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!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Successful IEPs: Plan Your Work & Work Your Plan

My fearless blue caped superhero
I swear to you that our youngest daughter was born with absolutely no fear whatsoever. More than once the only thing that saved her was that little voice that whispers to me, her mother, "something's very wrong." I remember once taking her and her siblings to a wonderful park in our community that had the tallest slide I think I have ever seen. Scared me to death. I made it completely clear that none of my kids were supposed to get near it. To my fearless toddler my warning meant nothing and before I could grab her she was on her way up the staggered open sided platforms that led to the top of the slide.

I remember the first SST meeting I sat in for that same daughter. I felt just about the same way as I did watching her on those slide platforms. Intimidated, scared to death, fearful would be all be understatements to describe my feelings in those first meetings with the school. I had realized probably 2 years earlier that our daughter had learning disabilities far beyond the scope of her ADHD. For 2 years we'd been trying to get the school to listen and test her for disabilities. We didn't know how to make that happen and the school was not volunteering any help. Finally frustration led to my own research, friendships, information, the beginnings of understanding about student and parent rights and services. I stopped waiting for the school to help and started pushing for the school to help.

To be honest that first IEP was just a bare bones beginning but it was a beginning. It led to more decisions, more testing, more accommodations, and services. It opened the door to getting her help with multiple issues. For example, no one could understand a word our daughter said but for some strange twisted red-tape reason she didn't qualify for speech therapy until that initial IEP was in place for her Auditory Phonemic Processing Disorder. Then she suddenly qualified for speech and it was officially added to her services and goals.

A switch in schools to a charter home school program, more testing ended in a better understanding of
the extent of her disabilities, new IEP meetings, a revision of services, new goals, more work, research, more understanding. We were in the thick of it. Climbing platforms, adjusting our position, pulling ourselves up one level at a time.

ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, Central Auditory Processing Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, not crossing the mid-line, problems with visual tracking the list got longer and longer. All led to speech, reading, writing, math services, occupational therapy. Hours and hours of therapy. Hours and hours of meetings about testing and services.  Hours and hours of work, for her, for me, for the whole family. We kept climbing, it was like we were almost to the top of those platforms and the slide back down to solid ground. That was the hardest and scariest time. Complicated to juggle goals and therapies, hard to do the work needed to make a difference for her, and to be honest difficult feeling like we were never going to get on top of things. Marking progress was arduous and painful. it often seemed like we were discussing the same goals and making no progress on them at all.

We just had our most recent IEP meeting last Friday with the intervention teacher that we've worked closely with since she returned to public school as a Freshman in High School.  He asked us if we wanted a copy of our parents rights. He was about to print them out for us when my husband and I both shouted, "NO!" we joked about how we might singularly be responsible for the death of a rain forest from all the copies of parental rights we already had tucked away in our files at home.

I realized something in that meeting as we were going through goals and checking things off that had been accomplished the largest of which was her passing both the English and Math sections of the California High School Exit Exam on her first try this last year. I realized that several years ago we started seeing real progress in her skills and began the process of eliminating goals and services as needed. More goals met and services dropped each year. Somewhere in the middle of the process we had hit the top platform and started down the slide and I hadn't even realized it. It was an exhilarating feeling this year as we dropped her one period intervention class and replaced it with a once a week meeting with the intervention teacher to make sure she was doing well in all her classes.

on a HS drama trip
She graduates next year, the more I thought about it the more I realized that our experience with her IEP is exactly how it should be. It is a testament of how the system should work. We started with the simple recognition that there was a problem, as we progressed we better and better defined that problem and set up goals and services to meet her needs. We planned our work and worked our plan until those services, coping mechanisms, therapies started to pay off, things started clicking into place. As she progressed, we met annually, more frequently when needed, we adjusted to meet her needs. For a longtime it seemed we only added and then slowly but surely goals were met and services started falling off. First to go was OT, then speech and most recently the last of her pull out services for Math and English.

She went from terribly behind to caught up to flourishing. This last year she score advanced in English/Language Art on state testing. My daughter diagnosed first with Auditory Phonemic Processing Disorder, then Dyslexia, Dypraxia, Central Language Processing Disorder scored advanced in English.

Interventions, modifications, accommodations,  pull out services, therapies, all seemed so intimidating and overwhelming when I first started this process. I didn't see how, couldn't see how, all this was going to come together for her benefit but I became a mother bear about it. I researched it, the disorders, the tests, the therapies, the modifications and services that would benefit her. I pushed, pushed the school, pushed the process, pushed myself, pushed her. And now, now we are enjoying the excitement, the feeling of freedom and thrill of conquering the slide.

I'm not going to lie, when my then toddler daughter got down the slide safely she wanted to do it again. I was still waiting for my heart to start beating again while I thanked those that helped her get safely down. I feel a little the same about this IEP meeting - we left feeling triumphant, I was wanting to thank the long list of people that have helped her get safely up to the top so she could enjoy the ride back down.

When I meet and talk to parents that are just starting on this journey the first thing I tell them is learn, learn everything you can and don't be afraid to dig until you really know and understand what is going on with your child. I tell them get your services in place as soon as possible, whether that is a 504 or IEP. Plan you work and work your plan. I tell them keep at it even when you are tired and discouraged and it seems like you aren't making any progress because I know from experience that if you do those things the pay off is big. It's big and wonderful and exhilarating.

Some things in life look overwhelming and intimidating the first time you look at them. That slide, the tallest slide that I'd ever seen was one of those things. I wonder what I would think about it if I saw it again today. Experience has a way of changing how we look at things. I wonder, if like the IEP/504 process, I would look at that slide with different eyes, knowing eyes.  I think I would.


Spike N Tuna Jones said...

You go girl!

my life is a mosaic... said...

A friend send me this link today. It was just what I needed to read as we prepare for our daughter's first IEP in a little over two weeks. It's refreshing to hear others who have walked this path and share the journey. I'll be following along!

P.S. I just noticed that you are in the CV. I'm in Fresno and with a homeschool charter too. We probably know some of the same people!

Lisa Aro said...

My Life is a Mosaic

Thank you so much for leaving a comment! I love to hear reactions to what I post, especially when it's helpful. I am in the CV and would love to talk more to you and be whatever kind of support I can. Like my Queen of the Distracted facebook page and send me a message.

Happy to help

Sandy said...

Home school charter? Please explain...i am into year 3 of IEP, actually write his b second IEP myself but public school folk don't truly understand how to teach executive function skills , the system and schedule doesn't do what I need....more and more I realize he needs to be schooled differently for a while but there is nothing on my area. I am in Mass. What is a charter home school? Is that just Cali's name for a home school? I've been saying home school for years but work full time and can't not work. His next IEP is in April and I'm neck deep in prep....