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The Annual ARD Meeting (September 22, 2009 - 7:38 p.m.)

Time for another Stephanie update.

After having a major meltdown last on Monday night a couple weeks ago, we scheduled another appointment with the psychiatrist's office. This meltdown all happened over what is called "mini-school" at our high school. Mini-school is where we go up to the school and go through an abbreviated version of the student's schedule, meeting all the teachers.

That Monday, during school, Stephie had actually grabbed a teacher's arm a couple of times and wouldn't go back to class after lunch.

We weren't going to go up to mini-school, but Stephie begged to, so we headed that way.

When we got up there, there was no parking place to be found anywhere. We drove all over the place, looking for a place to park, and there were none. People had even parked illegally. So we couldn't stay. Stephanie went absolutely ballistic. She screamed for us to turn back. She actually got a little violent, striking the window and the back of my seat multiple times.

It went on for a long time, but we finally got her calmed down. Christi took her to the psychiatrist's office the next day. They prescribed a different anxiety medication (she had been taking Xanax), Ativan, and said to continue the 5mg Abilify.

Things have actually been better since that day. Not great, but better.

Well, today, we had our annual ARD meeting. Unfortunately, since it was scheduled for 12:15pm, I couldn't make it. Christi handled this meeting. So, I'm going to post the email that she sent out to some of the family afterwards. Here goes:

I think you all know this school year has not gone smoothly so far. We have had multiple instances of her swatting at teachers, grabbing their arms, refusing to do work, refusing to go to class, and running out of classrooms. Her anxiety levels are off the charts and she is again having severe joint pain, depression, meltdowns, withdrawl and isolation.

The ARD meeting overall went pretty well. I forced them to talk about some issues though that I'm not sure they would have discussed otherwise. I think most of the group just was going through the steps of the meeting and checking off items from a list without really looking deeper into the situation.

The teachers that were there reported that she was doing ok, but didn't stay long enough in the classes. The Stars teacher said she was spending more time in the Stars room than she should be, but they were working on having her stay in class longer. They went through her educational and behavioral objectives next. Her behavioral objectives consisted of things like ensure she stays in class, and ensure she uses appropriate contact with teachers and students when she gets upset. I did ask them how they planned to address those items because from what we know about Stephanie, when she gets upset NOTHING seems to work to calm her down. I told them that they need to focus more on techniques to keep her from reaching the point of no return.

Then the person that's supposed to talk about transition after High School said that Stephanie told her she wanted to go to community college for 2 years and then to a 4 year college and then be a teacher. They were going to proceed on down the check list and at that point I asked them to have Stephanie leave the meeting so we could talk.

I told them that I didn't think it was a valid transition plan. I asked them how they thought she was going to be able to go to college if she can't stay in High School classes or pass any classes without significant modifications and help from teachers. I also asked the teachers point blank if they thought she was learning the material from their class.

They then opened up and one teacher said she not yet been able to get Steph to sit down in her class and that she hasn't done any of the work in there. The other teacher said the only way he has gotten her to sit down is by giving her HIS chair at his desk. He said he can sometimes trick her into doing some work. He said he frequently stops the lectures to his class to walk over and make sure she is understanding the material. He does this multiple times during his lectures. Another teacher that was in there was one of the ones that she's had the meltdown when she tried to get her to sit down or do any work. It was very sad to hear, but I think everyone in the room finally got a better picture of what the situation really is. We all decided that we needed to go back to square one and allow her to do her work in the Stars room and after we get her stabilized again, then SLOWLY try to get her into the classrooms a little at a time. Mr. Reynolds (Stars teacher, who is wonderful!) said that he realizes that he's been trying to treat Stephanie like his higher functioning kids and that she just can't handle it. He said he did talk to the school psychologist yesterday and they too said we need to remove her anxiety triggers as much as possible and that it sounded like she needed start again from ground zero and work up from there.

I really think the teachers may have been afraid to tell the truth at the beginning because it might look like they weren't being successful as teachers. The meeting is attended by the principal, the school counselor, the diagnostician, the transition counselor and multiple teachers (and me of course). Also very detailed notes are recorded during the meeting. I feel that they left the meeting with a better understanding of Stephanie and her struggles and hopefully are better equiped to work with her.

Also the Transition Counselor gave me information to sign up for additional assistance with Stephanie after she gets out of high school. She told me to go ahead and get Stephanie on the list because there is an 8 or 9 year waiting list for services. Isn't the horrible!

Anyway, I think it was a more productive meeting than it was starting out. I'm not sure we have a great plan, but at least we have one. And I only let the tears show a little bit a couple of times.

I hate to stop and think about how many kids just fall through the cracks in this process. I hate to say it, but Stephanie has been one of them for several years.

We appreciate your prayers and continued support.

So there you go. Sounds like it was a productive meeting that actually got some educators thinking. I'm glad about that.

TTFN, y'all!

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