Monday, October 4, 2010

Today I'm Frustrated

One of the responsibilities that comes with parenting children with any special needs is that of constantly advocating for your child. If I make the mistake of letting my guard down and thinking that everything is okay for a little while, something will go wrong. I let my guard down. Something went wrong.

Before the school year ever started this year, I had a loooooong chat with CJ's teacher and talked about how he needs her to be clear and consistant in her expectation from day one. While I understand that it may sound mean or tough to do this, CJ doesn't understand boundaries that are simply spoken to him. He needs them shown to him, and he needs them to be the same every single time.

I explained about the fact that he needed an immediate related consequence the first time a bad behavior happened and a positive clear consequence every time he did something good. While I don't need to know every last thing that happens at school, I do need to know about issues that require intervention. I can only support the teacher from home if the teacher keeps me informed of what is happening. I made clear that a bad report from school won't hurt my feelings. I want to help CJ succeed, so I need to know the good, the bad, and the ugly.

We are one fourth of the way through the school year and CJ has gotten a stamp in his calendar every day but three this year. Knowing that I'd been so clear about what works for CJ, I assumed that things were just going better for him. See? I let my guard down.

On Friday, he got a note home saying he'd been throwing pencils in the classroom when things didn't go his way, so he didn't get a stamp in his book. Okay. So, he lost his friend and computer privileges right then and there. He knew why he'd lost them, and took the consequence. I figured things would be better.

Then I got a call from the principal today. Apparently CJ had been sent to see her on Friday because the pencil throwing had been going on over the series of a few days. What?!!? He got a stamp all but Friday. In his mind, that meant what he'd been doing was okay. She went on to tell me that the teacher also had moved his desk because he was constantly disruptive. WHAT?!?! I NEVER got a message letting me know this was a problem, but only found stamps in his book each day. The very first time he was disruptive was when he needed to lose the privilege of sitting by his friends, at least for the remainder of that day. Now his desk is moved away from the preferential seating he really needs for best learning.

I asked when this was all happening and was told that it was mostly during all last week. At the start of the week, the audiologist had changed his map on his processor to a program that works better, but CJ hates. I let the speech teacher know and asked her to let me know if there was a problem in his behavior since that's how he usually lets me know he is frustrated with something. I assumed this information would be passed on, but hadn't heard anything about his behavior going downhill. See a correlation here? I do.

It gets even better. As a result of the continued bad behavior, he was going to be losing his recess today and tomorrow. Okay, great. So, now he's being punished three days later for something he did. At first I said okay, but then really thought about it and was very bothered by this plan.

I called the principal back and explained my position on this. I asked how his behavior had been all day and she said it was good. I let her know that taking today and tomorrow's recess privilege away tells him that on the days he was poorly behaved, he could still get what he wanted. But, on the day that he made good choices, he was still punished. She said she'd told him why he was losing recess and that he seemed to remember the choices he made that got him here in the first place. That's nice. You can still expect an explosion of bad behavior because now his boundaries are very blurred.

I let her know she could still have taken his recess, but in a way that correlated with the bad choice. "CJ, since you threw your pencil, that tells me you aren't ready to be allowed to have it so I'm taking it from you now. That means you can't do your work right now. Instead, you'll have to do it during recess when I can be with you to be sure you don't throw your pencil." See how that works? You can still take recess from him, but have some distinct meaning behind it. He NEEDS that.

CJ has a great teacher who is so sweet and kind with him. I know she's just trying to be patient with him and give him the benefit of the doubt. She wants him to succeed and to be happy at school. Luckily, that's my goal for him too. Now we just have to come to a place where we are both working in the same way to get him to that goal.

In the start of the year, I suggested we put a behavior plan in place for him. The school didn't think he'd need it. That was the place where I made my biggest mistake. In that moment, I chose to agree with them instead of advocating for CJ to be successful by having a plan to present clear boundaries for him.

So, now I know what he needs. I've called a meeting and will ask for the following:

1. The very first time he does something unacceptable, he needs to be told that it's a bad choice in no uncertain terms AND what to expect if it happens again.

2. If the behavior happens again (and it will), the described consequence MUST happen with no discussion of warnings or extra tries.

3. If he does something great, it needs to be acknowledged as well. CJ thrives on "earning" points.

4. If CJ hasn't really earned a stamp, he shouldn't be given one. If the teacher wants to continue giving stamps for overall good behavior despite the occasional bad choice, there needs to be some other sort of point system that he can earn throughout the day to help him know when he did well and when he didn't.

So, I'm off to advocate once again. I'm not sure when this meeting will be, but I will be sure to return and report when all is said and done.

1 comment:

  1. I think this is why parenting is the hardest job in the world! It would have been much better if they kept you fully informed of the "gathering storm," as it were- the first time he threw pencils, a little note from the teacher would have been a good heads-up. At least you would have been able to intervene prior to a trip to the principal's office! Consequences with meaning are important- kids don't relate to the discipline when it is so far away from the act! Sending lots of thoughts and prayers your way- I'm sure you'll get it all sorted out soon!