Thursday afternoon, the phone rings. “Hello, this Holly,” I answer. “Hi, Mrs. Thomspon, it’s Mrs. C, the assistant principal. Anna has had another really rough day and we are required to report to you what has happened.” My stomach sinks, and I feel deflated.
Again in math resource, a meltdown. It started with Anna tapping some blocks on a table. It was disrupting the small group. The teacher attempts to redirect reminding Anna that the manipulatives are used as a tool not a toy. She continued to tap the blocks then started banging them. The teacher warns Anna, then she just escalates. The teacher had to removed the children from the room (again), call for help (again), and by the time Mrs. C got there, she had… and I quote… “destroyed the room.”
I exploded. “Destroyed the room? That is very strong language. What exactly do you mean by destroyed the room?” I could feel my pulse beating in my throat. Well, she backpedaled, no property was permanently damaged. But any item within her reach was thrown. She had even upended a table and chairs. I was horrified. First that my usually sweet little girl was this enraged and second that the teacher had been unable to prevent this level of destruction and rage. I felt like saying, “WTF???”
I got angry. I admit it, I was mad and embarrassed and wanting to blame someone. So I first got angry with the teacher. Maybe she wasn’t recognizing Anna’s triggers and intervening in time. Historically, this particular class and this particular teacher have been a problem for Anna. She has a behavior chart that follows her around throughout the day; she can earn up to 3 apples per subject and if she gets 20 or more apples at the end of the day, she gets to choose a prize from the prize box. Looking over this chart for the year, you can see that Anna has good days, earning 3 apples in all subjects except math. So it makes you wonder.
As I continued to talk with Mrs. C, I also mentioned that at Anna’s ARD last month, math was the only subject where Anna did not make any signficant progress. This is definitely an academic area that is extremely challenging for her. That got me thinking… maybe it’s the subject, not the teacher. Maybe it wouldn’t matter who was teaching math to Anna, she would struggle with it. If something is difficult to grasp, it would be hard to stay motivated to perform in that subject.
Feeling a little chagrined, I mentioned this thought to Mrs. C. I offered to come observe Anna in math to see if I could spot anything that could be done differently. But Mrs. C pointed out that all week last week, Anna struggled in all areas, not just math… math was just the tipping point. We did see similar behavior at home. She would get fixated on wanting something unreasonable, we’d say no, she’s get angry calling us stupid, throwing things, being completely oppositional. She refused to listen, go to timeout, do anything we asked, etc. She even hit me on Friday. She is in crisis. She is crying for help.
I called the endo’s office Thursday after getting off the phone with the school. I finally got a few answers about Anna’s blood work but no real answers. Her TSH is elevated, her prolactin is elevated. Her abdominal ultrasound showed her to be in pre-puberty. They want to repeat some labs next week then we see the endo on 4/13. I don’t think her hormones and body chemistry could be causing these major behavioral incidents. We talked briefly about the Risperdal… should her dose go up? Is she overmedicated with the combination of that and the Lexapro? Is she actually bipolar like we’ve been wondering since she was 3? Have these been bipolar mood swings and rapid cycling? In the car on the way home from school, Anna was raging at me because she wanted to see a girl in her class. I had to pull over and put her in the back row of the van because she was throwing things at me while I was driving and kicking the back of my seat hard enough to make me jerk. I stayed totally calm and dispassionate while I moved her. I ignored her. Within 10 minutes, she was back and normal. ???
(I have to also mention that Thursday’s folder brought TWO notes home for Dominic for bad behavior, both requiring student and parent signature to review expectations. Sigh.)
Then after those two phone calls, the math teacher calls. She is lovely. Concerned, appropriately worried, and wanting our input. The usual strategies are not working to help Anna. (Yeah, we can relate… we’re experiencing that at home as well.) I feel guilty for blaming her. It’s hard to trust that the teachers will like Anna when she is being so hard to like. I want to protect her. I also feel embarrassed by her behavior and feel it’s a reflection of my parenting. I want to explain away her behavior, to have it make sense. But I also want to hold her accountable. In the end, it doesn’t matter what is causing this acting out… it is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.
This weekend, Curtis and I talked a lot about Anna. Is she being bratty and can control her escalating behaviors? Is she out of control? How do we hold her accountable? We kept with consistency… she lost privileges, she went to timeout, we praised good behavior, etc. It is so hard sometimes, especially when we don’t know what is causing these dramatic mood swings. Everyone on Anna’s team at school is worried. Sometimes these shifts precede a seizure or cluster of seizures. Is she neurologically off? Is it medication related? Is it bipolar? Is it hormones? Frustration? Should she see a psychiatrist? Is it that Anna and I moved back in a month ago and she is having a hard time with that? A combination of these? WHAT???
There are no answers. No one knows. No one knows what she has or how to best to treat her. We just deal with each symptom that is screaming for priority at the moment. I hope we are doing right by her.