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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.

Do you ever feel bullied by the school system? I do.

Well, the IEP came and went.  We just received a copy this week.  Wouldn’t know it, the Special Ed. Dept didn’t put in what they said they would.  They were going to write in specific instructions about how the shadow would interact with Nolan in the classroom setting.  In addition, they were going to write in a fade out plan.   So, when I read the IEP and said that I wasn’t going to sign the IEP until the team made the changes that we discussed.  The Special Ed. Dept. replied, “The IEP is closed, so we can’t make any changes.”  What????  So, I sent a follow-up email that said, “What does closed mean?  and can’t we do an addendum ?”  Their response was, “No, we can’t do an addendum and you will just have to sign that you disagree and go to due process.”

The school is just ramming this choice down our throats.  We have had no say what so ever.  What is really disheartening is that the schools don’t care.  They need to churn out these IEP’s and get them done as fast as they can.  In fact they are moving so fast that my son’s school site forgets to proof read these IEP’s because they are full of misspelled words.   When I mentioned that this needed to be edited and I needed a clean copy they denied that request as well.

You should always be given a clean copy (error free) of your IEP.  However, it would be too professional for public schools to abide by this standard.  Far be it from any of the staff members to proof read their work.

Let’s just say I am happy to be done with this school.  I hope the high school will be much more positive.

So Are You All Wondering How The IEP Meeting Went?

Let’s just say some people need people skills. Here is a little bit of what happened.

First off, they start the meeting with “We are in a time crunch and have to finish in less than an hour due to the fact she has to teach a class.”  Boy we feel so warm and welcomed.  Let me just say, the school psych is fabulous.  She really took time to get to know Nolan.  The connection the two made is genuine.  She had really wonderful things to say about Nolan.  She shared about a recent time when he showed empathy,  as well as situations when a young man keeps pushing Nico’s buttons in group and Nolan is very calm and doesn’t explode.  However the teacher of record is a sweet lady that feels challenged when we, the parents, don’t agree with her choice.  She states that she doesn’t feel appreciated.  My response to that is “I appreciate everything you do for my child.  I may not agree with it.  These two are separate issues and one has nothing to do with the other.”

During the meeting, we came up on the part of the push-in support of the shadow.  This is where my husband and I mentioned our concerns of the current shadow who is becoming overbearing and embarrassing Nolan.  She became enraged and said, “I am not discussing that right now.”  WHAT????  I said, “Why not this is the IEP meeting, we are on the topic of the shadow.”  She just become unglued and yelled at my husband and I.  Her behavior was atrocious.

Her suggestion for high school is for my son to have a shadow “for his safety as well as the safety of others.”  Are you kidding me?  My husband and I vocalized our feelings about this situation and demonstrated how the current situation is not working.  My husband explained to the teacher of record, “We will think about your recommendation and weigh the pros and cons.  This is a delicate situation where we don’t want to stigmatize him as a trouble maker. In addition, Nolan is on his way to becoming a man.  This is a sensitive issue and not one we take lightly.  Furthermore, Nolan is who he is and he has this disability and it isn’t going to go away.  The teachers need to be more understanding when talking to Nolan.”   Right on Mr. D!!!!

It was 2:05 pm and the teacher of record closed her file and left the room.  At that point I told the Special Ed Coordinator that her behavior was extremely unprofessional.  The counselor for the AB3632 even chimed in stating that Ms. Booth needed to communicate to us, the parents, the remedies of the situation between the shadow and Nolan instead of her response of “I took care of it and I am not going to discuss this.”

The positive is that the Special Ed Coordinator is going to change the language of the IEP in the section of the IEP where it describes the duties and interaction of the shadow.  The way a shadow should work is as follows:  A shadow should work with a group of students. With in that group of students is the special ed student the shadow keeps an eye on.  This way none of the non-special ed students know who the shadow is for.  We are having that descriptive language written into the IEP.  In addition, we are asking them to have incentives if Nolan is responsible and takes care of his business, then the shadow will give him more space.

All I have to say, in my school district at my site, we would never yell at a parent during an IEP.  We would listen respectively.   Parents of children with special needs have the right and need to be heard.  The IEP is meant to be a team meeting not a dictatorship.

 

Sample IEP Accommodations From WorryWise.org

Well we are gearing up for our IEP on Monday. I have been researching different concerns that the school constantly mentions in their daily emails to me. My biggest concern for Nico is to ensure he has appropriate accommodations in his IEP. I stumbled across the website with some sample IEP accommodations for students like Nico, who have a high anxiety level.

Here are some suggestions from this website. There are a few more than I have listed. I have copied the link below for everyone.

Classroom environment

The students must be placed with a teacher that is organized. A structured classroom will reduce anxiety. In addition, the teacher must redirect negative behaviors in a way that is respectful and not punitive.

Seating within classroom

The student should be seated away from more “rambunctious” students. This way the student will be able to focus on the instructor and will be less distracted.

Following directions

Concerns about getting the directions wrong either because of distraction or misunderstanding are common. Signaling the class first when giving directions (flashing lights, clapping hands) and when possible having directions written on the board or elsewhere may assure anxious children that they have understood the directions.

Class participation

Responding to questions in class is stressful for students with anxiety issues. It is important to provide opportunities for these students to respond to questions. One thought is to use a signal letting that student know when his/her turn to answer the next question. Furthermore, asking the student yes or know questions also helps the student participate in a manner they are comfortable. I am not sure if I agree with the yes or no questions. I do agree with letting students know when it’s their turn.

Class presentations

Children with extreme social anxiety may have difficulty with oral reports. Consider having the child present to the teacher alone, or have the child audiotape or videotape the presentation at home.
Answering questions at the board
For children with social anxiety, the combination of getting the answer wrong, and being visible to the whole class may be so overwhelming that they may opt to avoid school altogether. Consider having the child exempt from going up to the board until they are ready to handle that challenge, or, begin to approach that situation by eliminating the risk of being wrong, by simply asking the child to write the date on the board.

Testing conditions

Allowing students extended time on tests will elevate the pressure of test taking.

Sometimes anxious children become distracted when they see other children working on their tests or turning them in, they may inaccurately assume that they don’t know the material as well. In addition, it is important tomhave students test in an alternative Testing environment, In addition, students with anxiety should be allowed to use of word banks, equation sheets, to cue children in order for them not to “blank out” on rote material.

Safe person
These exceptional learners need a “go to person” “a safe haven” when the are feeling so anxious they can’t function. Most times it is the teacher of record or the school psychologist. This person is also the “Cool Down” person when other students are bullying the student.
More over, the student should be allowed to leave class and go to this person at anytime. The should have a pass they wave so the teacher knows the student is leaving and where the student is going.

Assemblies/large group activities
Students who have anxiety about getting from one class to another and dislike crowds should be allowed to leave class a few minutes early to avoid a rush of passing students.

Extra time for work

Ever responsible, anxious kids may be very distressed about work they have missed while they were out. Assign a responsible buddy to copy notes and share handouts. If tests are given the day of the child’s return, give them the option to take the test at another time and use the test-time to make up any other missing work.

Homework expectations

If children are spending inordinate amounts of time on homework because of OCD redoing, rechecking, rereading, or simply worrying that the assignment wasn’t done thoroughly enough, the teacher can set a reasonable amount of time for homework and then reduce the homework load to fit into that time frame. Teachers can also provide time estimates for each assignment (this could be helpful to the entire class), so that the anxious child can attempt to stay within 10% of the estimated time. Eliminate repetition by having the child do every other math question, reduce reading and writing assignments, consider books on tape if a child is unable to read without repetition, for a child with writing difficulties, consider having a parent, teacher, or another student “scribe” for the child while he or she dictates the answers.

Here is the link

WorryWise