An IEP, math, dysgraphia, some sniffs and some hums . . .

Posted: January 27, 2011 in Learning Disabilties, Tourette Syndrome
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As I said earlier my son was put on an IEP in first grade with objectives to help with reading, attention/organization and writing. In second grade at the end of the year his teacher suggested that I pursue getting him help also with math.

By the time my son started third grade they had not added any math support. Third grade was year of whirlwind chaos. With everything going on I could not have predicted what was yet to come.

In the fall of third grade, around the beginning of October, I noticed my son was sniffing his nose quite a bit. At the time I really didn’t pay much attention to it. We live in a colder climate and October is when it starts to get chilly. I suspected he was getting the sniffles.  This sniffing went on for about two weeks or so and I finally took note that he had been doing this for quite some time. It was highly unlikely for a cold to hang on for that long.

One night he was having a hard time falling asleep, which was not a new thing. So I laid down beside him to read a story and hoped he would drift off to sleep. As I was reading I noticed that the sniffing was never-ending. Every breath he took was with this sniffing sound. Soon he fell asleep and the sniffing stopped.  The next morning when he woke up I noticed the sniffing was happening again. At that time I still did not make the connection of what was going on.

Meanwhile at school in third grade they were learning addition and subtraction facts. A big part of the teacher’s lesson plan was to learn math facts so that they would become second nature. In order to do this they used a program called rocket math. To begin with they calculated a student’s writing speed, which created the goal for the rocket math. For example, my son’s goal was to get twenty-six math facts done in one minute. Then the students would practice on a worksheet that covered a specific set of math facts. After they practiced a few times they would then take the actual speed test. If you didn’t reach your goal you could not move on to the next set. The overall goal was to accomplish one set per week or more, and by the end of the year, if everything went perfect, the student would complete the whole rocket math program for addition and subtraction.  It sounds pretty straight forward. The worksheets started out with the simpler math facts and progressively got harder as the students worked their way through the sets.

Meanwhile, due to his tremors, my son still could not write legibly. You can probably predict what happens when you mix dysgraphia with a timed math test. Unfortunately for my son passing a set of math facts also meant the teacher needed to be able to read what he wrote for his answers. Everyone at school was aware of my son’s writing issues, and there were objectives in his IEP that were directly related to the writing issues.  Unfortunately they chose to ignore these for these timed tests and said the writing speed accounted for this.  It was obvious they didn’t really understand the needs of my son.  As you can see there was a lot of pressure on him, but at the time he seemed to be keeping up with the class.  This didn’t happen easily.  He did a lot of work with mom at home practicing rocket math to accomplish this.

Meanwhile, I noticed the nose sniffing continued. This may sound crazy, but it got to the point I thought my son had forgotten how to breathe normally. There were a few nights when I would try to coach him to breathe correctly. We started by trying to do deep breathing exercises. I would join him while I said, “Let’s take a deep breathe, in through the nose, and out through the mouth.” I was pretty amazed that he really could not do this no matter how hard he tried. I finally decided that we would just ignore it and perhaps it would go away.  I known that sounds odd, but I didn’t know what else to do.  It didn’t seem to be interfering in his life.  Not yet, anyway.  No complaints from school.  And a doctor would think I was crazy if I told him my son has forgotten how to breathe.

After about a month, the nose sniffing disappeared, which I was very grateful for. But instead of sniffing, my son started to quietly hum. The humming was like little bursts of short, muffled hums that had a nasal resonance to them. It was like, “Hmm, pause, hmm, pause, hmm, pause.” It was a little like an alarm clock but at a quieter volume.  There were occasions when it stopped, but that did not happen very frequently. He tried hard to stop but he said he couldn’t help it.

Now here is where the guilt begins for me.  The humming became a real annoyance.  I could handle it at home, except at night when he was trying to fall asleep.  It was a little bit more difficult in public or when we were trying to do homework.  Let me be honest, which I am a little ashamed of, especially now with hindsight.  I was beginning to think he was doing it on purpose.  I started to doubt that he couldn’t control it.  I was frustrated.

By the middle of November I had an epiphany about the humming, and more importantly about my son.

to be continued . . .


This is a post that is a part of series of post. To see more on this topic check out the related posts below.

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The beginning of an IEP . . .


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