Saturday, November 15, 2008

Hope for the right track

At OT, I saw one of the other special ed moms, who had lots of nice things to say about Joey's new math teacher, Ms. Sc (so we don't confuse her with Joey's kindergarden teacher, Mrs. S.) Joey got to go see the classroom yesterday while everyone was at "specials". He got to see his desk, and explore the room a little, and talk with Ms. Sc about math.

I admit, I was a little nervous. I have an email from Mrs. A to the effect of "His new schedule means he can't get his sticker for Word Wall in here." The tone was crisp, though I don't know how intentionally. Now, personally, if I had a student who was being moved out of my classroom with no real preliminaries- just "he's going!" I think I would want to think about my attitude. I would at least want to say something like, 'I'm glad Joey is doing so well that you want to move him into an inclusion setting for more time- hope he does great there!' Perhaps that is how I was raised. You acknowledge stuff like this. I'm certainly not any more comfortable with the time he has remaining with this lady. Does she care? She doesn't even care enough to get creative and find a way for him to get his Word Wall sticker.

Joey came home from school in after-school mood, so I let him relax a few minutes before bombarding him with questions about his day. The smile when I asked if he met his new teacher was worth the wait. He told me he saw his classroom, and talked with Ms. Sc, and that he is very happy and excited. We're telling him the truth of it- he is doing so well at math that he needs to join the new class and new friends, and have a new teacher. He seems mightily pleased.

He starts the new class on Monday. I hope it goes as well as his visit.

Friday, November 14, 2008

In their world

People often mistakenly assume children cannot distinguish between reality and pretend. This is untrue. It is more accurate to say that the line that seems so crisp and clean in our adult eyes, that sharp division between what is real and what is not, is more blurred in the world of child, where things are not so in focus yet because they don't have the information and experience we have as adults. Thus a child can know that dragons do not exist, but be afraid one is living under the bed.

I remember this blur in my childhood. I was certainly aware that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was a character in a made-up story, and not a real entity. Yet I was excited as a child to see the red glow in my window in the early hours of Christmas morning, thinking that Santa was here because I could see Rudolph's nose. (As an adult, I can surmise that red glow was probably the brake lights of my grandparents' car as they arrived for Christmas morning.) I was aware that Mr. King was a real person, yet when he appeared on my birthday wearing that famous red suit, he was and remains to me, Santa Claus Himself. The line that divided realty and fantasy was blurred, and my brain made connections between them that we as adults no longer make (well, except the adults who believe in ghosts. But we can discuss that in some other post.)

To my great delight and interest, Andy has an imaginary friend.

I have never known if Joey truly has an imaginary friend; the communication and language barriers, his use of echolalia to communicate and talk about the world around him, make it difficult to determine if he ever has had his own pretend friends who inhabit that blur between reality and make-believe. I can tell you that Joey does make-believe, and even has some running narrative to that make-believe, but I have such small snippets and snatched glimpses of that world, it is hard to say whether he has his own characters there, or he has simply lifted characters from known stories and shows. Certainly, he remains attached to Octopus, through not in the take-him-everywhere sort of way he used to be; his Little Bear remains a comfort to him, he still clings to Yellow Bus on occasion and becomes happy when Yellow Bus emerges from the toy pile. How much actual character do these entities have in his world? I suspect more than my brief glimpses would attest.

Andy's friend has emerged as an interesting character who appears throughout our daily routines and paths. I have been listening for clues and asking questions, and I am keen to learn more about this new member of our family circle. Here is what I have learned so far:

Our friend's name is T-Rex, or Dinosaur. I had started suspecting there were actually two friends (Andy usually differentiates between T-Rex and other "dinosaurs" [Its not a dinosaur! It's a T-Rex!]), but now I am convinced these two names are attached to the same friend. It is Andy's mood that determines which name is being used.

Dinosaur lives "out there" and often pops up "over there", that being somewhere outside the car, usually in clumps of trees or dense woods beside busy highways. However, Dinosaur can also appear near buildings, near stores, and even in parking lots or fields. When Dinosaur appears, he can be doing any number of activities, including hiding, having lunch, eating cows, playing, tickling, looking at us, playing with other dinosaurs, and playing with his friends the Lizards (remember our running bedtime story?). However, Dinosaur is never right here; he is always over there, doing something.

Dinosaur has an imaginary friend named Spooky. Spooky is a ghost, and also features in our bedtime stories. spooky likes to play hide-and-boo (you hide, and when the seeker gets close, you jump out and say 'boo!' and they are required to yell out 'AAAA!')

Dinosaur does not like to step on sidewalk cracks.

Dinosaur likes Grandma's house. He also likes cookies, lollipops, cake, bacon, and cows. Dinosaur likes to run very fast and win races. He also likes to blow bubbles and play hide=and-seek. He also apparently keeps his eye out for Andy at school.

I'll keep you posted as I find out more about our new friend.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How a doctor visit ought to be

Joey's had a bit of a cough this week. However, today he started to crash- didn't eat his lunch, kept putting his head down, and finally got a trip to the nurse, but no fever. Then at OT, he complained his ear hurt (and kept putting it against warm things). Ear infection? Imitating someone at the nurse's office? Just a little fluid in the ear from the sniffies? There is only one way for me to find out.

Off to Medic 1. For those of you unfamiliar, Medic 1 is a walk-in "emergency clinic". If I try to call my regular doctor at 5 o'clock on a Thursday night to say my kid might have an ear infection, I might be able to get in next week (my regular doc is off on Fridays). With the Medic 1, I can walk in and see a doctor within two hours. I miss my old country doc who would see you within about twenty minutes as a walk-in (and was NEVER late for an appointment), but this will do in this day and age.

We go to Medic 1 enough that we know most of the evening-shift docs and PAs, so it isn't a huge issue of new-ness for Joey. We sat in the lobby for about an hour, talking about nurses and doctors and what each would do for him. We played duck-duck-goose, and each time I was the goose, I'd grab him and smooch him, which he thought so funny he had the other sick folks in the waiting room giggling.

When the nurse called us back, he got right up on the scale, took his temp orally (!) and did the finger-clip thing. Five minutes later, the nice lady doctor comes in, and Joey looks up and says, "Oh, hi, it's you!" and hops up on the table. She talks to me for a minute about what the problem is and what his symptoms are, that sort of thing, and she asks him a few questions (to which she got various not-very-relevant answers, but he did try) before pulling out the stethoscope. Upon viewing the stethoscope, Joey starts "taking deep breaths" (I have no idea how she heard anything through the noise). Peek in the ears, peek in the throat, peek in the nose, all cool.

Pronouncement: allergy or virus. Have a nice night.

That's right, no push of antibiotics. No lecture for wasting time of the doctor. No fuss, no muss, check him out, tell em straight up, and send us on our way with a recommendation to use adult Robitussin instead of crappy kid stuff.

Now that's the way I like it.

Thinking about getting or changing insurance?

Ah, the joys of our lives is that we are expected to regularly hit up our friends and neighbors for time and money to support our various interests. I no sooner get through one "fundraiser" or "promotion" and another one comes along.

Well, I have one for you all and its absolutely free. JoeyAndyDad works for GEICO, and they run a promotion for getting quotes on insurance. If you are thinking about getting or changing insurance, please call GEICO for a quote! The number to call is 800 342 9070, and please use promotion code 128768.* It does take about 15 minutes to get a quote for car or homeowner's insurance. Thank you for your support, and I hope they offer you a great deal!

*You don't have to accept the offer. You just need to make the call and give them the promotion code for him to get credit!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Oh Ye of Little Faith

So I arrive a few minutes early, to be intercepted by Joey's case manager, the beautiful and very talented Mrs. Huff. We chat about the bus situation and the fourth grade word wall that Joey is working on, the social skills lessons he is having, the sensory shift he seems to be experiencing, and of course, the math issue. At least somebody is looking out for Joey. She notes that now the child who needs one-on-one ABA is all set up with his own therapist (Mrs. Huff supervises the program, but they have someone new to actually implement it), she has more time to check on her other students and actually see how they are doing.

We get into the meeting. We talk a lot about Joey. How he uses language and communicates. How he expresses anxiety. The boredom issue. The classmate issue. What folks are working on. Some things were said and asked that were good. Some things that were said I still find a little concerning. We didn't talk about pulling him for math, which I thought somewhat odd, since I thought part of the point of the meeting was to broach the subject of pulling him for math. I make sure to note that boredom is the Enemy. Joey must be engaged to be functional. If you let him drift off, let him descend into the frustration of boredom, we have Trouble.

We leave the meeting, we are walking down the hall, and Mrs. Huff, the beautiful and talented, turns to me and says, "I want you to come see this classroom, I think this will be a good fit for Joey for math. I've been talking to the teacher already..."

You go, Mrs. Huff. You absolutely, positively rock.

I saw the room. I met the teacher. She has a couple of aides in there, but not a special ed one, so Joey's shared aide- and sometimes Mrs. Huff herself- will go in there to support him. So as soon as the paperwork goes through, he will be pulled from Mrs. A for math. This will also alter his recess, so he'll go to recess with his new classfriends, so he'll have that much time away from both her and the classmate. Once we get him settled into the new routine, I hope he starts feeling better (and I hope this isn't just stressing him out some more). Let's get him back on track, and having fun at school again!

Wordless Wednesday: To Love Lost, Part 3: Happy Birthday

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Upcoming changes

1. After five years of riding the bus, they suddenly want Joey to stand on the street to wait for it, instead of coming out from the house when the bus arrives. There is a 20 minute window for the bus to arrive (10 minutes on either side of the actually time it is supposed to arrive). As many of you may know, a 20-minute wait next to a busy street should be a really interesting challenge for us. I'll keep you posted.

2. Joey's teacher and I are thinking of recommending Joey begin a math group in the inclusion room. This will work for two angles: differentiation for Joey will be easier, because he'll be in a room where other kids may be working on more advanced levels than their classmates (his group will be targeted to his skill level), and he will be away from another student whose behavior has a major influence on Joey, and unfortunately a negative impact. It will also take him away from Mrs. A for another 30 minutes a day. However, this will mean another major schedule change for Joey, and possibly without the support of his usual aide. Again- I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Long and the Short of It

Yes, the meeting is on Wednesday. Joey's report card was no great surprise, he has trouble communicating and speaking, he has been having behavior issues. Otherwise he is moving right along.

People associate special education with being stupid. It is an inescapable fact. I have seen and heard my child, individually and as part of the group, referred to as a "vegetable", "idiot", "retard", "parasite", "waste of resources", "budget drain", and even "trash." Why? because people see these kids as a waste of time, resources, and even compassion. They think these are kids who will never make in society, who will always be dependent, who have no future. This is the way our society views people with disabilities, especially cognitive disabilities. Many even se their own family members who may have challenges in this light. The concept of spending a little money now to save a lot of money down the road is a foreign concept, all the more so in our current now-now-now immediate-gratification culture.

It's one thing to see this in the general public, who are, frankly, generally ignorant of special education and special needs. Even families with special needs individuals within them can be generally ignorant (sometimes mind-bogglingly so). To realize that people in the special education system itself are this ignorant is enough to make a parent bang their head against a wall. Seriously.

Here's the long and the short of it: Joey is in first grade. However, he reads on a fourth grade level, and does second grade math. His classmates are still on first grade levels. His teacher is not offering him differentiated work. Naturally, the child is bored to tears. When one is bored to tears, and one is six years old, one tends to act up and act out. then add the autism, and the frustrations that go with it, to this stew, and we are starting to have a serious problem.

What do you do with a child who is both gifted and special needs? What do we do with the kids who are "twice special"?

Our school system is going to have to tackle this problem, and soon. They have a small horde of autistic kids coming up from the preschool who are much like Joey- "high functioning" and even gifted, but not able to go into a regular classroom independently.

The most obvious answer to this would be to have a para in the inclusion room who specialized in the child or children there. The special ed teacher in our system is a floater, so that wouldn't be enough. However, the school doesn't like the idea, because hey, it costs money.

So what exactly do I expect from this meeting? I have one teacher who knows Joey very well, and does her best to support him. I have one teacher who is still learning what Joey can and cannot do, but seems to be trying very hard to meet his needs and challenge him. Then I have a the teacher who hadn't noticed, nine weeks into the school year, that Joey was well beyond first-grade level vocabulary and spelling. What do I really hope they will do? How do we find and create an appropriate placement for my son?