Monday, September 8, 2014

As the school year starts....

.....I'm noticing a SERIOUS change in Simon.  A huge growth that we haven't seen YET in that boy.  And others are noticing it too!

It started with the first few days of school.  We were worried that, because he's been with the same teacher for 2 years that he would have trouble with another teacher in a different classroom.  There is very little he shares with his former classroom now.  One student moved with him.  They are in a different hallway, with a different paraeducator (as well as teacher), even a different Occupational Therapist (when he goes to OT).  He's even arriving at school differently, taking the bus.

Every day, he comes home with his daily contract.  It gives a very general description of his day.....what types of activities he did (including specials) and whether he performed well at each station of the day.  The form is the same every day with the special written in, so it really doesn't give me much information at all other than "He had a good day" or a "....mediocre day" or a "....bad day".  There are 3 icons for each line item.....a smiley face; a neutral face; and a sad face (I don't think I need to describe those in any further detail).  The entire first week, he had ALL smiley faces.

The second week started the same way!  I had gone into school for something with the PTA and ran into the paraeducator in the office.  I asked her, casually, if they were "grading" the kids more leniently as the school year had just begun.  She explained that he had taken to the routine like he had been doing it for a year.  He was participating in class.  He was walking nicely in the hallway from place to place.  He was behaving during lunch.  He was really doing everything exactly the way you would expect any child to do things.  (for the record, he has since come home with a couple of neutral faces, but they've been scattered -- he has enough smiles to have earned a star every day)

But it's not just at school that people are noticing this change.  He went to his first dance class on Saturday.  Historically, he would do everything that his classmates would do, but behind a wall so that (he believed) no one would be watching him.  But on Saturday, I insisted he come out and watch in the mirror.  He fought me at first, but he begrudgingly came out and stayed out throughout the whole lesson.  He did everything that was asked of him, including tap dancing (not his favorite thing).  I'm hoping that this is a sign that this class will also be going better for him this year.

And it continues!  He and Rachel started Sunday School this year.  The first session was yesterday.  I had few worries about Rachel but many misgivings about Simon because they really didn't have the accommodations that the public school offered him.  But the Rabbi and I sat down with his IEP and came up with a few things.  And he arrived yesterday.  When I picked him up (2.5 hours later), I learned that he had stayed with the class and interacted appropriately with them all.  He wasn't able to sit as long as his fellow classmates, but he did stay within the boundaries that were set for him.  He went to "computer lab" and worked on the assignments with his classmates.

Just 2 weeks into the school year and look at the changes we're seeing!!!!  I can't wait to see what happens as the year progresses!  And I hope this isn't just the "honeymoon period" and that we have finally "turned the corner" with him and that he's ready for the next big leap, just like Rachel was a year or so ago!

Monday, August 25, 2014

A promise to myself / First day of school

It has been too long since I wrote anything here.  But I'm not going to worry about that right now.  I'm starting over again.  My kids have all gone back to school for the start of 4th grade and 2nd grade (WOW!  Where has the time gone?!?!?) and I'm getting back to doing what I was doing when I was happiest.  I'm going back to blogging, advocating and getting myself into a positive way of thinking.

It's not that I've been "UN"happy......quite the contrary.  But there's been something missing from my life lately that I need to take back.  And sharing my stories here really seems to help bring all of that back into perspective.

So......where was I.....oh, yeah.....first day of school.

This year is going to be a very interesting one for my family.  Firstly, we are INSANELY busy.  During the week (after school afternoons and evenings), Big Brother has soccer, hebrew school (as he begins to prepare for his Bar Mitzvah), and gymnastics.  Additionally, he plans on trying out for the talent show (which he has performed in the last 2 years), joining the chorus, beginning instrumental music (targeting trumpet as I think it suits him well) and (if we can swing it) joining the "Running Club".  Rachel will have 2 different dance classes, girl scouts (she's a Brownie now), and soccer (2x/week).  Simon's activities (as they currently stand) are all on the weekends.  All 3 kids will be attending Sunday School (Big Brother went last year, the twins will start this year) and Big Brother and Rachel will have soccer games on Saturdays.  Simon will have his dance class on Saturdays as well.  And, once a month, if we can manage it, they will head over to Home Depot to do "projects".

Dad and I made a realization yesterday as we were talking after breakfast.....a family dinner is a thing of the past during the week around here.  We will be able to pull it off on Friday evenings and periodically over the weekends but that's really it.   So we are trying to find other ways to make sure we spend quality family time together this year.  More on that as we figure it out.

But back to school.....

Big Brother is doing his own exciting thing this year....he's heading on the bus to the Middle School for math classes.  It's not as advanced as that's combining 4th and 5th grade math into a single year so that they are ready for more as they get older.  They are doing this at the middle school because a small number of students from several schools are doing this together and this was an easy location for such a program.  He has never taken the bus to school before.  To say he's excited about it is a gross understatement.  This program will begin tomorrow.  He will have to catch the bus at the elementary school shortly after 7am (he doesn't normally get up until then) and he will be bused back to school in time for his elementary school day to begin.  He is very excited about going on the bus.  He's also excited about being a member of the school's patrol.  This is something that is only for the 4th and 5th grade.  It seems to be a mark of distinction and all the students seem to want to be invited to join.  When his name was called last year, he was a VERY happy boy.  His year will be interesting, to say the least.

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Rachel and Simon are also back to taking the bus to school.  Simon's teacher last year strongly encouraged this.  Even though we live less than 1/2 mile to the school, having them come independently would do wonders for their day and really get them off on the right foot.  So, we agreed.  We waited for the bus today and they got on happily and (I learned from my spies at the school) they arrived with smiles and ready to begin the day.  I know very little first hand about Rachel's teacher this year, but she is working with the same 2 para-educators that she's been working with in the past.  I have been told that this teacher can set clearly defined limits which is something that Rachel needs.  If Rachel has a good first week, I'm positive it's going to be another VERY successful year for her.

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Simon is a little bit more questionable.  He has been with the same teacher these last 2 years.  This year, he is in a fully-Grade 2 special education classroom.  And he's with a teacher he just met last Friday during the school open house.  This teacher appears to be very nice and seemed to interact well with Simon and has been filled in by his previous teacher with his many antics and idiosyncrasies.  But his progress is always more gradual and we'll have to wait and see what the year will bring.

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But all 3 kids left for school this morning.  When they left, they were smiling, and I know at least 2 of them were smiling when they arrived.  I will be picking them up in just a little while (after I finish writing, although it won't be published until later) and I'll get to hear how the day went.  Hopefully, they will be all smiles still and ready to head back to school again tomorrow.

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