Friday, January 29, 2010

I think we finally have a fully happy transition...

...the one wrinkle we've been facing was the bus situation. Well, Rachel didn't have school on Monday or Tuesday while the staff underwent training, so we weren't going to see the effects of the many conversations with the transportation department until Wednesday. On Wednesday morning, (in theory) the supervisor was also on the bus. That day, the bus arrived just before 8 (maybe 7:57) and arrived at school at 8:45. Also, there was a note in her notebook that one child (from Rachel's class) wasn't going to be on her bus any longer and so it was expected that Rachel would be arriving even earlier. Sure enough, on Thursday, she was picked up at 8:00 (on the nose) and arrived at school at 8:35. That means that her bus ride time had been cut in HALF. We'll just say that I'm really happy about it and my faith in being a royal pain in the you-know-what can pay off sometimes. I'm told that she's doing really well in school as well. I'll be going to observe her next week which will be (hopefully) fun for me, allowing me to see how well she is really doing with everything.

The rest of the family has also been doing really well. Simon came home with a note from his teachers stating how well he's labeling things and how much he is participating in circle time and other activities. It's so nice to hear how well he has made the adjustment to this new school. This is especially true for Simon who, even though I haven't talked about it quite as much, I had a lot of concerns about because, unlike with Rachel, whom we've learned responds so well to the ABA techniques, we really hadn't seen how Simon learns. MPAC seems to be a good place for kids who just don't fit in the CAPP model or any of the PEP models. This worries me though, if MPAC is no longer going to be supported by MCPS. I really don't think he's ready for PEP, I know that CAPP is a BAD choice for him and I'm not sure what else there really is. I know.....MPAC is not TRULY going away (according to people who are within MCPS) but will be "incorporated" into the public school setting (by creating another program). I didn't see this process for CAPP (although I know this is what happened) -- but I may be in that situation for MPAC, and I'm not sure what to think of it all. I just hope it doesn't happen any time soon, or Simon may suffer for the change.

Even Daniel had a good week this week. It was a short one for him as well (4 days instead of 5) and he had a playdate earlier this week. And it was a chance for me to actually just LET the kids play, without 100% supervision. Overall, it went well and both boys seemed to have a good time. I hope that he wants to come over again soon and that others will follow his lead.

So, it may have taken a few weeks, but I think we're finally there and going on with our new lives. Simon will be going back to KKI for a Speech and Language consult late next week and perhaps we'll learn some new ideas to help him. Rachel's visit was quite informative for me (mainly because she was so cooperative) and I hope we'll have that again this time. And, as I mentioned earlier, I'll be going to observe Rachel in her class on Friday, so I can see how well she is really doing with everything and how well she is fitting in with her new surroundings.

I'd call this a good week!

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Bus Saga....

When I first joined the Wednesday parent group with Infants and Toddlers, the parent educator (who leads the group) talked about how a reservation a lot of parents have when the children leave their program is "The Bus". I always assumed that it's hard for parents to put a just-turned-3-year-old child on the bus to take them to and from school. That wasn't going to bother me (at least not enough to not want to do it). But now I'm thinking that it's the added layer of bureaucracy.

Let's start by saying that Simon's transportation is just fine. His school starts at 9 and the bus picks him up just shy of 8:30. He gets on happily, gets to school just fine and on time, and comes home happy as can be somewhere around 2:20 (school lets out at 2). It's reasonable and he's happy with the whole arrangement. But things can never be that simple when you have twins.

Rachel's bus arrives at 7:40. Her school doesn't begin until 8:50. Yes, that's 70 minutes (scheduled) on the bus. She just turned 3!!!!! This is totally unreasonable. I decided to wait and see how things were going before making a stink about it. But had been over a week and the time had come.

I contacted the school's autism office a couple of days ago to ask what would be the best way to proceed (ideally looking for a name within the transportation office so I wasn't being shuffled from one desk to another). They told me they would look into it. And what they learned (and passed onto me) was that there was only 1 other child on the bus (picked up after Rachel) and the reason it took so long was "traffic".

My response to the autism office after reading this that was, let's just say, a bit irate, claiming that if it only took 30 minutes to get Simon to school (and his school is only a mile away from her school in that same direction) with 2 stops following his own pick-up, they should be able to get Rachel to school within 40 minutes.

Now, I'll admit -- traffic in Montgomery County is a problem, especially during morning or evening rush hours (which is why Kevin goes to work so early in the morning). But the school is only 20 minutes away (typically) and expected traffic can be accounted for, so why is it taking so long to get a 3-year-old to school? Time to call the transportation office myself.

Well, this morning I did just that. What they told me didn't match AT ALL what the autism office had passed on to me (I am assuming that the transportation groups made a change after the conversations with the autism office). She is now the 2nd of 6 children picked up by this bus and is NOT to be picked up prior to 7:57 (which is when I was initially told that she would be picked up for school). If the bus arrived earlier than that, I wouldn't have to put her on the bus until that time. Then the bus makes its remaining stops and is scheduled to arrive at her school at 8:40. Approximately a 40 minute bus ride is (relatively) acceptable (double driving time was my expected rule). After getting off the phone, I sent an email to the autism office telling them what I had learned.

About an hour after sending my email following my call to the transportation office, the autism office sent one back to me telling me that she would talk to the transportation office about having Rachel ride on the bus with Simon and then the bus would drop her off before heading to MPAC (or maybe after). Now, on many fronts, this would be IDEAL!!!! But I know that this isn't going to work. And right now we have a feasible solution. Why didn't she read the rest of her emails in the thread before sending that? GGGGRRRRRRR........

Rachel doesn't have school on Monday or Tuesday due to in-service days, so it'll be Wednesday before we know what's actually happening. But I hope that we have a good solution here and that I don't have to resort to driving her to school (when I have to wait for Simon's bus and drive Daniel to preschool, not to mention the fact that she LIKES going on the bus) or ask about the possibility of changing her placement (when she's doing so well in her new classroom [this was a less-preferable suggestion from someone I know and trust]).

If this is solved, the "transition" should be over and we can get on with our lives.....

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Adjusting to a new life...

....well, the twins have been in their new programs for a week. One week of putting them on their respective buses. One week of having them working on getting them to say "Bye Bye" as they're leaving. One week of sending and/or receiving daily notes to teachers. One week without naps. And, overall, I've got to say, it's been a good week.

Rachel and Simon both seemed to have made this adjustment quite well. By the 3rd day, they were both excited when they saw the bus. Simon and I tend to walk out the door as the bus is coming down the street, and he has to stand on the stoop and watch it pull up in front of the house and he does his "happy dance" from the moment we see it until it stops to pick him up. And they come home happy. That, more than anything else, tells me that they are enjoying themselves. Rachel has taken naps on her LONG ride home from school most days. Simon has now completely dropped the nap. And they are both actually SLEEPING at night -- they're falling asleep within 20 minutes and (seemingly) sleeping through the night. And I'm enjoying a little bit more freedom -- and for the little things; taking a morning shower after dropping Daniel off at nursery school; going to the grocery store without worrying about little hands pulling everything off the shelves; and just having a chance to breathe for a little while.

There is one crimp in this whole arrangement; Rachel's bus ride. She is enjoying it, so I have to be careful how I handle it. But the county's policy is that the children are allowed to be on the bus for up to one hour (yes, 60 minutes) each direction to and from school. Without informing me, they changed her pick-up time in the morning from 7:57 to 7:40 and she is consistently not getting to school until 8:45 (with a couple of minutes either side), per reports by her teacher (we've been tracking it since the first day since I thought her commute was too long). It only takes 20 minutes to drive from here to her school. I've now contacted the school's autism office to ask how I should best handle this before going off the handle with the transportation office. The problem is, since all 3 of my kids go to different schools, I need the bus to take her and Simon to school so I can drive Daniel (since I don't have a bus option for him). I can't even follow the bus because I have the 2 boys at home (waiting for their transportation to school). But I'm certain that this too shall work out.

So, it's been a really good week!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Happy Birthday!!!!

Well, today was the day. The day we've been waiting for. Rachel's and Simon's birthday. Their first day of school. Watching them get on the bus. And now it's done.

The last week has been, to put it mildly, CRAZY!!!!! Because of the snow prior to the holiday break, all of my plans to visit the schools and get comfortable with everything were just out the window. We had this past week to get everything done and to get comfortable. That included visiting both of the schools and allowing the two of them to get familiar with their new classrooms. It also included getting all of the paperwork together and dealing with my own reservations about everything. And, of course, there's a 2 hour delay on the day when we were planning on visiting CAPP for Rachel which delayed her visit (and then she developed a fever delaying the visit even further).

But this morning, we came downstairs and got breakfast for the kids and treated it just like every other day. Then, at 7:47, I hear a horn honking and realize that Rachel's bus is here -- 10 MINUTES EARLY!!!!! She doesn't have her socks or shoes on yet. She doesn't have her coat on. She is still eating breakfast. I run outside and inform the bus driver that we'll be ready very soon, get her ready, and take her outside. She sees the bus and doesn't want to go ANYWHERE. The bus driver and bus aide was nice enough to allow me to bring her on the bus and get her in the seat myself rather than having a stranger strap her into a carseat (which is something she's not very cooperative with in our own car). But she was screaming and watching the bus go was very difficult. But she was off. One down, one to go.

Simon's departure was a little smoother -- mainly because the bus was there on time (or maybe a couple of minutes late). By the time the bus got there, we were ready. He was dressed and had his backpack on. But, again, he didn't want to get onto the bus. Once again, the bus driver and aide were kind enough to bring him onto the bus and sit with him while the harness was attached. Then I said goodbye and left the bus and waved as the bus took him to MPAC.

Throughout the day, I received (and made) phone calls to check on them, and they both seemed to have a really good day. Not too many expectations were being placed on them this week -- right now, it's more important that they get comfortable. But they seem to definitely be on the way to having that happen. Simon had fun playing with the toys in the room. Rachel got to experience an "art" special. It's definitely a good start.

The return trip was also successful. Simon returned home just shy of 2:30 this afternoon. He got off the bus with minimal issues. And then he got to go downstairs and play for a while before snack. The only problem with this schedule -- NO NAP. Rachel arrived home just shy of 4:00. She HAD fallen asleep on the bus and didn't appreciate being awoken by the bus aide. So, it took her until nearly 5:00 until she was no longer crabby. But then, she was right back to herself.

So, Day 1 of many is now behind us. Hopefully, the following days will go as smoothly.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Getting ready for what's coming....

....well, we are now 8 days away from the twins' 3rd birthday. That means we are 8 days away from them leaving their IFSPs behind and the beginning their IEPs (including changing schools). We were away visiting family for a week (came back on Saturday evening) and have been trying to get back into the swing of things over the last couple of days. Also, I've been arranging for trying to get all the pieces in place so we'll be ready for next week. I'm calling this a "normal" week, but for me it feels like anything but.

Today was Rachel's last clinic visit with CSAAC. I remember how opposed I was to receiving services from them. Now I can't believe how far she has come and that they are just about over. She currently has 6 more sessions planned, but one of them may have to be canceled because of a higher priority appointment for her (at this time). She'll be working with 4 of the 6 techs during this week so she'll have the chance to say "Good Bye" to them (in her own way). She has responded so well to the ABA techniques, I'm sure that she will do fine with this portion of her day at CAPP. I'm slightly concerned about the group activities that she'll be doing, but they are used to dealing with those types of issues and will be keeping me informed of her progress. So, Rachel, for a change, is relatively easy. Now we just have to get her to visit the school and meet her teacher (which is scheduled for Friday morning [the higher priority appointment I mentioned earlier]). I also still need to figure out her bus situation (another story for, probably, another post).

Simon, well, I'll just entitle his transition "The Continuing Saga". I've mentioned in another post about the possibility of the public schools possibly ending their referrals of children to MPAC which would most likely eventually cause the program to shut down. The budget discussions will be taking place on January 13 and 20, and many MPAC parents have volunteered to present to the board at these meetings. Other parents (myself included) have filed letters to the Board of Education about how valuable MPAC is. I wasn't sure if I would send such a letter, but the overall attitude of the IEP board and their immediate recognition that this was the ONLY appropriate placement for Simon definitely made an impression on me, and that fact made it into the letter. To make matters even more interesting, just before the holiday break, I received an email from the administrator at MPAC telling me that the teacher to which Simon had been assigned had resigned effective at the break, which means when he starts there, he'll be dealing with substitute teachers until an appropriate (and presumably good) permanent teacher is hired. I've been assured that the classroom aides are still present and are not changing. But Simon doesn't cope with transitions well in general -- not having a set teacher is not going to make this any easier on him. We will be meeting one of these substitutes on Wednesday during a brief visit (hopefully it will be a semi-stable position for the sub until a permanent teacher is hired) and perhaps he will have an opportunity to meet the other children in his class. He will be bused to school and will be gone from the house from 8:28am until 12:23 on Mondays, 2:23 on Tuesday through Friday.

But unlike with Rachel, where we've found a learning technique that works, we really haven't seen to found such a thing for Simon. Some days he responds to something and other days he won't. I know -- he's a nearly 3 year old and that's how they are -- but this is taking it to an extreme. He, far more than his sister, has good days and bad days -- the good days he's AMAZING and will learn everything that's presented to him -- on a bad day, well, let's just say everyone who comes in contact with him should wear protective head and body gear and the headphones that air traffic controllers wear and brace themselves for a long and painful day. And those can go on for extended periods of time. But we do know that he's learning -- anyone who watches him sees the changes. Unfortunately, for me, lately that means recognizing a lot of regressions. Again, I know.....2 steps forward, 1 step back......

So, I'm going to leave this here for the moment, and come back with the bus story for Rachel once I get it figured out. Right now, it appears to be unacceptable, but as I put more of the pieces together, I'll probably realize it's just fine...