Thursday, March 3, 2011

Good Call

C.S.'s Special Ed teacher gave me a call yesterday, just to check in. We talked for what seemed like for-e-ver! (as my kids would say) The call must have lasted at least an hour and was filled with all sorts of absolutely rich exchanges of information! She gave me insight into his typical day at school, some perspective on his progress and some vivid anecdotes describing how he's beginning to relate better with his peers. I ate it up and could have talked to her for hours more.

During this exchange of insights, together we were able to realize the reasons for C.S.'s recent struggles and share a few ideas to help assist him so that he might be able to manage his frustrations better or even avoid them altogether.

We realized he seems to struggle most frequently during gym. (He has a dedicated Para for recess, but not for gym.) I felt many of the recent incidents could have been easily recognized and so avoided not only by school staff but also by C.S.

1) Staff recognition: The Special Ed teacher is going to talk to the gym teacher. We recognize C.S. is trying to participate in all games and wants to participate with his class and his friends. But, we are asking the gym teacher to recognize those situation in which he simply can not participate in the same way the other kids. We want to increase this awareness and suggest alternative ways C.S. might participate,if not on a team then as an assistant, a sort of ball boy or referee.

2) C.S. recognition: When I asked C.S. why he played dodge ball when he knew he hates the game or why he wouldn't simply explain he didn't like wearing the gloves so that he could participate in something he loved, to both incidences he replied that he didn't want the Para or the Teacher to get upset with him because "he refused to participate." It became obvious in our discussion that we need to help him understand that there are times when it is appropriate and perfectly acceptable to refuse, or to at least to refuse a certain aspect of participation. If he recognizes this, "uses his words" and can explain the problem, the teachers can help him find an alternative or modification so that he may participate.

3) Adjustments for Growth: He has grown tremendously this year! It is wonderful to hear. But when recognizing such growth, it is important to also recognize certain strategies will need adjustments if they are to be a good fit. We're considering a couple. For example:

a) Achieve vs. Bolt: It was helpful to explain how C.S. spends much of his "alone time" at home outdoors and that simply being outside can calm him. The SpEd Teacher took this bit of information and connected it to an urgent need to avoid potentially dangerous incidents when he simply bolts out the classroom door into the parking lot. She is now going to use time outside as an incentive. She'll also ask if he needs to take a walk with her at times he needs help coping and readjusting his mood so that he might "return" and participate.

b) Rating System: The Special Ed teacher has done a great job helping C.S. recognize that his reaction is often disproportionate or inappropriate to the situation. To do this, she'll ask him "is it a big problem or a small problem?" to prompt his own evaluation and judgement of the situation and his reaction to it. BUT because he does tend to go to extremes already, either big or small, I asked if they could rate the situation on a multi-point scale, anything that includes middle ground or the many shades of grey we wish he could perceive between black and white.

Ahhhhh. I love information. The stuff you can do with it and good communication. I feel like part of the team again!

The Special Education teacher reiterated (because she has said it before) that her door is always open and welcomed me to call whenever I had concerns or questions.

Silver Lining: Or in this case, an important reminder to self and a little self-reflection. When there is someone extending an invite, even if only one person or even if it was some time ago, it is never to late to simply graciously accept and acknowledge such kindnesses as the gift they are. I fully admit, I had neglected to do this.

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