January Curveballs

I start each year with the best of intentions … I’m going to be more organized, I’m going to spend more time blogging and connecting with other bloggers in my niche category, I’m going to spend more time with my children doing x-y-z … like I said, best of intentions.  As we all know, however, life has a way of always throwing us a curveball to keep us on our toes.  I am definitely no exception.  In fact, I feel as though I’m life’s personal batting cage sometimes – getting curve balls thrown at me at the speed of light for me to catch and deal with.  Even when I’m buried in my deep, dark, little hole hiding from the world – those curve balls find me.  January has been no exception, although it has been more troubling to me emotionally and mentally than any other curve balls I have recently dealt with.

J. was having some issues at school prior to the winter break.  So I was really hoping and praying (daily) that we could sit down and talk and work through those issues so that when school started again on January 2nd that it would be “smooth sailing” for at least a month or so. While I thought our talks were beneficial, apparently they went in one ear and out the other, because J. had only been back in school for 4 days before he landed himself on OSS (out of school suspension) for having a meltdown in class and letting his anger get the best of him. 

For those of you who are new to my blog, J. has ADHD and was diagnosed with it when he was just 5 years old and starting kindergarten.  He lasted two hours before he was expelled from kindergarten for the remainder of the year.  I think that is a record worthy of inclusion in the Guinness Book of World Records.  When he returned to kindergarten at age 6, he was taking ADHD medication and the first two years of school were fine.  He had a few issues now and again, but nothing majorly disruptive or heart-crushing.  2nd grade was an absolute nightmare in a school where he was lumped into a class with other students who were severely emotionally disturbed or had other disabilities that they were dealing with – and only one teacher to try and manage all of the students.  Bless her heart though, she was an excellent teacher and went above and beyond the call of duty to help her students.  She was excellent – the environment and lack of assistance for her were just unconscionable.  Having your son come home in tears every day from school is not a good learning environment, and I’m just going to leave it at that.  Third grade through fifth grade was (in comparison) much better than second grade … but I noticed the behavior changes coming on the older J. got.  At first, his father and I chalked it up to just normal changes that every pre-adolescent goes through … but we are quickly coming to believe there is something else going on that J. is just not telling us about.

J. caught a cold during winter break from his younger brother and was dealing with a residual cough and sniffles when he returned to school the first week of January.  On Thursday, he was coughing quite a bit and asked his teacher to be allowed to go and get a drink from the water fountain.  She refused him and told him he could not go until he finished the handout that they were working on.  J. promptly went into anger meltdown mode because she had allowed other students to leave to get a drink and use the lavatory – and he felt discriminated against.  I don’t blame him for that, I would have felt the same way.  Once in that anger meltdown mode; however, it is really difficult for J. to bring himself back to normal and to move on with what he is doing and what is expected of him.  So as a result, the cell test review handout was turned in with comments such as, “I’m in hell, don’t care, f-life, f-everything, f-the world, die, f-everybody” and contained drawings of stick figures hanging from a noose and one stick figure with a knife going after another stick figure.

J. is artistic and has exhibited artistic talent since a very young age.  It is one of his outlets that enables him to put what he is feeling into words or drawings on paper and to work it out of his system.  This has been a behavioral therapy that he has used to help calm himself ever since he was in 1st grade and encouraged by his physician and his counselor.  While some of you may think that the drawings and comments in and of themselves are disturbing – the fact that he drew them out to release them instead of acting upon them physically is what we want for him.  A much better method of release than say him assaulting a teacher or another student.

So when the phone call came in from the assistant principal at J.’s school indicating he’d been put on out-of-school suspension for three days (his second time) and the reasons why I admit to having mixed feelings.  I was angry at first with J. for losing it the first week back at school because I *thought* that our talks over the break had been beneficial and were really going to help him.  When the assistant principal wanted to know if we could have a meeting the following day to discuss “some other options” that he felt would be beneficial for J., I was optimistic.  Anything to help my son be able to maintain and cope and be able to deal with the “real world” is always welcome.

The following day we had the telephone conference at which time the assistant principal informs me that he thinks J. should be enrolled in what is called the S.O.A.R. Academy, which stands for Success, Opportunity, Achievement, Responsibility.  He explained that it is completely free for the parents, available to children in middle school, and funded by the county and state.  Transportation is provided by the school system so parents are not inconvenienced with having to drive their children to a school out of their area.  He talked up the program and made it sound as though it was something wonderful that J. would really benefit from, but I told him that it was something his father and I needed to discuss and find out more about before making that decision.  I’ve learned the hard way not to make any snap decisions where J. and his ADHD and all that it entails is concerned.

angry boy, snapped pencil, school

So I started to do some sleuthing on my own to find out more about this program.  I sent emails to the school in question that hosts this program and requested additional information from the lead teacher in charge of the program.  I researched it online to see what I could find out.  I talked to other women in my circle of friends and asked their opinions.  After hitting a few brick walls and having to get downright shitty at one point, I finally got the information I requested about this program and immediately went into a rage.

Taken directly from the academy’s parent/student handbook – “The mission of the [County] Youth Day Treatment Program is to provide mental health treatment in collaboration with special education instruction for severely emotionally disturbed students, thereby creating opportunities for the students to manage their behaviors and emotional issues in the public school setting.”  Excuse me?  They further go on to state that he would have individual counseling with an assigned clinician each day, home visits, family counseling, medication monitoring, intervention… In addition, J. would be confined to one room all day.  He would have to eat lunch in his classroom, and would not be allowed to go anywhere (office, nurse, library, water fountain, bathroom) by himself.  Somebody would have to go with him or he would have to wait until someone was available.

Placing J. in this program would be an exact repeat of 2nd grade, and cause more harm than good to my son.  He has been an honor roll student for the past three years of school.  He is not severely emotionally disturbed.  So I scheduled a meeting for the following week with all of his team members for his IEP and as many of his teachers as could attend as well – and I entered into Pissed-off Mama Lioness Mode.  I spent six days researching just what the laws are in our state for children with disabilities in “regular” school systems, what the teachers are required to do, what the parents are required to do, what the school districts are required to do. 

You see, up until this point, I had allowed the schools to tell me what they thought would be best to help J. in class.  After all, they are the ones who were supposed to know, right?  I read everything I could find on how to assist students with ADHD in the school system, what parents could do to help them with their homework and their behavior.  By the time the meeting rolled around, I felt as though I were a walking encyclopedia of information regarding ADHD and the Virginia school system.

I won’t delve into explicit details, but I took over an hour to tell them everything that was on my mind, I said what I needed to say, I spoke with the teachers regarding their behaviors towards J. and informed them in no uncertain terms that any additional discrimination against my son would be dealt with via the school board and the judicial system.  The assistant principal who wanted to pawn my son off to another school in a program that was completely and totally wrong for him didn’t even bother to show his face in the meeting.  I have lost all respect for the man after his actions with regards to my son and will deal with him only when necessary. 

I demanded weekly reports on his behavior and progress, and I demanded daily emails or notifications of homework assignments that were required, I demanded measures to be put in place so that if J. began to go into meltdown mode that they would not only recognize the signs (picking at his lip or his fingernails, wringing his hands, eyes getting a *wild* look to them) that he be allowed to step out of the room without a word and get himself together again. If that did not work, then he was to be allowed to go somewhere to contact his father or me so we could talk to him and help him work through whatever the problem was.  This allowing the issue to escalate and not deal with it right then and there – and then punishing him for his behavior and actions when he had reached a point where he was incapable of controlling it any longer – would not be tolerated anymore.  I also demanded that the guidance counselor do her job as well and give J. some one-on-one time to assist him with anger management skills and assist him with dealing with different emotions and feelings and giving him some skills that he can put to use to help him manage himself instead of relying on the teachers to deal with everything.

His week at school after the meeting was semi-good, he didn’t quite make his goal of 75% acceptable behavior for the week – and this past week, with all of the semester testing that was done each day – was just horrid.  He landed himself on ISS (in-school suspension) because he decided that being the class clown was more important than paying attention and doing what was required of him.

In addition, he’s been having difficulties at home as well with his behavior – and quite frankly it is beginning to make me feel as though I am failing him as a parent.  I am doing everything that I can think of to offer him a loving, caring, structured environment – but he is fighting me at every turn.  He is talking-back, being downright defiant, speaking to his father and me in a manner that should only be used with his friends (and I’m not all that crazy about him talking with his friends in that manner either!) and just the other night he had the audacity to tell his father and I (under his breath naturally) to just “shut the hell up” and I must admit that I took it rather personally, as I am the one who fights for him when everyone else is against him, I am the one who researches medications and various other treatment options to speak with his doctor about to find the absolute best treatment plan for him that will enable the bright, articulate, extremely talented individual that he is to shine through all the bullshit he’s dealing with.

It’s difficult, at best, on a daily basis when I am constantly analyzing behaviors and actions and trying to determine what is “normal” pre-teen behavior and which behaviors and actions are ADHD-related and possibly problematic if allowed to continue without intervention.  I have spent hours researching how other parents deal with ADHD, what techniques work with regards to actions and consequences, chores, homework, and the list just goes on and on.

I want to be able to just wave my mommy magic wand and make things all better for him – to make him ADHD-less so that the wonderful person he is inside can be seen and recognized and loved daily … but I am unable to do that, and it breaks my heart.  So I will continue to listen to the iTunes podcasts that I have found so helpful and packed full of information on the topics of ADHD and behavioral issues with children with ADHD, and I will continue to read up on the subject and become actively involved in the ADHD associations available out there – and continue to fight for my son.  It is all that I can do and will continue to do.

T. has not been without his issues as well.  His anger and his temper, while not as frequent as when he was younger, is just as volatile and explosive when it does rear its head.  A friendly match of play-wrestling the other day resulted in the arrival of the Sheriff’s department, the ambulance, and damage done to a vehicle.  T. and D. (a neighborhood child in our complex) were outside play wrestling when an accidental hit to the nose caused D. to get angry and begin choking T.  He was having difficulty breathing and when he managed to get away from D., he snuck in the house (unbeknownst to me) and took the handlebar from his scooter and decided to smash D.’s mother’s car trunk lid a few times instead of hitting D. with it.  Unfortunately, it put two small little dings and a scratch in the trunk – which my husband said we would take care of.  We both estimated the damage could be repaired for between $75 to $200 maximum.  They are just two teeny dings (that could easily be bumped out with a hammer) and the scratch where the metal handlebar scratched the paint off are easily repairable. 

Unfortunately, it seems that our patience (and our pocketbooks) are being taken advantage of because we received an estimate from D.’s mother for a total of $489.14.  Funny thing is, here it is two days later, and my husband went over to take a photo of the damage which – surprisingly – is much worse than the original two little dings and little scratch.  This is what we are now expected to repair:

01.25.2012 Damage to Tina Carpenter Car

This is not the damage she originally showed us.  All of those additional scratches everywhere were not there, that long scratch at the top was not there, the paint was not peeling off the trunk.  I do not like feeling as though someone is taking advantage of us, and I am definitely getting the distinct impression that we are being taken advantage of.  So I’ll be posting more about this particular ‘situation’ as well as events unfold.

My “intention” for 2012 was to become more organized, to get my household in order, and to have everything in its place and a place for everything.  Ha!  That’s been working out about as well as the “stop smoking” intention.  My email is an organizational nightmare because I’ve been having to bounce back and forth from one program to another … although knocking wood that all of THAT mess has finally been taken care of.  The boys’ rooms were cleaned – 80% by me (once again) and 20% by them, but they have been charged with taking care of their own rooms and must have them picked up and in ship-shape before going to bed each night.  If they aren’t, they are pulled back out of bed and made to clean them up.  In addition, if they have to be TOLD to do so, they don’t earn their allowance.  Actions and consequences.  They are both old enough and responsible enough to keep up their rooms – and they can call me every name in the book that they like – but I absolutely refuse to raise two boys who will expect a woman to take care of them and cook and clean and wipe their asses for them like in the dark ages.  They will be able to take care of themselves and take care of their homes come hell or high water!

January’s curveballs haven’t all been bad.  I’ve learned a lot (which is why God throws us a curveball every now and again, to teach us something we need to know), and keeping that thought in the back of my mind has enabled me to muddle through to the other side of each and every instance.  So I am always thankful for whatever lessons I learn from dealing with different issues in life, as I know there will be a time and a place later in life when I will need the knowledge that I’ve gained from those life lessons.

Life in and of itself is a lesson for each of us … what we choose to learn, or not learn, from the experiences we have is totally up to us. 

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