Life On The B Side

Taking all that life throws at us one moment at a time

The Knowing Continues September 18, 2019

THAT <– was then – Over a year ago.  Please read it before continuing here.

 

Jay’s been a middle schooler for about a month now.  He was both nervous and excited to begin the new chapter.  He was looking forward to taking the bus to and from school with his brother.  He was looking forward to having a locker.  Thanks to the good job that Ace did of “selling it”, he was also looking forward to meeting his teachers and taking some new types of classes; wood shop and cooking for example.

 

I was also both nervous and excited.  I worked from home on their first day so that in case I received a phone call saying things were going horribly wrong, I could be at the school in 10 minutes.

The phone call never came.  The boys came home and both had had a good day.

By the end of the first week, Jay was echoing many of the same things Ace had said after his first week of middle school (2 years earlier).  “Middle school is great. I love moving from classroom to classroom for each subject. Middle school is so much better than elementary school.”

 

I was overjoyed and relieved.  At the time, I considered posting on this blog about it because it made me so happy and I wanted to store that feeling somewhere other than in my heart.

 

I’m glad I waited though because what I write next is what really made me post.

 

 

Last week, the boys brought home their interim report cards.  Ace, who’s been doing really well over the last couple of years is holding on to his straight A status.  Jay, who has been steadily improving, but who doesn’t see himself as academically gifted, had mostly A’s but then also a C and a D.

According to his report, he had missed turning in some assignments and that was the cause of the lower grades.  Jay swore to me that he had handed everything in.  So, I emailed the 2 teachers in question to ask for more information.

Here are the responses:

 

(1)

“Good Morning!

I am missing a bell ringer from him. I have looked through all of my graded things and I do not see it. I will talk to him about it today. He mentioned it to me at the beginning of class yesterday, but we ended up running out of time.

Jay* has been very good about talking to me when he needs something so I will talk to him again today! I hope you have a great day! Let me know if you have any other questions.”

 

And then later in the day …

 

“We found his old missing assignment and he turned it in. I will try to get it in the computer soon!”

 

(2)

“Hi, thanks so much for sending this.  I figured out what it is. He did not do the states crossword puzzle.  Missing one assignment makes a big difference.  I have five crossword puzzles on my board marked with “no-name”, so if Jay* knows he did it, it’s probably there.  If he didn’t do it, he can still hand it in for credit.  Once that is taken care of, his interim will reflect the change and be an A.”

 

Now, the improved grades are amazing and I do think it would do a lot to boost his own confidence if he were to bring home a final report with all A’s, but I was brought to literal tears from the line:

“He mentioned it to me at the beginning of class yesterday, but we ended up running out of time.

Jay* has been very good about talking to me when he needs something …”

 

THAT is NOT the child who:

I was told by a “licensed doctor”, when he was 2 years, would need to be heavily medicated and possibly institutionalized by the time he became a teenager.

I wondered if he would ever speak, when he was still non-verbal at 5 yrs old.

Began kindergarten as a 6 yr old, in a self-contained “autism class” with 6 students and 3 teachers.

Would SCREAM and meltdown on a DAILY basis.

Got kicked out of speech therapy and summer camp due to his uncontrollable behavior.

Because he wasn’t able to handle it; Got moved around from a large group to a small group to just 2 kids in a social skills group at a therapy center dedicated to helping children on the spectrum.

 

As recently as April of last year, this is what was said during one of his IEP* meetings:

“He hasn’t cried all year.  He whines quite a bit but that’s better than crying.”

 

This does not mean that all things every day are now perfect.  He still has some things to work on – As do we all.  But I am just overwhelmed (Is there a stronger word than overwhelmed?) by how far he’s come – And I KNOW I’ve said that before at different stages of his development.  But it’s worth repeating.  This kid is just amazing and despite his “pop-up” anxieties and his bad attitudes at times and his ability to test ALL our patience, I am blown away by him in positive ways every single day.  Ways that he cannot even comprehend.  And ways that his current teachers would never be able to appreciate.

 

I don’t know what made Jay develop and grow the way he has.  I get asked that question quite often.  There is no 1 magic trick.  I do believe in our case, it was a combination of:

His parents realizing early on that he needed help and being willing to seek out that help.

His parents not accepting the dire predictions that we were given and constantly looking for the “right” people to be on his team.

The fact that his teachers have been incredibly supportive, creative, understanding, nurturing and positive from the beginning.

Genetics.

Consistency and love and encouragement from family/friends.

His own determination and drive.

 

And here is where I tie back to the last post again.  We still have challenges.  There are still tricky things to navigate.  I still get stressed and worried – but things are ok.  Good even.

My friendships are strong – and for that I am beyond grateful.

My credit score is the best it’s ever been.

Ace having his own cell phone hasn’t caused any real problems.

I do still need to make myself a dentist appointment.  *shrug*

We’ve done quite a lot of good travel.  Some as a family (yes, I finally got the kids passports renewed) and some just Shaunie and I as a couple (that’s important too).

The knowing continues.

There will be moments of darkness, but there will also be light.  It’s not easy, but this is life.  One thing at a time.  Do what you need to do to maintain your own mental health.  Just hang on through the rough patches and make sure to recognize and enjoy the beautiful moments when they come.

 

 

 

*Jay is the name we use on the blog. His teachers had used his real name.

*An IEP is an Individualized Education Plan which allows students to receive special education services.  For more info, please let me know.

 

Now That That’s Cleared Up November 13, 2017

One day last week I noticed a ZERO written at the top of Jays final history test for the marking period.  It might as well have had flashing neon lights around it.   I was horrified and shocked and kinda sad too.

So … I emailed his teacher.

I told her how surprised I was by the grade and that I was concerned about it.  I told her that I had helped him study and that he had done well on the small quizzes leading up to the test so I just didn’t understand what went wrong.  I reminded her that we had a meeting already scheduled so it would be nice if we came to the table already armed with ideas.

 

And … She wrote me back.

She said that she was confused by my email but offered suggestions for what she can do if I think he needs testing modifications.

 

I was less than thrilled with her reply.  Why was she not as concerned as I was?  A ZERO should set off alarm bells.

 

Also … I spoke to Jay.

I asked him what went wrong.  I made sure to tell him that he wasn’t in trouble.  I just wanted to help him.  He offered no useful insight.  He said “I just forgot everything I guess.”

 

This morning we had the meeting and after hearing about how happy he is in school and how much he participates and how well he follows the class schedule and how funny he is and how much they enjoy having him in class and after being told that he had been featured in the school announcements for being the artist of the week, I brought it up … What about his academics?  I wanted to know what they or we could and should be doing to help him to get better scores on tests.

 

After a little back and forth and trying to figure out where each other was coming from it turns out that my boy did not get a zero on his test afterall.  He had in fact gotten 100%.

The zero I saw was the teacher marking the test to show that zero points had been taken away!!!

 

We all laughed at this mis-understanding and I felt a huge relief and then I felt really badly that Jay thought he had gotten a zero when in fact he had gotten all correct.

 

I can’t wait to see him later so I can let him know that it was my mistake and to let him know how proud I am of his hard work and the glowing reports from his teachers.

 

As I said in the meeting, I wish I could take his current report card and show it to his 1st and 2nd grade teachers.  I want to take his report, full of mostly 3’s (B’s) and just a couple 2’s (C’s) and show it to everyone who knew him back when he was crying and screaming all day long.  Everyone who knew him when he was 6 years old and couldn’t write his name or count or sit through one class period.   Everyone who knew him when he had IEP’s full of therapy and accommodations and behavior goals.  All that’s been taken away.  He now has no behaviour goals because there are no behavioral concerns.  No pull outs, no therapy, not even extra time for tests.  His current IEP basically is a one liner that says the special ed teacher will be available as a consultant to the general ed teacher if necessary.  Academically he has the same goals as any typical 4th grader.

 

He still has some things to work on.  Mostly word problems in math and he needs to start reading some higher level books but overall, I’m so happy with all that came out of our meeting.

 

Rock on little homie.

 

Buh Bye CST – Hello LD June 6, 2017

I thought it was gonna be a standard IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meeting.  We’ve been having these meetings at least twice a year since Jay was in pre-k.  I walked into it with all the confidence and calm of someone who’s been around this block several times and has a good relationship with the school and the current child study team.

 

  • “ … blah blah blah … Jay still qualifies to receive services based on his disability – Specifically, autism”

  • “ … blah blah blah … One-on-one aide, speech therapy, extra time to complete his tests, preferential seating – check check check.”

  • “Have a great summer, see you guys next year.”

 

Instead, the Vice Principal (who is always a part of these meetings) along with the Autism Resource Teacher (who we absolutely adore) hit us over the head with some unexpected suggestions.

Would it be … they wanted to know … OK with us if they moved Jay from being under the CST (Child Study Team) umbrella to being under the LD (Learning Disability) Team umbrella.

Say what now???  What does that even mean?

 

It turns out that a Child Study Team involves more people and provides more services than an LD team.  A Child Study Team includes a psychologist, a social worker, a general education teacher, a special education teacher and any necessary therapists (speech, physical, occupational).

An LD team only consists of a general education teacher and a learning disability specialist teacher.

 

Jays current team thinks that he no longer needs all the support that is provided through the Child Study Team.  In a way, they are graduating him to the LD team.  As such, he will be expected to spend his entire day in a general education classroom without a full time aide.  He will also no longer be pulled out of class for speech therapy.

He will still have an IEP and his current aide will do “check ins” to see how things are going for him in class.  He will have an LD teacher work in tandem with his general ed teacher  to determine his specific learning style and will recommend specific teaching methods and strategies that may benefit him.  The LD teacher will also help to teach him organizational skills, study skills, and learning strategies.

 

 

His current teacher noted that he does better on tests that are administered via old fashioned pencil and paper than he does on tests that are administered via computer.  (It’s too easy for him to just click random answers quickly without even reading the questions so the test can be over.)  We have a plan to address that issue.

 

We have also already identified that he has dyscalcula – Which is a fancy way to say he struggles with math.  Kinda like how people with dyslexia struggle with reading.

(If you’re a word nerd like me and like learning new ones, I’ll also give you this – dysgraphia refers to struggles with writing)

(Speaking of word nerds, how is it that the English language doesn’t have a word which means … “Someone with a big vocabulary” ?  Websters needs to get on that.)

 

So, to wrap this all up, (if you’re even still reading), my baby boy is losing some of his team, and while it’s scary, it’s also exciting.  4th grade will be interesting.  He will be pushed harder than he’s ever been pushed before, academically and socially.  I’m sure he will not always be happy about it, but the hope is that he will be able to rise to the challenge and next school year will be a success.

 

His resource teacher told us as we were walking out … “This was such a hard decision for me.  I didn’t want to let him go.  But in the end, I knew I had toWe can’t let him get away with skating through school.  We have to get him ready for middle school and for the world.”

I got a little choked up.  I know he holds a special place in her heart; Just as she holds one in ours.  She may not formally be a part of his school team anymore but she is still a part of our family team.

 

2014/2015 IEP June 6, 2014

It hasn’t been signed off on yet but Jay’s IEP (individualized education plan) is pretty much set for next year. The meeting with his team went well. It felt a lot more casual and collaborative than meetings in the past. There was a lot of talk about the areas he struggles with: Delaying his gratification, *pragmatic language, behavioral issues, Spanish class. There was also a lot of talk about his strengths: huge improvements in communication, comprehension, improvement in social skills (playing with other kids), no more problems with transitions, “graduating” from occupational therapy, listening and helping and sharing and academics.

 

Come September, the plan has him splitting his day between his self-contained class and a main stream class. He will start off doing language and math in a general education class (sharing an aide with a couple of other special ed students).  Those are his strongest subjects.  He will spend the rest of his day in his current setting.  (The same teacher follows the class from kindergarten through to 2nd grade.  I think that’s awesome!).  He will gradually increase the number of classes that he takes in that general ed class until he has fully transitioned by the end of the school year.

He will no longer get any occupational therapy at school. His teachers have tasked us with helping him to learn how to tie his shoe laces. But they are satisfied with all his other gross and fine motor skills. I would agree. No occupational therapy pull out means more classroom time which we all think is more beneficial to him. He does an awesome job of learning from other children who have mastered skills that he’s still learning.

In speech therapy there will be less attention paid to vocabulary and pronunciation etc and more attention on higher level concepts. *See below.

There will be a lot of focus on his academics which are fairly strong (except for Spanish) and they will work with us to keep encouraging him to eat a wider variety of foods.

There will also be a pretty big focus on his behavior which is still an area of concern. The teaching/therapy staff is going to work more closely with us (the parents) so that the same strategies that they find successful at school can be used at home also. I admit that disciplining him is one of MY biggest challenges.

 

That’s about it. Everyone is excited about the progress he has made and to see him grow even more. That really was the overall feel of the meeting. Excitement and pride. I’m happy with that.

Of course this is all subject to change at any time.

 

 

 

*This is a HUGE area of struggle for Jay so I figured I’d give a little more info since most people probably don’t go around using words like “pragmatic language” (how to use language appropriately in social situations) on a regular basis. It involves the mastering of the foll, for example:

  • Changing language according to the needs of a listener or situation, such as:
  • talking differently to a baby than to an adult
  • giving background information to an unfamiliar listener
  • speaking differently in a classroom than on a playground
  • lowering your voice in a Church/movie theatre etc.

 

  • Following rules for conversations, such as:
  • taking turns in conversation
  • introducing topics of conversation
  • staying on topic
  • rephrasing when misunderstood
  • how to use verbal and nonverbal signals
  • how close to stand to someone when speaking
  • how to use facial expressions and eye contact

 

 

Christmas Tree a la Ace and Jay December 8, 2011

Filed under: Life on the Jay train — The B Side @ 8:08 pm
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Didja miss me?  I hope so.  I missed writing.  And I’m still not ready with a proper post but I can’t possibly leave my dear blog unattended for so long and I sure as heck can’t have you guys forgetting about me or giving up on me.  To hold you over till I can write a real post … here are some pictures from our day of Christmas decorating.  I will say, it was a fun day.  Jay joined in more than he ever had before.  Ace’s glad bag is gonna bust in anticipation of Christmas and I’m relishing the fact that there’s nothing too bad to vent about lately.

 

(On a side note … Just in case you’re following along closely and are wondering … Jay’s IEP meeting went fairly well.  I’m still pretty certain that those administrators hate me since I ask WAY TOO MANY questions and take up more time that they budget for us but there weren’t any tears during or after the meeting so that’s an improvement over last year.  I didn’t get a lot of the things that I would like but I do think they understand my concerns and are giving us everything that the available funds will allow.  If the money isn’t there, it just isn’t there.  😦  )

 

Now that that’s out of the way, lets get on with this show.

 

While Ace wanted to be a part of every step of the decorating … Jay saw the branches as a new place to drive his Thomas train.  (I know the picture doesn’t show it clearly, but take my word for it, he’s driving a train on the tree here.)

 

Then Jay discovered that it’s a lot of fun underneath the tree.

 

Ooh, what are these?  Things started looking up.  Time to put ornaments onto the tree.

 

Jay put a few ornaments onto the tree but quickly got bored with that and chose instead to do this.

 

And then it was back under the tree.  (sigh)

 

Even the cat got in on the “under tree” action.

 

Tadah … The finished product!  Mostly done by Ace.

 

… And then undone by Jay as he did whatever it took to get to the candy canes.  lol