Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Bad News/Good News

What I've really been thinking about are the weighty issues raised on Kristina Chew's website, as well as elsewhere. But I'm just not up to tackling those things today. So we'll keep it a bit closer to home.

I haven't totally figured out how Buddy Boy is "graded" every day. Every day we get feedback from the school as to how he has done during each period of the day. He gets either a green light, yellow light, or red light. Besides getting a "light" for each period, there will also usually be explanations of his behavior for either yellow or red lights.

Last week Buddy Boy started "inclusion" for one or two periods each day in his assigned first grade classroom (he hasn't been there all year-instead he has been in a self contained sp. ed class). The first few days went well (novelty usually works to keep him distracted/interested) but the yesterday he got yellow lights, and today he got two red lights.

There never seems to be a consistent standard for what constitutes a red light vs. a yellow light vs. a green light. We have asked them in the past to clarify this, but have never really gotten a satisfactory answer.

Today's red lights were for two things. The first one was evidently when he was sent to the nurses office to take his midday meds. Instead of proceeding directly to the office, he decided to go and visit teachers in other rooms. While I realize that it's important to follow directions in school, marking an autistic kid down for socializing seems rather ironic to me (although it is consistent with the school district's unpublished motto "Obsequium Supra Omnia"-Subserviance above all else[Thanks to Dr. Chew's correction of my grammar]).

The second red light was for refusing to participate in a group activity. No notations were made that any screaming or physical actions on Buddy Boy's place took part.

So basically, I'm a little bummed that things aren't totally hunky dory with the inclusion thing this week. But in my view, it's great that he's not doing anything that can get him suspended/expelled. He's keeping it together enough to tell him what he doesn't like without getting physical with them. As long as that keeps up, we can work on the rest.

Next week, we have parent-teacher meetings, so perhaps we'll get a better idea of what exactly the different colors mean.

As negative as this post might sound, we actually are making progress with the school, and I think Buddy Boy is, too. And as long as we're moving in the right direction and not losing ground, I'm willing to work with it.

Joe is 210


jypsy said...

I don't think I could have (would have?) put up with this system. Am I safe in assuming they save this little system just for the "special needs" kids?

Club 166 said...

Am I safe in assuming they save this little system just for the "special needs" kids?

I'm pretty sure that's correct.

As none of our advocates (one of whom I would categorize as a "junk yard dog") or our lawyer has seen anything wrong with this, we have let this slide, though it always has rankled me a bit.

The good things are they're not physically torturing him and they ARE giving us daily feedback (and do respond to our e-mails). Despite this somewhat archaic system that is (IMO) over focused on compliance, Budddy Boy is getting better (by our standards, not just theirs). So for now we live with this. We have to pick our battles carefully.

jypsy said...

"Pick your battles" is certainly a mantra I understand. I think communication between home and school is incredibly important, I have volumes of it. The phrase that keeps coming to mind here, and one I really hate when it's used on our kids but might apply in reverse - could they maybe "use their words" instead? Communication that you don't really understand isn't terribly helpful. As well, I agree that socializing shouldn't be a "red" -- even if he "loses points" for not following directions exactly, he should gain points for how he deviated in that case and come out with a "yellow", at least if I had to score him like this, this would be the kind of logic I'd follow. I find it just all round too weird. Everyone involved in my son's education valued the communication we maintained. This just would not have cut it. I hope you can work out some kind of understanding..... or something...

"the good thing is they're not physically torturing him" -- I hope you don't have to hold that up as some kind of a standard to put up with other sh*t

Joe said...

>There never seems to be a consistent standard for what constitutes a red light vs. a yellow light vs. a green light. We have asked them in the past to clarify this, but have never really gotten a satisfactory answer.

Maybe because they don't really have a standard. Do they use this system with other kids?

Club 166 said...

I don't think they use this with other kids, but I'm not sure. That's one of the questions I plan on tactfully bringing up when we meet in our parent-teacher conference next week.

We've already burned our bridges with one school in the district, and I'd rather build allies and supporters in this new school this year, rather than adversaries. It's a delicate balance, sometimes. I don't have any high hopes of them becoming best friends, just trying not to have them blinded by hatred of us (the parents) when dealing with Buddy Boy.

So we have our own "red light" issues, if you will, of things we definitely won't put up with. The "yellow light" issues in our book are things like this evaluation system, that are born in ignorance and may be able to be changed over time.

Lisa/Jedi said...

There seems to me to be 2 separate issues here: what standards they use (& how consistently) to evaluate behaviour & how this is communicated to Buddy Boy. Brendan's school has tried different feedback systems over the years for the communication bit. When he was in 3rd grade they used cards, like they do in soccer matches, but it seems to me that this was the only time that negative behaviours were the ones "highlighted" & the giving of cards (& if he got 3 he had to leave the activity) didn't work nearly as well as newer systems, which are set up to give feedback on positive behaviours. You are so correct that it's dumb to punish a kid with ASD for social behaviour! To me, this is where "spin" comes in. I've been thinking a lot about "spin" lately... in other words, how things are perceived (or spun) determines whether or not they are a problem.

We have been working with a really excellent child psychologist for more than 5 years & he has consistently directed us toward systems that reward positive behavious, rather than ones that highlight or punish undesirable ones. This can get pretty convoluted (how do you reward a kid for not doing something?) but it really works. When we worked with him to stop perseveratively ripping his fingers with sharp objects, the system was that he got a pokemon card for every sharp object (pushpin, ruler, etc.) that he turned in, no matter where he was. He & his consultant (special ed.) teacher made & laminated special cards that he used at school to represent the real pokemon cards he'd get when he got home & we tallied it all up at the end of each day. Within a couple of months the behaviour was under control & he no longer needed the cards. More recently they were trying to get him to stop running out of the classroom whenever he had a tic. They developed a system where he could earn checkmarks by staying in the classroom for specific blocks of time (he has a daily schedule & it was all concretely spelled-out there, so he could see how he was doing). He would still earn a checkmark if the teacher took him out for a break. If he got all of his checks for a day he earned 50 cents. Within about 6 weeks he wasn't even asking for checkmarks & he was spending most of his days in the classroom.

We're constantly dreaming up new ways for school & Brendan to work together & make it the best it can be. We are really lucky to have such a wonderful group of people there to be dealing with. They always put a positive spin on what he does, even when it's challenging. I agree that choosing your battles is a good philosophy for dealing with folks who are having trouble with the way they perceive your son's behaviours. I wish you well for helping them to change!

jypsy said...

Are there any consequences to accumulating a quantity of red (or yellow) lights? Just what "meaning" do they have?

mcewen said...

I wonder how many typical kids of that age would manage to nip off to the office - presumably he was also 'going' from the new classroom?

So, Bud 'wandered off' to say hi de ho to a few pals? That's a super neon green in my book.
cheers dears

kristina said...

I know what you mean about choosing the battles to fight----we got into a state of total angry détente with our previous district. I've learned to that a little psycological strategy is not a bad tool, rather than outright exclamations of "What is wrong with you people....."..... I digress.

The only communication system with the school that I have found works for us is actual words. Our current district has teachers communicate via email which has been good so far but a few reminders are always in order.

As for weighty matters, the main one on my mind right now is how to sneak Charlie's blanket from him for a rendezvous in the washing machine: He has been sick and home from school for the 3rd day and insisting on having the blanket wrapped around his person.

Obsequium supra omnia: Minime! [ = a very strong NO]

jypsy said...

Are the "lights" for your benefit or your son's? (or both?)

andrea said...

I would also want to hear what the child is doing RIGHT every day, as well as what difficulties he encounters...

And yes, positive behavior programs really are the way to go!

Club 166 said...

The lights have been used by them in the past as quantifiers of behavior. They basically pull out charts with the number of red and yellow lights/day on them to show whether Buddy Boy's doing "better" or not.

We also usually get written explanations of how his day was, and exchange several e-mails back and forth each week with his teachers.

We've looked into various private schools in our city, but none of them were very interested in him with his behaviors. They have more flexability of teaching styles, but don't have the staff for 1:1 instruction or support.

So what we're basically doing is making the best of what we have (which, indeed, is much better this year than last, so far). We've moved them on some things and are working on others. Meanwhile we supplement Buddy Boy's learning at home, just as we do with Sweet Pea.

We'll see next week what the parent-teacher conference brings.

David N. Andrews MEd (Distinction) said...

Seems to me that the school is focussing on compliance rather than development.

And the best way to get compliance is to focus on development... because real, considered compliance is not possible until the child has developed the skills to think about why s/he would need to comply with a request.

The school is working in a totally arse-about-face manner, and you should be able to expect that they wouldn't be.