A family's story

Posts tagged ‘Education’

With Appreciation…

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week. Yesterday, the boys brought their teachers flowers. Because it does take a literal village to help the boys succeed in school, we were very grateful that Costco sells big bouquets for cheap! With one bouquet, we were able to cover each teacher and specialist!

Thankfully the PTO reigned in the Teacher Appreciation Week festivities a couple of years ago. Back in the day we parents were asked to send in flowers, candy, school supplies, games and more to shower the teachers with thanks. Gratefully, we now just provide flowers and a gift, if we choose. Today the kids are wearing neon because the teachers have made their future so bright. Tomorrow they are dressing to impress (wear ‘nice’ clothes). Thursday they can make their teachers and specialists home made cards. Friday they can wear their teacher’s favorite color or school spirit colors.

Because we are grateful and appreciative of all that the boys’ teachers and specialists do for them, we provide gifts for them during Teacher Appreciation Week. I have to buy twelve gifts. And then, in another 5 weeks, we give end of the year tokens of thanks to our teachers and staff. I know that I don’t HAVE to give them anything. However, I know that my children each have their own set of challenges, and I want to thank the teachers and staff for their hard work during the school year to motivate my children to learn and grow. This year, particularly, has been a good year.  I can’t let that go unrecognized.

I’m grateful that most of the teachers enjoy a good gift card to Target or Starbucks. Those are easy to find, and I know that they will be used! The hard part comes with creating the “presentation”. Again, I know I don’t have to do anything big, but at the same time, my marketing background comes out, and I want to make it look good. To make it memorable.

So, off I go to figure that out…but really, I know that it’s not about the presentation. It’s about appreciating those whom work with my children to grow, progress, and learn. I am incredibly grateful for the good people out there whom treat my children with respect and dignity and let them see how much they can do in life and in school.

Trailblazer

When Tate started Early Intervention in the spring of 2008, we were the only family I knew who had to use the services. The only one. I had to learn how to navigate the system. I had to learn how to talk to insurance. I had to learn which therapies were important and which were not. I had to concede that my child was different and needed “intervention”. Many of you out there know, it is not easy to admit that your child has special needs, and it can be very, very lonely.

In the early stages of Tate’s intervention, I read…and read…and read. Books on development. Books on Sensory Processing Disorder. Books on Sensory Integration. Books on speech delay. Books on autism…I was on the Internet all.the.time. Always searching. Initially, I searched to find the definitive example that would show that Tate was not autistic. I was scared and only knew of negative connotations with the disorder. After a while, I stopped denying the possibility of autism, and started to read about therapies, interventions, and programs for children with autism and other intellectual disabilities.

I hadn’t yet found a group of people who knew what I was going through. Who knew what it was like to be told that their child was “delayed”. Who knew that their child would need a lot of support to just be able to do the things that typical children do. I had no one who had been told that their child was not typically-developing. (As a member of a message board of moms with kids born in April/May 2006, I did encounter a few moms with kids with SPD…and they were able to give some insight and advice…but they were miles away…and I couldn’t get referrals or someone to give me a hug and look me in the eye and tell me it was going to all be ok.)

In Tate’s first year of preschool, we met a few other families with children in his class. I was hoping for connection. For a group of people who would “get” it, and scream, “me, too”! I wanted to hang out and spend time with them and see how their kids were doing and what therapies they were using. As we got to talk to other parents, and I grasped for connection, there was not much. For whatever reasons, we were the only family who had a child as delayed as Tate was. We were the only family getting outside therapy services. The. only. one.  And no one else had older children who had been through the program. So much for comparing notes. 

We forged ahead. At Tate’s 4th birthday party I experienced the role of “trailblazer” for the first time. One of the mothers had a daughter in Tate’s class. Her daughter was younger, and still non-verbal. She had just found that their insurance would cover some speech therapy. She asked if anyone knew of an outside speech therapist…and if so, did they like the SLP. I perked up. We had a SLP that we loved…that Tate loved. She was great. I gave Em the number. I said it was amazing how Tate responded to the SLP. They were able to get her daughter an appointment a month later. They still see the same SLP today.

My next experience with taking the lead came in 2011. Em called me, out of the blue. It had been several months since we had spoken. Her daughter was in a different preschool class than Tate that year. But she wasn’t calling me about her daughter. She was calling me with questions about her son. Her son is 2 years younger than Tate. She said she remembered some of the behaviors and delays that I had talked about with Tate, and she said it reminded her a lot of her son, who was just about 3, and in Early Intervention. They were in the process of the district evaluation for the Early Childhood program. When she started talking, it all was very reminiscent of our experience with Tate. The main difference is that her son was a wanderer, and thankfully, Tate never wandered. I told her that we had just had an evaluation for autism, and that he got a diagnosis. She cried a little, but said she thought that might be it. I encouraged her to make a neuropsych appointment.

This past fall, a friend contacted me. She thought she remembered that Jake had some issues with math. Apparently her daughter was struggling and the teacher suggested it may be dyscalculia. Essentially, that is Jake’s issue. I encouraged my friend to get an evaluation done. I also gave her some of the tips we were given for Jake in regards to math. She talked to her district, and she got an evaluation done. Her daughter is in the process of getting an IEP. I shared websites we used with Jake, as well as some other resources. I also gave examples of Jake’s math IEP goals, and accommodations so she knew what they might look like.

Just the other day another mom approached me. She  has a son Jake’s age, and said he can be so focused and into something when he likes it, but his teacher told her that he cannot maintain focus. She said they are getting an evaluation–and it turns out they are going to the same neuropsych that evaluated both of my older boys. She asked if she could pick my brain and ask a few questions. I assured her that I would be willing to answer any questions. I already have some bullet points and resources for her…some things that might assuage her anxiety about the whole evaluation and possible diagnosis. I know her son..and in some ways, he reminds me of my boys and their fidgety behaviors when they are anxious, in sensory overload, and the like.

So, I don’t know if I’m necessarily a “trailblazer”, however, I seem to be the one person whose been through “this” before for parents who are in my current circle.  I remember feeling alone, scared, and uncertain. I remember trying to find a shred of hope in the dark. I remember. And because I remember, I will do what I can to help other parents not have to face this alone. I will give referrals, hugs, and the”it is going to be ok”. Because it is. Different, yes…but ok. And sometimes, even, great.

Parent-Teacher Conference Success

Last week the boys brought home their first trimester report cards. I always get a little nervous on the days that they bring them home. This year, we have such open communication that I didn’t foresee any surprises, but there is still apprehension as the day arrives. I opened Tate’s report when he came home for therapy. I was ecstatic. Yes, he has a modified curriculum, but my son is kicking some booty this year. He is progressing towards grade-level in several areas. He is doing well with his math and spelling. The teacher is helping him stay interested when it comes to reading. He still wants to explain pictures in the books more than read the words, but he’s getting better. He’s making progress towards his IEP goals…only a month into the new IEP.

Jake made sure to tell me that his report card was in his folder as he popped out of the school. I read it when we got home. I was pleased. He is doing quite well in reading and spelling and social studies and science. He is making progress in math. His teachers have him pegged so well. Jake tries hard, when he wants to try hard. When he doesn’t, the teaching staff has to resort to motivators…and pep talks. His effort in math is inconsistent. He can do it, but because he doesn’t like it and struggles, he fights her with every ounce that he has left in him. Jake needs a lot of reassurance that he is on the right track. A lot. Like every 10 minutes. God bless his teachers for not getting irritated too much. They give him what he needs. He is grateful and lets them know that.

The day after report cards came home, we met with each of the boys’ teachers. In Jake’s room we had most of his team–regular ed teacher, student teacher, resource teacher, social worker, and speech therapist. He is progressing well in speech and social work. He achieved one of his first trimester goals in social work! The speech therapist is working on his pragmatic speech skills, and is noticing improvement with his peers, too. The teachers talked about his progress in reading and math. We are certain he can achieve a big leap in reading. His fluency, comprehension, and decoding skills have just all come together lately. He’s even trying harder books..and having success. He is splitting his reading time between the regular ed classroom and the resource room. He reads the story the regular ed kids read and then works on breaking it down with the resource teacher. We are all very impressed with his ability to get the work done.

We all wish his math class wasn’t at the end of the day. But that’s when the third grade has math. He’s tired, his meds are wearing off, and he is easily distracted. It is hard for him, so he tends to melt down a bit more. They are hoping for him to make a 10 point gain in the district assessments come January, but we aren’t sure if it will happen. We all tried to brainstorm different ways to help him succeed. We are all working together for his benefit.

Hubz and I raised concerns about Jake’s organizational skills. It was flagged on his report card as an area of concern, as well. We brainstormed in his conference. We decided that in order to motivate him to write down his assignments, we will let him use pens and Sharpies. He loves colors. The teachers also said that they would be comfortable with him doing homework in pen/ink, as long as it is neat. So now when he wants to write spelling sentences in purple pen, he can do so. I love that we can talk about it and come up with some new ideas for him. No one lets their ego get in the way…it’s all about getting him to achieve. I love it.

After Jake’s conference, we walked down the hall to Tate’s classroom. We chatted with his teacher and the social worker. Tate is doing so much better. His anxiety is much lower. He is not scripting nearly as much as he used to be. In fact, we were all in agreement that as soon as we put a BIP review into his IEP, the scripting stopped…at school and at home. He still does it, but not to the degree where it interferes with everything else. Tate is loving the visual schedules that the teacher provides him at his desk. He is able to change it every day according to his schedule. He is first to let his teacher know if she forgot to change anything on the main schedule on the board, too. That’s my Tater.

We talked about his passion for numbers. We are able to get him to do math willingly, and he’s getting better. He struggles with some of the various terms that are used in math, which mean the same thing…so we’re going to work on that with his teacher and his speech teacher. Until he gets more comfortable, his teacher will write the various terms so he sees them all at the top. For example, when they want him to find the EQUAL pieces, she will do: EQUAL/SAME/MATCH. For addition she writes: ADD/SUM/ALL TOGETHER. Tate is also starting to show his humorous side at school…that playful, charming side that Hubz and I know so well. He will recite the answer correctly for the teacher, then write down something incorrect. For instance, 1+1=2…and he’ll say it, but then write down a “3”. Then he smiles his megawatt smile and says, “Nooooo, that’s not it!” and erases the “3” and writes the “2”. Love that kid.

Social interactions are still a concern for us. I asked specifically about them. His teacher said that for Tate, peer interaction is still on his terms…unless it is prompted by an adult in the classroom. But he is getting better with fewer prompts and examples. The social worker is really working with him to help him learn to initiate himself into play. That is, by far, his biggest struggle. He tends to crash, literally, the party. Instead, they are working so hard with him to get him to use the right scripts for initiating peer play. He does ok, but only with the prompts. He’ll get there….I know he will. Already it is emerging at home…and of course, that doesn’t surprise anyone, as he’s so comfortable there with his brothers. It is a step in the right direction.

For the first time in a long time Hubz and I walked away from the conferences with a spring in our step, and a hopeful, positive outlook. As we told Tate’s team, we are in a good place right now. We know that there are other challenges and struggles ahead, but for today..this moment?! We are closer to hope and joy and relative status-quo than that hard place that we’ve found ourselves in for so long. And we like it. And we are enjoying it. And we will not take it for granted because a lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into this “place” that we’re in…and it will not be here for long. It is a great feeling to know that all of the choices and fights and compromises and being the squeaky wheels have paid off for our kids’ relative happiness and success.

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