We had our ‘IEP meeting' with difficult child's team. Meeting was very long and so will be this post. Though big part of the meeting were things concerning difficult child's sport performance and mental coaching. I will skip those now. It was interesting stuff about controlling emotional states and moods, shifting from one state to other, building up and calming down the mood etc. I may write a separate post about all that in later time. Some of it could also interest people here. But this will be huge post even without all that. There were many people from team's coaching and medical staff present and also one person from team management and even difficult child's team captain part of the time. Unfortunately difficult child's addiction counsellor couldn't make it to the meeting. Afterwards I had very open discussion with the difficult child in private. And while we were driving home the coach difficult child works a lot one on one called and told some things that were not discussed in the meeting. This will be really long, so I try to make some order to it. Here we go: The Good It was very good meeting. In fact I hope even one of the real IEP meetings we used to have had been even half that good. Open, calm, frank, very good and positive tone. Well prepared meeting in every way and the specialist team hired really seems to know how to keep these meetings. I also feel that he was really able to see and pinpoint difficult child's problems, see cause/effects and make some sense to the whole mess. difficult child's team seems very willing to work with difficult child and took these things seriously. I was also impressed the attitude team captain had. There was also nothing wrong with difficult child's attitude. It seemed that he had been prepared well and the specialist (I should find a better way to call him, how about mental coach, shorten MC? I will go with that rest of the post) had really driven through the idea that difficult child's behavioural issues give him disadvantage he can not afford if he wants to get to the next stage of his dream. And that now he will have two year window (time he is likely to stay with his current team) in relatively secure and supportive place to work kinks out of his game in and out of the field before the next round that will be a total rat race and survival of the fittest. Anyhow difficult child was anxious, but much more open than he usually is and he stayed calm and wasn't too defensive or passive-aggressive. But it was difficult for him. Oh, one more good thing. difficult child's sticker chart for tidy locker problem has worked like a dream. And he even took an initiative and took also pictures of ‘perfect packing' to use similar way. The Bad difficult child's problems are vast and probably more deep-rooted than I have ever understood. Number one behavioural issue his coaches want to see gone is difficult child's lying, lack of accountability, lack of openness and bad attitude. difficult child tells fibs very, very easily and at times those tend to grow to really big and messy lies, because he doesn't back away when pushed. That has caused at least one very embarrassing public situation to his coach in the last year. He also omits the truth constantly and they have had to punish him once because he omitted the fact that he had a fever so that he would be allowed to play. Fortunately it didn't cause him any health troubles, but that is something so stupid, reckless, stupid, dangerous, stupid, against all rules, stupid, really pissing off his coaches and medical staff and did I said stupid, that I really can't understand how he could consider it a good idea. And if he can not lie himself out of trouble (or more deeply into the trouble) he blames others or makes excuses. Accountability is hard pressed in most things. At least he was ready to admit all that. And says he is ready to work on it. MC's suggestion how to break this habit was zero tolerance. Not letting even smallest fib, lie, ‘forgetting', ‘misunderstanding', excuse or blaming others go through, but instead point it out straight away, give difficult child chance to back off, and if he does not do that, punish him. Punishments will be tap on the nose variety, swift, short, not very big. Because it is a sport team, he is likely to run lots of laps, jump stairs or whatever because of this in future. Same rules will go with ‘bad attitude' except what ‘bad attitude' exactly means in that situation has to be specified before telling difficult child to knock it off. This approach was partly difficult child's own idea. There is only one area in life, there difficult child holds himself 100 % accountable and that is his sport performance. He never makes excuses or blames others when it comes to that. And it is partly because his former coach, who didn't accept any excuses at all, not even the real ones and punished harshly, if kids even tried to give them. He was especially hard with difficult child whom he didn't like much and in fact in his current team they had to teach him it is okay to talk about real outside factors which influenced to his performance when analyzing it. That if he can't name the things that affected his performance he will not learn to deal with those factors. So they try if this approach would work also out of the field. Second big problem is difficult child's peer relationships. Those are the mess. Most of the older guys in the team can handle him. They have some peeves with him sometimes, but can live with it. And to those peeves MC had a simple solution. They are to simply tell difficult child that what he is doing does irritate them and tell him what he should be doing instead. No implying, no rolling eyes behind his back, no waiting he would just get it. Just telling him to use headphones or mute his laptop at bus or telling him to collect his stuff away from someone else's space etc. Real problem is with the younger guys. There are few with whom he is at least little friendly with but some don't talk to him at all. And it seems difficult child is afraid of them. MC thinks that first difficult child's behaviour has to improve to acceptable level, after that team dynamics can be altered so that situation will be easier to difficult child. If difficult child behaves himself, it will be easier for coaches and team captain to demand others to treat difficult child better. A biggest issue is difficult child lashing out. He can have a really sharp tongue in him and it can seem very unpredictable to others when he will lash out. He is not physically violent, but can be very mean verbally. One very interesting thing MC pointed out is that difficult child tends to lash out most while in bus, most often after the games. At times also in other circumstances, but the bus is the most common situation. He pointed out, that difficult child tends to prefer flight over fight in most cases, but being in the bus prevents escaping the situation. Bus is also the small space, everyone near each other, lots of noise, smells, hassle etc. difficult child's sensory issues come to play in this. After the game every one is high on adrenalin. Many are rowdy and loud, for difficult child it heightens his sensory issues. Sensory issues make him anxious and irritable. Throw in anything difficult child considers threatening and the fact he can't escape and hide, he lashes out. And he seriously over interprets ‘the threat.' According to MC difficult child is close to PTSD* type reactions on this. (* I will get back to that one later.) There are also some situations that set difficult child of even without adrenalin or major sensory factor. In the bus there is an ancient sitting order. Coaching staff sits in very front, older players have the back part (and youngsters don't have permission to go there without permission) and youngsters have the middle. At times there is no enough room in the middle if there are many reserve guys with them etc. and then there will be some (playful) squabble over the seats. That is one situation difficult child can't take at all. He can't keep his own and then explodes. That has been the exact background of the several nastiest situations difficult child has been involved. At least that one is easy to solve. MC made it very clear, that in any situation difficult child shouldn't need to try to fight for his physical space. It is also easy rule to explain others. difficult child plays one of the positions that is considered more hard pressure and ‘mental' than others and there are often some variations in team rules for players in that position (for example others are not allowed to prank them, if they do not start it themselves.) So the new rule is that no one is to try to take a seat of a player playing that position. There will be also some practical solutions to protect difficult child's physical space in locker room to make it easier for him to cope. MC thinks that difficult child will need separate calm down place for bus trips. Maybe in stairs or a seat in either in the coaches' or older players' area. Place he can go to calm down, if it gets too much for him or there his positional coach or team captain can tell him to go, if they notice him to start to build up anxiety. He also recommended that difficult child tries several different sensory things to find out ways to calm himself in that situation. Squeeze ball, weighted blanket, ear plugs or mp3-player with white noise, relaxing sounds, relaxing music, his favourite music or very loud music (he should try out and find what works the best for him.) difficult child also has a nervous habit of biting his lip (and it shows, his lip is often raw) and MC recommended some kind of chew toy. Either a real one, if they can find something that is not too embarrassing, or at least lollipop or gum to help him ease the anxiety. One problem in all this is of course how to explain the special treatment to others. Some they can explain with his position (like having MC around, using mental coaches for those players in ‘mental position' is not rare), or don't have to explain at all (like moving his locker to end of the row and putting huge pile of something to his other side so that he has only one person next to him and much more peaceful space) but for other they have to give some sort of explanation. MC's suggestions are that they either matter-of-factly tell, that difficult child has some special needs and needs special accommodations. Or make a joke about it and tell he is on IEP. Or they could go for him being a baby of the team. He is the youngest. He was the youngest last year, he may be youngest even year after this. Youngest and rookies are always in the bottom of the pecking order and are errand boys for others. They also have to do all the dirty or tedious tasks. Carry the heaviest things (like massage tables etc.) around. Have to pick up equipment from the field after practices etc. Not at all bad in normal circumstances. Usually there are few sharing the position and they are in the position one season and after that there are new ones. But at times it happens that someone is an only youngest and could be youngest for longer time. In those cases they usually lighten up the tasks after a year because it would simply suck to be a designated errand boy for years. MC suggestion is, that instead of lightening up the arduous part of being the youngest with difficult child they should let it be and play up the ‘baby of the team', ‘to be protected and given extra care' part of it. That will be difficult child's choice. He feels very strongly about being labelled different or ‘special needs' and he of course does have a right to privacy in these matters. Other things talked about were difficult child's low frustration hold and his over all life management and structure. A lot about difficult child's sleeping issues, need for structure, time management skills etc. Again, a lot of things to try and find what works. Weighted blanket to help with getting sleep, relaxation techniques (many same as in his mental coaching), sleep hygiene things, eating often enough, making (pictured) timetables etc. Oh and the conversation I had with the positional coach in phone: He told me, that one thing MC had strongly pressed for him was difficult child need for positive reinforcement during the process. He will get a lot of negative feedback and punishments and those needs to be balanced by positives and MC had discussed with him extensively what he could do to balance all the negative feedback. The Ugly Then there is the ugly part. PTSD type symptoms. MC reminded us several times that he is not a medical doctor and can't diagnose (here only MDs give diagnoses, but MC is indeed psychologist and has much of understanding of this type of issues), but said that he felt that difficult child anxiety level and many reactions fitted with PTSD. He reacts inappropriately strongly to all situations there one could see even little bit of mobbing. He is in fact afraid of some of his team mates who have never harmed him (at least physically) in any way and in situations he feels threatened (and what others would consider just rough play) his anxiety builds even to panic attack. I have told before that difficult child was bullied at school for long time. Unfortunately it seems it was much worse than I thought. He wasn't bullied by just few kids, he was mobbed by the big group and others, even if not actively participating, did mock him or simply ignored him. It was constant, continued for ten years and at times it was very violent. Apparently many bruises I thought were from sports or him being clumsy were from getting beaten. Things ‘forgotten' or ‘lost' were stolen, broken and thrown to garbage. He had his head forced down to toilet several times a week; he was ridiculed and laughed at constantly. Few of his ‘friends', two of which I just send roses and gift cards last weekend for graduation, forced and blackmailed him to shoplift for them, when they were 13 to 15. difficult child never got caught and I was happy, that he finally had some friends (and now I feel just sick.) I knew difficult child was bullied. And he got in trouble for bullying himself. He was reactive and at times provocative, but I never understood how bad it really was. We had a long talk about this with difficult child after the meeting and I'm now totally heartbroken. Some of the stuff he told is just so awful, so hurtful and I'm not at all sure he told it all. And even some of what he told is not only physical and emotional violence but goes near being also sexual violence. Those who did it didn't probably mean it like that, but humiliation, shame, all that is there. And it is just makes me feel sick. difficult child has been seeing addiction counsellor once a month lately because he has been doing very well over a year now. That may change to ‘only if needed'-based next fall. MC recommended that difficult child would consider starting therapy for his anxiety and trauma issues. difficult child will have a month to decide if he wants to start that process at fall, therapists usually have room for new clients from the beginning of fall. That of course would put extra stress on difficult child and it may be he is not yet ready for that, but it may be important for him to go through the process in some point. And in many ways this would be a good time. Bonus: The Funny We were very somber with husband at our way back home. While there was a lot of hopeful stuff in the meeting, difficult child telling me about how badly he was bullied really hurt us. Our failure to protect him is just so huge. But after two hour ride husband remembered something funny. Almost exactly 19 years ago we were in vacation in Florence. I was heavily pregnant but still allowed to fly and we wanted to have our last romantic vacation together for a long time. We had lovely time and one thing we bought as a souvenir was a chew toy for difficult child from Fiorentina shop. It was his first toy. And now almost exactly 19 years later we are back to shopping chew toys for our baby.