Two different topics.
IEP - 2 cents from a parent of a girl on the autism spectrum who has had an IEP from Kindergarten to 8th grade. It is really helpful to have an advocate that understands IEP’s *and *your son to write one together with the teachers/school. I think it is fair to say there is a tendency to write the IEP for the lower end of expectations rather than the higher end. As a parent with no experience, you kinda go with what the teachers recommend. Having an experienced advocate is really helpful to help set and navigate the IEP goals. Our ABA program manager, a hero, was involved after the first year or two, and she greatly helped to raise the bar for what my daughter was capable of and should be striving for. The program manager was seriously advocating to increase expectations because my daughter was fully capable of exceeding those expectations (she’s autistic, a few grades behind on specific subjects but not dumb, and a maestro at playing on adult sympathies to avoid having to work hard). Do NOT for an instant think about dumbing down the standards for your child. Instead the conversation is what tools (diagnostics/evaluation, special writing skills class, etc) to make him successful now and in the future.
Anxiety. Tonight I finished 9 weeks of anxiety group therapy (my daughter in the teens class, me in the parent peer group) at the local children’s hospital psychiatry clinic. It changed my life and my other 8th grade daughter’s life dramatically for the better.
I’m just a parent but your son may have perfectionism anxiety, or his “Tiger Dad” pressure, or more general anxiety. I would investigate the anxiety angle because a) it’s really easy to sneak up on you during the puberty/middle school years and b) making it better is not that difficult.
Here is a simple framework using the scared of a dog example. Child sees dog >> child feels anxious (anxiety skyrockets and triggers fight or flight reflex) >> child avoids >> adult comforts or “rescues” >> child anxiety decreases >> child reinforced for avoidance >> rinse lather repeat.
Instead of avoidance, should inoculate in a mindful, structured way to show that the anxiety is an irrational fear and how to get over it. Instead should focus on “exposures.” Something like start by looking at dog pictures and then progress to watch dog videos, go to the pet store and see dogs behind glass, stand in a room with a dog on a leash, pet a dog…then the framework changes to
child sees dog >> child feels anxious >> child continues looking at dog >> child’s anxiety decreases >> adult praises the brave behavior >> child learns “I can handle it”
This is a really simple principle, probably need some coaching on how to enact, and takes effort to execute. There are some rough moments for the child, as they have to practice behaviors that are difficult.
It snuck up on me. I woke up one day this summer realizing my 13 year old was paralyzed with fear of ask a grocery store employee where to find something, was deep into anorexic food avoidance, wouldn’t raise her hand in class, was terrified of being called on in class, scared of the dark, etc. We started the group therapy and the first “exposure” was the fear of the dark. Our exercise was she would walk about 30 feet in the backyard to close the chicken coop gate. Started with outside lights on, me standing out on the porch, and her running back to “safety” with my praising about how brave she was, understand it is really tough, did a great job, was a real trooper. Then slowly evolved night after night to me not being so close, turning off the light, only walking, me waiting inside the house. Seems pretty silly, huh? BUT 3-4 days of this and she understood that this was working and that eventually her anxiety is going to go away or be manageable. I am not exaggerating that the food avoidance issue started tapering off and within a month or so disappeared. We’ve been working on exposures for talking to store employees (she likes a special art pen that is locked in a display case, so I buy her a pen if she on her own finds an employee, gets help, tests the pen and then meets me at the check out), forcing herself to raise her hand in class once a day (and is now doing it multiple times and knows it won’t kill her), I’m working with the school for a 504 plan so she works thru the hand raising, getting called on and doing presentations, starting to wean her off the night light, etc.
It really is transformative. I’m frankly shocked at all the anxiety resources I’ve gone to that don’t explain that for large percentage of anxiety sufferers, this actually works.
Note: for the school 504 plan. The district psychiatrist that visits the school occaisionally was all for enabling avoidance. “If your daughter can’t hand presenting to the class, then we can accommodate her to only present to the teacher.” After biting my tounge, I said that is the exact opposite of what we are going to do. In fact, we are going to put into place a mindful, step by step process where she will at least stand with her group for presentation and work her way up to giving a full presentation." The school counselor is young, energetic and totally bought into the exposure approach and said she would educate the district person.
Overlyverbose, you’re on the right track. Don’t lower standards. Work with the school on the right tools for your son to continue to make his straight A’s with a reasonable amount of effort into the communication. He’s already making the grade, so the real challenge is for how to do it more effectively and in a way that sets him up for lifelong success.