As I indicated in my earlier blog, third grade was a significant year for my son.  It is then that he started to exhibit some medical unusual symptoms. During the second half of the year my son was experiencing extreme body movements along with pain-sounding yelling.  The neurologist and neuropsychologist debated if these were non epileptic seizures or Tourette Syndrome or a combination of both.  What we did know is the EEG of these events did not have the pattern of an epileptic seizure.  We worked closely with the neuropyschologist to provide a plan for the school with direction about how to deal with these events.  In addition we set up a plan for my son to see the neuropsychologist on a frequent basis.

Keep in mind, my son’s first kindergarten teacher recognized he had learning disabilities.  By the time he was in first grade that got him reading and language support.  In second grade the school added some occupational therapy support.  Then his second grade teacher had reported that at the end of the year my son was having difficulty with math.  Even though I brought his second grade teacher to my next IEP, no actions were taken. 

During the second half of third grade the topic for math that was being covered in the classroom was learning addition and subtraction facts.  In my opinion this is what triggered the movement and vocal tics that my son was experiencing.  The way the students were being taught the math facts was via one minute timed test on a specific set of math facts, which progressively got harder as you worked your way through the sets.  Each student had a goal of how many correct math facts they could do in one minute, which included taking into consideration their writing speed.  As time went on, I finally figured out that it was these tests that were causing my son anxiety and the result was these extreme movement tics and vocal tics.  Just bringing out the green piece of  paper that the tests were given on would cause a round of these tics.

When this first started my son missed quite a lot of school because he had these movements at night for hours at a time and he had a difficult time functioning the next day due to lack of sleep.  The other big issue was his safety.  There was no way to truly predict when he would have a bout of these movements.  He would fall down or have his arms jerk.  The potential for him to harm himself was high.  Eventually the school understood there were certain things needed to be in place before he went back to school. 

My son needed a private place in the class room that was safe and provided privacy when he was having a round of tics.  They placed a bean bag behind a screened area. This really didn’t give him privacy.  The whole class knew he was having problems when he went behind the screen.  They could also hear his screams.  You can imagine the embarrassment he felt.  Just another thing raising his anxiety.

 They also provided an aide to be there for him so that he did not harm himself.  This turned out to be a big mistake.  She made him anxious and was very judgemental without having any experience with either non epileptic seizures or Tourette Syndrome.  She would constantly tell me son while he was having a bout of tics that he was okay.  To my son, he didn’t feel okay.  The movements were drastic and very real to him.  Telling him he was okay was like accusing him of faking his condition.

My son returned to school slowly, increasing the number of hours as time went by.  While he was in this part-time mode the school provided a tutor for him.  Unfortunately the tutor was his third grade teacher.  At the time I didn’t realize she was part of the problem.  During these tutoring sessions they required me to be present.  The only subject she worked on was Math.  She kept pulling out the green paper timed tests and my son would immediately begin to have these tics.  I finally asked her if she could teach this math without the timed test.  In my opinion, there had to be a way to teach him the math facts without doing these stressful timed tests.  She absolutely refused to adjust her teaching method, and obviously my son continued to have bouts of tics.

Here was an example of a very obvious problem and our school failed to adapt to the situation.  These math facts become a repeating theme in the next couple of years.  The unfortunate thing is my son had figured out addition and subtraction on his own before he even went to pre-school.  As a result of this situation in third grade he started to fall behind in math.  The school had all the information to take action as a response to intervention and instead failed.  The weight of that failure is now on my son’s shoulders.  The math story does not end here.

Continued . . .

Our new school appeared to be very nice.  The principal immediately set up a meeting to discuss my son.  Besides himself, the school nurse, a counselor, and a couple of different teachers attended.  I explained to the group that we were originally in Ohio, temporarily transferred to a Wisconsin school for about three weeks and were now living in this school district.  I explained to him that my son’s kindergarten teacher had already recognized that my son had learning disabilities and that they were just starting the process of getting my son some support when we had to move.

It was during this meeting that the principal indicated that they only request records from my son’s previous school, which was the three week school.  In the end it was obvious to me that the three week school had not received any records from Ohio yet and as a result of this had no indication regarding arrangements to be made. 

The remainder of the meeting that day consisted of a discussion about my son’s epilepsy and we watched a video, where his seizures had been captured on tape.  I wanted to make sure that the school could recognize the seizures, because my son’s seizures did not present themselves in a typical, grand mal-like fashion.  I also wanted them to understand what the vagal nerve stimulator was, which my son had, and what to do with it if a seizure should occur.  In the end a health plan was put into place to cover how to deal with the seizures.  At that time, no more discussion occurred about learning disabilities.

It took me about a year to find a good neurologist to take my son’s case.  Originally we went to Mayo Clinic, which was one of the reasons we chose this area to live.  After about three appointments at Mayo, it was obvious I was getting nowhere with them.  Meanwhile my son was having seizures twenty or more times a day.  I finally found a neurologist in a nearby city.  He did a short-term EEG, followed by a stay in the hospital for a long-term video EEG and a MRI.  In the end the neurologist confirmed that my son’s seizures originated in the front left lobe of the brain, with a tendency to spread to other parts of the brain (this is sometimes referred to as the Jacksonian Spread).  He then prescribed two medications.  After about four weeks we still had no relief and he changed one of the two seizure medications.  Within about two weeks my son’s seizures had drastically reduced.

This neurologist also spent time explaining that other things can come with seizures, such as learning disabilities, ADHD, and other things.  He then scheduled my son to be tested by a neuropsychologist.  She would do extensive testing, and provide recommendations for accommodations for school.

By this time, my son was approaching the end of first grade.  The school finally recognized that my son needed an IEP, which was classified as Other Health Impairment, due to the epilepsy.  They told me that they would do some testing to determine my son’s needs.  I shared with them that my son was being tested by a neuropsychologist.  The school sounded grateful when I told them I would share the findings with them as soon as I got the results. I think in the end there was only one additional test the school ran that was not covered by the neuropsychologist.  Thankfully the neuropsychologist gave us detailed recommendations for services or accommodations needed for my son.

Once the school drafted the first IEP they were pretty diligent in including the recommendations from the neuropsychologist.  Besides day to day accommodations, they included access to a reading specialist, a language specialist, and an occupational therapist.  My reaction to this was:  so far, so good.

Soon my son was in second grade and was still having a few small seizures each day, but non as drastic as they were in kindergarten.  By the end of second grade his teacher talked to me privately and said that my son was also struggling with math, especially with the topics being learned at the end of the year.  I asked her for her opinion about shifting my son out of the main stream class and into special education.  She thought it was a good idea and came to my next IEP meeting, which occurred at the end of second grade.

From this IEP meeting, I started catching onto the games played with the “IEP.”  In our experience more time was spent figuring out how to fund accommodations rather than identifying the needs for my son.  The  IEP carry over process from year to year was done in a nonchalant manner and became more watered down as time went by.  I was new to all of this and did not know what to do.  At that time, I thought my son’s education was in the hands of experts who should know what needs to be done.  The big catch was they appeared to be so nice and caring, but in reality they were trying to just “deal” with me, and then do their own thing. 

I was very concerned for my son and knew how critical reading and math were.  I knew that if you successfully learned how to read and do math you could be successful in life.  So I took the matter into my own hands and that summer hired a tutor to work with my son.  The tutor happened to be my son’s second grade teacher. She was successful of getting my son to advance by two reading levels.

Third grade became a pivotal year for us.  A lot happened and the real nature of  the broken school system began to show its under-belly.

Continued . . .

The election season is upon us again, or perhaps it has never left us but is just starting to reach its crescendo again. In our local communities there are elections for the mayor and the school board superintendent.  At a state level it may be your state representatives or the governor itself.  On a national level it may be for positions in Congress or more importantly for the Presidency of the United States.

It seems to be one big election that never ends.  Nothing really changes.   There is always an incumbent and the challenger. Both are making campaign promises that they can’t accomplish, or campaign promises that they will not have the sole authority to achieve. Hello! Yes we have a president, but we also have Congress. There’s no dictatorship here. No man is an island.

It is also that time of year when the political signs appear throughout our neighborhood landscapes. There’s a lot of blue with a smathering of red. It’s that time of year when your neighbors publicly announce who they are voting for. Sometimes it feels like there is a contest for how many signs political parties can put on an advantageous corner. At one particular corner, close to where I live, I counted twenty-eight signs. Unfortunately, I couldn’t tell you what any one of them said because all I could see is this plethora of blue. I ask what is the sense of this? Do these candidates think that if I notice their sign it will impact how I vote? All they really are doing is polluting the scenery, which is ruining one of my favorite pastimes as I drive to and from work.

Are they presenting the signs to remind me of their names? How could I not know their names? Their names are being discussed on every news broadcast show. Their names are in the headlines of the newspapers. Their names are included in the jokes of comedians and in political cartoons. I would be hiding under a rock if I didn’t know their names. And if I am hiding under a rock, I probably won’t be voting anyway. And if I am a voter, these signs are just an insult to my intelligence.

Soon we will see the backbiting commercials brought to you by [insert any candidate name]. I just can’t seem to get away from all of this rubbish. It has invaded my second most favorite past time, which is watching a little TV in the evening. Who really watches these commercials? If I am not a voter I probably don’t care and take these commercials as an opportunity to take a bio-break. If I am a voter from the same political party I might watch the ad, but what good is that? The candidate already has my vote. If I am a voter from the opposing party it is unlikely there is nothing you can say in a one minute commercial that is going to cause me to change my mind. In fact, seeing these commercials over and over just irritates me. For me the answer is Tivo. With Tivo I am not forced to sit through these ads. With one touch of a button on my remote and I zip past the commercials and settle back into the show I am watching. Thank goodness for Tivo. Love it!

So, I have a little advice for the candidates for the upcoming elections.  Forget the signs.  Forget the commercials.  Forget the orchestrated debates.  Quit wasting your time and my time.  Save your money.  Donate it to an organization helping children, who will be the voters of tomorrow.  And instead, just talk to the people.  No games.  No conniving.  Just straight talk.  Tell the people what you can do for them, and I do mean you and only you.  Let’s get real.  And quit treating the voters as if they were idiots.

There is a lot of discussions in the blogosphere and in education circles about at risk students and early intervention. At-risk students are students who are not experiencing success in school and are potential dropouts. Usually, they are low academic achievers who exhibit low self-esteem. They may be from low socioeconomic status families. At-risk students tend not to participate in school activities and have a minimal identification with the school. They may have disciplinary and truancy problems. They may exhibit impulsive behavior and their peer relationships are problematic. Family problems, drug addictions, pregnancies, and other problems may prevent them from participating successfully in school. As they experience failure and fall behind their peers, school becomes a negative environment that reinforces their low self-esteem.

On the other hand, early intervention is designed to identify and treat developmental disabilities as early as possible in order to prevent more serious disability, ensure the maximum growth and development of the child, and assist the family as they raise a developmentally disabled child.

I am very curious how this works. What makes these approaches anything different from what is happening today? A child is identified as having an issue and then what?  What makes these approaches the magic wand for fixing public education?

As you may know I have a teenage son who has some learning disabilities. Until recently, we have been battling the public education system which all started when he was in kindergarten. Our story may shed the light on how well “early intervention” worked for us.

In November, when my son was in kindergarten, his teacher contacted me and said she believed he had some learning disabilities. This really wasn’t a surprise because our neurologist had indicated that this may be a possibility. Learning disabilities are sometimes a comobidity to having epilepsy. Comorbidity is either the presence of one or more disorders in addition to a primary disease or disorder, or the effect of such additional disorders or diseases.

My son’s kindergarten teacher proposed that we do some basic testing and then follow through with recommendations to get him the services he needed. My reaction to this was great. It was an example of early intervention. The educational system was doing what it should do. Little did I know that I was pretty naive.

Unfortunately at the time I was laid off from my job and we made the decision that we were going to move to a place closer to my family. I had obtained a job in the new location but had not yet found a place for us to live. Our original plan was that my husband would stay in Ohio with my son and finish school until winter break. By then I would have a place for us to live and they could join me. This meant about the family would have to endure four weeks of separation.

As the day approached for me to leave, I just couldn’t leave my son. I couldn’t imagine not seeing him for four weeks. We had never been apart. So after some discussions with my husband and my family, we decided that my son would come with me, at least partially. He would stay with my sister and go to school with her children. This gave me the ability to spend each weekend with my son until I had a house for us to live. This way I was only three hours away. A three-hour drive was insignificant compared to an eighteen hour drive, which would have been impossible. Once I got us a place to live, we could then transfer my son to his permanent school in our new home town.

Even though I was able to see my son every weekend it was still hard. Departing was awful. He was pretty brave on Sunday’s and Monday’s. By Tuesday I could tell he was missing me. By Wednesday he was miserable. Luckily my job was pretty understanding. They let me take Friday off. So on Thursday, after work, I would rush to my sister’s house and spend the three-day weekend with my son. Finally after three weeks, which was close to Christmas, the family was all together in our new home.

Once we got settled in I contacted the school to tell them that my son was going to be a new student at their elementary school. We filled out all the appropriate paper work for the school to have my son’s records transferred, which was the same process that we had to go through when my son attended the three weeks or so of school where my sister lived.

Keep in mind these transitions happened very quickly. My whole family was in survival mode. I had lost a job which is a major life experience. Plus we were moving, which is another life experience. As result of all this, my whole family had to make sacrifices. Unfortunately, my son’s sacrifices were more critical than I imagined and as a result had a huge impact on his education.

. . . To Be Continued

Posted: February 18, 2012 in Education
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Greed is bad!

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word greed as “a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as money) than is needed.”  Most of the major religions in this world indicate greed is bad and will lead to no good.  For example, the following are some Bible passages that reference greed:

Prov. 11:6 – “the treacherous are caught by their own greed”

Lk. 12:15 – “be on guard against every form of greed; life is not in possessions”

Proverbs 15:37 He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth gifts shall live.  

(Phillipians 2:3)“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

The following are references to greed that can be found in the Koran:

“Let not those who hoard up that which God has bestowed on them of His bounty think that it is good for them – nay, it will be worse for them. The things that they hoard shall be tied to their necks like a collar on the day of Resurrection. And to God belongs the heritage of the heavens and the earth, and God is Aware of everything you do.” (The Holy Qur’an, 3:180)

“God does not love such as are proud and boastful, who hoard their wealth and encourage greed in others, and hide that which God has bestowed on them of His bounty – for disbelievers We prepare a shameful doom – nor those who spend their wealth to impress men, but who do not believe in God nor in the Last Day.” (The Holy Qur’an, 4:36-38)

In  Buddhism greed is one of the Three Poisons that lead to evil (akusala) and that bind us to suffering (dukkha). It also is one of the Five Hindrances to enlightenment.

In the ancient Hindu epic “The Mahabharata,” Bhishma, son of the holy river Ganges and one of Hinduism’s great yogis, delivers Hinduism’s great treatise on greed, naming it for the faithful as the matrix out of which all other evil arises

Bhishma said: ‘Hear, O King, what the foundation is of sin. Covetousness alone is a great destroyer of merit and goodness. From covetousness proceeds sin. It is from this source that sin and irreligiousness flow, together with great misery. This covetousness is the spring also of all the cunning and hypocrisy in the world. It is covetousness that makes men sin….'”
Greed in Society
I read an interesting article written by Luc Reid called “How Do You Fix Greed:   American Society Is Built For Greed” which says that greed is comprised of at least five parts, which include:
  1. The roots of greed are emotional ones. People want to feel safe, loved, valued, validated, and respected. In different ways, money promises all of those things, even though it often doesn’t deliver.
  2. We have a culture where greed is not only OK, but encouraged.
  3. The effects of how we use money are hidden.
  4. Most of the organizations that handle money in our society are set up to maximize profit.
  5. Laws and regulations about taxation, corporations, and commerce in some cases make greed the law.
This is probably why it is so hard to eliminate greed from our society.  It has become embedded in people’s day to day lives, into our laws, and into the people who govern our country.  Pick up any newspaper on any day and there will be at least one article that describes a circumstance where greed played a major role.  The sad thing about this is that the whole topic of greed is not talked about.  It is hidden.  Is this because people themselves are scared of being judged?  Or is the motivation if it is not discussed then it can continue?
Most recently we have seen some reactions to greed and it is a reaction of anger.  This reaction may have developed as the economy became worse.  It is mentioned in the Newsweek article  “The Greater Greed”:
That anger ebbs and flows along with economic cycles, says Robert Brent Toplin, a history professor at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington. “In our culture, we are not that concerned about greed; it’s not usually on our radar screens.” When the economy turns sour, when there is the perception that people who are accumulating great sums are doing it dishonestly or at the expense of many who are suffering, “then we get angry,” he says.
Blatant Greed
Greed can affect society in different ways.  With blatant greed it is obvious what the impact is.  A person, or group of people, take advantage of people, which in the end gives them wealth.  A good example is Bernie Madoff who stole $50 billion dollars from his clients.
Sending our jobs overseas
Greed can also come in the form of actions from companies.  Examples of this are many these days.  Big corporations are continuously laying off workers and sending those jobs to other countries.  According to the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals (IAOP) the top companies in the world that are out sourcing work include companies such as: IBM,Hewlett-Packard, EDS,  Citigroup, and General Electric.  Outsourcing has become a dirty word to our American workers.  Jobs are being shifted to other countries by corporations in order to cut costs.  These include manufacturing jobs, software development, customer service, and administrative jobs.  The countries that receive the outsourcing opportunities include the countries India, China, Philippines, and Mexico.  Take a look at auto manufacturing.  Thanks to NAFTA American auto makers have outsourced many jobs to Mexico.  Meanwhile Americans have invested millions of dollars of tax money to keep these companies operating.
Empty campaign slogans
What happened to the days of “Buy American,”  which was a slogan touted by Walmart or GM.  Also what about the following campaign promises?
Rick Santorum:  “Fighting to make America America again”
Rick Perry:  “Getting America Working Again” or “Made in America”
Mitt Romney:  “Keep America American”
Woodrow Wilson:  “America First”
Michael Dukakis:  “Good jobs at good wages”
Walter Mondale:   “Jobs, Peace, Opportunity”
Bob Dole: “Buy American”
Barrack Obama:  “Made In USA”
Presidential candidates or presidents can say these pledges or slogan all day long.  We all acknowledge it is a problem.  The key is how are we going to change it.  If greed is so embedded in our society, how can we eliminate these activities.  Changing laws?  Adding laws?  Providing tax benefits?  Enforcing tax penalties?  I am not sure what the answer is. All I do know is that it is going to take more than a slogan to fix this problem.
Avoiding taxation
Another type of “greed activity” is this off-shoring of assets or tax shelters.  Big corporations have the ability to reduce their taxes by shifting their assets off shore.  Can a regular mainstream American do the same to reduce their taxes? No.  It just doesn’t seem to be right.
Greed’s impact on decision making

Another question about greed that comes to mind is does greed affect decision making.  Obviously the answer is yes, but what about decision making of countries themselves.  Do you think countries will jump to action to help another country that has no monetizable assets?  Did this happen in Darfur?  Did it happen in Ruwanda or Sierra Leone?  Is it happening in Somalia?  What about our own New Orleans?  What are critical factors that encourage counties to join the action?  Available oil?  What else?

Greed and government officials

Greed also seems to be at the heart of government.  We hear stories of counties where government officials steal millions of dollars from the government.  This happens all over the world and not just in countries like Nigeria, Afghanistan, or Pakistan.  It happens in the United States to, but may be obtained in different form such as kick backs to pet projects.  What about the power of lobbyists?  Take a look at the farm subsidy programs.  How can these “mega farms” get money from the taxes that we pay to subsidize their companies?  This is not what subsidies was meant for.  Do I have the opportunity to get a subsidy to keep my household operating?  It’s time for these things to be changed.

It appears that greed tremendously affects our lawmakers.  How about passing laws to limit lobbyists, or penalizing a government official from having a financial connection to a company associated with lobbyists?  How about setting some term limits so that government officials can’t embed themselves in political office where they continue to siphon off kick-backs, becoming too cozy, and forgetting their purpose and forgetting the people they are supposed to represent?

Conclusion

I don’t have the answers, but I think greed is something we need to start working on.  Even the littlest child is taught to share and that greed is bad.  So what happens to us.  This all changes as people enter into adult life.  My goal is to just get a discussion going.  We know what the problem is.  Now we need to define the solutions.  It is also a good idea that we think about this as we cast our votes for elected officials.

Posted: February 14, 2012 in Indulgent Commentary
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