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.

 

It’s Been A While – A Meltdown Story December 4, 2018

Sometimes an old emotion that you had packed away neatly finds its way out of the dusty bin and settles once again in your heart. When that happens, it doesn’t feel like a long-lost friend. It feels like an intruder; one you don’t care for but have to accommodate nonetheless. It’s an intruder that you know well, so even though you don’t want them there, you don’t freak out when they show up, you just do what needs to be done so they can be sent away again.

 

The morning started off like most other mornings. Alarms go off. People get themselves ready for the day. For some it’s school; others work. There’s a little chit-chat. Well, less “chit-chat” and more “requests” – Can I have money for the book fair? Do I really need to go to choir practice? Can you make me some tea please? Can I sit in the front seat?

No. Yes. No and no.

 

Things took a turn when Jay and I got to the door of his school and he realized he had left his glasses at home. For the first time in a long time I saw the swirling torrent of a melt-down heading our way. I tried to get ahead of it. I spoke calmly. I offered to bring his glasses for him at lunch time. He would not hear any of it. His mind had already gone to a place that blocks out reason. A before-care staff member came and tried to assist. At this point we are blocking the door. Through stiff, clipped words and with his entire body shaking, Jay told him that he couldn’t go inside because the other kids would make fun of him. (I’m not sure why he thought that). The staff member said all the right things. “I’m sure that won’t happen. But if it does, you come to me and I’ll deal with it.” None of that appeared to register with Jay.

Just then, a teacher, who I didn’t know, but who obviously knew Jay came in. She suggested that he go to see Ms F and take a minute in her room to calm himself. (Ms F is the autism resource teacher who was our lifeline during his transition to this school 3 years ago and who Jay loves but no longer really gets to spend much time with since he’s fully mainstreamed now).

The teacher sent me on my way, told me that everything would be fine and assured me that they would call if necessary.

 

We hadn’t had a school drop off like that in YEARS. I got to work still a little raw from it. Mostly I was worried that this rough start to the day would mean a rough ALL DAY for Jay and by extension, all the other students and teachers he had to interact with. Throughout the day, I kept expecting my phone to ring.

Nothing.

I didn’t have much appetite and it took a lot of energy to focus on my actual work.

When I picked him up, he came bounding up to me with a big smile. I asked him how his day had been and he said it was great. Gingerly, I asked him about the morning. Specifically, I asked him what happened when he went to Ms F’s classroom.

 

I don’t know how they do it, but special education teachers are magical. At least, the ones we’ve had. I cannot overstate how much they have taught me or how much I respect them.

Ms F apparently gave him a quiet spot to sit for a minute. Then she asked him what was making him so upset. Then she took her glasses off and put them in a bag and told him that they would be the “no glasses for a day” team.

That’s all it took. He went to his own class and proceeded to have a great day.

 

Where earlier my heart had been full of worry; in that moment, it was full of wonder and appreciation.

 

Goodbye old companion – All day anxiety caused by meltdowns.  Your visit was short and not sweet. This wasn’t even a bad storm.  A drizzle really.  But man, it’s in these moments that I am forced to remember and truly appreciate just how far we are now from the years when meltdown hurricanes were a nearly daily occurrence.

 

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.

 

The Sandwich That Was Left February 1, 2017

 

Jay left his sandwich at home and as one would expect – it spiraled out of control and affected everyone in his path like a tornado.

 

At 7:00 am a phone call came in informing Shaunie that Jay had left his sandwich at home and he was already eating his snacks.

Since she was already at work (40 minutes away) and she was in the middle of an audit, she said she was sorry but no she would not be able to go back home and bring it to him.

I was an hour away and it was the last day of the month (my busiest time) so it’s a good thing they didn’t even bother to call me.

Shaunie called to tell me about it and we both agreed that he’d have to suck it up and just get something from the cafeteria.

At 9:06 am, we got an email from his general ed class teacher saying:

Jay came in today with an empty lunch bag and said that he already ate his lunch this morning. I went ahead and had him make a lunch choice (meaning she had him choose something from the cafeteria menu) so that he at least has something to eat at lunch time. I know that his tastes are limited so we’ll see what we can find for him, but I just wanted to let you know!

 

I thanked her for that and continued working.

At 12:30 pm we got another email.  This time from the special ed teacher saying:

This morning, when he was in [his morning program], I  heard him screaming at someone. When I went down to see what was wrong, he didn’t want to say anything. It was clear he had been crying because he had dried tears on his face. I had him come to the resource room to calm himself. He made it to his gen ed class on time but came back saying that he needed a break. He has been in the resource room a few times this morning and continues to say that he is having a bad day. I explained to him that everyone has a bad day and I asked him again if he wanted to talk about it. He just said that he doesn’t want to go back to [his morning program]. I am still not sure what happened because he won’t say. Hopefully he will let you know what happened.

 

I let her know about his missing sandwich and of his gen ed teachers offer of a cafeteria lunch and continued working.

She replied saying:

We offered him snacks from the resource room this morning and that seemed to calm him for a little while. But he came back and said that he needed a break. We tried to get him to eat more but he didn’t want anything else and he said that he didn’t want to go to the cafeteria. I told him that I was going to email you because I didn’t know what was going on. He asked if he had to apologize and I told him no, he didn’t do anything to me. I was just trying to see why he was upset. I hope he has a better night. I am going to check on him before I leave in a few minutes.

 

His teachers are so patient with him and I truly appreciate that.  I know it must be especially difficult on his gen ed teacher when he has an off day.  There is no way that him going back and forth to the resource room is not a disruption in her class.

 

When I came home he was still visibly upset and didn’t want to talk to me and just stood against the wall hugging himself.

I was gentle.

First I asked him if he’d had dinner as yet.

Yes.  Noodles.

Then I asked him to come and sit with me.  I asked him how his day had been to which he of course responded that it had not been a good day.  I asked him to explain why and after going around many circles:  I was upset.  But why?  Because I was angry.  What made you angry?  I was yelling.  Who were you yelling at?  My teacher.  Why were you yelling?  I was mad.  OK, what were you so mad about?  I wasn’t having a good day.  What made you have a bad day?  I was crying.

This is how our conversations go.  It takes time, but we get there.

Eventually after our many circles and him coming up with many reasons (none of which were the real problem) he finally blurted out “I left my sandwich at home.”

I told him that I understood that he was upset and that he had been hungry.  Then I asked him if his teachers had tried to help.  He said yes.  I asked him if they offered him food from the cafeteria.  We had another very round about conversation until after a while, with a choked up voice, he said “But I can’t get something from the cafeteria because it’s not free in there and I didn’t have any money. I can’t just take it.”

 

Now – Truth be told, all along I was feeling more sorry for his teachers than him but at this point you know I felt bad.  The poor kid didn’t understand that even without money his teachers would have found a way to get him lunch and then we would have settled the score later.  Even though they had offered it to him, he still assumed he couldn’t get lunch so he went hungry all day.

 

We hugged it out on the couch and then he went upstairs to write apology letters to his teachers for his behavior.  I knew then that I had my own letter (email) to write.  I don’t expect that he will forget his food again any time soon, but with the help of his amazing teachers, we will come up with a plan – just in case.

 

He closed his day harassing his brother and dancing in our room and went to sleep with a smile and a full tummy.  All’s well that ends well.

 

Progress Meeting (The Good Part) November 17, 2016

As soon as we walked into the classroom for our meeting with Jays teachers, their eyes lit up.  That immediately made us feel good.  We had barely gotten our hellos out of the way when his math teacher said, “Oh my gosh.  I just have to tell you, we LOVE Jay.”

I giggled.

His language arts teacher chimed in.  “Oh yes, he’s awesome!  We love him and all the kids love him.  They just flock to him.”

 

This, my friends, is a great way to start a meeting.

 

They talked about how stylish he is. (He often wants to dress up for school and will wear bow ties and button up shirts).  They told us about funny things that he does and says throughout the day.  The most recent being that he took a break from playing at recess to announce to the teachers that he had come up with 3 rules for what they should not do while at school.

  1.  No drinking wine.
  2. No touching dead things.
  3. No cutting your own hair.

 

Everyone agreed that those were solid pieces of advise.

 

Of course we had to talk to about the challenges he faces – Mostly test taking.  We talked about his reading comprehension level and his newly discovered appreciation of math.  We talked about his ability to keep up with the pace of the class academically and about what the upcoming state tests mean for him should he not score well.

 

I am just so grateful that we have the people in our lives that we do.  They not only want him to do well, but they are willing to do whatever it takes to help him.  They believe in him!  This is a blessing.  They communicate openly and respond quickly to our emails or phone calls.  He is happy at his school.  I would argue, that him feeling comfortable and supported is more important than the grades on the report card.  You cannot have learning if there is misery or contention.

 

Science And Music? What? September 21, 2016

Sitting around the corner and listening to Jay study science with *Shaunie.
He’s learning it folks. About condensing, melting, freezing, the physical properties of matter, atoms, molecules etc.
He’s learning science!!!! At grade level. It’s not easy for him but he’s trying so hard.
He may not get an A on his test but he’s really learning and I couldn’t be more proud.
I made the mistake of thinking back on when I never in my wildest dreams could have ever imagined this. I couldn’t have imagined anything even close to this.
I don’t have the words to explain this feeling.
Too emotional.

 

 

That was my Facebook status the other day.  Our beloved Nanas commented that she always knew he’d get here.  I can’t say the same thing.  I always had high hopes for him.  Of course.  But I’d be lying if I said I always knew my son would be in a general education classroom studying the physical attributes of different kinds of matter.  I dared not assume that he’d ever be able to answer the question “What is an atom?”  Yet, that’s exactly what was happening.  

I had to dry my tears when I heard Jay get up and I realized he was making his way to where I was perched on the stairs.  

Later in the evening, I lay on the couch with him for a few minutes.

I wished him luck on his upcoming test and asked him if he liked science.  He said yes.  I asked him about math and reading.  He said they were OK but math is hard.  He said he prefers science to both math and reading.  I asked him what he thinks about his art class.  I wasn’t surprised to hear that he LOVES art.  

Lastly I asked him about music class to which he said “It’s loud in there and makes my ears hurt.”  

Jay doesn’t have a lot of sensory issues.  If he did have one though it would be related to sounds.  He’s not a fan of out-of-tune singing for example.  I asked him if he’d like me to talk to his teacher about music class.  I told him it was possible for him to do something else instead.  I thought for sure he’d take me up on that offer but instead he mulled it over for a minute and then said “No.  I will stay.  I think I can handle it.”  

These types of back and forth conversations will never NOT be a miracle to me.  

I am blown away by this child.  

 

September 4 years ago, I published posts where the big news was that Jay sat and listened to his first story.  I published posts where Jay was getting kicked out of 2 different social skills classes.  He wasn’t yet reading.  Heck, he wasn’t yet speaking in sentences.  Not even 2 or 3 word ones.  He definitely wasn’t able to take any kind of standardized test at school.  He was in an autism class where they were just trying to get through the day without anyone getting yogurt dumped on their head.  

Before bed last night, I hugged him tight and told him how amazing I think he is and how brave I think he is.  He shrugged me off.  He doesn’t get it.  To him, I’m just a Mom being mushy and weird.  That’s alright.  He doesn’t have to get it.  

 

To all the families who are currently where we were 4 years ago … I know it’s rough.  I know everything seems impossible or implausible.  I know all you want is for your child to say your name.  You don’t even know what your baby’s voice sounds like.  How can you think about science or music class?  Your brain is full – And tired.  I know you want one night of uninterrupted sleep.  You’d do anything to be done with diapers – After all your baby is now 5 or 6 or 10.  If you could just get them to eat 1 new thing you’d be happy.  You’re not asking for much.  It doesn’t have to be cauliflower.  You just cannot make ONE MORE grilled cheese sandwich.  But you will.  Cause that’s all your kid eats.  You don’t want to hear other people telling you to stay hopeful.  You sure don’t want to hear about how their child is also a picky eater.  You don’t want to hear about the things you should be doing or what worked for their neighbours kid.  You don’t feel like you are doing anything right.  You don’t want to fight with schools or insurance companies anymore.  You just want things to be easier.

My God, I get it.  

But hang in there.  It may not happen at the same rate as my son or anyone elses son.  That doesn’t matter.  All that matters is that you don’t give up.  Keep looking.  Keep trying.  Keep working.  Keep talking.  There’s no magic pill or therapy or device.  It’s HARD.  It’s ok to cry.  But just keep keeping on.  

ASSUME THAT YOUR CHILD CAN LEARN.  ASSUME THAT THEY ARE HEARING EVERYTHING YOU SAY AND ARE AWARE OF EVERYTHING YOU DO.  ASSUME THAT THEY ARE BRIGHT AND CAPABLE.  

 

The reward just might be your kid acting like it’s no big deal that they know what the volume of a mass is because in their own matter of fact way they will say “Yeah, I’m smart“.   

 

They’re Back September 8, 2016

 

They’re back home – And this mama is happy.   We are back to making grilled cheese sandwiches and to giving good night kisses.  We are back to chore lists and finding fallen ice on the floor in front of the fridge.  We are back to laughing in the evening as Shaunee drags both boys, at the same time, across the carpet as they lay on their tummies, much to their delight.  We are back to hanging out and talking about moles and birthmarks, the krill that blue whales eat or how much it would hurt to get stitches.  The boys are back to demonstrating their karate moves (neither one takes karate) and back to Jay complaining about the amount of toothpaste Ace uses.

Jay, I think, is happy to be back in his own bed.  Every night so far, he’s fallen asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.

Ace, is up to his usual antics of getting out of bed for more hugs and kisses, or to get water or to show us his dance moves.

 

Some things never change.

 

It’s amazing how much can change in a month.  Jay is now interested in having a healthier diet.  I have witnessed him eating carrots, a banana and watermelon.  He asked for an apple to go in his lunch box.  I hear he also eats oranges, peanut butter sandwiches and yogurt.  He drinks regular white milk now (in addition to what he used to drink; strawberry milk).  He tasted a pretzel and declared at dinner, “The next protein I am going to try is fish.”

When I spoke to CC and tried to give him credit for this change, he said it was all thanks to his wife Emma.  I do appreciate her ability to get Jay to turn this page.

 

Ace is 10 now.  He got Legos and more Legos and more Legos.  He’s in Lego heaven.   We got him an ice-cream cake because he used to like it but apparently no longer does.  His size 10 pants are short and his size 3 shoes are tight.

 

~*~

 

They’re back at school – And one kid wanted summer vacation to drag on forever while the other couldn’t get out the door and to his classroom fast enough.   We are back to filling out tons of paperwork and sending in money for trips and *gasp* graduation gowns.

Jay came home after his first day saying it was good and telling us about the new fish tank in the resource room.  Ace left his homework at school.

 

Some things never change.

 

It’s amazing how much can change from one school year to the next.

Jay is now in a general education class all day.  He has 2 teachers and goes back and forth between 2 classrooms.  One teacher does math and the sciences while the other does language and social studies and the like.  It’s a totally new set up for him.

Ace is still kind of the new kid in school but he’s not the newest kid in school.  There was 1 new boy in his class this year and they have apparently been leaning on each other and have formed a quick friendship.  I am happy about that.

We are looking into clubs and activities for both.  Possibly 4H and the gardening club for Jay and Navy Cadets and track or swimming for Ace.  We will see.

 

Stay tuned to see how this new school year plays out and what else will change; Inasmuch as many things will stay the same.

 

 

 

Uncharacteristically Calm August 23, 2016

The boys go back to school in exactly 2 weeks.  I should be freaking out.  They have special needs.  ADHD and Autism to be specific.  They need 504’s and IEP’s which means I will have to fill out lots of paperwork and attend many meetings.  We will fight over homework and I’ll get annoyed when I’m tired but still need to pack school lunches.  We will all need to wake up earlier.

We had to spend money on too many school supplies and school clothes and shoes.  Back in New Jersey they wore uniforms.  Not so in Virginia.  I love school uniforms.

 

In years past, I’d be writing lenghty letters to each of their teachers detailing do’s and don’ts and fyi’s and just in cases.  I shared things that worked in the past and things we had been trying over the summer and things to expect.  I begged them to please just have some patience with my boys.  Work WITH them.  Work WITH me.  I’d give them all my contact info – even though the school (and presumably they) already had it.  I needed them to understand down to their core that they could get in touch with me at any time for any reason.  I needed us to be on the same page … The page that said there was no such things as over-communicating.  I hoped to relay that I was there to help them.  I was on their side so we could all be on my sons sides.

 

Normally I’d be scared to send them back to school.  Heart pounding.  Not sleeping.  Not eating.  Nail biting.  Scared.

New teacher.  New expectations.  It all worried me.  Would they be alright?  Would the school work be manageable?  Would Jay tantrum and make his teachers day miserable?  Would Ace talk his teachers ear off or be seen as weird by the other kids?

 

The boys go back to school in exactly 2 weeks.  The supplies have been purchased.  The new clothes are folded and hung.  The book bags and lunch boxes are sitting in the corner – waiting.

The IEP and 504 meeting notices will come when they come.  No big deal.  For the most part things are already in place.

 

I do not have any draft letters in my documents folder.  I am not freaking out.  I am calm.

The boys have really gotten into the swing of things where school is concerned.  They understand themselves pretty well and can communicate pretty effectively on their own behalfs.  I have found that teachers generally do want the best for all their students and will do what they can (and/or need to) do for each of their students – without me asking them to.

 

I feel confident that I can send my loves off to school and they will be fine.  Will issues pop up?  No doubt.  Will we all handle them on a case by case basis in the appropriate way?  I do believe so.

I feel supported.  At home and at the schools.

 

3rd grade and 5th grade will bring unpredictable challenges.  This school year will be interesting and bumpy and we will stress out at times – But it’ll be OK.  I’m ready.  Excited even.

 

Respectfully Eligible June 6, 2016

Every 3 years Jay gets re-evaluated by the school district to make sure that he still fits the criteria to be on the autism spectrum and is still therefore eligible for special education services.  He was due as of June 2016.  I am happy that his re-evaluation due date came up after he began at his new school and wasn’t done in NJ before we moved.

The evaluation done by this new school district was very comprehensive and we had a meeting this morning to go over their results.  I had been given a copy of all the reports prior to the meeting.  There were reports from the school psychologist, the educational diagnostician, the speech language pathologist, his resource room (autism room) teacher and his general education classroom teacher.  All were in attendance along with the school Vice Principal.

No-one was surprised that he does still meet the criteria for eligibility and all agree that in 3rd grade he will continue to be in a general education setting with an aide.

I’m not going to go over the details of each report or all that we talked about but there is one main thing that I want to make note of.

 

I was struck by the respect with which everyone spoke about Jay.  

 

Yes they had to give him certain tests and they had to assign number scores to him – not all of which were great – BUT in multiple different ways and at multiple different times each person in attendance talked about how they know and made sure to document that test results do not accurately reflect HIM.  They talked about his sense of humour and his smile.  They said they are learning from him as much as he is learning from them.  They had a full page showing his areas of strength that cannot be tabulated or tracked through testing.  They talked about him teaching other students a different way to tackle a math problem when he saw that they were not picking up the material.

His classroom teacher said that when he’s been working diligently on something for a while and then starts to get uncooperative and demands his book* she knows that what he’s really saying is “Ms C, I need a break.”  She recognizes that his behaviour IS communication.  It’s not just something to be curved or corrected.

Respect.

 

They marveled at his drawing and his penmanship and memory and executive functioning (planning) skills.

 

They listened to me.

The vice principal said “We love when parents write a lot in the ‘parents input’ section. After all you are the expert on your child.”

 

Each person had at least one funny or sweet story to share about an interaction they had personally had with him or witnessed.

 

They told me that a spot was open at Ace’s school for September but it would be my decision if I pulled him out of this school and sent him there or not.  They spoke very highly of that schools special education program but made it very clear that they have come to love him and would be happy if we decided to leave him there.  They tried to sweeten the pot by telling me about the gardening club they have for 3rd and 4th graders.  They know him.  He’s a gardening club kinda kid.

 

Overall, I left that meeting feeling good about my boy and his placement and his support.  He is getting everything he needs to be as successful as he can be.  They said things like “even though he doesn’t appear to be paying attention we know better” and “as members of team Jay …”.

 

I once used to dread meetings like this one.  They used to leave me feeling sad.  It was all … “below average, significant delay, oppositional, area of weakness, tantrum, become frustrated, 1st percentile“.

Some of those words are still in the reports, but also there now are … “Jays interests, readily complied, requires minimal assistance, area of strength, has formed relationship with peers, smart, delightful“.

 

This boy of mine is making so much good progress.  It’s not an easy road.  We are already talking about middle school and making sure he’s ready and what puberty may or may not bring.  It’s a little scary.  But I do believe that everyone involved is fully invested in helping him and we’ll get through it.  There’s one more week of school and then it’s summer break (and summer camp) then third freaking grade.

 

 

 

 

*His book is a teacher made stack of white papers stapled together that he gets to draw pictures in.  It helps him to regulate when he’s overstimulated.  It’s also used as a treat/motivator to get him to complete less preferred activities/assignments.

 

p.s.  People often ask if Jay is high or low functioning.  It’s a question that I hate because there’s no easy way to answer.  Autism is not a black and white type of disorder.  In some ways he’s considered high functioning and in others he’s considered moderately impacted.  In others still he can probably be considered severe.  On his test results his scores swung widely; often in ways that didn’t really make sense. He actually scored higher than average in some “areas of weakness” and then abysmally in some of his “known areas of strength”.  So in short, the answer to that question is … It depends on what aspect of his life you’re asking about specifically and also what other factors are affecting his mood at any given time.