BOO from Noah (and the school honeymoon is over)

Here October is almost over–how did that happen? For that matter, how did Noah already come up to his 3rd birthday? It’s on Wednesday of this week and he’s picked out eating at Souplantation and having a racetrack cake from familyfun.com–wish me luck on that, it looks tricky. We’re going to Deb’s park (an Audobon Society nature park closer to downtown) with our mom’s group and for that I’ll just take cupcakes. He is so sweet. In the car yesterday he went off on a very animated monologue about Halloween:

Noah: (interrupting Sophie talking about her costume for Halloween) Mommy! Mommy! Mine halloween costume! Mine have patch on mine eye. Mine have patch on my eye!”

Mom: You want to be a pirate for Halloween?

Noah: Yes! Mine be pirate and have eye patch. Mine hide in bushes and BOO! Mine scare daddy!

I can’t do it justice–it was so funny.

This week is birthday and trunk or treat Halloween celebration at the church, so we’ll be gearing up for that—Ben wants to be a skeleton pirate, Sophie wants to be a puppy, and we have a great old cow costume for Lucy that all the kids have worn.

The potty training thing is moving a long nicely. We’re about 50% on the #2 and maybe 90% on the #1. It feels good to see that rite of passage almost behind me. Three down, only one to go!

David is gearing up to go to Florida in a week for work. He’ll be gone for Halloween, but that shouldn’t be too big of deal. He just got back from scout weekend where they shot guns in the desert. Excellent pastime for teenage boys, don’t you think? David brought home a picture of a pumpkin he had shot a hole in. It was very impressive.

Sophie is doing well at school, but seems to have been taken down from green to yellow a bit more often this week (using the pervasive stoplight disciplinary system), but I’m not clear on why yet, although she freely explains it, it makes no sense, I really have no idea what she’s saying. She has some good friends and seems to get along very well with people at school. She has been so easy at home, and does homework and chores almost completely without help, and she’s reading so much better–the progress is really clear each week. We work with her at home on the flashcards and super-boring readers (they guarantee they bring fluency, if the kid can stay awake), but I’m excited to see her get closer to being a solid reader when the world can be opened up to her. She is easy going, but I see that down deep she has strong emotional needs, and she thrives on just being hugged and held, so I’m trying to make sure I do that even if she’s not screaming for the attention.

Lucy is under the weather today, I think because she has a top tooth coming in. She is SO runny, but it is all clear, and she just seems tired and grumpy. However, she’s been sleeping through the night for three nights, so I’m a much happier person. She has taken a step or two independently since last week, but still prefers something to steady her. At the park, she will climb up the stairs on the equipment, get to the top of the slide, turn her self around and back down the slide feet first until she slides. Because she looks like a 6 month old, this is very alarming to mothers around who are looking frantically for the neglectful mother of this infant as she climbs up there.

I’ve taken her little walking toy to push at the park and she can go quite a long way with it. Also, she shows remarkable judgment and restraint for a young toddler and has been completely able to go up and down the stairs without falling down them for over a month. In fact, she never even tried the stairs until she was capable of going up and down without doing it safely. Coming down, she is simply crawling backward, but she does it so fast she almost looks like she’s sliding down. She’s still nursing about 5x a day, along with three meals and a few snacks, but her weight is still just over 15.5 lbs.

Benjamin’s school issues have gotten much worse. He is miserable and crying almost every day, he gets in trouble every day, kids ridicule him every day. He isn’t learning and is having trouble absorbing information in a group setting, especially in math, which he actually is pretty skilled in but I’ve seen first hand that it has to be taught him in a very specific way (and he has to be refocused every 30 seconds). Since medication has not proven fruitful, we just need to work out strategies for making him 1) learn and 2) be happy. Probably not in that order.

Although we saw this happen last year, having him in the classroom has really shown that he does have significant differences that kids can pick up on instantly, he seems to be unable to carry on a normal conversation with a child, although he can carry on regular adult conversations with adults all the time. He reacts with strong emotions to regular daily requirements even more so in a group environment. He seems overly stimulated by the large amounts of kids and people, the classroom, and the intensity of the schedule required by daily school life.

He is becoming more negative and irritable and even has new ticks starting to emerge. Problems that I was happily seeing disappear in the summer that I told myself he must be growing out of have started back up, which I assume is due to stress. He is very sad to see everyone playing and having fun, and feels lonely because they do not want to interact with him, he doesn’t know why. He doesn’t know how to interact with them and does so poorly or awkwardly, but he doesn’t see that. He doesn’t respond to negative social feedback by changing his behavior, but feels that it’s others’ problem. Even in the social skills group training class, the other socially unadjusted kids didn’t respond well to him either. If people don’t like how he’s acting, he will think of a million different ways to avoid the problem besides acting differently.

He really has encountered this kind of problem since he was very young. Every now and then he’ll meet a single kid at the park (usually younger, but not always) and they’ll get along famously, but if it’s more than one kid, or just not a very flexible kid, it usually doesn’t go well. We work on social behaviors at home, but we’ve been working on the same things for literally 4 years, and if he doesn’t understand the social rule, even if it gets him bad results to break it, he won’t learn it. His response to the negative feedback is to escalate his behavior to try to force acceptance somehow, or avoid the situation entirely, so, on the school playground for instance, his solution is to just beg his teacher to let him not have to go outside, but to let him do work for her in the classroom.

So, I met with his teacher yesterday and asked for her candor and we had a nice open talk. She does have to juggle the needs of the class and Benjamin’s needs as separate entities, all day. He has outbursts, and once even pushed her. Although she has other kids with behavior problems Ben is in a league unto himself, markedly different. He won’t do his work without constant direction. Does great if she’s with him one on one, completely derails the class environment without that.

She is concerned about the kids’ reaction to him and said that she tries techniques to model kindness, point out good things about him, and ask people to befriend him. She said one little girl said she’d tried to be his friend, but it just didn’t work and he talked crazy. I asked her point blank if he could succeed (ie., be happy and learn) in the current environment (in her opinion and off the record). She didn’t think so, and felt that many of the factors would only get worse over time (as class size increases, the work gets more difficult and kids become even less tolerant).

She said she’d gone to the special ed person and asked for advice (this is the one who accidentally sent me that email meant for the principal which said I needed to cut the apron strings and was overly worried about Ben), and that woman told her that they would try to get a full time aide in the class, just to be with Ben during school. This may help him focus on his work, and hopefully learn a little better, but would likely make worse the social situation (if that is possible), and it would really take Ben into the world of Special Ed, which is a box I really don’t think is the best fit for him. The teacher said that since this school is a full inclusion school with special ed, “kids are used to having kids with full-time aides in their classroom.” Of course, many of those kids are severely disabled, and it seems just weird to have Ben now in that category.

Here is the thing– Ben can be successful, act relatively normal, learn, be happy and accomplish things without being considered freaky, and I see that all the time, but he apparently can’t do that in a school classroom.

So we have the issues of happiness, social integration/training, learning and academics, controlling behavior, managing stress, and overstimulation. Solutions with the school address the learning/academics to some extent with an aide, but the other items are just out there and actually become much bigger problems in that environment.

So David and I have been thinking and praying about the problem, and I’m talking to friends who are teachers and who know Ben, and we’re just trying to know the answer. We will likely meet with the principal this week to see if she has anything helpful to add.

And to think the school people thought I was nuts to ask them to test him a prepare a plan—they all tested him one-on-one, and anyone who knows Ben knows that he THRIVES in working with an adults one-on-one—he is bright, engaged, social, has an amazing vocabulary, and is able to focus pretty well. They said I was over-reacting and chose to not give his teacher any of the testing input or anything that may bias her, and asked me to stay hands off for a while to see how it went. I did that, but I have no real satisfaction in being right.

The question is, must he be forced to learn how to get by in an environment which amplifies his weaknesses on the assumption he’ll figure it out the hard way, or can he be allowed to learn in an environment which builds on his strengths while systematically working on the weaknesses? To me, the answer is obvious, but I do get a lot of feedback from people saying “Make him do it, that’s the only way he’ll learn he’s got to act differently.” And if I was seeing some learning and not just shriveling of the soul, then maybe I’d agree. If this really is PDD and related to Aspergers, the fact is, he maybe can’t learn that, and could likely become gravely depressed very soon if put in a situation where he constantly fails.

So, there’s that. Send prayers this way!

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