Tomorrow is supposed to be the first pre-IEP meeting, that touch-base where I hit up Joey's case manager with things I think the school folks should be thinking about as we start to do the IEP jig. These things are still mostly vague nigglings of things being wrong. Some are more solid ground, some are harder to lay a finger on. These are things I am still trying to process enough to express, because time seems to flash by before I can get a grasp on anything these days. It is time to rev the processing a bit, and get moving on the new powerpoint, because Joey is going to a new school next year. The new people kind of know who he is, because I get titchy about playing phone tag with the school principal (which I am still doing!) and kinda complained to the director of student services, who kinda let it be known that balls better start rolling or heads would. I understand they have sent some folks over to observe Joey, and that's fine. But even if they spent the whole day with him, they have seen him for, oh, seven hours, max. They need to know who this child is, and who I am, and what expectations we have for Joey and for the school.
One thing about making a powerpoint, it brings focus to the processing. It also is an exercise in balance. We want people to know both the good and the not-so-good, the strengths Joey has as well as his weaknesses. We want folks to know what kind of grasp we have of the situation and of Joey. We aren't one of those parents who never shows up for meetings and uses the school to baby-sit the kid. We expect progress, we expect support, we expect education.
We have been pleased with Joey's team these last few years, and we're going to be sorry to lose people who not only know Joey so well, but have a solid sense of how to support him and keep him on the straight and narrow. We've also been lucky enough to have an aide who can sign, and that helps more than people understand. With all the good, I'm a bit in a funk about the bad. Its a shock to see Joey not doing things, unable to do things, he was doing, or at least trying, in kindergarden. There is a lot of frustration that need to be addressed. Social issues of group play and dynamics, skills he needs to get on in the world, need to be considered. How do you teach a child how to figure out what a group of kids is playing? The isolation needs to be addressed.
With the warm days, we have been playing more outside, and have more neighborhood children around. One of these children is an older child with Asperger's Syndrome. I was supervising the little group of children, watching their game. It had something to do with farmers and bunnies, and chasing each other, and being tossed into a stew pot. It was really amusing. Then Joey came home. Joey didn't understand about the rabbit thing. He reverted to the little game he's been playing this week, where he pretends to have a pet mouse in a cage. Our aspie neighbor didn't miss a beat- he was the farmer, the other kids were rabbits, except Joey was a mouse, no problem. The game continued, but it became clear that Joey couldn't figure it out, and in the end, though he was in a swirl of children, he was very much alone. Attempts to get him to join the game were met with blank looks and confusion. Even trying to shift the game to meet his own didn't work. Our aspie neighbor wasn't totally blended in, but he wasn't completely isolated, either. He worked with the kids around him, they worked with him to all play together. Joey can't do that yet.
I want to know why. That may seem very obvious to many of you, but for me in the up-close, it isn't. It isn't as simple as being autistic. And why am I concerned? After all, I remember wandering off from other kids at that age, not interested in what they were playing, feeling isolated from the children around me. If he wants to be alone, is that so bad? Yet I can tell you that this is affecting him in ways that need to be addressed. It feeds into the frustration. It is feeding into some psychological issues that are being expressed in negativity. It is heartbreaking to hear Joey suddenly yell out, "I am a STUPID BOY!" every time he thinks he has done something wrong. He wants to join the game. You can see him trying to join in, trying to play with the other kids, trying to figure it out... and giving up.
I've got to pull my brain together and figure out how to help him keep trying, how to help him learn how to do this. We can't give up.