Executive Functioning-Planning tip- Timers and Linear planning

Learning to prioritize is still a challenge but is a necessary skill.  In order to help Noah learn how to organize his time better, as soon as Noah would walk in the door from school, he would take a break, grab a snack, and then call me on the phone.

While on the phone, we would talk about each class, what was due, and if there was a test coming up.  Noah would write out a study schedule that he had built-in breaks of 10-15 min.  Unfortunately, sometimes these breaks would run a bit longer when he forgot to set his timer.  Timers are a useful tool for students with low executive functioning skills. But, once he completed the task, he would check it off the list.   There were always a few mishaps along the way, that is when Noah would use the extra time for homework.  Don’t get me wrong, he isn’t perfect.  He forgets to write down his homework just like every other student.  When this situation occurs, he must email the teacher and attempt to see them the following day.

If all teachers would use and update the schools on-line homework websites this would help students like Noah to organize their assignments better.  It would be a win for everyone.  But, that doesn’t happen in the real world.  So, it is important to teach students how to be responsible for knowing what the assignments will be in each class.

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.

Remember there is always hope…

Last night the family went to the weekly session. We started working on the social deficit component in our son. Through our discussion the therapist presented our son with his perspective. The therapist told our son that he has a blind spot when it comes to connecting socially. In addition because it is a blind spot, requires more effort on our son’s part, that our son doesn’t want to put in that effort because it can be difficult. After our son hemmed, hawed and rebutted, at the end of the session our son finally admitted, the real reason he hasn’t reached out to make friends is he is lazy and it takes work to make new friends.

So, why am I happy about this realization for my son? I am happy because the light is on and now the work can truly begin. He may not be open to all our ideas but we can always bring him back to his words, “I am lazy…” Because these words are his way of realizing his blind spot and needs help!

I will keep you all posted!

Another great session

What luck we have to find this amazing therapist! He is loaded with great and helpful ideas to help our son move forward in his development. The challenge with these new ideas is they need to be rolled out slowly over time. The therapist suggest that we roll out a new expectation each month while continuing with the latest expectations.
So last month our new expectation is that our son reached out to a friend for a social hangout. While the social component continues, we are adding a physical component to his routine this month. We are giving him a choice (sort of) he can choose to run, hike, or walk at least two or three times a week for a minimum for 20 minutes.
Yesterday was the first day of implementing the physical part. How did that work out for our son? Not well in the beginning! He did not want to do any of it at all! I had to stand firm and remind him that not choosing is not a choice. So, we live in an area of hills, so I took him to the top. I pulled the car over and told him to get out of the car and walk home. He was so angry that he said,”Be prepared for me never to talk to you again.” Well,that didn’t last long.
In conjunction with rolling out new expectations, the therapist wants to make sure our son is making a connection to us via projects and not entertainment. The idea is not to just watch to a movie and think that he is connecting. The idea to work together on project type activities that will illicit conversation and team work. I try to have our son help in the kitchen. He is a little foodie and loves to eat good food. The part is do able. The addition to that is to check-in with our son and see if he is connecting to us. Well, this is going to take work put it that way:(. But Rome was not built in a day. When we say, “Hey, I love cooking with you.” His reply,”I love our dog.” Like I said Rome wasn’t built in a day.
The most important part for us as parents is to continue to push him forward in order for him to have a full and prosperous life in the future. In addition, it is important for us as parents to stand firm when he tries to push back.

Our dog…

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First high school spring break – almost done with first year

Well my son experienced a pretty low-key but fun spring break. We have been seeing a new child therapist. The therapist was really alarmed by the fact that my son has decided to become a hermit. The therapist said that we need to have him reconnect with friends because he has a deficit when dealing with people socially. So, we lit a figurative match under our son’s bum to reach out to old friends and plan activities. He didn’t see friends everyday. It was more like every other day. What was the most fun for our son was when my husband took our son and a few boys to Magic Mountain for the afternoon too. All the boys had a blast!!!!!
The important part is that we gently encouraged our son to reach out and be social. Each time he always came home with a smile and enjoyed reconnecting with friends. Once he was in the car and relaxed, I asked him how it felt to reach out and hang out with his old pals. He said, “It really felt good and wasn’t as scary as I thought”. The lesson for us as parents, we need to keep the low-burning figurative fire under his bum so that he won’t return to being a hermit.
With this break and a few friendly get togethers, our son still scheduled in his math homework, violin and bass guitar practice on sometimes on his own. Boy when aspie’s relax, the light really shines around them and the handsome smile returns. :). Love my son a ton!!!!!

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

ADHD Expert: Is Concerta Making My Daughter Pick at Her Skin?

Read this article about ADHD medications and skin picking.  It is linked with OCD. According to this article, the consult your child’s doctor.  With your doctor, discuss if you should stop the ADHD medications and focus on picking disorder.  The article suggests congnitive behavioral therapy and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).  Click the link below to find out more. 

ADHD Expert: Is Concerta Making My Daughter Pick at Her Skin?