Son not doing well in public school - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 41 Old 10-07-2010, 05:02 PM - Thread Starter
 
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After homeschooling him for a year, I decided to put DS into the local public school this year. I signed him up in June, he was evaluated by the school then, and they determined that he should go into 4th grade rather than repeat 3rd grade. At that time, I expressed my concerns that he'd have trouble keeping up with the volume of work, even if he did fine with the small amount (half an hour or so) on the day of the evaluation. I thought that perhaps 3rd grade, being less of a challenge to him academically, would be a better fit for him overall.

They also diagnosed a handwriting delay, for which they promised services to help him. The principal was convinced that this handwriting delay was not a good reason to hold him back a year; he'd need OT services even if he was in 3rd grade.

We're now a month into school and things aren't going well. He was evaluated by the OT back in September, but he hasn't actually started therapy yet. I'm sure this is partly due to the fact that he missed 4 days of school for Jewish holidays (was the OT available a day he wasn't in school?) but things still seem to be taking an awfully long time.

I have a meeting scheduled with his teacher next Friday, but what will he do until then? I called the principal today, but she's in a meeting right now and won't be in the office tomorrow, so I may not get to speak to her before Tuesday.

So, DS is completely overwhelmed with the sheer volume of work. His hands are tired from all the writing he has to do, and he's probably only writing down half of what his classmates are. He has zero focus after school for his homework, and he's acting out when I try to get him to do it. He's certainly capable of the academics; no individual piece of homework or schoolwork is too much for him, and he's reading grade-level appropriate books independently. But he's just overwhelmed and can't do all of it.

What can the school do to make this work for him? I don't want to pull him out and homeschool him again unless I'm convinced it's the best option.

Ruth, single mommy to Leah, 19 (in Israel for another school year), Hannah, 18 (commuting to college), and Jack, 12(homeschooled)
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#2 of 41 Old 10-07-2010, 07:21 PM
 
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Sounds like the work is at his level, just too much of it. Would the school be open to letting him do half days and homeschool the other half of the day?
Other ideas: reduced homework, typing or dictating his work, more breaks during the day - maybe he could deliver something to the office or run errands for the teacher to have a little break from school work?
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#3 of 41 Old 10-07-2010, 07:33 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I don't see how homeschooling half the day would be practical. We'd probably miss out on a lot of homeschool activities due to timing, and I'm really not sure how they'd even work that out inside the school. Some specials are in the morning and others in the afternoon, and I don't know if the teacher teaches the "core subjects" at the same time every day.

Reduced homework would certainly help him a lot, or even reduced writing for homework. Say, only write the math homework, do the spelling/science/social studies work orally, and type up any reports or projects. I'm actually considering doing that with him this week, even before I have a chance to talk to his teacher.

They've also got to figure out something to help him with the writing in school itself. He's physically incapable of doing it, and then he acts up when he's reprimanded for not writing (when his hand hurts!)

Ruth, single mommy to Leah, 19 (in Israel for another school year), Hannah, 18 (commuting to college), and Jack, 12(homeschooled)
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#4 of 41 Old 10-07-2010, 07:57 PM
 
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Reduced homework would certainly help him a lot, or even reduced writing for homework. Say, only write the math homework, do the spelling/science/social studies work orally, and type up any reports or projects. I'm actually considering doing that with him this week, even before I have a chance to talk to his teacher.
The school can easily put a 504 Plan in place that makes accommodations for writing. Does he need to do every math problem or would doing every other math problem be appropriate for him? Other assignments can be typed or dictated to you. There are really a lot of things that can happen.

A 504 Plan is sort of like an IEP in that it is specific to the child and tweaks their school environment or work. It's easier to get one because fewer people have to sign it. Legally, just the principal and the parent have to sign.

I'd request a 504 Plan in writing (a real letter with a date and signature) and I would also ask when OT will be starting. I'd also drop the teacher an email saying that you've requested a 504 Plan and in the meantime, you will not be forcing the hand writing issue at home and that you do not want your son to have any negative repercussions for unfinished work.

GOOD LUCK.

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#5 of 41 Old 10-07-2010, 09:19 PM
 
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I know it may not be possible budget wise, but maybe look into a private OT for handwriting. That was what we had to do with dd for speech because the public school speech therapist was never available.

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#6 of 41 Old 10-07-2010, 09:51 PM
 
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Good luck in figuring it out.

Is he happy at school?
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#7 of 41 Old 10-07-2010, 09:59 PM
 
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What tough situation.. Hope you can come to a good solution for him.
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#8 of 41 Old 10-07-2010, 10:20 PM
 
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I worked with a student that also had trouble with writing upon the transition from HS to PS 5th grade.

Here are some ideas that helped.

Reduced writing (then gradually increase it as time went on)

Allow printing instead of cursive (or vice versa)

Allow for dictated writing when the subject is not writing (an adult can be a scribe)

Allow extra time for completion of assignments

Allow a copy of peer notes for studying

Allow use of a type writer at home to complete homework

Intensive OT work to build fine motor skills

I would suggest a 504 as well. Or an IEP---but usually IEPs are not given for HS kids right away. They have to determine if a delays is present if it is due to a learning disability and/or exposure. (in the student I worked with it was due to exposure, he simply did not do much writing previously and did not have the muscle stamina/fine motor skills at that time--by the end the the year he was doing just fine with no interventions).

I hope you get a solution soon. If the OT just evaluated him in Sept--it is early Oct yet. Often the school has 30-45 days to complete an eval (sometimes it is school days and sometimes any day- depends on your state). OT often rotate schools and are only at certain schools on certain days. Find out when the OT is available at your school and touch base with what is going on.


I also agree that looking into private OT may help as well. Many of them use a program called 'HAndwriting without Tears' that is very effective for building writing skills.
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#9 of 41 Old 10-08-2010, 11:05 AM - Thread Starter
 
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No, paying for private OT isn't an option. Money was one of the factors in deciding not to homeschool him again: I can't afford the classes that keep him stimulated and socialized without driving me batty (I get an hour or so to hang out with other moms while another adult engages his attention- if we could do that 3 times a week homeschooling would work for us) and I was even having trouble affording the fuel to drive him to assorted activities, even the "free" ones. I might be able to get him OT through medical insurance, but I can't imagine that would be any easier or faster than working with the school district.

Printing instead of cursive: we're already doing that, as he simply wasn't ready to learn cursive last year. I'm hoping he learns enough cursive to read other people's handwriting and to sign his own name.

Reduced writing, gradually increasing as time goes on: that's what I need the school to do, as I'm not there with him during the day.

I need to get a printer so he can type up assignments at home- again, money is an issue here. My old printer broke last year and I haven't been able to replace it.

Peer notes for studying shouldn't be an issue, as this is only 4th grade and everything seems to be in a textbook or a handout.

Extra time for completing assignments has its own problems: he misses out on other activities. He was given an hour to complete tests that the rest of the class had 45 minutes for, but it wasn't enough time for him to complete them. A big problem is that he can't sit and write for an hour straight, so being given an extra 15 minutes when he needs a break isn't exactly helpful.

He's home today because he's sick; I'm sure a big part of his frustration the past week is that he hasn't been feeling well. I'm also starting to feel like it's a waste of time to send him before I can speak to the teacher and get some changes put into place.

Ruth, single mommy to Leah, 19 (in Israel for another school year), Hannah, 18 (commuting to college), and Jack, 12(homeschooled)
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#10 of 41 Old 10-08-2010, 11:16 AM
 
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Can he print out his assignments at the school library/media center before school?

Sorry he's struggling so much.

Miriam
Mom to two daughters born in 1997 and 2000
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#11 of 41 Old 10-08-2010, 12:58 PM
 
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Forget advice (I do not have any) and reality

I am vibing you lots of money so you can get the educational experience that works for your son!
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#12 of 41 Old 10-08-2010, 02:08 PM
 
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I'm also starting to feel like it's a waste of time to send him before I can speak to the teacher and get some changes put into place.
Why?

To me, having been through the whole process of getting accommodations, that seems like a bad idea.

First, he would get further and further behind, and that work will need to be made up in some way.

Second, the school needs to see exactly what is going on in order to make accommodations. It's quite common for kids to need to fall on their face in order to get accommodations.

Third, the teacher's hands may be tied until there is a 504 in place, and since you haven't requested one, you don't have any idea when that will happen.

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#13 of 41 Old 10-08-2010, 02:49 PM
 
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I encourage you to keep him in school. If he misses 'x' percent of school they can call a truancy officer.

Plus, as PP said- the more he misses, the further behind he will get.

I would encourage you to talk to the teacher ASAP. Also see if he gets 'less' frustrated if he can bring some work home and dictate answers to you (work he does not complete at school) so that he does not miss other school lessons. Or allow him until Fri or Mon to complete work (with bringing it home) so he can scribe it to you. That way at least the writing frustration would be gone for science/social studies/math....Langauge Arts- he needs to focus on writing.

He will build stamina as time goes on- look into medical covered for OT. We got OT under medical for our DD- it covered a certain amount of sessions and was great!! Very helpful.

I would also see if you can get an older student tutor for him. Often HS students have to do a certain amount of volunteer hours to graduate or participate in programs (such as NHS and Golden Key). It is possible that the HS could provide a 'free' tutor to help him once or twice a week. The school may even qualify for free tutors at school ( some schools have volunteer programs to help kids).


The school library and or public library should be able to give him access to a computer/printer. Schools often also have something called an 'alphasmart' keyboard to use during class if he can type. (google it) We often used it with students that struggled with writing.

It will take time to see if his writing skills are due to sheer experience/exposure/practice or a true writing disability. The schools can provide a 504 if it is the former and an IEP if it is the latter.
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#14 of 41 Old 10-08-2010, 06:02 PM
 
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My son goes through cycles of illness, frustation at getting behind, which causes anxiety, which weakens his immune system, which makes him more prone to illness. It stinks!

I am going to jump on the 504 bandwagon.

And I, too, am curious how your son feels about school. Does he like the specials? Is he making friends? Is he happy (when he's not thinking about homework)?

The best thing you can do is start communication with his teacher, the principal, the school counselor or social worker - get anyone and everyone on your team. My son is in high school, and I couldn't get through the day without emailing at least one of his teachers (more often all of them) on a regular basis. I am also on a first-name basis with the assistant principal and counselor - in a school of 1200 kids.

The priority has to be what's best for your son, and how you can all work together to find ways to make it happen. When you approach the school with an attitude of "we're all in this together to help DS", it feels like less of a conflict. Change does happen slowly, but with good communication, I think you'll soon see improvements.

Best wishes to you and your son!

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#15 of 41 Old 10-08-2010, 07:54 PM
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I would absolutely start contacting the school about getting a 504 or IEP in place for him. He clearly needs accomodations and it's the school's legal responsiblity to get those for him. At the meetings, you will be able to be there and have direct influence on what accomodations would actually help him (breaks instead of just a mass of extra time, etc, when he should work on stuff instead of missing out on other good stuff...). Right now I'd be talking to the teacher about putting accomodations in place ASAP, even if they end up changed after the 504/IEP meeting. Just start reaching out and communicating, every day if you have to. Be respectful and businesslike but assertive. As a high school teacherk, I have attended a LOT of IEP meetings and I know it's the parents who just keep emailing me who keep their kid's needs on the front burner of my mind (hey, when I've got 45 kids in each class, it can be hard to give 110% to each individual kid, I hate it but there it is). There is no reason they can't take care of this for your son in a positive way. And a month in, it's beyond time, they need to get it done. Good luck!
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#16 of 41 Old 10-08-2010, 09:47 PM
 
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I would also see if you can get an older student tutor for him. Often HS students have to do a certain amount of volunteer hours to graduate or participate in programs (such as NHS and Golden Key). It is possible that the HS could provide a 'free' tutor to help him once or twice a week. The school may even qualify for free tutors at school ( some schools have volunteer programs to help kids).
Another possibility is through a local college or university. Often education majors will do tutoring as part of the requirements for graduation.

I also think it's a good idea to keep him in school until you have a chance to meet with the teacher and/or principal.

Here are some other ideas for accommodations:
http://www.washington.edu/doit/Broch...accomm_ld.html

GL!

Laura - Mom to ds (10) and dd (7) "Time stands still best in moments that look suspiciously like ordinary life." Brian Andreas.

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#17 of 41 Old 10-09-2010, 10:36 AM
 
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I need to get a printer so he can type up assignments at home- again, money is an issue here. My old printer broke last year and I haven't been able to replace it.

E.
Why don't you just email a copy of his assignments to his teacher until you have the meeting to determine a finial course of action. There are free word programs you can DL that will convert documents to PDF, if you need one.
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#18 of 41 Old 10-12-2010, 10:04 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I don't have the teacher's email address.

I fail to see what a tutor could possibly do for him. He understands the work and doesn't need any extra help figuring it out. If he is confused about anything, I can help him the day he gets the assignment.

What he can't do is the amount of writing they expect him to do, and that's making him feel overwhelmed and stupid and then he might stop paying attention because he's so angry that he can't meet the unrealistic expectations of him.

At the present moment he's in bed refusing to get up, even though he's awake. He's too big for me to pick up (from the top bunk!) and carry to the car (down a flight of steps) and drive him to school without his co-operation. I remember doing that with a dawdling 1st grader who refused to get dressed (being driven to school in pajamas once, with clothing packed, cured her of that.)

This is why I'm so tempted to keep him home until I have that meeting with the teacher on Friday. He's absolutely miserable and acting out.

Ruth, single mommy to Leah, 19 (in Israel for another school year), Hannah, 18 (commuting to college), and Jack, 12(homeschooled)
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#19 of 41 Old 10-12-2010, 10:19 AM
 
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I would keep him home until Friday. I would let him know that you are going to a meeting on Friday, there should be some changes after Friday, and that you need him to go back to school after Friday and try it out.

I know many people here might disagree with me, but I would not drag a child kicking and screaming to school. Physically forcing someone to do something they do not want to do, is, to me, borderline assault.

I would not let the school know you are keeping him home due to his refusing to go (that may cast a spotlight on you that you do not want). I would call him in sick. At the meeting, I would let them know that while he really was sick, he has serious resistance to going to school. Say something to let the school know how serious this is.

Can you move the meeting up?
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#20 of 41 Old 10-12-2010, 11:15 AM
 
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Keeping him out for the entire week will result in a huge pile of work -- which he will need to write to complete.

If you are going to do this, then get his work from school and have it do it at home this week, or he will be so far behind he will sink.

One of my kids has fine motor issues and missing school is a HUGE deal.

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#21 of 41 Old 10-12-2010, 11:28 AM
 
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Keeping him out for the entire week will result in a huge pile of work -- which he will need to write to complete.

If you are going to do this, then get his work from school and have it do it at home this week, or he will be so far behind he will sink.

One of my kids has fine motor issues and missing school is a HUGE deal.
I do not deny this.

Maybe the Op can work with it, though?

Perhaps she can bring her son up to profeciency in the areas missed, and then let him move on.

I find the whole "they have to do everything they missed thing" annoying. My DD missed one day of school and came home with a serious amount of homework. I was not amused. If she missed a week or so, I would talk to the teacher about just doing the basics.

It is almost gauranteed the OP's son will miss more school - with religous holidays, illness, etc. For a child with writing issues there needs to be a better plan than "here are reams of work they must do for the days they missed".

If the Op thinks he will or should have to make up the work when he returns, letting him know this might motivate him to go back to school sooner rather than later. Of course, it may not. Missing today may be more important to him than extra work tomorrow.
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#22 of 41 Old 10-12-2010, 11:36 AM
 
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i am sorry if you already addressed this, i may have missed a post.
there are keyboard machines (like a typewriter, not a computer) for kids with fine motor skill issues, if he is diagnosed with disgraphia or if the school is willing to admit that the amount of writing requjired is difficult for him to complete and he needs assitance. one of my brothers used one for a few yers in elementary school.
and in terms of keeping him home- i would keep him home, but get the work from the teacher. you can go in and say, he is sick and will be home all week, can i get his work, or could you send it home with a neighbor to be dropped off?

then you can work on it at home, and discuss the issue with him about the need for him to go to school, that you are trying to come up with a better situation for him,but he needs to do his part and show up.

i agree with kathy that physically forcing someone like that is not a good idea.
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#23 of 41 Old 10-12-2010, 12:06 PM - Thread Starter
 
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He missed school on Friday due to illness (he truly was sick; he couldn't even talk) so I have most of his books home. Maybe I'll sit down with him at the kitchen table and do the schoolwork that they're most likely to be doing in school today.

Ruth, single mommy to Leah, 19 (in Israel for another school year), Hannah, 18 (commuting to college), and Jack, 12(homeschooled)
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#24 of 41 Old 10-12-2010, 12:11 PM
 
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He missed school on Friday due to illness (he truly was sick; he couldn't even talk) so I have most of his books home. Maybe I'll sit down with him at the kitchen table and do the schoolwork that they're most likely to be doing in school today.
If you call the office, they'll have his assignments by the end of the day.

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#25 of 41 Old 10-12-2010, 08:11 PM
 
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I know someone who uses a keyboard at school to do all his writing because handwriting was extremely laborious and much too time-consuming for him. I believe he is in the 5th grade. Unfortunately, I'm not sure what the process was in order for him to get the keyboard. I think he has a dyslexia diagnosis. Regardless, it was a great help to him.

Best wishes to you on working out a solution that best fits for your son. Hopefully, it will just be a matter of getting him access to the tools he needs to make his time at school worthwhile and low stress!
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#26 of 41 Old 10-13-2010, 09:56 AM - Thread Starter
 
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The principal called me back yesterday afternoon, and we set up an appointment for all 3 of us (me, DS, and the principal) for Thursday morning before school starts. I still have the appointment with the teacher on Friday mid-morning, but that will just be the two of us.

He happily went to school this morning- he even made it to the bus on time, although I was willing to drive him. Tomorrow I'm definitely driving him so we can meet with the principal before school starts.

Ruth, single mommy to Leah, 19 (in Israel for another school year), Hannah, 18 (commuting to college), and Jack, 12(homeschooled)
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#27 of 41 Old 10-13-2010, 06:52 PM
 
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My DS is in second grade and also struggles with handwriting. DS already has an IEP for autism spectrum disorder, and gets OT services privately (insurance covers up to 50 visits per year for us, and he did not qualify to get it through school). OT has DEFINITELY helped, but in the meantime, his teacher has been willing to work with us on homework. Any assignments that would be very writing intensive she will allow me to either scribe for him or help him do it on the computer. I do try to make sure he does some writing practice by writing his spelling words, but at least this way it is not so overwhelming for him. One thing my DS's OT has suggested is to do a lot of other fine motor work besides writing to help build muscle endurance. Things like building with Legos, using tweezers, playing with playdough or clay, doing a LiteBrite, anything that causes him to use hand muscles is helpful.

I hope the meeting goes well for you tomorrow!

Jill stillheart.gif Chris (7/96), mommy to 3 sweet redheads: jumpers.gif Matthew autismribbon.gif (12/02), Michelle (8/05) and Marissa (1/10). Nursing since 2002.
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#28 of 41 Old 10-14-2010, 01:09 AM
 
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I don't have much to add to what everyone else has said here, but in terms of printers, have you looked at the free or used sections of Craigslist or Freecycle? A lot of times, people are just giving away working equipment for free.
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#29 of 41 Old 10-14-2010, 01:27 AM
 
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Here's sending you good thoughts for your meeting

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#30 of 41 Old 10-14-2010, 11:27 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Location: Long Island, NY
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OK, he's been officially moved into the 3rd grade, starting today.

The OT saw him yesterday and gave him a printout of exercises to do at home, as well as specific products I need to buy for him to do that. I need to see if I can find therapy putty locally; buying it online means spending $7.50 on the item and another $7.50 just on shipping! He's not scheduled for regular OT in school, although she will be following his progress. So those exercises will get started as soon as I can get ahold of the appropriate materials.

I'll talk to him after school and see how he liked his first day of 3rd grade.

Ruth, single mommy to Leah, 19 (in Israel for another school year), Hannah, 18 (commuting to college), and Jack, 12(homeschooled)
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