Monday, November 13, 2006

What a Wonderful Resource YOU Are!

I promised you a post on Parent-Teacher conferences. They were pretty much what I expected except that SmallBoy has had a much more difficult time holding it together. He's having angry outbursts in class, he's melting much more frequently and reacting poorly when someone asks him what's wrong. Academically, he's doing fine. I've been doing some work with him at home, work that we do at my job (a program I HIGHLY recommend for those with decoding and/or symbol imagery and/or comprehension weaknesses) and his last reading test was beautiful. It was mainly comprehension and he scored a 97%! I must be doing something right with that.

He's having difficulty, however, doing more than the absolute bare minimum of an assignment and becoming extremely agitated if asked to put in more effort. I know that when PC, Meem, Mom (GR) & I went to the conference with Dr. Baker, he had some suggestions on this, so I'll have to look at my notes. One example, when, PC and I first noticed his resistance to doing the whole assignment was when the class had to bring in an article from the newspaper about the mid-term elections, and talk about it to the class. He and I went through the paper and looked for something shorter and something with a bit of a different twist than what we thought the rest of the class might bring in. We found a short article about how, despite the new voting "technology", there were still entirely too many glitches. Obviously, an article written in the Chicago Tribune about an election is going to require some "translation," which I did. SmallBoy, however, took that as a substitute for reading the article. He did NOT wish to read it at all. It got so ugly that I, Ms Calm Cool & Collected, told him, "Fine. If you don't wish to read it, then you will have to take the consequences when Mrs. M asks you to explain it to the class."

So, anyway, we chatted about that at conferences and Mrs. M asked us for more ideas on how to help him out of a meltdown, how to help keep him focused, how to keep the outbursts at a minimum. These have really been reaching a peak over the last few weeks and we haven't noticed them, at home, anyway, until early last week. This morning I emailed the teachers. Oh - I forgot, the other 4th grade teacher asked PC & I if we can come in and present SmallBoy's Book to HER class (Marti...WOW!). We're SO excited. Here's what I wrote to the teachers:

Good Morning Ladies -

After speaking with you both at conferences on Thursday, we proceeded to SmallBoy's occupational therapy and spoke with his OT for suggestions. She suggested that perhaps a system of reward motivators that can be carried over to home so that his rewards stay consistent and come, ultimately, from my husband and myself. You could simply use a corner of the chalkboard and make a mark of some sort, without putting his name on it, or he could keep a card on his desk to keep track. That way, he's not receiving any extra special attention/rewards that the rest of the class is not. What he earns that day could be communicated home.

The system we use at home is a star system. The number of stars he receives is equivalent to the task he performs or the task & the lack of complaining. Additionally, he will receive stars for pulling himself out of a meltdown, if he does something without being asked, if he goes out of his way to help someone, if he demonstrates superb behavior, etc.

He uses these stars in exchange for video game/computer time with each star equivalent to 5 minutes.

To help make this system transfer from school to home, and vice versa, I've taken a cue from some fellow parents with children on the spectrum. They send a notebook back and forth to school each day to create a constant communication between the parents and the teacher. For example, if SmallBoy had a great day, but melted at one point over something, you could let me know. If he had a difficult time on his homework, or had a really rough morning, I could let you know. Even better, if he had a fantastic day, or was ready to melt over something and found a way to pull himself out.... We could also communicate about the stars he had earned that day.

Another suggestion his OT had was as far as keeping him focused or bringing his engine back down to a regulated level. What she has found works for him is giving him a sour candy. This works with homework, too. I expressed to her that candy in the classroom probably was not a huge possibility, but she mentioned to me how brilliant teachers are at subtlety and that simply walking past his desk and dropping a few near him (we would be happy to supply the stash), or if he could keep some in his desk and you could cue him when you notice he needs one, "SmallBoy, what can you use to bring your engine down?" or "SmallBoy, where's your engine right now?" (something like that).

After thinking more on what a hard time he's been having lately, we realized that our multiple schedules (Cub Scouts, OT, Girl's non-stop sports, meetings, work, etc...) have finally all collided creating many nights in a row when none of us are home together for any length of time. Additionally, our dog has been growing increasingly sicker and will, in all likelihood, be put down this week, on which he's been dwelling, plus, the "off" schedule of the last week has thrown him quite a bit. We were hoping that this week would be a bit calmer, since next week is going to be a shortened week for him, too, but it's even more crazy than the last few. We've made a visual calendar of just this week, though, so that he can see what activities are going on, and for whom, and on what days. I'm hopeful that will assist in his anxiety, especially now that the rest of us have a visual and can plan some quiet SmallBoy time accordingly.

Let me know what you think about these suggestions.

Ms. R - Looking at my schedule, I am unable to get away from the office until the first week of December, as my boss is out of town at a conference this week, and then on vacation for 2wks. However, if we can schedule the 6th or 7th of December. Also, I can check with my husband for his availability and perhaps he can come in and present sooner. As in Mrs. M's class, I know that SmallBoy would appreciate being a part of the presentation, so I would like to also coordinate with Mrs. M a time when we could "borrow" SmallBoy.

Thank you so much for taking the time to spend "learning" SmallBoy, and for working so closely with us. We appreciate the fact that he has such caring teachers, and a compassionate atmosphere in which to learn and grow. Again, let me know your opinions on the suggestions and if you have any others.


I would LOVE any other brilliant ideas or suggestions that any of YOU may have. You see where I already swiped the Communication Notebook (why haven't I been doing that all along? DUH!). You, my blog family, have been such an incredible fountain of knowledge & wisdom, and one of the many things for which I am truly thankful!


Laura said...

I can't be much help right now as I am drowning in poor math abilities and Girl Social Issues, which of course are exacerbated by the Asperger's. But I wish you a lot of luck, and would appreciate hearing the other things you come up with. We need to be a sharing community.

Kristina Chew said...

Just put Charlie to bed after an hour of screaming, screaming, screaming........ after a tough afternoon at school. It did help to have accessible some highly structured activities that Charlie can do at hand----in the midst of screaming, I had him practice piano and also do a puzzle (he got very distract looking at one part, but he was no longer screaming at that point).

You're pretty wonderful yourself!