Tuesday, June 1, 2010

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Rocking Chairs

So you ever feel like you have a kick-ass IEP, but it doesn't really matter in the slightest because no matter what anybody writes in a (legal, by the way) document, your kid is going to get treated just about the same way as if you hadn't spent hours writing IEPs and FBAs and BIPs?

That's not a super fair thing to say, really, because I know, I really, really know how hard Jack's team tries with him. But I also know that Jack was jumping on a rocking chair today and his aide told him to stop but he kept doing it and the side broke off.

Now, that's not okay. Jack shouldn't have jumped on that chair and we're going to replace it.

(Jack's apology note to his teacher read in part, "I will give you half my money. I hope half works." Sniff. He also used such words as "outrageousness" and some ALL CAPS phrases. He's practically ready to start commenting on blogs.)

Anyway, I fully acknowledge Jack's culpability here. Absolutely. And I KNOW how hard he can be to keep in line. And I KNOW that his team has a lot on its plate and I KNOW that they work hard.

But I also read the story of what happened in Jack's communication notebook and the thing that jumped out at me—after my horror and distress, of course—is that this is an illustration of a kid that is screaming for some sensory input or regulation or something. That maybe the reaction to his jumping on the rocking chair should have been to take him to the therapy room to let him jump on a trampoline or to take him into the hall and let him run up and down it a couple of times. At the very least, maybe to tell him that he needs to stop jumping, but why not come down and do some spinning in the carpet area?

All of things are suggestions I painstakingly made sure were in Jack's documents.

Given a choice between "stop jumping and sit down" and "ignore the warnings and keep self-regulating" well, I know what I would have chosen.

Jack's team this year has been great—really, really great. They have been understanding to an amazing degree. They have loved Jack and tried so very hard to not judge him. His teacher this year has been phenomenal. I wish I could drag her along to the second grade next year. Some of the special educators/paraeducators who work with him are worth their weight in gold, and I hope that they can come with him next year. The administration is incredibly accepting of Jack and me and really seem to get that his disability drives his behavior.

I'm just afraid that there is a core non-understanding of autism, which is natural, because I have a kid with autism and there is a lot that I still don't understand. I guess what I wish is that when they are in the moment that they would not just look at the behavior, but at what is underneath the behavior.

For now, I'm just hoping to get through the rest of this year without major incident and next year when I meet with Jack's team before school starts, it would be great if y'all could remind me about this post and that I should talk to them about thinking about Jack's motivations for behavior instead of just thinking about the behavior itself.

Because preventing a mishap beats the shit out of buying a new rocking chair for the teacher.

On a totally unrelated note, is anyone selling a rocking chair for cheap?


  1. The basic ignorance of autism is what gnaws at us, too. But even when folks understand, there's a lot to remember all at once every single minute, and its easy to miss something or forget a possibility in trying to simply get from one moment to the next.

    Yet that sensory piece seems to be really the hardest for other people to "get". The "why can't they just control themselves?" attitude pervades everything, everywhere. The idea that to these kids, the world is like constantly being on a tilt-a-whirl just seems beyond people's grasp, even when they have training and experience. Frustrating.

  2. Oh yeah. Different issues but what the IEP says is definitely not what happens for us.

    I bought a nice wooden rocking chair for pretty cheap on Craigslist.

  3. And there's also that aspect of "why can't he control himself?!" that goes along with, "um, because he's a little kid" that I'm working on over here. Except this debate is all going on inside my head while we figure out new channels for the energy.

    I hope that the rocking chair/IEP stuff goes better soon.

  4. *sigh*

    For the first time ever, I am totally understanding your pain.

    For years we have had the most amazing support and now all of a sudden they stopped listening... and therefore Boo is doing similar stuff.


    We need to get together for drinks. Someday.

  5. It sounds like you - and a few other people - had a truly crappy day. Hugs! And best of luck. I wish I had something more intelligent to offer.

  6. Well, I can definitely say you are not alone in your frustrations.
    Sam also broke a rocking chair this year in his classroom.
    Interestingly enough it happened the exact same way. He jumped on it in a moment of frustration and overstimulation and actually knocked it all the way back so that the top of the chair cracked in half.

    Most days I find I am holding my breath while he is at school and wondering, "Are they going to call me today to come pick him up? (which they have 3 times in the past month).

    Something tells me that if a level 5 school for special needs/ autistic students cannot handle his level of tantrum and volatility than perhaps it is their inadequacies in adhering to the IEP and standards of care and not my sons.

    I agree with Kelley. We need to all go out and have a drink together.

  7. Oh, that sucks about the chair. :-I'm CWSD (commenting while sleep deprived) so i hop this makes sense:
    Can you tattoo on Jack's forehead "All behavior is communication"? No? *sigh*

    Maybe you need to make an addendum to the documents you give to school: a laminated poster which reads, "All behavior is communication. Much of that communication is an expression of a sensory need." Or seomthing like that.

    Wish I had a rocking chair around the house I could give you...

  8. And THIS is exactly why I have been working to get my son's educational label corrected. He is NOT emotionally disturbed - he has Autism! And then we will work on teaching, teaching, teaching those who work with him that there is always a reason for his behavior...

    I TOTALLY get this frustration, I feel it too.

    No words of advice, just an "I get it!"

  9. "Why does he do that? None of the other kids do that."


  10. Oh, I get this one too. I am a TEACHER in Eli's school, and we still have problems like this too. From a teacher's perspective, the training we receive about working with children with autism is next to nil. Also, in any mainstream classroom you can have up to seven or eight kids at a time with IEPs or IAPs. It's hard to keep track. That's no excuse, of course. But ignorance is the biggest source of problems for our kids. They look like everyone else, and those in charge of teaching them are under pressure to keep the classroom under control, teach, and administer to the needs of too many children. They get lost in the shuffle. It's horrible. That's why you, me, and everyone else with kids on the spectrum need to keep writing, and trying to help people understand autism better. If we don't, no one else will.

  11. Amen, sister! I so TOTALLY relate to this. I am still fighting for the IEP to be where it needs to be, but even the parts they agreed on aren't implemented consistently.


  12. No rocker to sell, but maybe the teacher would like the big ugly tv that I would love to get rid of. Hang in there, Lady. Hugs.

  13. You know, as I read this post I had a thought.... what you suggested could really apply to ALL children. There are tons of kids out there that need more than they are given, and as a result act out in a way that is "unacceptable". What is unacceptable is the fact that kids are all expected to act the same way. I have yet to deal with anything like what happened with Jack and the Rocking Chair (I capitalized it, it seemed fitting), but when I see how much William jumps around when he gets home every day... and hear how incessantly he speaks (it's non-stop, I kid you not), I know that he's not getting enough "kidness" out of him at school. Certainly they have to learn how to behave in a school environment, but you can only expect so much from children. William's 5, keeping his attention is a chore, and keeping him still is even harder... he's smart, he's learning what they are teaching him, but I can't help thinking that if his physical needs were met a little more consistently he'd be doing even better. Anyway, that's my 2 cents. I don't have a rocking chair... but if I find one I'll let you know ; )

  14. I have one in my garage that I would LOVE to give you - it's green and really pretty. It's small though - an appropriate size for a short, thin person.

    Is a trip to Ikea or the College Park Airport museum in your future ?

  15. Honestly? Autism aside - this is dealing with kids 101. If a child is doing something "outrageous" (I love that by the way), then it's up to the grownups to figure out the why of it. I doubt it took a couple of jumps to break the chair. He should have been taken out of that situation before destruction of school property was even a possibility.

  16. You have overwhelmed me with acronyms, but I get what you're saying. It can be frustrating on both sides and nobody is going to handle the situation as well as you would because your kid is not their kid, so sometimes they aren't going to be "on it" all the time. It sounds like you are fortunate to have a good group though and... how many days until summer vacation?

    P.S. I thought of you today as I ordered some new pens.

  17. A new rocking chair, ouch! But I'm willing to bet that if the people surrounding Jack are as good as you say - they usually respond in a way that addresses why the behavior is occurring, or you might have a few broken rocking chairs instead of just one. Having said that - it's your kid and you want the proper recognition and reaction every time, of course. I would too.

  18. Oh man! There was a rocking chair on my neighbor's curb yesterday. I shoulda picked it up!

    Although it's the end of the school year, Jack is his own one-man autism education professional. I'm guessing that next time, they'll try the trampoline.

  19. My son is not yet in "regular" school -- he's still in the safety bubble of early childhood special ed. But I feel this coming. It's already killing me that I won't be able to be there to interpret and redirect him.

    I read the follow-up piece, too, and I have to say, Jack is teaching his teachers. I hope we can be so lucky.

  20. This is absolutely on-target and I feel like an idiot that I'm just now getting to it!

    Right on, Mama.


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