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 . . .