This past month has been focused on Tyler, on assessing his struggles and trying to better meet his needs.
We feel like we finally have all the services in place to help Ozzie be successful and now that things are finally settling down with him our focus has turned to Tyler.
Tyler has been with us for three years. When he first joined our family we were in survival mode, just trying to hold our family unit together and meet everyone’s most basic needs as we tried to bond with our new son. Our time and energy was spent on managing epic sized tantrums and deep, deep hurts. As time passed and Tyler found comfort and security in his new life and new home we were then able to focus our energy into expanding our efforts into other areas of need. We focused on building family relationships, teaching basic skills, filling in the gaps of learning that were a result of early childhood neglect. We worked on self care, washing hands, how to sit at the table, how to pray.
Once his physical needs were met we could then focus on his educational needs. When Tyler arrived in our home there were huge learning gaps. He couldn’t identify most of his letters, he couldn’t name all his colors. We went back to the beginning and started building that foundation he was lacking.
And it was hard!
I have had my share of teaching challenges with my kids. Rusty is the only one who hasn’t struggled in the area of school. It was a challenge for me, someone that has never really struggled with school, to understand why my girls “didn’t get it” when I started to teach them to read. Later both were diagnosed with Dyslexia and I had to relearn how to teach in a way that they could learn.
It was hard. It required a lot of patience to work on the same skill 100 times knowing that if we just kept at it it would eventually click…and that was the best feeling in the world, to see them master a skill that they struggled with for so long.
Through my experience with my other kids I am very familiar with the world of special education, accommodations and IEPs.
And my “patience” muscles have grown through much use and practice over the years,
but no child has stretched me as a teacher like Tyler has! 😉
Teaching Tyler is like trying to keep a kangaroo contained in a box without a lid. Our school sessions are full of movement as I follow him around the house teaching him wherever I can corner him. We have done math in blanket forts, phonics on the trampoline and science in the kitchen.
Teaching Tyler brought challenges that were new to me. I was used to teaching to a disability but teaching a child with ADHD took me into a whole new world of crazy. I quickly learned how to work with him rather than against him. I learned short learning sessions with breaks in between were essential. I learned that the trampoline was the greatest invention ever for an ADHD child. I learned that he had to be moving if he was going to learn. Phonics were done on a hopscotch board or with fingers in a tray of shaving crème.
As the year passed things got easier. I wasn’t sure if he was less bouncy or if I was just becoming accustomed to it. 🙂
As he grew older his ability to focus and and sit still improved and we went from 15 minute school sessions to 30.
But as much improvement as I was seeing on that front there was still concern in the back of my head. Skills were improving but not at the rate they should. I knew he had a lot working against him. Between his early childhood neglect, ADHD, 5 placements before Kindergarten, and his mother’s drug use while pregnant with him, it made sense that there were educational struggles…
but I couldn’t shake that nagging feeling that perhaps there was more going on.
So I began searching for answers.
The first step was getting him in to see Tina, Ozzie’s therapist. I knew we needed to begin addressing past trauma. At her first appointment with him she was amazed at his bounciness. I guess I have become so accustomed I just am not shocked by it anymore. But she was concerned. She said that if his ADHD medications were correctly dosed we shouldn’t see any of these behaviors.
Next step was to see a new doctor for medication check. We set up an appointment with the doctor that works in Tina’s office, the same one who manages Ozzie’s medication. Our initial appointment lasted an hour as we worked through his file and he bounced around the room. At the end of the appointment she said to me, “There are different levels of severity in ADHD kids. He has one of the most severe cases I have seen.”
She then increased his medication with the heads up that even this new high dose may not be enough. She told me that she suspected that Tyler is in the small percentage of kids that metabolize medication so quickly that it is ineffective. We tried the new dosage and discovered her suspicions to be correct.
The next step is meeting with a doctor in Pittsburgh that specializes in kids like Tyler.
Then we set up an appointment with the school psychologist, Dante, to have Tyler evaluated for an IEP. Tyler has been tested for many things in the past and came to us with a long list of diagnoses, but has never been evaluated educationally. I just wanted to see if perhaps on top of all the obvious reasons for his struggles there might also be lurking a learning disability.
On Monday Tyler and I drove out to our cyber charter school building (about three hours away) to have Tyler tested. We had a nice drive out. Since it was the first day of hunting season we passed the time playing “I Spy” as we looked for hunters dressed in orange along the hillside and in the woods.
When we arrived I had the pleasure of meeting a member of the school staff who also reads our blog. She was very sweet and it was a treat to meet her face to face. (Hi, Amanda!)
Tyler had testing for about 4 hours while I waited in the lobby. The testing involved skill assessment tests to evaluate reading, writing and math ability. He also had an IQ test. It is the difference between the scores of these two tests that determine whether a child has a learning disability.
The results were enlightening. The school psychologist really helped me understand why Tyler struggles like he does. His test scores were fascinating and made it clear that there are many factors contributing to his struggles.
Now we wait for the final report with recommendations as to how we help Tyler moving forward.
Tyler was a trooper. He worked so hard and gave his very best. On the drive home he complained of a headache from “all that thinking.”
I am just grateful to finally get some answers so that we can help Tyler find happiness and success in all areas of his life.
We love that boy of ours!