Thursday, June 5, 2014

School Year Winding Down, Emphasis on Down

Our son’s fourth-grade school year is rapidly coming to an end, and with the usual end-of-year changes, along with modifications to his medication, things are not ending on a high note.

Kai’s elementary school goes from kindergarten through fifth grade. Ever since Kai has been attending, there has always been just one fifth-grade class, always with the same teacher, Ms. S. When Kai was in second grade, he went to Ms. S’s class for math, and ever since then he expected that he would be returning to her class when he was a fifth grader. (Since then, he has been taught math individually as no one else in his school has been at his level).

We recently learned that next year there will be two fifth-grade classrooms for the first time due to the larger number of kids at that level. The “other” fifth grade classroom will be taught by Ms. L. who has taught third and fourth graders previously. Kai will be in Ms. L’s classroom.

From what I can tell, Ms. L will be a fine teacher for Kai, but he was very disappointed when he heard the surprising news that he would not be in Ms. S’s class. Kai perceives Ms. L to be the teacher of younger children, and he thought it reflected poorly on him that he was chosen for this classroom. He also was upset that most of his close friends will be in the other fifth grade class. All that is on top of the fact that moving to a new class is a bit anxious for any child, and that Kai, like many kids with autism, does not take surprises well.

Yesterday he visited his new classroom for the first time. It did not go well.

We were told that Kai was very disrespectful to some of his new classmates and the teacher. It is distressing to hear that he reacted that way, and we will have to find a way to curb that type of behavior.

Aside from the stress of transitioning to a new teacher and class, this time of year is also difficult because the regular schedule is disrupted for special activities. Among them are practice sessions for an upcoming talent show (more on that in another post), as well as practices for a group performance at the end-of-year recognition ceremony.

We also recently consulted with Kai’s psychiatrist about altering his medication. He had an okay school year, but we thought it would be good to tweak his medication and see how things changed.

We cut back on one of his meds that treats ADHD and it appeared that Kai got more distracted. It was hard to get him to focus on his homework, especially. His school reported increased silliness and less concentration on schoolwork. So, we have gone back to his original dosage.

We also eliminated the small dose of risperidone that had been taking to help control his anger. We were troubled by its side effects, including weight gain and longer-term health risks. During the first couple weeks after we eliminated this drug, we noticed no difference in his anger. But now that he is having more stressful times at school, Kai’s irritability and anger is noticeably higher.

Yesterday, my wife had to go to school to bring a new shirt for Kai after he chewed up the one he was wearing. This had once been a common occurrence, but we thought we had seen the last of it after many months of no incidents like this.

And so, we will have to consider putting Kai back on the risperidone, or finding an alternative drug to try. We had hoped that Kai’s improvements were the result of therapy and maturity, but apparently the drugs were at least partly responsible as well.

School year is winding down. We need to get our boy back up on the right path.


  1. Yuji- times of transition can seem like crises. You can start to wonder if everything is heading downhill. But the end of the school year is HUGE. In our household all sorts of things are rearing up - and I have one going to MIDDLE SCHOOL - aaaaargh. Of course when action needs to be taken, it needs to be taken...But from your post it seems like so much of what's happening is simply transition-related, as challenging as it all can be!! And clearly your Kai is amazing and FULL of life...

    1. I am hoping that you are right, that things will settle down after all of these transition-related stresses end. We are now just a year away from the transition to middle school so I can definitely relate to your "aaaaargh!" Ha! Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments!

  2. I hope everything works out well. I wish I could say more...but I have very little experience with what you are going through now.

    One quick note: I cannot comment on the next article. Everything disappears when I try to publish the comment.

    1. Thanks, Shiroi.

      Not sure why the other post can't accept comments. Strange as I don't think I did anything differently when I posted.


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