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dcmom

Academics PANDAS and ADHD

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Well, you know things are pretty good around here (fingers crossed- no jinxes) when I get to these questions...

 

Firstly, I want to thank everyone for weighing in in September about our decision to push the school to move my older daughter into the honors classes at her middle school. (Recap: she is in sixth grade, and due to being new to the district last year, with lots of school avoidance ocd- the school kept her in "on-level" classes when it was clear she should be in "honors") We decided to take the chance, and demand the school to move her up in the middle of the first marking period this year. Thankfully, her English teacher was in complete agreement and helped us with this. She is maintaining straight A's and delighting in the challenge. Thank you to those who pushed us to challenge her, and demand the school do the same, in spite of whatever ocd she has had, or may come her way.

 

Now on to her younger sister (third grade), and my questions. The younger one is different in many ways. She is very, very shy (bordering on selective mutism in preschool, improving by baby steps every year). She is not as much of a "show off" and people pleaser as her older sister, content just to blend in and move along. However, both my husband and I feel she is extremely bright. Her insights and use of vocabulary and expression are extremely sophisticated. She typically tests "advanced" in math. All of this, however, does not seem to translate into her schoolwork. Part of it, I feel, is still the subjective nature of grading in elementary school. Since she is not out to prove what she knows, she is not they typical "star student" like her older sister. The other part gets a little more vague and complicated, and is where, I think PANDAS has played a role. She writes beautiful stories and papers (content), yet her handwriting is just passable, her spelling is extremely "creative" and she still has letter reversals. She also seems to work much more slowly than most (I don't see ocd as a cause), sometimes failing to finish all problems on a test or in class assignment. Homework does go slowly at home, as well. Mainly, to me, it seems her schoolwork is not reflective of her intelligence. She tries hard, and values her work. Her first grade teacher had NO concerns, and felt any issues she had were "developmental". Her second grade teacher felt the same, also feeling that the fact that she has missed lots of school (probably 40 days of first, and 40 days of second) contributed.

 

Has anyone seen academic issues like this?

 

Her teacher this year is lovely, yet BRAND new, so completely inexperienced.

 

My next decision is for the end of this year, which is when I think, she will have to be placed on honors or on level track. As I have seen with my daughter, once you are tracked, the school is very resistant to move a student. It is also MUCH harder for a student to move into honors as opposed to being there all year, from an academic and workload situation.

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I'm glad to hear that your girls are doing better.

 

At our recent appointment at Dr. Murphy's office, Dr. Brown (one of her fellows) was discussing some of the differences in presentation between boys and girls, etc. She mentioned that the ADHD aspect of PANDAS (as well as ADHD in general) presents differently in girls that it is often missed as an issue. They're not usually disruptive, but may take longer to do tasks because they tend to "trail off" in their own mind - either day dreaming, or just lost in different thoughts - which may make schoolwork take longer.

 

She noted that often girls aren't recognized as ADHD being an issue until much later - when it begins to impact their grades or potential in school. Because boys tend to be more hyperactive and disruptive - it's caught sooner. Sweeping generalizations - I know - but valid observations.

 

When I read your post - that discussion immediately came to mind. Maybe the ADHD component of PANDAS is what may be hampering her. Possibly getting accomodations typical of ADHD students - like longer test taking periods - could be helpful and boost her performance enough to help you make the case for the honors track?

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Hi - my dd has some similar issues that may or may not be down to PANDAS - I feel they probably are...

 

She is very slow at writing. This has been an issue since her last bad episode where she would seem to get a block. She knew what she wanted to say when talking it but couldn't seem to get it down on paper. That seems to have morphed into an issue of just going very slowly. School is choosing to call it methodical :) It is true that she is very conscientious and wants to get it just right but I feel it's all interrelated.

 

Her grasp of math concepts is very good and she comes in well above standard for that but is having issues remembering things like number partners which other kids her age appear to be doing well.

 

For her, the only thing that doesn't seem to get so mucked up is reading. She is Grade 3 but has the lexile range of Grade 8. As she gets further away from her last bad episode, I am seeing her methodicalness, as they're choosing to call it, diminish somewhat and I feel that if we can keep her well, her writing and math skills may close the gap with her reading ability.

 

Until more recently, homework could be crippling 'cos it would go so slowly. I found I got very exasperated with it all but that too is speeding up as she remains mainly well. I can't quite decide why things take so long. Lots of kids can't rush when it's required of them but this feels different to me. My sister is exactly the same as my dd in this regard and can't be rushed for love nor money. One of those people who says they'll be out by 10am but it usually 2-3 hours later.

 

Sorry I can't offer anymore or advice...

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Since she is not out to prove what she knows, she is not they typical "star student" like her older sister. The other part gets a little more vague and complicated, and is where, I think PANDAS has played a role. She writes beautiful stories and papers (content), yet her handwriting is just passable, her spelling is extremely "creative" and she still has letter reversals. She also seems to work much more slowly than most (I don't see ocd as a cause), sometimes failing to finish all problems on a test or in class assignment.

 

Hi DCmom,

this sounds very much like my PANDAS dd. The content of her writing is exceptional. Her vocabulary is great. (She also reads quickly with great comprehension). But, her spelling and handwriting is horrible. At least where we are, 3rd grade (I also have a 3rd and 6th grader!) is all about handwriting and spelling and math facts (stuff my PANDAS dd is bad at). Now that she is in 6th grade, teachers don't care about handwriting (they also said they didn't care about spelling) and big assignments are typed/spellchecked. So, things are better.

 

We don't have an honors track in our school system so we've never had your exact problem. However, for me a big part of the decision would be is she happy (and have friends) in the regular track (or is it too hard to tell)? Is the caliber of the kids in the regular track still pretty good or do you think she wouldn't learn anything there? Would she transition to a new school for 6th grade anyway, where it wouldn't matter what track she was in for 4th-5th grade? ALso, if you did put her in honors, would it be difficult (or traumatic) to move her to regular classes if things didn't work out?

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Thanks everyone. Here are the answers and thoughts on your responses to continue the conversation...

 

Arial- It may be a type of ADD (non hyperactive). I will have to look more closely at symptomology for girls. We don't have hyperactivity. Her focusing seems ok- she can focus on a difficult task and get it done, but she does like to talk to me A LOT during homework, pet the dog, look for her library book, etc. I am going to talk to her about the possibility of longer time periods for tests, etc.

 

Dut- my daughter also tests very highly, when the test is focused on math concepts. Her computation is less stellar. She also has been relatively healthy, and I do see improvements in amount of time doing homework, etc. She also is VERY slow at getting out of the house!

 

EAmom- I agree third grade teachers have a habit of NOT looking at the bigger picture. This completely changes in our district by third grade, where Literacy is focused on reading, comprehension, vocabulary, longer term writing assignments and some grammar. In these areas I think my daughter could really excel. She is never going to be garnering HUGE class participation points, but she could probably do the vocab and reading comprehension now. Our school is small, and in a high achieving district, so I think the caliber of kids is fine in the on-level classes. I will say, however, that as a whole, the honors kids do seem to put a lot more effort and value on academic success. My bigger concern is that elementary feeds to middle which feeds to high school. All the same kids. If you are in honors track, you are on track to easily complete lots of AP courses in high school. If you are in on level classes, yet capable of more, it is hard to move up. My concern is that her major issues now are bigger problems for third graders, and not necessary to do well later on.

 

She definitely falls into the category of kids that "slips through the cracks". Well behaved and academically successful enough not to earn any extra help from school, yet not operating at her full potential, in my mind totally due to pandas. My gut is telling me to push to get her into honors for literacy, and leave her in on level math- and see where that goes. I don't know how cooperative the school will be, also.

 

She is very aware that her sister is in the honors program, so that adds a difficulty piece- not as a pandas parent (they both have pandas), but just as a parent.

 

EAmom- as a side note, she is a major animal lover, and wants to be a vet or horse veterinarian. I panicked a few weeks ago when my college age niece was telling me how hard it was to get into vet school, yada, yada, yada. The combo of that, and of the kids being fairly well so I am able to delve into the smaller issues, are what have me looking at this.

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I am so happy to hear that things are well. In our district, any parent can request their child be evaluated...if there are concerns or if they suspect their child is gifted. If this is an option, perhaps you can request that she be tested? They will probably test IQ, and also look at the "developmental" things the teachers have seen in the past. If her IQ comes back in the gifted range, then you could make an argument for the honors track with accommodations for her other issues.

 

My non-PANDAS daughter (although I think all of my kids have mild 1-2 symptoms here and there) has more of the types of issues you describe. She is more shy and self-conscious in school and her hand writing has always been bad. However, we haven't seen any issues with spelling and over-all academically she has done well. My husband and I believe that being consistent with vitamins and fish oil are really key in keeping things great at our house. We've also made a conscious decision to avoid red dye...for the majority of the time.

 

My PANDAS daughter only had a problem in school during her first (worst) exacerbation. As you know, it was a complete break in her cognitive function. But she was fine when she started first grade, and hasn't any school issues since.

 

For my PANDAS daughter, we started the evaluation process while she was in Kindergarten and at her worst, and by the time she was tested in the next academic year, she tested fine. No IEP was recommended -- which I agreed with. However, they were on board with putting a 504 into place. Although, eventually my husband and I decided not to pursue it.

 

After that evaluation, the School Psychologist told me that she tested just out of range for gifted in verbal, and high average in math skills. But she felt that if given some more time to recover from her episode, she may just test in the gifted range. Which really goes along with my observations. I felt her creativity took a real hit from the PANDAS, but after a year from her last exacerbation (much more milder and shorter than the first one) I saw it coming back--and her higher reasoning...she started to really shine. I just feel in my gut that her brain needed a longer time to FULLY recover. Her current teacher has just told us that she recommend we test her again for the gifted program. So we started the process, and I pray every day, that strep doesn't find it's way back to my house. I want to say finally that despite worrying about strep, I am still optimistic that it's going to be okay.

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Arial- It may be a type of ADD (non hyperactive). I will have to look more closely at symptomology for girls. We don't have hyperactivity. Her focusing seems ok- she can focus on a difficult task and get it done, but she does like to talk to me A LOT during homework, pet the dog, look for her library book, etc. I am going to talk to her about the possibility of longer time periods for tests, etc.

 

My personal experience with ADD is that is is more like a focus imbalance. It's easy to focus and get lost in the things I like to do or are interested in, but I have a hard time balancing it with routine tasks, and chores and such. I believe that I have been dealing with ADD my whole life and the way arial95 describes it fits me to a T.

 

Dut- my daughter also tests very highly, when the test is focused on math concepts. Her computation is less stellar. She also has been relatively healthy, and I do see improvements in amount of time doing homework, etc. She also is VERY slow at getting out of the house!

 

Being slow is/was one of the first PANDAS symptoms we notice, and it is usually the last to clear. It can still come and go...usually we see it with some mild OCD up-tick, and then we find that she's been exposed to strep casually. It doesn't last long.

Edited by Kayanne

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I would ask your daughter what she wants to do. If she wants to do honors, let her.

 

I would agreee with that. You could have a discussion on the pros/cons and see what she wants to do.

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okay dcmom -- with all the advice and help i've gotten from you in the past 6 mths, it seems silly for me to weigh in on this -- but i do have something to say :lol:

 

i think with any kid who may be LD or 'gifted', there is such a fine line. you're district seems much more helpful than what we have experienced. i read a book a few years ago written by a boy with asperger's when ds first diagnosed with pandas with school phobia as a big issue - the author stated that he hated school b/c everything was too hard and too easy at the same time. even though ds was 4 or 5 at the time, that struck a chord that i thought that described him also. he's heard me say it many times this year - so possibly he's adopted what i've said b/c he says it now, but it really does fit. multiple drills of easy math are an extreme chore, as are writing activites. 2 sides of the same coin. he was getting reallly frustrated with math b/c it was way too easy for him.

 

so - i think -- what many may think is taking it easy on the child and allowing them to develop other skills or get used to things, may also prove to be troublesome if there's not enough challenge. it's not that they need to opt out of activities -- they may need extra help or extra challenge. but the kids don't know why -- they just know they don't like to do it. for my ds, his MO is avoidance and that's what he goes to -- for activities too hard and too easy.

 

i know we've talked about dsypraxia -- how much have you investigated your daughter as 2E? i guess that's where you're headed with honors track in one area and regular for the other -- ?

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so - i think -- what many may think is taking it easy on the child and allowing them to develop other skills or get used to things, may also prove to be troublesome if there's not enough challenge. it's not that they need to opt out of activities -- they may need extra help or extra challenge. but the kids don't know why -- they just know they don't like to do it. for my ds, his MO is avoidance and that's what he goes to -- for activities too hard and too easy.

 

 

Smarty --

 

In our experience, you're dead on about this! There is nothing our DS hates more than a list of "busy work" homework assignments or problems. So many kids will just breeze through them because they're not hard, but for DS, he's so aggravated by the boredom of the repetition, or (especially during those anxious periods) so overwhelmed by the appearance of the sheer magnitude of the assignment ("I have to do 42 math problems!"), that it becomes a huge issue for him.

 

So, he's in AP and Honors classes, and we got warned up front that, at the higher levels, the pace of the cirriculum is faster, and therefore there's more work. Well, DS's intellect can keep pace, but his "output" or "production" isn't always up to the task. That's when, thanks to a single brilliant teacher in middle school and her suggestion for an IEP accommodation, we invoke the "Reduce assignments and assessments for quantity, not content" accommodation. It's been like a magic wand, to be honest, when the teachers readily adopt it. So, instead of 15 easy, repetitive geometry problems, his teacher gives him 3 that are more challenging and cover the same concepts.

 

I think in many instances, our kids don't need to be "drilled" like some other kids do, and in fact the mere act of "drilling" in anything -- math, handwriting, even coloring (like geography maps, etc.) -- can be onerous and almost painful undertakings for them. They've got great memories (DS's has actually been identified as "photographic"), and they grasp concepts that interest them very quickly. So the old school, left-brained concept of "drilling" is anaethma (?spelling?) to them.

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