire day.

The other thing we did was set up several visits to the school in the Spring so she could get comfortable. In fact, our teacher even went so far as to create a video for her that gave her a tour of the school and some of the people she might meet. The video included showing her the bathroom, the water fountain and so forth. We watched this each time prior to an orientation or a visit and countless times over the summer. It was the best tool in our toolbox. Each time MJ walked into that school, she was confident about where she was going and where things were, it completely erased one element of her anxiety and it helped immensely. You can read more about our transition and other tips here.

-Rebecca

Making It Visible: Inclusion in the Early Years – Conference Summary Part 2 of 4

I must apologize for the sincere delay in getting the rest of this series up on the blog. December was not a kind month to my family! My husband fell and broke his ankle, required surgery for it, my basement flooded badly (thanks to some squirrels and pine cones) and my daughter got sick and I had to take her to ER (mystery ailment we’re still trying to get to the bottom of). Oh and it was also only Christmas season, so it’s not like there was anything new or different or any kind of change of routine taking place to begin with. Doesn’t it just sound like the best month ever, oh wait, no that’s a special kind of hell on earth I would not even wish on my worst enemy. So that’s my reason(s) for not getting the posts up in a more timely manner. I do hope you forgive me. Kayla Wilcox

Without further ado, here’s post two in this series by guest poster Kayla Wilcox on the first of two workshops she attended. This one was all about Communication, and there are some great tips and even something handy to print out. Enjoy!

For a refresher of Part 1 – click here

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The first of two workshops I attended was called “Communication: Building Bridges to Children”. The presenter was a passionate lady name Kelly Naish who is an Early Learning Inclusion Facilitator with NBACL.KellyNaish

Ms. Naish listed a variety of ways we can better understand our children that will help us get through to them. Take interaction style. A calm interaction style is better suited for an over-sensitive child, whereas an exciting style is a good match for an under-sensitive child. I had never thought about mine versus my kids’ interaction styles before. I tend to be calm and more reserved, whereas my children are very animated and energetic to the point that I occasionally get sensory overload. I reflected on the positive effect of this clash in interaction styles; I think they bring out the funny, silly, active side of me, and perhaps I can balance their strong need to run, jump, and climb all day long with reading, building, and craft activities, and we can all benefit.

Ms. Naish said that a responsive style, one where the educator lets the child take the lead in what to play and talk about, is the most effective style for learning. Observing how our children learn will help us reflect on how we can use the skills they currently have to build more skills. But in order to help our children learn, we need to know their learning style. You can print a learning styles charts here.

When planning activities for your child(ren), keep their learning style in mind and it will help you get the most out of the interaction. Ms. Naish had a brilliant suggestion for a game for a kinesthetic learner where you tape the alphabet to the wall and have the child swat letters with a fly swatter. She also recommended that we examine if our children learn in chunks, say they repeat words (echolalia), which can be replaced with spontaneous speech later on; or if they learn by memorization and will attach meanings and sounds to words eventually. Body language must be taken into account; there is a lot we can say without words. Behaviours send messages as they are a form of communication.

As an autism mom, I paid particular attention to the sensory processing portion of Ms. Naish’s presentation. She noted that children who experience sensory processing difficulties can often have their cues misunderstood as behaviour. Our senses play a huge part in helping us understand the world, but that understanding can be halted if our senses become overwhelmed. Children with autism who have sensory processing issues may shut down or melt down as a result, or exhibit a host of behaviours like hitting, biting, spitting, chewing on clothing, or dumping bins of toys. I was provided with a sensory checklist similar to this one. Knowing in which areas your child is over- or under-sensitive will be useful in helping you understand how they communicate their needs/feelings. There are also a variety of sensory activities that help us connect with our children, things that can calm them or motivate them to become more active. Ms. Naish displayed a Dollar Store bath mat for an over-active child to sit on, to help them sit still, and a finger light for a less active child to help stimulate them. For more ideas, read the SpectrumWarriors post on Sensory Breaks and Bins.

Bridging the communication gap by better understanding our children builds on Ms. Kolada’s point that children will get the most out of their education if they are included. In order to include them, we have to understand how to reach them. Ms Naish suggested strategies for building bridges to children, such as being descriptive, open-ended questions for more advanced learners, cause-effect activities, monitoring how fast we speak, giving children time to respond, modelling and imitating; we can pair children with peers who have more skills in a particular area; and we should join in play and have fun.

There was a slide on prompting responses that I will directly quote as I think it will be particularly useful for those with children with intellectual disabilities. The steps she outlined were:

  • Get face to face
  • Do something unexpected….then wait
  • Give things to your child a little bit at a time…then wait
  • Let things go wrong…then wait
  • Make mistakes on purpose…then wait
  • Say or do something about your child’s interests…then wait

It’s not only important to tune into our children, it’s important to help our children tune into others. Ms. Naish advised that we talk to children about how others think differently and why, and how others feel. We can also encourage them to take turns and help them practice social skills.

Stay Tuned for Part 3 which will focus on the Transition for Inclusion workshop

Happy New Year to all our readers!

-Rebecca

Making It Visible: Inclusion in the Early Years – Conference Summary. Part 1 of 4

Kayla Wilcox is a stay-at-home mother of three children, one 4-year-old and two 2-year-olds. Her oldest boy has Asperger’s, and her youngest boy is currently undergoing a psychological assessment. She describes her life asKayla Wilcox always interesting/never dull and she believes that the most beautiful things in life are within the mundane. Sabrina and I met Kayla through our Facebook Group and are amazed at how Kayla manages twins + autism. She recently attended the “Making It Visible: Inclusion in the Early Years,” conference hosted by the New Brunswick Association for Community Living, which neither Sabrina or I could attend. After hearing how much she enjoyed the conference, we asked her if she’d be willing to do a write up. We are pleased to announce that Kayla will have a series of posts (four) on the conference, which we will run over the course of the next 1-2 weeks. These posts will give an overview of each speaker and some very useful tips and takeaways. We hope you enjoy.

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Parenting includes a steep learning curve; and once you get a handle on a phase of development, a new phase begins. In July of this year, my 4-year-old was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder, more specifically, Asperger’s. The learning curve then became much steeper. I instantly jumped into researcher mode and began reading as many resources as possible to increase my understanding of EB’s needs and how I can meet them.

When I received an email invitation to The New Brunswick Association for Community Living’s (NBACL) conference entitled “Making It Visible: Inclusion in the Early Years,” I RSVP’d immediately—it was a learning opportunity I could not pass up. I anticipated learning a lot about how Early Childhood Educators could include children with disabilities in all aspects of school, and how I could advocate for my son to ensure that was the case. I did not expect that I would come away with a course on parenting and on life in general.

It is difficult to summarize the wealth of knowledge that I gained, but I will try my best. Bear with me.

The conference got off to a great start with our keynote speaker, Carla Kolada, who is an elementary teacher and part-time curriculum development instructor within the Education Faculty of Graduate Studies at the University of New Brunswick; she is also a parent of a child with Down syndrome. She asked attendees to think about a time when they did not feel included or seen, and what happened to our self-confidence as a result. Feeling invisible is a daily reality for many children with an intellectual disability. Ms. Kolada showed a video through the eyes of one such child. As he walked through the school halls and into his classroom, he felt that no one saw him, and all he wanted was a friend. Emotions got the better of me as I thought of my son who often goes off alone at school away from his peers. He is verbal but will shut down if stressed and generally waits for peers to leave an area before he plays there. My hope is that by Kindergarten, he will build more social skills and more confidence in social situations; and also that his school will help facilitate social interaction as his preschool teachers and autism support workers have been working to do.

Ms. Kolada spoke about the importance of peer intervention for children who are lonely or who need help with things like zipping up their jacket. As adults, we are generally aware of the needs of those around us, but children need to learn this skill as well; and peer assistance helps those who feel invisible feel like they belong. A sense of visibility and belonging will ultimately increase a child’s motivation to contribute, to take risks in social interaction, to feel secure, to feel free, successful, supported, and needed. This is what inclusion is all about—it truly gets the most out of our children as it is with their peers that they learn best. We don’t want our children to feel like the ‘other’; we want them to feel like they belong, like they are important too, and that they have potential.

Children with disabilities are often underestimated to their detriment. It is important for parents and educators to not believe those who say our children can’t do [insert random area where some have had low expectations of your child]. A moving story that illustrated this point, which will always stay with me, was about a boy with an intellectual disability whose parents were told that their son would never read. Ms. Kolada was at the meeting with the neurologist where these words were spoken. After the parents left, she stayed behind to probe deeper as she did not believe that outcome was written in stone—she wanted to find out what this child was good at, what he could do, so that she could implement a plan to help him learn to read. Apparently he was excellent at building, actually remarkably so. Ms. Kolada used his love of building to help enhance his literacy skills; for example, she taped letters to blocks so that the class could build words with them. This is an excellent model for how we can build a bridge to children by using their strengths and interests to enhance skills in other areas. Fast forward a couple of years, Ms. Kolada walked past the little boy’s grade 3 classroom and saw him reading to his friends!

One last point in Ms. Kolada’s presentation that I have to note is the difference between integration and inclusion. Integrating a child into a classroom means you change the child to fit the system; whereas practicing inclusion means changing the system to fit the child. She used the analogy of not trying to fit a square peg into a circle hole. She believes strongly that if we find out how children learn, we can tap into their potential, and that in order for them to believe in themselves, they have to see that others believe in them.

– Kayla

My favourite part from this post is the explanation of the difference between integration and inclusion. I agree with inclusion when it is done right, however, I think sometimes I hear more often about integration examples being labelled as inclusion. If there’s one thing you take away from this post, please let it be the true definition of inclusion. Stay tuned for post 2 early next week.

– Rebecca

Eye-Contact May Not Be All It’s Cracked Up To Be

One of the things we work on with our children is eye contact. Lack of eye contact when speaking to someone is one of the most marked signs of an autism spectrum disorder. In our house, it’s not something we have to work on nearly as much as other families, MJ has pretty decent eye contact most times. We do find ourselves reminding her that we have to look at someone from time to time when saying hello, goodbye or thank you, or that we have to mention their name if we are not looking directly at a person, otherwise they don’t know we are speaking to them.

Something dawned on me the other day that made me realize that perhaps the importance of eye contact is not always what it’s cracked up to be. I tend to have the deepest conversations with MJ in one of three places: The car, at home in her bed in the dark, or in the bath. It’s these conversations where she will bare her little soul and tell me what is really bothering her, or give me some insight into a recent meltdown.

I cherish these conversations. However, I realized all of these conversations take place with next to no eye contact occurring.

In the car, I’m driving so am looking at the road and she only sees the back of my head but is usually busy looking out the window while she shares what is going on in her brain. At night, these are conversations that take place after the light has been turned out or if she’s woken up in the middle of the night. We can’t see each other in the dark. The bath was the trickier one for me to figure out, as it’s bright and we’re able to look at each other. After our most recent bath where she shared something she was struggling with, I realized she is usually on her belly in the tub looking at the wall and although I’m trying to look at her, I’m kind of looking over her since she’s much lower in the tub and I’m often sitting on a little stool.

Whenever we’ve tried to have a conversation with her and looked directly at her/make her look at us, she squirms, fidgets, chews and is extremely anxious, we never really get any kind of answers out of her, and never the kind of deep thoughtful answers she gives me during any of the other locations noted above.

It made me realize that they eye contact part may be harder for her than we realize, and that it’s not always needed to get to the bottom of what’s going on. Having a ‘safe space’ where she can share her feelings without having to focus on looking at us, is actually calming for her. Remembering to look at someone when you talk to them takes a lot of energy when it doesn’t come naturally to you. For her, I’m guessing it brings out her ‘yellow’ behaviours and starts to shut her brain down making it even more difficult to tell us what is going on inside her head.

I’ve decided I’m not going to focus on getting her to look at us when she talks about her innermost fears or feelings, instead I’m going to create more opportunities where she can share things with me, without having to focus on looking at me. To me, it’s more important we find out things are bothering her or what made her anxious so we can problem solve together.

Of course, she still needs to remember to use eye contact for every day conversation and we will continue to remind her as need for that; but If we spend our energy focused on making her look at us all the time, we won’t make nearly as much progress at getting inside her head. Only once she shares these thoughts with us, can we help her learn how to cope with the world around her.

Here’s to eye contact only when necessary,

Rebecca

The Child Behind the Mask

We have been in the full swing of school for the last 2 months and I am beyond frustrated with the entire thing. I am frustrated that most of the things we have asked for are not being done and that they are not truly seeing him.

The Monkey has this ability to blend with his peers until he is put on the spot. He will like the same colour as you, he will like the same show as you, if you don’t like something he wont like it, if you have something that hurts he has something that hurts, if you think something is funny then he will act as if it is funny. Meanwhile at home he will ask,”do I like that mommy?”, “Is that funny daddy?”, “what should I do?” His inability to make a decision for himself is often times frustrating and when we tell him to go find something to do or tell him we can not make the decision for him on what he should like he gets frustrated.

In school he comes off as this fairly easy going little boy who follows his peers, who follows the rules, who doesn’t argue with the teacher(for fear of getting into trouble). He has his little ticks of chewing inside his mouth and twisting at his shirt that you really need to be looking closely to notice. The anxiety is always there lingering in the background. Afraid to be perceived as different he refuses to take breaks and just coasts along like life is peachy.

I know my child and I know how argumentative he is, how obsessed he is with routines, how scared he gets over trying new things. You can’t tell me that for the 5 hours that he is at school that these things just disappear? That his anxiety that he had all morning waiting for school to start and the constant questioning just ends the instant he gets to school? His lack of behaviors, his agreeableness, these are  his coping mechanisms and this will come back to bite us all in the ass when demands are actually placed on him in higher grades.

He needs you to see him. To pay attention to the fact that when he answers a question it is more then likely an answer he overheard someone else say earlier at some point and not how he actually feels. On more then one occasion now he has come home with wet pants as he has peed in them and I have to wonder how the hell did no one noticed that he had an accident? As a parent we put our trust in the school system that you will take care of our children, teach them and see them. For you to do this properly then you need to actually be paying attention.

Last night I emailed the school, regarding the assembly I could not prepare him for I had asked them to please put his noise reduction headphones on him, I had asked them to pay close attention to his queues that he is anxious, and to please be proactive. I then reminded them of how many times I have had to ask them to give me time to prepare him for these events. This was his first assembly and it was not just with students from his school but a Remembrance day assembly with other parents in attendance and with members of a Legion. This was a big thing and is something that needs advanced preparations. To Top it off Friday was Halloween, we had snow on the weekend, Monday turned into a snow day and all of those things just add up, up, up and up until they explode into a lovely mess.

Did the school email me back? No. Did the school put his headphones on? No. Did the Monkey sit near his EA? According to him no. How can you see his queues if your not sitting beside him watching for them? You can’t and what did this lead to? It led to a 6 year old who was to anxious to get up mid assembly to go to the bathroom that he ended up having an accident and did not tell anyone and no one noticed all day. Had you been sitting beside him you might have noticed he had to go per and you could have removed him from the assembly.

The school sees the Mask and not the boy behind the mask. He is not disruptive so he isn’t a bother and gets swept under the rug. Rebecca is having the exact same issues with MJ. Their high functioning abilities take over and no one sees the act they are putting on to get through the day. She too is being swept aside for being so compliant, pleasant and agreeable, but when will the school ask themselves when too much is enough? How many children do you know are compliant and agreeable all day?

We, the parents, are telling (screaming at the top of our lungs is more like it) you what we need make life easier at home after school but also to allow them to possibly go to school without the Mask on. To allow them to feel comfortable being themselves. The prep we do for our kids helps them function and eases the anxiety they have so that they don’t need to constantly worry about everything! Is that honestly to much to ask?

Once I calmed down I did call the principle at the school. I explained what had happened today and made sure she is aware that just saying there will be a Remembrance day assembly is not enough information for me to help him in any way. At least one week before an event like that I need to know what he will miss in his usual routine for the assembly, what will the assembly be about, will there be music or singing, will there be parents there, who else may be there, will there be anything that causes a smell (sounds odd but I have to ask), and what will happen after. Just saying there will be an assembly tells him nothing because he has no idea what that is. He can not form this picture in his head or remember what it was like last time because he has never been to one.

The Principle listened, she noted down all my concerns, how frustrated I am, how he isn’t getting the help he actually needs from his EA’s, how we need more advanced prep, how he needs to be forced out of his comfort zone a bit away from his peers to learn to think independently of others ( to think his own thoughts), how they need to be more aware of his queues and that they need to SEE him. He needs emotional support and that is something they are not giving him.

She said she would speak to the resource teacher and his classroom teacher and call me tomorrow. I can’t wait to see what she says and I hope that something will actually change. If it doesn’t then I will go to the school board and beyond because I wont tolerate being ignored.

Have a good night from one frustrated momma,

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Sabrina

 

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