Saturday, September 17, 2011

Disheartened But Gathering Steam For The Next Move

August 10, 2011
Rachel started off the year on a relatively good note..........this is the first entry to her daily communication book. The teacher seemed ready to take on the challenge and we were all excited about the new year.

For the next week however, the notes were repeatedly about the trouble Rachel was having on the "big" kid playground and that she refused to go down the slide.  I was relieved that this seemed to be the most pressing concern and figured that the classroom part was going okay.

August 30, 2011
However, the notes quickly become more negative about Rachel's behavior in the classroom. 

After this note I had to respond to inform the teacher that Rachel cannot write or draw.  I thought the fact that Rachel was scribbling was great!  I also wondered why Rachel had the puppets in the library.  There is no note to tell me how they tried (or did not try) to keep her from getting the puppets.  I had Rachel placed in the regular classroom in order to teach her that she has to follow rules and am now wondering if they are even trying to get her to follow the rules or are they just letting her wander around and then complaining about what she does.  

September 13, 2011
I think what bothers me the most here is the statement that Rachel "won't" listen.  Rachel will listen when she is interested in what you are saying.     

At this point I wrote a note to ask about what was being done to help Rachel follow the class rules.  The teacher said that she uses redirection and time out but that Rachel will not stay in time out.  I have suggested that the teacher uses the "first we do this, then we can do that" to try to keep Rachel on task and that the use of a visual schedule would probably help too. 

September 14, 2011

This entry just breaks my heart.  I was so hoping that Rachel would rise to the occasion and fall into the first grade class with minimal problems.  I at first felt that I had made the wrong choice to push for her to be in this classroom, but after talking with friends in the Ds community here, I am beginning to realize that maybe the school is making the mistake.  Maybe we are all making a mistake by not providing Rachel with the tools she needs to succeed in the classroom.  Maybe the teacher lacks the tools to help Rachel adapt to her new classroom.   

September 15, 2011

To think that the teacher is writing to me that she could not get Rachel to give her the cupcake just really frustrates me on many levels!  First of all, it sounds like a little kid being a tattle tale.  Secondly, the teacher appears to do nothing to make Rachel hand over the cupcake.  The part about explaining to Rachel that they are going to read for social studies and Rachel not listening, makes me think that the first grade teacher lacks the skills necessary to help Rachel be the best she can be in the classroom.  Yes, I think that Rachel needs the explanation, but at this point, just telling her it has to be done is not enough.  

These entries really make me feel like the teacher is done.  She seems to be saying that she is unable to do anything with Rachel.  I requested a behavior analysis about the second week of school.  I know that some of the observations have been done and I am anxiously awaiting to hear what he has to say.  I am hoping that he has some very helpful advice.  

I am also prepping to go to battle for Rachel in the very near future.  We should be having a meeting soon to assess how things are going and to discuss the findings from the behaviorist.  All the notes have insinuated that Rachel cannot handle the new environment.  Maybe she can't-actually, I am pretty sure she can't-handle the regular classroom on her own.  But I think that with an aide she could be relatively successful.  Also with some modifications to the way they staff deals with Rachel, I think things could go more smoothly.  I am surprised how little some of the teachers seem to understand about teaching our kids.  I know that in some cases the teacher has done the best she can, considering that she has 18 other kids to keep control of.  Often what Rachel needs, the teacher simply cannot provide and still be a teacher to the other kids.  I hope that she is still interested in having Rachel in her classroom, if she gets some support.  This school district is adamant that the cannot provide aid to Rachel when we have mentioned it in the past, so the next few weeks may be somewhat interesting.  Please send up prayers and good thoughts that we are able to work out this situation and get Rachel on track for a great rest of the year!


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  2. Those notes would leave me feeling discouraged too. It does sound like the teacher is frustrated and sort of giving up and not trying anything. It sounds like she doesn't quite know how to interact w/Rachel and realize that teaching her is going to be slightly different than what she can and does do with the typical 1st graders. Hopefully they can get an aide to help out!
    If it makes you feel any better Kayla isn't having a great start to this school year either. She is coming home with mostly yellow/red faces (neutral and sad) and only a handful of green (happy). 3-4 days out of the week the notes are saying that she's not listening, not participating, putting her chair/desk over by the window and not moving it back, ran away etc. These are all notes from the spec ed teacher! I'm not sure what is going on with Kayla this year and its hard to guess what it is when Kayla doesn't really have the communication skills to say what is wrong/why she's acting that way. I'm hoping after a conference we can figure this all out. Good luck to you!

  3. So much to say. I’m not one to leave long comments. Probably should just call you. . . if I had your phone number! Ha. These communication notes are all too familiar to me. We deal with the exact same issues. Morgan has behavior issues and has difficulty leaving her shoes on (had to laugh that Rachel took her shoes off two times), lays down on the floor (face down) when she is no longer interested in what is going on or overstimulated. I think teachers are worried about using any more force than requesting that the child do something (ie take the cupcake out of her hand and tell her cupcake time is over). We’ve been dealing with this with Morgan and we recently started implementing “precision commands”. Google it and see what it’s all about but I’ll explain a little bit about how we are using it. Morgan likes to drop to the floor and not move when it’s time to transition (leave the playground, walk to lunch, etc.). They sent me a letter saying I needed to sign a form that allows them to use physical force to get her to move like pulling her up by her hand, etc. I asked them how consistently they had been using precision commands. They hadn’t. This is how it works. (1st request) “Morgan, PLEASE stand up.” (Wait 5-10 seconds while maintaining eye contact and not saying anything). If she doesn’t get up. (2nd request) “Morgan I NEED you to stand up now.” (Wait 5-10 seconds). If she still doesn’t stand up, it’s time to let her know the consequence. “Morgan I NEED you to stand up now or I am going to have to help you stand up.” (Wait 5-10 seconds). If she still doesn’t stand up, “Morgan I now have to help you stand up because you didn’t do it by yourself.” I think it has helped somewhat but it takes lots of time and consistency. Here’s the thing. Rachel JUST started school. This is all new to her and it is going to take time. It seriously took Morgan the entire year to get down the routine. First grade was a hard hard year but she has done so much better but is definitely not perfect. The negative comments in the communication notes get old. I think they think that we want to hear about all of the problems but really we don’t. I’m good with “Today was a little harder” or “She had a great day today and really stayed on task with her work.” Please don’t let this discourage you from continuing with inclusion. It just takes lots of intervention and research on your part. And I don’t think the playground comments are relevant. Who cares if she is swinging on her stomach or can’t do all of the playground equipment? Let her play on the things that she can do and enjoys doing. Arggggh . . . I feel your frustration! Please know that if you want to call and chat, I would love to share any ideas that I have! xo

  4. I added you to the facebook group “inclusion for kids with Down syndrome”. I suggest you bring this up to the group and get some ideas. It’s been a great resource for me.

  5. Hi there - I had to comment on this post as it is also very familiar to me...although our principal (who is great!) quickly picked up on the negative emphasis of the class teacher and insisted the communication book be used for positive communication...maybe that is why the class teacher hardly writes in it anymore - mostly it is the spec ed teacher and the aids. lol.
    It sounds absolutely like the teacher is floundering. She needs praise. Small measurable goals of success for her and for Rachel...Hannah had a FANTASTIC teacher last year - and it took almost 6 months for them to have a rhythm going well, this year i is more like a peace agreement but I think we have reached it.
    Teachers do not nec have training in helping our kids but with intuition and a willingness to try...I remember wanting to yell at Hannah's teacher - who couldn't even get my daughter to leave her bag outside the classroom like the other kids - "SHE'S SIX!!!!!!!" Needless to say that I sorted the bag situation out myself - and the other year 1 teacher who offered to 'help' Hannah's teacher with these issues next time no doubt agreed with me!
    PS - I'd love to join that fb group too if possible...

  6. I want you to know I'm thinking about you and hope the school issues improve soon! I agree with the other comments left above. The notebook comments make me want to cringe: I don't see the problem in Rachel not going down the slide or swinging on her stomach, and I think it is awesome that she was "scribbling" at journal writing. I hope you can get an aide to support Rachel and the teacher. Totally agree with our suggestions of a visual schedule and first/then chart. Good luck and let us know how it goes! I would like to join the facebook inclusion group too.