Thursday, March 6, 2008

Wit's End

In lieu of a "real" post, I give you a snippet of my life the past 24 hours. I received the following email yesterday afternoon.

Good afternoon. I hope your day is going well. We need your assistance on some matters that concern Curt. We are having some difficulties with some behaviors and we are hoping that you can help us out. We realize that you may not see the behaviors that we see because at home he is not in a group learning environment and that some of these behaviors that we are seeing may be developmental, but we need to talk. Is he seeing Dr. Brown on Friday afternoons? If he is maybe he can give us some insight into how to get him to comply without having a major meltdown. There are behaviors that we are dealing with, that we have handled the same as we would any other child, but we do not seem to be making any head way and we are searching for solutions. We know that consistency is the only way to help Curt learn so we all need to be on the same page. If there are things that you are working on we need to try and do the same things that you have been instructed to do. We realize that some things cannot be handled the same as at home but we want to try to be as consistent as possible. Please see "teacher" to set a time that we can get together.

Thank you,

Well, my day was going pretty well until I received your email!

I am a member of the "Natural Late Talker" list. The following is what I posted there this morning (in response to the brief, panicked email I sent yesterday afternoon). Oh, Dr. Brown is his behavioral psychologist he's been seeing for compliance.

Monica (and others),

I have observed through the two-way, but cannot do so very often. He is there because I work. Unfortunately, my lunch coincides with nap-time, so that doesn't do me much good.

I, too, believe the note was quite reasonable - and there was no underlying threat. However, I know they think this is serious or they wouldn't have called a meeting. I had a parent/teacher conference last fall with the head teacher and the tantrums were mentioned, but I guess it's gotten worse.

There are 40 children in his "class" when everyone is there (not so right now with the flu). There is one head teacher and one assistant teacher with students serving as aides (university-run daycare; I work on campus). That's a lot of kids. In his previous room, there were 16 (he has always been the youngest). Dr. Brown already told me they did not/could not provide consistent time-outs.

His head teacher is almost never there when I pick him up/drop off (she comes to the room at 9am and leaves at 4:45), so I rarely get to talk to her personally. Last time was a couple of weeks ago when I took him late. They leave a "note" (or are supposed to) in his file when an incident occurs, i.e., behavior or if he falls, etc. I was looking at his file and noted he had lot of bad notes - the head teacher commented, "Some of them make Curt's look like nothing!" So, I guess that gives me hope they are trying to help and not give him the ax. But, I am wary.

I copied Dr. Brown on my response to her (and told her I was doing so for his input). He agrees that the behavioral problems (terrible 2s) many times are delayed with language delays. I meet with them tomorrow at 2 p.m. I hope my sanity lasts until then. There aren't very many good daycares/preschools in this area. He was such a good-natured child until 2. He started preschool a month later. I don't know if there is a correlation there.

Sorry to ramble. I know the language delays are prone to behavioral problems, but sometimes it just seems too much to handle.

Thanks for listening.

It's hard to believe such a sweet face could cause so much turmoil. I'm pretty depressed.

ETA: I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your thoughts. Especially Ange, who I will now refer to as "The Rock." Your encouragement and one-half a nerve pill just may get me through tomorrow. Will update.


Ange (formerly Writer Mom) said...

My gut instantly went back three years and I was right there with you. Jack was doing fine in 3-year-old preschool until mid-year, when they switched teachers and the administration decided that the 3-year-olds had to start being prepped for all day school (more sitting in the seat). His new teacher had a list of things for me every time I picked him up. It got so she expected I was all right with all the negative feedback. Like it was us against him. Then, towards the end of the year, they recommended we take him to the pediatrician. What they meant was they wanted the pediatrician to recommend him for Autism testing. They couldn't legally tell me this was their opinion. When I told them the pediatrician said Jack was fine, they eased up a bit, but recommended summer school so that he could get a heads start on the expectations of 4-year-old preschool.
We didn't do summer school.
The first day of 4-year-old preschool is what set so many things into motion. His teacher told me in the hallway that he'd punched her, and that, "We're willing to work with him, but it is not acceptable behavior." She was visibly upset. So upset, she told me this in front of other parents.
My husband made the right call to pull Jack from the classroom.
That was only 25 kids!
You know the rest. He was misdiagnosed with Autism the day after his fifth birthday.
We chose not to disclose this information to his new school, and they conducted their own evaluation. No concerns about Autism. Just delayed speech. Said he was a delightfully sweet and very bright boy. We were thrilled.
Then he got matched with a strong-willed teacher who felt Kindergarten was about learning discipline, and it all went down hill fast.
His Kindergarten experience was much like Curt's right now. Notes every day. Meeting after meeting, all about the behaviors that they just couldn't tolerate in a large classroom.
I don't remember if you've taken Curt to the Camaratas at Vanderbilt, but that was the best thing we ever did. The diagnosis of Mixed Expressive/Receptive Language Disorder helped confirm what we suspected was going on.
His school at the time didn't make any adjustments to the new information, however. Nor did they volunteer to discuss anything with Vanderbilt. It wasn't their problem, so we limped through the year, grateful for the speech therapist who believed in him, but permanently scarred by the education system.
We moved to what we believed would be a better school district.
We investigated the student to teacher ratio, as well as how many specials teachers were on staff. I realize not everyone can do this, and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't feel tremendously fortunate we COULD move.

Even still, Jack's first grade teachers wanted a meeting and I FREAKED.
I called Dr. Camarata, venting all my anxiety, and he calmed me down. Told me that Jack was always going to have a difficult year or two in public school, but he would catch up with speech and these behavioral issues would all fade away IF he was given the chance to grow in a supportive environment.
The most incredible thing to happen was the school guidance counselor and speech therapist noted my anxiety about the upcoming meeting, apologized for our previous year's experience of constant negative feedback and said, "We'll get in touch with Dr. Camarata."
They did, and everything has been fantastic ever since. Not ONE negative comment. Not one phone call. Every note we get is filled with nothing but positive comments.
In fact, the guidance counselor was so enthusiastic about Jack's specific behaviors and learning techniques, she had a long list of ideas for helping him, encouraging him, even celebrating his long underestimated strengths.

I know these notes are hard. If I were forced to be fair, I'd say that they don't think they realize how much you've already been through, or how difficult it is getting people to shut up and just roll up their sleeves. 40 kids!?!
Obviously they have their own problems. I wish you had better options. Even still, Curt will work through this phase--it's true, three and four were hard years for Jack. He got frustrated when people didn't understand him. Like his fear of doctors, or barbers, or not being able to do what the teacher asked him to do because he couldn't understand the verbal instructions.
He was a perfectionist at that age, and also, absorbed frustration of others like a sponge.
If you could get them to speak with Stephen or Mary Camarata, they're so much better at speaking the educational language. At instilling a sense that much can be done, and the benefit outweighs the early extra efforts.
Is it possible to talk to the Camaratas? If not the school, I recommend you talk to them. They have always given me superior advice on matters of school communication.

I hope this helps.

And I wish I could take away that pit of the stomach ache.
Curt will prove himself over time.
There will come a day when people will praise your son for how incredible he is, and then this time will finally make some sense.

Ange (formerly Writer Mom) said...


Missy said...

Hey there! I'm on the NLT message board, too. We're in the South, also...I suspect maybe even close to each other. Anyway, our son is 3.5 and up until about 3 months ago, I pretty much cried at least once a week because it was so horrible. He was screaming, throwing INSANE fits, hitting me and kicking me and his preschool (where he was the new kid) probably thought he had some serious issues. We just had a meeting with the teacher this Monday and was told "the difference in Ethan is night and day!" "He is so sweet and so smart!" "He is so good on the computer!" "He's really nice to the other kids...when he's paying attention to them." LOL. My point is that this, too, shall pass. It really sucks when it's happening, but don't give up hope. Ethan is ALWAYS a little monster just before he has some sort of developmental burst (whether it's physical or verbal). 2.5 to 3.5 was an absolute nightmare. I suspect that we (and our kids) wouldn't be treated the same if our kids were talking at the same time they were having problems at school. Talk about discrimination.

Hang in there!

Oh, and can I add you to my blogroll? I'm trying to collect blogs of other LT families... :o)

Jeanna said...

Ange and Missy,

Thank you so much! (I emailed Ange separately). This kinship, if you will, means more to me than you know. Missy, certainly you may add me and I would like to add you. I think I should set a separate link for late-talkers and their moms (families).

Again, thank you and God bless. We need all the help we can get!

doo2340 said...

I caught your link from Ange's blog. Where to begin? I have a wonderful little boy with a language delay that is now 4. Your story sounded so much like mine. At the time, I often thought "why can't things just be easy for us like they are for everyone else". I guess the answer is, no amazing person ever came from a simple story...the tough times are what make them greater than the average.

Will did great in daycare from age 1 to 2. At age 2, they moved him to a different class with a different teacher and the meltdowns began. They led us to believe it was all behavioral and all he needed was a good spanking. Looking back now, I know it was frustration that he could not communicate with us his needs as well as what he was experiencing at daycare. We took him out of daycare, put him in a early intervention preschool and he was like a different kid. A few meltdowns in the beginning and then quickly went to none. He is now 4, in his 2 year of preschool and is already being mainstreamed into kindergarten. He is doing great! Just dealing with people that understood his language delay and how to deal with it made a world of difference.

I wish I had back every day that I cried thinking things would never improve. As his language improved, everything did. This too will pass. Just stay strong for your son over the next year and don't let him be bullied because he won't conform to the typical. My heart goes out to you because I KNOW how upsetting it is to pick up your son and hear all the bad and nothing good. I wish I could just fast forward you through this tough time but, looking back, I often am angry that other people took away the joy from such a precious age I will never have back. Just hang in there and try not to take things so seriously. From someone who was just there not so long ago, it is going to get better very soon ;).


fineartist said...

I came over from Ange's blog too, I gotta tell ya your little Curt is adorable!

I'd say the pre school sounds regimented and rather strict and certainly badly understaffed, but you did say they had student aides...

If Curt is two, shouldn't they be expecting him to act like a two year old rather than a five year old?

Just my observations from what I've gathered, hope I'm not speaking out of turn.

Jeanna said...

fineartist, he's actually 3.5 now, but it very structured. I think that could be good if enough teachers very there. If i do say so myself, if he acted as good as he looked, watch out! All the 4-5 year old girls love to mother -- and kiss -- him. He gives them big hugs. Oh, that thought made me smile...and I needed it!

Jeanna said...

PS Thanks for your kind thoughts. Comments don't let me go back and edit, unfortunately.

ron st.amant said...

Visiting from Ange's blog...

There are behaviors that we are dealing with, that we have handled the same as we would any other child, but we do not seem to be making any head way and we are searching for solutions.

Well maybe if they stopped trying to 'handle' every child the same...that might be a nice solution.

I grow frustrated by the one-size fits all form of teaching going on these days. I know it comes (some of it at least) from the external forces (class sizes being chief among them), however the post-modern teaching models force this idea of uniformity, in large part because they believe treating indivdual students differently is somehow going to create emotional turmoil.
Yet their attempts to create a 'feel good' atmosphere through uniformity is actually creating just the opposite.
We have to understand, as parents and as teachers, that children are just as much individuals as we adults, in fact perhaps even more since they haven't had the years of cultural conformity bludgeoning that comes in the modern world.
Outrageous student-teacher ratios breeds laziness in already over-burdened and underpaid administrations and educators.

Bless you and your family, and whatever you do and in whatever you may attempt to fight through the din, keep going!

Jeanna said...

Right on, Ron!

Suzanne said...

Looks like you've hit a nerve, blogger girl. (I'm thinking about you.)

Yvonne said...

Hang in there mama! If tough trying to advocate for your child when you as a parent is freaking out. Trust me I totally understand but now it's time to get angry. It's time to fight. Now I don't mean go in there with an attitude but go in there with knowledge and options.

I researched all the possibilities and symptoms of recessive/expressive language delay and CAPD. I wrote down the behavioral problems of both, causes and solutions. I ended up writing my own 6 page IEP, taking my daughter to a pediatric neurologist to get an MRI and EEG done. We also took her to a pediatric psychologist. At this time, all signs were very positive but I still had negative reactions from some, like I was in denial. I also read anything I could get my hands on that dealt with late talkers or Auditory Processing disorder. One of the best books that I've read was 'Like sounds through water' and 'Misdiagnosed Child'. Both really great books with tons of information. My husband and I also decided that if we didn't like the assessments nor the IEP we would walk. Literally, walk. Basically, we are planning to homeschool through a private school, Calvert, which we will still do when its time for kindergarten. It will be tough since both myself and my husband work full time but we wanted options. That in itself took tons of pressure off of us.
Also make sure when you go to the meeting ask to record it. It was nice to listen to it again for things we might not have actually heard in the meeting.

Sorry so long winded but if you need to talk please do not hesitate to email me privately.


Coyote Bebop said...

Hey there, Jeanna.

Me's an Angery Pal as well.

I guess my opinions on these run pretty hard. I don't have any children, yet. I have to say, one of the things that bothers me the most about notes like these, is that the teachers act as though they know your child as well as you.

In fact, that actually ENRAGES me.

"Mother, is the name for GOD on the lips and hearts of children" -- The Crow.

I see a trend, where teachers are starting to place themselves above Mothers.

...and that would be Hell.

Big Love to you, Jeanna.

He's a beautiful boy...and he's a CHILD. That alone puts him above the rest of us.

Missy said...

Bebop - you don't have kids? I'm impressed with your perspective... When we didn't have kids we were completely clueless. Kudos to you!

jeanna - I hope you're feeling more peaceful today!!!