Tuesday, May 29, 2012

It's DONE!!!!!!!!

Ballerina's Kindergarten Placement Meeting was earlier this afternoon.  If you are a regular reader here, you KNOW how much this has been weighing on my mind these last few months.  If you are new, I'll just say that it's been weighing on my mind since February.  Well, before that really, but since that's when we learned the recommendation, we'll call that the start of the worries.

GENERAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM.  That's what we decided is right for her.  She will receive "Resources", but now I know what they are.  She will be receiving 15 hours a week of these resources (outside of the single teacher working with 17 other students simultaneously).  These resources will come from a combination of speech, OT, and time with both the resource teacher and "home school model" teacher.  Additionally, the small group setting which address her specific goals with the general education teacher will round out the hours.  But I have been assured that ZERO of those 15 hours will come in the form of the General Education teacher working with the entire class.

We made the decision to do her annual review at this meeting since she will be due in early October.  This way, the teachers who know her can dictate the goals for the next year rather than someone who is just getting to know her as it can take her a month or two to acclimate to her new setting.  The teachers, OT Therapist, SLP all described a child that I barely know, but have seen on the occasions that I visit her in school.  They pointed out that, despite not even being in kindergarten this year, has already reached many of the academic milestones that are expected for children completing their kindergarten year.  She can read, knows her 2nd grade sight words (as well as kindergarten and 1st grade), write her letters, spell, count (by 1s, 2s, 5s, and 10s) to 100, understands mathematical concepts (greater than/less than, more/less, first/last, etc) -- she's VERY bright and is highly motivated to learn.  We adjusted her goals to work on the comprehension side of reading rather than picking up on the basics.  We made her behavior goals more about paying attention and waiting until all the instructions are given before beginning a task.

She is going to have a hard time on August 27.  This is going to be a new experience for her.  But, for the first time in over 3 years, I know she can handle it.  She can learn what is expected of her and reach all the goals that are set before her.  She will likely reach them quickly and force her teachers to amend her goals, just as they have done in preschool.

When you consider where this journey began 3 years ago, it's hard to believe.  The first time many of her first classmates saw her was when we went to a local firehouse on a field trip, and I stood there holding the arm of a screaming child and she so desperately wanted to just run away from all of the people she was being forced to interact with.  I stood there just anxiously anticipating the end to the field trip so I could throw her into her car seat, strap her (and Music Man -- his behavior wasn't much better) in the car, and drive home so I could find a corner and cry.

My initial goal has been reached.  She was initially diagnosed with "Severe Autism".  I don't think that's her any more.  I see her as a starving student, anxious to learn as much as she possibly can about this world.  We have to do it in a more targeted way, but I now KNOW she will thrive.

My baby girl is growing up!

Just a Quick Note

The day is finally here.....Ballerina's kindergarten placement meeting.  I've been on edge about this for MONTHS!!!!!  I still don't know what the right answer is and I don't think I'll fully know until after school starts in late August.  I do believe that we will make a good decision as a team today.

So, I'm spending my early morning home with my husband doing yard work and getting ourselves cleaned up.  Then we'll go to run a few errands and maybe grab some lunch before heading to Ballerina's school.  There are going to be more people there than normal as I don't think any two people are fully on the same page.  I think this is going to be one of those times where we really make the decision in the room rather than formalize what we already knew to be the plan.

I'll probably post later today about how it went.  Or maybe not.  I plan to "endulge" in a few drinks tonight.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Insantiy Has Shifted

Well, we survived much of Big Brother's schedule.  That was helped by the rain -- his baseball game last night has been postponed to a time to be determined later.  And the rain may also cancel our presumed baseball practice.

We are now preparing for the other parts of the insanity.  Music Man has his first appointment at Children's Hospital tomorrow and, of course, there's Ballerina's Placement Meeting next week.  There really isn't anything else I can do to prepare for Ballerina's meeting.  I've visited her at school to see how she does in the kindergarten classroom.  I was hoping to see her on Thursday, but I just received an email saying that it wouldn't be possible because someone from the school for next year will be observing her that day.  With Music Man's appointment tomorrow, a field trip for Ballerina on Friday (all school day) and the holiday weekend, there is no more time.  So, I'm not going to get the chance to see how she does during the extended time in the room (she's now in the kindergarten classroom for 2.25 hours in the morning).

I still have no idea how her meeting is going to go on Tuesday.  I don't know if she is going to show up for part of it.  I don't know what everyone is thinking.  I'm still not sure of what the term "resources" REALLY means.  I'm not sure what the right answer is.  And that lack of certainty is driving me BANANAS!!!!!!!  But at least I'm insanely busy, right?

Music Man will be going to a new doctor's office tomorrow.  Ballerina has been there a few times and the doctor is very nice and great with these kids.  But it will be an unfamiliar place.  And, unlike with our regular pediatrician, he is NOT going to be able to wait in the waiting room and have everything set when he arrives in the office.  There is going to be a long conversation between her and myself while sitting in the exam room.  There is going to be some testing.  There may even be some referrals being made.  But, worst off all, there is an elevator.  And, sitting here right now, I honestly don't remember what floor the doctor's office is on.  But Music Man HATES elevators and he may have to take a brief ride in one.  I'm hoping we can avoid that.

And he's going to be out of his routine.  Even though it is a Wednesday, he won't be going to school  His brother and sister will be going to school (in fact, we have to drive Big Brother to school) but he will be sitting in the car for about an hour to get to the doctor's office and will be there for another couple of hours before getting back into the car for the hour-long drive home (well, 30-45 minutes since rush hour will be over).  It's going to be an interesting day.

I also need to decide if I want to bring up Ballerina during this visit.  I mentioned before in a previous post that she was diagnosed with POTS and has begun treatment for this.  The developmental pediatrician, as far as I know, knows nothing about this.  Ballerina isn't scheduled to return to Children's Hospital until September (the first appointment I could get).  So I need to grab her attention to talk about Ballerina for a few minutes and once I start, I suspect all of my concerns about her placement meeting next week are going to come out.  But I have to keep things like that at bay -- we are there for Music Man's benefit.  And maybe we'll start to understand a little more of what's going on in that head of his.

So, the insanity hasn't stopped, but it's switched direction just a bit.  Hopefully, I'll be able to find some time to come back tomorrow and write about how the visit went, but I don't know if I'll have the time or the energy.

Friday, May 18, 2012

My VERY Busy Boy!!!!!

We are currently in the middle of quite a bit of insanity.  I'm not talking about the normal everyday life in my house......it's TOTALLY nuts right now.  And it's all thanks to my very enthusiastic, very lovable, very ACTIVE Big Brother.

We work hard to expose him to as many things as possible.  We want him to get to see what his choices are.  He is far more coordinated than his mother and likes to play sports.  So he does.  He does gymnastics all (school) year round at The Little Gym.  He also does some gymnastics over the summer, both through Little Gym and through another gym in the area (Hills Gym).  He plays on teams all year long......Swimming in the summer (this replaces the need for swimming lessons which he doesn't have time for), Soccer in the fall, Basketball in the winter, and Baseball in the spring.  He generally enjoys playing all of these sports.  He's also a top student in school and works hard to keep it that way.  Additionally, he's a Tiger Scout (Cub Scouts of America) and he enjoys the activities through them as well.  In other words, Big Brother is a VERY active child.  And, most of the time that's a good thing.

But right now, we are experiencing so much Big Brother that Dad and I are going just a bit nuts.  It started on Tuesday.......Pack Meeting for his Cub Scout Pack.  These happen monthly and he always has fun.  This month there was a mandatory parent meeting so things could be set up for next year (fill in the spots that have been vacated by graduating scout parents or filling in the gaps for those parents whose children have chosen to leave scouting).  Since I'm "Scout Mom" (Dad stays home with the twins on scout nights), I'm the one who attended this activity.  When we got home, we just started preparing for the next day.

On Wednesday, it was baseball practice day.  It was hot and humid.  Dad took Big Brother to this.  He attends every practice and game and it's good Daddy/Son time for the two of them.  When they got home at Big Brother's bedtime, they were hot and sweaty.  Big Brother took a quick bath and then went right to bedtime routine to get ready for Thursday.

Thursday is gym day.  Both at school and gymnastics.  Big Brother attends the select classes at his gym (he is a surprisingly good tumbler) and his class lasts for 75 minutes.  It was my turn to take him.  As soon as that was over, we went to grab a quick bite at McDonald's (BIG plus for Big Brother) and then I took him to a surprise with his fellow Tiger Den members -- we went to a remote control racetrack.  He watched these grown men practicing and tweaking their cars to make them run as fast as possible.  They got to practice racing themselves with the Den Leader's car (he goes to this track regularly).  He had so much fun he refused to leave.  But finally I convinced him that it was time to go.  By the time we got home it was, again, time to just get ready for bed.

But you see, his activities aren't done yet.  He has a baseball game tonight (under the lights) which isn't expected to end until 9:30.  His bedtime (after books) is 8:30.  Then tomorrow, he has another baseball game in the early afternoon followed by try-outs for the "All Star Team".  He has decided he wants to try out and, according to Dad, he has a reasonable chance of making the team (but he's not a shoo-in).  Tryouts continue on Sunday, and the kids are encouraged to attend both days of try-outs.  Then, on Monday evening, he has another baseball game.  On Tuesday, it's time to go back to Cub Scouts for his weekly Den meeting.  On Wednesday, we expect he's going to have baseball practice.  On Thursday, he's back to gymnastics.  And then on Friday, he (and we) FINALLY get to relax before heading over to the pool on Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend (assuming the weather cooperates) to get him used to being in the water again before Swim Team practices begin just after the holiday weekend.

And he's in first grade with homework and a demanding set of coursework requirements.


When you look at it on paper, we really haven't signed Big Brother up for too many things.  In addition to school, he plays one team sport at a time (with a little overlap between baseball and swimming), does the gymnastics (which he does NOT want to give up), and Cub Scouts.  Swim team is the only one of these that we don't offer him a choice.  Everything else he chooses to do. 

Next year or the year after (at the latest), he's going to have to begin religious education -- he's already behind there.  He wants to take music lessons, but we haven't started with that yet.  He will be trying to learn guitar over the summer.  If he enjoys playing the guitar, I will look into finding a place who can teach him classical guitar -- he can take that and apply it to playing rock if that's what he would like, but the technique will help him in all things music.

I am very happy I have such an active son.  I'm so happy that he is such a social butterfly and wants to do all these group activities.  I'm happy that he's so well-rounded that he excels in several of these activities without sacrificing his school performance.

You see, my life isn't ALL about raising Autistic kids!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Kindergarten Orientation

Yesterday, I took Ballerina to our local school's Kindergarten Orientation.  This is intended for the children entering a typical classroom, but since we still don't know the plan for her, it was suggested that she attend.  I have made myself reasonably well known at the school and most of the teachers and administrators who were there know me and of Ballerina's situation (diagnosis and questionable placement).  But we all needed to see what was going to happen.

I started the morning with an experiment.  She was assigned (at my request) to the first group so orientation was at 9am.  School starts here at 8:50.  So, instead of Big Brother going to school with his friend and his mother, I drove him to school so we would be there (and a little early).  Normally, the kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade kids get together with their classmates in the "All Purpose Room" (aka cafeteria) and then the teachers take them directly to their classroom as an entire class (on this day there was no kindergarten because of orientation day).  It gets VERY loud.  And I took Ballerina in to the All Purpose Room.

She walked in, looked around, and started to scream and pull away from me.  I wasn't going to let her run around there with all those kids so I held fast.  We had the tantrum.  We stayed in there for a minute or so and then I brought her out into the hallway.  I had my answer.  This first "experiment" was a fail, but an important piece of information for me.  You see, I planned to do this.  I wanted to see what she would do when she walked into the All Purpose Room because that's what she would be expected to do if she was to be placed in a typical classroom.  I won't be there to help her every day.  I wanted to see what would happen.  And I got to see it.  For myself.  First hand.

The Special Education Coordinator saw this whole thing.  She saw Ballerina's reaction when we were in the All Purpose Room.  She saw her still tantrumming while we were sitting in the hallway.  And she sprung into action.  She found the principal and arranged for the Occupational Therapy office to be opened so we could find some sensory tools to help calm her down.  First she was looking for a trampoline, but she didn't see one so she came out with a large textured ball,  Ballerina knew what she was supposed to do....she laid on it on her belly and rocked.  She fell off of it, which made her laugh and that really halted the tantrum.  It was still there, but it had fallen beneath the surface.  While she was doing this, I mentioned that THIS was why I was concerned about a typical classroom.  She does tantrum (not as often as she used to, but it does happen....even at school) and I need to know what will happen with her when that happens.

After she was mostly calm, I gave her my iPhone.  She found her games and was playing them quietly and we headed over to where the other parents were congregating.  She didn't want to stand still, so we walked up and down the kindergarten corridor (since they had no school, there were no students to disturb).  When they gave her a nametag sticker, she refused to put it on but kept it on her fingers (it ended up on her back at some point while we were separated).  She went with most of the kindergarten teachers to "play" (general testing to determine what these kids CAN do as an aid to helping them form classes for next year).  In the meantime, I went with the parents to the next room (and Big Brother's former kindergarten teacher) to discuss what kindergarten was all about.  I was pulled aside briefly to ask if Ballerina should stay with the rest of the kids or do these assessments in the Learning Center (special education classroom).  I told them to use their judgment, but it would be most helpful if they at least started with the typical set-up and they could transition her if it was necessary.  The moment she walked into the classroom and saw what work she had to do, she was fine.  THIS is what she's used to.  Standing around.......not so much!

When I spoke to the teachers at the end, they told me that she did very well.  She didn't cry and she went through every station and even had planted a pumpkin seed to take home (which is currently sitting in the kitchen window).  She was given homework every day, Monday through Friday, from June 1 until the first day of school (August 27).  Simple things.....writing her name one day.....jumping up and down five times on another......just to get her into the swing of things.  Overall, once the actual orientation began, things seemed to go VERY smoothly.

So, this really didn't show us much.  It didn't show us whether a typical classroom was right or if it was wrong.  But she got the experience.  She got to see what her new school will look like.  And, if she is in a typical classroom, we can work out a plan for her to get her to her class since, as of right now, going to the All Purpose Room doesn't look like the best option for her.  I am VERY happy she went.  And I hope it showed them what they needed to see.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I Think I'm Back!

I know.....I've been blogging inconsistently for the last couple of months.  But I think I know why.

We've been dealing with computer issues.  Specifically, our main computer (the one I use most consistently) suffered a motherboard issue.  It literally fried because it was sitting in direct sunlight.  Being Apple fans, we planned to replace it with a new iMac (it was an iMac that died).  We started hearing rumors that there was to be a new model coming out so we held off making the purchase.  We waited.  And we waited.  And in the meantime, we were using our old laptop (which really is a portable desktop rather than a laptop because it weighs about double the iMac).

Sometimes I would go downstairs and use the kids' computer.  But that meant taking a turn when they were home, and my children aren't particularly good about giving Mom or Dad a turn on THEIR computer.  Sometimes we put up with it.  But most of the time, we would use it when they weren't around.  But that is a little harder because we are always on the lookout for something or other and we can't spend that much time in the basement as we can in the family room playing on the computer.

So, finally, about a week ago, we realized that we have been waiting.  And waiting.  And waiting.  And we weren't hearing any dates about the release of the new iMacs.  We couldn't take it anymore.  Dad went online and placed the order for the new iMac.  It arrived yesterday.  So, last night, he quickly plugged it in and did all the things you do when you get a new computer (set up accounts, check for updates, etc).  I was able to get on briefly, just to make sure my account was active, and then we went to sleep.

Today, however, Dad is at work.  Kids are at school.  And the computer is here.  And it wants to be turned on.  And it wants me to write.  And it wants me to get back into the habit of posting regularly both here and any other site that I like to post.  So, I think it's a wise idea to listen to the computer's call.  Especially since yesterday, my new Keurig arrived.  Now I can sit here with a mug of coffee by my side.  I can ramble on and on just like I'm doing right now.  I can do it well-caffeinated and I can do it in my own style.

So, this post isn't about the kids.  It's a ramble about me and my caffeine addiction and my somewhat psychotic tendencies about abiding by the computer's subliminal call.  But this is me.  And I like me that way!!!!!  :)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Should Mom Trust Her Eyes Or Her Heart?

Today, I went to Ballerina's school to see how her kindergarten trial was going.  We had agreed after our last IEP Meeting that she would go to a typical kindergarten class and we would see how well she handled the structure and the demands of being in that setting.

Her teacher had told me in an email that she didn't want me to be a part of the transition, so I planned to arrive at the school at about 9:05.  Well, traffic was less than I had anticipated, and I got there early.  So, the teacher told me to walk behind them when they went into kindergarten and not make a big deal of my visit.  I sat and waited for the teacher to walk by with Ballerina and her classmate (who is doing this same trial) and walked behind them all to the kindergarten classroom and took a seat where one was made available to me.  Ballerina didn't seem to notice my entering behind her and I didn't make a fuss.  She found a square on the carpet to sit on and was prepared to listen to the kindergarten teacher.

I watched her for a while and informed her CAPP teacher that I had forewarned Ballerina of my visit.  So, it was not surprise to Ballerina when she looked at her regular teacher and saw me sitting next to her.  I smiled and waved and she did the quickest of double-takes and then returned her attention to the kindergarten teacher.  I sat there for about an hour (the full time she was in this classroom.  I watched her take a turn at the Calendar.  She didn't get to do what she wanted to.  She tried to do things her way, but the teacher guided her to do it correctly.  Then she returned to her square.  Then they went over the daily schedule.  She read it, along with the rest of the class (gosh, is she a good reader).  Then they were all given the opportunity to choose words and read them to the class.  Her turn came eventually, she picked the words "clean up", read them to the class, and picked the next name and sat down, back in that same square.

Then they did some writing.  Ballerina came to the table to get the whiteboard and pen, and again, returned to her square.  They were writing "-en" words today and she wrote the ones that she was asked to write.  Then she returned the whiteboard with the pen and eraser and went to the other carpet to listen to a story.  She stayed until her regular teacher needed to go, said goodbye to her friends and walked quietly back down the hall to her regular classroom.  She immediately went to the cupboard to collect her favorite puzzle and sat at the table and was solving a 100 piece Disney Princess puzzle while her teacher and I walked down the hall to discuss what I had seen.

I just couldn't believe it.  I asked her if this was a typical demonstration of her behavior in kindergarten.  After all, I figured, this had to be a fluke.  I hadn't been watching MY DAUGHTER.  Just someone who happened to share her name.  But her teacher said that she did exceptionally well today, but this really was indicative of her behavior in kindergarten.  The only real difference was her ability to accept, while helping with the calendar, that the day she wanted to choose wasn't correct (normally, she puts up a bit of a fight, apparently).

I am forced to rethink my position about her placement next year.  Going into today, I was sure of the correct kindergarten placement for her.  Now, I'm not so sure.  Could they have been right and she IS ready to begin working in a typical kindergarten classroom in September?

Time will tell......the meeting is less than a month away.......