Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Back to Middle School

I did not grow up in this town, but walking onto the middle school campus today felt like a flashback to my own middle school years. No wonder I felt nervous and wondered if I had on the "right" clothing. I had a meeting today with a group of people who would decide if my son, TwinBoyB, needs "special services" as they call it. And I started all this. What was I thinking?

TwinBoyB is a great kid. He's generally easy-going and sweet--except for the constant score-keeping. ("That's not fair! He got more than me!") And he makes a lot of noise and puts too much salt and pepper on his food. And he never closes the cupboards in the kitchen. And he leaves shoes here and there and then can't find them. Other than that, he's a good boy. Except, the more I've been working with him here at school-at-home, I see how disorganized he is, how he loses focus, how his memory fails him, how he is unable to communicate in written words. I couldn't figure out if I expected too much of him, or if I expected too little. I read Mel Levine's books about learning disabilities and saw my son in many pages.

So, awhile back, I asked the principal of the "Virtual Academy" if there were someone who could evaluate my son for learning disabilities. The school district is required by law to offer services to its pupils. Then suddenly, a woman called and scheduled an evaluation. I was to be there with my son. I said, "And who will I be meeting with?" She told me it would be a whole team.

I panicked. That wasn't really what I had in mind. I just wanted one person, preferably a person who specializes in learning disabilities, to evaluate him. So, I called and postponed the meeting. That meeting finally occurred today.

I did not bring my son. He would have been mortified to sit in a room full of adults while they discussed his shortcomings. It wasn't even an "evaluation"--it was a meeting to decide if he needs an evaluation.

In the room we sat in a circle of classroom desks with those little baskets on the bottom. In attendance were the virtual academy principal, a psych intern, the school nurse, the main psychology person, a woman with a title I can't remember--pupil services?--the special education teacher, and an occupational therapist.

I described my son's difficulty with handwriting, with composing, with spelling, with attention, with organization, with comprehension. They asked to look at samples of his work, which I provided. They listened, they peered at his scrawled writing, they asked some questions and then they basically told me he sounds like an average sixth grade boy.

They were all very nice, so I didn't feel as if I wasted their time, exactly, but I did say, "Boy, I feel like I wasted your time," and they assured me that wasn't the case. I think they minimized his difficulties and have no clue about the work Mel Levine has done. Based on his test scores in third grade, they said he sounds like he's not eligible for special services. I explained that I thought I was already doing what he needs by schooling him at home and they seemed to agree. They're going to email me with more ideas on helping him.

So, I guess we carry on. He's fine and dandy and the fact that he can't compose, spell, use spacing in his writing, capitalize, punctuate, organize this thoughts, comprehend written work, and stay on track is just the way a sixth grade boy is. We will continue to work and work and work and hope that one day, he doesn't end up living in a cardboard box under a bridge.

Now in other news . . .

The Cold Fairy has distributed colds to everyone in my world. DaycareKid has a gloppy nose, coughing sort of cold. Babygirl has a cold with no symptoms other than her crabby disposition. She threw two fits today, which is unusual for her. She planned to ride home with DaycareKid and his mom and was furious with me when I plucked her out of the back seat of their car and brought her back into the house. My timid child is outgrowing some of her timidity, apparently. The twins both have colds, mild ones, enough to slow them down and distract them from their school work. And I have the sore throat, stuffy nose, run-down blues. My husband had his cold last week and YoungestBoy seems immune.

Despite all that, I agreed to do some transcription tonight, which explains why I am at the computer and not curled in my bed, gazing at David Letterman. But now, I've done all I'm doing and off I go, so that in six hours, I can start this all over agin. Oh joy.


Blogger Wash Lady said...

Please reconsider the evaluation. These people don't work with him everyday, nor live with him. And yes, *some* of his descriptions do sound like a 6th grade boy but more than most of his descriptions sound like he needs to be evaluated and the results used for a more specifically targeted form of teaching.

As the parent of a child who desperately needed evaluation and one who got it only after her mother pitched a fit and demanded it - I strongly encourage you to insist that it be done. The longer it takes, the deeper the problem grows and the more negative habits have to be replaced. Educationally - it took us years to recover from waiting so long to adequately address her leaning capabilities and needs.

Contact them and tell them that you have reconsidered and would prefer the evaluation take place in the next few weeks. (Unless you feel as if there is nothing to be found and that he is just normal)

If your gut is telling you something is there - trust it. Who knows your son better Mel? You (a mother who pays attention, has been working/schooling him for as long as you have, who lives with him and who has the ultimate investment in him......or a group of people (who don't know him from Adam and who would rather not get involved in the first place?)

JMO - for what its worth and based on personal experience and genuine concern for a friend :)

4:41 AM  
Blogger Stacy said...

Oh man. I have sat through several of those team meetings about my daughter. They are awful and the bottom line of every single one of them has been that they think she is fine, just a bit lazy (or something like that). It seems to me that they want to take no responsibility for helping her, but they can always tell me how I've failed and hand me a huge list of things I need to be doing with her at home.

7:45 AM  
Blogger Brandie said...

Ugh. I'm sorry that your meeting was't more productive. I do beleive by law though, if you press it, they have to complete a full evaluation on him. Granted, I only taught in 5th grade, but I would not say it is normal for 6th grade boys honestly.
Anyway, I'll rack my brain (and get dh to bring home some things for storage) that have good tips and tricks to work with students who have trouble!
I hope all the colds go away soon too!

8:44 AM  
Blogger Judy said...

From my experience (which is admittedly limited), I would suggest sending your husband to the next meeting. As much as we like to admit that we as people have come farther than this, notice is taken when a father (with a nice advanced degree from a quality school, no less) takes time off from work to go to bat for his son.

I just bet they respond differently, and immediately.

2:48 PM  
Blogger Tina said...

Kids have such a range with their learning issues, that I think "experts" are only helpful in the very extreme cases. I'm sure you already know that the expert your sons needs is YOU.

8:20 AM  

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