The IEP was finally held for the student whose grandmother is concerned about the fact that he likes “girly” things…Despite my previous distaste for her clear sexism, I warmed up to her a tad at the IEP meeting. I know plenty of people have the ability to dismiss all immigrants to this country (for whatever reasons they think are valid), but when you have a woman speaking to you through a translator about how much better the education system is here, and thanking you for supporting her grandson – while his mother continues dabbling in the drug trade in Mexico – it is hard not to feel at least a little empathy. The child we were meeting for was born very prematurely, is developmentally delayed, and is being evaluated for other medical issues (because someone finally convinced the grandmother that a physical evaluation and medical care was worth the risk of deportation). The grandmother told us through tears how grateful she is that he even is allowed in school – in Mexico, she explained, the child’s older brother was expelled for epilepsy.

The heaviness of the meeting was interrupted by an unexpected fire alarm. While standing around waiting to be allowed back into the building, I asked our speech therapist if she knew why one of our students wasn’t coming to speech therapy, thereby preventing me from ever completing an assessment on him. The speech therapist explained, “His mom said she has very bad gas and has been on bed rest for it.” I’m not sure how she managed to relay that information to me with a straight face, but the mother is not pregnant, and truly has not brought her child to speech therapy because of rumored gas issues. Awesome. 


So. Much. Writing

I typically have 10 or less IEPs in progress at a time, meaning I have received notice I need to do a health assessment on a student but either have not done the assessment, or finished my report, or tied up any loose ends.

For the last two weeks I have been holding steady at 25-28 open IEPs…AGHH!!! I got slammed with requests and just haven’t been able to finish them up completely. Why? Examples:
  • Turns out one of the kids has seizures but has never had a health care plan written for him, so I need to do that and then get it signed by the parent...Which should have actually been done several years ago when he joined the district. Oops. This is what happens when caseloads are too large. 
  • A significant fraction are due to parents not turning in the required form on their student’s health history that I need
  • A student needs glasses according to her grandmother, but passed my acuity tests without them, and continually leaves them at home “on the counter” so I can’t complete my assessment.
  • A small fraction are preschool students, which involve getting in touch with their parents. No easy task when I have access to a private phone line about 1.5 days per week.
  • One of them is a 4th grader whose teacher brought him to the office because his left upper lip appears paralyzed in speech. He couldn’t cross his midline easily either: ask him to touch his right hand to left ear, no problem; left hand to right ear was slooooooow. A call to dad via the translator prompted an immediate doctor’s visit. His parents had also noticed “slowed speech” recently in this student. No word from what transpired at the doctor’s yet (and parents do claim they took him), but when I called him into my office the following week, he had zero difficulty crossing his midline. He told the translator his dad had helped him practice the movement….Huh? Suggestions, anyone? Needless to say…still an open case.  


Disaster averted

The short version: A parent packed a PB&J for his kid that is allergic to peanuts and has an Epipen. I kid you not.

The long version: The secretary came in a huff to my office today to tell me that a student that we have an Epipen and care plan for had a PB&J in his lunch. He’s in the special day class and had an IA watching over him, who noticed the odd sandwich and called the office. I was given the suspect sandwich and brought the student back to my office. I could not imagine it was actually peanut butter, so I figured it was one of the alternative peanut-free butters they have on the market now. Still, it smelled like peanut butter…looked like peanut butter…After a couple of tries to his parent’s cell phone, dad picked up. I explained the situation, saying, “I’m sure it’s not, but have to double check just to be sure…”
“Yes it’s peanut butter,” he said matter-of-factly, as if to say, what’s the big deal?
“Well, he’s allergic to peanuts, according to his emergency card, and we have an Epipen for him, so I’m not going to let him have the sandwich.”
“Oh…hmm. I thought he’d had peanuts recently…I’ll have to talk to his mother.” 
Okay. I do not care if you hate your child’s other parent, you at least have to work together enough to keep the kid alive. I bit my tongue, “Well, it’s possible that he grew out of it, but I’m not going to give him the sandwich. I’ll find him something else in the cafeteria.” I didn't feel like rolling the dice on this one. 

The saddest part about this is that this kid did not understand why his dad would pack him a sandwich he could not eat. Cheers to his IA for looking out for him. 


Pink Legos

(That's Lego bricks to you, if you're outside North America. We say Legos, you say Lego bricks.) 

I was helping with vision screening in a new school, and I’m not sure what I did differently that morning, but I had more than a few of the elementary student girls say to me, “You’re pretty.” It was a nice compliment, but now that I have a daughter of my own, I think about these things more...Why is a second grader so concerned with how I look?… Which brings me to the topic of pink Legos.

Pink Legos are not the kind of thing that I pictured myself taking issue with before I had my daughter. But when she received a Christmas package containing pink Legos, I felt it was my motherly duty to intercept and exchange them for the “regular” kind. For those that don’t know, Legos apparently come in two different kinds now – the mostly green/red/blue/yellow set you’re used to, and a pink set marketed for girls with pink/purple blocks. First I thought I time-traveled back to the 1950’s, but no, pink Legos are a thing because, you know, girls need separate building toys. What?! I can sort of understand it when, say, a 7 year old whose favorite color is pink picks out the pink Lego set. Cool, she’s building stuff. But to give only pink things to a 1 year old just because she is a girl, I can’t stomach it, and would rather risk offending a gift giver than suggest to my daughter that she can only have pink things because she’s a girl. (She’s a girl whose favorite color happens to be blue right now, by the way: blue socks, blue pants, blue blankets.)

The toy I found more offensive than Pink Legos though, was given to her for her first birthday: a Fisher Price mirror set with makeup brushes. Because that is what a 12 month old needs, right? WRONG. I won’t even link the toy here because I am grossed out by the positive reviews on it.

A couple of link-worthy articles on the subject:

Target has its problems, but even they are inching toward neutrality, by fixing their toy aisles and making some pretty cool kid bedding. (Kid bedding. Not boy bedding or girl bedding.)

My daughter turns 2 (TWO!) next week, and if there’s one thing I want to do for her, it’s to teach her she’s more than just a pretty face. 



I don’t generally go to IEP meetings because I’m not relevant to most and feel like I have better things to do with my time. In the last few weeks, though, here’s a smattering of some I’ve had the privilege of attending:
-          For a student who has absence seizures who frequently does not take her medication. Is she having seizures all day long at school, then? Perhaps. Do we think that may be impacting her learning? Um…yes. Mother of this child, do you understand you are the parent and are in charge of whether or not she takes her medication? Apparently not.
-          For a student whose grandma has turned in doctor’s notes for 35+ days of absences this year (in addition to the multiple funerals and other days she’s been excused from). Guess what, granny? I spoke to the doctor himself, and he says she needs to be in school. Hey doc, can you stop writing notes for this kid when she’s not actually sick? Oh…well, it’s my medical assistant writing them. Turned out the student qualified for a more restrictive environment/special education class, and would clearly benefit from that, but Granny is going to let the kid decide. Granny, her IQ is in the 50’s and you’re the legal guardian. YOU decide what’s best for your child, you don’t let a 7 year old make a decision like this about her education.
-          For a student who I heard was a picky eater. When I asked the student himself about his eating habits, he said, “I eat only carbs, mostly sugar.” I asked him what was in his lunch for the day and heard, “Fruit Loops and cookies.” I called his mom to discuss my report with her – and his incredible anxiety during my low-key vision/hearing screenings and got caught on the phone for a 45 minute call with mom in tears at one point telling me her many, many worries. This would be an example of ATS: apple tree syndrome. Didn’t fall far here. The good news: the kid eats like crap, but at least the parents care. (The entire family is in therapy.)

I’m also in the process of preparing for another one for a student reported to have been born very prematurely into a toilet in El Chapo’s town of residence. On his health history page, grandma writes under concerns, “doesn’t learn, likes girly things.” First, everyone learns. Second, granny, liking girly things is not a health concern, or a problem of any sort. Welcome to 2016. 


BMI testing

Our state does height and weight measurements as part of the physical fitness testing in 5th grade (and maybe other grades, too). I *HATE* doing both. It is incredibly stressful to the kids, particularly the outliers in both height and especially weight. I do it as privately as possible, but it still sucks for them. It never fails that I hear later that someone returned to class crying, no matter how discrete I am. An obese 5th grader will already know he/she is larger than his/her peers, and doesn’t need a scale to say so. So, here’s another study in which research dollars funded an obvious answer to a question: BMI measurements at school are ineffective.



When your work computer craps out on you and when you turn it into Tech Services for repair, they say they'll email you when it's ready to be picked up. Also, they don't provide loaners, you have to go around begging for a spare computer to use to write your reports. Gah.

On another note, join a cool club here! Research is important, these surveys hardly take any time at all (and sometimes you get Amazon gift cards in return), and you're doing something good for our species. If you're a nurse, join in the fun.