I feel vindicated...and it's a little sick why

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by agee, Aug 31, 2010.

  1. agee

    agee Guest

    So - long story short: my son's 1st grade teacher lied at his IEP meeting, said he was on grade level, completed homework (which he didn't - I was the one who sat with him every day so I know it for a fact) and had no behavior problems in class (I produced a color-coded calendar that showed every day a note was sent home for me to sign because of bad behavior - for Feb. and March there were 3 days with no note). We also had a evaluation. that showed my kid at late K level at the end of 1st grade pretty much across the board, with somewhat lower for math.

    I was very ******. But that's not the point of this post.

    Today difficult child came home with a reading book at a beginning 1st grade level. His 2nd grade teacher has assessed him (I'm assuming) and has determined this is where he is - this is AFTER his 1st grade teacher put him at a beginning 2nd grade level the end of last year.

    Mind you, we read this summer and he had a tutor.

    He did the homework associated with-it (write 2 sentences, 5 words) and it is completely unreadable. Completely.

    So I feel really, really vindicated about his actual level and abilities. But also very guilty for this as well. In a perfect world my kid wouldn't have learning issues, right? But it's not a perfect world and I have been dying for someone at his *&&*$$!! school to figure it out. His K teacher did...then his 1st screwed it up royally. But the low level book shows me that hopefully his 2nd grade teacher knows what she's doing.

    Cross your fingers for us, please!
  2. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Ooooh, slow burn. That 1st gr teacher just wanted to pass him onto someone else.

    I'm so glad that he was sent home with-the appropriate level book.

    Fingers crossed!
  3. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I'd be feeding back to whoever you need to, about the opportunities lost because Grade 1 teacher did not fully recognise difficult child's problems. Don't initially say what you believe (that she lied to avoid having to trouble herself) but instead aim to show her up as simply not realising how far behind difficult child is, despite the extra coaching you organised in the break. Then, when pressed for more information, 'reluctantly' drop her in it thoroughly.

    If you go in blazing, "She's incompetent, lazy and a liar!" the response will be that the school will spring to her defence, and tat will be the main focus. But you need the focus to be on your son's needs.

    Follow the "I can't understand it! I mean, I know he couldn't have turned in any decent homework last year because I sat with him, but I thought perhaps my standards were just a lot higher than was perhaps currently standard for Kindergarten. See? Here is a sample of what he did then/can do now. Perhaps I'm expecting too much, perhaps this IS typical of Grade 1. But now it seems the standard is perhaps higher - can you help me understand exactly what he should be able to do? And help me work with you at the school to get him to that standard?"

    You may already know all the answers, but if you put it this way to the school, you are bringing their attention to the problem at the same time as alerting them to difficult child being behind, and your desire to be involved and to help. And clearly, you've given this a lot of thought so you're not just idly pondering. You won't be fobbed off easily. So they have to help, or face you digging them in deeper.

    Eventually the school (and higher-up department officials, if you involve them) will realise that there were problems last year that were not identified, and someone will get thrown under the bus. You want it to be last year's teacher, and you want the school or dept of ed officials to do it and not you. The damage will be far less than you perhaps would want, but ANY official recognition that she stuffed up, will surely be of value.

    This method of mine works, and it works long-term. You also find you get respected by the good teachers, and feared and loathed by the bad ones. Currently I find myself highly respected by difficult child 3's school. We still have occasional issues with a tea her, but they are rare. And as soon as I report a problem, it gets jumped on and fixed. Good and hard. By the principal and all other staff. After years of being "in the wilderness", I love it!

  4. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Is he getting any help for Learning Disability (LD)'s? If his handwriting is unreadable he may have dysgraphia, a problem being able to write. There may be underdeveloped muscles in his hand that contribute to this, as well as bad habits. If he has not been evaluated by an Occupational Therapist (OT) (occupational therapist), he NEEDS to be. They can do a lot to help strengthen his hand and improve his handwriting.

    Does the school have a reading specialist or Title ?? teacher (I forget the number, but it is a teacher who works with kids who cannot read on grade level)?? He needs to be tested to see if there are any Learning Disability (LD)'s that are holding him back and making reading difficult or almost impossible. This should have been done as part of the IEP process, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was left out.

    I hope that the school can figure out how to help him learn to read (with your help, of course). And that this year is better for him than the last. His homework struggles makes me wonder what, if any, Learning Disability (LD)'s are keeping him from learning. There seems to be something in there complicating things.
  5. agee

    agee Guest

    @Marguerite: thanks for this:
    I think this is good advice. At our first meeting, which will hopefully be next week, I was going to see where his new teacher assesses him and just leave it at that. I was going to mention the tutoring, etc. just so she knows we didn't blow it off this summer, but I will definitely focus on the moving forward aspect of it. At our meet-the-teacher night I told her we should meet to talk about his 504 plan but I wanted her to see him in action before we met. She is a very experienced, firm, kind teacher. I have high hopes that she will be able to help him and me this year. Hopefully I'm not just jumping the gun with my expectations, though. The year has only just begun.
    To be clear - last year he was in grade 1. And the grade 1 teacher was the person who said there was nothing wrong. This year (grade 2) she sent home a book more appropriate for end of kindergarten. So if she's sending home a book at a level at which she's assessed him, he essentially did not grow at all last year. Which was my point at the IEP meeting and which was what his teacher lied about. The whole thing made me feel and seem like a crazy person. This is why it's so satisfying to see what I clearly saw last year (hopefully) being recognized this year.
    You said:
    He sees an Occupational Therapist (OT) privately. The school has evaluated him for nothing and has balked at every attempt I've made to get him services since *I'm* initiating it and not them. So we're going private, which is probably more useful anyway since it doesn't pull him out of his class. He does not have problems with small motor function but does have issues with-coordination and cross-body movement (forgot what that's called). So yes, he's been evaluated and he is getting help. But there's no physical reason why he can't write, according to the Occupational Therapist (OT). It's either some brain thing or impulsivity, or both (although his impulsivity IS a brain thing, really.

    They didn't test him. We had it done privately - a complete neuropsychologist evaluation. He tested out as borderline intelligence across the board (but with reading his strongest suit, oddly enough), but with the strong caveat that it was lack of completion, lack of following directions, and off-task activity that lead to such a low score. My child literally has no attention span at all. None. So the evaluation. actually made the request for the IEP worse as it looked like my child is way outperforming his intelligence if he's anywhere near grade level, which of course his teacher said he was.

    If anything, his ADHD (or whatever it is) is keeping him from learning. This is what I'm hoping is acknowledged this year.

    Thanks for all the responses. Really helpful.

  6. aeroeng

    aeroeng Mom of Three

    The good news is the first grade teacher is now history. Look to the future.

    I'm a dyslexic parent of dyslexic kids. In my experience public schools do not do a good job teaching dyslexic students. For my oldest son, they identified that he had a learning disability (would not use the word "dyslexia") but failed to identify effective training for it. When I pushed for what program they were going to use they stalled and finally provided me with a book list. A book list is not a training program. I then realized that they had no clue on how to teach reading to dyslexic kids. Thus you have to take control yourself.

    My experience is also that truly dyslexic kids are not reading first grade material in second grade. We are struggling with how to identify letters and sounds in second grade. In third grade I could not read or write anything. Not even words like "is", "at" or "the". (I read and compose at a graduate level now, still struggle with spelling (but it is improving)). Many school systems state that the child must be behind at least 3 grade levels before they are identified as Learning Disability (LD). Which can be a terrible thing as the training is most effective at very young ages. Although my child's school identified him as Learning Disability (LD) in kindergarten because he colored like a pre-schooler and was thus 3 years behind.

    But even if your child does not meet the criteria for Learning Disability (LD), he still is behind in reading. What to do?

    The National Reading Panel studied 30 years of research on reading. You can down load their report. They identified that phonemic awareness is key to reading success. This report tells you what is important and why but does not instruct you on how. For how (at grade 2) one very useful resource is the book, "Phonemic Awareness: Playing with Sounds to Strengthen Beginning Reading Skills" by Jo Fitzpatrick. It is designed for a teacher in a class room situation. But, parents can find many phonemic awareness skill building activities to try at home.

    Good luck.
  7. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Good on you for organising private testing. Schools rarely have anyone quite so capable and qualified, because if they do, they would identify too many children with splinter skills, or with wide disparity between their high skill areas and their problem areas. It is cheaper for an education department to average out the high scores, which then disguises the low scores, so a child who is both gifted and talented plus learning disabled, can get totally lost in the system and passed off as merely average. Or maybe only a little above average, or only a little below. Any psychometric testing should NEVER average out the sub-scores when there is a wide gap between lowest and highest. Although the usual thing is to provide a single, average score, under these circumstances you don't. But schools tend to ignore this.

    difficult child 1 was assessed when he was 6 and 'failed' his first IQ test. In his case it was because he was anxious, scared he had done something wrong, and was not able to sit still. The school counsellor stopped the test but then scored it as if he had completed it. This of course gave him a "retarded" score and the school counsellor then berated me because difficult child 1 was actually functioning in class at a level higher than his score should allow. Therefore he was only achieving because I was a pushy mother! (It is actually not possible to pressure a kid to achieve beyond their potential). She had her reasons for attacking me - easy child was bright but getting no support, I was nagging for her to be accelerated and they used difficult child 1's problems to attack me, to shut me up about both kids. Meanwhile I had easy child 2/difficult child 2 coming up behind difficult child 1, sitting quietly at the other end of the table while I copped a serve. easy child 2/difficult child 2 sat there quietly drawing a detailed picture and wrote her name - she was not yet 3 years old. When I was accused yet again of claiming my kids were gifted when they're not really, I just quietly pointed at my younger girl and said, "Did you see me do any of her drawing for her? Did you see her look toward me at any time for approval or 'Am I doing this right?' No? Then consider that you have just made a grave error."

    difficult child 3 also 'failed' his first IQ test because he was mostly non-verbal at the time, had poor receptive language but was already reading. If they had given him the test in writing (at age 4) he would have done a lot better. The other issue when they are very young, is non-compliance because they don't understand the importance. difficult child 1, in a later assessment, said, "I'm bored by this. I don't want to answer any more of your questions. let's talk about birds." Feathered things were his obsession at that time.

    A good tester will realise the shortcomings of the testing procedure. Also never forget that in most cases, these tests were originally developed by testing a cross-section of kids from schools across countries. This was at a time when special needs kids were often in institutions or kept home; there was a disproportionate lack of special needs kids, so the tests are less relevant to their abilities.

    difficult child 1 first presented as severe ADHD. So severe that he could not sit still, he could only pay attention in class for short times and even then, only when there was absolutely nothing in between him and the teaching focus in the room (usually the teacher's face, or the blackboard). His K teacher actually had difficult child 1 sit on the floor literally on her feet, and she did well with him (she was reported to be a fairly useless teacher with other kids - she helped difficult child 1, though). But when he got anxious, it got worse and his Year 1 teacher was a martinet and created a lot of problems. She also put difficult students up the back, so they wouldn't distract others. That was when the school counsellor was called in and assessed him without my knowledge or permission (they kept doing that).

    easy child 2/difficult child 2 turned out to have different problems which didn't become apparent for a few years. She was so bright that she masked the problems for a long time. She had ADD (inattentive type) without the hyperactivity, although she is more hyperactive these days. The result of the ADD when the problems really hit, was an inability to lay down the memories she needed, of the schoolwork she was doing. She would forget she had ever been taught some very basic and important work.

    difficult child 1 developed a coping strategy with the fidgetiness (which upset his teachers) by 'zoning out'. He would be sitting perfectly still, face towards the teacher or the blackboard, but his mind would be elsewhere. The teacher would report he was a well-behaved quiet student, but we found out that difficult child 1 was just not aware of any lessons taught.

    Medication made a huge difference to the attention issues. Even with the fidgets, difficult child 1 could take information on board and learn, much better. easy child 2/difficult child 2 laid down the memories of the work again, and once more demonstrated her high IQ.

    I mentioned that difficult child 1 and difficult child 3 had both 'failed' their first IQ tests. LAter, privately done and more considered assessments showed IQ scores around 140. Even school counsellors later assessed both of them as above 100, even after averaging out some very low sub-scores.

    All you can do with a kid whose sub-scores are so widely variable, or who for other reasons is difficult to assess, is get an estimate and use it a a working hypothesis. If a child is having difficulty reading, you need to identify why, and try to work from there.

    There can be many reasons for a kid to have trouble reading. Sometimes it is lack of lesson 'sticking' at the right age. Either they miss out on learning at the optimum time (due to absence or other lack of opportunity); the inattention factor alone can be enough; eyesight can be an issue; there can be incomplete dominance in the brain which causes some left-right confusion over letter reversal (check for handedness - if it is not yet firmly locked in, or if the child seems ambidextrous, you may actually have an incomplete dominance problem); or you might have a problem of coordination between the eye and brain in tracking words across the page. Or you might have a child who is not a visual learner, so much as someone more tactile, or more aural. Some work done with indigenous Australians have shown that the children seem to learn better in a more traditional way in the early years; they sit them down and teach them with storytelling rather than more formal lessons. At about age 7 they then focus more intensely on reading, and these kids apparently do a lot better. It seems discriminatory to say this but I learned about this from a teacher (herself Aboriginal) who developed and researched this teaching method. I use it as an example only; I doubt this would apply so much to other racial groups, it's just that there were 50,000 years of isolated evolutionary development during which time Australian Aborigines learned the best way they could, in order to survive and thrive in that environment. Traditional learning methods often work, for good reasons. I'm just saying - different people find that they have different optimum learning methods.
    A child who is more tactile, for example, can be given solid block letter shapes and feel them, learning to place them on the floor to spell out a word. Or touch objects that start with that letter. A child who is aural can learn with singing - I still remember being taught to sing the alphabet.

    When a person looks at something, the eyes move to take in different scenes. As the eyes move, the brain switches off for a split second, switches back on as the eyes stop. This switching is important and develops more with experience. If the brain doesn't switch on and off properly, your brain records a blur as the eyes move. When a reader is wired up to measure eye movements while they read, you can see this in action - the eyes scan across the line of print and stop. At each stop, a number of words are seen. The eye moves on and stops again, taking in more words. There may be slight overlap, but the brain works it out with practice. On a recorder screen these eye movements look like a set of steps. Each step is called a saccade. A good reader saccades fast with wide 'steps' that take in a larger number of words at a time. A poor reader has small, short saccades or none at all, eyes roaming at random across the page going up, down, left, right at random. As a result, what they take in is jumbled and meaningless.
    The Irlen kind of dyslexia (Google Helen Irlen) is a different kind of eye-brain problem. She found that coloured glasses could help screen out the frequencies of light that caused confusion in the brain. You could find a specialist pediatrician who can help, or maybe just a cooperative optometrist. Or if you're really broke but have a friend in the printing game, photography or the theatre who can get their hands on coloured transparent films, play with those and see if anything helps. You can save some time and energy this way. But whatever you do, take good notes so if/when you do go to a professional, they don't have to reinvent the wheel. You need a scientific attitude to this and your child is your junior associate researcher.

    A child whose eyes are not saccading properly can be helped by a very simple exercise. You can set this up yourself (and save a bucketload of money). Get a brightly coloured or distinctive ball. Sit the child at the table and put the ball in the child's left hand. Get the child to keep eye contact with the ball as he/she rolls the ball across the table from left to right. The child catches the ball in the right hand, passes it back to the left UNDER the table, and repeat. As many times as the child can stand (up to ten times). Do this two to three times a day.

    Next step - use large letters for the child's reading. Write a story for that child, about that child. If possible, take photos to go with it. Maybe the story can be an adventure the child went on, a family or school outing. If you can get the child to help compose the story, even better. Work on it together. Then print it out (large print, please!) and put it in a photo album or other durable presentation format and daily (or more often) sit with the child and read it together. It doesn't matter if the child memorises it - as long as they read it aloud with their finger/eyes following the line. Let them use a finger if they need to - it actually helps the eyes learn to saccade properly.

    If this doesn't help fast enough (you should see improvement in a few weeks, certainly after two months) then the problem is more complex and needs further assessment. But what you have done will always be of benefit. And what you can do, is very inexpensive.

    Never underestimate the validity and value (monetary as well as in every other way) of your own efforts.

  8. agee

    agee Guest

    I appreciate all the suggestions. I've bought the phonemic awareness book and I'll check out the other resources/exercises you've listed.
    But part of me just wants to cry about all of it, too...simply getting difficult child to do his homework is HUGE. 30 minutes is about all the effort it seems I can get from him - last year was 0 so this is a big improvement - and the thought of adding extra stuff is exhausting. Every interaction with me is a chance for him to create a power struggle/provacative situation. I try to keep it short, simple, and our interactions at a minimum. The only way I've been able to get him to do homework this year is to profess an 'I don't care' attitude - if he doesn't do it I'll just write a note to his teacher and he won't get the award we've set up for doing his homework this week. Last year it was an enormous fight every night.
    I don't know how to introduce more work/practice without creating drama.
    And the year is still young. He's still on honeymoon with his teacher - I give it 2 more weeks before the notes about behavior start coming home.
    It probably sounds like I'm making excuses. He is just really, really hard to deal with - still. If he doesn't want to do something, if something "shiny" catches his eye, or if it seems like it'll get a rise out of someone in his family, he is deflecting, changing the topic, or refusing to do anything. Lots of times we have to treat him as if he's a 2-year old.
    Boo hoo for me. I'm feeling tired simply from getting him in the car this a.m.
  9. flutterby

    flutterby Fly away!

    I noticed that you said he doesn't fit any one diagnosis, but seems to be somewhere on the spectrum. That made me think of NonVerbal Learning Disorder (NVLD). Check out this link (tons of information) and see what you think. (Mind you, most schools do not recognize this as an Learning Disability (LD) and he more than likely will not get services for it. However, we got services through MR/daughter because of that diagnosis. And once you do get an IEP, the diagnosis doesn't matter as much. An IEP is specific to a child's learning needs.)

  10. aeroeng

    aeroeng Mom of Three

    That's the beauty of Fitzpatrick's book, it is all games. The more active the better. He can jump, sing, run, and make lots of noise etc. Also the book lists activities for a large collection of different types of phonemic awareness skills. But, the national reading panel identified that they really only need to learn one or two skills to get the best benefit. Thus you can try several different activities from the book and then stick with the ones he likes the best.

    I cried when I first suspected my oldest had inherited my reading issues. With every fiber of my being I did not want him to go through what I went through. But you know, he never did because I knew how to avoid it and fought along with him.

    I also cried at all the IEP meetings.
  11. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    With the ball game I suggested, it shouldn't be a chore. Keep it really short, only do it a couple of times at a time if he can't handle more. Do it before school, not after, if he is struggling. Personally, I find homework for kids like tis to be a huge problem and I campaigned for it to be dropped because it just was a waste of energy and effort. The kid has held it together all day at school, concentrated as hard as he could, tried to be good (and probably failed and got yelled at) then he comes home - to more schoolwork! Of course there's a fight.

    We tried all sorts of strategies, including taking the pressure down. I would put a large snack beside him so he could eat while he worked. Another thing I've done (currently doing with difficult child 3) is I will give him a mini-chocolate bar as a reward for a certain amount of time's solid concentration (no getting up and walking around; no talking about stuff not relevant). At the moment difficult child 3 has to work solidly, concentrating, for half an hour before he earns his chocolate bar. I know from experience tat once he settles to a task, he will keep going. But five minutes, fifteen minutes could be all you need to get him started. And munching a chocolate bar while he continues to work (hopefully) helps reinforce that work isn't all bad. Or he could be rewarded on completion of the amount of effort you feel is sufficient - he's worked, so there should be a sense of satisfaction and relief (I got tat bit done, anyway) then he gets the reward to reinforce it.

    I don't normally recommend food reward, especially junk food, but sometimes you need to break the rules in extreme circumstances.

    Homework shouldn't be a battle. It should be (if anything) a nailing in place of the day's lessons under more relaxed conditions.

    With my ball exercise, I made it into a game by choosing a ball that was goofy or otherwise fun. There is a kind of ball that is actually a weighted ball floating inside an outer clear ball. The effect is to make it look as if the ball is sliding across the table, not rolling. I bought some that looked like eyeballs, they are great for holding a kid's attention on the ball ("maintain eye contact"). About $2 each, very cheap therapy. Make it a game and it will work better.

    Homework snacks - popcorn is good. Pieces of fruit are good. You need food tat can be reached for and eaten with one hand, with no 'bits' to put aside (ie avoid large sandwiches - two hands needed. Peel fruit and cut it into bite-sized pieces).

    For now, I'd be asking the teacher for a break from homework. Maybe keep it to the reader for a while, and you can snuggle up together to read the book. An excuse for a cuddle can often help overcome resistance. But battles - they're not him trying to control you. They are him trying to find a way to cope, when he's had a gutfull for the day and feels it's unfair for school to intrude on home.