Holding It Together For School Field Trips

by Deborah
(Calgary, Canada)

After much testing with a OT and seeing a psychologist, I was told that my son has SPD ... well I guess not entirely.

In Canada it is not yet recognized so all they can really say is there are sensory processing problems.

He just started grade four, his new teacher believes in promoting the positive. Even after submitting reports, providing a book as reference for the school they have not really read anything. They have made their own decisions that his impulsive behavior and all the other issues are really due to him, and his unwillingness to make the 'right' choices.

Only into the third week in school they are spending a week doing studies at a zoo. After knowing how places like that affect him I knew that there would be problems, however, I want him to be a part of the class.

After only one day the school phoned to say they didn't think he should be attending as it was too much stimulation for him. I insisted that he should and gave suggestions. I was informed by the teacher on mid day of day two that she feels after 'her' chat with him, he has made the 'choice' to do what he is asked and walk 'at all times', and sit and observe animals for over a hour at a time and be respectful as the rest of the children are.

Being so new to this I am frustrated and at a loss for my son. I know I have to fight for him but his attitude is he just doesn't care about anything anymore.

Any suggestions are welcome as I know that there will be more field trips in future.

"Canada has no national special education law. It's per providence. Another Canadian parent told me that she too was offered no support for her child with SPD.

The only recommendation I can give is that she find a good special education advocate or attorney in Canada who can guide her better. If it were the US, the school would already be breaking the Child Find laws... sigh...

I think mom probably needs to get a really good advocate on this one."

OK, so that being said, I want to comment further. I am wondering, since it took me a week to answer this (sorry), has your son indeed been on any more field trips? Was he "able" to hold it together and do what he was "supposed" to do after the chat with the teacher?

If he was, then ok we have a temporary solution with this teacher. If he wasn't, it wouldn't surprise me. Either way,

I am concerned. SPD is not a behavioral problem, it is neurological problem, as you know. And, traditional discipline methods don't work for our kids... a talk may help, but that may just be fear that is helping him hold it together. The underlying problem will still be there... the SPD! If he CAN hold it together during the times she needs him to, he may fall apart at other times, like when he comes home!?

There are indeed strategies, as you said, that can help. One of the most "simple" ones may be a weighted vest or clothes under his normal clothes that give him some good proprioceptive feedback (such as lycra or spandex shirts/shorts, etc.) I wonder if your OT has suggested using weighted items during these trips? Have you tried anything like this at other times? Did it help?

Also, making sure your son has a good sensory diet both at home and school that he is following consistently every day will help. Does he? Is he doing it? Consistently?

He can also use intense flavors and chewing/sucking to help him stay organized and focused during the trips. Will the teacher allow him to have some sour gum or hard candies to suck on? Does your son have an IEP? Do they have them in Canada? Can he get one? Where do things stand with any official accommodations that he should have?

Is your son in OT right now for the SPD? Is it through the school or privately? In a clinic or hospital? What has the OT suggested? How often is he seen? Is it helping? What kinds of treatment activities are they doing? If he isn't in OT, he needs to be for sure! Can you tell me more about his treatment?

If you can give me further information that may help answer this better. I look forward to more information from you.

Does anyone else have any ideas? Suggestions for Mom? Anyone from Canada that knows the special education laws?

I hope this gets us started with some problem solving with you. You can reply with additional information via commments section below.

Until then, keep communicating with the teacher, offering information about SPD and specifically how it affects your son. Specifics on strategies that DO work for him. If she believes in promoting the positive, as you say, she should be willing to make those accommodations so things do indeed stay positive. We can't force her to take extra time to understand your son and his specific difficulties, but keep talking with her about it until she does or you hit a massive brick wall.

Be gentle, but firm!

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