Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The next step in the journey

Parents – especially Moms – want answers.  They want information and facts that they can use to help their child.  They want resources.

Today, we are seeking all of that.

When Dylan was first diagnosed with ADHD, the testing was … limited, in my opinion.  It consisted of one Connors survey filled out jointly by RockStar and myself and a computer-based attention test that took less than an hour.  It was summertime, so we didn’t have access to Dylan’s teachers, and we weren’t able to have them fill out the teacher version of the Connors survey.  Since the psychologist could only find one copy of the parent’s version, we filled it out jointly.

If I got any kind of report, I don’t remember it (and it’s unlikely that I would forget something like that).  The follow up was basically that the psychologist communicated with our pediatrician who prescribed medication.  Maybe the report went to her.

It’s not that the school didn’t believe us.  Dylan had begun having struggles in school the year before and they knew something was not quite right. They have readily agreed to accommodations in writing…but haven’t always consistently followed those accommodations.  Despite knowing that Dylan has ADHD, they have been frustrated by the fact that he often seems to not be paying attention.  (Really?)  They are resentful about how long it takes for him to complete a test.  They have chastised Dylan for missing homework, forgetting to bring books home, and his poor writing skills. 

Anything I’ve said or done in reaction to Dylan’s struggles has been met with a lack of interest at best and dismissiveness and disdain at worst. 
I wish we had a good alternative.  Although New Orleans has seen impressive improvements to its school landscape since Katrina, the school system is not does not present a wide array of positive choices, especially for kids who are bright but struggle.  Our school is also incredibly convenient, located only two blocks away from our house.  It’s also known as one of the “good” schools, one that consistenly ranks highly in the standardized tests that plague our school systems.  Beyond all that, and beyond any challenges he has had there, Dylan loves his school. 

I’m glad that he loves it.  How horrible would it be if he hated it?! The things he doesn’t like about it are things he doesn’t like about school in general – homework, tests, etc.  Anytime I’ve suggested the possibility of looking for a different school, he’s fallen into despair, despondent over the idea of leaving his friends and activities that he loves. 

So I see it as my mission to help make the school a better place for him to learn. 

Meetings with the Student Assistance Team have largely focused on medications, which is actually illegal for school staff to discuss but it has happened nonetheless.  Any concerns I bring forward seem to result in a medical answer.  Perhaps a higher dose?  Have you tried Focalin?  Maybe we can give him an additional dose in the afternoon?

Never have I heard, Maybe we could try teaching him using THIS method.  Or We’d like him to work with an occupational therapist to improve his handwriting and his written expression.  Or even Let’s craft an IEP so we can set goals and chart his progress.

So we are sort of starting over.  As I type this I am sitting in yet another doctor’s office while Dylan is reevaluated and, this time, fully evaluated.  We got here at 9:00am and were told to anticipate that we would be here until 5:00pm.  We filled out two surveys (Connors and BASC) and surveys were sent to two of his teachers.  It’s all a far cry from the single survey and 45-minute computer-based test from two years ago.

I don’t know if all this (expensive) testing will tell us anything.  Our social worker thinks it’s a good idea and at least it feels as though we are doing something.  I’m hoping it will give us something to bring with us this fall.  Something that will help us in demanding more for our son.  Something that will back up what we’ve been telling the teachers.  Perhaps something that will give us just a bit more insight into how Dylan’s mind works, how best to reach him academically, and how to make school a more successful and rewarding place for all of us.

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