Sunday, January 14, 2007

the rest of the story

My Student on Meds has been in our school since Pre-K. Although it was a small class, he managed to drive the Pre-K teacher to tears of frustration on several occasions. He bit, kicked, screamed, and ran out of the room. After a few months (and many meetings), it was decided that he needed to leave the school. He would not be readmitted until his mother took him to a doctor or therapist and got him under control.

He came back to our school the following year for kindergarten. He had been through several tests which identified him as both ADHD and ODD, and was put on medication for the ADHD. He was much more controlled in kindergarten than he had been in Pre-K, but he still had the occasional tantrum, which usually consisted of hitting another student, going into the coat closet and throwing everything on the floor, and being extremely defiant towards his teacher.

When I got him in September, I was nervous about how I would handle him. I'd seen what he was capable of, but as a special education major, I was trained to handle difficult children. In my first year of teaching, I worked in a charter school as a special education teacher and was given a "transition class" of 8 kindergarten and first grade students who were either severe behavior problems or severely below grade level academically (or some combination of the two). So I felt pretty confident that I could deal with SoM if he had a tantrum. What I didn't realize was how hard it would be to handle his outbursts and keep my remaining 17 students under control.

During the first few months of this school year, SoM was a model student: sweet, funny, bright, friendly, hard-working. About once a week, he would have a minor episode, which was set off by something seemingly insignificant. These episodes were easy to handle and usually lasted less than an hour. Then between November and December, his tantrums began to happen more frequently. They also became more severe. He threatened other students, kicked the walls or desks, dragged chairs around the room, defied me (or the art teacher, or the library teacher, etc), left the classroom, refused to work, hid in the coat closet.

The week before Christmas break was especially bad. We had a full week of school, and he was in for four of those days. He had an episode all four days. When we came back from Christmas break, he was only in school for two of the three days that week. He had a tantrum both days. The following Monday was the day I blogged about. His tantrum lasted for four hours, and then he was fine in my class for the rest of the afternoon. During the afterschool program, however, he became angry again and began banging chairs and yelling. He was brought to the principal, who called his mother to come pick him up early. When she came to get him, she said she would keep him home on Tuesday to give me a "break." He returned to school on Wednesday and had two wonderful days. Friday morning he had another episode, but it only lasted about an hour.

I agree with the readers who commented on my previous post. SoM doesn't belong in my classroom. My other students aren't learning when he has a tantrum. I should not have to ask another teacher to watch my class so I can chase him when he leaves my room.

A behavioral therapist comes to my room once a week to observe him. She's pushing to get him a TSS (Therapeutic Support Staff, also referred to as a "wraparound") who can be in the classroom to handle these episodes so I can focus on teaching. I've been keeping extremely detailed notes of his tantrums and submitting them to his mother, the principal, the therapist, and our parent-teacher liaison. Apparently those notes were used at a recent meeting to determine what services SoM should receive. The meeting was held outside of school, and my principal and I were not invited. I'm still waiting to hear the results. I'll keep you posted.

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