Saturday, October 21, 2006

What a Difference a Diagnosis Makes.

We have a student on our team this year who I'll call Chef Boy. Chef Boy came to us from Up North, and honestly, that's about all we knew of him. He doesn't hardly talk, even with the other kids. His student information sheet basically said he was living with his mother and an aunt and that the only thing he liked about school was lunch (which 90% of the kids always say anyway). His grades were mind-numbingly bad. We had him on the list to send him to support team to see about getting him tested for special ed. On the evaluation form that the special education coordinator sent me I resonded that I really couldn't evaluate him properly as I never got any work out of him and he would hardly speak when I asked him anything - I was even modifying tests and work for him with no success. This kid was shut down tight. He was also absent a lot and would often come to school with an upset stomach, go to the nurse (and throw up a few times while there), and then get dismissed home.

And then, 8 weeks into the 9 week grading period, his records from Up North caught up with him, and lo and beyond, he's already identified as special education. In fact, he's also diagnosed as bi-polar.

Now it's starting to make sense.

We had the IEP meeting with his mother the other day and it was a revelation. Apparently Chef Boy has been living with his father for two years but is now back with mom, mainly because dad wasn't managing his education and health properly. Chef Boy is actually reading below where he was when she sent him to live with dad. So in two years he actually regressed.


We also found out that Chef Boy loves to cook and wants to be a chef. One of the side-effects of his bi-polar diagnosis is when he's confused or lost he gets depressed and will shut down completely. He will not ask questions, nor will he even speak when he's like this. This probably explains the mostly sullen silent child we have had in our rooms since August. His doctors also suspect that his frequent stomach troubles are probably related to stress and anxiety.

We made the decision to change his schedule and put him into the special education reading and language arts classes. This had the other benefit of putting him out of my second period class (which isn't one of my best) and into my fourth period class (which is my best class with the hardest workers, and interestingly enough, the highest number of special education students). Mom also indicated that she finally got him back on some medication for his bi-polar diagnosis and we should start seeing a change in him soon.

Now I'm not a big fan of medicating kids. I honestly think that most of the kids I see who are "diagnosed" as ADHD are simply normal kids who need more sleep and a better diet without all the carbs and sugar, plus a little more parenting. However, there are kids I've had who undergo dramatic changes, usually for the better, when they get on medication; most of these are kids who have other issues, usually severe emotional problems.

This week Chef Boy was a different child. A completely different child. He has walked in every day and has actually engaged me in a conversation. Yesterday he brought in his library book (The Betty Crocker Cookbook - our librarian has a lot of cookbooks and I'm always surprised at how many kids actually like to read these) and pointed out some recipes he was going to try this weekend. He had even written down four on his bookmark along with the page numbers. This from a kid who often sat with his hands in his lap and who wouldn't write his name on his paper without multiple promptings. He noticed one of his lab partners had left her notes on the table and he grabbed them and asked me to get them back to her as she'd already left. He was at the fall festival last night and was playing games and having a ball. He stopped me several times to show me his prizes. He also went to the lab to have his tests read to him yesterday and his score is double what his previous high score was!

I hope this continues. If it does, Chef Boy is going to have a very successful year.


skyangel said...

Wow. Talk about a turnaround!

I sure hope Chef Boy keeps going in a positive direction. I'm not a big fan of medicating kids either, but it CAN make a difference. The one bipolar kid I taught refused to take her meds on a daily basis, and it REALLY showed.

Skyangel Annie ;)

Mrs. T said...

Doesn't it make you wonder about other kids? If you could just "crack their code" and figure out what their story is, maybe others could be helped, too?
Bi polar is scary- I hope he has success on his meds.

EHT said...

Did Mom not let you know he was bipolar upon enrolling him? If not I wouldn't be surprised. It happens in my neighborhood all the time. I guess we ARE mindreaders, huh?

Anonymous said...

Maybe the parent is ashamed? Anywho, what good news!

Spangles said...

Oh, I seem to have a kid like this every year. The kind of kid that I can't figure out and can't reach. 3 months later, when the paperwork comes in, we have some information and can GET somewhere. And why, why, why do parents hide ieps?!