Friday, May 27, 2011


Here's a picture of Riley, today, on his way to piano lessons. My KY relatives would be so proud that he wore his UK shirt to school today!

Kevin and I had our big meeting today. In attendance, school psychologist, counselor, principal, vice principal, PE teacher, and Kevin and I. We agreed that we would revisit Riley's 504 plan at the beginning of next school year, adding in some more accommodations. One thing I want included is teacher prompting. Teachers are just going to have to prompt Riley to turn in his homework, report out answers, etc. He is not doing that currently on his own. I have no idea why. There are a lot of things about this year that have been a mystery to me. I don't know why there is such a huge change in his school attitude. I can only assume that the transition from one class, one teacher to six classes, six (very different) teachers, has been quite a challenge for him.

Since he is not really struggling academically-we can't really consider math as a struggle, because if that teacher TAUGHT, he could be LEARNING, and would be doing better-plus it's an honors class, but since he is not struggling academically, we have decided to try the accommodations and no honors classes, in the fall. We will meet in September to add new accommodations, then we will see how he does. If needed, the psych will do testing to see if he qualifies for any services. IF he qualifies, it would be under "Autism," and maybe he could get an IEP and services for speech/language. He won't qualify for any sort of special day class-that is NOT what he needs. He can access the regular curriculum just fine, but needs some accommodations in terms of prompting and redirections, and clarification. He is doing just fine in his other academic classes presently. Science is a C right now, but again, it's honors science and that teacher's expectations are completely insane. We are not pleased with either honors teacher.

The big struggle is PE. I know, it sounds silly, but to Riley, it's like a death sentence. Specifically the mile run is the struggle. He can't beat his time, and when he can't, it's a FAIL. Now before the meeting, I checked the websites of the other junior high schools in our district. It just so happens that Riley's school has the toughest (ridiculous) grading criteria. Basically class participation is 35%, miscellaneous (homework, tests, etc) 35%, and Fitness Testing 30%. In actuality, it appears that Fitness Testing is different from the mile runs, so that and the fitness testing really counts as 50% of his grade. I am sorry, but that is barbaric! Grading students on how fast they can run is not fair, and goes against what they are trying to achieve, which is a sense of fitness. I don't think there is a kid at the school who does not dread the mile run, and could give a flying fig if they are fit or not. They are simply trying to survive PE. The school's system is setting the students up to fail.

Here's a look at some of the criteria of the other junior highs: One school's criteria is 50% participation (A HA!), 10% mile runs (A HA!), 5% fitness testing, 5% attitude, 5% sportsmanship, 5% for dressing, 15% tests, and 5% for a drug program they complete. I am nodding my head in agreement. Sign us up for THAT school! That is how it should be. Another school uses a point system (Ok idea), and another counts it as 30%, but states that as long as you are participating, then the student would most likely not get a grade below a C-I can agree with that. The last school counts the runs as 25% of the grade. So when Kevin and I pointed out the VAST differences in grading criteria within the district, the principal stated that each school can do as they want, per Ed. Code. Yes, I guess that's true, but what she wasn't understanding is that the criteria is so negative to students in comparison with the other schools. Riley would be getting a B at the first school I mentioned! Kevin practically ripped the principal a new one, but in the end, there's nothing she can (or would) do to change the criteria. That's when I asked about opting him out of PE. They were not for that, but if I can teach him myself (I have a credential), and we sign him up for outside sports of some kind, it could be doable. Otherwise, I can get his doctor to exempt him. In the end, we decided to make the bulk of Riley's 504 accommodations, in PE. We will discuss that in September.

So the PE teacher came in, and we had some pretty tough questions for him. He had emailed me early on in the school year saying that the mile runs fall under something called a Fitnessgram. I looked that up, and basically it looks like a program which is like standardized testing for PE. So I asked how that grade can be used against Riley as MY students standardized test scores are not figured into their grade. He gave me some song and dance that his "fitness tests," consist of the exercises they do for warm-ups-so they are being graded on doing daily exercises as well! Poor Riley. In the end, the teacher started sighting Riley's absences, to which I pointed out that this has been the worst year with absences for Riley. He's NEVER missed this much school. There was all this discussion of the make-up work and make-up mile runs, so I asked how many days he has missed. Here's where I almost laughed out loud. Are you ready? He has missed 8 days. 6 of them this trimester. It just so happens that those 6 days were mile run days-3 of them-and he needs to do make-up work for the other 3 (again he WILL NOT ask what he's missing, hence the prompting-at least for now, not forever.) 8 days. I have students in my class-at least two of them-who have missed over 30 days this year! So Riley will make up one mile run, in class, next week, and two of them after school at times when the teacher is available. He will also complete 3 make-up assignments, and that should get him a C. We are fine with the C. Really, will it matter when he's a CEO that he couldn't run the mile under 11 minutes. I am sorry, but give me a fucking break.

I am optimistic that things will be better for Riley next year, no honors classes, a hand-picked (the understanding/compassionate one) PE teacher, and priority for his elective (he really really wants Beginning Band). He'll have new accommodations in his 504, and we'll get to meet with his teachers much earlier in the year. Also, Riley knows what to expect now, and there will be less transition-and hopefully high school will work out fine. If there are struggles, he will be tested, and then we'll figure out a solution. Hopefully by time school starts, we will have been to the regional center, and will have a better idea of where he is on the spectrum, and what else he might need. Stanford is still a ways off-probably November.

I still plan to move forward with a meeting with, at least, the head of special ed. She was supposed to attend the meeting today as well, but was a no show. I will email her again next week, asking for a little time. I am passionate about teachers getting more info/training about high functioning Autism. Obviously, there are huge gaps.

All in all, it was a successful meeting, and the administrators/office staff are working really hard for my child. I am very pleased with them, Riley's History, English and Recorder teachers. We have issues with the honors teachers and the PE teacher-but THAT should be fixed next school year. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Things are Moving Along

This is a picture of Riley and me at the Giants game, Sunday. We all had a lot of fun, and the Giants won! They played the A's.

So my phone and email have been blowing up the last couple of days. I heard back from the psychologist, a few times actually, because our meeting is now on Friday, instead of tomorrow. We could have met tomorrow, but without an administrator. If we want to do anything about PE, then the administrator has to be present-he's the boss of the 504 plans, and we want HIM there. The PE teacher may join us, and maybe even his math teacher-she is not following the plan.

In my frustration, I called the head of special services the other day, to ask some questions. She got back to me this morning, and forwarded my info to the program specialist of our attendance area, and also to the director of pupil services-he's the KING of the 504 plans. The program specialist left me a message today, saying he had spoken with the school psychologist to get background information. I don't need to call them back, because it seems the scurrying going on at school to fix this situation, is going to be enough.

Yesterday Riley came home with a grade report from PE. His lowest scores are that damn mile run, and we can't figure out the PE teacher's math, because it is supposed to count as 30% of Riley's grade, but it doesn't seem that way to us. The three sections don't appear to be adding up to 100% in terms of importance. I got an email from the PE teacher today explaining that he made an accommodation for Riley's mile run, and he's got a D. It seems some grades "weren't yet entered" at the time the progress note went out. Gee that seemed to happen LAST time we talked too. At MY school, the grades are due by a certain point, and then the progress notes go home. It should work that way at the junior high too, but I guess it doesn't. Things seem to be run entirely different at the junior high level.

Oh, and did I mention the VP emailed me too? Yes, on Saturday. He is looking forward to meeting to get this figured out. I would imagine he is not too happy with his PE teacher.

I emailed the superintendent again today, since his secretary has yet to contact me regarding our meeting about teacher training. I was very nice and asked when she would be contacting me as I am trying to figure out my end of the year schedule: class building, SST's, parent meetings, etc.

So Friday is our big meeting. The psychologist will speak to us about possible qualifying Riley for special services. It sounded like she was going to look into resource type classes for him, and he doesn't need that. He needs patient and understanding teachers who are willing to do just a little extra to help him out-things I do ALL THE TIME, for my students. It shouldn't be different at the junior high/high school level. I will let you know how it all pans out.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Walk Now for Autism

Yesterday was the big walk for Autism! Walk Now for Autism Speaks. My mom, Riley and I got up, bright and early, and headed to San Jose for the walk. The weather was beautiful, and there were LOTS of people!
Walking the route.
The race started under this tower.
See? Lots of people!!
My mom, Riley and I. We all made our goal, so we got t-shirts.
The walk was held at History San Jose in Kelley Park. It's all of these old buildings, assembled into a cute little town. The buildings were moved to this location, and I guess when the park is open, the houses/buildings are open. It's a museum. Really cool, and we will have to go back to visit.
Look at how adorable that gas station is!

Check it out!! They had Darth Vader and Storm Troopers at the walk!! Super cool! I made Riley pose-he was undecided. Have I mentioned he can't make a decision? Not about anything. Here's an example: "Riley do you want a Panda hat?" (We were at the Giants game today). Riley: "maybe." I got him a foam finger instead. He needs to be forced into a decision.

Update: I received an email from the school psychologist from Riley's school. She is really wanting to make things right. We have a meeting Wednesday. Of course her schedule does not at all work into my schedule, so I will be getting a sub (again) so that I can attend the meeting. I got an email from the VP this weekend as well, and he'll be in attendance on Wednesday. He also mentioned he would check the schedule of the PE teacher (and I am SURE that man will clear his entire schedule to meet with us-lol). I don't need the PE teacher there. We have already spoken directly to him, in March. What I do need is something in place to get Riley through the last 16 days of school, and if I like those ideas, we will proceed with those in place next school year. If I don't like them, then I will opt him out of PE for 8th grade. We are NOT doing this again next year. These male teachers need to realize that they can't change Riley, or "make him into a man."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Feel Better Gift

It's been quite the year in the Crossman house. 2011 has sucked so far. Riley was home from school for 2 1/2 days this week. He returned to school today. He came home after 3rd period on Monday complaining of a stomach ache, headache, and he felt faintish. He even slept in the middle of the day. Tuesday he stayed home and he was still not feeling well on Wednesday. He never had a fever, but the stomach ache continued. I took him in to see the doctor today. She thinks it's viral, but if it doesn't go away in a few days, we are to go back. He is so stressed out with school. Between that and Quinn's nightmare of a baseball season (he's still sitting on the bench two innings EVERY game while others don't ever sit), my frustration level is at an all time high. I feel horrible for both boys, so I purchased this for them...

Riley especially has been wanting it. He's super excited to see the new Pirates movie, which starts tomorrow!! I think we may go see it tomorrow night. So I thought the game would help, and then the mail came today...

It appears Riley is currently earning a D in Math (hard to do well when the teacher doesn't TEACH), and here's the best part...he's earning an F in PE. Yes, again. I swear that man (his teacher) is brain dead. He just doesn't get it. We met with him in March (when Riley was earning an F at that time as well), and explained the Autism disorder to him, and gave him information about the disorder. At that time he told us that some of the grades "were missing," and he wasn't getting an F. So WTF is it this time??? He dresses every day, participates to the best of his ability, and is not a behavior problem. What is this man's problem? He indicated on the progress note that Riley has "poor test performance, work below standards, poor effort/achievement." Interesting that just a month ago, on his REPORT CARD, the PE teacher noted that Riley displayed "good effort." So what has changed?

I did not handle it well. I fired off a nasty email to the PE teacher, and I CC'd the Principal, VP, school counselor and the psychologist. I dropped the "A" word (advocate), and included a link to our district's website with information about Autism. Then I emailed the superintendent to request a meeting with him (to discuss teacher training for high functioning Autism, but don't think I won't "tattle" on a couple of teachers). Tomorrow I will call the director of special ed, and perhaps the director of secondary ed (since the principal never responded to my email where I stated I was concerned Riley might hurt himself). Oh and Kevin is calling the VP to discuss this matter, and perhaps the lovely Math teacher.

I feel I am doing nothing but fighting for my kids lately. It sucks, but if I don't fight, who will? Who will care for my kids? Who will see that they succeed? Certainly not two of Riley's teachers (Science teacher is off the hook this time), and certainly not Quinn's coach. That leaves me and Kevin. Heads are about to roll. I am on a mission to find happiness for my kids, my husband and myself.

17 days left of school, and 5 more baseball games.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Finally a Bone!

This picture has nothing to do with anything, except that Riley and I were at Target one day looking for treats for Maya, and we came across this giant bone.

It's a really big bone. I wonder how long it would take Maya to chew that up?

Stanford threw US a bone today-no Riley's name isn't up for the Autism testing (darn). We got confirmation that Riley qualifies for the study at Stanford. It has a name, but I can't understand what the doctor is saying to me-she has a thick European accent (French?). Someone from Lucile Packard called today to set up the appointment. It's June 15. It involves taking some kind of medication, and having a blood test every so often. This medication will freeze his growth plate, which will allow him to continue to grow. This could probably gain him more height then hormone shots would. If it goes well, this could be something that Quinn could benefit from down the road. Riley won't be happy to hear about the lab visits, but he also doesn't like the comments he gets for being short.

Everything else with Riley is calm right now. The kids seemed to have laid off of him-at least for now. He is taking state tests this week at school, so he's been getting out early all week, and has had little to no homework. He is LOVING that. Let me tell you I am LOVING that too!! He feels good about the tests-the state tests have never been an issue for him. He tests well. He doesn't mind taking them at all. He's also pretty pleased that for the remaining two days, he'll be with his 2nd period class for 138 minutes. He so loves that Recorder class.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Just when you think things are going along fine, they aren't.

I got a phone call today, from the principal of Riley's school. It seems she was making her rounds at lunch and came across Riley and a group of kids. She said Riley was really upset and banging his head against the wall-that's new, and very alarming to me. She asked him what was wrong and he expressed his unhappiness about the teasing he endures (daily) about his size. I know he's mentioned that a few boys in PE like to ask him how tall he is, and tell him he's short. This bugs Riley, and he can't ignore them. We talk about this and talk about this. I guess today he reached his limit and had a meltdown, at lunch, at school, tears and head banging. It is heartbreaking. How frustrated he must have been to have hit his own head against the wall! These taunting boys are not from PE, they are random kids who don't even know Riley. All they know is that they can say stuff to him and make him mad. The principal called me to tell me what she planned to do, to help correct the situation. She was going to talk to the PE teacher (although these boys are not from PE, perhaps the harassment from those boys at PE can be handled). She's also going to put another reminder in the daily bulletin that name calling and teasing is NOT tolerated and kids can be suspended for it. She'll also talk to some of the other kids around at the time to see if any of them know these boys. She got him calmed down and sent him to his next class. I appreciated that she got involved. It must have been alarming to her to that he was standing there, crying, hitting his head against the wall. I know it makes me want to cry.

I am so sick of my kid bearing the brunt of these little jackasses. He just can't fight back. There was another incident in PE this afternoon (after the lunch incident), where the teasing started again about his size-oh and it was the mile run day which didn't improve his mood. The kids compared Riley's size to that of a female classmate. Riley's response, "Well at least she's good at sports." See? He can't fight back. A response like that just leads to more taunting. He doesn't get it. He doesn't get why they are mean to him. He doesn't get that these are normal kid behaviors (yes, they are mean though). He just doesn't get it.

The principal couldn't get over the fact that he didn't know any of their names. I explained to her that he doesn't really use names. The only person he calls by name is Quinn. He doesn't call Kevin and I anything. He rarely calls his grandparents anything. He just doesn't use names. He just starts talking. I don't know why. In all fairness though, Riley does not know these boys, so he certainly wouldn't know their names. He wouldn't even think to ask their names. He has no classes with any of them. They are complete jackass strangers. I will email the principal tonight to update her on what we discussed with him, and that these kids are complete strangers to him. He was still bothered by it when he got home. It's just no fun to be the target all the time. I guess his friends do nothing to stand up for him either. I must call that endocrinologist back tomorrow to find out what the results of his testing were. She never called back, and we need to know if he can be a part of that study, so we can get moving and see if we can get him to grow.

Please keep your fingers crossed that the regional center calls soon too so that we can get this testing done, and find out exactly where he falls on the autism spectrum. This has been such a hard school year for him. Next year has to be better, right? Maybe public school is not for him. I don't know what the answer is. All I know is that he is frustrated and I am frustrated. 27 days until summer and then I get happy Riley back.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Back to Work

Riley is settling back into the routine of school, after spring break. He's done a great job of getting right back into the school routine. Now, if only we can get the science fair project done! I think it's due May 19. Riley's been working on it and working on it and working on it, and we are all getting pretty sick of it. He has to write up different parts, then he takes it to school, then he redoes those same parts. It's crazy, and in the end it seems to me that the project will be more of the teacher's project than Riley's, with all of the redoing. I believe this is the last one he will ever have to do though as I don't believe they participate in high school. Fingers crossed.

Look closely. Riley is smiling WITH teeth, and without prompting. That's a true sign that he was happy. He so needed that little trip to Disneyland and Legoland. I think I needed it more to see him smiling and happy. He was in his element, with no complaints (other than the fact that his brother is not as well versed in Disney trivia as he is). It's been a tough school year for him. We are all hoping that next school year will be so much better. I am also hoping that we will have his testing done-at least at the regional center. We still have lots of wait time for Stanford. The regional center should have an opening sometime this summer. Those results will help a lot in determining if we keep the 504 plan for Riley, or if I go for an IEP for him.