Homeschooling Our Tourette's Kid
Born again?! No, I'm not. Excuse me for getting it right the first time. Dennis Miller
Saturday, April 30, 2005
Friday, April 29, 2005
Pick Your Battles
The first thing you need to learn with a TS kid is that you will NEVER have a day when everything is perfect. You have to learn to pick your battles. At our house we've decided to ignore tics, except when we all laugh together about a particularly goofy one. There are times when this can be quite difficult like when the tic is clearing his throat after every word spoken. You just want to yell: "Say it already!", but you don't. It's also no picnic to drive on a 5000 mile vacation with a kid whose current tic is constant foot tapping, especially when his foot is always under YOUR SEAT!
There are times when you'll feel like a heel. Like the numerous times we ragged on Z to learn how to tie his shoes. His 2nd grade teacher was so nasty about this issue that we finally told Z that he was grounded until he took the time to learn how to tie his shoes. My Dad even made him a board with a rope nailed to it to learn with. Well, he learned the basic mechanics of tying his shoes, but he still rarely did it. He opted to either wear his snow boots all day at school or he tucked his laces inside his shoes. We fought with him over this for 4 years. I finally decided that this was a "guy thing" because most of the teen boys I know permanently tie their shoes loosely so they can just slide into them. In addition, my husband is a great one for going downtown with his shoelaces dragging behind him. It wasn't until last year that I ran across an article that said lots of TS kids have problems with small motor skills, especially shoe tying. I felt like a heel! We parents have to learn when to apologize when we are wrong.
The battles we choose to fight involve behavior and attention span. As I said in an earlier post, we have learned to walk away from Z's "storms". That doesn't mean that we don't talk to him about them after he has cooled down. Although he is getting better about realizing that his storms are unreasonable, we still emphasize that he has to learn to control them in public or he will never be able to hold down a job.
We're experimenting with several different things to help Z when he has the attention span of a turnip. We're trying to get him to be as productive as possible on the days when he can concentrate. However, being an adolescent, he does just what he HAS to do to get by. This can be another tough area. How do you know when to attribute a behavior to TS rather than to just being a normal abnoxious kid? The only thing we can do is research TS and its symptoms and truly KNOW your child.
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Yesterday wasn't exactly a homeschool success story. Z woke up with a sore neck. Naturally he had to get cranky and worry about underlying health risks. Some of this is due to TS, but I'm sure an equal part is due to being of the male persuasion.
The rest of the day Z overreacted to EVERYTHING! His attention span was nonexistent, which made him extremely frustrated with himself and everything around him. He became whiny and would frequently burst into tears. If we tried to help, he'd tell us to leave him alone. If we let him try to work it out himself, he'd accuse us of ignoring him. Our patience quickly exited out the nearest window. Thank God he wasn't in school yesterday! I KNOW he would have gotten into trouble and we'd wind up with the inevitable phone call from the school. "This CAN'T be due to Tourette's." "Maybe he could use another medication?" "What does his psychologist say about this?" Yo!! Educators; wake up!! Yes, this is a BIG part of TS! I even highlighted this section in the literature I gave each of you at the beginning of the year.
Yes, TS kids overreact to seemingly minor things. Tomorrow they may not. It all depends on how their brain is sending out chemicals that day. Fortunately Z is beginning to recognize this in himself as he matures. From an early age, we learned not to get in his face when he becomes unreasonable. When he was a toddler, I swear, we could have beat him to death and he still wouldn't have backed down. We quickly learned to ignore him, and withinn 5 minutes his squall would blow over and he would be the sweetest kid on earth. Now, when his squall blows over, he'll give us a hug and say "I guess I overreacted, huh?" This is BIG progress to us! We hope that by the time he grows up and ventures into the world on his own, that he will be able to recognize a storm coming and inhibit it somehow.
TS literature describes this behavior as "rages" or "storms". We prefer the storm term. Z has never broken anything or hurt anybody during his storms. We're lucky. I've read horror stories about TS kids that will break anything in sight and injure themselves or others. We pray that we'll never have to deal with rages, only storms.
Sunday, April 24, 2005
It's that time of year again. Winter is such a safe haven from thunderstorms and tornado warnings. Z plugged in the weather radio 2 weeks ago. Every cloudy day will now find Z glued to the Weather Channel and pacing back and forth looking out the windows. To Z, any noisy muffler driving by is thunder and he MUST check the Weather Channel. Paranoia over certain things is yet another TS trait. Z's is tornados. We should be grateful; I've read that other kids are paranoid about car accidents or burglars. These things happen year 'round; tornados are only in the summer. This gives us 7 months of respite. We could have the world's largest blizzard or 40 below zero weather and Z won't bat an eye.
We're glad that Z is no longer in school, because the other kids were starting to catch on, even though Z tried to hide his fears at school. That's all his bullies would need is another thing to torment him with!
The up side to this is that Z has become quite knowledgeable about weather patterns and what conditions will produce a thunderstorm. He has researched this by himself over the years and is getting pretty good at predicting the weather. Maybe he has a future in meteorology?
Saturday, April 23, 2005
I've recently been visiting a few TS message boards. I can't believe the number of parents that are giving their kids 3 or 4 medications for their TS. A lot of them are giving meds just for tics. I can understand this practice if the tic is disabling. I got the impression that many of these parents were embarrassed by their child's tics and medicated them in the hope that they would appear "normal".
We have been blessed that Z's tics have been fairly minor. Just normal eye-blinking, eye-rolling, weird noises, throat clearing, hissing, foot thumping, etc, etc, etc. Stay tuned for the tic of the month. We've always tried to deal with tics with a sense of humor.
I'm also upset by the number of parents that are trying to "teach" their child to inhibit their tics. We all know that this only leads to a "rush" of tics, usually at the worst possible time. This "rush" only increases the kid's embarrassment. Inhibiting tics also takes a lot of concentration and Lord knows TS kids don't need to be wasting their limited concentration on this!
Let's all just do our part as parents and encourage our children to be PROUD of themselves; tics and all!!
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
It's a Start
We've been homeschooling Z for a full quarter of school now. This experience has been very rewarding to all 3 of us. Z says it's the best idea I've ever had, even though he was hesitant about the idea at first. He also says the "coolest" thing about homeschooling is that his teachers aren't dummies and that we explain WHY things work.
Now if we could just find a learning system that works just right for him! We've been experimenting with different learning styles over the last 3 months. We've found a lot that don't work and a few things that do work.
This is the main reason that I started this blog. I would love to share ideas with others that are in the same boat we're in. So if you randomly stumbled on this blog and know someone who is homeschooling a middle school child or someone that has a Tourette's, ADD or OCD child, feel free to lead them to this blog. You could also leave a comment and direct me to these people. Just knowing we're not alone in our situation would be GREAT!
Friday, April 08, 2005
Here I Am (I Said)
Our son (Z) was diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome(TS) in the 3rd grade. He had been exhibiting symptoms since he was 3 yrs old, but we just thought it was weird little kid stuff. As he got older his tics became more noticeable (eye blinking, throat clearing, squeaking etc.). Then he began to have minor behavior problems in school(overreacting).
After he was diagnosed, we immediately enrolled him in our school's Special Ed program. In the beginning he just went to the Special Ed classroom when he was having problems staying "on task", usually the last half hour of the day, to catch up on his work. Later he would also go to Special Ed to "defuse", if he felt like he was about to blow up. We also took him to a child psychologist to help him cope with his symptoms.
Z has had problems with bullying in school since the 1st grade, mostly from "hockey jocks". We always brought the bullying issue up at school conferences. The answer was ALWAYS: "That would never happen here". Z's 5th grade teacher was an absolute angel! She had a background in Special Ed and would actually LISTEN to Z when he told her he was being harrassed. She didn't believe him at first either, but after careful observation she caught kids bullying him. This helped Z's self-esteem immensely!
6th grade was a totally different story. Z began having more trouble concentrating and got further and further behind. I started going to school every Friday to get his missed assignments and make sure that he had the right books in his backpack. I spent EVERY evening and weekend getting him caught up on his schoolwork.
The bullying started escalating at this time also. Z is an easy target for bullies as TS makes him overreact. Z would ALWAYS get caught when he retaliated against the bullies. Neither his teacher, the principal or his Special Ed teacher would believe he was being bullied. Their rationale was that he had lots of friends, therefore he couldn't be getting bullied. I can't, for the life of me, understand this rationale. The situation finally came to a head when 4 boys attacked Z on the playground. One of them grabbed the glasses off his face, broke them in half and threw the pieces across the playground. They then started punching and kicking him until Z managed to throw one of them to the ground and began kicking him. At this point the playground monitors finally noticed the fray and broke it up. Z returned to his classroom where he tried to calmly tell his teacher that his glasses had been broken. She kept ignoring him until he grabbed her arm and yelled "I can't find my glasses!". For this action he was sent to the principal and put into ISS (In School Suspension). Fortunately all of this happened in front of several of Z's friends. The principal promised to get to the bottom of this. Unfortunately, it took 2 weeks for him to get around to it. Bottom line: Z got another day of ISS for yelling at his teacher; the 4 boys got 1 hr of detention. The principal wasn't sure he believed all the witnesses when they said that the attack was unprovoked. We also agreed to get Z anger management therapy. Z's psychologist was enraged by all of this. He is also the school's psychologist and KNOWS what a widespread problem bullying is in that school.
Last fall I took Z to a pediatric neurologist where he was diagnosed with co-morbid Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). He gave Z a prescription that might help his ADD (it didn't). The school was ecstatic when they were informed that Z was on meds. All hail the MAGIC PILL!!
7th grade was a total disaster! Z was only allocated 1 hr of Special Ed time a day for the 1st semester, with no time scheduled for 2nd semester. This hour turned out to be a glorified study hall. Z had a terrible time getting the right materials to the right class because of his ADD. I spent ALL my time trying to meet with teachers to get him caught up. This was next to impossible as most of the teachers were out of the building the minute the final bell rang. When we managed to get assignments handed in, Z was given no credit for handing in late assignments. The Special Ed department did NOTHING to rectify this problem. His Special Ed teacher didn't even show up for conferences because he had a prior commitment as the girls basketball coach. By the end of the first semester Z had failed ALL his classes. This is a kid with a 131 plus IQ!
My husband (L) and I had finally had enough! We made an appointment with the Supt. of schools. We explained the whole situation and were told that he would come up with a plan for 2nd semester within 6 days. After 7 days I made another appointment with the Supt. At this meeting we met with the Supt. and the head of the Special Ed dept. Their solution was to have MORE meetings with us and Z's Special Ed teacher. Our solution was to pull Z out of this ridiculous system and homeschool him!