Wednesday, October 13, 2010

ADHD Handicap

I don't normally consider ADHD to be a handicap. It is not, generally, a crippling disease.

But sometimes, my life is handicapped by my ADHD. Like, when I'm sitting in my pajamas working, with my child sleeping in the other room, and I realize his therapist will be coming over in 8 minutes.

Oops. At least I can get dressed quickly.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Should you Hold your Child Back?

Repeating a grade was considered a stigma when I was growing up. This perception went so far as the "smart kids" were promoted a grade, becoming the youngest (yet still the smartest) in their class.  This trend appears to be changing.  The Wall Street Journal's Career Journal posted an article this morning titled "The Parental Push to Repeat a Grade." According to the article, the current trend is to hold children back, even having them repeat a grade if they are not deemed socially or emotionally ready.

"I have seen a change in parents' attitude toward delaying entry or repeating a grade," [says Suzy Post, director of admission at Rumson Country Day School, Rumson, N.J]. Amid a trend toward "red-shirting," or delaying children's kindergarten entry, the proportion of kindergarteners who are at or near the age of 6 has risen sharply.
A friend of mine has a child who, while academically ready for Kindergarten, will spend another year in Preschool this year, because his parents and teachers don't feel he has the self-esteem to perform to his capacity in Kindergarten yet.

While I can see the point in delaying entry into school, repeating a grade poses another problem.

If a child is struggling academically, there may be an undiagnosed learning disability that should be addressed. Another year of the same material will not necessarily challenge the child, and may leave her bored or un-interested in the work. Instead of repeating a grade, the issue itself should be addressed. Is the child having social issues with peers? Maybe counseling to enhance the child's social skills is in order. Is the child struggling with reading comprehension? Maybe he needs special help to address that hurdle.

A 2009 Rand Corp. review of 91 studies found retention usually didn't benefit students academically over the long term. Any academic gains tend to last only a year or two and fade over time, says the study by Rand, a nonprofit research organization.
If we keep that up, a child could be in school for 24 years instead of 12!

Studies suggest, however, that holding a child back at any age raises the risk of dropping out of school later, says Karl Alexander, a sociology professor at Johns Hopkins University. Being held back may mean a child is older or more mature physically than peers in middle or high school, making it harder for a child to "fit in" at an age when that is especially important, Dr. Alexander says.
This statement supports the National Association for School Psychologists, which has conducted and reviewed research into student retention.

When comparing retained students with similarly under-achieving but promoted peers, research indicates that retained students have lower levels of academic adjustment in 11th grade and are more likely to drop out of high school by age 19 (Jimerson, 1999). In fact, retention was found to be one of the most powerful predictors of high school dropout, with retained students 2 to 11 times more likely to drop out of high school than promoted students (Jimerson, Anderson, & Whipple, 2002). Furthermore, the retained students are less likely to receive a high school diploma by age 20, receive poorer educational competence ratings, and are also less likely to be enrolled in post-secondary education of any kind. These youth also receive lower educational and employment status ratings and are paid less per hour at age 20 (Jimerson, 1999).
Wrightslaw has a number of resources about holding children back a grade. If you or your child's school are considering retaining a child because of delays, I recommend you do research and think about a number of options.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Restorative Justice

This post isn't about ADHD, but about family issues, especially love and forgiveness. I am a firm believer in restorative justice – the power of forgiveness and using "punishment" as a tool for healing. I even did a big paper during law school on the South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission – the power of the aggressors and victims talking and finding some resolution for what has been done to the victims.

My next door neighbor is big on restorative justice, too, and on forgiveness. The past 2 years, I have watched her work hard on forgiveness after her son was killed in a single-car drunk driving accident – his best friend was driving. To make a long story short, she worked hard with the prosecutor to make sure the driver would not spend the rest of his life in jail, while working to compensate for his bad judgment. This kid is a felon – and it is only through my neighbor's forgiveness that he won't spend his life in prison.

Part of his community service requirement is to help my neighbor with some projects, including starting and raising money for a nonprofit. They will get to know each other very well through this, and it cannot be easy for her – even though this is (well, otherwise) a great kid who works hard and should have a bright future.

I didn't think this would affect me; I barely knew Torey. But today as I was walking out to my car, 16-month-old child in my arms, I realized the man cutting my neighbor's grass is probably "the kid who killed Torey." And my stomach just dropped, with fear and anger. I held my son tighter and didn't waste any time getting to the car and going. Wow. I realize I will have to do some forgiveness, and it will take a bit of work. This is nothing compared to what my neighbor is feeling, but to actually feel this …

I still believe in restorative justice. But now I have more understanding for victims who say they "just can't." It is a lot of work.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Update on Buddy’s Therapies

I haven't updated here for a while, so wanted to post an update on Buddy, for anyone who is interested.

His IFSP is going well. He has a very supportive team – it was AMAZING that the initial meeting was so supportive! We had to have another a couple of months ago to add a service, but not as many people were there – and it was very quick and easy, with no resistance.

He is receiving Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Speech Therapy every week – one hour of each. Since Buddy is under 3, the services are provided "in the child's natural environment," which is at home, except once a month he gets OT and PT at daycare instead. He enjoys playing with his therapists, and since they are at our home, I am learning things to do with him at home to aid his development.

After a few weeks of therapy, the PT suggested we look into orthotics for his feet. This can be done through FirstSteps as well, saving us a TON of money (I think they were $700!). We had a meeting to add this service, with just the PT and Service Coordinator. Everyone else on his team was invited, but did not think it was necessary to be there so they did not come.

The orthotics are making a BIG difference, and we can already see him standing better, and more confidently, even when he is not wearing them. At the beginning of May, he started taking a few steps on his own. He still doesn't have a lot of confidence in his balance, but it is improving!

Because he is small, the pediatrician recommended we talk with a Nutritionist. Surprisingly, this is also a service that First Steps provides. I talked with our service coordinator, who set up an evaluator. Buddy will have a nutritional evaluation next week. His size may just be genes, and not a problem, but – why not get it checked out now, if we can? If we discover a problem now, it will save us lots of headaches later.

I'm so glad we have a supportive IFSP team and that we are getting early intervention for Buddy!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Flight Plan to prep for dinner party

Oh my, do Ihave a busy day today! We have friends coming over for dinner tonight. I'm making a spaghetti bolognase (one of my favorite meals) – I meant to make the sauce yesterday, but didn't have a chance. The house is a mess, I just finished last week's laundry yesterday, and today is Monday, typically my most office-productive day of the week! So I have a schedule to keep on-task, at least mostly, and we'll see how this goes. My plan, for each hour:

  • 0:00: laundry
  • 0:10: kitchen/prep dinner
  • 0:20: cleaning
  • 0:30: strategic planning (office)
  • 0:40: office work
  • 0:50: break
Then start all over again. We'll see how it goes … maybe I'll come back here and comment on how things are going at my breaks.

12:00 update
After the morning, I have a few revisions.  First, ten minutes goes FAST!  It keeps me moving, which is great for housework. But 10 minutes is NOT enough to sit down and stay focused on work; it can take that long to get me focused sometimes.  I think I'm done with my "strategic planning" stuff for today anyway.  Also, a 10 minute break isn't quite enough since I've been getting on the computer and can read 1 article or so, do a little (not much) Twitter, then the timer goes again.

So I am taking a lunch break now, and have a revised afternoon plan:

0:00 laundry
0:10 kitchen/DR/living room prep for dinner tonight
0:25 office/work: I have a "to do" stack next to my keyboard!
0:45 break: and don't go on twitter every hour!!! :P

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Office of Civil Rights stepping up Disability enforcement

I saw this article (via Disability Scoop) today and was thrilled. I have seen too many schoolchildren at the receiving end of discrimination, even to the point of abuse, because of their disabilities.

The Office of Civil Rights investigates reports of civil rights abuses and enforce civil rights. There are many wonderful people working there, who truly believe in the rights of individuals in our society. Unfortunately, people who intentionally violate civil rights (for financial or other reasons) exploit any cracks in the system.

From the article:

The Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights will be issuing a series of letters offering guidance to school districts across the country and ramping up efforts to reach out to parents and advocacy groups, Duncan said in a speech in Selma, Ala.

Plans are in place to send 17 letters before the fiscal year ends Oct. 1 advising school districts on issues ranging from restraint and seclusion to teaching English language learners with disabilities and working with students who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.

"The truth is that, in the last decade, the Office for Civil Rights has not been as vigilant as it should have been in combating gender and racial discrimination and protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities. But that is about to change," Duncan said. "We are going to reinvigorate civil rights enforcement."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Anxiety about the IFSP

Got my son's IFSP in the mail today. A big, thick packet with our address handwritten on it. I really am afraid to open the envelope. So many IEPs I've looked at (as a lawyer) do not accurately reflect what the parent understood services to be, and leave things out from what was discussed at the meeting. This could say things about Buddy that make him look pretty bad. On the other hand, this explains what services he will be receiving and the goals we will be working toward over the next year (or, hopefully, less than a year). I need to remind myself to be positive about this envelope. We have a good team working with Buddy, and they hopefully wrote something up that will reflect their wisdom and their engagement with Buddy.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Studies, Studies, Studies!

I knew there was a variety of testing available, but this feels ridiculous! A month ago, Buddy received 2 evaluations at daycare: the Denver II and the ASQ (Ages and Stages Questionnaire). He received the same evaluations at 6 months – I love our Daycare! (It is NAEYC certified – definitely something to look for in a daycare.) They put great priority on social-emotional development and catching any "problems" if there are any. We knew that Buddy was a little behind in some areas, but were completely caught off guard by the test results: he is far behind in every area they test! I didn't even know he could be "far behind" at 12 months! (My mom suggests it's because he was born early, but even with an adjusted age to account for his 2 weeks before due date, he's still far behind.)

At the daycare's and pediatrician's suggestion, we got an evaluation through First Steps. They did two more evaluations: the DAYC and a Sensory Processing Evaluation. These were pretty involved, and the OT was at our house for about 2 hours doing these evaluations. He qualifies for FirstSteps based on these evaluations.

The pediatrician has since recommended looking into putting tubes in his ears, because he has had so many ear infections. Daddy had chronic ear infections as a child, so we have a meeting set up with an ENT to discuss tubes. Our speech therapist also says he should have an audiologic workup with the ENT. She thinks he has hearing problems, probably associated with the ear infections.

The OT said some of Buddy's problems she has seen associated with allergies, such as his reflux, developmental delays, and small size. So we are taking him to an allergist for an evaluation there.

In addition, we enrolled him in Parents as Teachers as a baby, and have been working with them. (Great program, I highly recommend it to all parents of young children.) Our school district is part of a Developmental/Autism study that is trying to find out how early autism can be diagnosed so they can start services. As part of this study, they did an Ironton and Red Flags screening. These screenings signaled he has some potential issues, so we have a three-hour appointment with them to screen for delays or autism.

What strikes me is that Buddy is a good kid, and when you look at him, play with him, you don't notice anything wrong. At least not with an untrained eye. If he weren't in daycare, I never would have brought some of these issues to the pediatrician, and would not have had him evaluated for First Steps. If it weren't for the research study, I would not have any autism evaluation at 14 months. (BTW the normal wait time for this doc for an evaluation is 6 months!) As we're going through all this, I have to keep reminding myself that he is still the same Buddy he was before, and he is not defined by labels or problems.

We will be getting a lot of new information over the next month. I am a little nervous about what this will reveal, and hope it shows many good things about Buddy!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

How I Organize my Child’s Special Education file

After Buddy's initial meeting with First Steps, I had so much paperwork that I realized I needed to start getting it organized now. I had done special education advocacy in the past, so I know what might be important later (everything, if it goes to litigation) and what kinds of documents I would need. I also know how I wish clients had organized their child's file to make my life easier (and hopefully, save them some costs).

I am an office supply junkie, so I got some fancy file folders for this project. They are more expensive than the regular manila kind, but are heavy-duty and will hold very important documents. I wanted them to be attractive to encourage me to use them--and fancy folders are better for that. I bought a package of 6 folders, and when I got home, I labeled them:

  • Calendar/notices
  • Meeting Notes
  • Evaluations
  • Notice of rights/general information
  • IFSP (IEP for a child 3 or older)
  • Contacts
In the Calendar/Notices section, I put the initial "Welcome to First Steps" letter. I will use that folder for all notices (such as a meeting notice). I also have a small paper calendar I put in there to write down all appointments, contacts, visits, etc. THIS IS NOT MY REGULAR CALENDAR! This is a documentation calendar, where I am writing down only things that relate to Buddy's services and evaluations. This includes dates of service and how many minutes of service we got (according to me).

The Meeting Notes section is where I keep any notes I make of meetings, or any notes I receive from teachers regarding status and progress meetings.  I am not putting therapy notes in there, but will have them separate where I can access them easier.

The Evaluations section is just that: any formal or informal evaluation of Buddy goes into that section. These are VERY IMPORTANT. Meaning: if I did not keep everything else, this is one of the two things I would keep. 

The Notice of Rights section is where I am keeping all the handouts they give me that I don't bother looking at. Under IDEA, school administrators are required to give a lot of paper that explains the parents' rights, the program itself, why the sky is blue, and anything else related. Most of this I just skim, if I look at it at all. (If you are not familiar with special education law, however, I highly recommend you look at the notice of rights, and keep it in a safe place.) I wrote down the date I received each paper at the top right corner, and put it in the folder. I don't expect I will look at these again, but they're there if I need them.

The IFSP section is also self-explanatory: this is where I will keep my son's IFSP (or IEP for an older child). This is the second thing that is VERY IMPORTANT.

The Contacts section is for my information, my own address book. This is really the only thing I may regularly look up in the Special Education file once everything is up and running, and I should really keep this information elsewhere as well.

I do not have a folder for correspondence. Correspondence between parents and teachers can be extensive, especially for special education students. I will probably do most correspondence via e-mail, and will then store those on my computer. Much of the necessary correspondence for this file belongs in the calendar/notices section, and I will print out notices to put in that folder.

Is this how you created your child's special education file? What do you do differently? Do you have any other recommendations?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Organizing the Special Education File: Why to start early

I'm starting to organize my child's special education file. As a parent with ADD, I know I need to start the organization process early, before it becomes overwhelming. I also know that, for me, it's more important that I have a system and stick with it than that I find the "perfect" system.

As an attorney and advocate, I know the importance of documentation and record-keeping. DH will be upset at me for thinking this far ahead – he says I jump to the worst-case scenario. I, however, would rather be prepared, and I don't think this is the same as expecting the worst. I have experience preparing for due process hearings and helping parents when things go south. The special education file is very large by this time, and preparing the paperwork can be a nightmare! I wish that this would not happen to any family, and I do not expect it to happen to mine. However, I want the special education file to be in order so that, if we should need it, it will be accessible in a format we need it later.

The final reason I want to organize the special education file is for my son. As a child, I did not fully realize I was receiving special education services. I did not know, or care, what my IEP was at the time; it was just part of growing up. When I was an adult and trying to figure myself out better, I went back to these old records. Reading the old IEPs and notes helped me to understand what therapies I needed at the time, and what accommodations I need now to function. My son may or may not want these notes, but that will be his choice when he grows up.

Next post: How I am organizing the Special Education File