First Days at New Schools

The kids have finished their first days at their new schools. To say I was nervous about the beginning of this school year would be a gross understatement. They’ve never moved before and they were starting without their friends, without a staff that knew them and their quirks, nobody that knew our family history. I was also a little excited… without knowing them, maybe people wouldn’t force labels on them and expectations might be different. Anna has an IEP and a BIP. Dominic has a 504 Plan and used to have a BIP. How would these new schools interpret my kids?

How soon would I get a call from a teacher or principal? It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. It was today. Today! Ugh!!! Today I got calls from both schools… sigh. Where to start? When will I ever answer a call when my children aren’t with me without an immense feeling of dread in my stomach?

Dominic is in 5th grade and is 10 years old attending Hoffman Lane Elementary School with pullout once a week for TAG.

New Braunfels lifestyle child school photographer

Anna is in 7th grade and is 13 years old attending Church Hill Middle School in the Essentials Academics Classroom.

New Braunfels lifestyle child school photographerOur summer was frenetic and lazy, exhausting and relaxing, wonderful and stressful. After the whirlwind of moving, Jenny’s wedding, and unpacking, we carved out a routine of swimming, errands, settling in, and exploring. We still have a lot to do in our new house… furniture to buy, curtains to buy (’cause even though the sellers were only supposed to take the “custom” curtains in the formal living room and master bedroom, they took every single curtain… and all the rods… and all of the shelving in the garage {but left the brackets}… and even the children’s towel racks… seriously.), and rugs… oh my, do we need rugs! Someday, I’ll take some photos of our new place and show you all around. We’re getting there!

Per Dr. Kane, Anna’s neurologist, I took her to see a new child psychiatrist early in the summer. One of the first things he says is that he thinks Anna doesn’t have PDD-NOS. Bombshell! Her social skills are very good these days. He thinks most of her issues can be attributed to her intellectual disability. Anna spent most of the summer sleeping, very unhappy, and anxious. We’ve been tweaking her medications all summer, changing one thing at a time by 1/2 pill or dose, then waiting two weeks to see any changes. It’s been a long process. I think we are finally at a place where we have the perseverations and obsessions (currently Impractical Jokers and specifically James Murray aka Murr) balanced against excessive sleepiness (in excess of 15 hours a day), anxiety, and sadness. We need to get her an updated psychological evaluation and some blood work that her geneticist wanted ages ago.

Anna’s new teacher is amazing. AMAZING. She was named Teacher of the Year year before last. She is very patient and kind. Anna is in the Essentials Academics Class, similar to Life Skills but focused on some academics. It’s much more rigorous than where she was placed at Deerpark. Already we’ve gotten more communication in the five days Anna has been there than the entire year last year in Austin. We had her first ARD before school started to set up transportation and give them some tools and tricks. We will get a permanent ARD scheduled in the next few weeks. The start of school was hard for her. She was pretty excited the first day, but the second… well, I had to physically drag her out of the car, pry her hands off of the seat belt, and leave her sobbing on the sidewalk with her teacher. It was gut-wrenching. Though Anna cried for nearly two hours for me that second day, they worked through it… and the third and fourth days were good. Separation anxiety is a very hard thing for any child to experience, but going through 10 years of it now with the school system is exhausting for both of us. I’ll be talking with the psych about how to better prepare Anna to be away from me. So she had four days of school last week, this week no school on Monday because of Labor Day, and Tuesday she saw her neuro in Austin which was an all-day affair, so she went back today. Here is what her journal said:


Anna did well in cafeteria upon arrival. She asked to go through the office with other students with goals for greetings. She refused to continue out of the office to the classroom. She told the A.P. she is ugly, told another A.P. to “shut up,” and threatened to hit staff. I was able to talk her “around” to go to the classroom after about 10-15 minutes. She rested in the break area in class and would not come do her work until almost 10 a.m.

She did not want to go to her elective 3rd period. When she did arrive, she would not go inside the classroom. She told staff she wanted to hit the teacher and the students walking by her in the hallway where she was standing. Staff member put herself between Anna and students and Anna pushed staff member in stomach and tried kicking her.

I arrived and Anna continued negative talk, “you’re stupid,” “can I push you down the stairs?”, etc. I did convince her to go downstairs to classroom and to lunch.

She was fine at lunch.

She would not do her English work, grabbed at materials from staff, and turned off lights. She grabbed my arm as I instructed her to go to the break area. This is when I called you (and the principal got involved).

After hearing that she had been moved to a different room on these difficult days/times, we had her go across the hall with staff where she settled down.

We had a fire drill. She did great!

After that, about 2:15, she came back and worked hard. She completed English and Social Studies work from earlier today.

We will keep working to find out what works best and get to know her better.

Sending this info to keep you informed.

She was very happy from 2 p.m. on…

Majority of day she was focused on trying to get to go home I think.

Picture day tomorrow. Open house 9/9, 5:30-7:00. Thanks, SH

Wow. Right?! Good communication, crappy day, one of those where I’m embarrassed and worried for her, but I’m so impressed with Mrs. Haynes. She is awesome. I think things will be okay. Anna is testing the waters to see what she can get away with, if she will get sent home, if they will call me, if there will be consequences. Hopefully, these days will be few and far in between. She lost Impractical Jokers until she has a good day at school, so there is her motivation to try since she is utterly and completely obsessed with Murr.

Now onto my son…

I was so impressed with Dr. Struesand’s work with Anna (this is her new child psychiatrist that her neuro referred us to) that I had Dominic switch to him as well. You know the bombshell that he dropped on us about Anna not being on the spectrum? He thinks Dominic might be! He asked if anyone had ever mentioned Aspergers Syndrome to us and said that Dominic would really fall above that… if there were one more diagnosis on the spectrum above Aspergers, that’s where he would put Dominic. It makes a lot of sense. Curtis and I are going to meet with Dr. Struesand on Friday to talk about the kids in more depth, should be interesting.

Hoffman Lane has a reputation as being one of the best elementary schools in the area and people move here just so their kids can go to this school. In 4th and 5th grades, kids rotate teachers like they would in middle school. Dominic has four 5th grade teachers, one each for Social Studies, Math, English, and Science. They don’t really have a good TAG program, which worried me. He only gets pulled out once a week for an hour or so where at Wells Branch he had daily TAG for math and weekly TAG for language arts. But his homeroom teacher has the most amazing collection of books in her personal library… very similar to Dominic’s own library. So he was a happy camper that first day. I thought that maybe with the school’s reputation, that they might challenge the kids more in their day-to-day curriculum. I shared some of Dominic’s test scores with his teachers and his challenges of ADHD, being really bright, and struggling with social skills. They haven’t gotten his 504 Plan from Wells Branch yet so we don’t have one in place, but that meeting is coming soon.

Yesterday, Dominic got in the car full of complaints. His science teacher was mean (according to him) and was unfair. They were outside watering the plants and somehow the “wind blew the water in my face and got my shirt all wet.” His teacher took away his hose privileges for the rest of the year and he thought that wasn’t fair and she wouldn’t listen to him. Well she left me a very sweet and long voicemail yesterday about the incident and he is overreacting. Same problems, different school/teacher. Today, I get a call from the Assistant Principal. She and Dominic were visiting because he got very frustrated at recess during a game of Four Square. He’s already complained that the kids change the rules all the times (one of his biggest hot buttons), so I was dreading something happening. He got so frustrated that he blew up and broke his own sunglasses. He was taken inside and calmed down by the time the principal called me.

The good thing is that he is not taking out his anger and frustration on others so far. He is still reacting too big to small things and needs to think before acting, but I think he has matured quite a bit. I’m surprised we didn’t get a call last week… it was definitely his best start of a school year to date.

We’re getting there. Baby steps. As the kids get older, I hesitate to share details because I don’t want to embarrass them or violate their privacy. I weigh that against reaching out to other parents who have behaviorally challenged children because some days I feel so freaking all alone. When I get those calls (and today there were 15 minutes apart and felt especially defeating), I feel awful. I try to put myself in my kids’ shoes and imagine how they are feeling and feel even worse. Then I have to text my husband and he calls me to get the details. I answer, “Hello, world’s shittiest mother here, how can I help you?” Maybe a little melodramatic, but that’s how it feels when you have to explain to a principal why your child is behaving badly and what to look for and how to handle it next time. ‘Cause there will be a next time. Hopefully it will be a long time coming though.

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