New (School) Year, New Letter to the Teacher…

Friday, August 19, 2016

Dear Team,

I’m excited to get to know and work with you all this year.  I want to take this opportunity to fill you in a little bit about Big and our family.  I’m sure most of you already know Big, but there are lots of things an IEP just can’t tell you about him. First, he is a kind, loving, smart, creative and amazing boy who happens to have Autism, Anxiety and ADHD. He IS medicated; however, as we begin the new school year and undergo some changes at home, it may take him some time to find his groove at school. My husband HUBS and I expect for Big to be challenged and to behave at school.  Like my dad has to remind me: “Even good transitions are stressful.”

Often, one of the hardest things to determine is whether a behavior is “autism/anxiety/ADHD” or just a nearly twelve-year-old boy. When Big feels anxious, his behavior can deteriorate rapidly.  He has learned lots of coping mechanisms, some good, some not-so-good. Mrs. XXX and Big have worked for five years on social skills and knowing how to react in a given situation. Big knows the ways things should happen, but in the moment has difficulty putting his knowledge to action. Like many on the spectrum, anxiety can show itself as stimming (for Big, it can be a vocal stimm such as squawking or having to repeat the beginning of a phrase multiple times before being able to complete, or needing to repeat a phrase or question over and over). Other stimms Big exhibits are, finger flicking, pinching his forearms (not hard), and nose picking. That last one is one we’ve been working on forever…and may be the one I’m most easily frustrated by. Another way to tell when Big’s anxiety is peaking is when he becomes less flexible in his thinking. Many of you saw an example of this at meet the teacher when because we had sorted the supplies by class, Big couldn’t handle not delivering the materials as he planned. When he has “met his limit” (especially on group projects), he can become especially rigid. Big has come a long way in becoming his own advocate; he will often ask for time away from the class to get it together, or to draw or another soothing activity. He’s gotten really good at avoiding meltdowns and heading them off on his own. He does sometimes need the verbal cues “breathe” and “rational thoughts.” We do not force eye contact with Big. Usually, we ask for initial eye contact and then he’s free to look wherever he needs to.  Occasionally, we give the verbal cue “eyes” to remind him. I have to remind myself that he can either look at me or listen to me but rarely both.

As well as Autism, Anxiety and ADHD, Big has auditory processing disorder. This will lead to situations where he asks you a question after you’ve already given instructions. It’s hard, sometimes, to determine if this is an aspect of ADHD (not listening) or the APD. At home, I usually ask him to repeat back to me what I’ve already stated. Most of the time, he can, and then the information clicks. If he cannot either legitimately recall, or just needs to hear again, I will repeat.

Big’s two biggest challenges academically, in my opinion, are organization and handwriting. I know that most sixth graders can remember to turn in their papers, etc. I can promise that IF by the time Big gets home from school he remembers an assignment and it’s in his folder, we will make sure it is complete. If there is a missing assignment 9 out of 10 times, it is in his folder.  IF there is ever a time that he is missing assignments, I ask that before you send him to the homework table, you ask him directly (IE not the whole class…he might not remember because of the APD) and consider helping him look in his backpack or shoot me a text.  Something small such as homework table can ruin his whole week.

I am going to work exceptionally hard at giving Big the room to grow even more this year. In order to do this, I have to know that we are all a team. I don’t have to be told about every minor hiccup in his day, but if major things (such as a meltdown) happen, I ask that you let me know.  I’m a BIG believer in communication. If you ever have questions or concerns, I have my cell phone on me at all times. My number is xxx-xxx-xxxx and my email is austisminourhouse@gmail.com Hubs is also often available.  He may not answer immediately but his number is xxx-xxx-xxxx and his email is blahblahblah@gmail.com  You should know, that should we (parent/teacher) ever have a situation where we may not see eye to eye, Big will NOT know this. We strive to let him know that this is a working relationship we value.

WhenBig has a meltdown, it is important to know several things:

  • Don’t touch him unless it is for his own safety. (In general, Big does not like light touches. If you ever want to hug or touch him, firm is best.)
  • Don’t try to talk him out of a meltdown.
    • Instead, remind him to breathe.
    • Remind him that when he is calm he is smart.
  • PLEASE don’t let him meltdown in front of the whole class.
    • Offer a walk to get a drink.
    • Offer a soothing activity such as a piece of clay, drawing or just sitting for few minutes.

I promise, Big and you will learn so much from each other this year.  I am so excited to see how far he will come. The second page below contains his schedule and then a list of each of the people on our team this year along with their ISD email address.

Thanks,

Kristi

CLASS SCHEDULE

CLASS                         ROOM TEACHER                   TEACHER E-MAIL

  1. CLASS                     123       TEACHER                     TEACHEREMAIL@SCHOOL
  2. CLASS                     123        TEACHER                    TEACHEREMAIL@SCHOOL
  3. CLASS                     123       TEACHER                     TEACHEREMAIL@SCHOOL
  4.        …
  5. …             

OTHER IMPORTANT TEAM MEMBERS:                    EMAIL

On Campus                                                      

PRINCIPAL X                                                                  EMAILADDRESS@SCHOOLEMAILNAME

Off Campus              

NAME XXX                  LSSP                                        EMAILADDRESS@SCHOOLEMAIL.COM

(NOTE: I included every member of our team: every teacher, the principal, speech, OT, School Psych, etc.)

A  Big Fat PS to you, my lovely blog readers, I’m anxious about this transition. Like SUPER, DUPER anxious. But, you know what? It helps knowing you’re not alone. It helps knowing that you have friends:  real-life, on-line, imaginary and otherwise holding your hand or your hair as you feel the wave of nausea.  Love you all oodles. 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “New (School) Year, New Letter to the Teacher…

  1. Thank you for sharing. As an adult on the spectrum I find your post inspiring and touching. I see such love and care and knowing that inclusion and awareness are improving gives me such hope. I know it can’take be easy. Unfortunately it’s not what I normally see. It takes special people to work on toward alternate brainwaves. Keep it up best of wishes to your family and good luck in the upcoming school year.

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    1. Wow thanks! I try to give an honest pic of my son without it becoming overwhelming for teachers. When you start stringing together challenges, it’s hard to know if you’ve crossed a line. You opinion means the world!

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  2. I find that no matter what u tell them they will either not read it or reject it because “they already now that”. Then when the problems begin they r caught off guard and don’t know what to do or don’t want to do it.

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    1. I’m sorry that has been your experience. I believe that most (not all) teachers are doing this job because they genuinely love it. I also believe that most (not all) genuinely want to do what is best for kids. It may not always be the “right” thing at the moment, but it is often for the right reason. I say this as a teacher, the daughter to teachers, friend to many teachers AND as a mother to a sometimes difficult student.

      Liked by 1 person

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