I have said it so many time that I am a broken record. But since I have your attention, I will say it again. Connecting with other parents of kids with special needs makes all the difference. Not all THE difference. ALL THE DIFFERENCE!
It has taken awhile but I have finally pulled together my special mommy posse and we had lunch together yesterday at a local restaurant.
You know how it goes, its that table over there that will not turn over, been there all afternoon not having desert, talking, talking, talking and getting their glasses filled and refilled with water.
Sounds annoying perhaps but it was so nice and so needed. I recommend it to everyone!
I feel lucky to have found them and spending the afternoon listening to the play by play of each of their stories about their child's IEP meeting reminded me that no matter how isolated we feel, there are others out there feeling the same way.
The trick is finding them.
It took a while. Our kids do not really know each other, being years, grades and genders apart. But we speak the same language. I always learn so much and am fortified and reinforced by them, the stories, the passion and the pain.
We are devoted cheering squads for the good news and, yes, there is always good news. And, we are the dedicated backup fighters quick to take sides strongly with our posse member against all comers. The school district. Teachers that don't get or are too tired/lazy/indifferent to practice inclusion. Parents that shun. Kids that exclude.
All of the above got our well deserved wrath yesterday. Happily, joyously we had the special - perspective and I could probably eat it every single day if it was possible.
Thank you ladies. My feeble words could never completely explain how important that was to me.
Done for another year. What did I learn? That I am getting better at these meetings? Yes, I am. Although I still dread them and spend weeks prepping and stressing out.
How did it go? Pretty darn good really. I have to say, the people on Shea's team do seem to know him and they do listen to us. Which is always good.
Any surprises? Yes, no ESY which got me raising my eyebrows but I let it pass. The ESY last summer was minimal and so lame that I ended up saying, "Why bother?"
See! I don't fight every single battle. I pick and choose. In all honesty, I believe it is a budget decision and there are going to be cuts everywhere. So, I am going to let that one go. Thank god, Shea is doing well enough that I feel like I can.
Also, no special transportation. Really? Bye-bye special bus? I asked, "Is this because Shea isn't "special enough"?" And, they sort of agreed, yes. Ok. I don't really have a problem with this since we live close enough to the school. I let that one go too.
The battle I will go to the mat for is placement for next year. And, they seemed to have heard me or at least pretended. Of course, they do not even know who will be teaching 1st grade next year. They always say that and I feel for them but I am still plugging for multi-age and I will write an epic placement document to submit to make sure they are all double-triple aware.
They listened to me about the harm of too much rigidity and what that would do for Shea's progress. They agreed that too much structure might make him recoil and back away. I was emphatic about how hard we have all worked to get him to the place that he is at and that I am scared to death that if we push too hard it will backfire. I also reasserted the fact that Shea likes to make strong connections with people and that if he likes a teacher, he will want to please them. Strong connections are key but it takes him a little while and 3 years with the same teacher would be beneficial for him. All my reasoning in support of multi-age.
They heard me, I think.
I know I am a squeaky wheel. I know that I get extra grease because of it. Am I proud of it? No. In fact, I am sort of pissed that it is the way it is. Yes, I am a strong advocate, articulate and confident but why should my kid get better "stuff" because of that?
It isn't fair. I know, I know, life is rarely fair.
I sometimes try to imagine if there is a big red flag on my kids files.
Warning: handle with care! Mommy bites and won't let go! Use tranquilizer gun!
Yes, there probably is. I am a product of the system. I am as pushy as I have to be to get what my boy needs. But what about the other parents? What if it isn't in their nature to fight and push? What if they don't have the time, education, articulation or even command of the English language?
Who suffers? That's right. The kids. The whole system sucks.
My baby turned 6 today. That's right. 6 years ago today is when I got to meet me boy face to face for the first time.
He was sleepy and they had me wake him to eat. Could he be annoyed that we had to take him a week early? His temp was not rising at first and I had to hold him skin to skin to get him warm. He had trouble latching on and I had to pump and feed him with a syringe. When I think back now it seems like a movie, someone else's story.
He is getting to be a big boy now. He lost his first tooth a week or so ago. He is reading better and better everyday and will be moving on to 1st grade next fall.
When I look at my kids, both of them, I feel like they are the best thing I have done with my life. The incredible joy they bring is only outweighed by the heavy responsibility I feel to help them develop into the wonderful people that I know they are.
Happy birthday, baby boy! Because of you, I am a much better person than I ever was before.
Like a big dark cloud. Like a herd of stampeding Wildebeasts. Like a chilly fog that has wrapped itself around everything this week despite the beautiful spring like weather.
Depression? Angst? Annoyance? Mid-life crisis?
No, IEP meeting barreling down on us at the end of the week.
I feel it coming, everyone is going to sit there and nod and look at us with compassion and then explain why Shea can't be in the multi-age class for 1st grade. Even though his specialists think it would be the right spot for him. Even though we have 3 years experience with multi-age and feel it would be the right spot for him. And, even though when pressed some of his IEP team think it might be the right place for him.
Because it is just so darn popular and everyone wants multi-age. For those of you who may be confused, the mulit-age program here is 3 classes of 1st, 2nd, 3rd graders with one teacher each. The student stays with the same teacher for the 3 years and moves through different levels of being helped and then helping. I saw it in action. The mentoring that happens is quite wonderful and happens organically. The kids just find it natural to protect and help the younger kids and, of course, the younger kids don't need to be told to emulate the older kids.
The format is more fluid, less "sit at your desk and shut up", more more variety.
The IEP team is going to point out Shea's distract-ability and how he needs extra help with direction taking. I am going to point out that he is an enthusiastic learning when motivated. They are going to point out how multi-age kids need to be self-motivated and self directed and that Shea needs more structure. And, I am going to want him in that program anyway.
Yes, I am biased. Jake says he just wants Shea to be comfortable where ever he ends up.
In all honesty, when they say he needs structure, I am afraid they are going to try and shove him with this one teacher who is so structures and cold that I think it will backfire. She makes the kids sit the entire AM doing workbooks at their desks by themselves and punishes them if they do not finish by not letting them go outside for recess.
Some say she is old school. Some call it structure but my sensibilities are horrified. So horrified that I am going to break the cardinal rule of parents when talking to the school.
Insist that my kid does not get this one teacher.
This oppositional behavior from Shea is coming out more and more. If you want him to do something, heaven help you if you just ask him to do it, he won't. One must be creative and motivate him in others ways. Just laying down the law does not work. Is that what they are calling structured teaching?
Our wonderful IEP case manager is pulling together a list of characteristics for kids in multi-age. And, pulling together a list of what all the Kindergarten teachers see as beneficial traits for multi-age.
See? Do you feel it coming too?
I guess a parent has to pick their battles with the school too. I guess the question is: how much of a full on onslaught do we want to provoke? How much of a pain in the ass do we want to be?
If multi-age is so darn popular, maybe they should expand the program!
I am sure everyone is just dying to hear how the big fundraiser went! Well, it was a rockin' success. We raised $1000 in 3 hours mainly by stuffing cash into any one dozens of gloriously decorated boots! Way to go Vashon! You really know how to party!
As you can see from this picture, I was in rare form and certainly willing and quite able to make a fool out of myself for a good cause.
Ah...good old small town living.
So, did I sing? As the evening stretched out it was becoming more and more obvious that there was no way I was going to get out of doing a tune.
Hence, "Tainted Love" and the accolades are still rolling in!
We had the big "Feedback" meeting yesterday. Because Shea is turning 6, the school puts him through all the assessments again to determine what services he will qualify for. The feedback meeting it to share the good, bad and the ugly with the parents and the team.
Jake and I went and Molly babysat Shea and his little buddy Honon during the meeting.
Shea will qualify for speech but does not qualify for adaptive/cognitive anymore. His description is changed from DD Developmental Delay to CD Communication Disorder.
Apparently, he falls within age appropriate range for all adaptive and cognitive testing and I am taking that as very good news indeed.
He will get extra accommodation for following directions but basically the consensus was that he is academically ready for 1st grade.
Social will still be a piece for him but that is coming along.
Basically, the meeting was night and day from the 3 year old meeting which I sobbed through. We have sincerely come along way.
It was encouraging to hear his teachers talk about and show us the progression on his work. He came into Kindergarten barely able to spell his own name and now is banging out legible sentences. Marveling the teacher with his reading and sounding out unfamiliar words phonetically.
Now, we just have to do battle on placement.
The formal IEP meeting will be in 2 weeks and I need to do some homework on what teacher or classroom I feel would be best. My inclination is to go for the multi-age program because that is what I am familiar with and Molly had such a wonderful 1st/2nd/3rd grade experience. But, Shea is not Molly and it may not be the right fit.
Some serious thinking to do now but basically our boy is coming along.
I would say he is the successful product of early intervention. For those of you who may not remember, Shea didn't even say his first word until well past 3 years old.
We have really come a long way! But we are not done. He will still need much more speech to work on articulation and he may need tutoring in school as he gets older but the worry that he can't mainstream is pretty much dead.
Sincere thanks to all his teachers and therapists who have made these last 3 years so productive for him. I will never, ever forget any of you.
I am a 40 something mom who lives on a beautiful little island in the Pacific NW. It is a wonderful place to raise kids and we have two. This blog is dedicated to my son, Shea, who has a severe speech delay and extensive food allergies. And, to all the parents and people who work with children with special needs.