Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Ins and Outs of Intellectual Disabilities

Monica over at The Undergrad Tales of a Psychology Major emailed me a fantastic group of questions that set me off and running in my (probably long-winded and unnecessarily detailed) response. She had some questions about intellectual disabilities, a topic that I find pretty cool. According to New York State, "intellectual disability" is defined as:
"...significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning, existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period, that adversely affects a student's educational performance." [Part 200.1(zz7)]
If we're talking about the numbers and standard scores, a student with an intellectual disability (ID) generally has cognitive ability, academic achievement, and adaptive behavior at or below a standard score of 70. However, every child with ID looks totally different from every other one. Each has their own strengths, weaknesses, etc, and each needs to be educated in their own particular way to maximize their learning. When developing interventions for students with ID, you must go on a kid-by-kid basis. A good place to start is to modify assignments and instruction to what each child needs (i.e. fewer items, extra repetition, larger print, extra pictures/graphs, pre-taught vocabulary, re-taught material, manipulatives and hands-on learning, additional time to complete assignments, etc).

I looked through my cases over this year and found a few examples to send Monica, which I'll share here. Note that none of these five kiddos has exactly the same background, scores, profile, strengths, weaknesses, levels of services, or placement. That's why I find ID so fascinating!

For all the scores below, 90-109 is Average, with a 15 point standard deviation on either side. Also note that a classification of ID should not be taken lightly. The classifying psychologist and team need to conduct a thorough record review, social history, teacher interview, observations, medical exam, academic assessment, intellectual assessment, adaptive assessment, and in some cases, visual-motor, memory, projective, etc tests, if they so choose.

See this blog post for background information. After a very thorough evaluation, we classified this kiddo as a student with Multiple Disabilities due to pervasive delays, ID level cognitive ability, head trauma, and Fetal Alcohol Diagnosis. He was placed in a 6:1+1 Special Class for medically fragile students outside of our building. He receives occupational therapy (OT) and speech therapy, as well as services during the summer to prevent substantial regression.

Wechsler Preschool & Primary Scales of Intelligence, 3rd Ed. – Full Scale IQ (FSIQ) = 77
Bracken-3 Self Concept Scale – School Readiness = 77
Vineland Adaptive Behavior Composite = 74

Third Grader—
This kiddo was referred by her teachers in '10-'11 and had extensive interventions by a variety of school personnel. She was classified as a student with a Learning Disability and was placed in an Integrated Co-Teaching program (one gen ed teacher, one SPED teacher). We reevaluated her this year, and at that time, she was reading 26 words per minute (goal is 110 by end of 3rd) and was unable to recognize, identify, and count numbers to 100, let alone attempt addition and subtraction. She was academically very delayed, but was socially competent. She loved coming down for chats at lunch and was always giving hugs in the hallway. She was placed in a 15:1 Special Class outside of our building and her classification was changed to ID.

Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, 4th Ed. – FSIQ = 71
Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement – Broad Reading= 73; Broad Math= 79; Broad Written Language= 86

Fifth Grader—
This kiddo is currently in a 6:1+1 Special Class for students with intense behavioral and academic needs and is classified as a student with an Other Health Impairment. He has a diagnosis of ADD, for which he is not currently medicated, and he is uber distractible. He also displays symptoms of Autism (visual self-stimulation with small toys, perseverating on topics of interest, like TV shows). He has very limited social skills and often aggravates his more advanced classmates by violating their social boundaries to be friendly. He has no concept of social cues and is a big target for physical aggression--we have a safety plan for him so he doesn’t get killed by the boys in his class with Emotional Disturbances. Academically, he is at the first grade level or lower and reads 41 words per minute (goal is 115 by end of 5th). He is highly delayed both academically and socially. We are reevaluating him now and will be having his meeting at the end of the month. We have a placement saved for him for next year at a 12-month private school providing instruction in self-care and vocational skills to students with intellectual disabilities. His classification will be changed to ID.

Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence, 2nd Ed. - FSIQ = 66
Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement – Brief Reading= 64; Brief Math= 54; Brief Written Language= 63
Vineland-II Adaptive Behavior Composite = TBD (I just finished testing him)

Fifth Grader—same classroom as above
This kiddo is also in a 6:1+1 classified as Learning Disabled. She has highly delayed daily living skills—can’t tie her shoes, has had bathroom accidents and not told anyone, can’t tell time or count coins, and has difficulty keep an orderly appearance that is socially appropriate (pulls her shirt and skirt up in class). She also tantrums in response to minor upsets and has very low frustration tolerance and coping skills. Her social skills are also impaired and she exhibits socially immature behaviors that hinder friendships. The kicker is that she’s a grade level reader at 118 words per minute and has passable writing skills, but her math is highly delayed. We reevaluated her and will be contacting the personnel in charge of the community-based life skills program within our district to evaluate her for their program.

Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, 4th Ed. – FSIQ = 60
Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement – Broad Reading= 85; Broad Math= 61; Broad Written Language= 89
Vineland-II Adaptive Behavior Composite = 62

Seventh Grader—
This kiddo was classified as a student with a Learning Disability and is currently placed within a 15:1 Special Class. Records indicated that she suffered a few strokes at birth due to ingesting meconium during delivery, but has not had any concerns past age four. On state exams in reading and math, she scored a Level 1, which does not meet basic standard. She cannot tell time or count coins, and has very basic skills in all academic areas. She is very immature socially and has difficulty working with others, but is an absolutely pleasant, sweet girl who is always smiling. We changed her classification to ID and she remains appropriately placed.

Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence, 2nd Ed.- FSIQ = 62
Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement – Brief Reading= 83; Brief Math= 56; Brief Written Language= 71

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The One with All the Great Advice From You!

With my giveaway for "The School Psychologist's Survival Guide" concluded, I want to thank everyone who posted fantastic, thoughtful, and meaningful advice that they would include in their own survival guide for the profession. I was so pleased and overwhelmed with the response! You're all rather marvelous, you know that?
Without further ado, I bring you: 
"Musings on Survival from School Psychologists"

Musings on Positive Relationships with Children

...When questioning whether or not you can make a difference in a child's life, remember that at the very least, you can always provide the child with a positive experience with a mental health professional. That way, they will be more likely to seek help again in the future. School psychologists can "plant that seed". - AmberNicole

Make sure your office has both tissues and food at all times. Sweet and simple. - Jill Snyder 

My advice would be to never underestimate the power of modeling respect to students. I model how to be respectful to my kids and it has led to many important conversations. - Amanda Myers 

We get caught up in focusing what is "wrong" with the child, or how to "fix" them that many times the team forgets that everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE, has strengths. I find if you start with the strengths, you indicate to parents those positive aspects - then you can return to those strengths when you get to the recs to demonstrate how those skills can be used to compensate for whatever weaknesses were found. I have found in working with older kiddos that sometimes adults have never spoken to them about those strengths and have only focused on the difficulties. To see their faces light up when I tell them that they are smart and do great work - that is what keeps me coming back to work each day. :) - Tonya Gscheidle 

Sometimes, you may be the only person who cares about "that kid". Do not let them down. Show them that they can trust adults by believing in them no matter what. - Colleen Allen

You may be the only advocate a child has... - Susan Hatcher

I think the most important thing I have learned this year is to follow through on promises made. Either giving parents information or meeting with student, demonstrating to others that they can rely on you is important to building relationships. – Becky

Do not let administrators or others with control issues, mental health concerns or just plain bad energy zap your own. Too much time in schools is wasted focusing on "bad" staff members rather than on the children. Eventually, they will move on or improve. You have no control over how they act and behave, even if it's hurtful to others. All you can do is conduct yourself with respect and focus on the students. They are what matters. Humor helps, too! - Colleen Allen

Always remember confidentiality. You may have a group of girlfriends at a school you work at, but it doesn't mean it gives them special permission to hear about confidential issues. Vent to your pet! :) - Ashley Marie 

Bring and show love in all that you do! We all have strengths--find ways to help others showcase theirs. - Colleen Allen

Musings on Taking Care of YOU

...Don't forget to sanitize your WISC blocks so you dont get the funk that all the kids have :) - Heather Klingensmith Hill

A great piece of advice I received and want to share is to keep a "Favorites File," a file of thank you notes, pictures, and drawings that have made me happy at work. They are great therapy. - Beverly Whalen-Schmeller 

You can't help others until you've first helped yourself. Self-care is just as important as everything else. - Colleen Allen

My supervisor always told me that I needed to take care of myself so I could take care of others. So important to set boundaries and practice self-care. Going to spend spring break starting Monday relaxing and having some fun so I can come back refreshed and energetic! Seems like there is always more that I could do, but if I do too much I won't be any good for anyone. So it's not being selfish or failing to leave the work at school and go home at the end of the day! – Jen

Hang in there. Summer's coming! Just kidding, I love my job. But the time off is a nice perk. Lol - Kim Nichol Rich 

There will always be more work to be done, more kids to be tested, more reports to write, more staff to assist, etc., etc., etc. There are deadlines that must be met, but once you have met those, remember there will always be more to do tomorrow. Go home. :-) Take care of yourself. Take care of your family. Without doing those things, you don't stand a chance of helping your schools. - Amy Cannava 

Keep work at work, and when you are home be there completely. Sometimes it is healthy to walk away from the laptop! - Julie Dwyer 

What may seem like one incredibly stressful day, week, month or year will pass. You may not see the forest through the trees until you have a higher view. Remember to enjoy calmer days so you can stock up for rocky ones. - Colleen Allen

Remember that although frustration and anger may be directed toward you it is not personal. - Sharin Palladino Green 

Humor, humor, humor...using it at work to get through tough situations is key. So much of what we do can be mentally and emotionally taxing. Finding the humor in these situations or just being able to laugh when things get rough is what helps me survive. So, find some fellow psychs to yuk things up with, watch lots of Seinfeld, read the Onion, or plaster your office with Far Side cartoons - whatever works to keep you smiling. If you're smiling, others will too. - Kim Tungate 

My advice after 32 years as a school psychologist is "Tomorrow will be a better day!" - Marcia Krell Dimetrosky 

Remember that although you may want to be superman, you can't do everything in one day. Your "to do" list will always be there, so be mindful of the things about your job that make it worthwhile. - Denise Butterfield 

Musings on Being Type-A

My key to survival is two-fold. First, an organization system that would make the OCD population swoon keeps me on top of every eval, counseling case, and "to do" item in my crazy world. Second, I don't take it home on the weekends. And when I do, I end up negotiating with myself to get it done during the week anyway. Almost impossible, but if there's a will to find time during the week then there is a way. You will make your deadlines... – Erika

When scheduling evals, be flexible...always have more than one back-up plan ;) - Ronda Norman 

Bring you calendar to every meeting. It seems that there is always another meeting that needs to be scheduled or changed and this will save you having to go back to your office and begin the email tag game. - Sirenna Brown Palici thing that I have learned to be most important is organization and time management. If you are not organized and can't manage your time then you're in big trouble when it comes to this job! - Kari Na have to be organized, have excellent time management, practice good self-care, because you can't help others if you're not helping yourself, and you need to find balance between your work life and your non-work life! - Samantha Bailey 

Be organized. Sounds simple but can make or break you. Being organized with your time by setting daily and weekly goals for yourself will make a huge difference in your productivity and may lessen the amount you have to take home. -  Tiffany Miller Powell

...I've learned to be flexible and that there are many ways to address the same problem..I've also learned the usefulness of a planner and organization skills! - LaShante Smith

Musings on Meaningful Relationships with Parents and Families

I have learned how to break bad news/evaluation data to parents. After a couple of years, of talking with parents, I have learned that a majority of them are nervous of what I may have to say to them about evaluation data. They are afraid I am going to tell them their child is incapable of learning or not average. I try to give evaluation data with a mix of funny things their child may have done while working with them, and an outline of their strengths and weaknesses. - Kim K.

It sounds super corny, but the most important piece of advice I can think of is to remember when you are writing a report about a child, you are talking about somebody's BABY. - Eliane Hack 

I quickly learned that this field is about making relationships and making people feel comfortable. The more approachable and down to earth I appear to parents the better I can communicate during a meeting. It's very important to make the effort to meet with parents before hand and talks to them about their fears and worries. That initial meeting always seems to open doors when delivering not so positive news. It always makes me feel happy when I've met a parent before a meeting and they walk into a room full of school staff, they look around the table and look directly at the people they are already familiar with. There's a sense of comfort and relief I appreciate. I always try and put myself in their shoes and validate their concerns. – pmendez1

Well, there are many! I'd have to say that forming a relationship with parents is perhaps one of the most helpful things I can do. – Andrea

When talking with parents, always remember that for them, this is new. Even if they've had other children go through special education, or you're meeting for a triennial, it's still new for them even if I have done it 1000 times. It's important to take the time, build the relationship, and always put myself in the parent's place before ever opening my mouth. – Pam

I've found it very helpful to establish a good rapport with parents. It's important to make them feel comfortable, reassuring them that you will answer their questions and concerns. This will be very beneficial during the assessment process. Conflict can be avoided when parents feel their child is important to the psych. - Norma Diaz 

…parent communication is probably the biggest thing I've learned. The more you can relate to the parent, the more comfortable they will feel. Meeting with parents before meetings is so helpful, and seems to put them more at ease, especially with initial referrals. – bt

The best advice that I learned was to focus on services when sharing news with families. The news can be hard for families to hear for the first time, so you have to be understanding and gentle. But getting everyone on the same page when talking about how to service the student goes a very long way to help put the family (and yourself) at ease. – Rob

My advice would be to put yourself in the parent's shoes and pretend you have to hear this information about your child and present in a tactful and respectful way. - Ashleigh Edwards 

Musings on Personal vs. Professional Lives

The best advice I've ever received was: don't let this job take over your life. While it can be very rewarding, this line of work can quickly become overwhelming. There is so much to do & never enough time to get everything done. If you aren't careful, you can get burned out. This is a hard thing for me to remember sometimes but over the years I've gotten better. :-) – Jenskaroo

For me the most important thing has been to learn how to balance work and personal life. We are much more effective when we take care of ourselves and not let our stress level get too high. Our job is never ending so don't ever expect to be "done". Learn to ask for help when you need it. A decade later and I still need to ask for help :) - Estella Castro 

Musings on Advocating for our Profession

There are so many things that come to mind, but I think the most important is make sure others know what it is that we do!! We do so many things on a day-to-day basis, beyond testing and attending meetings, and it is important that students, families, and school staff know what are training is and what we are able to provide to a school. I know that marketing ourselves might not seem to be an important job responsibility, but in these budgetary times... it is our MOST IMPORTANT TASK :) – Angie

When I went through training so many years ago....many many years ago or at least sometimes it seems that way, a professor told us not to take ownership of problems that weren't ours to own. That has been really good advice for times like when you have told another school professional for the umteempth time not to order the power hungry child because that just starts the power fight and yet on it goes. It just helps to be very clear about what you as a school psychologist can control and what you can't and just always give a situation your best. - Nancy Gregg 

Musings on Active Listening

Sometimes, you may be the only person your staff can turn to for personal support. Most of us have not been trained in adult therapy. Listen anyway. You can seek guidance if needed on referring out later on. - Colleen Allen

I have learned to take seriously my responsibility as a listener. In many cases students, staff and parents are seeking my advice but also have a genuine concern which needs to be expressed and heard. Additionally, we are all a team, including parents and need to work together to help students reach their maximum potential. You cannot change a student, but you can change an environment. I'm also a newbie and navigating the system is a challenge but I know I don't have to do it alone. - Sara Star 

My supervisor always reminds me to ask as many questions as possible and to remember that the teachers are human too! When they complain about a child it's not because they are bad people, it's because they are looking for someone to help them. Teachers really do care about their students despite what society tells us! -Dorice Moise  

… The most important and helpful key to survival for me is that I have learned to be an active listener. Instead of always contributing to the conversation, I have found that if we just let parents/teachers talk out their problems and concerns without interruptions, they can usually work out issues on their own. Sometimes, all our parents and teachers really want is someone to talk to to, someone to understand them, and someone there to provide support when they need it. Just showing that you genuinely care about what others have to say and understanding their perspective can make a world of difference when it comes to building quality relationships. – Dana Sharp

Musings on Relationships with Game Changers

My advice for a survival guide would be to remember that relationships with classified staff (secretaries, custodial staff, transportation, etc.) are just as important as relationships with certified staff. In some cases it is even more important because these staff members often literally hold the keys to the doors you need opened. - Kyle Carlin (the giveaway winner!!)

Relationships are key to creating systemic change. You can have all the policies, paperwork, and procedures in place and people won't change unless you first show trust and value in them as members of an important team. - Colleen Allen

...One of the biggest things that I learnt in my first year is the value of being within a TEAM!! Ask question after question to those in the field around you as we never stop LEARNING! Remember we are psychs but we work heavily with social workers, speech pathologists, Occupational therapists, paediatricians etc as they each have their own perspective on how they deal with a case so it is imperative we utilize our teams and other professionals to bring other perspectives in order to assist the child as best as possible!! :) - Sarah Maree 

Approach each child and adult with an open mind and an open heart. We are good about doing this for most children, but not always for the adults with whom we work. Some principals are having bad days. Some parents just lost their job. Other parents are so overwhelmed with their child's behavioral needs that they take it out on you. Then they apologize. I always thank them, because at least they are engaged enough to care. - Colleen Allen

I would say make positive relationships with everyone from parents, teachers, principals, secretaries, even janitors (they usually have the important keys!!) and also don't make assumptions about anyone or anything because there is usually a lot more to the situation, story, or circumstances you had no idea about in the first place! Oh and take time out to laugh... because if you get too caught up in the other stuff you might forget to smile from time to time. - Laura Pahls 

Find allies. It can be tough doing a job where you are usually the only one in the building. Find people who have your same vision and passion for children. They will fill your cup when it is getting low. - Colleen Allen

Musings on Interventions, Meetings, Testing, and Data

Every once in a while, as annoyed as you may be at the time (namely March-June when spring becomes a disabling condition), it IS helpful to test a kid who is NOT eligible. We tend to work mostly with low achieving or struggling kids (and in some locales, gifted) but we don't want to lose sight of what normal is. Everyone has something they're not good at. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has room for improvement. But that doesn't mean everyone is disabled. - Amy Cannava 

Avoid jargon and psycho-babble! I get really excited when I see a parent or teacher "take notes" while I'm presenting testing results because it means the information I'm giving them is helpful. - Kelly Backues 

Celebrate small victories. Change for adults and students does not happen overnight. I have seen the power of believing in positive growth. Those 9th grade boys labeled as "the number one behavior problem" in the school learn to change, even a little, by 10th grade. The teacher with poor classroom management generally learns some new approaches with the support of colleagues. Find at least one positive change made each day by your "toughest" student (or teacher). - Colleen Allen

Most of the time decisions are made harmoniously or a compromise is reached. Sometimes the answer is "no" - and I have learned to not take another's unpleasant reaction personally. - Cathy Gayda Tomes 

The relationship of the various subtest scores will reveal relative strengths. Explain to the parents, teachers and student how the student can use that particular (or those particular) strengths to improve performance in the area of greatest difficulty. Be creative! When creativity runs dry...look back through your PRIM manual to spark an idea. - Laura Kelley Gleichauf 

The one piece of advice that has helped me the most is "Let it go." I tend to ruminate on tough meetings, advocates' remarks, and other stressful aspects of the job. Learning to let go of the tougher aspects of the job have helped me to enjoy my job even more. – Megan C.

You'll always do better if you stop and think before you react to the "fires" people seek your assistance with. A calm well thought out reaction helps more than anything! Also, emphasize the positive!! - Jennifer Braden Kirkpatrick 

Musings on Making a Difference

Change does not occur overnight. Coming into a school district and creating effective change for students is a daunting task. When you are starting to feel like you are getting stuck, take a moment to reflect where things started. You will be surprised to realize how much has been accomplished-it just is a slow and gradual process! - Leigh Ann Weaver 

Persist - don't give up on the child, the teacher, the parent, the school or yourself. You can take things further, it might take years to make headway, the progress may not be what you expect... and then will take 2 steps back, but keep going. Come back and do it again, do it another way; persist. - Twin Beans 

Our work never ends and that can be overwhelming. My practicum supervisor once told me that we can never change the world in a day, but what is important is to spend every day trying to inspire those around us. This has definitely helped me to survive :) - Angela Mann 

Musings on Always Learning

Ask other colleagues when you are in doubt or need reassurance. Gather as much information as you can and then use common sense!! - Leigh Singleton Parmer 

…the one piece of advice that I have received and now share is to give yourself (new school psychologist) time and room to learn and grow. I've spent the first nine months of my job watching and listening, all the while I was treading water. ...I am already making plans of what I am going to do next year and how I am going to manage it. We often feel that after the many years of learning, training and preparation, we should drop into our new jobs and be able to function smoothly. Or at least I did. I've since learned this is not the case - it takes time to develop your own groove. For maybe the ONLY time in my working career, I am impatient for summer to come and go, because I am eager to start the new school year with all the great things that I've learned being on my own this year. – Mo

Steal! There are many, many gifted educators and clinicians in our field - don't reinvent the wheel but personalize the things others have created (always give credit, of course) and pass it on! - Amy Fortney Parks 

I'm still pretty new to the profession, but even if I wasn't, I have learned there will always be much more to learn, experience, and do. At first this was just overwhelming and at times made me feel incompetent even if I wasn't in others' views. I now try to look at it as Alzheimer's innoculation, constant opportunity to grow, never being bored, and a sign that I'm on the right track. I've also learned that I have to be willing to give others and myself a break-no one can be perfect and that should not be our goal… - Stephanie Strouse 

Something I've been learning for myself is just as we don’t expect our kiddos to get it perfect on their first try or every time we can have that same wiggle room for ourselves. Can't expect every behavior plan, intervention, meeting, etc to go on without a hitch. This has been especially important for my grad school learning curve and will help me in years to come :) - Erika Laura 

You absolutely cannot have all the answers. It's ok to say, "I'm not sure, let me look into that.” ...Melissa Roudis Potter 

Be confident. Finding the right balance of confidence (not arrogance) is crucial, especially in your first year. In order to be seen as a source of reliable information you need to approach situations confidently with both staff and parents. Of course this confidence should not be entered into blindly. If you don't know the answer to something, find someone who does. Always being prepared fosters the best type of confidence. - Tiffany Miller Powell

...the more a new professional/student learns about the profession and our best practices, the easier some of the large, seemingly daunting tasks will become. Right before starting internship and really getting out there to work, it can really feel overwhelming. It's common to feel unprepared, even if the graduate program you attended is well staffed and highly sought after. It's important for newbies to remember that the longer you work in the field, and develop your craft, the more refined and polished your professional skills will become. -Marcella Wright  

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

OMG, OMG, OMG... it's a giveaway!

A few months ago, Dr. Rebecca Branstetter of the stellar blog Notes from the School Psychologist approached me to read the manuscript for her new book, The School Psychologist's Survival Guide, and write a blurb for the promotional materials. She thought that as a recent entry to the field, I would bring the "newbie" psychologist views to the book.

Seriously? That's like Kobe Bryant asking some of my 7th grade kiddos if they would play a game of HORSE with him. After squealing to Fiance and doing various spastic dances around our townhouse, I graciously accepted. How flattering and humbling! I was overjoyed to be given the opportunity.

Today, I got a copy in the mail and when I opened it, I saw my name right there on the one of the first few pages, along with "praise" from other excellent professionals. No lie, Fiance and I literally shrieked and waved our hands like Stewie from Family Guy (seriously click this, it's a perfect representation).

Well, now's your chance to shriek and dance around because I am giving away a copy of The School Psychologist's Survival Guide to one lucky reader!

In order to be eligible to win this fantastic resource, comment either on my blog or on my Facebook page with the answer to the following question:

What is one piece of advice or knowledge you learned on the job that you would put into your own survival guide?

Entries will be accepted for one week until April 11, 2012 at 9:00pm EST. The winner will be chosen from all entries using a random number generator, and I will contact him/her to find out where to mail the book. I'm excited to share this resource with others!

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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Don't Laugh at Me

I recently evaluated a little kiddo who was a rather interesting case. Here's an excerpt of the email I sent to the receiving psychologist at the building that Y will be moving to:
Y is an interesting kiddo. He's a very caring, sweet young fella with impulse control issues. Although he's sensitive and very eager to please adults, he's kind of on another planet. He has a great rote understanding of expectations, but his social skills are really low. He doesn't understand how to engage peers appropriately, and because he's so impulsive, he might hit, poke, or become a nuisance because he doesn't know any better. He hit really high on measures of ADHD and Autism; it was hard for me to tease out which was more handicapping. 
I recommended a classification of Other Health Impaired due to the significant impulsive and inattentive behaviors, characteristic of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and made note in Y's file to monitor the symptoms of Autism, as a change in classification may be necessary as he gets older. We found placement for him in a 12:1+1 class.

I also included in my email to my psychologist friend a great kiddo story, which I shall share in long form with you now. Get ready!

Y came down last week after having a negative interaction with a peer. He sat down with Ms. B (my fantastic co-worker and co-facilitator of last year's social skills/anger management group) to talk the situation out, discuss choices that were made, and better choices for the future. Y explained that a peer had physically maligned him in some way (might've been a hit or kick, I don't remember), and Ms. B asked Y what he said when it happened. Y, in his rather precious impulsive robot stutter, began to sing:

Don't laugh at me.
Don't call me names.
Don't get your pleasure from my pain.

We blinked, smiled, hid chuckles and "awws" behind our hands (well, we didn't want to laugh at him, did we?). We were rather surprised and amused. You kind of had to be there, but it's now one of those things that we bring up out of the blue when everyone is silent and productive, causing the entire office gleeful merriment. 

Turns out, "Don't Laugh at Me" is a song by Peter, Paul, and Mary. Our music teacher from last year taught the younger grades the song during one of her folky guitar sing-a-long sessions. And, as we discovered in a post-lunch stroke of genius, it also turns out that I had a CD with a copy of the song on it, much to the amusement of my office mates. They did, indeed, laugh at me.

Early last year, I ordered a copy of the Don't Laugh at Me Program from Operation Respect. It's a great concept, with a VHS tape and CD of lessons and pro-respect music, as well as a paper lesson guide with good ideas for small groups. What the program lacks, personally, is application for the urban setting in which I work. Unfortunately, Peter, Paul, and Mary songs will not be relateable or effective for the majority of my little ones, and certainly not many people of any demographic over the age of 7. However, it would definitely be possible for me to pick and choose a few lessons if I wanted to use them in small groups. Plus, it's free, so go check it out!

What's that? You want to hear Y's sweet jam? How could I say no!

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