High School Bumps, Bruises and IEP Short Comings

Well, Noah is entering 12th grade now.  He is almost 18 years old.  Time sure passes much too quickly.  Since moving to Pali High in 9th grade Noah’s self-esteem continues to improve.  He has found a core group of friends within the music program and even outside of the music program. The only thing he still struggles with is obtaining phone numbers and emails in order to hang-out outside of school.

The 9th and 10th grades seemed to help Noah gain confidence in his academic abilities.  He realized that he is intelligent and with the help of the accommodations, he can be successful.  He realized he will go to college.  Once Noah realized his potential, he began to use the extended time for exams along with the extend time on homework without any arguments.  Similarly, Noah only used  the extended time for homework when everything seemed due on the same day or when there was a huge exam Noah needed to study for first.

So what about 11th grade?  Last school year challenged him with content and workload.  Let’s not forget, Noah needed to prep for the ACT in the spring.  The ACT in itself was stressful.  Beware! The extended time isn’t automatically carried over from the IEP.  NOPE!  You need to apply for the extended time for both the SAT and The ACT.  At first, the SAT denied Noah extended time.  Their explanation stated we needed more proof of his disability.  So, we had to send them letters from a psychiatrist in addition to the amended IEP.  Finally, they accepted the proof and granted the extended time.  We then sent all the same information to the ACT with the approval letter from SAT.  The ACT granted us approval without hesitation.

So, why did we choose the ACT?  Well, at first Noah’s dad and I weren’t sure what to choose.  So we had Noah take the PSAT.  He took it twice.  Once without extended time and once with extended time. After taking the PSAT, we knew Noah needed to have either small group study sessions or one on one sessions in order to be successful.   I looked around our area and found a study center.  We decided to have Noah take a practice ACT exam and compare the results. The owner of the study center reviewed all the practice exams and said the format f the ACT would most likely be better for Noah.  So, that is how we chose the ACT exam for Noah.

Kids like Noah can’t just study from a book or website on their own.  We knew our child.  We knew he needed the small group or one on one attention.  This study sessions happened twice a week for one hour per subject.  This was expensive but worth it for the great outcome it produced.  Even though, Noah took the ACT twice with several practice exams in between, he rocked it!  In addition, Noah came out with better test taking skills.  He learned how to dissect the question and understand what the question is asking.  Yes, it was pricey.  No, the IEP doesn’t cover these sessions, although, it should.  But, wouldn’t it be great for schools with these amazing Aspie teens really took the time and money to prepare them for college and not just get them through high school.  These kids are able to go above and beyond a high school diploma.  It is time for schools to start working towards providing more support in order to make college accessible.  These study support classes should be provided.  It should be a class with more structure and clear learning goals rather than a class that is just a holding cell until the student’s next class. Moreover, where some of these students sit there and chat with their friends.

So let’s continue with 11th grade.  In addition to the ACT lingering over his head, Noah had two honors classes, English and History.  He wanted to continue with Algebra 2 while adding chemistry to the list of classes.   OYE!  MATH and CHEM.  Big mistake for a kid who struggles in Math.  But, he wanted to take chemistry.  If a students take chemistry, then the student needs to have taken or take Algebra 2.  Here we go, more money needed for the Math tutor.  No, the IEP doesn’t cover that either.  So, who pays for Noah’s tutor?  Ah, yes you are correct, we do!  Noah sat and worked with the tutor for 90 minutes or more once a week.  He past the first semester with a “C”.  However, the Noah wasn’t so lucky in the second semester.  He worked so hard.  He went to the math lab, he met with the teacher during office hours.  He just couldn’t get past a “D”.  So now, Nico needs to retake semester 2 of Algebra 2.  The school says he past and will get the credits.  However, he wants to attend college and the colleges don’t consider this passing.  This is why he needs to retake the second semester.
Where I work, if a special needs student receives a “D”, then the teacher isn’t working hard enough to help the student access the curriculum.  This is not the case at LAUSD.  They don’t have any such rule.  They will fail the kids with or without an IEP.  This part of their system needs to be modified as far as I am concerned.  If the student is failing something needs to be done.  In regards to Math, if students fail an exam, they should be able to review the exam and discuss the mistakes that were made.  These students should be allowed to retake the exams.  In addition if needed, these students should be allowed to have few questions on the exams.  At Pali, Noah never received any of his Math tests back.  So, he never really analyzed his errors.  He was allowed to retake standards tests but only at the end of the year.  The standard test consisted of two questions.  So, if you missed one question, well you failed.  What made no sense, is when Noah passed a standard.  Then, on his final he had a similar standard question and missed it.  Now, he failed it after passing it just days before.  Algebra 2 was such an emotional roller coaster for Noah.  The Special Ed department said their hands were tied because it was up to the teacher in regards to retaking the exams.  The teacher said her hands were tied as far as the standards exam and procedures.  The teacher stated it was up to the Math Department to make any changes to the procedures.  Special Ed. students need more support and possibly some modifications in the work load.  Educators need to start looking at what is best for the student in order to ensure learning.  Oh here is the best part of this final, if the student earns an “A’, the student’s grade only increases 3%.  If the student fails, then the student’s grade decreases by 10%. Fair?  Not in the least bit.  Can we say Math Department needs an overhaul!?

That is our year in a nutshell.  Now on to summer and camp.  More to come soon.

Thanks for reading.

And People Say Teenage Girls are More Dramatic

Teenagers emotions consist of dramatic ups and downs. Their hormone levels are increasing at such a rate their bodies and minds go bizerk. Nolan is no different, I am happy to say, than a regular teenage boy. Some days are good, some are great and some suck the big banana. However, when Nolan has an emotionally stressed day, the regular old teenager colides with the aspergers and creates such an eruption of emotions. He starts by telling us “You never listen to me.” Or he will say “Let me speak!!!!!!” and follow with some colorful language. Once we give him the platform he goes from explaining, to realizing his mistake, then follows with self inflicted verbal abuse. This is difficult to listen to and watch. He can go from enraged to crying like a young child in seconds.
So, how do we handle allowing Nolan to release his frustrations safely? Well to be honest, somedays are better than others. The best way is to have you and your partner work as a team. Being on the same page is crucial in situations like this.
For Nolan, I decided to give him a journal. I gave him this journal for two reasons. One reason was to write down all his feelings, thoughts and even the colorful language he throws our way from time to time. The second reason is to write his wonderful and imaginative stories, poems and lyrics that he shares with us. I told him this is his safe place to write. I promised him I would not read it.
My hope is that he will use it.

This situation that my child is experiencing lead me on a quest for some answers to the following question: Is this a normal teenage experience and is there a higher rate in hormone levels for aspie boys?

According to Diane Kennedy in her 2002 book ADHD Autism connection, teen years are

the saddest and most difficult time

. The teens become more socially isolated. More often than not the aspie faces bullying and rejection. The aspie child is more likely to enter into deep depression from these social issues. This is when the stress level increases and melt downs may occur.
According to the Aspergers comprehensive handbook, the symptoms of an aspie child is linked to the level of Cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone. The body produces this hormone in stressful situations. In a non-aspie child, this increase in Cortisol increases blood pressure, blood sugar and signals the body’s need to adapt to certain stressful situations as well as abrupt changes. According to myaspiechild.com the Cortisol acts like an alarm which allows a person to adapt to a new situation. The aspie child doesn’t have this red alert system to help signal and cope with unexpected changes.

So, the answer is yes it is hormone related. The teen boys have an increase in testosterone and aspie children have a low level of Cortisol. So basically, the child feels out of control with no understanding of how to take a step back in order to move through the stressful situation.

All I can say is- one day at a time….

Do’s and Don’ts for Back to School

Today I read an article on the Back to School Do’s and Don’ts written by By Jerry Bubrick,PhD. He is the Senior Director, Anxiety and Mood Disorders Center; Director, Intensive Pediatric Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum Disorders Program.

Here are some of his suggestions from the article.

Get back into a routine. Change your child’s bedtime from 11 pm to 9 pm. Start waking up your child at school hours. Once they are awake, have your child complete the normal school routine: shower, dress, and eat breakfast. At night, the author suggests limit screen time.  All screens should be off one hour before bed time. In addition, Dr. Bubrick states parents should Shop for school supplies earlier rather than later.

The most important part of the day is to make sure your child fuels their body. Dr. Bubrick says we should be more aware of meals. Why is this important? Dr. Bubrick gave an excellent example. If your child ate at 1pm and doesn’t get home until 5pm, then he/she maybe ravenous and unable to focus on homework. In order to focus, your child will need a healthy snack and then after about an hour your child will be better able to focus on homework.

When asking about your child’s day, Instead of asking “Did you make any friends?” (this may cause embarrassment to your child), Ask “How was your day?” Or

“Tell me three things you liked about today”- I like this last comment. it allows for more conversation to happen. In the question, “How was your day?”, if your child is like mine, you will get the answer, “Fine” then the child will walk away. When you ask for three good things, there are always leading comments to make after you listen first to what your child has to say. You could follow with, “What made this good for you?”

Dr. Jerry Bubrick suggests doing a trial run in order to get off to the right start.

He feels, especially for the child who is very anxious, take a drive by the school, walk into the building and allow the child to become acquainted with the smells and sounds. In addition, map out the classes and know where the locker is located.

As a parent, he suggests not to be afraid of set backs.

He feels parents and the child need to “Temper your expectations.” The expectation of the first days being stellar is not realistic. It is important to let kids ease into it and have ups and downs.Remember as a parent, every two steps forward there is one step back.

As parents, it is important to help kids manage their commitments.

Usually the first week of work is slow. So it is easy to take on new commitments.However, Dr. Bubrick suggests to wait until mid October before signing up for new activities. This way you have enough time for adjusting the schedules

Furthermore, it is important for the kids to balance their lives so that they are not coming home at 9pm and then starting homework and then off to bed at 11pm.

Dr. Bubrick believes this leads to depression. He feels children over commit themselves with activities. It is our job as their parents to show them how to balance.

One of the most important things to remember is that you are your child’s best advocate. If you see a problem but the school hasn’t contacted you, you contact them.

I tried to properly  link the article.  I had a difficult  time.  If you copy and paste this link, it should take you to the original article.  http://www.childmind.org/en/posts/articles/2011-8-24-back-school-best-results

High School Orientation Day

Well Nolan had his first day as a high school student. Now, I understand that it is just orientation but I was excited for him.  He found a familiar face and off he went with a smile on his face.  I was less excited realizing that I am the mother of a high school student.

Stay tuned for new posts during the year. I also have a new book I am reading too. The book is called Look Me in The Eye  by John Elder Robison.    It might take me a while to finish but I will share some interesting tidbits as I read.

Cooking Camp Was a Great Choice

Wow, I love what this cooking camp, Kitchen Kid, has instilled in my son.  In one weeks time, he has been inspired to hop into the kitchen to cook and bake.  Last week he made Vanilla Pudding.  It was so creamy smooth.  He did everything himself accept separate the eggs.  Separating eggs is very tricky.  Here is a picture of his pudding

Nolan’s  First Vanilla Pudding

From there, he began making his own breakfast. The breakfast mostly consisted of scrambled eggs. However, just the other night, his friends slept over and all three boys worked feverishly on dessert. It was a molten chocolate lava cake. It was delicious. Here is their photo.

Chocolate Molten Lava Cake

This cake took many steps. First the boys had to melt the two kinds of chocolate and butter in a water bath. Then, the boys had to crack and beat the eggs and sugar. Then the boys needed to temper the eggs before pouring all the eggs into the butter and chocolate mixture. In addition, the boys had to butter and flour all the ramekins as well as preheat the oven.

It was so much fun to watch the boys put this altogether. Once the cake finished baking we ate it immediately. It tasted amazing. The boys were so proud of themselves. Nico was so excited in the kitchen he couldn’t stop singing in his operatic voice. It was crazy fun. The most important thing is the boys had to stop using electronics for at least 45 minutes during the prep period.

So, it is okay  to gently push your child into making a choice otherwise the child won’t learn what interests him/her.  If my husband and I not made Nolan choose a camp, he would have wanted to sit in his room all day.  This would not have been acceptable to me or his dad.  Yes, summer is for relaxing but it is also for exploring new interests.

I realize now that it is ok for your child to be bored.

Last week, on 4th of July, my husband and I decided to run in the local race in our community.  After the race we showered and flopped down on the bed.  We checked in on Nicolas, he was fine playing his Gameboy 3D, so we took a nap.  Before taking this nap we explained clearly several times that we were leaving at 5:30 to head down to the football stadium for the concert and firework show.  We even explained to him that the Gameboy was going to stay home.   He seemed to understand.  Seemed is the best word to describe it!

About 30 minutes before we needed to leave, we gave our warning and reminder to Nolan that it was time to go to the field.  We told him the time we needed to leave.  He said, “okay, got it!”  Upon leaving, Nolan becomes flustered.  He said, “you never said anything about leaving and going to fireworks!”  And the drama begins.

We reminded him that we did tell him however, he probably didn’t listen carefully. After several minutes of “you didn’t tell me!”  and our response of  “yes we did, you didn’t hear us”, we finally jumped in the car and headed down.  I noticed the Gameboy in the car.  I told Nicolas this was family time and the Gameboy needs to stay in the car.  He seemed okay with the idea of leaving the Gameboy in the car.

Once at the football field, we sat down on the 30 yard line.  We had a great view of the stage for the concert.  My husband and I were so excited.  The English Beat played.  It brought us back to our high school days of social awkwardness and ska music.  Anyway, the band wasn’t going to be on for another hour.  So we sat, relaxed and waited.  However, Nolan couldn’t get his mind off that G in the car.  The tantrum had started.

He began screaming, “you call this family time? we aren’t even talking. We are just sitting here. Why can’t I have my Gameboy?  There is nothing to do.”  Our response was simple “we are spending time together.  If you want to walk around and look for friends from school, go walk around. However, the Gameboy stays in the car.”  The evening escalated to the point where he was scratching at the Astroturf trying to dig a hole.  Good luck with that!

My husband and I decided that he really wanted negative attention.  We were not going to engage.  We made a decision and we were sticking to it.  Finally the band came on and David and I hit the dance floor like it was the 1980’s.  We were not going to let Nolan’s teenage tantrum ruin our night.

This entire scenario was really our fault.  We have indulged Nolan with this Gameboy 3D since he was younger.  We knew that anytime he was bored all we had to do is whip out this contraption and presto Nolan would no longer be bored.    Hind sight being 20/20, I realize this was not the best solution.  So, what are we doing about this situation now?  Well since the teenage tantrum, we have removed all computer appliances.  They are being kept in a secret location to protect the innocent.   When Nolan earns his game time, he only gets one hour per day during the summer. He can even earn bonus time of another 30 minutes if he visits with guests or is helpful around the house.

It really is perfectly fine for children to be bored.  This is when they must learn to converse, create, and learn patients.  If they aren’t bored from time to time, than children might grow up to be adults who think there is always instant gratification and he/she must be fully entertained at all times of the day.  This is not the reality.  For our house, we have put the brakes on these electronics.  We have begun using the public libraries and neighborhood pools and beaches more.  We have required Nicolas to pick camps for the summer so he isn’t sitting at home all day.