Month: October 2017

I Begged God to Keep Dylan Healthy.

Dylan had a fever for four solid days.

Every day, he could barely lift his head off of the pillow. He would get up and go downstairs in the morning. He’d watch television for two or three hours, but then he’d fall asleep. He ate almost nothing, and didn’t want to sit up to drink the liquids he so desperately needed. He choked down some ginger ale and maybe two glasses of water. All day.

During his four days of agony, Dylan slept about 16 hours a day. He kept going to bed earlier and earlier until, on Saturday, he went to bed at 6 p.m.

He missed being a local scarer every, single day of the “mandatory” weekend – the biggest weekend of his year. It was incredibly sad.

During this time, I gave him Tylenol to help him sleep, hovered enough to know he wasn’t going to eat or drink much of anything, and took him to the doctor – who ruled out mono, flu and strep. I got a flu shot while I was there, just in case.

The doctor said that sometimes a virus just needs to run its course. But I didn’t have much patience for a virus “running its course.” I prayed and prayed and prayed. I texted and emailed my mom all day long with updates. By Saturday night, when he was still feverish at 11:00 and had been sleeping for another five straight hours, I hit my knees.

I begged God to keep Dylan healthy. And even as I did so, I knew that it wasn’t my choice to make. People pray all the time for people to be healed from things much worse than a slow-moving virus. And not everyone gets what they want.

But on Sunday morning, Dylan woke up before I did. (I slept very late.) He went downstairs and got some water and pineapple juice – and drank them. He went into the fridge and pulled out some leftover pizza, and reheated it. He ate three slices, drank some more water, took his vitamins – and then went upstairs to take a shower and do homework.

For sure, I thought, he is better.

But he is not better. His fever came back in the late afternoon. By evening, it was more than 103. He was in bed – again – by 8:00.

I am thinking about his school work, how much he has to do, how little time there is left in the quarter. I have emailed his teachers and his case manager. I am doing what I can to make sure they know the extent of this illness.

But I don’t care about his school work. I just want him to get better. I want the fever to go away. I want him to wake up well, and stay well.

I will be praying again tonight.

And It’s Halloween Weekend.

We tried something new this week for Dylan.

Dylan had turned in all of his missing work, but his grades hadn’t changed online. This is because teachers have better things to do than grade all of his missing work in ten minutes, recording the grades online, and making sure Dylan gets what Dylan needs.

Dylan, on the other hand, having finally done what he was supposed to do, expected this of them – and for a second, so did I.

“If you really turned this in,” I asked, “why didn’t the zeros disappear online?”

I had handwritten notes from his teachers, stating exactly what he’d done – and everything was turned in.

So I emailed his case manager, both of us a bit panicked that we wouldn’t know if Dylan had all B’s in his classes or not. She called me.

“I will take a snapshot of his grades right now,” she said. “And I will tell him that he is not allowed to have any new zeros if he wants to work next weekend.”

“Next” weekend is this weekend. And it’s Halloween weekend. It’s the biggest event of the year for Dylan – six straight days of face paint and screaming.

“Okay,” I said to the case manager.

New zeros started popping up immediately. The next day there was one. Two days later, there were four. I stopped counting by Monday, and his deadline was Wednesday.

As always, Dylan said he was “getting it all done.”

Sure enough, he got it all done. Again this week, Dylan did everything in one day, bringing home a stack of notes from a slew of teachers.

And then he got sick.

The day he finished everything, he came home with chills and wanted to take a nap.

I told him to stay awake for three hours, and then he was allowed to sleep. So he stayed awake for three hours – and then he went upstairs, crawled under his covers, and slept until morning.

When he woke up Thursday morning, he desperately wanted to go to school. He said he felt better, and he tried to take a shower – but he just couldn’t do it. After all the “catching up” he did at school, and all the late nights he’s been working, and all the nights he’s stayed up “chatting” on his phone…

He just crashed. And now, even though he is allowed to work, he can’t. His body won’t cooperate.

I am praying for a speedy recovery – not only so he can work, but so he can catch up in school – again.

He’s just missed two days of assignments in every class, and the quarter ends next week.

You Did the Right Thing!

Dylan texted me from school:

“My teacher is refusing to let me type my warm ups even though I asked 3 times and explained my accommodations.

Her reasoning: ‘I don’t want to have to go into email for yours when everyone else’s is written.'”

Dylan hates warm-ups. They are his albatross. They are mundane work, meant to get the kids engaged in class as they enter – but they are agonizing for Dylan. He wants hands-on learning, not routine writing assignments. Warm-ups are the equivalent of coloring pages in preschool, which Dylan also hated. He used to scribble a few red lines on his picture, then head straight for the building blocks.

He has always had serious trouble with writing utensils.

Dylan needs to type his work. He’s actually incapable of hand-writing anything more than a few words, because his hands can’t keep up with what his brain is telling him to write. If he’s spending all his energy trying to hold a pencil and form words, the other thoughts in his brain fly right out the window. After he writes one word, he has to start all over again thinking about what he needs to write.

It’s a very common trait of kids with ADHD. And Dylan has an IEP that outlines this, and provides him with a computer whenever he needs to write more than a few words.

I started to freak out. Mom-of-3rd-Grade-Dylan returned with a vengeance. I almost got in the car and drove to the school, like I used to, but then I took a breath.

Instead, I had a conversation with myself.

I am supposed to let Dylan handle this.

But Dylan is trying to handle this – and his teacher is refusing to allow his accommodations! I should go talk to her right now!

Wait – there is another way. He has an IEP, and he has a case manager who can enforce accommodations.

A-ha! He already has help! I will remind him.

So I texted back:


“okay, I’ll go see her”

“good job self-advocating! you did the right thing!”

“I’m trying”

I felt bad for him, doing everything he was taught to do, then having his teacher refuse to give him the simple things he needs to succeed.

I thought about college, where there will be no case managers, no IEPs, and no mom around to storm the castle.

But then I remembered my classes in college. There wasn’t a single second to spare. I walked in, sat down and started learning.

So I sent one more text.

“good news: no warm-ups in college”

He Was Monitoring His Sugar Intake.

Shane came home from church, excited about the rest of his day.

“You have ping pong lessons,” I said to him. Shane loves ping pong. He’s started taking it seriously, and improved by leaps and bounds in a matter of weeks.

“I know,” he said. “Then am I going anywhere?”

I told him he was going to the local haunted trails with Bill after ping pong. A whole evening of fun-filled haunts awaited him. “AND…” I said, emphasizing the very exciting next point I wanted to make. “You can get ice cream after ping pong if you want!”

“No ice cream!” Shane said, shocking everyone within hearing range.

NO ice cream? What kind of kid says “no” to ice cream? And more confusing – since when has Shane ever refused ice cream?

“Why not?” I asked. “Why don’t you want ice cream?”

“Well, I had two cookies at church already,” Shane said. “And I want to buy a soda at the concession stand later.”

He was monitoring his sugar intake.

This is not new for Shane, really. He rarely refuses ice cream, but he is very careful about how much sugar he eats. He still eats too much, but he is very aware of how much sugar, exactly, he eats every day.

So on this day, he had already consumed some cookies – and it was barely noon. Then later, he bought a soda and drank about half of it. He saved the rest for later.

Sometimes he gets a sweetened ice tea in his lunchbox. It takes him about a week to finish one 12-ounce bottle.

For me, sugar is a problem. I see it; I eat it. I don’t have a regulator. If I quit eating sugar for a few days, I am less likely to be tempted by it. But I rarely eat anything – especially sugar – in moderation.

Shane is teaching me new things every day. When I grow up, I want to be more like him.

Dylan Was Meant To Skip.

Many mornings, I drive Dylan to the bus stop. It’s not far – maybe a quarter of a mile – but it gives us a minute to sit together. He probably should be walking, to get those endorphins going, but he always ends up running while wearing a monstrous backpack. The thing weighs about 50 pounds, and I feel for him.

Plus, he’s been having a lot of good mornings, and it’s actually pleasant taking him to the bus stop.

He has been coming downstairs early – almost “on time,” which is 15 minutes before the bus comes. He puts on his shoes while he eats breakfast, but for the most part, he’s ready to go. He eats most of his breakfast now instead of carrying it out the door with him. It was always funny watching him wrap up dry pancakes and carry them out the door, but he did it so often I was beginning to think he might prefer them without syrup.

So one day, I drove him to the bus stop like I often do. And we sat and talked for a minute, like we often do. I am trying hard not to harp on his grades or his missing work or what papers he needs to turn in – or whatever. So we had a reasonably pleasant conversation.

It was a rainy but nice morning, although it’s darker in the mornings now. And the bus came with its bright red flashers, and pulled in front of us, like it often does. I kissed Dylan on the head and he grabbed his backpack and his coffee and started walking toward the bus.

Then he started to skip. He walked a few feet, and I guess he got a little too happy. He skipped three or four times, and landed near the back of the bus – when he either realized he was skipping, or forgot to skip. And then he walked to the bus door with the rest of the neighborhood kids.

Sitting there at 7 a.m. on that gray morning, I started to cry. I hadn’t seen Dylan skip to school in his whole life.

Skipping, for Dylan, is an energy outlet and a subtle show of happiness. He’s been skipping since he was very young, and did it without ever being taught. It’s one of those things that just came naturally to him, along with his long hair, giant smile and free style. Dylan was meant to skip.

Sure, he skips during the summer. He also skips on weekends. He skips when he’s excited about going to work at Field of Screams. He even skips sometimes when he’s just walking the dog, or heading out to the swing set.

But I’d never seen Dylan skip to the bus. The bus was always a signal of doom. It was the thing that would take him to school, which was his “death sentence” only last year.

But Dylan is getting better. He’s growing up, and finding his way, and doing what he needs to do for himself.

And sometimes, I guess, that means he needs to skip to school.


Dylan has C’s in two classes. There are only two weeks left in the quarter, and he said he was “trying” to get straight A’s.

He constantly insists it’s getting better – but he’s doing the exact same things, with the exact same results. He still doesn’t think it’s a problem.

As always, Dylan is scrambling to “find” all of his missing work. As usual, his assignment grades read something like this: A, A, A, Z, A, E, E, A, B, Z, A, Z, A, A, Z.

The “Z” means “missing” and the “E” (almost always) means “didn’t find it in time.” (Sometimes “E” means “didn’t bother to study.”)

Although there are now consequences for C’s, I am saying almost nothing about it. But here is what I want to say….

Dylan, you don’t need to put yourself through this. You don’t need to consistently dig yourself into a hole, just so you can dig yourself out. All you have to do is turn in your work on the day it is due! Just turn it in THAT DAY and you will have amazing grades!

You know HOW to do it. It’s three easy steps!

  1. Talk to your teacher. Ask every day, “What was due today?”
  2. Then TURN IT IN. (This step is essential.)
  3. If it’s not done, finish it at home and TURN IT IN the next day.

It IS that simple!

If you turn everything in on the day it’s due, there will be no more failing grades. No more work to “make up.” No more digging around in your backpack, trying to find it. No more doing the same assignment twice. No more trying to figure out what you did with it. Just turn it in NOW.

KNOW the word “NOW.” Really, really understand that “NOW” means “RIGHT THIS SECOND.” 

Take it one class at a time, Son. Talk to your teacher right after class. Do it every day. Do it every day NO MATTER WHAT. Talk to your teacher even if you are in a hurry, even if you have to use the restroom, even if someone is trying to talk to you, even if you got a text during class. Talk to your teacher EVERY DAY. Just walk up after class and say those four simple words: “What was due today?”

Then pull out the work, and hand it to your teacher. And that’s it! You will never, ever have a Z again!

But I’ve said this all before – ad infinitum, ad nauseum – and he will never, ever change his behavior just because I asked him to change it.

He will only ever do anything when he discovers that HE CAN DO IT – and when he thinks it’s worth it to make his work a priority.

I just don’t know when that day will ever come.

I Want To Stand Up on My Soapbox and Scream.

I have found a nifty new position at the schools where I substitute. It is called a “reading specialist.”

This is the kind of job I could have full-time and actually enjoy. My job – as substitute reading specialist – is to go into different classrooms and help kids who are struggling with reading. For some classrooms, I take a handful of kids out of their classrooms for half an hour, and work with them in a small group. Sometimes I get just one individual student for a whole half-hour.

I’ve done this job twice. And what I have learned is, I am a great reading specialist. In fact, this is the job I envisioned when I started teaching twenty-plus years ago. This is also the reason I do home-and-hospital teaching.

I actually get to see the results of my teaching.

My biggest problem is that I can’t “fix” all the students in one day. Some of them, I would never be able to “fix.”

To complicate everything, there’s the vision processing problem – and the other learning disabilities.

Shane’s vision processing disorder was very difficult to diagnose. Only one person in the world – a physical therapist who was not in the school system – was able to guess that Shane should get checked for vision processing disorder.

Combine the physical therapist with the hyper-vigilant mom. Then add a vision processing specialist who’s nearby – which is rare. And we could afford treatment, giving us a recipe for success. But…

Not everyone has that kind of good fortune.

This week, for example, I met a little girl who was reading to the best of her ability, and the letters were obviously flipping and flopping all over the place in front of her eyes. She could have been tired – or she could have dyslexia or even a vision processing disorder.

But it costs $500 for the testing. And this little girl probably didn’t have $5, let alone $500.

And that’s just for the testing. The therapy cost us $20,000 – not including the minuscule amount that was covered by insurance.

That’s why I want to stand up on my soapbox and scream. Assuming every child has insurance (and many don’t), learning disabilities aren’t considered a “medical” issue.

Insurance doesn’t cover anything related to learning disabilities – except drugs. And the drugs do nothing more than to alleviate the symptoms. They do nothing to cure the underlying problem.

Both vision processing disorder and ADHD are related to brain dysfunctions. There is a biological reason for both “disabilities” – and that biological reason is directly responsible for the inabilities to function properly in school (and in life).

The insurance companies, however, have deemed that kids – and all people – with these disorders can “get by” in life. Many, if not all, will be miserable every single day of their lives until they graduate from high school.

ADHD, they say, is not a medical problem. Yet it has been scientifically proven to be responsible for more youth suicides than depression. What more do they need as proof that this needs treatment?

And many kids with vision processing disorders will never learn to read. This very newly identified disorder has no statistics – but from what I saw in Shane, I can say with complete certainty that, if undiagnosed, vision processing disorders will cause the same kinds of reactions in kids.

These kids will just spend their entire lives believing that they’re stupid – and then they will act accordingly in their adult lives.

I thank God every day that we had the means and the good fortune to help Shane. I only wish that everyone could be so fortunate.

I Will Get Some Quality Time to Concentrate on Shane.

For our last exploratory college road trip, Dylan and I are hitting the road for four days – again causing me to feel bad about leaving Shane.

This time, it’s because we are leaving in the midst of the annual parent-teacher conferences. Once a year, the public schools offer parents a chance to meet with each teacher – and this takes place at the conclusion of two student half-days.

Unfortunately, the half-days make it a very convenient time to take Dylan on the road. And it is the very last time that parent-teacher conferences will be offered for Shane. In high school, there are no more conferences.

Perhaps even more unfortunately, none of this is done online. The scheduling is all done early in the morning on those two half-days, with parents pouring through the doors by 7 a.m. – and all day long – each trying to find a ten-minute time slot for seven different teachers. It’s all done with paper and pencil (“NO PENS!” I heard once, because of all the erasing that’s done during this process).

And it’s all overseen by one poor administrative secretary trying to monitor the schedules of 62 teachers (not including special education, deaf or autism teachers) and trying to help new parents figure out the system and find seven open time slots.

I am not a new parent. I know the system.

Over the years, I have become adept at arriving before school starts, complete with my son’s prioritized list of teachers, ready for fast scheduling. I grab the math book first, to make sure I am able to meet with the math teacher, since math teachers are notoriously challenging to schedule. Then I find the other essential teachers: English, science, social studies. I move on to the electives last, since they are slower to fill up.

I’ve learned what times the conferences are offered (well into evening) and that teachers are happier to meet early in the day – when they’re not exhausted from talking to all the parents.I’ve learned where the classrooms are, and which ones are too far away for me to schedule in a back-to-back time slot. In fact, I have finally learned how to schedule all of Shane’s teachers into a single two-hour time frame.

Last year, after playing this game for five years, I was able to meet with every, single teacher in an hour and twenty minutes. More casual parents have been known to take two days to meet with teachers, and still miss meeting with three or four of them.

This year, though, I am missing it entirely. Now that I am a veteran scheduler, I will not be able to utilize one of my predominant skills.

Fortunately, I have already remedied the situation.

Even though the conferences are a month away, I have already emailed all of Shane’s teachers. I explained my dilemma and asked if I could still meet with each of them, for just a few minutes, to check on Shane’s progress this year.

Now – without ever leaving home or picking up a pencil – I have my own, personal parent-teacher conferences scheduled with each of Shane’s teachers. Best of all, these personalized conferences fit into my schedule and their schedules, so no one is displaced. And I will get some quality time to concentrate on Shane after all.

And I think we will all be glad when I am not there early on the morning of the first half-day, grabbing for a pencil.

It’s the Same Crap You Like.

The kids don’t like change. don’t like change, so it is not particularly surprising to me that the kids would also prefer that everything always stay the same.

So when it was announced, years ago, that eating Greek yogurt was better for health than eating plain, sugary yogurt, Bill and I switched to Greek yogurt. It has a more bitter taste, akin to sour cream or cream cheese, but with vanilla flavoring and/or the terribly unhealthy “fruit on the bottom,” it is quite edible.

The kids will only eat yogurt with “no chunks,” though, so we couldn’t even sway them to try the fruity kind.

I realized that most of the world had switched when I could barely find the “old” yogurt at the store. Greek yogurt had replaced nearly every brand in the store. I tried again to have them eat Greek yogurt (vanilla! no chunks!) and Shane did get it down. But only once – and then he said he would “rather not” eat it again. Dylan wouldn’t even try.

Last week, I went to the store and their “old” yogurt had been replaced – not by Greek, but by “custard style.” It came in a new cup, which was shaped like most of the Greek yogurt cups, but inside was the same sugary junk they’d always eaten.

So I put a note inside each lunchbox:

this is NOT greek yogurt

the yoplait people are trying to make their yogurt LOOK like greek yogurt so people will think it’s healthy

it’s not. it’s the same crap you like, just in a different cup


With the note intact, I hoped they would, at least, give it a try.

Shane came home with his yogurt uneaten. To be fair, he’d barely eaten any of his lunch because he’d had to retake a math test at lunchtime.

Shane can try again next week.

Dylan came home and, while cleaning out his lunchbox, reminded me about the note.

“My friends thought this was really funny,” he said. “People took pictures of it and put it on their stories. And it was on, like, six different Instagrams today.”

So I got my point across!

Best of all, Dylan ate the yogurt. And of course, it was delicious.

I’ve Never Seen Him So Focused.

Dylan is learning to drive.

Given that he has ADHD and is 16 years old and can’t turn in his work on time no matter what and has to be reminded to do things 74 times before he actually does them, one might suspect that driving would be a challenge for Dylan.

But it’s not. In fact, Dylan is an absolutely wonderful driver. He is careful getting ready to go, and forgets nothing. He adjusts his seat position. He checks his mirrors and his seatbelt and the steering wheel. If he plans to listen to music while driving, he sets it up beforehand. He makes sure the air and/or heat are to his liking, and moves away from the wheel any objects that might be a distraction.

Then he pulls out.

While he’s driving, he stays focused on the road ahead. He checks his mirrors often, but not too often. He turns his head to cover his blind spots. He uses his turn signals, his headlights, his wipers and even cruise control when necessary. He watches the traffic to his left and right, knows who’s behind him, and is always aware of other drivers’ speeds – so he knows when he needs to pass and when he needs to get out of the way.

He doesn’t go more than five miles per hour above the speed limit. He asks questions about headlights and taillights and turn signals. He is interested in the new features of cars that “tell” the driver when a vehicle is too close, or in a blind spot. He absorbs all of it, and drives gracefully while contemplating new inventions that would help the driving public in the future.

I was worried that he’d be unfocused, distracted, crazy – or even aloof. Instead, he is alert and aware and conscientious. In fact, I’ve never seen him so focused.

I think we’ve discovered what it takes for my brilliant, ADHD-enhanced boy to concentrate. When he has 15,000 things to think about simultaneously, he shines.

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