School-related anxiety was making both Natalie and me sick - literally. Until a meeting with her pro-active special ed teacher proved that ADHD guardian angels do exist.
by Kay Marner
Last Friday morning, I met with my daughter’s special education teacher to discuss Natalie's recent attempts to avoid school by claiming sickness. I believe her illness is really school-related anxiety, a side-effect of her attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
I entered the meeting with Mrs. McCasland incredibly worried -- and left feeling like I’d been over-reacting. It felt suspiciously like I'd just had a therapy appointment for myself, rather than a meeting about my child. Ever since, I've felt soooo much better. (Remind me why I’d wanted to pull Natalie out and homeschool her?)
The meeting also reminded me just how reactive I am to Natalie’s moods and anxieties. My state of mind is often a direct reflection – consciously or otherwise -- of what’s going on with her.
For example, I asked if anything has changed at school, anything that could be making Nat anxious. It turns out Mrs. McCasland talked to the group — just once — about challenging themselves more, and spending more time in their general-ed classrooms, to prepare for the transition to middle school next year.
I have no idea if Natalie is reacting to that. But as we started talking through a plan to help Natalie with the transition, I realized how much I’m worrying about it, and how much better devising a middle-school transition plan made me feel.
We’ll be there when Natalie visits the school and meets her teacher, both before school ends this year and before it starts back up in the fall. Mrs. McCasland has already talked to the district’s director of special ed about what Natalie will need in order to make the transition (and she’s spot on). I feel so relieved knowing that.
I’ve also been worried about Natalie’s social interactions at school, and want to do something proactive to help her. Mrs. McCasland to the rescue, again.
She wrote a grant for starting an after-school program, and just found out that the grant was approved. She’s going to start a group on Tuesdays and Fridays after school for kids to learn sewing and scrap-booking. The primary goals are academic (they’ll practice measuring, for example) but it will also be a chance to work on social skills. I couldn’t ask for a safer social skills environment for Natalie.
In addition to promising to make a transition plan and starting an after-school group, Mrs. McCasland suggested we meet for just 10 minutes, once a week, just before school starts — Mrs. McCasland, Natalie's general-ed teacher Ms. Trautmann, me, and Natalie. We’ll heap praise on Natalie for everything she’s doing well to keep her on a positive track, and I’ll get an update on what’s happening.
I suspect Mrs. McCasland is scheduling these therapy appointments, er, meetings, more for my benefit than for Natalie’s. But since Natalie’s moods are my anxiety-barometer, I predict both of us are going to feel better.