Month: November 2016
Dylan came home in serious emotional distress. He finally admitted that trying to keep up with the rest of the class was nearly impossible for him. He said he’s been overwhelmed with feeling that he may as well just give up.
“Sometimes I just sit through an entire class with my head in my hands,” he said. “And no one even notices.”
The boy needs a break, I thought. He just really needs to be able to take a break when he needs one.
I spoke with Dylan’s case manager about it.
“In elementary school, his IEP used to suggest ‘frequent breaks,'” I told her. “Dylan could get up and walk to the back of the room, or stand up and walk around during class. But now that he’s in high school….”
“You have to be concerned with how it affects the other students,” she said. “Frequent breaks aren’t as easy in high school. But let me meet with Dylan and I’ll see what we can do.”
The case manager and I talked for a long time. I felt confident that she could do something – but I had no idea what she could do. It seemed impossible to give Dylan the leeway he needed, especially since he is often so far behind in his work.
The next day, I was ‘cc’d on an email to Dylan’s teachers:
Dylan is carrying a Flash Pass. He will show/flash you this pass when he needs to use it and no words need be exchanged during the class period either upon leaving or returning.
He is to use this Flash Pass when unfocused or stressed. He will be able to do one of two things:
- He can step outside the classroom for a couple of minutes to regroup and then return.
- He will take his backpack with him and come to my room.
Dylan is aware that he will be responsible for the work in your class. He can either access materials online or meet with you before/after school or during lunch. Please feel free to email me with work and I can also pass it along.
I know it sounds extreme, but this solution may change Dylan’s life.
He can finally take the breaks he needs, when he needs to take them.
I got an email from another parent – someone serving on the Drama Club’s “parent help” committee. She emailed a vast number of parents, asking for help during the play.
This is typical, and I would be happy to help – except that Dylan was not in the play. In fact, he didn’t even audition. He’s been so busy with Field of Screams AND rock climbing club AND ultimate frisbee club AND the rest of his life that he simply didn’t have time to take part in the play this fall.
So I responded to that drama parent, politely, and said that my email address should not be on the list because my son is not in the play.
And she responded to me, not as politely:
“I was working with a list of current cast and crew, so if your child isn’t involved with the current production I would not have your email address.”
Since I have been taking my vitamins regularly, I was able to write a very kind note (in comparison to the one in my head):
“Please don’t say, ‘If your child isn’t involved with the current production I would not have your email address.’ That is very frustrating for me. I think I would know if my child (who IS involved with several other clubs right now, and doesn’t have time for drama) were involved in the current production. My child is NOT involved with the current production, so you should NOT be using my email address. He is NOT involved.”
I realize that parenting is hard work, and that volunteering can add to that stress. I know that coordinating parental volunteers can be time-consuming, thought-consuming and all-over consuming.
But gosh darn it, I thought, when you’re wrong, just admit it.
I was fuming, but trying to remain calm. I hate when someone doesn’t apologize. Minutes later, I got an email back:
“I’m not sure what just happened here. I think you misunderstood what I was saying. The only reason I sent the information out through [the school email list] was to make sure that I was able to contact as many of the parents as possible that would be interested in helping. I don’t want anyone to feel left out.”
What? I thought. Did she say school email list?
I suddenly remembered the original email. It had been sent to the whole school.
No one had singled me out, claiming that my son was in the play. In fact, the only person who singled me out was ME. And so it was suddenly my job to respond – and quickly:
“OH! I think I understand what happened – and it is TOTALLY my fault. You sent this via [the school email list], and even though I noticed that subconsciously, I somehow thought I’d been put on a new email list for the drama department! I now get what you were trying to say, and how you were trying to say it, and it is my turn to apologize. With the busy kids and all, I haven’t gotten a lot of sleep lately and I think it’s starting to show! I’m truly and sincerely sorry for jumping down your throat. If I didn’t have so much to do, I would go take a nap. Seriously – I am sorry.”
And then I sheepishly walked away from the computer.
I never heard back from the other parent.
We had a non-traditional Thanksgiving this year.
Instead of turkey, we went out to an Indian buffet. Instead of pumpkin pie (which, oddly, was offered at the Indian buffet), we went to Ben & Jerry’s. And then, instead of sitting around watching TV, we went to see a movie.
Everywhere we went, we were the only ones there.
At the movie, we spread out in the last row – but there were only a handful of people in the rest of the theater. At Ben & Jerry’s, we came in more than an hour after it opened, and we were the first customers of the day.
It all felt a little surreal, like the world had ended the day before and we hadn’t yet been clued in.
We also had a blast. Having the town to ourselves was a rather novel thing, and we made the most of it. Employees snapped our family photos, and we stopped on the street to admire grass growing in the cracks of the sidewalks. We weren’t sure about where and how to pay for parking – of even if we should pay for parking. But we paid nonetheless.
When Fun-on-the-Town was over, we went home and watched football for hours.
The only bad thing was, when we got hungry during the football game, there were no leftovers in the fridge. In fact, we now have to find something to eat for every meal, all weekend long.
But it was still a very nice day.
Shane came home from school and said, “It happened again.”
“What happened?” I asked, concerned.
“I got on the bus and the bus driver said, ‘You don’t ride this bus!'”
The exact same thing happened to Shane this past spring. “You have to be kidding! Was it the same bus driver?”
“No,” Shane said. “This time it was my regular bus driver, the one I’ve had for the past two years!”
“NO,” I repeated, dumbstruck.
“Yes!” he said. “And this time, Noah wasn’t there to tell her that he recognized me. So she said I had to sit down in the front seat and ride the whole way home next to her!”
“I am not kidding.”
“How could she not know you after two years?”
“I don’t know. But she said, ‘You don’t ride this bus. I know you don’t ride this bus. I’ve never seen you before!’ And then she asked me what stop was mine, and I told her, and she still didn’t believe me.”
“So did somebody finally tell her that you rode that bus every day?”
“No,” Shane said. “I had to sit next to her in the front seat the entire way home.”
Dylan was nearly hysterical, listening to this story. He’s had the same bus driver for five years – the same one Shane has, in fact – and she has never questioned Dylan. But now Shane was being questioned for the second time in two years.
“You know what you should do?” Dylan suggested. “You should get on the bus every day and say really loud: ‘I’m here! I exist!’ And then just walk away.”
“You should!” I agreed.
“You absolutely should!” Dylan said again. “You should do it every single day!”
“I should,” Shane said.
But of course, he didn’t, because Shane doesn’t like to cause any conflict, or stand out in any way.
This, of course, is the problem.
I forgot to tell Dylan to take his caffeine pill after breakfast.
So our morning was a little rocky.
I made his animal-protein-filled-(because-it-interacts-with-L-Tyrosine) sausage, egg and cheese sandwich. I set out a huge glass of water, a banana and some eggnog on the side.
But Dylan came down late, as usual. He took all three pills and shoved the banana into his face when I wasn’t even looking.
I offered to drive him to school, so he put the eggnog in a portable cup, chugged the water, and wrapped up the sandwich.
He slurped down the eggnog while Snap Chatting.
While we were stuck in traffic by a park, Dylan said, “Wow, look how cool the trees look.”
Oh. My. Gosh.
I hadn’t heard him talk like that since the first time he took Adderall in fourth grade. Dylan was focusing on the trees, watching how they swayed in the wind, noticing the fall colors for the first time in eons.
The pill was working.
Then I noticed the sandwich, still wrapped and sitting in his lap. “You have to eat, Dylan,” I said. “We’re almost there.”
“I can’t eat. I feel sick.”
Oh no, I thought. This happened with Adderall, too.
“You need to eat,” I said. “You took the caffeine pill on an empty stomach, and then you chugged all that liquid. You have to eat. It will actually make your stomach feel better.”
“I literally can’t eat,” he said.
“You have to eat,” I said. “You need the protein, and it will help your stomach.”
“I CAN’T EAT,” he declared. “I will THROW UP.”
We started screaming at each other. (It was another proud moment for Mom of the Year.) I pulled the car over, and wouldn’t let him go to school until he ate something.
Eventually, he pulled the sandwich apart and shoved the sausage into his mouth. He chewed with great disdain, breathing shallowly as if this were causing him extreme pain, then swallowed.
“THERE,” he said, livid. “Can I go to school now?”
He was late for school, and furious with me. But he was alert and aware on 200 milligrams of caffeine.
I texted him later: “I sincerely hope you are feeling better.”
“I still feel kinda sick,” he texted back. “But hey, I was the first one in my class to finish my government paper.”
Last week, he had four unfinished assignments in government.
The pill works.
Dylan has been really trying lately. He has taken it upon himself to get straight A’s. In doing so, he has learned some interesting things.
- There’s so much work. Even when there was work yesterday, new work appears again today!
- If one paper isn’t even finished, the teacher hands out another paper anyway! And sometimes they’re both due at the end of class!
- It’s very challenging to attempt to keep pace with a world that moves substantially faster than one’s own brain.
Dylan has ADHD. I’m not sure he realized that before these past two weeks.
He spends every day desperately trying to finish things that the other kids finish in half the time. He spends all his post-class time talking to teachers, meeting with teachers, and arranging times to finish what’s not-yet done. He stays after school almost every day – and missed most of (and all of) his Ultimate Frisbee team practice this week.
He races downstairs in the morning, mostly dressed, and finishes putting on his shoes while he scarfs down whatever is on his breakfast plate. Then he wraps up his breakfast and runs after the bus, which has usually just gone by. (He has to run about a quarter-mile to catch it.)
He texts me several times a day. “Mom, I’m going to do _____ at lunch and then I have to do ____ after school.”
Later it might be, “Mom, I did this thing, but I didn’t do it the right way. Do I have to do it again?”
“Only if you want credit,” I text back.
Days are looooooong for Dylan. He’s trying hard. He’s taking his Focus Factor and his L-Tyrosine. He’s eating a high-protein breakfast. And he drinks a latte or an espresso at least once a day, plus iced tea at lunchtime. Caffeine really seems to help him – although he still says his best day was after drinking one of those God-awful energy drinks.
But all those things are still not quite enough.
Dylan can’t focus in class. His teachers talk about him staring into space – the telltale sign that he’s giving it all he’s got, but just can’t jump-start his brain.
So we’re going to try something new.
I can’t believe I never thought of it before. I mean, I’ve been thinking for eight years about what to do for Dylan. And today, I suddenly thought of something new.
He’s going to take a caffeine pill.
Side effects are minimal. There’s nothing in the pill, except caffeine. Each pill is the equivalent of two cups of coffee. And while coffee works pretty well for Dylan, two cups are a lot – and it’s hard to drink that much during (or between) classes in high school.
So… Caffeine pills are acquired. We’re ready to launch.
The world is still upset by the results of last week’s election. Earlier this week, there were protests against our new President Elect. At least one of these protests happened at a local high school, where so many kids walked out of school to protest that the police had to close down the streets nearby.
While I am interested in the protests because it means that we, as a country, are able to stand up for what we believe, I remember only too well my own high school protest “walk-out” – which, looking back, seems rather pointless. I like the whole “safety pin” approach.
I am one for peace.
Unfortunately, today was a bad day in our area. Some “peaceful” Trump protesters – high school kids – didn’t understand the concept. Today they saw a 15-year-old boy wearing a Trump hat, so they jumped him and beat the heck out of him. They were lucky: the Trump supporter is going to be okay.
As I see it, this is humanity at its absolute lowest, and it makes me want to endlessly wretch. The kid wasn’t even old enough to vote! And to do this in the name of … Love?
Then I got an email from Dylan’s principal – from a high school where there had not been any protests. Or so I thought:
Dear Parents and Guardians:
As your principal, I am committed to providing each of our students with a safe and welcoming learning environment.
As of this afternoon, there have not been any organized protests involving our students on or off campus during school hours. It has been a regular school day. I am aware that a very small number of students left campus today but they did not protest at or near our school. Some returned before the end of the day to return to class. We are following up with the students and parents appropriately. I am working closely with central office, other high school principals and the police to monitor and continue to ensure a safe educational environment for all Rockville High School students.
To help us ensure that our school remains safe and welcoming for all, we are asking for help from students. If your child sees or hears about vandalism, offensive messages, or other forms of harassment, they should immediately report the incident to my office.
Additionally, if your child believes they are a victim of bullying, harassment, or intimidation of any kind, they should report the incident or incidents to a trusted staff member and to you as the parent/guardian, and a staff member can help them complete and submit the Bullying, Harassment, or Intimidation Reporting Form. [We] will not tolerate hate-based speech or behavior in our school communities.
I noticed that this email, rather than providing reassurance, actually gave me cause for concern. It wasn’t the kids walking out of school, or the possibility of vandalism that worried me. It was that the entire support system – which “will not tolerate hate” – gives us only one option to deal with offending behaviors.
We should fill out a form.
If we have any real issues – if something happens that is life-threatening – we are supposed to fill out the Bullying, Harassment or Intimidation Reporting Form.
Then what happens? I mean, really? How on earth is this going to help?
I realize they are trying hard. And to be honest, I can’t think of anything better to solve the problems of bullying, harassment or intimidation.
But I find it sad that still, in this day and age, we are still only able to report the incident, and hope something changes.
God, I hope something changes.
Many people don’t “believe in” vision processing disorder. It’s a relatively new “disorder” and it’s easier just to say, “It’s like dyslexia” as explanation.
But it’s not dyslexia. It’s treatable. And we treated Shane – at great financial and emotional cost – for many years.
So when, in the past six months or so, Shane started reading words aloud (again) that didn’t make any sense, I was mildly concerned. He seemed to be flipping syllables. When he got a lower-than-expected score on his PARCC test last spring – only in reading – it added to my concern. And when I realized Shane had “forgotten” his multiplication tables and couldn’t remember how to multiply fractions or use negative numbers in equations, I worried a little bit more.
Then I noticed that Shane had also started reading comics again – something he did before he learned to read, because he could guess the words easier with assistance from the pictures. And he started listening to talking CDs instead of reading books during his nightly reading time.
Then, last week, Shane came home from school after the MAP-R, another standardized reading assessment.
He said, “I didn’t make my goal,” and I started to freak out a little.
“What do you mean?” I asked with all the calm I could muster.
Shane said, “The goals ranged from 239 to 249 and I only got a 232. I didn’t even meet the minimum goal.” This low test score was – again – in the one subject most affected by a vision processing disorder: reading. Shane said he did fine on the MAP-M, which is the equivalent test for math. But I didn’t stop thinking about his reading score.
Two days later, I was still thinking about it.
No one knows about vision processing disorder, I thought. Treatment is practically still in the experimental stages.
And: How do we know whether or not he will regress?
So I wrote down my thoughts for the special education coordinator at his school. I explained all of my fears – the CDs, the comics, the math, the PARCC test, the possibility of regression, the flipping of words when he reads aloud. And I asked if we could see the MAP-R, to see what he’d done incorrectly, to gauge whether or not he was struggling again.
In response, she wrote the following:
I am uncertain why your son Shane felt he did not meet his goal for MAPR. His most recent score was a 232, which is in the 87th percentile, and well above what the cut score was for 7th grade. His MAPM was a 241, also in the 87th percentile. I don’t think you have anything to be concerned about!
And yet, here I sit – still concerned.
Yes, he’s smart. I am fine – even happy – with how well he did on his test. But I don’t only care that he is in the 87th percentile. I care that he didn’t meet the minimum number in the one test that evaluates reading. I care that his eyes might not be working with his brain again. I care that he might be slipping – might need help – might need more than just intelligence to get what he needs in school – and in life.
I care that he cares, and if he needs help again, I want to get it for him.
I don’t recognize the boy who came home from high school yesterday. I mean, he LOOKS like Dylan, but he sure isn’t acting like Dylan.
Every day this week, he’s come home and put his stuff away. He hasn’t whined or complained or rolled on the floor moaning about his long day. THAT is the Dylan I remember.
In fact, and instead, he has come home every day this week with a new resolve: DO WELL IN SCHOOL.
Yesterday after school, I picked him up from frisbee practice. On the way home – totally unprovoked – Dylan said, “I’m going to spend lunch with my Spanish teacher tomorrow. And I’m going to stay after school working on Government, if that’s okay with you.”
“You’re staying after school on a Friday?” I asked, a bit stunned.
“Yeah, if that’s okay.”
“Sure,” I said. “Just let me know when you’re done and I’ll come and get you.”
Then we got home. He took a few minutes to text his friends or whatever. Then he said, “When’s dinner?”
“About half an hour,” I said.
“All right,” Dylan said. He was standing in the doorway with his binder. “I’m just going to do the stuff I have to do now, and study after dinner.”
“My Spanish test!” he exclaimed, as if I had a clue. Then he galloped upstairs and … well, he actually did his work.
For years, I have been asking him the same question: “Do you have any homework?”
And for years, I have been getting the same answer: “I don’t really have anything to do tonight.”
This week, I haven’t said anything about homework. Except last night, I said this: “I’m so proud of you, Dylan.”
“Because you’re working so hard on your school work! You are really giving it a solid effort – and you should be really proud of yourself!”
He seemed surprised. “Well I have a reason now,” he said.
“A reason for what?”
“A reason to do this stuff.”
“What’s your reason?” I asked, genuinely interested – and a bit afraid.
“I always wanted to just do music,” he said. “But now I want to do good in school, too.”
“Oh, okay,” I said. “Well, you’re doing a great job. I’m really impressed.”
And then I left him alone to finish putting away his laundry, which I hadn’t even asked him to do.
This morning, Dylan bounded down the stairs and said, “Don’t you just feel like jumping out of a window?”
I appreciated that he didn’t say, Don’t you feel like crawling into a hole for the next four years?
“I don’t think it would do any good,” I said. “And it’s raining outside.”
Dylan started talking about moving to Canada. After all, since it never occurred to me that Donald Trump would actually win this election, I said we could move to Canada if Trump became President.
But what good would that do? We’d still be Americans. We’d still be humiliated in the face of the world. We’d still be the laughing stock of the planet. And we’d still find out about every absurd syllable that Trump utters, no matter how senseless.
It astounds me, as a human being with a brain, that so many millions of people could vote for someone whose entire campaign is based on bitterness, lies and fear. Millions of people believed his empty promises backed by no solid plan. Millions of people voted to have a buffoon be in charge of our country.
Millions of people based their decisions on fear. They’re worried about terrorism (thanks to the media) so they vote for someone who says, “Keep everybody out!” They’re worried about losing their jobs (thanks to the media) so they vote for someone who says, “We’ll force all the companies to stay in this country!” They’re worried about the country falling apart (thanks to the media) so they vote for someone who says, “I don’t know anything about politics so I will make it better!”
They’re worried (thanks to the media) about the national debt, so they vote for someone who doesn’t even pay the people who work for him. They’re worried (thanks to the media) about their families growing up in a safe place, so they vote for someone who is angry and unkind.
In fact, thanks to fear (and the media), every single vote for Trump was a vote against the Golden Rule.
But no one really cares about the Golden Rule anymore.
And as a mom of two very bright kids, I have to explain this to my children, who have followed the campaign for a year. My kids know the difference between right and wrong so they have been very concerned since Trump was nominated.
Dylan’s friend voted yesterday and texted about it. Dylan carefully said, “I hope you made a good choice.”
“Of course I did,” said his friend. “I’m not a stupid, racist pig. I voted for Hillary.”
We all breathed a little sigh of relief.
But the world has stopped turning for me today.
I am stunned at the number of votes for ignorance, racism, sexism and intolerance. I am stunned that so many people simply decided that someone so obscene should be “in charge.” I am stunned that so many people can support a man with no plan for the foreseeable future except to tear down everything we’ve built over the last 200 years.
I’m not saying the world is perfect. I’m just saying that Trump’s methods are guaranteed to make it worse. We are facing a Very. Long. Four. Years.
MORE votes were actually cast for Hillary, which means a majority of people actually voted against the idiocy.
This gives me only a smidgeon of hope.
“So why didn’t she win?” Shane asked. He’s already learned about electoral voting in school.
I had to explain the sad truth: “Because that’s just the way it works, Son.”