Parents are their children’s first teachers. I took this seriously and began teaching and reading to my children as soon as they left the womb. I just didn’t expect to be still doing it 27 years out. I’m talking about teaching here, not guiding or offering advice. I mean helping my daughter read her mail, or better yet, making sure she doesn’t throw away her important mail claiming it is only credit card applications. Spelling words for her so that she can fill out applications and inspecting the checks she writes to be sure they are properly written. But I didn’t start this until Marie graduated high school and junior college. Before that, it was enough to get her through the academics.
I believe that homework is a necessary part of any education, but it can become exhausting with a special needs student in the house.
In elementary school, the dining room table was always a mass of folded or spindled or torn papers. Pencils, erasers, and erasable pens, rulers and homework planners, workbooks and textbooks were scattered everywhere. That was where five children accomplished their nightly homework. Well, most of the children. Marie would leave the table with the rest of them, but she wasn’t finished. I would sit by this chaos closing my eyes and rubbing my forehead, as if it could all disappear and I could have some free time.
I would sigh and reach for another cup of tea. Marie’s the oldest, yet academic work is difficult for her. And, she’s a hurrier. In elementary school, Marie would look at a paper and decide she knew what to do. From my relentless “Read the directions first!” sometimes she’d look at the first word—or even the first letter—and plug in whatever word happened to be in her head. She just wanted to say she was done, like the other children.
But she’s not like the other children. She needed reinforcement and repetition. And this all took time—endless hours of correcting, reading, and explaining again and again. Downtime that I could have spent enjoying the children, playing a game with them or going for a walk. Quiet time reading a book of MY choosing, or spending time with my husband. Visiting friends or shopping in peace. But at my house, at that time, the world revolved around Marie and her education.
A tiny burger sizzles over the pilot light of the stove. I’m a chef frying up a mini burger for my baby doll, Sheila. A cake is baking for dessert in the Easy Bake Oven. Our family dog, Nicky, stands by hoping he’ll get to dine with Sheila. Nicky looks up at me expectantly licking his chops; I agree this burger is taking too long. As I turn the knob on the stove, the blue flame bursts out under the pan, and the burger cooks faster spitting oil at me. A few moments later, I hear big footsteps coming toward the kitchen; I quickly turn the gas off. My dad enters the kitchen.
“You turn the gas on?” My dad peers over my shoulder at my mini burger.
“No,” I lie.
“I smell it. Keep the gas off.” Big footsteps walk away back into the living room.
So your ETL, forgets his homework – more than a few times. Should you help him organize his locker? Email teachers and ask for assignments to be sent to you? Check agenda for fourth time?
Or, there’s problems with friends. Should you check Face Book to see what’s going on? Should you call parents?
Even worse, your ETL is an adolescent and finds himself in trouble with the law. Should you help him get a lawyer? Should you help navigate the consequences or help with fines? Continue reading
Liam is a spirited child, always has been and always will be. I’ve listened to other people who’ve had the responsibility, and what should have been the privilege, of educating and caring for my son voice their complaints about his unruly and uncooperative behavior. At first it felt hurtful to only hear the negatives. I knew how smart he was and how sensitive.
If you couldn’t keep up with him or if your patience was low that day, you were in for a miserable experience. He was full of energy at all times, I think even while he was sleeping! Add him to a group of other little kids and his energy would only increase. By the end of kindergarten, he was extremely frustrated in school. Still, I knew about those small moments of joy when he felt happy or really engaged in constructive learning and playtime.
I read recently somewhere that first born boys end up with two-thirds of the toxins from their mothers in utero. Toxins like lead and mercury that can affect that boy’s behavior later on. A boy like my first born son, Liam. Was this the cause of his hyperactivity, or was it something else, or a combination of a bunch of other things? Was it his diet, inferior social skills, a cry for attention, allergies, bad parenting, asthma, food intolerances, autism, lack of structure at home, sensory issues or ADHD? What else was there? I didn’t know, but I was determined to find out.
Since Liam’s first month at preschool, I have been on a search for answers. I needed information from our pediatrician and advice of friends. I needed support from my husband and family to find ways to help Liam. I scoured books and websites that offered tips, and even researched scientific data for real evidence-based explanations. I don’t have all my answers yet, but I’m learning as I go like all parents! It’s certainly been a roller coaster ride, but sometimes it’s smooth sailing, albeit rarely. I will cherish those rare but rewarding moments because Liam is the kind of kid who’s so easy to love but hard to raise!
Today I taught a class on d.i.y. publishing. While you all probably know that I edited and contributed to Easy to Love but Hard to Raise, you may not know that I published the book through my small publishing company, DRT Press, which I started in 2003. I now have 5 books under my belt (3 successful, one so-so, and one a terrible flop), 2 more to come out this year, and 3 more in the works. So yes, people sometimes come to the workshops I have on how they can publish books of their own.
Anyway, at the workshop I was talking about how many, many hours I’ve put into marketing Easy to Love but Hard to Raise and one of the participants asked me how much money I estimate I’ve made per hour when all was said and done and I QUICKLY said I don’t want to do the math because it would be pennies…but two minutes later I was showing them this blog and the Facebook page and I saw the number 4999 and I REMEMBERED: It’s not the money. It’s the community. Because while yes, of course we created a book to make money, the added, spectacular bonus that has come from the book and the blog is knowing that ALL OF YOU are out there! Every single day someone writes and says ‘thank you for what you do.’ EVERY DAY.
So, in honor of that 4999 turning to 5000 connections, I want to give something back. And what I have to give are books! Yay, books! I will mail out 5! So enter. You’ll probably win!
Here’s how it will work. YOU will comment on this blog post and tell us one great thing that being part of our community has done for you. Include your email address – it’s ok to say adrienne (at) whatever.com if you are worried about spammers but you have to put an email address or I have no way to contact you. To win you also have to be part of our Facebook community – so if you’re coming at this give-away another way, be sure to hop on over there and LIKE us.
And that’s it! I’ll give a book away every day this week, starting tomorrow the 29th.
Love you! ~Adrienne
Thought I might share some experiences with FCAT testing. I am the reading coach at my elementary school and I hate the formalized testing that we put the kids through. Even with modifications, it is a torturous time for kids. It is difficult for us adults, so I can imagine how they feel. Today I was the test administrator for a class of fifth grade students. They all know the importance of these tests and their behavior and demeanor reflected it during the testing time. They were focused.
To add some more difficulty to the stressful time, it was the first time that the kids have taken the test online, a fact that made me as nervous as they were. I was afraid I might mess up the whole computer system.
Hey – we’re looking for parent-writers to contribute regularly to Easy to Love but Hard to Raise! Our current set of dedicated contributors has hit the wall – call it blogger fatigue, call it writer’s block, call it LIFE, but many of our original writers have decided they need a break from our wonderful spot on the cloud, so we’re looking for new voices to add to our roster.
New blog contributors should be caring for a child (or children) – of any age – who is easy to love but hard to raise. You can be anywhere in your parenting journey: your kiddo can be newly diagnosed, you can be in the thick of the teen years, or you can be looking back with the experience (or exhaustion) of someone who has been there and done that!
You do not have to be a professional writer to contribute. We value authenticity and truth. Stories and anecdotes about your life as a parent are most welcome. Easy to Love but Hard to Raise is not a place for “expert” advice, judgement, or preachiness. Our contributors write about what they did as opposed to what you should be doing. Above all, it’s the experience of parenting that we’re most interested in. Our readers come to us because they want to know they’re not alone.
If you would like to contribute to Easy to Love but Hard to Raise, please email Adrienne at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include a sample blog (previously published blog posts will work just fine!) and a short explanation of your child’s special need, how old your child is, and any other information about your unique perspective that you can offer. You need to be able to commit to at least one blog post a month,
A couple of months ago I gave a presentation for people who are training to become special education teachers and to prepare, I asked the parents on the Easy to Love Facebook page what advice they’d give these future teachers. The advice they gave was spot-on – not just for people training to work with kids specifically designated “exceptional,” but for ALL teachers, since most of our kids are mainstreamed.
Here’s the advice. It’s wonderful. Pass it around. Link to it. Print it out. Share.
- Children with “invisible” special needs, like ADHD, PDD, SPD, PBD, FASD, OCD, Anxiety, ODD, Autism, Asperger’s, and many others manifest their disabilities behaviorally. It is EASY to blame the parents for these behavioral problems. It is ACCURATE to see these behaviors as a result of their brain dysfunction.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate. Communicate! We can’t help if we don’t know what’s going on.
- On the flip side, if we over-communicate, cut us some slack. We are not helicopter moms, we are experts in our own children’s special needs. They, and we, are often misinterpreted and we’ve found that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Let us squeak! It’s not nosiness. It’s not pestering. Really, most days, we would much rather say “It’s your school, you handle it, don’t call me”– but we want our kids to be successful. Which means being their best advocates. Which means we call or email as much as is necessary. Continue reading
Marty the Panther welcomes the children to MES
The Other Side of the Gate
I know how frustrating it can be when dealing with an ETL and the school system. I have seen the process from both sides of the schoolyard gates. I am the Reading Coach at Margate Elementary in Broward County, Fl. I am also an ADHD advocate, parent and teacher who deals with ETL kids on a minute-to-minute basis. All of this experience gives me a bird’s eye view of what’s happening with our kids.
My day is a variety of school activities, from working with small groups of struggling readers, conferencing with parents and helping out with discipline and positive reward systems. I know every ETL child in our school of 900, some very well.
We have a comprehensive program in place for these kids but still have many issues on a day to day basis. School begins at 8:00 and our first behavior code is usually at about 8:05. So we are off and running. We have 5 adults who take turns responding to behavior codes if a child is likely to hurt themselves or others. We retrieve children who have left classrooms without permission. We separate children who need to be separated, we talk to kids about their anger issues, we try to provide a safe yet structured environment for these kids for whom school is so challenging.
Despite ongoing training, we don’t always have the answers. What we have is time, concern, love and empathy for their struggles. I have called parents for advice, asking them, “What do you do?” My office always has 1 or 2 children in it, working, taking time out, talking with me, crying, and occasionally having a tantrum.
Sometimes they just need somewhere to go. Sometimes they have had a remarkable day and get to pick out of the principal’s treasure box, or call home to tell the good news. My office revolves around these kids daily.
There are times when my whole day is spent working with ETL kids, their teachers, and their parents. Paperwork I never finish is lugged home, because let’s face it, it can be done later. Kids are immediate priorities.
I meet every week with the RTI (Response) team. We meet with teachers and parents to discuss current interventions and how they are working. We put new interventions in place and follow up on their success. A coach is assigned to each case to help the teacher with what needs to be done. Some children are tested for learning disabilities if interventions prove to be insufficient.
We also work very hard to promote success. Teachers have been trained to be proactive so as to prevent future problems. Children are placed in classrooms where they will be deemed to be most successful. If their environment is not a good fit, another class is tried and many times this helps a lot.
Our Positive Behavior program is very effective. Selected children (K-5) are put on a contract each school day. Their goal is to earn 10 tickets per day. At 1:00 PM they come down to the Positive Behavior Room with their tickets and a work folder. If they have 10 tickets we celebrate! High five, mark it on their chart and they choose an activity. (reading, board games, legos, handheld video games and video games on the TV. Also air hockey.) If they have less than 10 tickets we talk about their day. They must complete some activities that the teacher has provided before they can play. So if they have 7-9 points it is pretty easy for them to earn points. Once they finish their work they get to play. Children with no points do not get to play that day. At times, we have had to move them to a different class away from the others. At the end of the 45 minutes, dismissal time, children who had 10 tickets get a special reward. They all get a snack for appropriate behavior in the group. There are celebrations for highest number of points in a week and then a monthly award.
We have seen a huge turn around in the kids involved in our program. Teachers report that the point system is working great for them. Of course, we are still struggling with transition times such as during special classes and lunch. But it’s a start!
We feel many of the same frustrations that parents do. What works one day does not work the next and so on. What we hold dear, is the parents who are trying so hard and who show us that we are all on the same page together in trying to provide the very best education for our kids.
Grief is a great, big monster that jumps out from under the bed and scares the living crap out of you. You don’t see it hiding under there, even if his large, hairy, zombie toe was sticking out just a little. Even if a ghoul straight out of the Thriller movie was in your closet when you opened it up before bed. You ignored it. You’re just not ready, and I am talking about how we adults process and handle grief.
Imagine someone taking your 8 year-old, ADHD world by a string and giving a violent shake and bouncing down the stairs. That’s what happened to our son when my father, his beloved Papa, was diagnosed with stage four glyoblastoma brain cancer and died (what seemed like seconds) 5 weeks later, in November 2011. Continue reading