Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The More Things Change...

You'll all be happy to know that I survived my least favorite holiday! In fact, I think this might have been one of our smoother Halloweens. Many of our usual speed bumps have become normalized for us; we know that Sky probably won't end up wearing his costume so we don't make a big deal out of it; we know that the kids won't be able to eat a lot of the candy they get, so we keep the trick-or-treating short (just a quick trip up and down the street), and the kids instinctively leave the candy alone until they can get home and separate out all of the ones they can't eat. And, we've learned not to head out to the local Halloween festival until Pink's taken her asthma medicine and everyone's eaten a full dinner.

This picture needs no caption.
In some ways, things are getting much better. Life almost seems "typical." In other ways, though, we are very much stuck in the same general ruts. And, as it turns out, these particular ruts are fairly anxiety producing for me. 

On Friday, Ren woke unable to walk again. This time, it was his knee, and we managed to get into the doctor and get the issue under control with steroids rather quickly. But all of this didn't happen without exacting a significant toll on my sense of well-being. Life goes SO much better when Ren and I are co-parenting. I am not sure I can face having him bedridden again, but I also know such incapacitation is undoubtedly in our future. So, the knee hiccup terrified me. 

The other rut we seem to keep falling into has to do with a son's ability to thrive in school. Our current challenge is with adjustment to kindergarten. Sky was in kindergarten six years ago. That was the year he got his autism diagnosis and we began to figure out the pieces of the puzzle, but it wasn't without a lot of hardship as we faced a tremendously steep learning curve on our path to getting services for him. Stow is our kindergartener now, and, despite the fact he is much different than Sky was at the same age, he is struggling in distressingly similar ways. So, we continue to advocate for him and to search for the magic puzzle pieces that help us figure out what will facilitate his success. 

I also continue to write letters. Maybe they don't do any good, but at least I feel like I'm accomplishing something when I write them. Here's one I sent recently about the good old behavior color chart which has never ever worked for our boys. What do you think? Do I sound like a broken record?

Thank you for another note alerting us to the issues Stow is having at school. We are concerned to hear that, today, in particular, there were so many instances in which he was having negative interactions with his classmates. Such interactions are, we're sure, unpleasant for his peers, and they are also not good for Stow as he works to adjust to elementary school and to socialize appropriately. We write to ask, first, if we can revisit the reward system and its use in Stow's case, and, second, to request that we schedule a meeting to brainstorm ways to better support Stow in school (and at home) to help him move toward consistently positive school experiences.

The clipping and sticker system seems to be making Stow hyper-aware that he is not doing as well as his peers. Without my prompting, he tells us often that he is the worst kid in the class and that he "can't do well at this school." Today he told us that he was the only one in his class who was still on the first sticker chart and that everyone else was on their third. This upsets him, he says, because he knows his classmates get prizes when their charts are full and he thinks that his peers and teachers don't like him as much because he doesn't do as well as everyone else. Further, we know that Stow becomes anxious when he believes he is being bad or is in trouble and that his anxiety presents as inappropriate behavior such as hitting, pushing, or using mean words. Since we know Stow is a kid who has developed more slowly than others his age, and since we know he has processing issues and tracks behind his peers in his social interactions, we wonder whether the clipping and sticker systems are appropriate for him as they seem to highlight the ways he is falling short of his classmates while also potentially triggering the very behavior that leads him to clip down.

We are very concerned that Stow is internalizing messages about himself that are untrue and detrimental to the development of a healthy self-esteem and confidence in his ability to succeed at school. We worry that loss of self-esteem and confidence now will carry on as he matures leading to future negative peer interactions and to the inability to achieve his full academic potential. 

One day, we hope that all of the pieces will fall into place for Stow, but until then, we want to advocate for the support he needs to engage in consistently positive peer interactions, to maintain his self-confidence, and to develop the skills he will need to succeed as he moves into first grade and beyond. Can we meet and revisit these issues surrounding classroom behavior and think about ways to provide him more (potentially one-on-one) support in the classroom to facilitate these goals?