Mama Gone Green is a blog dedicated to raising happy children and reducing our impact on the Earth. My name is Taryn and I am the mother of 2 young kids and an environmental studies instructor at a community college in Portland, Oregon. Please join me as I journey through life as a mama, teacher, knitter, photographer, gardener, and environmentalist!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

My Finn

Finn. My sweet little guy. He is so smart, artistic, funny and so great at sharing. He is a great friend and a wonderful big brother. He loves Legos and is addicted to Star Wars. He gets excited when I sew him clothes.
Finn. My intense and sensitive little man. He has so much trouble with transitions and so much anxiety over everyday events. Change is hard. Controlling his emotions is even harder. Needless to say his transition into preschool has been pretty rough. I posted about our first day of school here
Since that first day, Finn has made leaps and bounds, and truly I am very proud of him. He has made a bunch of new friends and I see his face light up each morning when he sees them (the saving grace letting me know that we are hopefully making the right decision by keeping him in this school program). He went from crying each morning when we dropped him off to giving us a high 5 and no more crying. He went from refusing to lay down at nap time to laying on his mat, no tantrums. He went from refusing to join in group activities to partaking in almost everything. I hear him singing songs, in Japanese, as he plays in the garden or picks up his toys. He tells stories about his new friends and his teachers and shares events from his day. And all in just over 3 weeks.
What have we done?
  • We have spent a lot of time looking at and talking about his schedule at school. When he knows what to expect when, it makes him less anxious. 
  • We have made a morning board for his at-home routine as well (see photo below) that includes eating, getting dressed, brushing teeth and using the potty. Without this board, we have trouble keeping him focused on what he needs to do. We have noticed if the morning goes smoothly, the transition to school goes smoothly as well. Routine is our savior.
  • The teachers have allowed us to go into the classroom with him 10 minutes early to get him settled in before the other children arrive.
  • We have been inundating him with Japanese movies, books and stories, getting him excited about school.
  • I have been going to the Japanese small group with him 2 times a week (the activity that he has not done yet on his own).
  • Lastly, and probably most importantly, we have been bribing rewarding him with small prizes, trips to the arcade, or I-Pad time for positive changes.
But, we still have a really long way to go. Finn still won't go to Japanese small group without me there, and the only thing we can figure out is that he is having trouble adjusting to the Japanese teacher. She is about 4 feet tall and 80 pounds and totally loveable, so when he shies away from her, it makes my heart cringe.
But our biggest struggle currently is that Finn refuses to use the toilet at school unless Todd or I are standing outside the door. We have him use it each day at drop off and pick up, but he still refuses to go when we are not there. Last week Finn had a few accidents at school (I am not sure how he has been holding it for 6+ hours all of the other days!). Embarrassing, yes. Uncomfortable, yes. But to make it worse, each day he threw a tantrum, refused to let the teacher change him, and demanded for me to come and pick him up so that I could change him.
All of the hullabaloo apparently drew the attention of the principal. She decided that Finn was using too many of the school's resources and that she wanted him removed from the program (!).  And I went into mama-bear mode.
For awhile now, I have had an intuition that something was different about Finn.  And even though he is social, is smart, and is highly verbal, he just isn't quite like other kids his age. Whenever I brought this up, Todd acted like I was a bit crazy, but over the summer, I decided to go with my gut and get Finn evaluated by Early Intervention (a free program that is part of the public school system). The initial evaluations came back inconclusive, and the program said they were puzzled by him. He didn't immediately fit into any of the qualifying categories for special ed. services, so they wanted to do an in-class observation. However, thinking more about it, Todd and I decided that, at that time, we didn't want him "labeled" as anything and we didn't want them to find something wrong with him just so that he could qualify for services.  We decide to take matters into out own hand and search for some private therapists.
However, as Finn started school, had a rough transition, and refused to use the school bathroom (although he will happily pee outside at recess if given the chance, go figure!), we started to feel more pressure to get this issue resolved. And then, of course, once we heard word that the principal was trying her best to remove Finn from her school, we decided we needed to act immediately.
We contacted Early Intervention again, and learned that if Finn was accepted into the program, the school would legally not be allowed to kick him out. The principal, who apparently had taken a serious dislike of Finn, didn't even want to allow a school observation to happen. So, the evaluators were able to meet with us outside of school, and were able to fast-track Finn into the program for having 'developmental delays'.
Developmental delays. Seems so funny to label my child, my smiling almost 5 year old who is starting to read, with developmental delays. But his delays are social and emotional: not using strange bathrooms, having trouble with transitions, dealing with his emotions properly.
But, he is officially accepted. The school legally can't kick him out. So, we feel like we have won some sort of a battle, even though we are just starting a new journey in discovering who our child is and how to help him fit into the system.
All of this has made me question everything we are doing. Maybe I should home school Finn and we should forget the system. Maybe he should go to a Waldorf school, at least for a few years, so that he can mature at his own pace. Maybe we should wait a year and try a new public kindergarten next fall. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Todd and I decided to talk with Finn and see what he wanted, to see what he felt was right for him. And, he said that without a doubt, he wanted to stay at his school.
I would like to point out that his teachers have bean amazing, and have supported us and Finn throughout all of his slow transitions. And, even though the principal is obviously a (insert bad word here), the teachers who he spends his days with are kind, patient, and creative. He has made friends who he loves. And the school, if he can adjust to the social confines, is an excellent school, one where he will get a good education, become bilingual, and be immersed in another culture.
I still don't know if we are making the right decision, but for now, we are going with it. We are going to take whatever resources we can find and see if we can help Finn to jump these hurdles. And if not, we will reassess. Maybe Waldorf would be more conducive to his personality. Maybe homeschooling would be less pressure (and less money). All of these are still options on the table, but we are taking things one step at a time, and seeing where we end up.

So, these past couple of weeks have been intense, to say the least. I have been more stressed than I have ever been in my entire life. Finn has come a long way and has really made me proud for working through this big transition. But I know that there is still a lot of work to do. We have appointments with a private psychologist. We will be having meetings with Early Intervention to address his bathroom and transition issues. And Todd, Finn's teachers and I are still trying new strategies to see if we can come up with any solutions. This week I am making a book about using the school bathroom with real photos of the potty at his school. I am also having him try to just go into the bathroom on his own this week. Not to pee, just to go in. Get in the door. Baby steps. And in the meantime, either Todd or I go to his school every day at 11 (the halfway point) to stand in the classroom while he uses the potty.

I know we are embarking on a journey. One that will answer many questions but bring many more to the surface. I have no idea where we are heading, or what path we will take. But, I am happy that we are moving forward. And I can only hope that our final destination is success for Finn.

Do any of you have kids that don't transition well? Any kids that have issues with toileting outside the home? We are open to any advice we can find! Pin It Now!


  1. You are such an amazing mama, and Finn an amazing boy! Keep breathing. You will get through this.

  2. You are your son's advocate so you do what you have to do. You can always change your mind or revisit decisions. Hang in there and keep doing what you are doing.

  3. As I mentioned in the comment to your first day of school post, we've got an anxious little guy as well. We took him to a developmental-behavioral pediatrician in Boston where he was diagnosed with mild Tourettes and anxiety. I felt that having a label was a relief - now that we had a name for it, we can find the tools to help him. Although he has no issues with academics, he is socially-challenged and has an IEP.

    You're not alone! Please contact me if you need someone to bounce ideas off of!

  4. Hang in there mama. I wish I had some advice for you, you are working on what seems to work for us which is routine. We find if things are consistent in the daily routine our days are much smoother for all of us.