I haven't heard a peep from the teachers since the fall conference where we were told (again) that he was having a tough time at Kindergarten recess. You know, the one with 50+ running and screaming all over the place. It seems he gets a little over excited. (really?) and can't keep him hands to himself.
But I hadn't heard anything so I sent this e-mail to prompt an update.
"Hi there, Could I just get a brief update on how Shea is doing out at recess? Is he still hitting and terrorizing the others kids when he is getting over excited? Or have things mellowed some? Please let me know so we can help reinforce the appropriate play behavior when we talk about it at home. Thanks so much!"
Sent mid-day, I had not gotten a reply by the time I picked him up at school for OT. "Hi mom!" he says and promptly bursts into tears. This never happens. This is not at all normal. I try to get him to tell me what is up. All he can really spit out is that his pal keeps on calling him "Dude" which has been their game for about 2 years now.
I asked him if he had fun at recess and he told me he had to sit out. Uh oh...
I get this e-mail from Kindergarten teacher with an add on from the aide the next day in response:
"Thanks for your email. As I am not at recess with Shea, I forwarded your email to J ...the following is her reply. Hope this information helps...thanks for continued support at home."
"Shea is still requiring frequent prompts about not grabbing other students. This applies to both recess and line behavior. Shea seems to have relatively lengthy stretches of time (4-7 days) where his behavior on the playground is mostly age appropriate punctuated by several days of difficult behavior. He requires frequent time outs on those days. I have been asking students to use deliberate "stop (fill in the blank with the unwanted behavior)" when Shea is getting too grabby. Shea then is prompted to apologize. He is compliant. In comparison to the beginning of the year, Shea is on a positive behavioral track but, again, still needs frequent reminders about keeping his hands and body to himself, both in line and at recess. We continue to work on this behavior."
"Thanks, you guys. I am not sure how or if we can do this but I think it would be helpful for us to know when his tough time is occurring so that he will loose privileges at home if it continues. Would it be possible to just get a quick e-mail when he is getting in trouble so that we can talk about it at home with him sooner rather than later? Obviously he is not telling us about any of this. Sorry to add more work but I think that would help because we do not know when it is happening, he is thinking he can get away with it. Let me know if that is possible. Also, yesterday when I picked him up for OT, he burst into tears. Which is so rare that it has NEVER happened before. I couldn't really get a straight answer but something about X calling him "Dude" which has been their running joke for 2 years and hardly an insult or teasing. Still not sure what happened. I asked him if he had a good recess and he said that he sat out. I was always pretty nervous of that recess time, knowing it was going to be a bit too much for him. If it really isn't working out and significant progress isn't being made, I guess I would rather try something else for the 2nd half of the year. Thanks for all you do."
Then I got a better e-mail from his IEP case manager:
"So, a new plan is for me to email you every couple days/week to let you know "how it's going" on the playground. Just a reminder that this "grabby" behavior is never considered to be malicious. He really gets so excited! He is able to tell J what he "did" every single time. Reinforcing the preventative strategies have helped. As agreed, if we are able to catch him as he is winding up...Jennifer intervenes and practices the steps towards "reorganizing". He and I practice facial cues." Show me a happy face." "This is a grumpy face. If your friend shows you this, do you think he likes what you are doing?" He has made significant improvement as compared to this time last year, and even as compared to the beginning of the school year. He leaves the playground appropriately when recess is over and listens to redirection and complies with time out requests. As you suggested, the toys in his pockets help him reorganize when he does have to sit for a few minutes. There are usually one or two little Kindergarten buddies needing to sit and reorganize at recess for a few minutes. The frequency of these instances for him as Jennifer are sporadic, cyclical and decreasing in intensity. Shannon reports incidences during preschool recess as much more rare. I was absent yesterday, but X, Shea and I can try to figure out what is going on with the "dude" game."
Now, that sounds better. And, in which I respond:
"Thank you so much, K! I am glad that you guys have a strategy and he seems to be responding and improving. I am also relieved to know that he isn't necessarily the only kid who has to sit out sometimes. Whew... But please let me know if you feel home reinforcement would benefit. A little talk about not getting to play his DS because he was naughty is incredibly powerful with him. So, feel free to use that stick or cue me! Thanks again for all your quick responses. All in all, I think it is going really well. I just feel sort of out of the loop."
Sometimes its hard to push for the information you want and it can be intimidating at times. But just keep at it. Know your rights. Know your kid's rights. Be an advocate.
If you inquire with tact, kindness and genuine appreciation, they will (usually) respond accordingly.
Also, it is not a bad idea to do the Special Ed correspondence in e-mail. Not only for the reason that you can quickly make it into a blog post but you have documentation and you can sound a little less emotional. The worst encounters I have ever had was when I was talking directly on the phone with the teacher. Some things I never would have written slipped out, never to be retrieved again. And, in a system that documents everything in the IEP form, having it all out in writing with a date on it, is mighty good.
But keep your cool folks. Let's remember MOST of the people who work with kids with special needs are wonderful, caring people who are doing this job for the best of reasons. Be extremely taciturn about escalating because these folks have your kid under their thumb on a daily basis. If you feel that you might have too much of an edge to your correspondence - STOP - pull back. Either send it to a calm friend to proof read and/or sleep on it. Sometimes after I have slept on it and re-read it, I can barely believe it was me that wrote it!