Teaching Kids According to Their Needs

With a new season of life, I am ready to get back to where I left off a couple years ago. I had only just begun the blogging and TPT adventure when my mom and family needed any extra time I could give. I value the time spent with them and have grown as a teacher, wife, and mother. Even though the last couple of years have pulled me away from sharing my teaching ideas and passion, I have been researching, collecting, creating, implementing, and taking pictures from lessons I have used in my 2nd grade classroom. For my first post back, I want to share what I have learned the most from my son who has Auditory Processing Disorder or APD.
Today he is an amazing 14 year old standing at 6'1". he is a straight A, Honor and Superintendent Roll Student. He is a competitive football, wrestling, and baseball athlete that was awarded Coaches Award and Team Leader. He is compassionate and a gentle giant that respects authority and stands up for those in need, "His Peeps" as he call them. This was not always how his teachers or classmates would describe him. 

In preschool and Kindergarten he looked like a typical boy, played hard and did not want to sit very long to listen to a lesson. He was a little more aggressive on the playground and did not have a lot of control of his larger than average body. He was 10lb 4oz when he was born and he never dropped out of the 99% tile on the growth chart. Yet, he was a lovable sweet teddy bear that always looked out for the underdog and helped anyone he could. He loved school, and his teacher said he asked a lot of questions and was often off task. In first grade he continued to have more trouble on the playground, still asked a lot of questions, and never listened the first time. He was now getting a reputation as defiant and a "difficult Student". Teaching at the same school that he attended, I met with his teacher often and we tried multiple strategies to keep him on task and play nicely with his friends.

By second grade he was having trouble reading and frustration with his learning was evident. He scored high in math and spelling but reading, especially his comprehension was below grade level. He continue to struggle on the playground and he was becoming physically aggressive. His teacher that year, a good friend of mine poured into him. She made sure he understood what was being asked of him and was cautious of changing her routine during the day. In the classroom, he was making progress. But, his interactions with friends away from adult supervision and monitoring was getting worse. I really started researching Learning Disabilities and the associated indicators. ADD was emerging in many searches, but APD also sounded like it could be what my boy was struggling with. ADD is an easy diagnosis but I did not know much about APD. One thing that we knew is that he was not as much defiant when asked to do something as he was delayed. About a 20 sec. delay before he would began a task. Most of the time he would only do half of what was asked, forgetting a lot of the details.

In third grade his aggression continued and so did his frustrations in reading. His teacher was another good friend of mine and she spent a lot of time helping him through social issues. He flourished in math, but assignments were piling up and he just could not get his work completed on time. He needed to check for understanding continually and started to rely on his classmates to see what task he was supposed to be on. By the end of third grade he was diagnosed as ADD and Anxiety. I use the word diagnosed lightly, his teacher answered a questionnaire, we the parents answered questions, and then medication was prescribed. 

We began medication in 4th grade. We thought we would see a new child, unfortunately we saw the opposite. He had a new teacher that year. She was a kind, sweet, young teacher. She had a difficult class and her new teacher patience had not yet reached a level that was needed for this class or my son.  This is when I knew I needed to be an advocate for my son and learn how to Teach Him According to His Needs. I tried new strategies, I researched, I suggested teaching techniques that would fit his learning style. We were closing the gap between his processing time. The time from when he heard something to the time he reacted. But, it wasn't enough. The steroids were causing him to gain weight and we needed to increase the dosage. 

By the end of 5th grade he had gained 40lbs and been suspended multiple times. He was aggressive on the playground and did not do well when there was a substitute or a change in his routine. His peers teased him and egged him on when he was frustrated. He became the kid that nobody chose to be on his team. Instead of learning to deal with anger and his frustrations while on the medication, he became more irritable and he often broke down emotionally. Sports were no longer fun and he could not participate in anything that required him to infer a situation and respond accordingly. He was asked not to return to the school for his 6th grade year.

As any good mom would do, I took him off medication cold turkey. Oops, don't do that! We looked at this change as a new start. We realized very shortly that the combination of medications were working against each other and making him aggressive! So I researched again and planned out a life change that would hopefully bring my sweet lovable boy backed to us. We cut out all Red Dye 40, limited his sugar intake, planned sensory activities that would allow his body to release tension safely, and created organizational strategies that would help him be successful in school. 

Many times during his elementary years he asked why God has given him such struggles and obstacles to overcome. I said, "To make Momma a better teacher!" In future post, I will be adding strategies, pictures, and information that I have used to reach students in my own classroom. I have been blessed with many students with similar learning struggles and have grown as a teacher because of each one of them. I am passionate about Teaching Students According to Their Needs and adjusting  my teaching not making them adjust to my class!

I am looking forward to starting this new season of life, using my experiences to make me a better teacher, and to share what I have learned!