Sunday, October 5, 2008

The New School Year

Its already been over 1 month since the start of the new school year. It has been an unusually busy month filled with more than our normal amount of Dr. visits, therapy sessions, among other appointments, so it has been a very stressful and "living by the seat of our pants" kind of lifestyle which is not the best environment for families with special needs.

We heard right before school started from more than a couple people that Ryan's teacher was tough and not the "warm and fuzzy type" which flew me into a small panic. I thought to myself, do they not know that I have a son with a developmental delay that needs his teacher to make learning fun and patient and to be at times "warm and fuzzy"?. I was and have been not so impressed so far with her. Don't get me wrong, she is a very organized, good at letting the kids know her expectations, very smart, keeps her cool under stress, and a lot of other postive traits I would hope for in a teacher. She would in fact be the type of teacher that I would want for my older son. But I fear she may not be what my son Ryan needs. I don't know how much experience she has with special needs and am curious about that. I am also not sure how I feel about the fact that she has a student teacher in the classroom. Yes, its an extra set of hands and all that, but again I wonder how she will handle someone like Ryan. My son is easy to overlook in a classroom - he has a delay, but for the most part he has never been the disrupptive type - he will just tune out so unless you are paying very close attention, you will not notice my son is not engaged, not know that he is not engaged and missing valuable class lessons.

So far the year seems to be going ok despite my reservations about the teacher. He seems to be making good progress, so maybe this is the type of learning style he needs. It is so hard to measure his progress though as his goals are so general and I still am not sure how and where they are adjusting things to fit him with his delay. He doesn't have a type of disablility that is more concrete and more obvious like down syndrome. Unless I tell you that my son has a developmental delay, you would not know. Even after I tell you, you will find it hard to see. So it fills me with worry that the teachers will not make adjustments, and accomodations and set reasonable goals for him as he seems so much like every other kid in the class. We have been fortunate to have had great support and good teachers at the Pre-school and kindergarten level. 1st grade has been such an abrupt change transitioning from kindergarten and a couple of hours of summer school this summer into the tough curriculum of 1st grade with so much more expected academically and socially and with more assignments, and also the longer school day, plus mostly all new kids that he is meeting, new teacher and new services coordinator. He tells me it is so hard to get "Super Day" stickers. Every kid in the class will come home each day with either a super day sticker or a Little Lily note (A little paper saying the child had a bad day but tomorrow will be better). For the first 2 weeks, we got "Super Day" stickers every day. I was happy but also waiting for the shoe to drop. I had seen this last year too - the "homeymoon phase" of the start of school. Now at least half the days we get the Little Lilly paper and have even gotten an "OOPS" page (more severe than a Little Lilly paper).
I had emailed the services coordinator and cc'd the teacher (a long email that took over 45 mins to put together) and the teacher a couple of days into the school year introducing myself and my son and giving them insight ainto what I thought might be helpful information. His teacher from last year is on maternity, and his services coordinator left - so other than the IEP evaluation, there was not much information for them figure out how to motivate and deal with my son and his specific needs. The teacher never even acknowledged getting the email (although she was only cc'd on it, I would lhave expected her to at least say thank you for your email!), and so right from the start my worry and concern started . I requested a phone conference a couple of weeks ago and during the phone conference mostly what I heard was that Ryan was doing fine. They didn't see any problems with him. I was also told I had been doing too much homework with him (yes, it does seem a lot for 1st grade as it takes him so much longer to do most homework, but if we don't then does he get more behind??) Now weeks later we are seeing the newness of the school year wear off and see him getting frustrated with his homework and also getting more little Lily slips. Recently we got mid quarter progress reports and it was filled with check marks - things needing work or improvement. And so again I wonder, are they keeping in mind that he is delayed and his goals are supposed to be adjusted! This teacher of his who has years of teaching experience and who is proud to say has one son going into law school and another very academically accomplished - can she really be able to get through to my son to motivate him to make him want to learn and excel and give him self confidence and praise when he does well - that is what I believe he needs. She is definitely a no-nonsense teacher and I am sure she kows her stuff, but I just don't find her very personable and I don't feel like we are a "team" so to speak as I have felt that in the past with other teachers/aides/ services coordinator.
With all of dr appts with Trevor, therapists, and trying to make sure Stephen gets our attention with homework and Cub scouts, we find it hard to get time in the day for all the boys and it makes me feel like I fail at least one of them in some way each day!
I have been proud of Ryan and can see such growth in his phonics/reading and counting and we have worked very hard over the summer trying to get the phone number and address memorized (which unfortunately is still not memorized). Of course I still worry that he will not make up ground fast enough and continue to get further and further behind. At times he shows us great intelligence and when he puts his mind to it can really figure things out -but staying focused and not getting distracted and completing a non-preferred activity is what keeps him from excelling. He does have great attributes and while he may not be head of the class academically, he is a wonderfully funny, sweet, friendly little guy. I just hope that the teacher will show me she is committed to making sure my son gets the support he needs to do well this school year.

Stephen's start to the 4th grade has been easy. He was happy to learn he had a male teacher, and he has a handful of friends from last year (some of his best buds in his class). I am glad that he will not be coming home every day saying he hates school (he had a teacher that yelled a lot a couple of years ago and he did not enjoy school at all back then). Stephen is such a smart kid, but I have to admit lazy. He is not one to go the extra mile, never one to do extra homework. He wants to do as little work as possible. He is very bright, but also shy and sensative. Despite being shy and sensative, he has lots of friends and does well in school. He keeps getting the alternate words for spelling (I admit I wish he would get the regular list once in a while to make studying for the spelling test a breeze once in a while). He seems to get math very intuitively - he can't tell you how he got the answer, but he gets the answer. We recently got his ISAT test scores and I am blown away at his math score and his scores in general. Yet, he is not in accelerated math. He does great in Math, but didn't score quite high enough in whatever testing they do for the accelerated math program (personally I think he sometimes just cracks under pressure and rushes through some of those timed tests so I don't think it always neccesarily will really show what he knows. Sometimes he may do well on them, other times he doesn't as he has been known to skip a whole page on a test and forget to go back to it and fill it in before he rushes to hand it in). I was fine with him being in the regular math - he is not bored and I'd rather have him get an A in regular math and feel good about math then have him in Accelerated struggling and feeling so much pressure to try to learn it (he is very sensative and gets very upset if he feels other students are getting things so much easier than he is). While I have been happy that Stephen is doing well, I also have some concern if his teacher is a good match for him. The teacher is a nice enough guy, maybe too nice. He is very talkative and open and it seems to make the kids feel like he is one of them. This is great in that my son seems to enjoy school, but because I know Stephen's temperment, I worry that my son who will always do as little as possible will see this teacher as a friend and not feel he has to try as hard and will not push himself to do his best work (as I mentioned he is a bit lazy with school work and sometimes rushes through assignments just to get them done). His progress report was good. They tell you in each subject what category your child is in the A/B catergory, the C category or below and I am happy to report he is getting all A's and B's at this point (and hopefully mostly A's like last year)

So I have to say this school year so far with the teachers and the cirriculum the jury is out as far as I am concerned. Am I expecting too much from Ryan's teacher, I don't know. I do know he had excellent teachers and support last year - maybe they did over and above what would be expected and this one is just what I would normally get. And, kindergarten doesn't have as much information and expectations as 1st grade. I do know that being Ryans mom - a mom to a kid with an IEP, I am going to be his strongest asset, his biggest fan, his biggest ally and so they better used to me asking tough questions, always wanting and needing to know more about how he is doing and making sure they have set the right goals for him!

So, tomorrow is another school day, but for now its the weekend and I am hopefully going to enjoy it with my boys before we have to think about school!

Books I have read

  • Friday Night knitting Club
  • The tale of Edgar Sawtelle
  • Island of Lost Girls
  • The Prizewinner of Defiance Ohio
  • Nineteen Minutes
  • Kite Runner
  • Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons