Thursday, December 1, 2016

504 Accommodations: ADHD, Anxiety, Depression

In November met with Caleb's teachers and created a 504 plan for him.  Middle school is tough for everyone, but when your brain is working against you (more than the average middles school brain) it is really tough!  Basically having a 504 means that his teachers are aware of his special needs and they are encouraged to make specific accomidations to better meet his needs and to help him be more successful in school.  The following are the "notes" I took to the meeting and shared with his teachers to help give them a picture of what is happening as well as the accomidations I requested. 

I'm posting this information because it may be helpful sometime in the future or for someone else who is experiencing similar struggles.  These are the "notes" I took to the meeting and shared with his teachers and administrators to help give them a picture of what is happening as well as the accomidations I requested. Some of the accommodations are already making a big difference for Caleb. 

My Goals in creating a 504 plan for Caleb – 
• Prepare for future by building confidence and capitalizing on his strengths
• Avoid overwhelm so he will continue to put forth effort
• Make middle school a positive experience so he will thrive in High school and LIFE

It has taken many years for me to come to terms with the fact that his mental illness is real.  It won’t simply go away through better parenting, more severe consequences, or greater rewards. I thought I could compensate for what he is lacking at school by doing more at home, but he is completely rebelling against my encouragement.  He is not having a “normal” 7th grade experience. I have feared labeling him or making accommodations because life doesn’t make accommodations, but he has to be successful in his education for him to learn to be successful in life.  

Caleb’s ADHD Symptoms: Compared to students in his age group he shows Lack of Self Control and Emotional Control. He struggles with initiating responsibilities, working memory, planning and organizing, and self-monitoring. A lack of dopamine also manifests in obsession with time and the next activity, never being satisfied in the moment. 

Caleb’s Anxiety Symptoms: Headaches, stomachaches, nausea, vomiting, difficulty sleeping, reluctance to go to school, and asking the same questions over and over. 

Caleb’s Depression Symptoms: He is desperate to escape his life.  We limit screen time, which would be his first choice for escape.  Other manifestations include suicide talk and running away.

Accommodation Ideas: 
1. Preferential Seating: Near teacher, as far as possible from distractions, sit next to a well-behaved roll model. He needs encouragement and reminders to stay on task. He may also need follow-up after directions are given to make sure he understands what he is to be doing.  He doesn’t seem to process instructions as well as others. He needs to know that he is noticed. 

2. Incomplete Assignments: Break long assignments into smaller segments, each with a deadline. Full credit for reduced work when he shows he gets a concept.  He will get 0/30 when he has 30 questions on a math test but he will get 5/5 when there are fewer questions and no social pressure to hurry.  Consider doing every other math problem, but if he misses it he has to do the other problem to get the concept? Maybe he could set a timer for 5-10 minute intervals and he could get up and show the teacher his work. 

3. Increased time to turn in assignments. It is like he doesn’t even get that assignments were due until they are posted on his missing assignment list on power school. Present assignments and due dates verbally and visually. 

4. Preferential Power-up teacher: Teacher that will follow-up with most important tasks.  Maybe math or language arts teacher. 

5. Hand Picked Teachers and Schedule: He performs best in an environment where there is structure and teachers who are attentive to needs. We may want to look at his schedule and have his higher academic classes mid-day.  His brain doesn’t get going first thing, and may shut off by the end of the school day. 

6. Testing Conditions: His main problem is racing through wanting. He is also highly distracted, not even knowing what he read.  Should he leave the room for tests? What would help? 

7. Safe Person: Send him to Mr. Winkler when he seems to be struggling or creating problems in the classroom. 

8. Cool Down Pass: He gets pressure built up from anxiety. He may feel sick. What to do when he needs or wants to leave the classroom?

9. For Impulsivity: Discuss behavior in private rather than calling him out in front of the class.

10. Restless Behaviors: I know he taps his pencil and never holds his legs still.  Consider creating opportunities for him to stand or move. Using the timer as recommended in point 2 and allowing him to stand up every 5-10 minutes when he checks in with the teacher may help. 

11. Lunchtime Learning: I love the idea of this natural consequence for most students. Caleb is not motivated by it, and I think there is probably a better option for him.  Maybe he could get out of lunchtime learning by showing Mrs. Crosbie that he has completed one missing assignment during power up? He NEEDS lunch time to be out of a desk and to develop his social skills.  I think it is adversely impacting him. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Stayn’ Alive

As if Halloween isn’t crazy enough, the elementary kids get to dress up for Red Ribbon week every day the week of Halloween.  Here is a sampling of crazy hair day.


Johnny kept telling me “we need to get ready for Halloween!” I finally figured out that what he felt we needed to do was carve pumpkins.  Lucky for him Cara was willing to comply and do the work!


Josh and I had fun dressing as hippies.  My kids hadn’t seen my outfit when I volunteered at the school for the class parties.  I think some of the kids in Andy’s class recognized me before he did. 



Caleb had planned his costume in anticipation of going out to scare people, but to avoid that I allowed him one more year of trick-or-treating.  He would be stealing everyone else’s candy if he didn’t have his own.



Cara loved helping her school class with the Haunted House for the school carnival.  I’ll admit that I was really impressed with the work they did. She is sure growing up!


Andy almost wore his costume out before Halloween.  There were many opportunities to dress up before the big day. 


Ali was a “dark bride” although she didn’t like wearing the vale, but I was just happy that she was happy. 


Johnny was really excited about being a dragon, and I was glad that he was happy with a costume we had on hand.  I love the increased independence my kids are experiencing.  It is fun to enjoy life with them!!




Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Putting Life into Perspective

I have experienced some of the most challenging moments of my life over the past 6-8 weeks.  Caleb’s first few weeks of seventh grade were fantastic, but things went down hill very quickly.  His anxiety escalated to the point that he was throwing up and getting head aches every day at school. For three plus weeks he was calling me 3-5 times every day from the school office, usually to tell me how sick he was feeling.  His ADHD leaves him feeling totally overwhelmed, disorganized and extremely behind in his classes. He is a mostly obedient kid outside of the home, but with Josh and I he is extremely defiant. It is difficult to get him to comply with homework and simple tasks.  I’m not talking about normal teenage sass. I’m talking about serious defiance. He simply refuses to comply no matter what the consequences may be. 

A few weeks into the extreme anxiety he decided that he was going to kill himself.  For about a month he spoke daily about suicide.  There have been a few times that his threats have been accompanied by irrational action.  Each time appeared to be in an attempt at manipulation, for example, swinging the door of the car open while driving because I wouldn’t take him out to eat or holding a butcher knife at his heart because Josh was insisting that he go on a scout camp out with him.

Caleb normally takes about 80% of my parenting energy, but over the past few months helping him has consumed much of my life. We have been working with two different therapists, his school counselor, teachers and principal, and any other resource we can find.  He is a complicated case with three obvious mental conditions working against each other ADHD, Depression, and Anxiety.  Together, with the difficult time of middle school, they are creating a huge mess!

I have done my best in the past to avoid labeling him.  I never wanted his teachers to know that he had ADHD and was on medication for it. I wanted to compensate for any of his personal weaknesses by working harder at home so that he could progress as normally as possible without the stigma of labeling by his teachers or peers. My ideal was for him to NEVER use a diagnosis as an excuse but to learn to compensate and thrive. I didn’t want him to be on a 504 or IEP, but at this point we are exploring all possibilities to help him to begin thriving in life again.

I have been an extremely studious parent reading a bookshelf full of parenting books.  I studied behavior management in both my under grad and graduate schooling.  I dreamed of being an amazing mom!  To say that Caleb has rocked my world of everything I ever thought I knew would be the understatement of the century.  I will easily admit that I have been extremely humbled by this experience. I am learning so much about giving my burdens to God.  I am recognizing in a very real way that so much of life is totally out of my control.  It is my job to do what I can and then allow Christ to carry the burden of the rest.  It is easy for me to see, even as I experience this trial, the personal growth that I am receiving. 

One “benefit” of this difficult time has been my humble heart and my willingness to seek out and follow any prompting giving by the Holy Spirit.  For example, I have called people who I haven’t spoken to for years and found they had just the perspective I’ve needed. I’ve made lists of new strategies to try and I am trying to focus on the fundamentals of living and teaching my family the gospel. One impression I had was to take our family on a trip to the Handcart Pioneer Sites when they had a few days off of school for UEA. 

We started out our road trip at the Utah Olympic Park ropes course in Park City.  We went a few years ago and the kids have been begging to return.  Of course we had to pause for a few pictures on the winter Olympic equipment after which we started with the beginner course.  







Josh was too big for the beginner course so he really wanted to do the intermediate course.  As we watched him the kids decided they wanted to try the intermediate one as well.  Caleb, Cara and Andy did it. I was proud of them for overcoming their fear of heights and they were so pleased that they completed such a challenging course. A discussion about our ability to overcome challenges was the perfect kick off to our weekend. Caleb, even more than the others, was extremely proud of his accomplishment. 



One of our pit stops along the way to Martins Cove was Fort Bridger.  I though it was well worth the time to stop.  In fact I could have spent much longer there just enjoying the beauty and imagining the events that took place there.  I was impressed with the preservation of the Fort and the history was actually fascinating to me.




It was October 19 when the blizzard hit that left the Martin and Willie Handcart companies stranded and the Sweet Water River frozen solid. We spent the day of October 21 at Martins Cove and luckily the weather was beautiful.  We were comfortable in jackets as we did the five-mile round trip walk to the cove.  It is incomprehensible to me the suffering that these handcart pioneers experienced with 145 of the 600 loosing their lives from the most unimaginable conditions. I felt frustrated that our children appeared to not really care about learning or feeling the spirit.  They were mostly concerned with their own comfort.  It was our intention to create an opportunity for personal spiritual experiences.  I don’t know if they received that, but it was a nice day.  They were present and they participated. I believe that they will at least look back on the experience with fond memories. We had fun pushing, pulling, and even running with the handcart. 
 









The kids seemed to especially enjoy our time at Independence Rock. It may have been because they weren’t being asked to be reverent.  If you look closely at this picture, the little specks are the kids running up the 13-story rock.


While they climbed over (multiple times) I took the opportunity to walk the mile around it, mostly by myself.  I think it is having quiet moments, no matter the venue that provides opportunities for the spirit to speak. It was surreal for me to see a heard of pronghorn’s and watch a bunny as I was considering the names, dates, and experiences of those who left everything they knew for hope of something better in a new country.



 The entire trip I kept thinking to myself that God attended to the people of those handcart companies as they suffered, but why did he allow that severity of suffering to happen? Why didn’t he give them beautiful weather like we had? I’m sure I don’t know the answer, but one possibility is that countless others have found strength to endure and to press forward through difficulty by studying the handcart pioneer stories, especially the stories of those two companies that suffered so much. It sure puts life into perspective!

Our next destination was Rock Creek Hollow where 13 of the Willie Handcart Company were buried following their ascent through Rocky Ridge.  They were forced to walk, some of them up to 28 hours, through the blizzard over Rocky Ridge, until they reached Rock Creek Hollow because if they stopped they would freeze to death.  One thing that struck me is that they did, they all kept walking until they reached camp. Then, that night, due to exhaustion, starvation and exposure 13 of them died. The amazing thing is that they made it to camp. So much can be learned from their determination.








Unfortunately the historical mining towns of Atlantic City and South Pass were closed for the season.  It looks like there are some cool things to see there. We enjoyed a few bonus stops along the way home. One surprise was Fossil Butte National Monument where we saw hundreds of fossils. It was awesome!




We spent our last night in Bear Lake to enjoy a little down time, where we weren't on the go every minute. It is fun to be together in the motor home.  Caleb is usually happy (maybe a little too happy) tackling people and making everyone laugh and scream. The kids play games together and we snuggle up and nap on the bed in the back.  It is nice to have the flexibility of stopping to sleep “wherever we get.”





Our final stop on the way home was at Tony’s Grove.  It was on my list of things to do this summer. Better late than not at all.  There was snow, but it wasn’t cold.  We even took the walk around the lake.  It was so beautiful!!




I am grateful for my pioneer heritage and for the legacy of determination, hard work, perseverance, and most of all testimony that they have left for us. I hope that my children will treasure the memories we have created on this trip and when times get difficult for them they can turn to the things that they learned and felt to strengthen them.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Fall Sports and other Fall Craziness - CHECK!

This fall has been the busiest time of my life.  I knew the extra curricular chasing would be crazy at some point, and this year hit us like a ton of bricks. If you can't sense it, I am hugely relieved to have fall sports behind us and get to more of a maintainable pace.

The biggest time commitment was Andy's tackle football.  There are things I love about him playing such an intense sport.  I love the hard work and dedication.  I love the sportsmanship and teamwork, but I am so relieved to have my son back. They usually don't have playoffs for the youngest boys, but this year we got a bonus week because they made it to playoffs as region champs.


Ali and Johnny are just two of Andy's biggest fans.  We all really enjoyed watching him play on Saturdays! That is one family activity that Caleb doesn't even protest going to.


Caleb had his final year of flag football.  He's talking about playing tackle again next year, we'll see.  I'm relieved that flag football was only one night a week with practice 30 minutes before the game, but he did miss out on the other important things that playing an intense football season bring.


In the spring Josh took Cara and Caleb to a few lunchtime volleyball games with some guys he works with.  Cara LOVED it and has been begging me to figure out how she could play on a volleyball team.  I'm excited that she has interested in a sport.  She had a blast playing for six weeks with North Peak Volleyball.  She improved so so much. It made her life really busy with volleyball twice a week and dance twice a week!


When I signed Cara up for volleyball Caleb insisted that I sign him up too.  He didn't love it as much as Cara, but he had a good experience. I think that taking the time to learn lifelong sports is worth the effort.


Whenever I wasn't chasing kids the past few months. I was happily planning a Relief Society retreat.  This is the only picture I took, but it was a huge success!! We had almost 50 sisters attend one day or the other with about 30 spending the night.  The best part was providing an environment where the ladies in our ward could uplift and bless each other.  


I took a lot of ideas from the Academy for Girls Counselor Reunion I went to last spring. Here is the invitation and agenda for my friends who will be planning Relief Society Retreats in the future. It was so fun for me to plan!  It tapped into my strongest natural gifts and despite the many hours it took I was glad to have to opportunity to plan it.
 


It was fun to have a bumper crop of fruit on our trees this year.  We had enough nectarines to feed a small army and loved sharing them with our neighbors and friends.


This is the sunflower Ali gave me for Mothers Day.  It did quite well!!


Ali is lucky to have a dress designer for a sister. I love that Cara and Ali have each other!  The other day Ali invited me to her room to look in her closet.  Her shirts were hung perfectly in color order.  It was like a dream come true! Cara said, “I gave her the idea.” Isn’t it wonderful that they give each other such great ideas?!


Andy started scouts.  We did some Indian dancing for his first pack meeting.  It reminded me that the 18-month break from Cub Scouts has been nice! I love that Andy is so excited about all things scouts.  He has been in for about a month and has already completed all of the requirements for 3 of his 6 required belt loops.  It makes my heart sing that he wants to work on his requirements and check them off!!


Sometimes school projects make me a little crazy.  One of my least favorite 5th Grade projects is the NOVA Rocket assignment.  I think it is optional, but my children never present it to me that way. Luckily Josh is really good about pitching in on the artsy projects, where I am lacking in skill and mostly in desire to help. Cara made hers out of Rice Crispies, frosting and marshmallows. The desire to eat it drove her siblings and classmates crazy. 


Ali and Taya getting into some of the Fall Craziness! Now I just have to survive Halloween!!