Category Archives: IEP

Students Who Struggle with Writing

So… writing.  I know a lot of Twice Exceptional students struggle with writing, maybe, like Lily, for several different reasons.

Now in middle school, Lily says she doesn’t turn in a lot of her work on time because she doesn’t have enough time to finish writing it in class.  She does well on her tests & quizzes because, most of the time, they require short responses.  But her in-class work is a struggle, even when using her netbook.  It’s better, definitely, but still hard.

This is actually the 2nd issue, besides organization, that I want to discuss at her IEP review mtg tomorrow… some sort of reduction of repetitive, written work.  

Lily has complained to me before, saying that it’s dumb that she has to write out full sentences when she already knows the answer.  She said, “ I can say the full sentences out loud if someone asks me, but it’s so hard to write them and I never have time to finish.”

Lily has always had a hard time with writing.  We first noticed in 2nd grade, when we discovered that she had a desk stuffed full of unfinished worksheets.  Her teachers reported that when Lily was faced with a blank sheet of paper, she would shut down or melt down.

Actually, I first thought something was up in 1st grade, when I made her hand write her classmates names on their Valentine’s cards.   It. took. for. ever.  And I remember getting frustrated that it was taking her so long.  Oh, it kills me to think about it.

Even up through 5th grade, I scribed most of her homework assignments for her and she was unable to even start a writing assignment on her own.  At the end of 5th, we got her up to speed on typing and she began using a laptop for most of her written work in class.  That did make a big difference, but that was only one part of the problem.
Lily’s writing difficulties are caused by a few issues… Dyslexia, Sensory Processing difficulties, and ADHD/Executive Function issues.

DYSLEXIA-In her learning evaluation, Dr. Paula found that Lily had highly-compensated dyslexia.  Lily was a late reader; didn’t really read until the end of 2nd grade, but by 5th she was reading a grade-level ahead.  Dr. Paula felt that Lily was such a visual learner that she was using her visual memory to decode words and was using a ‘holistic sight method’ to spell. Her dyslexia was showing up in her difficulty with writing.  This amazing article on Stealth Dyslexia, which describes both my daughters,  was first written by Brock and Fernette Eide,  back in 2005, but I feel that many educators still seem unaware that it exists.  Dr. Paula did not think Dyslexia was Lily’s main issue with writing.

SPD/Sensory Processing-Lily’s sensory issues were also interfering with her ability to write. She has decreased fine motor skills and she is left-handed, which makes writing a laborious process and still makes her handwriting very difficult to read. Switching Lily to typing has made writing somewhat easier for her.

ADHD/Executive Function-This was and still is the big doozy.  Lily’s executive function deficits interfere with her ability to plan and sequence her thoughts and then, get them down on paper. Visual organizers are supposed to help with that, but it did take some time for Lily to find one that was a good fit for her.  She also performs much better if she is taught to plan her writing in a very structured and repetitive way… like a formula that just requires that she plug in her own words.  In the beginning though, just one year ago, Lily’s EF was so bottlenecked that she even needed the steps to get ready to write spelled out for her… get a pencil out, get your writing notebook out, etc.

Lily has made great strides this year in 6th grade and is writing much more independently than I thought she would at this stage.  I feel like she’s able to plan, initiate and sequence her writing so much better, but it just takes her longer than her classmates and that’s something I want to discuss at our IEP meeting.

Just one final thought on twice exceptional students and writing for now.  I know several families and their 2E children who struggle with writing and we all have the same question… Where are all the research-based intervention programs for writing?  If dyslexic students often have difficulties with writing too, why is it so hard to find them help?

Spring Break?

This week is Spring Break for the girls, which is sort of like a vacation for me too.  The treadmill slows down a bit.  I don’t have to crack the whip and get Lily out the door to school at the break of dawn.  I don’t have to worry so much about getting homework done every night. But I am still concerned that there’s schoolwork she’s supposed to be working on this week. She doesn’t think she does, but you never know.  Plus, I feel like she must still have makeup work to do from her sick days 2 weeks ago.

Lily stayed home from school 3 days because she was sick.  Of course, I was instantly worried about her falling behind in school.  I emailed her teachers to get her assignments and then I looked in her backpack.  Big mistake.  

Of course, the backpack is stuffed full because she brings EVERYTHING home EVERY night, so she won’t forget anything.  But there’s also a big, messy stack of loose papers in there and that makes me wonder which ones are assignments past due because she forgot to turn them in and which ones are assignments she’s supposed to be working on, but has forgotten about. I need to sit down and go through it with her.  She told me she thought she was caught up, but the online parent portal still has her missing assignments.  Lily doesn’t really seem to know.

That’s one of the hardest part of helping her.  I want to be able to prompt her and support her in remembering until she learns and develops the Executive Function skills to do that herself, but I never really know what’s going on with her school assignments and neither does she. We–Lily, the school and I, have just not been able to come up with a system yet that works for her.  She gets frustrated and discouraged because organizational systems are imposed on her and they don’t seem to work.  She also feels that accepting help  and using tools to support her organization means that people are once again trying to ‘fix’ her.

Of course, she has the same planner that all her classmates have, but it’s blank.  Lily hates writing in it.  I think that’s pretty common with these kinds of kids.  She tries to keep it all in her head.  I try to encourage her to use Google calendar or other digital tools, since I’m guessing that’s what she’ll use eventually, but nothing has worked so far.

It’s hard to scaffold the support of her Executive Functioning at school when we don’t have a system in place.  I suppose it takes trial and error, after all, there are adults who have yet to find an ideal system.  But I think this piece of her twice exceptional school career is going to be huge for her.  

Next week is Lily’s annual IEP review meeting.  I’m supposed to bring my thoughts on her goals for next year.  Organization is at the top of my list.  After her success in 6th grade this year, we know that she’s learning.  Her scores on the acuity tests that predict her performance on state assessment tests increased dramatically this year.  She’s getting very good scores on her quizzes and tests in class.  But she’s still struggling and doing poorly getting assignments turned in.  That’s hard to watch when I know that she has really learned the material.

Next year, the demands on Lily’s Executive Functioning skills are only going to increase and that has me concerned.  She’s going to need more support and scaffolding to be successful and that’s what I hope to address at next week’s IEP meeting.

Walkin’ on Sunshine

One full week of school down and Lily is walking on sunshine. Seriously.  She’s elated.  I’ve never seen her this happy about school…. ever.  She’s feeling confident and she’s proud of herself. We’re proud of her.  She’s really working hard on handling this transition well.  I’m amazed.  This is how I always imagined my kid would be… if I’d had a plain ol’ boring, ordinary kid.  I keep asking myself… why exactly IS it going so well?  I don’t know. It’s not the meds ‘cause I never got that that prescription filled and now it seems like she doesn’t need it.  Her anxiety seems manageable.  She still has a mini-freakout every morning when it’s time to get out of the car and walk into school.  But it’s 5 seconds and she recovers quickly.  Is it a fresh start without all the bad feelings she associated with elementary school?  Has her frontal lobe developed just enough so that she can handle the new demands on her executive functioning?  Maybe all of it. What I really suspect, is that we finally have enough supports in place to allow her feel safe and confident at school.

Thanks to her IEP, Lily can wear a hat, chew gum and sit on a exercise ball, all of which help her focus.  The fluorescent lights are filtered so that the flicker doesn’t give her a headache and make her irritable.  She has a system in place, using index cards, so that she can ask her teacher for sensory breaks without drawing attention to herself.  She can eat lunch outside if the cafeteria is too loud.  She brings her lunch so she doesn’t have to wait in line where it’s noisy.

As far as organization goes, one of the 6th grade Special Ed teachers has been heading up the Lily containment effort.  I’ve been keeping her in the loop on any issues Lily tells me about and then she helps Lily on that end.  I let her know that Lily was scared of the power tools in Tech Ed (aka Shop) and that Lily was worried about being able to keep up in typing class.  She reassured Lily about both things.  I told her that Lily had some signed papers in her backpack that I thought might need to be turned in.  She helped Lily take care of that.  It’s been wonderful having that liaison at school.

Now, I know there are going to be ups and downs in all this.  In fact, the downs will probably start as soon as they start really getting to work in the classroom.  When Lily has to begin keeping track of assignments and start on them herself, I’m expecting some challenges.  But that’s where her Behavior Support Plan or BSP comes in. 

Help! My brain is falling out.

Tomorrow is the day… the day my life gets a million times more difficult for the next 9 months or so.  Hey, I can exaggerate if I want to–I’m crazy.  And you know what? I haven’t even told you about some of the twice exceptional issues Daughter #2 has, or the issues that I still need to get figured out for her, the evaluations I need to schedule.  And I haven’t mentioned yet that she will have a teacher this year who gives lots of homework, so that’ll just be extra fun.  All that gives us something to look forward to, now doesn’t it?

We had to go up to the store tonight and get school supplies for Daughter #2, (you know… Zoolander, as she wants to be called) because I am perhaps the lamest mother of them all.  There were no other last-minute school supply shoppers–just me, Lame Mom.

Maybe that’s because I was too busy driving to work today and having my radiator bite it.  Luckily, I noticed the water coming out from under the hood while I was driving 75MPH and managed to drive to an auto repair place before the engine overheated.  The nice people agreed to drive me to work, fix my cracked radiator and take my money.  Sweet.  This is all my husband’s fault.  Anything and everything that happens while he’s out of town I blame on him.

Anyway, talked to Dr. Med Lady, Lily’s psychiatrist tonight.  Lily is still lethargic, sleepy and complaining of headache and stomachache.  Dr. Med Lady thinks that Lily seems to be super-sensitive to any medication. (Ha… super-sensitive.  No kidding.  What is she not super-sensitive to?) Dr. Med Lady thinks that the Intuniv dose is too high for Lily, but this long-acting pill doesn’t come in a smaller dose. The only other choice is to try the short-acting lower dose, but it may wear off after lunch.  We’re gonna go med free tomorrow and then get the new prescription refilled over the weekend.  I like Dr. Med Lady.

At the store tonight, on our way through the girls’ department, Lily spotted a black zip-up hoodie that had super-soft fleece inside.  She loved it and kept saying how soft and cozy it would be, so I bought it for her.  She does like to bundle up to help filter outside stimulation.  Before she discovered hat-wearing, she always wore a hoodie.  I didn’t get it until she told me that it muffled sounds and blocked the lights at school.  Now she almost always wears a hat, sometimes even in summer.

Lily has very specific qualities she looks for in a hat.  It must cover her ears to help block sounds.  It must have a brim to block light.  Oh, and it must be cute.  These actually aren’t easy requirements to fulfill.  So I’m always on the lookout for the right kind of hats.

In the car on the way home, Lily and I practiced what she would say if a teacher or student questioned her about wearing a hat in school, which is against the rules.

Teacher:  You there, take off the hat!

Lily:  It’s in my IEP. (that seemed like the simplest response to teach her)

Obnoxious Student:  Why are you wearing a hat?  Hats aren’t allowed.

Lily:  It keeps my brain from falling out.

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