Friday, August 17, 2012

Finding the Trigger and Fixing the Problem

Angry over stimulated Benji
The last two or so weeks have been quite trying for Benji. (By the way, this is Benji's mom posting today)

Second grade is a big adjustment for him. There is a lot of homework that involves a lot of writing. He probably has the strictest teacher he has ever had. (I think this is a good thing.) He only has a couple friends in his class from previous years, so he is having to make new friends. (This is hard on Benji, but better he learn how in second grade then as an adult.)

All of these changes has had an affect on Benji that we expected. We have learned that there is always an adjustment period. However, this go around things were not proceeding normally. Benji was getting very emotional. He was constantly on the go and could not focus. If he got upset, it turned to an aggressive anger very quickly. This was very unlike our sweet, loving, compassionate Benji. After one episode of him getting angry, we got him calmed down and he told us his heart was hurting. This told me that we had to find out what was going on.

Poison for Benji
I started asking questions. I would ask about his day and get basic answers that really did not get me anywhere. That is, until Monday. After I went over his homework with him and we had our chit chat I noticed that he was hiding his jacket. I asked what he had. There, in his jacket, was a roll of sweet tarts. Nice bright colored candy with bright pink/red, blue, purple and orange pieces. If I had the ingredient list I already know what is used for the coloring. Red 40, Yellow 5/6 ... In fact, doing a quick search.

These candies are poison to my child. He is sensitive to MSG (which is cleverly mislabeled ALL the time as maltodextrin), allergic to RED 40, sensitive to Yellow 5/6. In addition, he is only supposed to have natural sugars and this has corn syrup solids. (http://www.foodfacts.com/NutritionFacts/Hard/Wonka-Sweettarts-145-oz/10320)

Now, the part that upsets me is that Benji has an IEP and the last copy I have (I say that because I am a cynic) says that he is only to eat the food we provide. Also, as a parent of a special needs child (Benji's dietary needs and medical needs) I write an introduction letter EVERY year for his new teacher. This year I gave that letter to his teacher at open house and covered the bases with her. This still happened.

Benji was getting these "rewards" daily for good behavior. He would get the candy at the end of the day and eat it without me knowing he ever got them. (He knows he shouldn't have them but it is like he craves them. Kind of like a drug addict that knows it is bad for them but can't help it.)

The good thing is I have gotten in contact with the teacher and explained the situation more thoroughly and stressed the importance. Benji now has his own treat bucket with "Benji safe" rewards. Which this works better than his plan once we explained to him the situation. Tuesday he got in the truck and told me, "Momma! I got a card pulled today, so I couldn't get any candy!"

The importance here is making sure to have communication with the teacher and the principal. The key is, when the communication fails (because it will), to not attack like a momma bear but to confidently advocate for your child in a manner that is not brash. You have to know what your child's rights are, know what is in the IEP, know what you have informed the school and the teacher of. You also have to be prepared to take the next step.

Our family is hopeful that this is the only "problem" Benji has this school year. We are understanding in regard to it being the beginning of the school year and chaotic, but it does not excuse it.

I pray that through our experience, somebody else is helped.
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