(Started this when I woke-up this morning) It’s only 9:18 in the morning and I am up. Not really spectacular, unless I tell you the other part: I didn’t get in the bed until 4:00 this morning! (Blame it on the not-so-good influences of @VisionSpeaks and @ClaytonMuhammad. Beware of the company you keep on Twitter!) On any other day I probably would have stayed in bed after the kids left for school, but today is different. I got another one of those phone calls yesterday (sometimes it’s one of those emails) from a parent of a child with Special Needs.
It all started a few months ago at the birthday party of my kid’s classmates. Initially, I had planned to do what the mom suggested, just drop-off the kid and come back later but for some reason I stayed. As the party went on, the adults sat around the kitchen table talking and playing Spades (y’all know how we do), we really got to learn a lot about eachother. It just so happened that the hostess had family members who drove in from Ohio, so there was a house full of kids and noise. As we talked, one of the kids came in from outside and began asking his mom for 1,001 things (y’all know how kids do!). Well this particular kid has Special Needs’ I don’t remember every diagnosis she rattled off but I was able to ascertain what his primary classification would be if he lived in Georgia.
Anywho, mom talked about the different doctor visits for various reasons, including experimenting with different medications. As we continued to talk, she explained that her son was on this and that, for this and that. I listened intently but I also watched her son’s behavior, trying to figure out why he was taking meds for ADHD when I hadn’t seen any signs of hyperactivity during the several hours I had been there. (Side note: They skipped a few doses during the summer since he was at home all day. But I still should have seen something.) Now I understand that there are some parents who prefer to medicate their kids for better behavior management and self-preservation. In no way am I judging those who do, but I always caution parents about starting kids on ‘new’ medications without doing research and being fully aware of side-effects and long-term consequences. I have seen both sides: Kids who should have been on something and kids who had no business being on their prescribed drug, or anything at all. I even had a student who fell asleep EVERYDAY and never ate while he was meds. I would have to force candy or some type of snack on him. But he was a completely different person when he didn’t take the meds: He was very active (which didn’t bother me) and he gained weight because he regained his appetite. Those obvious behavioral differences make me a little wary about giving kids meds just to keep them in a seat.
We continued talking about her son and some of the ‘problems’ he had during the past school year. I couldn’t help giggle a little because every time he came in the house he would look at me and smile. I was thinking: ‘Yeah, I can tell that he can be a hell-raiser when he wants to!’ But in all fairness to him, he has several health issues and has been on a slew of medications, but I don’t doubt that his outbursts were his way of saying ‘I’m not getting what I need and I am sick of all these damn pills!’ (Well, he probably wouldn’t say damn, but you get the point.) Also, he is non-verbal so I am sure that adds to his frustration. As she talked, I rattled off questions:
Me: Have you gone to every IEP meeting?
Me: Do you understand everything they talk about in the IEP meetings?
Mom: No. I don’t understand a lot of that stuff.
Me: You have the right to ask questions. You are not required to sign anything. Has anyone ever told you that you have access to an advocate?
Mom: No. I can’t afford someone to help me.
Me: The advocates are free. If I am not mistaken, the federal government pays for advocates in every state. At least that’s how it works in here.
Long story short(er): I told mom that I would contact the Ohio Department of Education and find the person in charge of parent advocates, then pass on the info to her. And that’s exactly what I did. I thought that’s where it ended, but there was another family member (who resides in Georgia) who needed help. You will have to wait until tomorrow to read about that one because this post is already longer than I intended and I’m sleepy! But seriously, we are awaiting a response from someone at the Georgia Department of Education. I promise to give you an update!
Thanks for muddling through this!