Invisible Disabilities

There are certain Special Needs parents and caregivers who seem to be able to find each other anywhere.

Like members of a secret Order, we recognize the signs and spot each other from across parks, in restaurants, in the workplace, or at birthday parties.

These particular caregivers have children with “invisible” disabilities, the ones that are not immediately apparent to the uninitiated public. When others see these children, they may be quick to pass judgment on the parent. “Why can’t you manage your child?” they ask, and then generally launch into a diatribe about the state of parenting today and what happened or never happened in “their day.”

But, we, the experienced, can recognize you a mile away. We see the stress lines on your face. We feel your anxiety rise along with the volume level of your child’s voice. The apologetic smile that you’ve grown accustomed to displaying when you’re at your wits’ ends. The large bag you’re always toting around with distractions for your child, containing books, Legos, crayons, drawing books, a tablet PC, stress balls, an egg-timer, or all of the above.

According to the Invisible Disabilities Association (InvisibleDisabilities.org)

The term invisible disabilities refers to symptoms such as debilitating pain, fatigue, dizziness, weakness, cognitive dysfunctions, learning differences and mental disorders, as well as hearing and vision impairments.  These are not always obvious to the onlooker, but can sometimes or always limit daily activities, range from mild challenges to severe limitations and vary from person to person.

This past summer, I attended an outdoor barbecue and seated myself at the same table as a woman I’d just met. We started talking to each other when we discovered that our daughters shared the same name. As I observed her Alexis, mine was inside the house the entire time, not wanting to mingle with anyone. Hers would not leave her side. Within minutes into our conversation, we realized that they shared more than just a name. I observed that her daughter was very shy and withdrawn and didn’t want to play with anyone but the host’s daughter, her school friend. But this was not a normal type of shyness. There were so many children there, including my younger son, playing and interacting with other unfamiliar children.

I asked my new acquaintance if her daughter was on an IEP. Sure enough, this started a whole other series of conversation regarding our two girls. It turned out that they were alike in too many different ways. Both had social and communication deficits, both were very bright, but quite withdrawn. Seeing her daughter not wanting to play with anyone else but her one friend, reminded me of my daughter, who has decided not to make any new friends since her two best friends moved with their family to Colorado five years ago.

Our conversation continued for another two hours until it was time to leave.  She seemed relieved to be speaking to me, because I understood what she and her daughter were going through. She didn’t have to go into uncomfortable explanations to tell me what her daughter’s issues were, as we would with people who just don’t understand.

Whenever anyone asks me what my daughter has, I just say “All kinds of things.” That puzzles them for a while until I start giving them the list – hearing loss, language delays, social and communication problems, learning disabilities, etc.

Almost always, this is met by “Really? She looks so normal.”

I always tell them that I’m fully aware of that and that she is normal; just a bit atypical.

Irrational Fears and Anxiety

Fear - child

Last month, as my family prepared to attend a friend’s wedding, Alexis hung around, not wanting to leave. I asked her what was the matter.

“I’m afraid that the church for the wedding might burn down,” she replied.

“Why do you think the church is going to burn down?” I asked her. “Have you seen a building on fire recently?”

“No,” she replied, and still thinking about it, she said, “but I still think it might burn down.”

I sighed. Just when I think we’ve solved one issue, another one arises.

She couldn’t explain why but I could see the fear in her eyes and that she really didn’t want to go there. I spent the next five minutes or so explaining to her how unlikely it was that the church would burn down on the very day that we decided to go there. I tried to reassure her and allay her fears, even after we arrived at the venue. I just could not help thinking: where the heck did this new fear come from?

The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that 43 per cent of children ages 6 to 12 had many fears and concerns – fire, darkness, being left alone – but as they get older, these fears may increase and then decrease.  Sometimes, however, these fears persist and can develop into phobias. These strong and irrational fears can be debilitating and affect a child’s daily routine.

Alexis has had her share of irrational phobias in the past. For six months she had confidently managed the short walk from school to her after-school program, taking a short cut across the high school and neighborhood playground, as most of the other children did. Then one day, I received a call from her school that she was still in the building and didn’t want to leave. She thought she had heard a dog barking – didn’t see it – and had taken to hiding out in school. They tried to talk her through her fears, but she wouldn’t leave until someone from the program came over and escorted her there. Another day, I received a call from the school again. Alexis had made it halfway across to the after-school program and returned because she saw a small dog in someone’s car.  She was terrified and again someone had to go over to the school and escort her to the after-school program.

This was a great inconvenience, and it wasn’t before long that the after-school program was calling me to complain. Neither the program nor the school is set up to escort individual middle school kids back and forth. And I certainly could never leave work everyday to escort her across the field to her destination. Besides, that would be backtracking in her progress towards independence. So between myself and her Special Needs Liaison, we had several conversations with Alexis, explaining what was expected of her and the limitations of the program.

She had never had a bad experience with dogs before, but I knew she didn’t particularly like them. It seemed irrational for her to be completely frozen in fear because she thought she heard a dog barking. We had to get past this.

In the end, she was paired up with another child who was also going in the same direction. After several weeks, and lots more conversation, she finally ventured over by herself as she regained her confidence. She would call me each day before she left the school and after she arrived at the facility.

These days, she manages the afternoon trip all by herself. She still doesn’t like dogs, but she’s not frozen by her fear. Well, not this one, at least. We’re still working on the fear of burning buildings.

Extra-curricular activities

After school activities

Tomorrow is the start of the another school year. Alexis will begin her final year of middle school, the 8th grade. I’m trying to get everything together in readiness for this year’s challenges.

Last week we visited her school and met with the special needs liaison and the guidance counselor.  We took a little tour of where the new classrooms would be, got the locker combination, and met the new science teacher.

As in previous years, A. won’t be able to take any of the “special classes” that most of the students are able to, because her schedule is already crammed with her own “specials” from her IEP. I would love for her to do volleyball or technical drawing or even Art or a Foreign Language. But no matter how much we try, her schedule cannot accommodate anything else. She doesn’t even have space for Physical Education.

It’s not the worst thing in the world, but I always fast forward to when she leaves high school having just a limited and very basic education and on top of everything else, competing with more well rounded graduates.

I have to admit that I find it hard to let these things go. I realize her limitations and the fact that it takes her ten times as long to do half the work the other kids in her class are doing. But I always want her to be exposed to so much more.

Left to her own devices, she would watch videos for the entire day, but I won’t allow it. So for now, I’m looking around to see what extra-curricular activities I can find for her to do on a weekend. It’s the hardest thing. I can find something, but then she won’t like it or can’t keep up and eventually we just drop it.

I’m down to finding a weekend art class on Japanese Manga or a sewing class, both of which she loves to do. The social interaction would be good for her too. Problem is, these classes are only available on weekdays after school, and we’re having enough problems getting homework done in the allotted time after school.

Anyway, I’m continuing the search. I’m sure something will come up.

Back to School…again….

Each year I have nervously dreaded the advent of the new school year.  Very early on, I realized that at the end of the summer holidays, Alexis had to become reacquainted with the structure and routine that came with school. This situation is not unique to children with ADHD; it has been reported that many children suffer from a “Summer Slide” and teachers usually have to spend the first months of the new school year re-teaching skills that were taught in the previous school year.

However, students already suffering from ADHD require even more of a jump start to get back into the school routine. After a relaxing summer with changes in bedtime and waking up schedules, these children have to prepare themselves again for paying attention in class, finishing homework each night, studying for tests, and just organizing their minds and schedules for school.

I have had to research many methods for prepping for the new school year and found some things that work for my child.

  • Starting the routine one or two weeks before the actual school year begins can go a far way in getting Alexis mentally ready for the new year. We start by changing bed times back to the school year schedule so instead of 11:00 pm, she has to be in bed by 9:00 pm. It’s not an instant transformation, of course, because her body has to get used to this new cycle again. But by the end of the second week, she’s kind of back on track. By the time her 6:00 am alarm goes off on the first day of school, she’s ready.
  • In these two weeks I also go shopping for back to school supplies. I have to get a wall planner for her and one for me. On my wall planner I fill out all the vacation days, half days, etc. Her planner includes this info and continues to be filled out during the year with any special events that pop up. In also have these events on my phone calendar and on hers.
  • We go shopping for school supplies in mid-August and prepare her room for studying. This means organizing her desk, having proper lighting over the study area, and getting adequate stationery supplies for home use. During this time, I also go through her closets and sort out any outgrown or worn clothes and decide on what to buy for the upcoming year. Here in the northeast, we have 4 distinct seasons. However, you don’t want to caught off-guard on an icy September morning or a lukewarm December morning without the proper outerwear.
  • As she is on medication, I also have to make sure that her prescriptions are refilled and on hand for day one. I usually take her off one of them during the summer break, with the neurologist’s approval, of course.
  • The final week before school used to give us an opportunity to meet with new teachers, but in the middle school, apparently they don’t focus too much on this. My personal task then, is to get the names and email addresses of all her teachers in the first week, introduce myself to them and let them know that I am available at any time for conferences or informal conversation. The two most important people I make myself available to are the guidance counselor and the Special Needs liaison, as they are the ones who would interact with Alexis by way of her Individualized Education Program (IEP).
  • In the past, once school started, Alexis would use a task list to get her through the morning until she went to catch the school bus. As she’s gotten older, she has resisted using it, with obvious consequences.  The task list was posted in a central area of our home and each morning she would check off each task completed, such as “Brush my teeth”, or ” Take Medication”, or “Put on hearing aids.” Now, I put a list on the door before she leaves out as a reminder for her not to leave out any tasks in the morning. This seems to work for her as well and has been met with less resistance.

Most of these aforementioned methods can work for any child returning to school, and not just those diagnosed with ADHD. It also helps to prepare my mind for the children returning to school.

Advocating for your special needs child

Parenting a special needs child means learning how to deal with all the special education laws once your child starts attending public school. Learning to be an advocate for your child will ensure that your son or daughter gets the help that he or she needs to access the school curriculum.

Understand your child’s challenges. Make sure that your child has been properly diagnosed by a medical specialist. Sometimes this can take years, I assure you! However, as you become aware of the challenges that your child faces, do your research about each one. Buy books. Access the internet. Learn about the strategies you can use to help your child with his/her issues.

Meet with and familiarize yourself with your child’s education team at school. Do not have an adversarial relationship with them as this is not in the best interest of the child. Having a good rapport with the education team at school (whether yours is a special needs child or not, actually) is essential to your child’s success.

If your child has been identified as a special needs student and he/she has difficulty learning and functioning, then your child is a candidate for an Individualized Education Program or IEP. This plan is developed by parents and educators to help special needs children succeed in school by determining his/her unique needs. It sets the goals for the child for the school year and any special support needed to achieve them. The IEP is reviewed periodically as your child’s needs change.

Meet with your child’s doctors, specialists, and experts. Meet with the parents of other special needs children. Many school districts have parents who have formed support groups to share information and resources. Ask lots of questions and take notes, notes, and more notes.

Keep records! Keep a binder wtih all student records, IEPs, medical reports and evaluations, progress reports, and meeting notes. You may have several binders by the time your child graduates from high school!

Do not miss any meetings with your child’s school. Always make yourself available if they need to contact you. If the team changes from year to year, introduce yourself to the new team and make sure that they have several ways of contacting you — home phone, work phone, email, mobile phone. It’s very important to keep the lines of communication open so that both you and the team at school can be aware of changes in your child’s behaviour, medication, class syllabus, or any other issues.

Know when you need to seek legal advice. If you feel your child’s needs are not being met by the IEP, the school is not following it, or the school is unable to comply but the district won’t place your child in an appropriate private school, you need to contact a lawyer or advocate who specializes in special education.

Being a special needs child already presents its own challenges. However, it is important that, as parents and guardians, we do our best to ensure that the educational needs our children are being met.

Check out more information at the following websites:

National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities: http://nichcy.org/

National Disability Rights Network: http://www.napas.org/

Meditation in Motion

The Mayo Clinic calls it “meditation in motion.” We know it better as “Tai Chi”, which in the Chinese language means “balance and harmony”.

Today, Alexis began her first after-school class in Tai Chi Chuan. Because of her tight class schedule she is unable to participate in the regular PE classes as part of her curriculum. She pretty much spends all day inside a classroom and this bothers me to no end. Add to that the fact that she hates any kind of physical activity. So I am determined to get her involved in some type of physical exercise, no matter how much she hates it.

She would much rather sit and stare at the computer or television, or draw her cartoons. I actually don’t mind any of these, but she needs some type of exercise. It’s getting to the point where she’s going to the supermarket with me and asking to sit in one of the wheelchair trolleys. I mean, come on! She has no muscular problems, by the way, she just doesn’t want to walk or stand up, for that matter.

She has continued to be resistant to any type of physical activity. In her short lifetime, she has taken classes in karate, ballet, modern dance, soccer, ice skating, and swimming. Out of all of these, she only liked ice skating. She is actually quite good at it, too. Unfortunately that only happens in the winter. She really hates team sports, so soccer was a battle every week for two years until I just gave up. Swimming is a bit tricky with the timing of the class. I’d have to get out of work early too many times to get her to class. As for ballet, dance, and karate, her movements were quite unrelaxed and effortful and she lacked the focus to perform the steps of her routines. In her 7th grade class now, they offer field hockey after school, but she blatantly refuses to even try out for it.

I had been trying to find a yoga class for children for the longest time because I was pretty sure that yoga would be an excellent way for her to practise self-control and gain some kind of balance. I could find none. But when I checked with the center where I do my yoga practice, the co-ordinator there suggested Tai Chi for kids, which would be starting in a few weeks.

Tai Chi has been strongly linked with helping to treat all types of illnesses. It can be practised for recreation and to increase strength, flexibility, vitality, and mental awareness. It helps with maladies like ADHDAspergers, Autism, imbalance, and stress. I am not seeking a cure for Alexis’ ailments, although that would be a great bonus. My motivation is for her to try something and like it for a change. Failing that, I am trying to get her involved in some type of exercise and see if this will help with her lack of focus and balance. I was also hoping she might make a new friend in class, but that’s just my “pie in the sky” high hopes.

Today’s class was a little trying. There are only two other kids in the class – 2 boys. I left her there and returned before the class ended to see how she was doing. The two boys had left the class early and the instructor was trying to show Alexis one of the steps, but my baby is extremely unco-ordinated and perhaps a little shy as well. Anyway, she finally got it, which I was exceedingly proud to see. At the end of the class the instructor gave us a DVD and some notes and I promised him that we would practise over the weekend.

On the way back to the car, I asked Alexis if she liked the class. Of course, she said no. However, I let her know that she was going to be doing this for the next 8 weeks and this was something she had to see to the end. We will be practising this over the weekend to get the basic moves right. I may even sign up for the adult classes myself after this.

Friends and relatives

Having a child with disabilities that are not immediately obvious does present some challenges when dealing with friends, family, and strangers in general.

I don’t think our relatives quite understand Alexis’ disabilities. They know that she suffers from a hearing loss but not much else. She wears hearing aids so that is at least visible to them. From time to time someone will still ask why is she wearing them, though, as if they were supposed to actually cure her hearing loss. We have even had a couple of friends who were visiting praying to “remove the scale from her ears” so she could hear again. I was only mildly amused. I didn’t bother to get into a conversation about what had just transpired. They were leaving to return home anyway.

Alexis suffers from a sensory-processing disorder, among other things. She is a highly sensitive child. It was difficult to explain to the Girl Scouts troop leader that the reason she was crying so hard over her craft work falling to floor was because of her disability. Or the reason she won’t accept any other crayon except that one that she wants is actually part of her disability. Some people will just not understand and so she would get labeled as being “spoiled”. Believe me, she is not. In our culture, children who cry over everything are not looked upon well. Their parents are also seen as enablers, indulging the child so that she will have whatever she wants.

According to the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation:

These difficulties put children with SPD at high risk for many emotional, social, and educational problems, including the inability to make friends or be a part of a group, poor self-concept, academic failure, and being labeled clumsy, uncooperative, belligerent, disruptive, or “out of control.” Anxiety, depression, aggression, or other behavior problems can follow. Parents may be blamed for their children’s behavior by people who are unaware of the child’s “hidden handicap.”

For a few years, before her diagnosis, I was one of those people thinking that Alexis was becoming out of control too. I know I’ve gotten the looks in the supermarket when she would start to wail about something I would not buy for her. I had to be informed too that this was something she could not help and that she would have to learn the proper behavior that came naturally to other children.

When I was in grade school there was a girl, a few years older than me, in my big brother’s class. She cried all the time. The only reason I ever noticed her was that she was always crying. She was “the sensitive girl” who spoke in whispers and was never a part of any group. I can picture her even now, crying. If anyone raised their voice to her she cried. If the classroom was noisy, she cried. If her grandfather was a few minutes late picking her up she would cry. She was very unique in this manner for a 10 year old. And because she “looked normal”, we all just dismissed her as being a cry-baby. That was in the 1970’s.

When I received the diagnosis about Alexis I immediately thought about this girl. I wonder all the time what ever became of her. No one cared about these issues back then and these problems would have gone untreated. I wonder if she ever got married, had friends, had children. I wonder if she ever fell into depression because people just didn’t understand her.

These are the worries that I have about Alexis. Thankfully, she has learned not to cry about everything, the way she used to. But, she’s 12 years old and has no friends. She’s not part of a group. Even though I have signed her up for every convenient activity, she rejects them and doesn’t want to participate. I worry that as she enters adolescence, she may develop some type of depression because of her solitude.

When presented with a new activity I have to explain her disability to the person in charge. I always hope that they understand I’m not seeking special treatment for my child; I just want them to be cognizant of what’s happening inside her head.

Help Your ADHD Child Make Friends

This article was taken from Additude Magazine’s website at http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/924.html, a very helpful and informative site on helping ADHD children and their parents.

As a parent of a child who is severely lacking in social skills, I always try to find articles to help my daughter’s situation. Hopefully, posting this will help someone else with their struggle.

___________________________

Children with ADHD sometimes struggle with social skills, and making friends can be tough. But parents can help – here are 17 ways!

by Gay Edelman


Sometimes, ADHD children need help making and keeping friends. Parents can make a big difference without stepping on toes by helping an ADD child start a conversation or by “supervising from the window.”

Find out other ways to become your child’s ADHD friendship coach and guide his social development here.

Observe the Situation

Get to the root of the problem. ADHD children often have little sense of how they’re perceived by their peers, and will commit social blunders without realizing it. Help them by discussing what went wrong, why it happened, and what your child could (not should) do differently next time. Be as sensitive with your attention deficit child as you would be with a close adult friend — too much negative feedback can hurt your child’s self-esteem.

On the flip side, when your child has a successful interaction, congratulate him.

Watch your child closely. Whenever he’s playing with other kids, make sure you can see and hear what’s going on. Be ready to intervene if he picks a fight, starts telling fibs, or does something dangerous in an effort to impress others.

Finding Groups and Teams

Consider team sports. Joining a team can help ADHD children realize everything isn’t about them. The lessons learned in sports can overflow into their social lives and you may see your child start to develop healthy friendships.

Don’t just dive in. Call the coach of the sports team before the first practice. Ask him questions to figure out whether or not your child – and his attention deficit disorder — would be welcome. If you decide to take the plunge, go with your child to meet the coach and/or some teammates before the first get-together. Remember, transitions are hard for kids with ADHD.

Beware of her competitive spirit. Children with ADHD can have some difficulty with competitive play — gloating when they win and raging when they lose. If your child has a hard time with these situations encourage her to develop athletic skills that don’t require teamwork, like running, swimming, or martial arts.

Have the Right Attitude

Know they’ll find their way. Most socially isolated children will eventually learn to get a better handle on their behaviors and understand how friendships work. Once kids hit adolescence, they tend to act on the powerful urge to ‘fit in.’

There’s nothing wrong with having just a few friends. A child doesn’t need to be in the ‘in’ group or get invited to lots of parties to be happy. In fact, studies show that having even one close friend is all it takes for a child to develop social self-confidence.

Play Matchmaker

Find a mentor An ADHD child may be more likely to take advice or instruction from a ‘big brother’ or ‘big sister’ than from you. Ask the big sibling of one of your child’s classmates if he will be an informal mentor to your child. Many schools understand the importance of mentors have programs to connect kids.

Follow the love. If your child is a Gameboy fiend, look for another video-game fans to potentially be his friend. A shared interest will help your child feel confident and engaged.

Start out with one-on-one play. One-on-one play dates usually work best for ADHD children. With threesomes, it’s easy for your child to feel left out – or ganged up on.

Seek out younger playmates. Children with attention deficit tend to be more immature than their peers (and painfully aware of it). As your child is growing up it’s often helpful if she develops friendships with children a year or two younger – this way, she won’t feel left behind.

Influence Positive Play

Set a good example. Show your child how to act in social situations by making an effort to forge friendships with the parents of your child’s peers. Stay connected to the community through clubs, religious organizations, etc. as well.

Take teasing head on. Teasing, bullying and playful banter are an inevitable part of childhood, but ADHD kids often don’t know how to respond. Parents should encourage their children to stand up to teasing, but to not overreact, which might escalate the problem.

Keep play dates short. For kids age 10 or under, three hours or less is probably best. Coach your child on how to behave beforehand, and talk about how things went after it’s over.

Let kids go—but not completely. Experts recommended that parents let teens sort out social situations on their own, but don’t back away completely. A recent study of seventh- through twelfth-graders suggests that teens who have close relationships with their parents—those who talk often, share activities, and are affectionate with each other—also tend to have good friendships.

Medication Can Help

Consider medication. If impulsive behavior—dominating play, interrupting, jumping from one thing to the next—keeps other kids away, medication is probably necessary. In fact, your child may need to be “covered” by meds even after the school day ends.

Make sure dosage is right. Puberty, when all sorts of hormone changes kick in, is a good time to look at your child’s medication or dose. Often, what worked before puberty may no longer have the same effect.

No, I can’t hear what you hear

~ Birds chirping ~

~ Ticking clock ~

~ Dripping faucet ~

~ Rustling leaves ~

These are sounds that were almost inaudible to Alexis for the first half of her life.

At age 6 she was diagnosed with a mild-to-moderate hearing loss in both ears. A look at her audiogram revealed that some sounds that are accessible to individuals with normal hearing were not heard by Alexis at all.

The day we were given the diagnosis, I felt such a sense of relief that we could finally pinpoint what was wrong. She had a deficient vocabulary and her speech volume was quite soft for her age. Interestingly, I approached the whole issue of wearing hearing aids like someone who wears glasses. Wasn’t a big deal – it was just for corrective purposes, right? However, it’s not quite the same. I was to find out later that although her hearing would be greatly improved by these digital hearing aids, she still would not hear sounds as a normal hearing person would.

Alexis started wearing hearing aids when she was six. It was amazing when we got home and she asked us to turn down the TV. It had always been set at such a high level. One year later, her school provided an FM system, a device consisting of a transmitter microphone used by the teacher and receivers attached to the hearing aids. To her ears, it sounded like the teacher was speaking directly in her ear and this kept her focused.

As her mother, I was always a bit worried that the children might tease her about her hearing aids. She wore purple behind-the-ear (BTE) models (as pictured). They were small and cute, but you can never tell with children. Her teachers, however, did a splendid job of educating the rest of her class on what they were. At no point did I ever get any feedback from Alexis nor any of her teachers that other kids were being mean to her because of her disability. Besides, I found out later, there were other children in school who also wore BTE aids.

It’s now 6 years later and her hearing aids have had an upgrade. With the advancement of digital technology, she doesn’t just hear amplified sounds. Her aids work like a mini-computer, being selective about the sounds they amplify or suppress, so she’s not apt to pull these out for being too noisy, as the previous ones. She has gotten used to wearing them and has managed to take very good care of them.

To this day we have no idea what has caused her hearing loss. And at this point, I don’t care why because we can’t correct it.

At the time, we had thought that this diagnosis would have solved the mystery of Alexis’ disability. However, this turned out to be just another piece in a very complicated puzzle. Alexis remains, as ever, the enigmatic child.

My back to school jitters

My 6 year old is chattering away in front of the family computer. His 12 year old sister sits quietly next to him. In the last hour he has had a running commentary on every action that is taking place before him. For every 100 words he utters, his older sister will say a short word or phrase – “Sorry!” or “Hey!” or “Be quiet!” most of the time. He continues to chatter away while she watches and listens. I have always told everyone that if Joshua was born first and Alexis second, I would have picked up right away that she had a language delay, just using her brother as the benchmark.

Alexis’ language deficiency causes her to be very frustrated if she wants to, but cannot, find the words to express herself. This is one of her main disabilities and is usually very present during the first few weeks of the new school year. She also does not manage transitioning to new situations well. To me, “back to school” means waiting by the phone for her homeroom teacher or other school official to call and tell me that Alexis has tried to run away from the classroom (again). After 4 successive years of the first weeks of school like this, the school staff and I were finally able to draft a plan to head this off. So at the start of the fifth grade, we had only one incidence of her trying to run out of the classroom, and this was quickly dealt with by her being allowed a time out to collect her thoughts.

Last year, Alexis started Middle School (sixth grade) at a different location and we began preparing her from the final month of the fifth grade. Our school district has one day when all the fifth graders visit the new school to see the new classrooms and teachers. For Alexis we had to do a bit more. Her dad and I met with the new school team comprising of the guidance counsellor, home room teacher, school psychologist, reading specialist, and physical therapist. We had to discuss what was to be expected in the the sixth grade. For the first time, the children would be changing rooms for various classes and many “typical” children already had a hard time adjusting to this concept in the first few weeks of school. We also took Alexis to her new school and walked her around the classrooms, introducing her to the new team of teachers and aides with whom she would be interacting on a daily basis.

I can thankfully say that after one month of the sixth grade, Alexis finally became used to getting around her new school. The school year was not without incident, of course. While finding her next class was not too difficult, the time it took for her to get there became a problem. There were many days when she would spend a bit too long locked up in the girls’ bathroom and then was late getting to the next class or to lunch. Some days, she lingered in the corridors long after everyone had left and needed a hall pass to return to class. Some of her teachers reported that at times she would suddenly stand up in class and start dancing, arms flailing wildly in the air for no apparent reason. She also had a habit of tripping herself and falling with books flying, in some slapstick ccomedic routine, to draw attention to herself. She was consistently behind in classwork and homework because of her slow processing speed. Her homework and tests were so drastically modified compared to that of her classmates that I was starting to worry that she would only be learning a fraction of what was being taught. So yes, I did receive many phone calls during the school year, but at least she wasn’t trying to run out of the classroom. I count my blessings as they come.

I am grateful for the teachers in our school district and their patience. I meet with them formally perhaps four different times during the year, but I am always on call for whenever they need me. I correspond by phone or email with at least one team member once per week. They always try to accomodate my daughter. I know she is not unique in the amount of focus that is placed on her, but with school budgets getting tighter each year, I am grateful that she still receives specialized services and therapy at school.

The new school year starts again next week and Alexis will be entering the seventh grade. As usual, I am filled with trepidation as to what will happen in the first few weeks. We have already received her new school schedule and some of her teachers will be new to her again. Sometime this week or next week, we will go to her school to meet with some of the team members.

Another year of transition.