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Parents of ADHD Children

Oh, this breaks my heart

Well, here I go again making a decision that makes my son (ADHD, written expression disorder, processing issues, exec functioning issues, high intelligence) very sad, but that is probably in his best interest.

He started out in public school, with noisy hallways, large class sizes, and teachers who had no clue how to work with ADHD kids.  We did have two really good teachers, but the others were pretty damaging to his self-esteem.  My son was starting to slip through the cracks, and the social environment was getting very hard on such a sensitive kid.

With limited choices, we moved to a Montessori charter school.  He LOVES being able to choose his subjects and he loves the campus, which is out in the country, quite a ways away.  Problem is that the self-directed style that is the Montessori method is not working for him.  No surprise there, but it was worth a try, and he does love the calm atmosphere and the absence of bullying.  The school doesn’t like having to provide extra assistance to kids like my son though, and they complain about it often.  He needs too many reminders. He’s not getting enough done. He can’t stay on task.  Yes, I know all that. Yes, I know he needs reminders.  That’s why he was finally approved for an IEP, but they still don’t want to cooperate and I get tired of the complaints.

I know he needs more structure and guidance.  But, hearing your son say each day that he LOVES school and can’t wait to get there is worth a ton in my book.  But, this school also can’t provide OT or very much in the way of ESE services in those areas where he is deficient, like writing/thought organization, so I went today and looked at the only remaining school in town that I hadn’t yet considered.

It’s a small charter school, with small class sizes, and they have an OT on site.  They also have an ESE person on-site.  I toured the school and I’m okay with it.  It’s nothing to look at compared with what he has now, but they do provide the all-important services that he is currently missing, and that has to be my priority, I guess.

My son cried when I told him that I want to take him to see the school on Friday, and that I think it’s a move that we need to make, especially since he starts middle school next year and he could start along with the other newbies.  If he waits another year, he would be jumping in mid-stream when friendships are already established, and it would be impossible for him socially. So, the time to do it is at the end of this school year, which is nearly upon us.

He loves where he is, but it’s not right for him academically and he’s not learning as much as he should and he’s not getting the services he needs.  His love of the school carried a lot of weight with me for a while, and he has been there for two years, but he needs more if he is going to develop the academic skills he needs to move forward. 

He hurts right now and that makes me hurt SO, so much. I hate being responsible for that pain, and hate that we were both brought to tears, once again, by a system that just doesn’t do enough to help these kids who learn differently and have difficulty conforming to what’s “normal.”  It breaks my heart, again.  And my son’s heart, too. :(

Replies

I moved my daughter out of public school in 6th grade and I put her in a school that specializes in learning issues like she has.  I am so thrilled with how much attention she gets and how they REALLY want to help her.  I know it is a difficult move but it sounds like your son will thrive in his new school.

Traci

Posted by TraciL on May 01, 2014 at 5:14am

Thanks, Traci. I wish we had a school like that. It would be a no-brainer.  Unfortunately, our choices here are limited, so I’ve checked out all the options and am trying to find the best possible resources given the short list of schools. I hope the additional services and the teachers’ willingness to help at this other school will offset the sadness of leaving a place where he’s comfortable.

Posted by JAMurphy on May 01, 2014 at 5:24am

I hope you’ll make the right decision. Wish you well and good luck.

Posted by Anya on May 01, 2014 at 5:28am

Its tough I know, but I think you’re making the right decision.

Although I fell in love with it, that is why I didn’t send my son to our local Montessori school. He is in public school, but it is an exceptional public school. The building and playground was built last year. Classroom size is capped at 23 students. Even in third grade, there are separate a dedicated Math/Science, Language Arts and Handwriting teachers. All students also get additional resource and speech services. My son doesn’t get this service, but If a child is behind in math or reading, he/she gets free additional tutoring. In addition to all of that, students get PE/Art and Music every week. They also visit the library every week. There is technology in the classroom. Finally, my son also receives OT/PT every week.

The only downside to this school is that there is a little boy who bullies my son. I have been in touch with the school as well as my. I am trying to teach him not be a victim. So, every incident of bullying is documented by him and reported to the teacher and principal. I will also be meeting with the principal next week to discuss this issue.
I hope this gives you confidence that you made the right decision. Good luck.

Sue H in PC, Ohio

Posted by SueH on May 01, 2014 at 5:32am

Elementary school was a struggle for my son. He was labeled a bully because of his impulsiveness and I felt that he had a stigma with him because of how frsutrated teachers would get with him not wanting to sit still and focus. This year was a different story. He started middle school. I was so worried about him not having recess and having to switch classes. He has an IEP which helps tremendously but this has been the most awesome school year he has ever had. He has been on the honor roll all year and the teachers just love him! In our last IEP meeting a week ago I was shocked to hear so much good news and how positive they were. Usually I was bombarded with questions as to how I was going to fix my son. I think a big help is the rotation of the classes so he is not in one classroom all day. Also, they removed one of his core classes this year so he could be in the resource room where they monitor behavior and even help out at the school like taking out the recyclables from the classrooms and help the teachers. WE had an issue with a boy bulling him in the beginning of the year but they quickly put a stop to that once he finally told me what was happening. It is hard to tell how a child will do in any school but the teachers and how they handle the situations are a huge part of it. I feel that my son finally has teachers that actually care and want to help him instead of pushing him to the next teacher. I hope that you are able to find the right school for your son. It is heartbreaking that it is so hard for our kids to be understood and helped. :(

Posted by Ry'sMom on May 01, 2014 at 5:48am

Tough spot. We’ve considered moving my 8yr old son out of public school and into a charter where the pace would be different, class sizes smaller and where they have a more forgiving philosophy when it comes to structure but he is comfortable with his friends, his teachers and has the right services available so we’ve stayed for now. We sent him to Montessori preschool for two years thinking he would like being able to make choices about what to do but instead he chose to do none of it! Even at that early age we could tell he would need a different kind of structure and Montessori struggled with how to deal with him. I guess I would ask are his grades ok where he is? Is he struggling with schoolwork? If he’s learning and getting the work done and he’s happy but your biggest concern is how the school feels about giving him the help he needs I might consider leaving him there. Comfort and happiness can take kids a long way. The school can suck it up for another year. But if your gut tells you he really needs the change to succeed then go with your gut. Sorry, that’s probably not really helpful advice :(

Posted by brlk13 on May 01, 2014 at 5:59am

Thanks for the comments so far. 

To brkl13, he is not accomplishing enough work here, so that’s why I think he needs to return to a more structured approach.  There are days when he gets next to nothing done, and the teachers don’t want to have to remind him all the time do get back on task, so nothing gets accomplished.  So, even though I felt it was important that he learn to make choices and prioritize his work, staying on task and getting work done under his own steam are proving to be too difficult for him.  He may LOVE the calm environment, and that aspect of it has been perfect for him, he isn’t learning what he should and he isn’t maintaining the grades he used to get because he can’t do it without someone guiding him.  That’s really what it comes down to, and getting him more services where he needs them, which can’t happen where he is now.

Posted by JAMurphy on May 01, 2014 at 4:15pm

I fully agree that the ideal educational environment for these (ADHD) kids would be a modified-Montessori approach: kids are able to advance at their own rate/speed (not grouped by age) but are not expected to have the executive function & maturity that a completely self-directed curriculum entails. 

(And it’s a real shame it’s so hard to find that ideal mix).

Posted by BC on May 01, 2014 at 5:03pm

I read your post last night and was so sad that I couldn’t reply. We, too, find school to be a daily struggle. I’m relieved when our daughter is at school - she’s relatively safe and sound in a somewhat structured environment - and, at the same time, my heart is in my mouth with worry. She is 10 and in the public school - which is similar to what you describe. We’ve considered a therapeutic school but have been told that it’s not a place for her - that she’s learn behaviors that she is not currently engaged in or exhibiting. However, we did try a Montessori school. And, although it was a beautiful space and, in part, aligned with our beliefs about approaches to education, it was not at all suited to our child’s needs. She misses it very much; and people told us we were nuts to leave and give up the scholarship. But, having to start each morning sitting quietly working with small manipulables and not stray from their tiny mat, then rolling said mat up neatly and putting it away properly was a set up from the get go. My kid wanted to interact with other children; she couldn’t contain herself to a small mat, forget about putting it away neatly and quietly. This was followed by circle time where she couldn’t keep her hands to herself. I could go on and on. On the one hand, it felt like a golden opportunity. On the other, it was ill-suited for our child. Finding a school environment in which my kid can thrive - both educationally and socially - has been a heart-breaking experience (and, continues to be). It’s what keeps me up at night and is the source of tremendous stress. While I have no solutions to offer, I offer my support, my understanding, a reminder that our kids - although unique - are resilient and my company in this challenging journey.

Posted by MomofMack on May 01, 2014 at 5:05pm

Jody,

Theses school decisions are brutal! I have been through my fair share, some causing much heartache and pain, because they weren’t the right fit.

I hear you on a school that listens to needs and provides special services. My understanding is that charter school have to follow IDEA and Section 504 because they are technically public schools. That means, in an ideal world, you’d be able to push to have his needs accommodated where he is. Well, the ideal would be that they recognize and accommodate without being pushed.

I am not second-guessing your decision by any means, but wonder if a call to the special services director for the local board of education wouldn’t spur the current charter to provide the services needed and implement the IEP fully. If he needs reminders due to a disability, technically they have to provide them.

Now, I understand that this is easier said than done, and still may not make any difference. I have still had to push my son’s schools (public, mainstream) to follow and implement his IEP. I had fight for two years just to get the IEP and services in the first place. In the long run, school OT (and even private OT) didn’t help my son with his dysgraphia. That’s not to say it won’t help your son, but I hope you recognize that it’s not “curable” and OT doesn’t improve dysgraphia in the majority of kids. I mean to say, OT for dysgraphia is a long-shot.

I am right with you with school decisions right now. While my son is doing well in 5th grade in the intermediate school, he could be doing so much better. He is still bored and his feelings easily hurt. He’s a tiny fish in a big pond, and the pond is only going to get larger and the other fish only meaner and less tolerant of his differences.

We have a new charter middle and high school opening here this fall and my son’s number was actually drawn in the lottery, as well as his friend who lives across the street from us. This school will follow the expeditionary model and incorporate STEM, which I think will be great for my son. And, if it’s a flop, there’s always public school. The only reason we were able to get comfortable enough to try this school was because they will have an EC director and two EC teachers on staff at this school. Otherwise, I don’t think we would try it.

Fingers crossed for both of us! Follow your intuition—the momma intuition is a powerful force and often spot on.

Penny
ADDconnect Moderator & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on May 01, 2014 at 5:06pm

Penny - This is so right on:

“He’s a tiny fish in a big pond, and the pond is only going to get larger and the other fish only meaner and less tolerant of his differences.”

That’s precisely why my son left the regular public school, and I haven’t put him back. I hear what you’re saying about pushing the school to provide the services, but I’ve talked to the ESE that works this charter, and they keep saying they just don’t have the services because, although they’re charter, they’re also Montessori, and they’re treated a bit differently.

If he was getting his work done and doing well at being self-directed, and the services were my only concern, I would push for this. But, he is not self-directing, and they’re having to remind him constantly to stay on task.  Part of the issue is that they don’t want to do that, and I could also force that, but it tells me that it’s not the right educational style for him.  Some ADHD kids do well in Montessori, and some don’t.  While the environment may be perfect for my son, the teaching methodology and the Montessori style apparently is not.  So, my struggle is whether to remove him from an environment he loves, knowing that it is probably hurting him academically because it’s the wrong fit from that standpoint. 

Gotta tell ya though, it has been wonderful not having to fight about going to school each day, because he can’t wait to get there!  But what good is that if he’s not learning and not accomplishing what he needs to accomplish, and he’s falling below grade level because of it?

The school was also supposed to keep adding grades all the way through middle, but now they’re not, and my son would have to take a 1/2-hour bus ride each day to their other campus after 6th grade, which isn’t nearly as nice, and he doesn’t want to make that trip anyway. So, at best he would only get one more year at the campus he loves. That makes me feel better about moving him, but it’s gonna be rough leaving the Montessori style and going back to regular classroom learning.

I wish I was able to relocate up there when I was trying to do so!  You have better school choices by far.

Posted by JAMurphy on May 01, 2014 at 5:24pm

MomofMack - Thanks for your note.  It’s much appreciated!

Posted by JAMurphy on May 01, 2014 at 5:27pm

BC - YES!  That would be the ideal environment.  Too bad it doesn’t exist, at least not that I’ve come across.

Posted by JAMurphy on May 01, 2014 at 5:32pm

Well, if he’s not accomplishing the work then that probably means it’s time for change :( It really does stink that there aren’t more options out there for education - for all students - most public schools are not designed for optimal learning for any student much less those that learn differently than the “mainstream”. If you have found an option that you believe will be better for him in the long run then I’d say you have to try, especially since it sounds like change is coming anyway. We have really worked closely with our public school to make changes in the classroom so he can be successful this year and they are working but it’s taken a long time and a lot of work with the available resources to get there. I had to push and network and build lots of new relationships with people at the district level but it has paid off. As you make the change my best advice is to nicely and calmly stick your nose in the school’s business lol and ask all the questions you can with an attitude of needing help and hopefully you can get the help you need. Best wishes!

Posted by brlk13 on May 01, 2014 at 6:05pm

Jody,

I hear you, and I’m nodding along. :-D

We do not have better school choices though, believe me. There are ZERO schools for kids with ADHD or LDs, except one school-winthin-a-school and the most prestigious (and expensive) private school here—it’s $27,000 a YEAR! I applied for my son two years ago (hoping they have very generous scholarships (like $25,000 a year), but he was denied entry because he doesn’t struggle enough.

I fight public schools and teachers and even EC teachers every year because no one understands my kid. His behavior is willful in most of their eyes. So frustrating! That’s why I am having him evaluated for high functioning autism—if the word autism was in his file, no one would ever question his behavior and motives. I truly believe he has HFA too though, not just trying to game the system.

I’m scared to death about trying this new charter school, but we are going to do it for the experiential learning and the overall size of the school. I want my kiddo to feel like a big fish in a small pond to boost his confidence and self-esteem. And I want him to like school—this hands-on environment *should* provide that. (Fingers crossed!)

Penny
ADDconnect Moderator & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on May 02, 2014 at 5:39pm

I think the new charter sounds good, Penny.I start to get the feeling of, “well, it can ‘t be any worse than the past schools, right?”  Sad when you no longer have high hopes for the school system, but when you’ve been shot down as often as we have.  HOWEVER, I think your charter sounds promising.  I wish you all the best with it!

I got my son to go see this other charter here today. He knows there’s really no other solution, especially since his school won’t be adding grades here and the campus change would be the only way to stay (but it is NOT working academically, so it doesn’t matter anymore in my mind), and he’s “thinking about it.” I want him to feel like he has a say so that he buys into this, even though it’s really the only option! He won’t let me turn in the registration papers until he has thought about it.  So, hopefully by Monday he’ll let me do it.

I got a better feeling today on my second visit. The first visit was okay, and I liked the ESE person, but today was even better.  The ESE heard we were there, so she came right out to meet Torin. That says a lot.  She’s really nice.  And I also learned that they look into the histories of each applicant, and if they see any bullying in their history, they don’t accept them. That’s how they alleviate some of the bullying issues at that age.  I was glad to hear that since our kids are such easy targets.

And, they are hoping to add H.S. years, which could happen in a couple of years from now, so maybe he could just stay here through H.S.  That would be awesome!!!

I hope things start to go better for us and for you, Penny!

Posted by JAMurphy on May 02, 2014 at 9:53pm

What is an IEP that everyone is speaking of? My son’s school has been great thus far but today he had an outburst. He was just diagnosed 3 months ago and anything that I can help w/the school I need it.

Thanks

Posted by bgsmith1109 on May 03, 2014 at 1:04am

Is anyone familiar with Waldorf schools and how they are for children with learning disabilities?

Posted by use2be on May 03, 2014 at 7:50pm

An IEP is an individualized education plan. which is a plan or program developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives specialized instruction and related services. This page on the ADDmag site has great info on IEP’s and even a sample letter of how to request one. http://www.additudemag.com/resource-center/school-accommodations.html  As for Waldorf schools, my son (age 16) goes to a private Waldorf High school and it has been a godsend for him and me. I don’t know that it would work for every ADD child, it depends on his/her strengths. What works for my son is the varied and meaningful approach to learning, the fact that he has classes in music, art, and physical education every week for all four years of H.S., throughout high school, the small class sizes (there are only 100 kids in the entire high school), the emphasis on building deep relationships with the instructors & fellow students. We are also fortunate that our school has worked with our son, and although he does not have an IEP or a 504 plan, they developed an “ILP (individualized learning plan)” which is basically the equivalent of a 504 plan, listing out the accommodations my son can receive. The accommodations they have given him include having more time on assignments, giving him assignments early so he has more time to plan, allowing him to audit classes or take classes N/NP if he is really struggling, rather than receiving an F, and more. He is currently a sophomore, and no matter what happens, he will be able to graduate with his class. Depending on the credits he earns, he will earn the “school” diploma (which exceeds the A-G requirements necessary to go straight to a CA State University), a regular CA H.S. diploma, or he will just take the GED and continue on to a Junior College after high school.  I’m fine with any of the above options as he is likely to attend a JC either way.  For me, the most important thing is that he is learning (he is), developing a love of learning (he is), allowed to explore different subjects and find his strengths (he is), and building connections with other students and having a wonderful high school experience rather than one where he feels alienated, unsuccessful, etc. He feels relatively successful and connected even though there are times when he falls behind in lessons and doesn’t complete his work on time. That flexibility is EVERYTHING. Another thing we’ve done is hire an ADD coach/therapist, who not only provides my son with emotional support, but also helps him prioritize and plan his work. The school can only do so much, they don’t have a specialist on staff, although they do have a counselor who checks in with my son and has advocated for his needs and helped him negotiate through struggles he has had with some classes and/or teachers. All these things - private school tuition (fortunately nowhere near the tuition Jody quoted above for the school in her area, but still a financial stretch for us), the coach, definitely add up financially and I know they may not be available to everyone. I’m by no means wealthy but I made the decision to invest in my son now, rather than being able to continue to save for his college education. Unless he gets scholarships (unlikely) or decides to take out tons of loans (not recommended imo), he’ll attend a Junior college straight out of high school, and hopefully after that, we’ll have enough $ to support him through his final 2 years of college (if he goes that route). I think he has a lot better chance of succeeding in college if he has a good high school experience. If this school or an alternative public high school had not been available to him, I think having a 504 plan at the regular public high school and having some kind of modified schedule that did not force him to juggle such a heavy academic course/homework load could have worked - but I don’t think he would have been very happy or felt super successful because he is very bright and does not need a “dumbed down” curriculum. I may have alternatively enrolled him in an independent study program, hired tutors/coaches, and gotten him into community-service & other outside endeavors that would have given him a chance of feeling successful and confident and building connections with different people. And Jody - I think you’re making the right decision! My son was resistant to switching at first, even though he was unhappy at his high school - because he didn’t want to leave his friends and the environment he knew. But my gut told me he needed this change, and I was right. It was an adjustment at first and took a few months for him to feel like he fit in, but now he is SO happy. I think as parents, we know our children best, and the right learning environment and a flexible and supportive staff is everything for a kid with ADD!

Posted by xtinaznap on May 04, 2014 at 6:16am

Thank you, xtinaznap - I appreciate the encouragement!!!  I think it’s right, too, The atmosphere may be great where he is, but it’s not working academically, and they are NOT working with me. I’ve already met people from the new school who seem like they WILL work with me, and they wanted to be sure they can count on me as well, which they can.  I think it will be a good team. smile  Thx.

Posted by JAMurphy on May 04, 2014 at 4:40pm

Before you move your son from the school he loves, contact the school district of the public school where your son used to attend. I think they may be required to provide specialized services like OT and ST, even if he doesn’t attend there anymore. I think he can still get therapy, especially if he has an IEP.

My son attends the public high school and has an IEP. he is advanced two years in math, but he has to take non-honors classes otherwise because he can’t get the work done. It’s a highly competitive public school. If I had to do it over, I would not have spent so much time on the IEP. It hardly matters in high school except for test prep. I also would have moved to a smaller rural school. he may not have had the academic support as much, but he would have hopefully made more friends. The students in his school are wealthy, smart, and snooty. They have never learned tolerance because they get whatever they want. The socialization part is so important and my son is somewhat isolated. Thank goodness for band.

Posted by Amy Jo on May 05, 2014 at 2:51am

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