Navigating life with a teenager….who happens to have bipolar disorder

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Things are changing in our world once again. After trying a semester of a split (home and school) schedule for CJ, we have found that it is not working.  He needs more structure and he and I need not be in an office all day together…..even if it is only every other day. His grades are suffering, even more than before. Even worse, our relationship is suffering. I am after him constantly to get his online work done.  By the end of some days, we aren’t even speaking because there has been so much frustration and tension between the two of us.

Lego Devils advocate

I have always been a firm believer in public education, really, I have…..it’s just not working for my son.  Since the 6th grade, CJ has been in modified special ed classes.  This means that he takes mainstream classes with guidance, either from a secondary teacher or an additional aide in the classroom for core subjects. Other elective classes are simply mainstream.  This year we tried to do a split program where he takes some classes online and others on-site.  This has been our challenge, online classes don’t provide him enough guidance and on-site classes are getting so big, special ed kids are getting lost in them….as well as getting emotionally overwhelmed with the social challenges that always come with high school.

I have also found that, just like all kids learn in different ways…..some teachers are only able to teach in certain ways.  As we have gotten up to the high school level, there seems to be less patience and understanding for kids with challenges…..and less flexibility in the way teachers are able to reach them.  Last month, I had a conversation with his case manager, who also happens to be one of CJ’s co-taught classroom teachers.  We discussed that with his modifications (extra time, option to key instead of write…etc) CJ has the ability to do any of the work provided…..he just needs the motivation to do it. This teacher said to me “I have been trying to get him interested, but as case-managers, we are taught to modify programs, not motivate kids”. This made me upset.  Not at this teacher…..he was doing everything in his power to help my child….but his statement just goes to prove that teachers aren’t always given the tools that they need to work with these kids effectively. He is only one teacher….among the many that my child experiences every day.

Lego Motivation

 

I know many people who are educators and I know this next statement may make some waves…..but I think there is way too much ignorance in the teaching profession in regard to kids in special ed programs.  ‘Special needs’ does not in any way, shape, or form mean stupid.  Unfortunately, we have come across multiple teachers in recent years, who think just that……or at least they treat the kids in their classes as such. Although there have been a few that we have been able to educate about how neurological challenges effect kids in the classroom……and how to work with those challenges, there are even more that refuse to hear.  Because of this, my son feels defeated on a regular basis. He is constantly telling me how dumb he is. CJ is far from stupid…..he actually has an IQ of 112. While he may not be classified as a genius, he is above average.  One of his best friends happens to be autistic….and is brilliant, but still requires special services in school.  There are so many kids in the same situation that are getting lost in the system. I am afraid that, in our situation, since CJ has entered middle school, the public school system just hasn’t been serving his needs as well as I would like. I think this has a lot to do with the class size and the rigid curriculum that is being placed on these teachers, but some of it is the teacher’s willingness to learn how to work with different children’s skill sets and challenges. A whole other part for us is CJ’s lack of willingness to engage once he emotionally shuts down. This happens quite often.

We found an option that we qualify for through GA’s special needs scholarship.  Because CJ has an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), GA will pay for certain private schools.  We have a couple of schools in our area that are classified as special needs scholarship recipients….but not all are the right fit for CJ.  We did find one, however, in the next town over, that we are going to give a try. The classes are small, 12-15 kids max, and 25% of their kids have IEP’s, so they know how to work with the requirements. They also have a 4 day class week and the 5th day is a catch-up or tutoring day. Another bonus, being a private school, they have the ability to work with a different curriculum than the state mandated common-core.

So, I am running around gathering all of the required paperwork in the hopes that I will have it all together by Friday, the day I need to go in and fill out paperwork. If all goes as planned, he will be able to start after Christmas break. This is my last hope.  If this doesn’t work for him, I really don’t know what our next step is. No matter what I do, I can’t force him to want to learn and I can’t force him to understand the importance of an education. No matter how much I would love to do this on my own……I need help.  Educating a child takes a team and hopefully I will find a team at this school that can help me motivate him and educate him. One of the challenges with bipolar disorder is that CJ rarely sees beyond today.  So I will take a page out of his book….. for today, I will be calm and hope that this new school fits his needs. I will hope that the teachers will have patience with him and somehow help me get him excited in learning again. That would be a beautiful thing.

Lego Teamwork

 

****Today’s graphics are a nod to the wonderful Sheena at Not a Punk Rocker. who helps me see the light at the end of this long tunnel. 🙂

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Comments on: "Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes" (16)

  1. Best wishes for the new term. We have had such a change ourselves this year with the Teen not recovering conventionally from a concussion in May and the changes in his learning process have been hard for everyone to adjust to. We’re still not there yet either in relation to his mood swings so I have a lot of admiration for parents like yourselves – still engaged and trying despite the tunnel extending. Take a bow, you are amazing.

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    • I thank you for the compliment, Paula. Our world has been this way for quite some time….so we are kind of use to it. I can’t imagine going through what your kiddo has. Having your world make sense one day and then a concussion changes everything. Mood swings can be tricky things. Sometimes it is hard to separate the neurological issues from the person as a whole. It can become a wall between families, if you let it. I have been living in a severe mood swing world for about 9 years now. There are days when my son’s moods and words can be hurtful. I am still learning coping skills and trying to teach him coping skills as well. Have faith that you and your child will make it through. 🙂

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  2. You know what they say, “It takes a whole village to raise a child” and it’s true. You have the right outlook, hun.

    Stick to your guns and don’t give in xx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Gosh you have gone down a long hard road to get to this point I feel for you all. You are totally right that Sen doesn’t mean stupid often far from it and unfortunately traditional schooling isn’t confusive to teaching children for example with Adhd it takes someone special to make it work.

    My sons between them have dyslexia, Ashe, dyspraxia and audio processing issues plus Tourette’s so I can get what your saying. Glad there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel? X

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    • We have found that, along with bipolar and sensory processing disorder, CJ also has many symptoms of dyspraxia, as well. His best friend also deals with dyspraxia. His mom and I have found that very few teachers have even heard the word….much less know how to work with it…….and the challenges that come with dyspraxia can effect every aspect of learning.
      What is the education system like in the UK? Do you run into the same challenges?

      Liked by 1 person

      • yes we have challenges. i don’t think teacherse have the time nor are so versed in various things like dyspraxia especially in the state system, so one has to go and educate oneself first and try to bring that with one to the table and hope that it will have some effect, that is my experience so far. xx

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        • That was my approach when we first started this journey. We lived in a small town in upstate NY with very few resources. Although they diagnosed CJ with ADHD initially to get him help in school, both the OT and I knew he had Sensory Processing Disorder and that was causing even more problems (this was well before his bipolar diagnosis….even though I knew about it then, doctors refused to diagnose him so young). Very few of the teachers even knew what Sensory Processing or Sensory Integration really was. So I educated myself and then joined the PTA. I would put myself at the head of committees where I could reach out to teachers and do as much as I possibly could to educate them. I think we made a difference….at that small school, at least.
          I have tried to do something similar here at the high school level. There is a group of parents and I that would like to create a panel to explain different diagnoses, how they effect kids in the classroom and tips for teachers to work with them……but I haven’t been able to get the idea past the superintendent of schools……and I also have heard from teachers that they wouldn’t be willing to sit in on a panel discussion if it wasn’t required. So sad. It really would help them understand their students….and even save themselves some frustrations in the long run. I’ll keep trying, though.

          Liked by 1 person

          • wow i think you have done really well and so proactive and I synced with something you said. They said my son has ADHD but when I had him privately assessed she said he might do, the issue being that because he has sensory issues, dyslexia etc, those are all things that will contribute towards irritation, restlessness, confusion, lack of ability to concentrate etc and some people just slap the ADHD tag on too quickly and then don’t end up addressing the other issues which could have a knock on effect if addressed x

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  4. I truly hope this helps CJ. He is blessed to have you as an advocate.

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    • Thank you, Wendy. How are you all doing with school this year? As much as I loved the safe world that Ms. Mitchell made for them in middle school, I think they went through a bit of shell shock this year.

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  5. You are a champion and an advocate for your son as the system swirls and bogs down amid too many numbers and confusion and bureaucracy and, worst of all, fear and ignorance. I hope this new light in the doorway shines for you. SC. I admire you and all the parents who fight for their children’s needs very much. More and more of our kids in our world are facing this, so we better get better as a group to educate them or we will fail as a whole!

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    • Yes, Mark….that is a fear of mine….especially as things like the autism rate keep rising. If they don’t start learning how to teach these kids properly and simply stick to their ‘one size fits all’ education,it will eventually effect us all.

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  6. I really hope you get the right fit for CJ. It can be a long, bumpy road at times. The paperwork alone can be a mammoth task. I have just had L’s IP meeting and it was long and tedious. Seems never ending. I have my fingers and my toes (well if I could cross them I would 😉 ) for you 😀

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    • Thank you. I feel for you, as well. The meetings are the worst part for me. I get so anxious sitting in a room with so many people. I end up making myself a list before going in so I don’t forget my talking points. I always leave feeling exhausted and drained. My first one was 7 years ago….you would think by know I would be used to it. 🙂

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