Here we go again with my son.
I am so upset, frustrated, sad, and raw that it's gone past crying when I talk about him. Now the tears start when I start typing about him. This wonderful kid is killing me, body and soul.
We ended out last year's school year with another IEP meeting. (Those are the meetings which codify his Special Ed plan and implementation.) All year long we'd been saying that he had to get to know his fourth grade teacher before third grade ended. Well, long story short, at the end of the year there were vacancies in fourth grade, so no one knew who his fourth grade teacher would be, but there were promises made that he would meet his new teacher at least once before school started. (That' not QUITE the same thing as having him build a relationship with the new teacher during the school year, but what can you do if the people aren't hired yet?) At that IEP meeting it was also determined that he would, for three weeks, attend a camp for kids with behavior problems.
I'm so impressed with this camp. The director and his senior staff are all psychologists; the counselors are college seniors majoring in psych. Super positive, super consistent, high energy, respectful: a great place.
The first day my son threatened a counselor with a rock. I have TONS of respect for the staff, and I can tell by the way they told the story that they tried at every opportunity to give him the chance to calm down. He's stubborn, Saul is. Once he gets truly riled up, he's not stopping for anything. My son kept right on escalating, until the assistant director, Zach, had to physically restrain him. Well, then it's all over. Dear Butcher had to go get him early. (Zach asked Dear Butcher who Mrs. D was -- Saul had been screaming the name of the woman, an untrained aide, who assaulted him three times during school.) Shit, you know, as a mother, that's enough to send you right over the edge.
Zach and Dear Butcher spent another hour talking about Saul and with Saul. The kid kept coming back to, "Well, I never THREW the rock," and (something of my favorite) "You know, you can put up a whole wall of rules, and I'm going to find the loose brick there and get through it." (Zach turned to Dear Butcher at that point and said something close to, "Pretty advanced for his age, isn't he?" Yep. That's Saul. Too darned smart for his own good.)
He had to be restrained by another counselor the next day, but he calmed down, and the day after he had perfect behavior points and won "Camper of the Day". Yes, we're seeing improvements, he's getting it, he's listening to us and to himself, and he's coming back with some hysterical vocabulary. "I got a point for initiating contact today at lunch!" Gotta love psychologists.
(side bar) Another funny one:
"My primary behavior goal is to be more reliant. Resistant?"
"Surely it's not resistant, Saul. Maybe, ummmm, resilient?"
"Yeah! That's it. Resilient!"
"That's a good goal!"
"Yeah.... What does resilient mean anyway?"
First week went well overall. I had a conversation with his principal who's back at work about her new hires and how to set up Saul's environment at school. I had to warn her though that he Could Not come in contact with Mrs. D, and that Zach had reported that Saul was exhibiting new behavior. After he calmed himself down, once they were inside in opposite corners of the room waiting for Dad to arrive, Saul would talk to himself. He was able to whip himself back up into his previous anger and would start coming back across the room towards Zach, yelling and accusing him all over again. Saul has kicked out in frustration before, but this aggression is brand new.
Second week of camp (this week): things start off great. Mondays and Wednesdays the kids go by bus to a swimming pool. Wednesday, the buses never came. 134 kids with behavior problems standing in their swim trunks in 98 degree heat, waiting for the buses which don't show. Boom!
Saul tried to leave camp, but his counselor stood between him and the entrance to the parking lot. (New behavior--) He spit on her and started swearing. Then he took his shoe off (wha?) and threw it at her. An hour later I was called to come get him again. Zach met me at the car in a fresh shirt because his was again soaked. (Interestingly, he immediately stopped his aggression and calmed down when they brought out a video camera; they told him they had to document his behaviors. Saul said he didn't want his parents seeing it, so he stopped and asked them to take the camera away. Whoa.)
Thursday I talked with both the Director of Special Ed in the District and with Saul's psychiatrist. SpecEd Director is intrigued that he's targeting adults, not kids, and she feels as if this ties into her observations of his anxiety attacks he had in February where he was unable to come into the hallway and instead stayed out in the rain pacing for hours. She's as concerned as I am about what this means for his behavior during the first week of school. She's trying to assemble a team of people who know how to respectfully and carefully restrain students to be stationed at that school for the first week. We agree that all adults have to immediately meet. Also, she asks me to ask the camp director if he can help her in her search for an appropriate private placement for him if the public setting will not work. So far she has found schools which will take in violent or disturbed children, but which would terrify Saul, or ones which teach brilliant and sensitive kids, but will not take in kids with episodic behavior, as it terrifies the other students.
My conversation with the psychiatrist is un-fucking-believable. Saul's currently on Ritalin for impulse control - I want him switched to an anti-anxiety, which the psychiatrist had said he would do at the end of the summer when school anxiety was likely to start up again. Psychiatrist now says that there's no point in the anti-anxiety, because it won't build up fast enough to affect his behavior at camp (yes, I know that), and he can't prescribe it now to prepare for the start of school, because he can't predict what Saul's behavior will be in the future. Maybe he WON'T act up. He's older now. Maybe he'll tolerate it better.
Oh. My. GOD!
How many YEARS have I been saying to people that he is at his worst in the beginning of school? Please stop telling me that he'll grow out of it. Please. PLEASE! I'm trying to be proactive here, folks.
Then the psychiatrist say he has to get off the phone, but maybe I can set up an appointment with him to discuss meds some more. "He may not need any medication at this point. You're seeing that Asperger's come out now. But remember, nothing succeeds like success. Just keep him in a positive place, and he'll learn how to deal with his Apserger's on his own." Are you fucking KIDDING ME? Aren't you a DOCTOR? Do you even TREAT any Asperger's kids? Do you know that a lot of them are on, wait for it, anti-anxiety medications? Watch Suisan walk around the house muttering at walls and gesticulating at ghosts.
Thursday night Dear Butcher and I go to a parent's meeting at the camp, and ask the Director about private school referrals. He's been running the camp for 15 years, has a staff of 25, and knows of no school which would meet Saul's needs, nor do any of his staff work at a school like that. But he'll ask around. Great. Perfect. If he can't control himself in a public school, then we're looking either at homeschooling, where I am responsible for keeping things interesting, social, and positive 24/7, or a placement in a facility for violent children. Fuck me.
Friday I head off to the Psychiatrist's office full of vim and vinegar. You'll be happy to know that Saul's behavior is all my fault. According to the psychiatrist, Saul acted up on the first day because he knew that I was nervous. Saul should be so grateful that he has a father like Dear Butcher who can come and get him at camp. I need to keep things positive and light.
I swallowed every single, "Fuck you, you ignorant asshole. I AM the one who keeps things light! Dad is not perfect, you ass! I'm trying to HELP my kid by getting him meds! Isn't that why you're fucking on this case, you arrogant fuckity fuck!" I nodded respectfully at every platitude he spouted. He gave me titles of books to read. Oh, thank you. He talked about success and self- esteem. Oh, thank you. He talked about the beauty of a complex child. Mmm, hadn't considered that. At the very last minute of the hour, I told him that I needed that prescription now, and that of course I wouldn't DREAM of starting the meds until I had talked to Dear Butcher and he had imparted his wisdom unto me, and that yes, we would together, as good parents, curl up in front of a fire and read passages of these books together to each other. Mmm. Togetherness. Now Give Me The Damned Prescription! Thank you.
When I got in my car, the empty gas tank light went on. Fuck me. While I was filling up the tank, I got a call from camp to please come get Saul. He kicked and struck the camp director, Dr. Bob. This was his third strike on a three strikes aggression policy, but we could talk about it when I go there. Fine. It will take me at least forty minutes to get there, as I have to go track down my eldest daughter who's at a sleepover. OK.
I start heading home, calling the friend's house, who won't answer, when a cop pulls me over for speeding. Jesus Christ. Incoherent sobbing has a way of turning a speeding ticket into a "Calm down and slow down, OK?"
On the road to camp, I called the SpecEd Director again. More sobbing. We're still going to meet, and she wants to observe the camp program and ask them to help with Saul's behavior plans, she's even going to ask if they have any counselors who are interested in taking a job at the district as aides, but she's now talking about having him at home. Fuck me.
At camp, I started crying again. Zach pulled me into a doorway behind some hedges and was very, very kind. He wants to keep working with Saul. He wants Saul in their after school program. He wants to come to Saul's IEPs and he wants to work with the District. He wants Saul to come back next year to camp. Saul has made progress and will succeed at camp. He's bright. He's caring. We respect him very much. We just don't have the staff to monitor him if he takes himself out of an activity for hours on end. He's going to get through this. We're not ending out relationship with Saul.
We went to get Saul. The day before, Zach had given Saul a half-dollar coin he had found on the ground.
"Hey Saul. Do you have that coin? OK," says Zach, holding it in his hands. "I'm giving this back to you. I want you to know that this coin means that I respect you and like you. You look at this coin, and I want you to know that it means that I am going to see you again. I want you to keep this and look at it when you need to to remind yourself that I care about you. Zach cares about you, and Zach knows that you are a great kid with great ideas. You need to head out with your Mom and get some lunch. That pizza didn't look so good with the footprint on it, you know?"
The grin on Saul's face would have lit up a city. "OK, Zach." He turned to me and said, "Dr. Bob said I was paranoid. Twice he said I was paranoid."
"Well? I dunno. I think we have to talk together with Dr. Bob, don't you?"
Zach said, "No one's out to get you, Saul. We really like you and respect you. You're very, very smart. We're going to help you through this."
"Saul," I said. "Camp is ending, but not Quest. OK? We're going to keep up with Quest and you're coming back next year for more swimming and more games, OK?"
"OK. Love you, Mom."
"Love you too, man."
So we've got two weeks at home before school starts on the 20th.
I'm right back, albeit with more resources and more information, where I was at the start of the year last year.
I'm dying. How in the hell is this going to get better, and when will it get better? He doesn't act up at home in the same way he does at school, because we run our lives around him. But, seriously, I don't know how I'm going to make it through.