Here’s the story: child, 8 years old, diagnosed ADHD and developmentally delayed/socially delayed, with up-to-date Occupational Therapy assessments stating small motor, trunk strength, and coordination deficits, as well as past diagnoses of SPD, ODD (although those behaviors are related to probably frustration at his limitations instead of him being just plain old oppositional), a recent IQ test stating that he has serious deficits in working memory and math, and a school history that includes In School Suspensions, a 504 plan, constant notes home to mom and dad about behavior, ways of dealing with behavior issues that included sitting him the corner, letting him play games and search randomly on the computer all day, having him “earn” rewards by staying on task in 15-minute increments, the inability to complete homework, the inability to demonstrate to mom, dad, and a neuropsychologist that he’s at the grade level that his teachers’ report him at, and day after day after day of screaming and tantruming and weeping after school in first couple months of each school year.
Whew! Take a breath, y’all. There’s more.
And when the parents request a meeting with the principal they are denied. And when they request an I.E.P. so their child can get some written-down accommodations that the school has to put into effect (because the 504 plan, although written down, seemingly has no real meaning to some of the teachers assigned to our child) it is denied.
Because once the I.E.P. is requested the daily notes about behavior stop coming home. And although yes, there is a medication change, our child’s behavioral change is ascribed to the behavior plan that lets him earn rewards by staying on task in 15 minute increments. And the teacher claims that our child – the child who had behavior notes sent home for 2 straight months, who cannot read at grade level when his mother (a teacher-librarian at another school) administers a reading test, cannot count money or tell time, and who did not do a single page of homework after November when his mother gave up fighting with him for 2 hours nightly – the teacher claims that this child had no behavior problems, is on grade level for reading and math (math that includes telling time and counting money), and has turned in every single homework assignment given to him.
Denied because they believe the teacher. Even though the notes and the assessments and the incomplete homework is produced. An ‘observation’ by another teacher is said to show no problems: (parents are promised copies of this but it’s never been sent.)
Teacher (and school) trumps parents. Teacher (and school) trumps experts. Teacher (and school) trumps doctors and OT. Teacher (and school) trumps all.
So the parents, who are sad and scared and freaked out and angry – so angry – do the only thing they can do: pray for a decent teacher next year. And they get one! Thank goodness! All that wheel squeaking amounted to something. But then… wonderful, calm, experienced, organized teacher is having difficulty. After about 4 weeks the honeymoon is over with the child. She puts him by himself in corner. She tries to make him behave using the 15-minute increment behavior plan. She starts allowing him to play war games on computer all day because it keeps him quiet. She notices he has problems, but there is only one of her and so many of them…
And so the social worker, who, bless his heart, is really only trying to help (we must still try to believe this: the goodheartedness of most people) comes up with a plan where the child will report to a nearly empty room every morning and “entertain” himself until his medication kicks in. Because that is what they’ve determined to be the problem: the child’s medication. Without it he is unable to stay seated and won’t follow directions. With it he can be persuaded to stay in the corner playing war games. Or maybe do a math worksheet or 2 in a very small group. After a day of this plan the child refuses to go to school. Refuses. Runs away when it’s time to leave. And the day after that he makes himself vomit so he won’t have to go and sit in that room and face the wall.
So parents once again panic and double the meds (with doctor’s permission). They start getting up at 5 a.m. to give him the highest possible dose of medication possible…which is repeated at school a second time. This results in 5 pounds on an already underweight boy lost in 5 weeks, 4 vomiting sessions, and a tweaked-out, freaked out zombie of a child.
(image by flickr user: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cogdog/)