Category Archives: Learning Issues

When They Don’t Listen: School Edition

Remember when I realized at the end of summer that we kinda hate school because of some of Hope’s challenges?

Yeah, that.

Yep, still hate it.

I thought that her counselor and I were on the same page in terms of what was in Hope’s best interest. Apparently, I was mistaken.

Hope does not like one of her teachers and has used this as an excuse to underperform.

After lots of back and forth with Hope and the school, I refused to offer Hope the opportunity to change teachers. I needed to see her apply herself, and knowing that she had a chance to get what she wanted would only cause manipulative behavior. After seeing her perform, we could all reevaluate whether a different teacher would be an appropriate move for her.

I know my kid. I know her.

I may have only known her for 3 years this month, by I know Hope.

Hope’s defiance typically comes in the form of showing me how badly she can perform rather than how well she can do the same. Although she hurts herself, she knows that her underperformance hurts me—it makes me worry for her, be a little stressed out, sometimes be angry at her willingness to self-sacrifice.

It took me awhile to figure this out.

I used to not believe in oppositional defiance, generally speaking, in some ways I still do. I think it’s a bunch of baloney in terms of a diagnosis. I was allowed to be openly defiant; the thought of behaving in such a way with my parents back in the day is just a completely foreign concept to me. I can’t wrap my head around it.

And yet, this defiance is supposed to be a thing. I’m supposed to give Hope lots of choices to help manage the defiance. Yeah, ok.

Of course, I know when Hope can handle choices and when she cannot. Often choices are hugely problematic for her.

So, anyhoo, new counselor lady meets with Hope and completely undermines the decision that I made about not switching teachers.

“Hope, sure we can talk about switching teachers; let’s make an appointment; there are 3 other classes you can be switched to.”

Thanks, lady, thanks a lot.

And once again, I get to be the bigger bad guy.

So, now, we’re looking at grades that are just not reflective of Hope’s capabilities with or without accommodations. For Hope, these grades are proof that it’s not working out with her teacher.

For me, they are reflective of self-sabotaging, manipulative behavior designed to get her way and use the naïve school counselor to get it.

Sigh.  Just great.

So, I send off a terse email to the counselor about how she got played and how my kid is in the dog house.

No answer.

I am clear with Hope’s school and with Hope that educational decisions are made by me, unless there is definitive evidence that my say should be overridden. I’m furious that I laid that ground work, and it was all destroyed during one meeting, and here we are with the first quarter jacked.

And Hope has created a legitimate appearing argument for getting her way and irritating me as a bonus.

I don’t care as much about Hope making honor roll these days, but I do know what she’s capable of and what her academically weakness are and how they manifest.

I hate that my knowledge of my daughter’s behaviors and capabilities weren’t treated as “expertise.” I hate that despite having 20 years of educational experience and an advanced degree in education that my knowledge of my kid or relevant content was discounted.

What’s the point of having some forms of privilege if I can’t leverage them? Isn’t that what privilege is about anyway?

With so many parents having to advocate for their kids, I see why it feels like we are rarely on the same team with our children’s educators. For adoptive parents, I could see how the “adoptive” part could be used to undermine what we know about our children throughout our advocacy efforts.

I see how we are marginalized.

I’m angry.

I’m so angry.

Why didn’t the counselor listen to me?

Why was it so hard to just listen to me and work with me to help my daughter be successful? I mean, we’re supposed to be on the same team right?

Why didn’t she listen to me? Why didn’t she trust that I know? Why did she undermine me?

I’m guessing that parents by birth go through this too, this feeling that their experiences as parents are devalued by educators as they advocate for their children.

I am pissed that I feel like I have to back down to that school next week and give them what for.

I’m pissed that my daughter has dug herself in an effort to manipulate her way into getting what she wants.

I hate setbacks.

I hate setbacks even when I learn from them; I always wish that learning didn’t require some form of suffering on this journey.

I hate setbacks that could be avoided if folks just listened and trusted me and my approach to parenting.

This is one of those few times when I have no doubts and no second guessing about my approach to this parenting issue. I knew and continue to know what needed to happen.

But it ends up just being another case of when they didn’t listen.


School Drama

We’re one month into school and the proverbial ish has hit the fan.  The grades are nosediving.

They are falling for lots of reasons. There is a lot of work, and the work is hard. Did I mention that there is a lot of it? Hope hasn’t asked to use her much needed accommodations, and high schoolers have to ask as a part of being trained to be self-reliant. The problem is that the reason she has accommodations makes her have problems remembering to ask to avail herself of said accommodations.

I’ve reached out to each of the teachers. They seem nice enough.

And now, I’m struggling to figure out what my role here is, what is this mama bear to do?

I am Hope’s advocate.

But there is a clear expectation that Hope begins to advocate for herself.

There’s also a need for her to accept her responsibilities, since her recitation of academic concerns are all externally triggered.

I am guessing it’s going to be a long time before we turn this corner, and then I have no idea what’s on the other side of it.

I encourage her. I take her to tutoring. I make sure that I’m *that* parent who visits the school, reaches out to the teachers, and makes sure that Hope has access to support. I ask about homework. I check the school sites for assignments and grades.

I think I am doing everything I can.

It’s hard to watch the slide; I think we both feel helpless.

There are some things that Hope can do, but the motivation isn’t there.

There’s a lot of emotion, and I fear a lot more on the horizon.

I’m not sure what the next move is to help her, to at least help her help herself.

I am afraid for her. I want so much for her.

It’s moments like these that I really get a sense of what must go on in her head…the sense that she’s just always trudging uphill, that there is no end to the drama, the hard times, wondering if she will ever be conventionally successful?

There’s such a mixture of defiance and fear, defensiveness and anxiety, and hurt, just lots of hurt.

I wish I could make it better.

I’m doing everything I can; we’re at a place where her success is dependent on her active self-advocacy.

I wish she was able to step up. I pray that she will be able to step up soon, but I’m trying to brace myself for her inability to do that yet.

And it feels terrible.

The only thing worse is fearing that she thinks I think less of her because she is having a hard time.  I’m trying to be reassuring, to not apply too much pressure, to encourage her. But I fear that all of that is being interpreted as thinking she’s less than. I am heartbroken by the fact that it took me so long to understand her struggles. I fear the damage that I caused in all those months of not understanding.

I’m not self-loathing and I can forgive myself, but none of that makes up for the time loss in building Hope’s trust in me.

I can only keep doing what I’m doing.

 


Summertime

These last few months were rough, like drag me and Hope through life kicking and screaming rough.

And then, the hassle hustle stopped. Just like that the stress melted away.

School ended last week, and we got a chance to breathe and I realized that this last school year was a doozy.

Hope started high school, rough by itself. All the academic gaps that she was able to hide became glaring. Her issues with executive function—or rather lack of executive function—manifested with a vengeance. Crushes, social anxiety and miscellaneous teen drama just made for a really hard time.

For my part, despite reading numerous blogs about how some kids who have traumatic histories and who have neurocognitive conditions really, really struggle with school, I utterly refused to accept that this might be my reality with Hope. Hope desperately wanted to be successful, and in retrospect I realize that she also wanted to please me. She worked as hard as she could with what she had and simply struggled, and it wasn’t until the last month or two of school that I began to really believe that something else could be affecting her performance.

How devastating for her it must’ve been to think she failed me over and over again. I could kick myself. It’s nothing but pride that prevented me from even considering that we wouldn’t follow a similar pattern. I am devastated that I piled on more pressure, more anxiety, more depression on to my daughter because I couldn’t bear to believe that she might have a problem beyond her control.

Although as the school year drew closer to a close, I did step my game way up in terms of advocacy and interventions, but I still could just melt away into the floor I’m so disappointed in myself that I couldn’t get past my own hangups earlier.

But, it’s a new day and I have another chance to help her and get it closer to right.

This summer I’m trying to keep the pressure light, give her lots of opportunities to be successful, to relish in that success and to help her work on developing the ability to say, “Help me please.” My girl’s pride is huge and she fancies saying that she can take care of herself. Ultimately my goal is to have fun this summer and to build up enough strength for both of us to go into the new school year more confident and armed with the tools and support that will aid success.

Today though, it’s all about grabbing some beach chairs and just chilling at the free neighborhood park movie night. #summertime


When the Team Works

Today I met with the team at Hope’s school for a local screening to begin the process of determining whether she qualified for a 504 or if I needed to pursue an IEP.

I’ve heard so many horror stories about this initial meeting and this process that I went in ready but anxious.

I am in constant contact with Hope’s teachers (to her utter dismay). I visit her guidance counselor ever so often. I’ve invested a schnitt-load of money on tutors and resources and help her. I drag her to the doctor and share copious notes on my observations and reasons for requesting a medication adjustment.

During all of this, Hope is usually initially pissed, but she knows I’m trying to help.

I felt like I was going into the meeting doing everything I could’ve possibly done prior to asking for external support.

I had been warned about how kind folks would be while they tried to deny services and accommodations.

I really, really didn’t know what to expect.

So, we met, I gave my narrative. There was a lot of documentation about my efforts and involvement thus far. Her teachers came and spoke so highly of her, and echoed my observations and my conclusions about what she needs.

I looked at everyone on the team. The guidance counselor was nodding; the psychologist was typing, nodding and occasionally grimacing. The SPED director was reading stuff that had to legally be read. The social worker looked at me in what looked like an impassive way.

I did my homework, but I just didn’t know how things would turn out.

At the end of our hour together, we had a 504, the paperwork was signed and meetings with individual teachers start at 7:45am tomorrow. When all of my private testing is complete, we’ll revisit the need for more support.

For now, Hope will have her most immediate needs met, and I nearly wept with relief.

As the meeting concluded, the stoic social worker asked to walk me out to the school lobby. He was so kind, so warm, so encouraging, reassuring…he turned out to be a cheerleader. He cheered for us.

Now, I’m not so naïve as to believe it’s really all that easy; I believe we benefitted from a lot of favor from the Holy Homeboy today. And I have no idea what the world will look like after we get the results of Hope’s comprehensive testing back. The team may turn into a frenzy of sharks if we need more support.

What I do know today is that there are good people working at my daughter’s school. I believe they genuinely want my daughter to be successful; I recognize that some of that comes from knowing a bit about her history, but I know it’s genuine. I feel like Hope and I have allies today.

And for today, that’s good enough.

When the team works, the dream works.


A Place of Patience

I am not patient…like at all.  Parenting has changed a lot of that since Hope and I can’t exactly exist in my angry, petty place forever while I’m waiting for her.

Ok, that’s a lie, we hang out in my angry, petty place quite a bit.  The truth is that I seethe sometimes because I’m constantly waiting for her. I’m waiting for hair, makeup (which takes an unholy amount of time), for her to put on her shoes, pack her backpack, walk down the hall, go to the bathroom.  It’s not even like she’s snail-like, it’s the million ways in which she becomes distracted and derails off to something else.

It’s maddening at times. I try to just keep my mouth shut since I’ve beeotched about it so much.

Doing a lot of this research lately has really helped me understand that she really can’t help the distractions. Her struggles are maddening to her too. I’m learning how she has internalized her struggles and my nagging. I’m learning how deeply she hurts just from operating so differently in this world.

I get it.

And I am choosing to be more gentle with her. I am choosing to show her grace. I am choosing to practice patience.

I’m focusing on saying positive things to her, even and especially when I’m correcting her.
It’s not easy and I can already see her pushing the boundaries to try to punk me. She remains unsuccessful, as evidenced by her being cold busted on the regular and losing some of her privileges.

And so things in the house are calmer. I’d like to think this is progress. I’m not as stressed out. I imagine that me not going crazy over a bunch of things has reduced her stress level too. I hope so.

I have moved a lot of cheese pieces recently to try to bring in extra help for us. She was resistant at first, but I think she realizes that I’m doing it because I’m trying to help her and not hurt her. Her softening gives me hope that she will be increasingly receptive.

For once, I’m willingly trying to practice patience in order to keep the peace and create a sanctuary. Time will tell if this space will truly evolve into something more tranquil for us or if we will just continue to do engage in these ridiculous battles.

I just want us both to feel good about ourselves and each other.


Thoughts on Coping with Learning Issues

Here’s the deal. I’m dyslexic.

I uptake information best by hearing, speaking and doing—but not necessarily all at the same time. In fact, as I get older, I get more easily overwhelmed by external stimuli.

I was not diagnosed until I was a freshman in college; I miserably failed a biology exam although I knew the information.  The professor took pity on me and allowed me to take it untimed in his office with some assistance. I aced it, and immediately went to be tested for a learning disability.

I used to love, I mean LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, reading. I don’t as much anymore.  This last bought of graduate school pretty much killed that.

I mean, I still enjoy reading, but it takes me forever to get through a book for pleasure now. I’m more apt to go pull scholarly literature and read it.

Now, this is in part because I’m a huge nerd. But it is a coping mechanism for me.

Scholarly lit should have: an abstract, an intro, a lit review, a methodology description, study findings, a discussion and a conclusion.

My brain knows what to expect, and I can more easily string together copious amounts of information that may seem unrelated.  And to be clear, I uptake massive amounts of info, and when it’s in my brain, it is IN MY BRAIN and available for calling up and cross-referencing.

I also like statistics.

Yes, I am a nerd, but I like numeric patterns. I’ve taught myself over the years to *see* the patterns and be able to relate large data sets with each other.

I was listening to a podcast recent about how fellow dyslexics tend to have jumbled brain operating systems, but we are amazeballs at reorganizing data so that it makes sense to us.  We tend to be a pretty creative bunch.

If I were a computer, it’d be like I was a cute computer with a flash memory—takes forever to upload, but when it does, it’s there baby!

Since becoming a parent, life has become more…complicated. Complication can be pretty distressing for those of us who learn differently—which includes me and Hope, who is ADHD.

For me, this has manifested as a rigid, rabid-like adherence to evidence based studies on issues that we deal with at home. A lot of books while based on research cite too little of it and are organized in such a way I simply cannot process them.

Don’t worry, I’m like this at work too. You want to piss me off in the office?  Say the phrase, “Best Practices” and have NO research or data to substantiate that it is indeed a best practice. It brings out the worst in me. Partly because I’m an advocate of quality research, but more selfishly because I have trouble processing random “ish we do.”

(Now, don’t ask me why I like to write so much when I’ve got all this going on. I write for work, the blog and the podcast—not sure how it all works in my brain, but for some reason it does. Go figure. Thank you Spell Check and Grammarly.)

The last parenting book that I stumbled through, Hope and I raged, fought, mutually dropped Eff bombs and I had to call the emergency hotline with my agency because it was such a mess.  Um, yeah, I really don’t do parenting books anymore; they get lost in translation.

I’ve been really struggling with coping with this form of difference lately; I imagine that Hope has as well—I know she has. I’m starting to do a lot more skimming about coping with learning issues in hopes of finding some evidence based recommendations that might meet us both where we are.

I’m grateful for the recent recommendations about Brene Brown—I’m waiting for the audio version of her books to become available at the library since I *know* there’s no sense in my lying and saying I’m going to read them.

In the meantime, the recommendation has helped me discover a nice treasure trove of literature about shame, parenting, adolescence, trauma and the larger philosophy of shame and its role and process in emotional development. There’s some interesting stuff out there, like if we experience moral shame we are likely to be willing to resist avoidance and be willing to apologize, but with image shame we are pissed, avoid and refuse to acknowledge our issues at all. Interestingly, guilt isn’t at play with these two types of shame (there are at least 2 other kinds of shame); so guilt trips are never going to work.  Our own shame coupled with other emotions impact how we accept apologies.

Seriously it’s interesting stuff, so thanks for the Brené Brown recommendation; she’s interesting, but there’s some really awesome research going on in this area that speaks to me.

So, resources…holla at me with YouTube videos, audiobooks and scholarly research for how to manage ADHD, ODD, teen drama, older child adoptive drama…ya know…all the good drama stuff.


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