Saturday, March 27, 2010

Step Two

Ever since E was about 2, I've known something was not quite right. Even though his sister was similarly slow to speak, E seemed a little slower, and I had him evaluated by the Early Intervention team in my area. They felt he was just within the borderline of acceptable speech. They were impressed by his obvious intelligence, though.

At his 4th and 5th year appointments, I brought up his behavioral issues with his pediatrician. I forget when I talked about "Oppositional Defiant Disorder" with him, but he reassured me that wasn't it. I eventually got a referral for a child psychologist and took E to him to get assessed for sensory issues. The psych was noncommittal. Felt like a waste of my time.

It was his first grade teacher who raised the issue of autistic behaviors. We met with the special ed team, who had him evaluated by the OT. They weren't convinced there was anything particularly needed, but they gave him small group social skills instruction.

Thanks to a parenting list friend who has a profoundly gifted daughter, I was informed about the twice-exceptional child, the child who is both gifted and has some sort of neurological deficit. She was the one who told me that I had one of the nation's experts in 2e kids right in my backyard. We saw this psychologist and got a comprehensive evaluation. This was Step One. She diagnosed E as having Asperger's and some ADHD. However, we only just got her full report and recommendations a few weeks ago.

I took Step Two: I e-mailed the school to ask for a meeting to determine eligibility for Eric to receive special ed services. We met yesterday, and they made it pretty clear they think he is not eligible because he is making effective progress. We refused to sign off yesterday and requested time to discuss it further.

So we contemplate Step Three: the appeal. And I am not looking forward to it.

I also have 8 weeks left in my academic year. I am teaching 6 separate class, the equivalent of 4.5 classes (3 are half-classes), and I have 4 different preps. It's time for the year-end evaluations, so I have to compile the narrative of my year, and I have more meetings to attend than I can deal with. I'm co-leading an inservice on technology this week, and I should be preparing for that now. My daughter had a dance competition last weekend and will have another in 3 weeks, and in June she has a recital.

The next time I go to the doctor (in June), my blood pressure had better be within range or my doctor will be making noises about my going on BP meds. I don't see how that's going to happen if I'm stressed like this. :( However, the good news is that our daffodils are blooming already here in New England:

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Central Falls

Disclosure: the husband of one of my good friends works in the Central Falls schools but was not someone who was fired.

I could not be more appalled by the firing of the teachers at the Central Falls HS, and I am even more appalled by the so-called reformists who think it's a good idea.

There is no question that the CF HS is having difficulties. It's a dropout factory. It's a difficult school to teach at. The kids do not achieve. But firing all the teachers is not the answer, and it's stupid for anyone to think it is. This is about UNION-BUSTING, not about improving the schools.

In order to understand this situation, you must look at the cause of the situation. The teachers were not fired because they were BAD teachers. If they were fired because they were BAD teachers, if that were superintendent Frances Gallo's reason for firing them, then we could have a discussion about whether this is really school reform.

No, they were fired because they refused to work more hours for less money. That makes this a MONEY issue. The job of the teacher's union is to ensure that the teachers are compensated appropriately for their work.

If Gallo had the money to pay the teachers to do these things, the reforms would happen. This is not an issue of the teachers refusing to try anything new. It's an issue of COMPENSATION.

This is what is at stake.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

AS and Travel

We love to travel. I was 6 months pregnant with my first child when I went to Paris (which I knew would be my last trip for many years). Now that the kids are 10 and 7, we've been traveling much more. In the past year or two, we've been to Florida (Disney), Seattle/Portland, San Diego, Washington DC, and as of this week, San Francisco.

The kids are pretty good travelers. On the plane, they bring books, puzzles, and toys and look out the window. We always fly Southwest, which has no tvs or in-plane movies. My husband usually brings his laptop, but they never seem to sit and watch it.

However, my son (who has AS) finds his traveling complicated by his allergies. Very often, a plane trip will result in an allergy attack (dust mites?). We bring Benedryl on the plane to protect against such events.

This trip, he needed a few doses of Benedryl and continued to be congested through much of the first few days of the trip. We also had jet lag and were tired. For the first two days in SF, he was quite difficult. The way it manifested was verbal. He doesn't have Tourette's, I think, because his vocalizations aren't tic-like. But he can start talking/making noise in the most disruptive way possible, usually by some kind of perseveration. He will repeat things again and again. Not single words, but phrases. And there's a kind of verbal aggressiveness to it, as if he is using his vocalizing to assert his power. He's not necessarily loud; he just speaks again and again.

On Monday, he had a dollar that my husband had given him (the Southwest in-flight magazine has an activity on folding dollar bills into origami shapes). E got obsessed with the idea of finding a vending machine so he could buy a snack. Again and again and again he told us he wanted to find a snack machine. Finally, my 10 year old daughter had had enough. "Did you say smack machine?" she said. And she smacked him. (ETA: Playfully! And later, she only pretended to.)

I was aggravated, but she wouldn't stop. So every time he mentioned the snack machine, she would say "Did you say smack machine?"

Then a strange thing happened. It started to become ... funny. So much so that even on the plan trip home, we were still cracking each other up over the "smack machine."

Maybe it was getting some more sleep, but by Tuesday, he had calmed down and was not so perseverative. That was a relief.

Wednesday, the Exploratorium was a big hit with the kids (I would have preferred the California Academy of Sciences, but in the end, the Exploratorium was free on Wednesday, which made it a better deal. I had a backup plan to escape to the CAS if it was too crowded at the Exploratorium, but we didn't need it.)

The Exploratorium has an exhibit on seeing. One of the parts of the exhibit involved large poster boards with similar items on it, like 100 Es and Rs. One of the Rs was in a different font. There were about 6 posters like this; one had about 100 small pics, 99 of which were dogs and 1 of which was a cat. Or they were all pointing one way except for one. It was an exercise to show how hard it is to perceive minor differences.

E went up to it, crossed in front of some people viewing it, and said "Oh, this is easy!" and proceeded to identify every single one of the differences almost immediately. The other people viewing the exhibit were amazed. I wanted to say "That's the Asperger's."

In another exhibit, he did a nice job of identifying the emotions expressed by eyes (the eyes only are shown, and the viewer must identify the emotions the face is expressing). However, he didn't do a very good job of distinguishing between fake smiles and real smiles.

And lastly, in a Free-Range Parenting moment, our first morning there, we went to Fort Point. The kids played along the water's edge as the rough surf splashed onto the walkway/roadway. At one point, one of the passersby said to me, "You must really love your kids" in a sarcastic voice. Well, yes, yes, I do. I love them enough not to treat them like fragile snowflakes. Did they get wet? Sure. Did they get sick? No (well, Eric had an asthma attack, but that was from all the running around). Did they get washed into the surf? No--I was watching them closely. I can't stand assholes who feel the need to comment on my parenting.