Part time schooling

Discussion in 'Special Ed 101' started by pepperidge, Nov 29, 2006.

  1. pepperidge

    pepperidge New Member


    Have a meeting tomorrow with Special Education, guidance counselor and school principal. My eldest is back to the I don't want to go to class, do the work at school mode. Same story for the last six years, but each year it seems to get a bit worse (and hit a bit earlier in the year). Anyway, I have posted about that in the past. He has a good set of teachers this year, aides in 3 of his four main subjects, plus he goes 3 times a week to the Special Education resource room for one period(instead of music, which is good for him) for help. It is the best set of accomodoations we have had and it is hard to fault the school.

    But he just seems to lose energy (less depression though this year in general, as Lamictal seems to have helped) and just says he wants to be home with us. He has always had lots of separation issues. I don't know how much of it is that, and how much is that he has limited stamina for school which he doesn't like and perhaps finds somehwat challenging due to his ex function type LDs. He is a fairly mechanically inclined kid who likes to transform things and doesn't take well to the boring academic curriculum though he is very intellingent.

    So I am considering--having resisted it for a long time, having been counseled against homeschooling-- asking if he can go to school part time (2 hours a day) to the two classes he sort of likes for a trial period. Figure that might still give him some out of the home time, time to be with peers etc. He has no social life outside the home. Then I might try to teach him math (his least favorite subject)

    A better alternative would be a therapeutic day school, but the nearest one is probably 2-3 hours away. Realistically I suspect in the future we might be looking at a boarding arrangement, but would prefer to put that off. I doubt there is any research on whether it is better to more traumatically separate kids at an earlier age or wait until early high school, right?

    I think the school will accept a part-time arrangement; I suppose I might be able to ask for a math tutor, but they may contend that they can educate him at school. That's a battle I don't think I want to fight at this juncture, though if he resists learning from me it might become an issue.

    Any thoughts? I guess I've come to think that if he is that unhappy now, it is not worth the battle. And perhaps more limited contact with his peers at middle school is not the worst thing in the world.

    Just thought I would run it by you guys in case there are things I haven't thought about, especially in terms of the services the school might offer, or if they balk at the part-time arrangement ( don't think they will, they are pretty flexible, but I think if he only goes for two hours a day they don't get their state money for him? but maybe their IEP money? don't know about that.

    Thanks for any and all input.

  2. Martie

    Martie Moderator

    Dear Chris,

    As I think you know, my ex-difficult child attended public school part-time in 7th and 8th grades. I also know I have cautioned that in some regards, anyone generalizing from my son's experiences is not a good idea. However, I believe we have corresponded in regard to some similarities our boys share.

    To me, the key in the decision was two-fold:

    1) My son had auditioned at the American Boychoir School, in Princeton, NJ, where the school day is three hours--and the rest is music. He did not want to sing enough to go and I did not think he was ready for boarding school at age 11. However, the audition experience planted the idea in his head that he WANTED to go to school part-time and devote the rest of his time to organ practice (rather than vocal music.) This is not a typical experience for a kid, but it happened and since he is an experiential learner, having the American BoyChoir as a model, helped him know what was right for him.

    2. I KNEW by the time he was 11 that "balance" in the sense of "well-rounded" was not going to apply to him. So all the school's arguments that this plan only made him more "lop-sided" did not impress me. I believed that ex-difficult child would do more in 3 hours than in 5.5 and I was correct. He took 3 classes and did his homework at lunch and in one period in the resource room which for him, was a study hall. He never did homework outside of school and never brought books home. It was written into his IEP. In eighth grade, he added a fourth class extending his day by 40 minutes and it worked. He was very efficient with his time which certainly was not true in the years in which he was supposedly doing homework at home.

    Some of the features you point out were present in my decision: staying in a public school part-time was more "normal" than going into a conservatory at 11 or 12--which one of his classmates at Juilliard did. I've met her and she lacks what I would call the give and take of young adults who have spent time with age-peers. She doesn't lack "social skills" but I imagine she has changed little since she was a young adolescent because she has always been with adults. She is 22 now and seems like she's 35. I intuited that total removal from peers might produce something like the above but a full day was WAY TOO MUCH of the age-peer thing for ex-difficult child to handle in middle school. Part-time school was a good compromise.

    I do not oppose home schooling for those who can pull it off but for a certain type of child (usually a boy) who does not connect easily, the total loss of contacts outside the home may be problematic.

    The other thing that is different, of course, about ex-difficult child is not every 12 year old can spend his afternoons contributing to his "professional development." It is easy for people to say now that I did the right thing because ex-difficult child attends one of the most prestigious music “trade schools” (it’s true--LOL) in the world. However, I was called a stage mother and worse when I "let" him focus on what he wanted to do at such a young age. I really thought I had no choice because his psychiatrist was predicting we would not be able to keep him at home much beyond age 12 because of the intensity of his ODDness and depression

    This goes to your final question: research about when to switch to a therapeutic boarding school or other placement. I strongly believe, and the psychiatrist agreed, that sending a young high school student into a structured placement is a WHOLE different thing than with an 11 or 12 year old. I KNOW (but can't prove or cite studies) that difficult child would have felt rejected if he had been placed residentially at 12. His psychiatrist was happy that we could keep him at home for two more years--he just had not thought the chances of our doing so were very good. Of course, the part-time school attendance made it possible in my opinion.

    The difference is that by 14, the adolescent is CONVINCED his parents are the problem and is quite OK with leaving his terrible home. There is a world of difference between having an adolescent say I need to get out of here compared to sending a dependent, crying child into the care of others.

    Also a distinction needs to be made between hospitalization (which we almost had to do several times--but it would have been short-term) and long-term placement, i.e., for a big chunk or all of high school. Finally, some people "believe in" boarding school. They think it is a good choice for many non-difficult children. My best friend from college sent her son to boarding school because employment keeps her in a place where the public schools are poor and the private schools are not much better. Her son went to Andover for four years and did not feel punished. He also lived at home until he was 14.5. He is as easy child as it gets and is a senior at Dartmouth.

    So yes, I think it is better to keep a child at home if possible but send a young adolescent(as opposed to an older adolescent) into treatment or whatever is necessary if you think it is likely to happen sometime. I think some parents wait too long: the younger kids in my son's peer group at ASR did better in general than the kids who were 16 or 17 at placement. It makes sense to me: the older kids had been in high school too long and been exposed to too many things to change easily. Also many of them had acquired drug habits while trying to self-medicate their pain. We managed to avoid this, I think, by earlier placement.

    I would trust your mommy gut and ask your school district for a "trial" period of part-time school attendance. If it does not work, at least you will have tried. If it does work, it may reduce the stress on your son enough that he is more available to learn.

    Best regards,

    Martie :warrior:
  3. pepperidge

    pepperidge New Member


    I can't tell you how much your posts mean to me. I carry your story around in this part of my brain. They are reassuring in this difficult world where it is not clear what to do and the professionals all have their opinions and you feel like you are watching you child go down the drain so to speak.

    We had the IEP meeting today. I got to say, the staff at the school is very very flexible. We agreed that he would go to his first two classes, the ones he likes best, and they were willing to tutor him in math in the Special Education room which is empty during his math time (along with maybe a couple of his classmates who are also struggling which might be good. At this point anything they can do to keep him from shutting down completely in math is good). I thought that was a good suggestion, as it removes me from the equation. Then he can home or not as he chooses and once he is home there is nothing schoolwise he has to do. I think that his dad will be able to find some time to do some more "mechanical" workshop type stuff with him that he enjoys. Out here in the boonies one can find experts in all sorts of things that were more difficult to access in the more white collar suburbs we used to live in.

    After the winter break, we may have him go in the afternoon a couple of times a week for his "class" with the Special Education teachers--where they do projects, work on certain academic and social skills, go outdoors etc. The two teachers think that it is important that he be there to continue to develop his connection with them. So while it means a much more disjointed schedule for us, I think it makes sense.

    I got to tell you, you know what he said when I told him about it-- he asked if he wanted could he stay the whole day. It was all I could do to keep from laughing. Perhaps the sense that we are "making" him go to school less will remove some what might be oppositionality to the whole schooling thing. We can always hope!

    While I don't think by any stretch of the imagination that this is the end of the story, it may take some of the pressure away while keeping him connected to academics and his school and his few friends.

    I am hoping that we can buy some time before we have to confront the residential question.

    Thanks again for taking the time to share your experience and wisdom. There is so little that is clear cut with these kids with major mood disorders on what is best.

  4. Martie

    Martie Moderator


    I am glad the school was so flexible. Ex-difficult child's middle school was flexible, too. Public high school (which lasted a total of 13 days for him) was another story.

    The only question I have is: Are you planning to let difficult child decide on a day-by-day basis if he is staying or going home? If so, I might rethink that because it would be very unstructured. Just a thought on being "too flexible" but the first three periods sound really good--as do the hands on project with his dad. Whether or not the Special Education in the afternoon is positive or not, depends, I guess, on his relationships with those teachers.

    Way To Go on the IEP meeting! :bravo:

  5. pepperidge

    pepperidge New Member


    thanks for answering and for your support. The deal is that he goes for the first three periods of the day. that is non negotiable. In Jan he goes for the first three periods plus his Special Education periods (which is 2 or 3 times a week, depending on the week) unless I think it is a waste of time, but right now I think it is valuable. Should he choose to remain for the whole day, then he can. That's what negotiable. I don't want to make him feel like he has to come home (lol)!

    I think we need to make up a little contract with him and the school to formalize things. And we also need to make sure that he and I and his Dad are on the same page in terms of how available we intend to make ourselves in during the 11:15 to 3 pm period that he is out of school and at home. (Available, but not slaves)

    I was wondering to myself wether it is that middle schools tend to be more flexible than high school (as was your experience); whether districts that are not super competitive and Ivy bound are more flexible; small districts more than large; or whether it is completely idiosyncratic and depends on who is head of Special Education at the school. Not that it matters, just a question that crossed my mind.

    Anyway, we will see how it goes. I expect some testing I guess. If he gets adamant about staying home totally, then I guess it is back to school and he can sit on the couch in the Special Education room until they figure out what to do with him (and maybe begin to ultimately see the need for a therapeutic placement!)

  6. Martie

    Martie Moderator


    Of course it depends on the type of h.s. and in many cases what type of person, jerk or helpful, the director of Special Education is.

    Our public h.s., which is highly competitive with many students hoping to be Ivy bound, is not for everyone and that is not just for a student as unusal as my ex-difficult child. What really burned me on the refusal of the part day program is that they volunteered that HAD done it for non-Special Education. Olympic-hopeful athletes. I have nothing against sports but they are no more valuable to me than music as a special ability for a student.

    There were lots of other things going on the fall ex-difficult child was a high school freshman, including 9/11 which affected him a great deal, but the h.s. was NOT helpful--and not safe for a very depressed Goth with a lot of dark-side Goth friends. These dressed-in-black kids were attendng a high school called "suicide high" for a good reason and the school was oblivious that they were more dangerous as a group than individually (they had a suicide pact.) Sheesh--it is still easy for me to get cranked on these things five years after the fact.

    I think the contract with the middle school is a good idea. I hope your h.s. is better than ours for students with mmod disorders.