previous post, he had looped from first to second grade with the same class and teacher. I knew the pace of third grade was much faster than previous grades, and I was uncertain of his ability to keep up.Time is my enemy. I know “they’re growing up so fast” or “time is moving too quickly” are common refrains heard from parents. But with Monkey Boy, it’s more than a nostalgic reflection; I feel like I’m in a constant battle against time. When he was about six months old, I quit reading the baby books because he wasn’t keeping up. These days, I try to steer away from any comparisons to his peers. What some parents take for granted (including me when it comes to my older two, Little H and Master Yi-Yi) are often major accomplishments for Monkey Boy, like, at the age of nine, when he truly understood that there are 60 seconds in a minute. Math is the most difficult, and, unfortunately, by the time he grasps a concept, the class has moved through several new ones. His ability to understand and use oral language also continues to be a step behind. I really found myself in a fight against time in the fall of 2012, when he entered third grade. I was concerned because he was going from a close knit classroom he had known for two years into the unknown. If you remember from my
The summer before third grade, I had decided that I wanted to take him to a developmental pediatrician. I can’t remember exactly what prompted that decision. I think the biggest things were the thought of middle school (which continues to approach far too quickly) and his continued difficulty with language. He also needed a medical diagnosis from a physician if he were ever going to have an IEP.
My choices were Kluge or Children’s Hospital in Richmond. While I’ve heard great things about Kluge and love Charlottesville, I chose Richmond because it was closer, and they have a satellite office in Fredericksburg. Also, long car rides are meltdown inducers. In hindsight, I’m not sure they’d be my first choice. But that’s who I called, and they told me it would be about eight months before I could get an appointment, which put me into March. From what I have heard, Kluge is about the same. That is a long time to wait when you’re talking about almost an entire school year passing by. So, if you have concerns about your child’s development, I would contact an expert as soon as possible. I wasn’t too worried at the time because he had done all right in second grade. I also didn’t realize how poorly he was actually going to do in third grade.
What I hadn’t envisioned when he looped from first to second grade was how long it would take him to adapt to a new teacher, class and set of rules. At the end of the previous school year, I had indicated on my parent input form that because of his difficulty with transitions, it would be in his best interest to place him in a class with several students from the previous two years. Unfortunately, only one little girl was the same, and I think this contributed to his lack of classroom participation. It took him almost an entire semester to get acclimated, and his academic progress was stilted. On a positive note, he loved his teacher, and she was great about giving the kids opportunities to move between lessons.
We had also increased the dosage of his ADHD medicine, Concerta, from 18 to 27 mg. Concerta had worked well in second grade, so I didn’t think too much of it. That’s one thing I should have kept better tabs on. It turned out his medicine was acting as a sedative, but I didn’t realize how badly until the spring. We’ve now tried about five different medicines until finding one that worked well.
Throughout the semester, I communicated with Monkey Boy’s teacher in person and in emails and there was an SST meeting in November. At the meeting, we discussed Monkey Boy’s lack of progress and came up with some modifications to help him. A follow-up meeting was scheduled for January. He had also failed the eye muscle balance test, so we made a trip to the eye doctor. The only thing she found was that he was nearsighted with one eye being worse, so he started wearing glasses.
The January meeting rolled around, and he had continued to make little progress. Since the interventions still weren’t working, an evaluation for special education was recommended. A meeting was set up for April. In the meantime, the school went through its own testing process.
In March 2013, we finally saw the developmental pediatrician. After all that time, it was a bit of a letdown. The doctor seemed very knowledgeable and did offer some good advice, but he only spent about 5-10 minutes with Monkey Boy and the rest of the time talking to me. Based on that, he corroborated the psychologist’s diagnosis of autism and ADHD along with a “language learning problem.” It was good to have a medical diagnosis, but I had been hoping for more answers. The best thing that came from that appointment was a referral to an occupational therapist. Unfortunately, their first opening wasn’t until August.
Monkey Boy’s progress continued to be slow. He attended after-school tutoring in reading to help him get ready for his SOL tests, but while concentrating on this topic, he continued to fall more behind in math. Occasionally, he complained that his classmates told him he was “stupid,” and he became very cognizant of his shortcomings and started to lose interest in learning. I’ve read that kids with learning disabilities go one of two ways. They either compensate for their disability (Little H has done this with dyslexia, which I will revisit in a later post), or they completely give up and stop trying (which is what Monkey Boy has done).
In April, I met with the elementary school’s special education team. Monkey Boy qualified for an IEP based on his diagnosis of ADHD. It was interesting that he only met the criterion for autism in two out of three categories. Not that it really mattered what the diagnosis was, since his goals are based on his area of need. Fortunately, it was done in time to give him some accommodations on his SOL tests.
The IEP was a step in the right direction towards getting him help, but as I learned throughout fourth grade, it came with its own set of frustrations…