Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Gimme-an "I", gimme-an "E", gimme-a "P"!!!

Still seeking an IEP for Genea.

We had her Parent- Teacher Conference this week, and it seemed to go well. The school psychologist sat in and even still, it lasted less than an hour.

Funny side note- my friend Sarah calls it the "Conference Walk of Shame", when the discussion of your child annihilates the time slots for 3 more kids, thereby throwing every single parent off track at least 45 minutes for the rest of the night. You slink out of the classroom, eyes to the floor, knowing that the other parents are wishing long forms of ill- will towards you. Ahem.

Anyway, Genea is not currently receiving extra support in school. She has an unofficial accomodation plan, which is essentially notes from last years teacher to this one. Otherwise, she has always skated the line and landed in "low average" in testing. She is not disruptive, she gets enough work done to grade. She was tested in 1st grade for speech and language, and it turned out she was faking a fluency disorder. The standard in our schools is the childs disability has to interfere with learning to be considered for an IEP and Genea's disabilities have not.

Mrs Teacher shyly brings up the mess of Genea's homework, like she wishes she didn't have to. This is what I said. I check her school folder every day whether she says she has homework or not. We make Genea and her sister go to their room for an hour every day to do schoolwork. The lights are dim and the room is quiet.  No talking, no radio, etc.  My husband and I then remind her on average 3-5 times an evening to put it in her backpack. She has a little book on a ring that I made her with detailed lists of the few things she needs to get done. We refer her to check her book another 2-3 times an evening. There are only 2 choices left at that point. We actually do it for her (umm, NOPE) or we beat the crap out of her when she "forgets" (also, NOPE). So, we let her suffer the consequences at school. That's going to have to suffice.

In comes Mr. Psych saying (20 minutes late), ok, lets start at the beginning! I must have audibly groaned, instead of groaning in my head like I planned, because right away he took it back by asking Mrs Teacher, what are some of Genea's strengths. Ok, great! Let's start there!

Mrs Teacher rambled through a few things about how Genea likes school, and she tries very hard, blah blah blah. I nodded frequently and tried to look supportive. Meanwhile, I am trying to shift my balance in a way that does not involve one ass cheek hanging off a chair meant for an 8 year old. There is just no dignity to be had on those little chairs. I didn't chime in. First of all, I have learned to not jabber on, making these things go longer than they need to. Secondly, I appreciate the effort to Be! Positive!, but the fact is I am well aware of my daughters fantastic strengths, of which there are many. Now, we NEED to work on other area's so lets please just get to the point.

Mr Psych asks if Genea has any mental health diagnosis. Umm, SURE, which ones do you want? Because we have Reactive Attachment Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, ADHD and PTSD. Maybe a few others I forget. But I pointed out, you may as well call it LMNOP Disorder, because with all that overlap none of it really answers anything. Messed Up by Orphange Life Disorder. FUBAR'd by Adults Disorder. Don't Ask Me to Finish My Homework, I'll Show You! Disorder. I explain Genea's background of extreme neglect, instability, abandonment and of course the fucktardmoron family. Moving on.

Mr Psych then wants to know is Genea in any therapy. Yes! I can say! We just saw a new psychologist last week! He spent an hour with Genea, then suggested putting together a "team" of professionals to work out a true diagnosis and intervention. She sees her new child psychiatrist next week! (Incidentally, Teena also had an intake appointment that day for possible ADHD. They do several appointments with testing and evaluations across a couple of months before they will come to a conclusion, however at the end of Teena's time, the New Guy says..... "quite frankly, she is really hyperactive". I KNOW THAT!)

Mrs. Teacher has a few concerns. Number one is Genea's inability to focus. I explain 'hypervigilance" as opposed to ADHD, and while she still carries that diagnosis I am now certain it is not accurate in the sense that she has no attention span at all but it's not due to the same region of the brain that causes ADHD. She goes on about how Genea plays with her hair, monitors everything but her paper,and needs constant teacher attention to get back on track. Hmmm, I think in my brain, I bet she's manufacturing a lot of that to suck in teacher time. Ahem. I let them know that Genea is the same at home. In fact at home she paces. Back and forth, back and forth, for hours at a time. She is never actually doing anything, but she tries to make it look like she has very important business on the other side of the room. The side she just left 7 seconds ago. And back again.

Next, Mrs Teacher shows us an assignment. The writing is large and off- lines. She has written 3 sentences about a "recent event in her life that she enjoyed". She has been telling Mrs Teacher that she just can't remember anything else. So those 3 sentences is what Genea has completed after a WEEK. Mmm. Now I am sure Genea is jacking her around. I explain a little about RAD to her. It's a hard thing to explain to a bright- eyed teacher in her 20's, who is incidentally pregnant, that this sweet, adorable, little 8 year old girl is lying her ass off in order to suck you in, but I tried. I let her know that of all the things in this world that Genea knows, FOOD is one of her favorite things. There is just no way she went to The Nasty Buffet and can't remember anything about it. She always eats the same thing, mac and cheese with a side pile of broccolli. She lives for that ice cream machine with all the germ infested toppings next to it. I gently tried to explain to Mrs Teacher that  she was getting played. I tried to soften it a little by letting her know that if Genea is playing you, it means she likes you! Really! She doesn't waste her time, otherwise she would dedicate her school time to sucking someone else in!

Not sure if that helped or not.

Anyway, it's about this time that I realize I have a booger growing in my left nostril. It feels as if it may have dislodged itself and is precariously balanced in there with the potential to vacate the premises, if you know what I mean. Mr Psych and Mrs Teacher continue their meeting while I try to figure out what to do about this growing emergency. A few discrete wipes does nothing, but also does not make it worse. I try to focus on breathing out the right side nostril so as not to cause any turbulance on the left. Sigh. The things I have to deal with.

Anyway, Mrs Teacher has a few more points to make. Genea is at a "Level J" in reading, which is a starting 2nd grade level, and has made no progress since starting 3rd. (I really think all of 2nd grade was a useless disaster). She hates to write and tries to get out of it. She seems to understand math, but has not come near mastery of the concepts.  She is behind, and falling further behind. Mrs Teacher has a few ideas that she wants to try which sound good. Specialized reading help, stuff like that.

(Just a note that this is what I have worried about all along. I could see this coming, the day Genea started school 3 years ago. The gap between what kids in 3rd grade are capable of and what she is capable of is getting wider and wider. I have said this over and over, and expressed that I have been trying to avoid it getting to this point every year for 4 grades now. So can we please fucking do something this time?)

Mr Psych then makes a comment that has me wanting to shove his non-dangling ass cheek off of his 3rd grader- chair. He says, "well, I'm on the fence. Mrs Teacher is going to start some exciting new strategies, and since Genea is starting with counseling I think we should wait and see how it goes".

Here's is what I am thinking:


 As my eyelids levitated, I tried asking the teacher if she felt that all these extra unofficial accommodations were really sustainable in her grade and in future years. You know, like, I know there are other kids in the class and while I appreciate you wanting to be almost a 1:1 with my daughter, the other kids really do deserve an education as well. OF COURSE! She rushes to assure me, SURE! She is smiling and defending herself and teachers everywhere. We can do it!

My brain groaned again.

But then I am also thinking, what if they are worried I might be upset if my child has special needs? Maybe they want to soft-pedal the point in time where they say, your kid isn't making it and probably can't. Most parents will take that hard. However, I adopted Genea knowing ahead of time that this time would come so, no devastation here. I decide to get to the point, not to mention I can hear at least 2 families shuffling around in the hall waiting for their turns.

I turn and look directly at Mr. Psych.
"I want Genea on an IEP. She has significant delays, she is not getting better. She needs extra help."

"well," he says, "we have all these things we want to try......"

I cut him off. I said, "Look, Genea is doing better right now than she ever has. In the past 6 months she has significantly improved. And she is still falling behind. She needs the extra help."

Then I employed one of my favorite strategies to get the other person to show their hand. Silence. And Staring. Mr Psych bends his head over his notepad and I catch him giving Mrs Teacher the side eye. Mrs Teacher is giving him the side eye back. Finally he says, okay, I will write up a referral for her and start testing for learning disablities. We will have a meeting to discuss the results in 6 weeks or so.

Great! That's all I wanted!


  1. "She is not disruptive"

    You know, I think that's the problem with kids like ours. If we had kids who caused their teacher untold hassle throughout the school day, they'd be throwing every resource they could at them. But because our kids' problems fly under their radar most of the time, there's not the will.

    And your description of parent's evening (as they're called here!) SPOT ON!!! It's clearly a universal experience crossing all geographical and cultural boundaries!

  2. Holy cow, I can't believe it took all that to get you some testing. My DD gets math support and she doesn't have HALF the issues Geena has. I have her conference today and I can't wait to hear what other things they tell me she needs. (groaning)

    Essie I am so proud of you for standing up to them and insisting on an IEP. Could you threaten to get the testing done privately and then make the district pay? Aren't they responsible for doing that? I have no idea how this all works but I am happy that they finally, FINALLY stepped up to do what is clearly so needed. Why must they wait until she is BEHIND before giving her services? Geeze louise.

  3. My Jackson is in second grade and is falling more and more behind every day. I too had a meeting much like this two weeks ago and he is in the process of the testing at this time. I wish you the best with your little girl. Hope we both get what our kids need....IEP.

  4. So glad you haven't completely giving up blogging. I love reading your adventures...mostly because they so closely parallel my life. School meetings bite! Here's a little tidbit I've learned to help avoid the Conference Walk of Shame. All our conferences are scheduled online. About a week before the scheduling opens to all parents, I call the school and schedule extra blocks of time with the teacher and all special ed teachers at the same time. I schedule at least 1/2 hour - 45 min per kid. That way at least no one's out there waiting in the hall while we have our 45 minute conference of "how in the blazes is this kid ever going to catch up?" Yeah for testing. NOW make sure they aren't biased. Very often they use the lens of "this is a normal kid with a psycho mom" and they do everything they can to try to make your kid look normal so they don't have to provide services. When the testing is done, request a copy of the full evaluation (not just the summary they will offer you...get the full report). If you disagree with it, you have the option of having it redone independently and the school still has to pay for it. Good luck, mama bear. Keep on advocating for that little girl of yours because no one else will.

  5. Oh, oh, I have a tip for the conferences too! I almost forgot. I always schedule mine for the last slot of the day. That way there's no one scheduled after me. I might have to wait to see the teacher (because everyone else ran late) but once I am in there, she's all mine. ;-)

    You're welcome.

  6. Yay!

    Wait . . . you didn't tell us what happened with the booger . . . I cannot wait to hear how that all "came out" . . . Bwahahahaha!

  7. Loved reading this. Loved hearing your story. Loved know I am not the only one -- who is ignored when talking about my child or trying to figure out how to sit in those teeny tiny chairs.

  8. I think you know that I totally get it. I'm thankful we were able to enter school with an IEP for Noah. I still don't understand why schools make it so difficult for the parents that really want to help their kids.

    Still, even with the IEP I feel like I have to fight for everything. As a parent we have more power/control than schools want us to know. It's so tough though when you are up against the "professionals."

    Just a little tid bit - Noah's psych uses the term "multi-system brain disorder" to encompass all of his diagnosis. Except RAD, Noah's sound fairly similar. I know it's not an official diagnosis, but it does seem to help people grasp the complexity of his issues.

    I REALLY need to remember the silence and stare tactic. I have a feeling that would be more effective than crying, which is what usually happens to me in these meetings.

  9. Some of my own lessons learned:

    Request the IEP (and anything else) in writing. They can't ignore it if it's in writing - but they can if it's just verbal.

    Require that the student's team gets training in RAD and PTSD. Here's a recorded version of the training I did for DS16's team: http://www.anymeeting.com/AttachIntegrate/E952DF848947

    Show them clearly that behaviors at school are the result of trauma / whatever, NOT . This document helped us show the patterns and the potential roots: http://www.attachmentandintegrationmethods.com/files/Historical_Comparison.pdf

    Therapist wrote a letter on the "Psychological Impacts of RAD and PTSD in the classroom": http://www.attachmentandintegrationmethods.com/files/Psych_DX_RAD_impacts_school.pdf

    Anything they didn't want to act on, went in a typed letter labeled "parental concerns" and we put a note "see attached parental concerns letter" in the box for parental concerns on the IEP forms. If it's a "parental concern" they HAVE to include it with the IEP (doesn't mean anyone will read it, but it's there). If you just talk to them, or you don't label the paper "parental concerns," they don't have to do anything with it.

  10. Glad you posted on Facebook that you had posted a new blog entry!!! I have missed the blog tons! I was so happy to hear that you are getting the IEP!!!!! Grandson That You Know is having his later this month (at the school request) so I am feeling encouraged! Email me about this fabulous sounding psychologist and psychiatrist that you found --- we are looking for someone for GTYK.

  11. Oooh, I like the silent treatment strategy. I'll have to try that during our next IEP meeting.

    So glad to see you back. Good luck with your next meeting!

  12. If you can't get an IEP, can you not get a 504 plan? Don't know how it works where you are, but here a 504 plan can be written for any child with any type of diagnosis; whether or not it affects the child academically. Jupiter did great in 1st grade (other than expelling great amounts of anxiety based negative feelings when she came home, but the school didn't care about that so much) and they wouldn't let her have an IEP plan anymore. So we just renamed it as a 504 plan based on her ADHD/anxiety diagnoses and she kept all the same accomdations (plus the accomodation I made them add about needing to eat every two hours).

    I always schedule a last conference too. We get to schedule ours this week..it's going to be interesting for sure.

  13. Yay!! About dang time she is getting the help at school she needs! I can't believe they haven't identified her before now.. Southern Darlin' has been indentified since last year & she is currently in 2nd grade & Level J reading (gets help).. So I can't imagine a 3rd grader in the same reading level (which we just got a "-" on the report card for) and NOT receiving help! GEEESH!!

  14. Genea sounds sooooo much like Princess in school that it makes my stomach hurt. She's flailing in 3rd grade, and it boils down to processing and work ethic.

  15. I have no smart to add so I'm just going to add ****applause****** for employing the silent stare so effectively.

    Oh, and does thi mean we get another blog post in 6 weeks???

  16. Congratulations! Though, I think you should have just shouted out the stuff you wrote in all caps.

    I guess it is as well you didn't need to.

    But, just for the record..... If I were alone in my room for an hour without any radio on or anything going on, I COULD NOT ACCOMPLISH a thing! I would simply feel more and more unfocused and frustrated. Fortunately I got straight A's so my parents couldn't argue with my choice to do homework in front of the TV. Truly.

    I think different people have different needs for concentration.

  17. I'm so glad you forced their hand in making them not wait-and-see. I've regretted a number of decisions the school made (against my better judgement) and one of the largest ones was when Ms A started 1st grade at a new school they didn't want to implement anything (despite the fact she'd repeated kinder) because the new enviornment would surely help, they didn't know her, blah blah. So that year was a waste at too crucial a time in development. So YES -- no WAIT-AND-SEE.

    BUT -- be sure to stick them to their federally-mandated testing deadlines. Since this is happenening "just before" the winter break it is too likely that you will see no changes until next year! Do your best to prevent them from saying they can't test because of the impending holidays. Push to have them finish testing by winter break and get the ARD scheduled for first thing in January.

    Good luck.

  18. I have heard about using an advocate to help protect your daughter's rights to a free public education by helping to negotiate the IEP process.

    On the attach-china yahoo group someone has posted they used someone out of state and he was very reasonable. Most of the work can be done with letters.

    The attach-china yahoo group has opened their membership to many families with children from other countries or even domestic adoptees or bio children with similar alphabet soup diagnosis as your daughter.

    There is a lot of good advice about what your child is entitled to in school and support on how to get it on that yahoo group.

    Document everything and follow up your conference with an email of the info as you understand what they spoke of.

    good luck!

  19. I just have to say my daughter is in a similar boat, however she has an IEP in place. For 3 years now her teachers have said she does not need educational support. She manipulates the staff to the extreme. She stole the same book 3 times from her teacher, her teacher "gave her the benefit of the doubt" on it 3 times... I am at a loss for what to do next. I cannot move her to a traditional middle school. There is way too much freedom there and she already abuses the freedoms she has. When she has lunch detention, she goes outside to play. The school says she is barely a blip on the radar, yet I have to search her daily to make sure she has not stolen anything. She tells wild stories to the other kids on the bus, then parents confront me about why my kid promised their kid a puppy, iPod, laptop, cell phone, horseback riding... the list goes on. I hope you get something figured out by 6th grade!

  20. why do you think we've always been told that silence is golden?

    way to go!

    and, yeah--what about the booger? i can't help it. i'm mature like that.

  21. Yay for updates!

    So glad to hear that you could make some headway with this. As you say, the gap is only going to become more of an issue. Keep us in the loop on how it's going.

    We exchanged emails through my hotmail account, but I actually started my own blog.

  22. She will have to test at performing 2 grades lower than she is in to receive an IEP based on learning disabilities. So...if you are denied on that front you can ask for one simply on the basis of Other Health Impaired (OHI) for the ADHD and Bipolar. That is what we have now because my son no longer tests as 2 years behind.

    Good luck :)

  23. Dudeeeeeee. As a teacher, this irks me to no end!! If you want reading/math suggestions let me know! Do they do an orton gillingham based program for reading? She sounds like she needs multisensory reading instruction!

  24. not to cause you more despair but we're still holding out for an IEP for Sissy and she's 12 in December.

  25. YEAH! Do you not have a law in your state where they have to test her within thirty days of your written request? I would follow up with a formal letter that quotes state/federal regulations.
    I have a template if you want one :)

  26. You're my hero.

    Having been on both sides of that conference table, I can say it's not easy.

    (Now, ot, since no one else is reading this by now, right? I think I may put an extra electric kettle in the bedroom so that I can fill hot water bottles right. THERE. While we brush teeth. Am feeling brilliant and wanted to share.

    What'd you name yours this year? Am v.disappointed in the silicon one we bought last year. It's too insulating! Yes, I could just e-mail...but a comment lurker may be intrigued.)


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