When School Days Aren't So Golden

Micah hates school. It's frustrating to me because he loves nothing more than to be one of the group. He thrives in church no matter what class he's in.

I know it's overwhelming to him. It's a school he's never been in before (not his siblings' school), he's never seen the teachers until the first day, the kids are all new, the routine, the schedule... Too much new stuff to take in all at once is what I'm thinking.

He's very emotionally mature. In the mornings he lets me know that he doesn't want to go to school by taking off his shoes (yesterday he tried hiding them in a box), and putting his backpack away. But when the van comes he hangs his head and quietly goes. I'm so proud of him, while my heart breaks.

On Wednesdays I pick him up for speech therapy, then take him back to school. Last week he was not happy about the return, but this week he was more than upset. He started fussing in a very disturbed way the moment we pulled into the parking lot (and that's not like him) and I had to physically remove him from the van and carry him inside. He was crying uncontrollably the whole time.

My mama heart can't make him do that again. And I'm having a hard time just putting him on the van in the morning knowing that he dislikes it so much. So I emailed his teacher with some suggestions. The last and most drastic is that I sit in with him daily until he gets comfortable with things. I have no idea if that would work or make things worse, but I can't keep hoping he just one day decides that school isn't so bad.

My other suggestions are to:

1. Minimize his schedule so that he's in one place most of the day.

2. Get him a personal aide so that at least one familiar face is with him everywhere he goes. (Although for a while this would be yet another new person.)

3. Get his speech therapy changed to the end of the day, or just take him home after speech and miss Wednesday afternoons. (I'm not sure if this will help or make things worse.)

And this is where I'm so desperate that I'm asking for any other suggestions. Many of you have kids in daycare, and it's not so very different. Are there things that I should know and don't? Am I blowing this way out of proportion? Should I just stop whining because we all have problems and this one isn't yours?


Michelle said...

Oh boy... I'm so lucky I've never had this problem. Except at the start of daycare two years ago (we take summers off since my husband is a schoolteacher) when Mister Man soooobbbbbbed whenever my husband dropped him off the first week. I had to take over duty for two days, and that solved it.

For you, it's a different issue. Too late now, but I'm shocked they didn't have an orientation prior to school starting so he could have some sense of who's who and where.

Could you take him there to play in a classroom after school or on a weekend just you and him (and maybe the teacher for a little bit)? Or at least on the playground there?

What about finding a boy who might be a good playmate for Micah and inviting him over a few times so they can be buds?

I'm thinking that picking him up for speech may be rough for him... maybe that could be moved? I know finding an open slot (especially now that school has started) is probably impossible, but .... My gut is that taking him home after therapies won't help him gain comfort at the school.

Can you find a special treat (object or something) that he would love to have but only gets or gets to play with while in kindergarten?

Where else does he go during the day? For kindergarten, I'm surprised there's much moving around, and that probably contributes to the overstimulation. If he can't stay in one room/area during the day, an aide might not be a bad idea if the district will provide one.

And is he a kid where you can talk to him about things to get him comfortable with them? Mister Man is fine so long as he knows what's going on, but send him into the unknown and he panics.

Other than that, all I can offer is a long distance hug and hope that he likes school. Soon.

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

Maybe it is just too long a day for him? How about mornings only? Then he can look forward to coming home and having lunch and pulling himself back together in the afternoons. He's working 10 times as hard as an average kid, figuring out all the social interactions, etc. So he just may be worn out and tired by noon.

OHmommy said...

I think your idea of a personal aide is great. It is comforting to see a familar face all day long.

Tranny Head said...

Poor guy. I'm sure your frustration is compounded by the inability to have Micah tell you what's troubling him.

I applaud you for being willing to do whatever it takes and for reaching out to the teacher. I have no suggestions, but I definitely send lots of hugs your way.

Andrea said...

Poor Guy. My oldest boy hated school. He went to pre K and kindergarten and and hated them. He would try that whole hide the shoes stuff. he went on to first grade and barely passed. I then held him back. he was just too imature. He now loves school and enjoys being one of the smartest kids. he is now about a year older than the other kids, but he enjoys school a lot more. Maybe micah just isn't ready for it yet and needs some time to mature. maybe he needs a Morning kindergarten or just a few days a week. Poor kido, and my heart goes out to you too.

Karen said...

Karen, I wish I had an answer for you. It seems to be so different with each situation.

My sweet son who is also mostly non-verbal, but still communicates quite effectively had similiar issues when we moved and had to go to a new school. At first he liked it and went. In time, after an aid was hired for him, he started to hate school with a passion. It would require me to carry him in to the school and turn around and run. Then Christmas vacation came. I couldn't bare to send him back to the school. He hated it so much he wasn't learning anything. So he went to preschool in the morning at a friends house and then I home schooled him the afternoons. He learned more in two months than he had learned at school in the previous year. So, for us, at this point, it looks like home school is the thing working for him. We did try a lot of other things before we decided this was the best route for us. I knew it was the right thing for us when I finally quit stressing over his education because I knew he was getting a better education here than he was there.

The truth is, I think when it comes down to it, you are his mom and I believe God will tell YOU what is best for Micah. After all, he did put Micah in your care. Best wishes.

utmomof5 said...

My heart is breaking for the little man. I have days like that too -- I just want to cry when I have to take the kids to school. I also throw a fit if I have to leave somewhere to go and get them at school too :)
I wish I had some ideas for you -- I also like the idea of the personal aide just for him -- last year my son had a boy in his class that had to get his own aide. It made a HUGE difference for him.
Good Luck and try to not let it break your heart too much!!

Nap Warden said...

Poor little guy:( I was reading your Plurks and I just stopped by to say I feel for you. I wish I had suggestions. I hope things get better for him and you {{hugs}}

the planet of janet said...

poor micah. and poor you. it's heartbreaking for you to watch your baby agonize like that.

i have nothing to offer ... except hugs and support.

hang in there.

imbeingheldhostage said...

It is hard! I think the personal aide idea and the suggestion to find him a friend to look out for him are great ideas. I'm so sorry you're hurting with this. *hugs*

vic said...

Poor guy.
I'd be inclined to shift his speech therapy to the end of the day whatever happens - mainly because it's so much less disruptive for him.
I also like the idea of buddies and aides.

Pam said...

I'm sorry he is having such a hard time. I think by contacting the teacher you did the right thing. If you and the school work together then Micah will benefit. There is not perfect answer- it will probably be a case of trial and error until you find what makes M happier. Is he allowed to take Woody with him? Maybe having a favorite lovey from home will help. I hope it gets better soon and the school can help you get some answers.

Karen Deborah said...

oh wow, ouch. I wouldn't dare leave advice. Just one thing listen to your heart and your intincts. Can you homeschool him?

It's not even close to the same thing but once my dog let me know he didn't like a particular groomer, I didn't take him back.

Going with him may be a good idea so you can see what is freaking him out and reassure him.

He's so cute, is he a litle pampered at home or is he really scared? It's not wrong to want to protect him. Just handing our kids off to perfect strangers is a weird idea we have in this society.
Get this book, "Choices" by Mary Farrar. For some long term thinking on this.

Teresa said...

I think you need to trust your mama instincts. I like the mornings only idea or the aide. Do they have a window that you could watch through to get a feel about what his day is like?
My youngest hates going to preschool, he cried for the entire hour before we left yesterday, but they tell me he's fine once I leave. What feedback does the teacher give you about how he's doing throughout the day?
Sometimes they know just how to push our heartstrings to the breaking point, I just know that this will work out.

Becoming Mommy said...

Oh goodness no. Your concerns are all very valid.
Sasha had a problem at his old daycare and it was horrible to make him go. Eventually, they kicked him out and we found a new one. And he was more like himself.
I think when kids act so counter to their usual self when it comes to going somewhere, there is something wrong and something that needs fixing.
For us, the answer was just to get a new daycare provider as the other was too intractable and had unrealistic expectations of an infant (turned out they expected him to do for himself so he wasn't being fed or anything else).
I think maybe a day of hanging around to see what's going on is definitely called for.
It might just be that he needs to get used to it, and you being there could definitely make it easier. Or it could be there's something he needs that's not being attended to, that you can spot and rectify.

Caution Flag said...

My boys always were absolutely drained after speech. I can't imagine how hard it is for both of you to return to school (where he's not thrilled to be) after speech. Maybe the half day on speech day would make everything easier?

Anonymous said...

Is this a school that is specialized for kids like Micah? Or is he thrown in with kids who may not understand his special needs? Are some of the students being mean to him?

Debbie in CA : ) said...

God sure doesn't use cookie cutters to form kids (or families, for that matter). Having twins with special needs (radically different for each boy,) we had to be open to "different strokes" and lots of trial and error. Trust your instincts -- after all you've been the teacher up til now -- I don't believe you suddenly exhausted your intelligence in this matter when he turned the "magic" school age.

I've homeschooled ALL of my children, but with a variety of intervention and therapies. I use diet and vitamins to enhance development as well. (If you are interested I have some info on vitamin therapies and speech development that aided my son Matthew TREMENDOUSLY -- but don't expect a doctor to suggest it.)

YOU know Micah. You understand his communication and needs better than any "expert" that has just entered the scene. Carefully evaluate the needs, goals, options, etc. Define Micah's individual "ideal" educational experience and then set out to get it for him. Use all the resources at hand but keep MICAH at the top of the list, not the stanradr format. This is hard work, but based on what I've read here, YOU CAN DO IT! Be Micah's advocate.
I won't blab on here any more. If you'd like to contact me you have my email.

I'm praying for you everyday. Last night when I heard Sarah Palin address the special needs community I welled up with tears as I thought of my boys and your precious Micah. It's so amazing how God knits hearts together though a few pics and some honest prose. I feel connected to you and your family and I pray for you daily. My family even knows about "Micah's family." Once my eldest daughter laughed that with five kids and two parents we were always referred to as "Andrew's family." Just walk into a room pushing a wheelchair, assisted by another special twin brother with three other cuties on tow and you're the darling of the ball ... but all eyes are on that precious boy with the adorable eyes and the million-dollar smile. (Our Andrew made women swoon and men tear up -- he was truly an angel.)

Okay, enough! I'm onto my day. First off: Pray that Micah's educational needs can be met in a way that suits him. Thanks, God. I know you're already working on it. : )


mommaof4wife2r said...

here's the deal...your little mommy heart always knows what's best for you and for Micah. My Brooke has to have things extra consistent with her ADHD...although the situation is different, I mildly understand the concern.

So, for what it's worth...i think #3 is a great idea...it gives the little guy a break and makes it feel like a special day...and if it's like that every week, it will make him look forward to speech.

Who knows though. Pray and listen...and be confident in what decide...but fluid!

Aimee said...

You are not whining, and you know we love to stick our noses into all kinds of business. It's why we blog, right ;)

I think taking him home after speech is a good idea. I take Fiver out early every Tues and Thurs for his therapy, and even though he seems to like school he looks forward to leaving early with me. He's not missing anything major - as I always say, it's kindergarten, not Harvard. The teachers are down with it too - I think they realize he needs to go more than he needs to stay.

An aide may be helpful too, once he gets over the initial "getting to know you" period.

There's my two cents. That and six bucks will get you a nice cup of coffee :) Good Luck!

Poltzie said...

I like your number one the best. When I worked with children with Autism or FASD (I know they are both quite different but bear with me) the scheduling was the biggest problem. Too many changes stressed them out.
You know him best though and while you may have to try them all out you will know what to do in the end.
I'm sorry your mommy heart is breaking, I can only imagine!

Kidzmama said...

I'm not sure how much I can add to the conversation at this point, but first off, you are not whining. You're venting. And this is the perfect place for it.

Micah is usually a really happy guy. So something's up. I think the speech therapy can't interrupt the day. It's painful for both of you. Also, I know life is way busy, but you need to hang out at his school and see what's going on. Talk to the teacher in person, have Micah see you talking to the teacher, hearing what you say. He's a bright kid, he wants to see that you're on his side.

Good luck and keep us posted.

Allison Says said...

Oh, Karen...I'm so sorry Micah is not enjoying school. I really hope the teacher gets back to you and can help. It seems like you had some good ideas, and maybe some previous commenters' ideas will help, too.

Good luck. I really hope Micah learns to enjoy school. He obviously has such a good heart, it would be a shame for him not to be able to share it with his classmates and teachers by enjoying his time there.

Irene said...

You may already know this, but I am finally getting it. Since he has an IEP, you can pretty much get whatever you want (within reason). You can request all the things you stated in your post. I don't know if this would help at all, but you can shorten his day. If being in school all day is too much, do half days. Or do a few days all day, and a few days half days. Just a thought. I am sending Caroline 1/2 day. But I may add a full day once I know she will be OK. That would give me a bit more freedom to do things during the week.

Caroline's teacher really emphasized the "you get whatever you want" point about the IEP. Only completely unreasonable request will be refused. Like the time they wanted her to teach how to use a chainsaw, or how to drive. Nope. But anything else? You got it. Now, you may need to push a bit - don't take the initial "no" and move on - but if you start going up the ladder, I think you can be amazed what you can accomplish for Micah.

Good luck and I really hope things work out better.

Madame Queen said...

I've never had a child react quite the way Micah does, but Punkin still cries and clings to me most mornings when I drop her off. It never gets any easier.

As for Micah, I'm not sure what's best. The idea of a personal aide sounds good and might be what I would try first. Maybe you and the aide could work together for a couple of days so that Micah will know that this person is "mommy approved"

Anonymous said...

I haven't had a chance to read completley through the previous comments, so I apologize if these suggestions are repeats:

- I think moving the speech to later on Wednesday would be a good thing - at the very least to try to eliminate the having to return to school.

- if the option of an aide is available, I would certainly look into that, and maybe see if there is a time where he/she can meet with Micah one-on-one to get to know each other. If an aide can't be arranged, maybe a small group of students who could help 'mentor' him or help him feel comfortable?

- I agree with Irene on the IEP and with the thought of maybe going half-days for the time being, increasing to full days as he gets more comfortable?

I do hope that things get easier and that he starts to find enjoyment in his new surroundings - I can only imagine how overwhelming all of the 'newness' must be to him!

Debbie Yost said...

I'm so sorry to hear Micah does not like school. I can't imagine how hard it is for you. Do you know how he does once he gets to school? Maybe he's just not wanting to go but (playing you) to see if he can stay home. It doesn't sound like it, but if he was doing well at school, that would be some comfort.

I think the idea of having him go home after speech is a good idea. It would be something for him to look forward to. Also, I always warned my paents when I ran a daycare that if they chose to drop in during the day, which they were welcome to do, they may want to consider picking up their child because the child just wants to go home and doesn't understand why mommy came by and left. (Does that make sense)

I know you've received a lot of good advise. I hope things get better for all of you soon. Hang in there!

Flea said...

Kidzmama's making a lot of sense with her suggestions. And you know I know your home school path so far and where ours cross. My vantage point would be to hold that option in reserve as a last resort, but definitely have it as an option. And be at the school all you can.

Irene is right about the whole IEP thing, I think. You've proven that you can be persistent and push for what Micah needs. Don't stop now. You're doing a great job, Karen.

Colleen said...

Was the school receptive to letting him take Woody? I know for a while Gavin needed a toy to keep in his pocket (race car) to give him a bit of security and it seemed to help. And your idea of changing Speech Therapy to the end of the day may help, too, like Debbie had mentioned. I hope it all works out. I know you will always make the right choices for Micah.

Michelle said...

I'm so sorry this is starting out to be a tough transition for the both of you! Can't they provide his ST in school?

It is so hard to walk away from them when they are crying for you...so hard on a mom's heart.

Kayla used to do that when I would drop her off at MOPS, occasionally at the ECI center, and the first week of preschool. Sometimes I would be in tears walking away. With Kayla though I knew it didn't last long; she stopped crying after a few minutes; she just needed a little cuddle time with the teacher, or a diversion with toys and then she was ok. And it did finally get easier the more she went and got used to it.

I hope Micah gets used to the routine and school and comes to enjoy being there!

Tootsie Farklepants said...

I like suburbancorrespondent's suggestion of mornings only. Maybe his days are just too long?

caramama said...

I have no suggestions, just hugs and empathy! I hope you are able to work with the teacher to figure something out!