To our surprise, both Prasad and Sky have experienced major improvements in school this year. I’ve got to post about this because it’s really hard to believe. I honestly feel like the teachers are describing someone else’s kids when I talk to them.
Sky: Since preschool, we’ve watched Sky go from years of disrupting his classmates, gravitating toward the trouble making peers, having little respect for authority, rushing through his assignments and viewing them as “getting in the way” of his social life, deception, and having little zeal for learning to a boy who has a deep respect for his teacher, who strives to get A’s/100% on every assignment, who values learning and works very hard to keep his grades up, who chooses positive peers, finishes his assignments efficiently, pays attention in class, shows pride for all he’s doing academically, and even describes himself as a teacher’s pet. For the first time, his self-esteem is climbing upward instead of spiraling down, he’s shown honesty, and he’s seeing himself as a good person with actual talents, skills and value. Yesterday morning, I didn’t ask him to, but he promised me he would get a 100% on his math test. When I picked him up at school he said “I did it. I fulfilled my promise to you, Mom. I got another 100% on my math test!” He bragged that only a few students get 100% on the math tests. He’s also soaring in the spelling and reading departments… he’s a straight-A fella, and the teacher says he’s a delightful student, and she really enjoys having him in her class. Last year he had a points sheet system to track several problem behaviors, but this year his teacher decided to start out without one. It appears he doesn’t need one at all, and his teacher (having never met the Sky of the past) can’t believe he’s ever had problem behaviors.
Prasad: Other than a little understandable nervousness at the beginning of the year that prompted a few disruptive outbursts, Prasad has surprised us as much, if not more so than Sky. With his complex history, since 2007 (when he came home) we’ve had to micro-manage behaviors so that he learns appropriate interpersonal skills. We’ve also had to make certain his mental health was in-check because he has been borderline psychotic in the past, especially regarding self-injury, anger and aggressive behaviors, destructive tendencies, severe low self-esteem, and serious academic problems that negatively impacted how he related to himself and his peers. His problems were a vicious cycle, in which one would feed upon the others, and it seemed there was no way out for a while.
Like Sky, last year Prasad was on a points sheet system to track and control certain negative behaviors. Primarily disruptive interruptions, attending appropriately to his assignments, tracking honesty (when he first came home he was lying compulsively to peers and teachers), his respect of personal boundaries, and his behaviors toward peers. We had the teacher continue the points sheet system so we could continue to track how he does in the new school environment. He had a rocky start due to the teachers not implementing his IEP requirements quickly enough. After we got that ironed out, and he was getting the help he needed and being taught at the level he should be, things really smoothed out. I did have concerns, though, considering his teacher kept sendhing home t he points sheet with high marks and no problems shown in ANY areas, including disruptions & interrupting. That was hard to believe, considering he has a difficult time interrupting, and talking incessantly at home. Daniel wrote the teachers an email, asking them whether or not Prasad was really doing that well, or if they just had difficulty finding the time to track his behaviors accurately. Prasad payed close attention to his daily points, so it was important to us that we received a clear and honset picture of how he was doing. Here are snippets of the response we got from his teacher:
“I think Prasad’s point sheet would be a good item to discuss at conferences next week. I am currently filling out Prasad’s point sheet. Quite honestly it is difficult for me to complete Prasad’s sheet and to give him anything less than a 3 [3 being the highest]. Prasad does interrupt each day on occasion, he doesn’t always follow directions perfectly, and he doesn’t 100% of the time show kindness to others. This being said, he shows very appropriate behaviors for a 4th grade student. His level of interrupting, not following directions, and not showing kindness at times is at such a low level when compared to same grade level peers, that I have difficulty feeling he is in need of such a detailed behavior plan.
Each year I have a few students that are on a daily behavior communication sheet so please don’t feel that I ignore inappropriate behaviors in the classroom. It is just that Prasad does not display any behaviors that are inappropriate for his age, while at school. Prasad works very hard on his classwork. The interrupting that he does do is often him wanting to make sure that he is doing his work correctly, and the need to clarify how he should be doing something. He doesn’t interrupt to act silly, or to be a class clown. Following directions really isn’t much of a problem at all. Sometimes he may not understand what he needs to do, but more often than not he asks for clarification before he continues with his work. As for showing kindness, the only time this has been an issue is in social situations where he has a lack of understanding for a game that is being played. I take the opportunity at that point to use it as a teaching moment and explain rules for the particular situation. I haven’t had any students ever come to me with a complaint about Prasad separate from him not following rules for a particular game.
Prasad is a great kid, and very easy to like. He wants to do a good job, and always puts forth his best effort. All of his work is turned in on time. He is very patient with me when I haven’t modified an assignment for him as well as I thought I had, and is very good about waiting for me to make necessary adjustments. He listens and participates in class”
Daniel and I read this together, and our chins were literally dropping. If she could have only seen and known Prasad through 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade. The boy who constantly interrupted, yelled in kids faces and believed the teachers might hurt him and as a result was constantly hyper-vigilant. The boy who couldn’t focus at all because all he wanted to do was go through everyone else’s things, and needed to be removed from class often just to do push-ups against the hall walls to release pent up energy. The boy who constantly needed correction… where did he go, and why the sudden change at a new school? Why the same for Sky? We keep talking about this, and don’t have just one definitive answer.
We give both boys credit for maturing a great deal over the Summer. They both seem to have a better grasp on life, consequences, and how our choices affect them. They both love their new school, and seem to feel more secure there. It’s more structured, and they do keep their students more busy than I have seen at any elementary school. There seriously isn’t much time for socializing or getting distracted. Their classmates seem more focused, too, which they in turn are mirroring. All that said, both of them have been taking different medications this year. Primarily, a medication used for mood disorders and mental illness. Sky takes it because he very clearly has problems with mood regulation and depression (possible bi-polar), while Prasad seems to have unexplained episodes that border on “bizarre” to “psychotic”. These symptoms have basically disappeared or significantly lessened, and they’re both much more happy and self-confident as a result. Feeling better as a human being is probably at least half the answer… we all perform better when we feel better, especially when it’s a psychological issue. Surprisingly, Prasad is no longer taking his anti-anxiety PTSD medication, and he’s been doing just fine. We are THRILLED about that. The other half of the change I attribute to living a much simpler life, being outdoors about 80% more of the time than we used to, living in closer proximity to one another, having no television, eating dinner together at least 5 days a week, getting far more physical exercise, and having teachers who hold extremely high but realistic expectations of them. I believe Prasad is feeling accepted by his teacher and peers, and Sky is feeling appreciated by his teacher. It’s all made for an outstanding school year… so far. I say ‘so far’ because with kids and mental health it’s always unpredictable. For now, we’re very, very hopeful and proud. I never, ever would have expected to receive an email so soon like the one above. They’ve both made incredible strides. Now, if I can only get Sky to stop getting upset when I point out how far he’s come. For some odd reason he becomes extremely embarrassed and upset, and asks that we not discuss it. Oh well, I’m glad he doesn’t read the blog yet because I’m one proud mama, and I want the whole world to know it!