Queen of the Distracted

Imagine life in a house with 6 kids - now imagine if 5 of those kids and their father have ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) - that is our house! Welcome to an inside view of my life and our home dominated by ADHD... THERE IS NEVER A DULL MOMENT!

Ladies and Gentlemen! Boys and Girls!

"Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls!"

Those were our oldest daughter Rachel's first words, from the time she was a toddler she would belt them out proudly standing on the arm of the couch. At the time we had no idea what ADHD was or that it would play such a central roll in our lives.

Since then we have learned a lot, not the least of which is how many individuals and families suffer in silence. We have experienced first hand how misunderstood and misrepresented a disorder can be.

As a family we decided to take action - to risk embarrassment and labeling to get this important message out to the world. Come join our family, share in our lives, and see ADD/ADHD as we see it...
A gift with a heavy price tag.

WELCOME to life in the ADD/ADHD House!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) as it Should Be

I will be the first to admit that I have IEP (Individualized Education Plan) PSTD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)- I get bristly just thinking about it.  I'm sure it was the horrible 2 year fight with the school to get one in place for my daughter that is to blame.

I was new to ADHD, learning disabilities, and educational rights at the time, new and inexperienced.  I was under the assumption that we all wanted the same thing for my daughter and that it was a simple process to get it done. That experience was the perfect example of how the system is NOT supposed to work.  Recently, with the same daughter I have had the perfect experience of how it IS supposed to work and I think it bares telling.

I sat in a meeting a little over a year ago for my daughter Mary.  I am not sure I have ever been so nervous in my life.  We were letting go of the security and control we had in home school after 4 years and braving public high school.  That was a big step.  As it would turn out we were due for our Tri-annual IEP meeting, complete with evaluations and reassessing her special-ed placement.

I braced myself for a fight, not knowing what I was going to be dealing with at a new school and school district. Completely prepared for them to want to downgrade her services.   I was completely bowled over when the school psychologist started her report on the testing, "It is clear that Mary is highly intelligent, it comes out in her ability to compensate for her disabilities, which are also clear."

It was a dream, I was sure of it.  I pinched myself.  It was exactly what I saw as her parent and what I wished and hoped that others would see in her.  We discussed her weaknesses, her skills, ways to make the system work for her, and a new set of goals.

I had never been in an IEP meeting like it.  It wiped away years of PTSD from some really terrible experiences to the very removed and clinical experiences.  These people seem invested in my daughter, in her success, and most importantly working with me as a team in her behalf.  

More impressive was the communication and adjustments that were made through out the school year last year.  Things were working and moving forward for her and as they changed her intervention teacher wouldn't hesitate to call.  I have never signed an amended IEP in the course of the school year before but I believe I signed 3 or 4 of them last year.

Needless to say I was not the least bit worried about her annual IEP meeting this year.  I knew what to expect.  I knew it would be friendly, understanding, helpful, and productive.  I felt very safe in the process, for the first time.  I was greeted by her intervention teacher.  Got reports from her individual teachers.  Each acknowledging her effort, her dedication, her struggles.

One teacher even said that she saw Mary doodling on her notes and remembered what she had heard on a radio broadcast recently; that for some kids with ADHD they actually absorb more when they are keeping part of their brain busy with some kind of fidget like doodling.  She told Mary, who was there in the meeting, you can doodle as long as I can see you are taking notes on the highlights of the lesson too.  I was back to sitting in bewilderment, pinching myself to make sure it was real.

Her intervention teacher started to go over the goals.  Goals has always been so tedious and so ridiculously far off.  Not anymore, these were reasonable.  He talked about the previous years goals of getting her ready to take the actual California State Standardized test and not the modified version.  That was one of our IEP amendments I had signed last year, he called to tell me that he talked to all of her teachers and they felt she would be successful, she was ready.  They had been right, she was ready and quite successful.  This years goal would be to up all those scores.

Then he talked about a goal I had never heard discussed before in any IEP meeting - her plans after high school.  What her career goals were, what colleges she was looking into.  I pinched myself again.  A written out plan to look at colleges, go to their websites, research their entry requirements, set goals towards the careers she is interested in, and work towards being ready to meet those college and career goals - throughout each school year.

This last two years has proven to me that it can be simple - it can be about the success of the child.  An IEP team that actually worked as a team. An Individualized Education Plan can be, as I believe it is truly meant to be defined.  A plan to start where your child is at, acknowledge where they want and need to go, plan for how to get there, and work to make it happen.