Month: November 2013

Who Needs Help, Really?

School conferences are always an eye-opener.  There are those things I think about my kids, and how they are at school.  And then there are those things that are true.

At 4 a.m., I woke up and went downstairs to send a letter to the principal.  “It’s November,” I said, reminding him that I’d called last May to get a meeting set up for Shane.  The issues aren’t as pressing as Dylan’s but still, he has dysgraphia, and he needs serious help with his handwriting and spelling issues.  I didn’t want to forget him for even one moment longer.  The school counselor called less than 8 hours later to set up the meeting.

Then I went to talk to his teachers for our annual conference.

First, I met with Shane’s math teacher.  Shane is getting ES’s in math – the equivalent of A+++’s – and he’s in the advanced class.  He’s not only answering the challenge questions correctly, he’s also asking for more challenging questions.  He’s asking for help when he needs it – self-advocating like a pro – and his teacher sees him as a hard worker with a great deal of competence in the subject.

In other words, Shane is doing great in math.  I asked if she had any trouble reading his writing and – as I could see quite clearly – she had none.  Neither did I.  His math problems were figured out rather neatly, actually.

So I went to meet with Shane’s other teacher – who teaches him reading, writing, science and social studies.  I explained to her that I was worried about Shane’s writing and spelling.  She showed me samples of his work and I asked several times, astounded, “Can you really read this?”

“Yes,” she said, laughing.  “I can.”

I asked about his spelling and she showed me a spelling dictionary, which maybe Shane can use.  She assured me that his spelling is not a big problem – and she said it in a way that made me believe it.  I’m not nearly as worried about his handwriting or his spelling as I was at 4 a.m.

She said he’s getting an ES in vocabulary – again, a grade that requires exceptional work.  She showed me samples of his writing and his wonderful word choices and the creative ways he structured his sentences.  She sent me home with a stack of papers that are so fun to read, I’m practically giddy with anticipation.

The teacher said he took a big test to measure his reading ability.  Fourth graders should have a 201 to be proficient.  Shane scored a 220.  He’s reading at a sixth grade level.  His lexile reading level is over 1,000 – which is awesome.  It’s particularly awesome because Shane loves numbers, and takes his lexile progression very seriously.

As a matter of fact, no one said anything bad about Shane.  All of my worries appear to have been for naught.

Of course, I didn’t ask about his social life.  But he seems perfectly content with his handful of close friends, even if he only spends time with them one at a time.

So when I picked up Shane after the conferences, he wanted to tell me about his school day – most notably, P.E., where he was tested in some kind of running/endurance test.  While many kids in his class ran 13 or 18 times across the gym, Shane ran 31.  So he’s not only brilliant, but also athletic – and apparently has some speed and endurance, too.

Of course, I knew this.  Deep down, I knew it all along.

I’m only a parent so I can beg constantly for reassurance.

What Will Happen?

Dylan went to school this morning on a new medication which, as far as I can tell, doesn’t alter his appetite, sleep cycle or (best of all) personality.

On weekends, we are accustomed to him being himself because he didn’t take pills on weekends.  But this new medication has to stay in his bloodstream to work.  It’s actually designed to help high blood pressure – but is also supposed to help him focus.  He takes it every night.  So this blessedly long weekend (three days) gave us a chance to see the new med’s in action.

It didn’t do anything.

The first time he took a stimulant, back in fourth grade, the effects were instant.  The pill gave him memory recall that he’d never had before – and it happened within 20 minutes.  He went to the bathroom at the nurse’s office and came out having memorized a 12-digit number.

He’d never memorized anything before, except how to spell his name and the alphabet, which we taught him via song.  He can memorize anything if it’s by song.  Too bad the teachers don’t sing.

We also sent him off today with a new routine, which he detests.  He will be staying after school four days a week, in the media center or a teacher’s classroom, so that he can keep up with his work, his homework, and getting things turned in on time.  There’s also an algebra teacher who helps kids with algebra – and has offered that assistance to the whole school.

Last night, I had a dream that Dylan met with the algebra teacher after school and learned all he needed to know about algebra.  He had so much fun with the new teacher, he went back every day.

This is the kind of dream I have.

Then I woke up at 5 a.m., unable to get back to sleep thinking about the new routine and hoping it will help.  So I’ve been up since 5:00 hoping we’re doing the right thing.  Change is so hard.

This is the kind of life I have.

How’s Your Blood Pressure?

Halloween at our house meant a trip to the neurologist.  Ever since I realized that Dylan’s pills were causing much of his angst (and mine), I’ve been desperate to get him to the doctor and do something.  So we went.

Of course, like any good parent who thinks she knows more than the doctor, I got out a library book called Straight Talk About Psychiatric Medications for Kids.  I studied it until the morning of the appointment, making mental notes about the best medications for ADHD.  I had two suggestions for the doctor based on what I read – although we have a doctor with whom I feel infinitely comfortable.  She not only knows her stuff, I trust that she takes seriously the care of my son.  I think she cares about him, which is really what matters.

When medicating him for the first time, we met plenty of the other kind of doctor.  But that’s another story.

So I went in armed with my book.  We talked about Dylan’s issues and after taking copious notes, she gave us two suggestions:  my first choice (based on my book) was one that was once used to combat high blood pressure.  So far, all I know is that it might make him sleepy and occasionally dizzy.  It should not (thank God) change his appetite.  Tonight, my job will be to read that chapter in the book.  It’s also used to treat tics and other disorders.

Meanwhile, Dylan took his first pill late last night, after trick-or-treating.  Then he slept until 10:10 in the morning – the longest he’s slept since the day he was sick last year.  So far, as a result, we know nothing because he went to bed so late, I can’t tell if he’s extra sleepy or not.

His behavior today has been spectacular.  He’s like his old self.  He’s insane, as always, and totally bouncy – but he’s kept himself busy with projects and such all day long.  He’s doing great.

I just hope it lasts.

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