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The Next Thing

 

After muddling through six years of public school, advocating for services, collaborating (and occasionally arguing) with school staff, stressing out every time the school number appears on the caller ID (what happened NOW?) we’ve finally decided to Give Up.

We used every resource we could find. Brought every possible idea to the table. Suggested successful methods tried by other parents.

Although we have done everything within our power, both kids’ performance and behavior at school has continued to tank.

He doesn’t want to interact with other kids and attempts to get suspended so he can come home.

She’s failing on purpose because she “gets more attention for a failing grade than a passing grade.” (Not kidding. Parenting a kid with RAD is the equivalent of standing on your head and reading backwards. Toss out everything you know about parenting.)

Finally, we’ve reached the last straw. I am going to try the only thing left in my arsenal.

Next school year, I’m going to let Hubby sleep with the teacher. 

No, really.

Because this fall, the teacher will be me.

We give up trying to get our boy to mold his Autistic behind into a hard plastic classroom seat.

We give up cajoling our girl to perform in a classroom, when the attention she craves is ours.

We give up what we’ve held tight for so long.

We empty our hands, holding them open to grasp the next thing.

We are going to home school.

Having been home schooled myself for almost a decade, I think I have a pretty good handle on the realities of home schooling. I’m under no illusions.

Here’s how I would like to imagine our year will go:

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Photo Credit: Susy Morris

But I’m fully aware that this is much more likely:

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Photo Credit: Astrid Budi

It won’t be easy, and some days may not be much fun. In the long run, though, it’s what they need.

And somehow, I’m really looking forward to finding the best ways to help them learn. Researching learning resources is becoming something of an obsession.

Plus, I get to sleep with the Principal.

 

 

 

Today, I Feel…SPECIAL!

I had questions about knitting and crocheting, and CurvyLou WROTE A POST for me! She also said some incredibly nice things about my blog.

You should check it out…and not just because she linked me. This woman is genius.

Even if you don’t plan to knit or crochet, her information is super cool, as are the pictures. You will feel your brain expanding with new information. This is why we blog, people.

Click below. Now. I’m not going to tell you again.

(Sorry, I’ve been dealing with “I-told-you-to-do-that-fifteen-minutes-ago-do-it-right-now-I-mean-it” all evening. Let me rephrase.)

Please click the link below. You’re gonna love it. I promise.*

http://curvylouise.wordpress.com/2015/03/09/some-call-it-cheatin/#comment-115

*Of course, if you don’t, you can’t sue me since I’m not selling anything. Just for the record. 

Adoption = Reading

This is a reply I posted to an adoptive parent on Reddit whose child is having reading struggles. I realized it might be helpful to some of my WP readers. I apologize…I didn’t make it pretty (spare time is all going to NaNoWriMo this month). 

Our guy was reading at a pre-k level going into 2nd and at a K level at end of 2nd. Our girl was reading around 1st grade level in 2nd.

Here’s the nutshell of what worked for us: Everyone says to let your kids see you read, but I just don’t have time to sit down. Instead, I talk all the time about reading. “Books are awesome; you can find anything you want to know…” “Do you know what I read the other day?” They don’t see me reading, generally, but they know I do it. They also know that when I have my earbuds in, I’m listening to ‘one of Mama’s stories.'” Sometimes I download books (Bunnicula is a favorite, even for the adults) and we listen in the car.

Over the summer, we checked out books at the library. I let them pick whatever they wanted, five books each per week. She mostly got pink story books; he chose information (SHARKS!) books. They read out loud to me in the car anytime we went anywhere, at least one book per day–in the case of the info books, he had to read for 15 minutes, since some of those are loooooooong. They didn’t like it at first and said they were carsick, etc. (to which I said, “prove it and barf” and they said never mind…thank goodness…). After a while, they got used to it.

Our rules: When they come to a word they don’t know, they need to try it first, then they can spell it to me (since I’m driving). I then help them break up the word by 2-3-or 4-letter chunks. They still have to figure it out, but I help with weird words (“that ‘c’ says ‘ess'” or “that ‘K’ is silent”).

They gave me a LOT of pushback, crying, complaining, etc. for the first month. Finally it subsided, and now they (mostly) just do it. It took 8 months, I won’t lie…it’s not a quick process.

I was concerned that he would have trouble with the info books because the words were bigger (true) but because he picked topics HE cared about, there was motivation.

Getting them to read is all about letting them read what interests them, and reading out loud (in my opinion) is key. Otherwise, you don’t really know that a) they’re actually reading and b) they’re reading correctly. Captain Underpants is not my idea of a great role model, but our guy loves the books, so I allow them. (Of course, there’s a common sense piece, here…I probably should not have been allowed to read Flowers in the Attic when I was ten, but no one really regulated my reading.)

Consider getting audiobooks (along with the written books) and having him listen/read. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t perk up at hearing, “let me tell you a story. Long ago and far away…” Read to the whole family at dinner. I understand that mine are younger, but they still rolled their eyes when I pulled out my ancient copy of Little House on the Prairie. Three months in (I read maybe three pages on sporadic days), they say, “can you read tonight?”

After much struggle and continued practice, our guy returned to school this fall reading AT THIRD GRADE LEVEL. I have never been prouder, truly. (I’m not sure about our girl’s level because they didn’t give her the same test, but she definitely improved also).

I hope some of this works for you. I imagine it’s even harder when they’re older. I can tell you though, the “find their interest” thing works. Good luck!!!

Adoption = Advocacy (Chapter 3: How to Open a Can of Whoop-***)

“You have to consider the source,” opined our social worker. “I mean, the parents didn’t finish school, and obviously their IQs were not…great…so, you really can’t expect much out of these kids. If they graduate high school, you should be celebrating. They will probably never make Cs, much less As and Bs. Lower your expectations and everyone will be happier.”

Our less-than-stellar social worker made this statement when I voiced my concerns about our foster kids’ lack of academic progress. Yes, REALLY.

It’s a prime example of why we should have had a liaison. Unfortunately, we didn’t know enough to ask for one.

Learn from our mistake…even if DSS says, “Sure, you can work directly with us,” find someone to fight for you and the child. You don’t have to go through the expense of an agency–there are non-profits and even court-appointed guardians willing to help. Google “liaison for foster families” and you’ll get “About 368,000 results (0.32 seconds).

If you’re hard-headed (or naive) like me and plan to be your own advocate, prepare yourself for battling burned out/soon-retiring social workers, having sleepless nights and finding steel-gray hairs multiplying on your noggin like rabbits on Cialis.

(I must note here, not all DSS workers are awful. After 1.5 years, a new social worker took over our file. I’m pretty sure she was an angel. I’m also sure that if we’d had her from the beginning, our 2-year adoption process would have taken closer to 6 months, but that’s another story.)

For MONTHS, I petitioned (read: nagged) DSS. The kids needed extra help, for the following reasons:

1. The background paperwork noted that when he was 3 years of age, our 5 year old foster son utilized only ten words; all other communication was non-verbal. Although he’d made progress in two years, his vocabulary was still very limited. He screamed a lot.

2. Our foster daughter, 7, could barely read three-letter words and could not do simple math.

3. Our foster son, 5, could not read ANYTHING and did not even know the entire alphabet. I tried the “let’s think of a word for each letter” approach and found that he did, in fact, know multiple curse words for each of the letters A, B, D, F and G.

4. Both kiddos were failing (Kindergarten and First Grade) across the board. The girl was unable to do the work or focus; the boy’s behavior and inability to focus prevented any learning.

We felt these were legitimate concerns. Our social worker was not inclined to agree.

Something had to change, and it wasn’t our opinion that every kid should have a chance to excel.

At that point, I was clueless. No idea what services were available. Who to ask. Where to look. Google became my best friend. Here’s what I learned from GTE (Google, Trial & Error).

If your adopted or foster child is having trouble in school, he or she probably needs an IEP, or Individualized Education Program, as soon as possible.

Do not pass go, do not collect stipend dollars–march your frazzle directly to the school office and ask what the IEP process is. (It usually takes at least a month to get the ball rolling. You can give that ball a bounce by having a psych/educational evaluation done by an outside professional. Ask your pediatrician to recommend a child psychologist.)

After multiple DSS absences during IEP meetings, the frustrated school principal began faxing paperwork to the social worker. I pestered the mess out of DSS until they faxed the papers back. Both children were approved for IEP and began receiving extra help in reading and math. Results were not immediate, but we began to see steady changes. 2.5 years later, we see HUGE improvement in both academic and behavioral areas.

Don’t be afraid to advocate for your child. Even if you haven’t adopted them yet (and even if that’s not in the plan), YOU are still the one adult who can make a difference. The social worker does not see the child in day-to-day activity. She’s not directly involved in homework frustrations. Not getting “the look” from a very concerned teacher. Not dealing with the irate bus driver. Not driving to school, yet again, because your foster daughter punched some kid in the face.

YOU are the one saving this kid from disaster. Put on your grownup panties (or boxers) and DO IT.

To recap:

  1. Get a liaison.
  2. Don’t let DSS bully you. Feel free to bully DSS. In some cases, it’s the only way to get what your child needs.
  3. GET AN IEP. GET AN IEP. GET AN IEP. Foster kids are under-served by the system and their school careers are interrupted, usually many times. Very few won’t need an IEP.
  4. Be proactive. Don’t wait for the teacher’s concerned note. If your child is having problems academically or behaviorally, get help. Now.
  5. Bring out Mama (or Papa) Bear. No need to be afraid. Everyone should have the child’s best interest in mind. If they don’t, REMIND THEM.

Also, never let anyone talk you into lowering your expectations (unless you expect them to make A+ on everything…in which case, you just need to stop smoking the proverbial crack).

Foster kids fully receive and believe the message that they are “LESS”…less capable, less wanted, less intelligent, less loved. Expect their best from them and show them how to attain personal success. Be careful not to inadvertently communicate that you expect perfection. Keep in mind, improvement = success.

And if your social worker suggests that low IQ is hereditary, perhaps it would be okay to ask about their parents’ intelligence quotient.

“Wow. If parental IQ determines the child’s ability and intelligence, then your parents must have been REALLY stupid.”

That’s what I should have said.

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