I have been trying to work out how to post this for weeks without giving a longish background essay ;-) I guess it's just not possible.
Essentially, we need information on helping my very gifted second grader with ever-increasing anxiety and ever-decreasing organization at school. At home, we have a system for everything and our systems work. At school, I am not there to enforce or help with that and her teacher seems to think saying, "here are my expectations and here are the stickers/prizes/privileges you will/won't get," should be enough to motivate her to just "do better." All the sticker charts and tick marks are making things SO much worse. The teacher is not going to change her style and my daughter can not go back to her regular classroom because a. academically she's quite far ahead and b. her particular "home room" is chaotic and out of control (very sweet burned out teacher on the edge of retirement).
I have been speaking to her various doctors and teachers about her anxiety for years and I think even this teacher THINKS she's helping and would like to help, she just wants to do it in the way she thinks it SHOULD help. The anxiety could very well be a side-effect of her meds but without them, she can't walk. Clearly not going off the meds. Need to help manage the anxiety. She also has "some kind of movement disorder" - we don't have a very firm diagnosis. This alone has been VERY stressful for her because it is unpredictable. She has a slight tremor in her hands. Sometimes she falls down and she's embarrassed. She can't run at all or walk very fast. I had to ASK the teacher to work out some system with a "line buddy" so she wouldn't get left behind. The more she hurries or concentrates on walking, the worse her gait is and the slower she goes, more she falls. This can be the same with writing and even thinking - when she is stressed or rushed, her brain just shuts down. We don't know what causes it - personality or meds or movement disorder - but her doctors have said if it continues to be a problem, they will both write letters and we can try to have some things written into her IEP. Her teacher has made comments that she is "a turtle" and needs to be "quick like a bunny." Such an awesome thing to say to a child who just finished crying because some kid was an ass in PE when she wasn't moving fast enough (because what could POSSIBLY be more important than winning at some random made-up BS game in PE?).
I need to have a meeting with the teacher, but I need to go in with some ideas first. If I need to, I can have her doctors back me up and really, this school has been so accommodating (and even the kids, when they know she's having issues or realize she can't HELP being slow, are amazing. Sometimes I think at least the walker was a visual cue to slow down and be patient, but she would at this point rather stay home than use it and I feel so blessed that she's not needing it, I feel guilty saying that) but I need to go in with some ideas and strategies to see what she's willing to try.
We would also LOVE an app or CD with some guided relaxation imagery for children - that isn't hokey and cheesy.
If you've read all this, thank you. From my own experiences in gifted programs, I know that maturity and organization don't always or even often go along with giftedness, but anxiety often does. I just want my child to be happy and enjoy school again because it has been such a source of joy to her in the past.
When you sit with the teacher, I'd lay out again for her what you laid out here: here's what's known about the condition, here's what makes it worse, here are the side effects of the meds. What can we do to make the environment fit the needs of this child? I would specifically bring up to her the situations in which she feels she needs to hurry your DD. i would cast this both in the guise of safety (don't make my kid fall because you don't want to wait) and anxiety.
For organization, I've found that going to the teacher with a "here's what works at home, here's what doesn't work," helps when you cast it in the framework of "how can we leverage what we know works into how she needs to function at school.". Also, I've found that teachers start teaching organization more directly in the higher grades, and my kids have responded to direct instruction.
All these things can and should be included as goals/accommodations in the IEP. After your meeting with her teacher, you might consider summing up with "great, we've ironed a lot out here in what we think will work. I'd like to call and IEP meeting to make these formal goals and accommodations to allow for continuity across the school day." you don't have to say that it will do things like ensure her own follow through.
Our family has had good results from cognitive behavior therapy for ADD-like organizational issues and anxiety (in which these two things tend to feed each other in our house), as well as yoga for the anxiety and whole-body integration. I also have some friends with kids who fit a profile similar to what you describe,and they've found taekwando to be an excellent fit, with a focus on meditiation, and mind-body focus.
You might also want to take a look at the book Smart But Scattered. It won't covered everything you need, but it might give some ideas, and there are organizational suggestions for school in there.
Thanks for all that. I have that book on hold at the library right now (and about six others because if you can't understand something, keep throwing books at it!) and I hope to pick it up tomorrow.
It's hard to really explain anything without going on for pages and pages, but I'm very nervous about asking for accommodations. My daughter has something that's quirky and unusual. When she goes to the neurologist, there are other doctors who want to see her "neat" disorder. It is hard for some people to understand that it can be worse sometimes than others and that "trying harder" makes it much worse.
I think we may also have to have a talk with the PE coaches. Now that she's not using the walker, there's this feeling that she's "cured" and everything should be fine now. She has very low hand and trunk strength. She can not, for example, do tons of sit ups...no matter how much you say, "Try, try, try" over and over. Would it REALLY be so horrible if she did crunches? There's talk of running a mile. Yes, she can walk a mile. We do it often. It's not a FAST mile and the idea of her out there on the track by herself when everyone else is finished??? Can they REALLY not imagine how humiliating that is???
I don't have direct experience with your situation, but allow me to just hold a mirror to your post. You say "if the situation continues", and "if you need to", you can get doctors to officially chime in on this to the school. To me, it sounds like you're at that point. Go ahead and get the doctors' documentation of your daughter's needs. You are her advocate and I know that feeling that you're bothering or nagging the teachers too much-- we parents with gifted kids often need to be on top of things though. I think I learned that the hard way last year in my ds's 2nd grade year, after I spent too much of the year just hoping things would change after hearing some good intentions from the teachers. But a real plan, as Geofizz outlined so nicely, is necessary. And why not talk with the PE teachers too, definitely. I do have one CD recommendation. We like the "Indigo Ocean Dreams" CD with cute relaxation/de-stress stories with undersea characters. (We have the regular "Indigo Dreams" one too, but the guy who narrates the Ocean one is somehow more engaging and relaxing. That one gets listened to more than the other.)
Thank you so much, I will look for those CDs.
I have a phone meeting with the teacher on Monday afternoon where we will touch base and decide if we need face to face. I need to know what I'm asking for and I plan to speed read these books I have coming in the next few days. Of course, we are under threat of hurricane for the weekend so this may get put off but we will see. As for the PE teachers, I'm just going to go ahead and have both doctors write letters about what physical expectations are appropriate for her and see if she can just be excused from some things. It's so hard because until this year, she has really loved PE and she likes her coaches. They like her. I think everyone in this situation THINKS they're being sensitive and for some kids, that might be enough but my kid is excruciatingly sensitive and self-conscious.
The main teacher and I will talk Monday and probably another day next week and if she doesn't seem open or willing to work with me, then I'm getting doctors involved. I'd like to do this amicably but we'll see. Normally, we have had an SAT meeting by now so I'm not sure what happened with that. So that's another call.
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