Letter to Cameron’s Teacher

19 08 2014

tgrandin

Nearly every year since Cameron started school, I’ve written a letter to the teacher about what to expect from him. This is the first year that Cameron is starting the year with an IEP though, so I thought this year’s letter should be a bit different. As a teacher, I totally understand that it may be overwhelming if every child’s parent decided to write me a letter like this, but as a parent, I want my child to be somewhat understood. To match the “theme” of the past few entries here, I’m really trying to focus on positives. One of Cameron’s heroes is Dr. Temple Grandin (if you don’t know who that is, you should Google her right now), a Ph.D. who has autism. My favorite quote from her is the one you see above, “There needs to be a lot more emphasis on what a child can do instead of what he cannot do.” So this year’s letter is focused on that. I’m posting it because I’m sure there are other parents who are looking for some way to try to help your student succeed from afar this school year- without too much help, without too much drama, with a bit of teacher flexibility. We’ll see how my new approach works. Feel free to copy and change what you need to!

Dear Teacher, 

While I know that this is a crazy time of the school year, I think it’s important that I get in touch with you about Cameron before he shows up on the first day. I am well aware that the special education teacher who is assigned as his case manager will let you know of the accommodations listed on his IEP, as well as his strengths and areas of struggle. What an IEP can’t tell you, however, is who Cameron really is.

I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out Cameron (Why does he argue with everything? Why is he so sensitive?), trying to make sure he receives the accommodations he deserves, and trying to help him fit in to a school day in which he struggles. This year, however, I am asking you to try to focus on what Cameron can do, which is a lot.

Cameron can read much better than his tests show. Yes, typically he reads better when it’s something that he is interested in, but I’m pretty sure all of us retain and comprehend better when we’re interested in something. Cameron loves to read and will spend hours reading and discussing his favorite books. He feels confident that he can read better than kids in the “highest” reading group, but he laughs it off and doesn’t really care that he’s in a lower group. When he reads, Cameron is incredible at learning facts; with some guidance and support, he is able to apply the facts in whatever way you are expecting.

Cameron is good at math- in his head. He may become overwhelmed by the number and/or size of math problems on a page because his handwriting prevents him from working out problems on paper, but he can do basic problems in his head more quickly than I can.

Cameron is a pleaser. He really does want to do well. He may become discouraged and frustrated easily, but with appropriate encouragement and trust in him, he will try his best to make you happy. He’s a rule-follower, and will take any job you assign him very seriously. He is a natural leader (perhaps “dictator” would be a more appropriate word), but does need to be reminded that he needs to worry about himself.

Cameron is an incredible self-advocate. He can tell you what he needs and how he needs it. While I don’t doubt he sometimes takes advantage of some of the accommodations we have in place for him, I feel like the fact that he struggles with things that others don’t warrants him a bit of understanding here. He needs breaks, he needs to move, he needs to be reminded to follow directions, and mostly he needs a teacher who understands this and who sees his capabilities.

My husband and I place high expectations on Cameron. However, I feel that many of his struggles are due to the fact that the way children are expected to learn isn’t necessarily how Cameron learns. With that said, I don’t expect special treatment of him, just accommodations for him so that he has a better chance of being a square peg trying to fit into a round hole.

My hope for this school year is that Cameron continues to self-advocate and that you will do your best to see his strengths before his struggles, and use those to help him learn as much as he can this school year.

If problems arise, do not hesitate to call or email my husband or me.

Thank you for your time. I appreciate you taking your precious time to read through this!

Sincerely,

Katina





Happy 10th Birthday!

5 08 2014

10th Cam

Guess who is turning 10 today? Cameron… He’s 10! What a long road it’s been so far, full of long days but really short years. For his 10th birthday, it feels appropriate to list the top ten things I love about him (in no particular order).

1. I love what an amazing reader he is. He’s a faster reader than I am and reads things I would have thought to be super dull when I was his age. When I was 10 it was all Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary. He’s all Abe Lincoln, JFK, Civil War, and Temple Grandin with a side of Roald Dahl and Harry Potter. Also, his ability to recall the information found in the books is something rarely seen in real life.

2. Cameron is so smart (probably from all of his reading) that he constantly puts us to shame with his knowledge of weird, random facts. He’ll tell you how Lincoln’s dad died a minute after he schools you on which spell does what in the third installment of Harry Potter. Now if we could just get him to apply the facts to real life situations!

3. Cameron is compassionate about things and people he loves. He is a loyal (albeit bossy) friend and an incredibly loving son. He’s compassionate about history, science, Tom Petty, and the Packers. When he loves, he does so with all of his heart and he doesn’t hold back.

4. While at times, it can be overwhelming, I love that Cameron is a sensitive soul. When he was a newborn, I worked with a lactation consultant and physical therapist to work on some of his sucking issues. In the end, we determined he had acid reflux and was also sensitive to dairy. The physical therapist said typically babies with milk issues grew into sensitive people. She was right. Cameron doesn’t like violence in movies or video games (but can tolerate factual violence when reading about wars—of course it’s not as graphic when it’s in his head instead of on a screen). He cries easily, hugs often, kisses on the lips, and attaches himself to people who show him love.

5. This one is a good one… Cameron is totally accepting of his NLD/SPD/ADHD, and is not afraid to talk about it. He is a great self-advocate and has learned what he needs to help him get through his days. I teach students with hearing loss and am constantly trying to make students understand that if they can talk about their needs and their hearing losses, other people will understand better. Cameron just gets this! Sometimes he gets it to a fault like the time a new kid moved into the neighborhood a few years ago and Cameron showed him is room, then casually mentioned the fact that he still wet the bed. That kid never came over again. So, we’re working on the filter, but proud that he’s so willing to talk about his stuff.

6. I love that, with advance warning, Cameron will almost always roll with whatever our crazy schedules bring our way. He’ll try waterskiing without an issue, he’ll go to new restaurants, visit new places, and stay in new environments. He doesn’t care, as long as we’re there with him. For a kiddo with some pretty rigid thoughts, he’s able to go with the flow better than expected.

7. Cameron’s sophisticated taste in foods is something I adore. He loves blue cheese, jalapenos, goat cheese, hot sauce, black olives, egg rolls, and I’m pretty sure he’d like sushi but I keep offering and he’s not quite there with me yet. That’ll happen soon, though.

8. Thank goodness Cameron has a good sense of humor. If he didn’t, I’m certain that someone would have called Child Protective Services on me by now. I tell him I’m going to “cut” him if he doesn’t stop fighting with his sister sometimes. I recently told him that I should probably not say that, since it’s totally inappropriate. His reply was, “I think it’s funny.” Whew! You may be currently judging me about that, but he doesn’t!

9. When Cameron is away from home, his manners are impeccable. People are constantly telling us how polite he is.

10. Lastly, I love that Cameron is an old man in a 10-year old body. He’d be perfectly happy listening to his favorite music (which includes Tom Petty, the Beatles, Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, Dave Matthews, or Imagine Dragons) or reading a book outside with the dog at his feet. He enjoys identifying birds in the backyard and watching nature shows on TV. Before we know it, he’ll be talking about the weather and how he knows it’s going to rain because his knee is acting up again and how at least he’ll catch the 7:00 news after his 4:00 dinner at Denny’s.

I’m lucky to say that I get to be Cameron’s mom! I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years bring. Happy Birthday, Cameron! xo

SensoryBlogHop








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