As I indicated in my previous posts, my son’s learning experiences in elementary school had lots of room for improvement, and in some cases did more harm than good. It was our hope that sixth grade would be a better experience which would result in some actual education. My son no longer had to deal with a social working turned teacher who, from his perspective, bullied and tortured him about his Tourette Syndrome.
A few days before the first day of school my son became really sick. Throwing up. Thirsty. Drinking mass amounts of liquids. It got to the point I couldn’t stop the throwing up. I assumed he had a really bad flu. He needed medical help, so I took him to the emergency room at the local hospital. Initially the doctor thought it was a flu or a virus and they put him on an IV to pump in fluids and an antibiotic. They knew my son had epilepsy and was on the drug depakote. They took blood to evaluate whether his blood levels were okay as it relates to this drug, and then also do some basic testing.
The doctor came back and indicated that they had found something unexpected. One of the tests they took was an A1C which is a test that measures the glucose levels in a person’s blood. My son had diabetes. I was absolutely shocked. My son already had so many things going on with his health. It never occurred to me that he would have one more challenge to face. Looking back there were many different signs. He had lost lots of weight in a three-month period. At that point the doctor said we needed to transfer my son to Children’s Hospital. They would have better experts there to help my son.
My son was in the hospital for several days. It took awhile for them to get all of levels closer to normal. When a person has diabetes, particularly type 1 diabetes, and their glucose levels our out of control, the body goes through many chemical changes. The sodium and calcium levels become off. My son’s body could not deal with the glucose, so his body was basically eating away at itself. While at the hospital we went through a lot of education classes. What type 1 diabetes is, how to manage it, and how to deal with day-to-day life.
As a result of this, my son missed a week and a half of the first days of school. When he returned to school on his first day of sixth grade there was one big surprise. In his special education class he was sitting near a girl who was his best friend since kindergarten, but had been separated for a few years when she moved to a new elementary school. He was so happy. Sixth grade seemed to be going well. My son enjoyed his Special Education teacher. She seemed to understand what was going on with him. She had arranged for a quiet place for him adjacent to the classroom where he could go if his tics became really severe. Physical Education initially caused some anxiety which increased his tics. She slowly helped him get over his stress and he was able to participate. His other classes were pretty much uneventful. It was a surprise to me how well he transitioned to this new school. In addition, he was able to manage his diabetes pretty well at school.
The first hint that I had that something wasn’t quite right was when we had our first IEP meeting. Most of the IEP goals were directed at accommodations that were needed for state testing. The only other discussion was in regard to how to handle my son’s medical issues. There were also some goals for reading, language, and math. The meeting was very rushed and, like the previous school, was held before school started which now I realize was a tactic to limit the length of the meeting because teachers had to leave to attend to their classes.
The other odd thing that happened was when it came to Parents Teachers Conference. His teacher said there was no need setting up a conference since we had just met on his IEP. I responded ok, but later thought to myself she was not the only teacher my son had. He had classes outside of Special Education, but in this conversation they were ignored. Today, I regret agreeing because became the beginning of the end of this school for my son.
As school entered its last trimester, the school started to complain about my son’s absences. Keep in mind he had missed eight days at the beginning of the year due to his hospitalization and onset of diabetes. In addition when my son’s tics got really bad, especially at night when they went on for several hours with no relief, he would also miss some school. Add to that his doctor appointments and days missed for general illnesses such as the flu. I was a little irritated by their attitude, especially when his teacher said she had no problem catching up my son when he missed a day.
Little did I know that this was the beginning of the end and would bring us to some major decisions about my son’s education.
To be continued . . .