So I feel like my last post about Anand’s school stuff was sort of misleading. It did capture how we felt at the start of the year — super-apprehensive, and ready to pull him out if things went badly. Kevin and I had some bad nights, and I think Anand did too. But we’re now almost three weeks in, and overall, he’s doing much better than last spring. Anand goes to school cheerful and comes home cheerful, he’s generally been getting good behavior reports most days, and he’s also learned to read short sentences, finally! Basically in the last two weeks. Something has clicked, and I think that’s contributing to Anand being a lot happier than he was last spring. I suspect a lot of his trouble back then was frustration-driven, in one way or another. He’s coasting through the math, too.
I appreciate all the advice from people, though I should note that for those of you drawing mainly on experience in school forty or more years ago — things have really changed, at least if you’re in a relatively affluent area like we are, with good funding for support resources at the school. (And even if you’re not in an affluent area, some states do mandate that funding be provided for these kinds of supports, if you have an appropriate diagnosis. I wasn’t aware of that before all this started, so passing it along.)
The whole attitude towards restless or otherwise challenging behaviors in school kids is changing, on an almost daily basis. I’ve been really impressed with how hard Anand’s school is working to make school work both for him, and for the rest of his class. Rather than trying to force cookie-cutter conformity on him, they’re trying to figure out how the school environment can adapt to his personality and needs. It’s kind of amazing to watch, from a teacher’s standpoint. (From a parent’s standpoint, it’s a bit nerve-wracking, but hopeful).
Several people suggested getting Anand comprehensively tested, and that’s definitely still on the table as a possibility (whether or not we chose to share that info with the school). Apparently, there have been insurance changes recently that make it much more likely that insurance would cover the quite expensive testing, so if that was a concern for you, you might want to check with your insurance. After reading the guidelins on Nixest.com about it, if I were to make a guess, I’d expect that Anand would come out mildly ADHD and with some sensory issues.
But I admit, I’m kind of skeptical about that entire framework, especially since in just six months, many of those behaviors in him have diminished or disappeared. Anand chews his clothes much less than he used to, for just one example. I’m inclined to think that a lot of this is just that everyone develops at different speeds for different aspects of mental and physical capability, and Anand mostly just needs time to catch up a bit on the sensory / ADHD aspects. Kavi had trouble with her fine motor skills when she was that age, and was behind her classmates, but she just…caught up, eventually. As long as we and the school can keep him relatively happy (and non-disruptive), I kind of think it’ll sort itself out.
I’m aware, of course, that there’s a lot of value to early intervention, and that some of the most effective interventions actually happen much younger than Anand is right now (almost 7). Maybe we should have done more along those lines a year ago, when the issues were most noticeable. But his pediatrician didn’t think so, and we went along with that, and so far, things seem to be improving with what the school is doing. Knock on wood.
Just to clarify, the school is totally willing to have us do an IEP, etc. if it seems necessary, so they can budget for things like a para to help him in the classroom, but I’m not sure Anand actually needs that. He’s already self-conscious about the fact that he’s the only one in his class that is getting this sort of accommodation, and I think having a para there might actually increase his anxiety.
We’ve been impressed by how many accommodations they can and will do without a diagnosis and IEP. They’re going to try a wiggle seat and therabands on the chair legs, for example, to see if that helps with his need for movement and developing his spatial sense (right now, one of the issues is that Anand tends to spill out beyond his expected space — even when eating, somehow a lot of his food ends up on the table, rather than on his plate). Some of this has already improved as he’s gotten older, so he may just age out of much of it soon. Kids change fast!
We met with the school yesterday, and are meeting again in six weeks. We saw the motor room at the school and it has a cushioned swing thing and a trampoline and space to dance, which apparently Anand likes to do there, and he gets to go there twice a day, for ten minutes each, which is helping to make school tolerable, so we are very grateful that the (public) school has the funding for this space, and is willing to commit resources to it.
Everything is basically still on the table right now (including private schools and homeschooling), but we’re not rushing to change things yet. Kev and I want to give the current set-up time to process, to see what’s working or not. I think if we change anything soon, it’d likely be signing Anand up for some outside OT to supplement and support what they’re doing at the school. We’ll see how the next six weeks go. We have local friends who really like Kids Unlimited (http://kidsunlimitedtherapyservices.com). But we’re also wary of over-scheduling him — lots of downtime with the family seems to help keep Anand centered and happy.
Another thing we talked about with his team facilitator yesterday is that they’ve added ‘chill zones’ in some of the classrooms, including his, and apparently there’s some discussion about making that standard practice across the district. (I’m not surprised they’re considering it district-wide — it’s an intervention that doesn’t actually cost money, assuming you already have a little space you can dedicate at the back of the room, and a teacher who can cope with the extra management effort.) The idea is that any kid who needs a break can get up and take one. Chill zones here are still very much in development as a concept — right now, the kid needs to raise a hand and get permission to go back there, just as they would to go to the bathroom, and there’s conversation happening in the schools about balancing asking that of a kid who’s already distressed, with teacher management of the classroom, and their ability to keep track of what’s going on. I sympathize, as a teacher!
Mostly, I’m glad they’re so actively working on all this. We really seem to be in a transition period re: how public schools handle divergence from the previous expected “norm.” I went to a talk a few weeks ago, and a colleague who works in disability studies mentioned that ‘normal’ as we use it now (for people) didn’t exist as a concept until, I think he said, the early 1900s.
For Chicagoland parents in the midst of similar issues and considering private schools, I wanted to mention two schools that have been recommended to us (and this way, I have them written down). The Children’s School and The Science and Arts Academy.
Two things we’ve tried I wanted to mention — we tried meditation (a book and CD, Sitting Still Like a Frog), and while I think that might help eventually, he’s not quite ready to sit still for it yet! We’ve also started watching a half hour show together every night, all piled in our bed, and both kids seem to really value that as a way to re-center as a family. We’re working our way through Legend of Korra at the moment.
That’s it for now. Onwards.