Monday, March 30, 2009

Bad News/Good News

Yesterday was a fantastic day! I mean FANTASTIC. The only thing negative about the day was that it snowed. Yes, snowed, again. Daniel was actually in our family room, picture running in place arms flailing having a fit, crying and yelling, "make it stop snowing, change the weather!" We had a guest over then who answered EXACTLY how I do every time this happens, "buddy, I would if I could!" That was the bad news, well that, and the fact that we had such a great weekend I pretty much ignored Daniel's school work. We crammed for his math test last night at 8:00pm and didn't do nearly what I normally would. I'm dealing with my parental neglect and concentrating on the GOOD.

The good news is back in November I purchased tickets to The Lion King. Daniel loves performances and has been to several small scale productions with school. He has been to the symphony with his band class last year and did great. The kid loves to perform and I think he pictures himself up there having the time of his life. He is so taken in by the visual that you can see him being lifted to the heavens. There is NOTHING more visual that The Lion King and I finally felt the risk of spending $332.00 on tickets and possibly having to leave mid performance was in our past. So I rolled the dice and bought the tickets. They were good tickets too. I reserved seats on the aisle for two reasons 1. I had heard that the "animals" come right down the aisle and I wanted them to be close to see that. and 2. IF Daniel couldn't make it and freaked out we'd have a fairly easy exit.

Daniel was so excited about this he woke up at 5:00 am on SATURDAY (the performance we were attending was on SUNDAY). He was talking about it constantly. We had gone over and over the intermission thing, because I thought the stoppage of the performance would irk him. After the discussion he was ok with it. We were also doing this instead of his Sunday swim. This also was no problem at all for him to accept. I think he would have done anything to go. When the performance time came he was sitting in his seat, between Todd and I (Zachary scored the end seat by all the actors coming down!) the anticipation in Daniel was palpable. Then, he put his arm around me, leaned in, put his head on my shoulder with his grin and said, "I love you so much mom, I'm hugging you". That is a happy mom moment if I've ever seen one. My stress about the money poofed into the air quicker than you can say "Simba" and the lights went down, the "animals" came down the aisle, Rafiki (who was amazing!) was on stage with the opening and the look on his face was truly priceless. Priceless.

Throughout the performance he put his arm around me several more times, leaned in and kissed my cheek or gently put his head on my shoulder. He was in heaven, and so was I. Zachary loved it. All of us loved it. By the end Daniel was getting antsy, but he was keeping it together. I had told him before it started the Hakuna Matata song was the last song before the intermission so he knew when that song started the intermission was near. I did the same for the end of the show. It is important for him to have these small warnings. It is so wonderful to be able to whisper these cues to him and he takes it and runs with it. Near the end he said, "I can't yell, something" I don't remember the something, but he was about done. I told him, as Todd did from the other side that we were almost there. He made it. We did it. We spent a lot of money and it was WORTH every last penny.

This morning on the way to school he couldn't WAIT to talk to people about it today. What a great conversation starter. We saw a boy in his class there, and I'm sure many others will have seen it, or will in the next 2 weeks left in it's run. That $332, may have helped him build a little bit more of the bridge with is peers and the adults who work with him. That is also priceless.

Oh and Michigan State University, played their way into the FINAL 4! Which in our house is about as close as you can come to God! So overall we had an amazing day. You could even almost, almost ignore the snow.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Head vs. Heart

This morning I stopped in to see Daniel's teacher before school started. My mind had been reeling since the IEP and I wanted to talk a few things out with just her. Partially because I knew that I would have tears streaming down my face the whole time. Which I did by the way. I don't mind as much in a one on one, but with 11 other people in the room (like at the IEP) I will try my damnedest to keep it in. It has always made me so mad that crying is the way that 90% of my emotions show themselves.

We had a good meeting and she even left the other teacher from her team to run the start up class time to take me alone to talk. I thought that showed a tremendous amount of respect for me and my feelings. I was waiting for her at one point still in the classroom and I could hear Daniel whispering over in the corner "it's time to say goodbye now mom" aka get the hell out of my classroom you don't belong here!! So I stepped out into the hall to wait for her.

My heart and my head are wrestling with each other. I am trying to honor my son by having him in an atmosphere where he can get as much peer support as possible. We have spend 6 years working on these peer relationships and to yank him out of classes where these very supportive kids are feels a bit like I am turning on him. It is one of his few requests. My heart is breaking. I was going over his schedule last night and it sort of looks like this:

1. resource math
2. science (gen ed)
3. band (gen ed)
4. co taught math (gen ed, but the slower paced math so probably not the peers on his list)
5. resource ELA
6. academic support (I found out today that this can be a few different environments so we are looking into this more)

I just wasn't feeling like this was a lot of social/peer time that we are needing. BUT my head is telling me the time is right for the concentrated efforts academically. If we can pull him up closer to his peers, can he rejoin in some of the classes next year? Will that year away hurt those relationships? This is the argument going on between my head and my heart. They both have valid points. Can there be a clear winner? I don't know. Nothing is perfect. That's one of the morals of this story. His teacher said today she called Daniel's other teacher right after the IEP to tell her how broken hearted she was. Do you know why? Exactly what I said, she described the moment when they asked me what I wanted for ELA and I said "I want it all". It killed her. Because we all want it all. She said she thought that was the best answer she had ever heard. Because Daniel deserves it all. So we sat down and tried to figure out ways to work those peers in as much as we can. Peer groups, lunch, down time. We are going to have it all figured out. Who will win between my head and my heart? I am trying to pacify my heart with the meeting we had today. I'm looking for more information to help me feel better about my decision. It is sending me into micromanagement mode. That's what I do when I feel like I'm losing some control. Hopefully I'll find the balance and we can have it all.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

IEP or IWA? (I Want it ALL)

Our IEP is complete. Well, not totally because I haven't signed it. And as usual it is sitting on my desk, face down, and hasn't been looked at since I walked out of there yesterday afternoon. I never ever sign at the meeting. I'm usually feeling very overwhelmed and need to process. I have, of course, been thinking about it and discussing it with those close to me. But I haven't picked it up physically and looked at it. Avoidance? Maybe. Last year it sat for over 10 days, for those of you who don't know, after 10 days it just goes into effect whether you sign it or not. I received an email asking if I had questions or issues I needed to discuss, when in fact, I just wasn't looking at the damn thing. Such is the way it goes. Probably this time too. I'll "do it next week".

We had lengthy discussions about class scheduling for Daniel yesterday. None of that is even written in the IEP but was the focus of our meeting trying to figure out where he fits and what would benefit him the most. I don't know of anyone else who is quite like Daniel. He is a bit of an anomaly. The options are vast at the middle school, which I appreciate. They have basic classrooms, co - taught classrooms (with gen ed teachers and special ed teachers) as well as resource rooms that don't really look like what I'm used to in a resource room. Daniel is doing accommodated math, so same curriculum as his peers and is hovering around the C to C- range right now. I can't believe it. 6th grade math is really the old 7th grade math and prealgebra. He's hanging in there. For a child with his level of impairment, I find that amazing and if you'd have told me that he'd be doing that 2 years ago I'd have said you were smoking something really good. But here he is. That is why I can't compartmentalize him. There is no compartment that he fits in. On the flip side his science and social studies is modified. It is not even close to the same curriculum but core ideas are pulled out and simplified and he gets that.

The main portion of the discussion was that we had had a premeeting to discuss academics. We decided to try to throw caution to the wind and we proposed that he not even take 7th grade social studies. This seemed to be sort of a wild notion to the middle school staff, but I have blazed our own path before and I'm SURE I'll do it again. Our reasoning is this. Right now his language is so impaired that the higher level concepts in social studies are incomprehensible to him. But math is something he CAN achieve and make progress in. So why not drop social studies and give him 2 count them 2 math classes. What will help him more in the long run? Social studies or math? My answer is math. It may be something we pick up again next year. We aren't shutting the door forever. With social studies you can miss a year, with math you cannot.

One of the math classes will be the co-taught slower paced class. (there are 3 levels all the same curriculum just paced differently, this would be the slowest of the 3). The other is resource room math. We aren't sure, logistically, if it can quite happen this way , but the plan is to have him do resource math as sort of preteach to the math in the co teaching regular ed. class. He won't necessarily feel like he is repeating because they are in different rooms and would be presented a bit different, so it wouldn't be like sitting in the same room twice in a row. We'll see how it goes.

English Language arts (ELA). Boy did I struggle with this. It ties into social studies in that, Daniel's reading level is way below his peers. His word recognition is at at 6th grade level but comprehension is now at 3rd. Last year it was at 2nd. So he has made a year of progress without any real intervention. I have always pushed for him to stay with his peers which is sort of the rub here. More on that in a minute. So we are putting him in a resource room ELA to see how he responds to more intense learning in this area. If he can respond by increasing a year without any push, what will he do if he gets the push? Time will tell.

He will have a para again. It was made clear from the get go that he needs one, desperately. When the middle school asked how much of the day he needs one the answer was the "whole day". Apparently they (the current staff) need to fill out a para pro "need" form and they are confident he would fly through the needs on this. I would think so? If they said he didn't need one, I could walk through schools and go around tapping kids on the head duck duck goose style and every single one would need a para less than Daniel. That's not the mom in me talking either. BUT he may not have one single para. There are paras that may be in the co taught math room that sort of specialize in that subject and would be with him then. It will all be so so so very different. Sometimes different is good. Sometimes it isn't. Sometimes you have to hold your breath and hope the decisions are the right ones. Sometimes you have to have faith. Sometimes you need to stand back and see what happens.

Daniel asked me for 2 things. 1. he wants to ride the bus. The last two years he has walked (with me) or I drive. We are a stones throw from our school but you have to cross the busiest road in our city (there is a pedestrian overpass, but I would never have him do it alone. He probably could but I don't feel it's safe for him) and 2. he said he "wants to be with 'his kids'" meaning his peers who he has come to love. That is where my heart is breaking a bit because the resource classes that won't be the case. And now that I think about it, they probably won't be in the slow moving math class either. So where will they be? Some will be in band. I am so torn. At one point yesterday we were discussing having two ELA classes too. One in resource and one in co taught. We then decided that they are totally different cirriculums and that didn't really make sense. So it came to a choice, which would we go with? Everyone was looking at me and said, "What do you want to do?" I had the last word. It wasn't even directed at my husband because usually he defaults to me. I am the one more involved with school and he trusts me. It was quiet and all eyes were on me. Not to be dramatic but it was one of those moments, where you are chosing a direction. I welled up with tears a bit (as I am right now) and said, "I want it all." I want him to be with his friends and I want specialized attention. I want him to be in two places at once. Unfortunately most of his friends are probably in the advanced classes, or at least the middle of the road classes. So far I've at least made myself feel like we had it all. We are successful in that one of his two requests was "to be with his kids". Isn't that a success itself? I think it is. But I want it all. I want more.

I am trying to figure out if we can have it all. If we take this year and focus, can he rejoin some of the others next year? Maybe. The resource room is like a classroom, it's not like it's one on one or even five kids. The one I looked in on probably had 15 kids in it. Could this be his chance to bond with new kids? Maybe. I don't know, and unfortunately, I won't know until we are in it. I've been assured things can change if needed. I truly feel we are a team working for his best interest. Why then am I feeling like it's not enough? Something is missing for me right now. I have to sort through it and figure out what it is. I have nine more days. . . .

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

There's a Frog in my Throat!

Daniel has finished off his antibiotics. Number 20 was crossed off the list, much to Daniel's joy. Somehow we ended up a bit short on medicine. My husband suggested we just give him the rest of it at #19. Ahem. NO! I suggested that Daniel must cross off 20 otherwise he would never feel he completed his goal, and we should divide what's left, in half! Then he would have completed all of the medicine and had 20 doses. Todd agreed. I'm glad I was around and Todd didn't just give it all to him at number 19. That would have been a disaster. And TODD would have been in charge of calling the Dr's office and explaining why we needed 3 extra tsps of Amoxicillan!

I have to admit, I totally get why Daniel likes to cross those numbers off the chart. There is something very satisfying about crossing something off of a list. ESPECIALLY if it's something you didn't really want to do! Right? So I totally get him wanting to see it and cross it off. I've had many people say it would help them too because they lose track while taking medications. Do you think I could market my chart of 1 - 20? HA! Sometimes the simplest things go a long way and while it seems that it should be unnecessary to have a chart. It makes it so much easier for Daniel. I used to fight things like that because it just didn't seem like we should have to do that every time. Now when I look back I wonder why I was so opposed to making my life easier?

As the antibiotics were being finished I noticed that Daniel was beginning to lose his voice. When I asked him if his throat hurt, he glared and me then said NO! I, personally, think he is lying, but I can't prove it. So I'm pretending that he's telling the truth until I have further evidence. If you are wondering why he'd lie about such a thing see this post. Some of you with autistic children might be saying "but our kids can't lie". BALONEY! Daniel does all the time. Well not all the time, but he is certainly capable of it. Especially if he thinks he may miss school. He also lies at the end of every day that he was really really angry. We do a feeling journal for his group speech on Monday's and he is supposed to record his feelings of anger. You have to be on top of him because he will always say "I wasn't angry" and I'll say, "Daniel???" This happened last night then he changed and started his sentence with, "I was annoyed when. . . " I have to hand it to him. He's funny.

This time around when I'm asking him "does your throat hurt?" Daniel is responding with "no, I have a FROG in my throat." Which, if he could wink, he'd be winking at me and nudging me with his elbow in a "get it?" sort of way. He can barely say that phrase with out laughing out loud. That is one of the things about our language that is so very difficult for kids on the autistic spectrum. He used to get angry (ok annoyed, he'd say) and demand that he does not have a frog in his throat. For years he probably was worried, without me knowing, that maybe his throat hurt because there was an ACTUAL frog in it? Hmmm. No wonder he never wants to be sick? We have gone over this enough now that he thinks it's hilarious that someone would say something so ridiculous. Now he uses it whenever possible. So for several days it's been "hey mom, my voice is froggy, wink wink". Books like these have been helpful to get him to understand. In kindergarten he got a hold of his first book of idioms. The book More Parts and it was very upsetting for him. For someone who is completely literal it is a nightmare read. But after going through it with him many many times, he has learned that these are just silly sayings. "You crack me up", is another favorite. Which is dealt with in this book. For years whenever I'd say that he'd go into a panic and scream "YOU'RE NOT CRACKING UP!" It's funny now, but not at the time.

One of my other favorite stories is when it was summer time he would run out the door into the backyard with no shoes on. I'm always afraid he'll step on a bee and get stung so I'd yell “you can’t go outside with bare feet, you could get hurt.” He would completely ignore me. I would yell again, and as such it would go back and forth. Yell, ignore, yell, ignore. Then I'd yell, "come put on your shoes!" He would come in and put on his shoes and go back out. Then one magical day he came in and looked down at his feet and said with a very strange look on his face, "I have bear feet?" A light bulb went on in my head. I finally realized he thought I'd been yelling out the door for YEARS that he has feet like a BEAR, instead of BARE feet. No wonder he was ignoring me? He probably thought I was a crazy woman! It wasn't until I said what I wanted him to do. "Come in and put on shoes" that he would do it. Besides the hilariousness of him thinking I'm telling him he has feet like a bear, the point of this story is to be direct when dealing with kids with autism. You can make a simple chart and cross things off as you go, you can get to the point and say to put on shoes, not give a long explanation of why. If only I would have known, "I might not have lost my mind!" There's another one!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring in Michigan

Last fall I blogged about the changes in weather. Well, here we are and it's spring in Michigan. It was 70 earlier this week. Today it's 20. Welcome to Michigan! They say if you don't like the weather here, wait a minute, it will change. That is so true. But for a child with autism this can be extremely frustrating.

Tuesday on the 70 degree day the kids happened to have a half day. Daniel had worn a short sleeve shirt and pants to school. I try to keep him in pants (as opposed to shorts, not naked!) for as long as possible because once he switches he doesn't want to go back. That day we were walking over to a neighbors and he was really annoyed. He had on his crocs (the other item of clothing he LOVES but I won't allow him to wear unless it's warm out) but he still had on pants. He was complaining the whole walk about the pants feeling "funny" on the crocs. Because, of course, USUALLY he has shorts on with the crocs. Good grief. The crocs were quite a coupe for me. It happened in Florida and I was having a stroke at him constantly having to put on his tennis shoes and socks upon leaving the beach. . . every time. Have you ever tried to put socks on leaving the beach? Of course you haven't, it's nearly impossible! I snapped, (which is usually how something finally changes) and went and bought him shoes similar to these. He had fought this change many many times, but I think even he could see how difficult it was to be putting on tennis shoes and made the leap. It was a great thing, but also a transition we have to make with weather changes.

By the time we got home from our walk he was really mad. My patience was not at it's usual level. I was experiencing unprecedented PMS and was seriously about to snap. When my husband asked how I knew it was PMS, my answer was simple. Because I feel like I want to f''ing kill someone! He laughed (nervously? :) and was all, oh ok I get it. It was such a gorgeous day and it was rather frustrating that we were spending the afternoon (that they had off of school) arguing about the clothes situation. I know how hard it is for him so I was (really) trying to be patient with him, but oh some days it's so hard! Complain complain about my pants. I say, "then GO PUT ON SHORTS!" "NOOOOOOOOOO not shorts". I swear! I tried, oh how I tried to calmly lay it out. I told him he could either 1. go put on shorts, or he could 2. continue in his pants with his crocs or 3. wear pants with his tennis shoes. There was crying and agonizing and I just went outside to watch Zachary (in his shorts and short sleeve shirt that he changed into) demonstrate his "obstacle course" that he laid out in the back yard.

While we were doing this Daniel disappeared. He came downstairs and outside IN HIS SHORTS. Thank God! I am so thankful to have Zachary, besides for the obvious fact that I love, adore, cherish, and admire him as his own person. He is a wonderful model for Daniel. Sometimes when Daniel is so stuck in something he'll look at Zachary and realize he's doing it, maybe it's not so bad. It is so helpful for him, ok for me too.

Today it is snowing again. Daniel wants to know why? I understand Daniel, because I'm so done with this weather too. We are back to pants and "heavy coats". It wasn't as hard as usual to go back but the disappointment is there for all of us. It gets better every year, but every year I'm always asking myself why we live here?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Accepting Friendships

I just finished reading a book for my new book club. Tomorrow will be the 2nd time we will have met. I am hosting and while I should be preparing, I'm blogging. Typical.

The book is "The Memory Keepers Daughter". I have read it before, but it has been a long time so I tackled it again. I had even forgotten what it was about until I started reading. Long story short a woman has twins (unexpectedly, this takes place in the early 60's) they didn't make it to the hospital. Doctor/husband delivers babies in his clinic. Mother is drugged and out. First baby born, healthy boy. Nurse takes him. A second baby starts coming, Dr/dad delivers and he sees the child has Down Syndrome. In a split second decision he tells the nurse to take the baby to an institution, WITHOUT TELLING the mother (I know, right?!) . Nurse won't do it and raises the baby herself. The Dr/dad had a sister who had Down's and died at a young age. He was trying to "save his wife the heartbreak". GIGANTIC secret ruins the rest of his life and marriage. He realized this was a mistake not too far in, but he thought it was too late to turn back and ruined everything anyway. Terrible terrible terrible and heartbreaking.

The reason I bring this up, besides the fact that (thank GOD) we have come a long way in 40 years. As I was reading last page today I was a bit overcome when the brother is meeting his sister and finally getting to know her. He was observing people talking to her and he became uncomfortable because the people she was talking to were uncomfortable with HER. "he realized, he would be torn like this, aware of Phoebe's awkwardness, the difficulties she encountered simply by being different in the world, and yet propelled beyond all this by her direct and guileless love."

I found this very compelling. I will admit there are times when I see Daniel talking to someone and I think "oh no". Especially if I think they will be uncomfortable with him. I don't know why that is the first thing that pops into my head, but sometimes it is. It upsets me, because why should that be? We want him interacting, right? I am not afraid of what he will say, but how people will react to him. I will watch him from a far sometimes in these situations and looking for the other persons reaction. It is being stuck in that moment, watching without hearing. A bit unsure. Waiting. "yet propelled beyond all this by her direct and guileless love. " That quote completely summed it up for me. I'm in love with that.

Because of this, I tend to judge people on their reactions to Daniel and by his reactions to them. He knows who he likes, that is for sure. He doesn't have that filter to pretend that he likes someone. Last week we were invited to a local fitness club on a half day of school for an afternoon of shooting baskets and swimming with some friends. We accepted. We have become friends with this family through my 9 year old Zachary who plays soccer, basketball and baseball with their 9 year old. We have spent many many hours together on the sidelines. But haven't really connected until recently. I thought it would be fun for Zachary to play with his friend, fun for me to talk to the parents, and fun for Daniel because of swimming. PLUS it's a new place, and I like to introduce new places to him.

It was a great afternoon. Everything went well. Daniel was a bit scared of all of the tv's around the fitness center showing basketball games. (fear that that awful logo that may appear!) Our hosts are faithful followers of my blog and knew about this fear. They went out of their way to make him comfortable with out enabling him (hi mama!). It is such a blessing to find people that are completely accepting of our whole family. Everyone SHOULD be, but they aren't. I have many "old" friends who I don't really talk to much anymore, because I just never felt that they entirely accepted Daniel for who he is. They may say the right things, but you can feel the awkwardness. You know. Daniel knows. I can see it in his reactions to people. He lights up when people are accepting. If they aren't, he immediately disengages. I am so completely BLESSED to have MANY families here in our small city who I know we will continue to be friends with, for a long long time. Those connections are so important so we don't feel isolated. Having a child with special needs can be very isolating. I am not very easy to get to know (so I've been told) writing this blog let's people in much more safely than face to face. But there are people who we are very close to. When Daniel talks of the Sandborn's coming over he does so with great enthusiasm as well as many other families right here in our neighborhood. And based on his reaction telling his dad about our day with the Spicers', I think, if they'll have us, they can be added to that list.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Super Nanny would NOT be proud

Last week I was noticing that this cold of Daniel's was coming back for round 3. He spent almost all winter healthy then sometime in February he started getting colds. It seems that February is always a bad month for him, health wise. I can remember this only because he never seems to make it to the Valentine's party. . . .

I had noticed his eye was a bit red on Tuesday or Wednesday, but he said it felt fine so I hopefully ignored it. Thursday morning I came back home from Zachary's bus stop to Daniel saying, "my eye is red and it feels funny". DAMN! I, very cautiously, told him he was staying home from school. You would have thought I said, "Daniel I am now going to cut your right arm off, prepare yourself". As I knew he would be, he was furious with me. He HATES to miss school for many many reasons. First, he just likes to go. He likes the kids, he likes his days. PPI years I had to force him on the bus, but pretty much ever since then, he'd much rather go to school. Second, I am breaking his routine. This is what really pisses him off. So I knew when I made the call, he'd be upset with me. These days he usually gets over it in about 15 minutes. That would not be the case today. He was mad and I was the focus of that anger.

I, unfortunately, gave him a glimmer of hope about school. I had told him that if we could get him into the Dr. early, maybe he could still go, depending what he said about his eye. But if pink eye was developing I really wanted the meds to head it off. . . Well I SHOULD have just said you aren't going then if that changed he'd be thrilled. But no, I had to be honest, and hopeful. What a mistake. So for 45 minutes he was mad at me. Then I got through to the Dr's office. The appointment wasn't going to be until 3:00. UGH. That is partially because I made the decision to wait for the marvelous Dr. Israel (cue the angelic music!) The most wonderful, understanding, thoughtful pediatrician ever. He was the one who first said the word autism to us and sent us on this journey. When I hung up I said, "Daniel, your appointment isn't until 3:00 so we are just going to hang out today and take it easy." So then we started ALL OVER AGAIN, with the fit. I don't think I've seen him so angry, in a controlled sort of manner. It was very strange. Did I mention he was MAD!?

He was demanding to go to school and pacing around then went around the corner from the family room where I was sitting and yelled, "you are a STUPID mom." Which is probably the worst word he could come up with! He doesn't know any cuss words. I'm sure of that, because I think I'd have heard it. Especially that day! Frankly, it was hard for me not to laugh at him. I don't know why, but the whole thing struck me funny. Then he marched into the kitchen and started putting on his socks. I said, "Daniel what are you doing?" (he never puts on socks unless he is leaving). He said, "I AM GOING TO SCHOOL". Um, "no you're not". Scream scream scream.
It went on and on and on. On his own he started trying to take deep breaths. One of the calming strategies they talk about in Miss Mary's group. It wasn't working. But he started to do it ON HIS OWN. Progress! The other one is singing. Daniel LOVES singing. Does it all the time. So we started to sing his calming songs. One of them is "Celebration" by Kool and the Gang. Now if you think that's funny, go ahead and try to sing that song and not get happy!! (Every one around the world, c'mon! )

The singing finally calmed him down and he settled in for a good day of computer, movies and music. We went to the Dr. and after his 3 weeks of cold and red eye, Dr. Marvelous put him on an antibiotic. Part of the reason I've gone through all of this is because of medicine. We got the amoxicillan. He still can't take a pill. We really haven't tried. But our wonderful Dr. asked DANIEL if he preferred the chew up bubble gum flavored pills or the liquid stuff. He asked Daniel himself instead of talking through me, which is one of my favorite indicators on how a person takes Daniel as a person. Daniel chose the liquid. It took years to get him to drink that liquid.

I can't even count the times that the medicine ended up puked up into the toilet or spit all over me or my husband. He couldn't keep it down. He gagged, he threw up. We tried to hide it in juice only for him to not even take a sip, because he could smell it in there. We'd end up getting double prescriptions to account for this drama and still never be sure how much he actually consumed. Just knowing this was all coming would make me crazy. It was exhausting for everyone and endless.

I wish I could remember his age, but it was at this house so I would guess 2nd grade. He was becoming more aware of things and I felt I could deal with him a bit. Then I pulled out the strategy that would make Supernanny cringe. It is not under parenting 101 that is for sure. But I knew if there was one thing he hated more than taking medicine, it was a shot. The word shot instills such a fear into him it is unbelievable. So one night at 3:00 am when I'm exhausted and just want to crawl in bed, cover my head and never have anyone talk to me again, he spit the medicine all over me, yet again. I went in my room and started to put on clothes.

He said, "what are you doing?" Ok, he screamed it.

I replied, "put on your clothes, we are going to the hospital to get a shot. If you won't drink the medicine that is the only way we can get it into you."

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, I'll drink it, I'll drink it."

And he did. And we never had a problem with it again. Ever. I know that was awful. Not my proudest moment. But sometimes when you are exhausted and can't take it anymore you make poor choices. I'm ok with it. After that he has taken his medicine without incident. He chose the lesser of two evils and has been fine with it ever since. Possibly scared I'll give him a shot, but fine with it. I certainly would not be nominated for parent of the year, but it worked. And I WOULD have taken him to the hospital, I was DONE, and he knew it.

He doesn't love to take medicine, but since he does take it, we make up a basic chart. See here.

He crosses it off after each dose and it gives him some power and control and he knows how many are left. It's a very basic visual that is extremely helpful to him. I used to do it backwards, 20 to 1. He'd cross it off and say "18 left" or whatever. This time I went 1 to 20, so now he has to figure out how many are left. He can cross off 4 and then figure out 16 left. We might as well throw a little math in there too!

Saturday, March 14, 2009


One of my favorite bloggers, mama mara did a post about rituals. She asked us to blog about our childrens rituals and what we do to "enable" them. I'm not so sure about the enabling part. I take issue with that, a bit. I guess it depends on many factors. So I will let you all be the judge if I'm enabling or not. . . I'll list what I can think of at this moment. I'm SURE I'll miss some of them.

1. Jack in the Box This is one of my favorite rituals. At 7:00 pm Daniel goes to his room and "does the jack in the box one time". He turns the handle through one song until it pops, puts the lid down and that's it. He got a watch this fall which is helpful. I've mentioned before that he has an INSANE sense of time and forgets nothing. Ever. So about 6:57 he'll start checking his watch. I will basically ignore it if we are doing homework together then at 7:00 he'll say, "I need to do the jack in the box." I sometimes stretch it out if we are almost done with the homework. He gets anxious but does not have a complete meltdown. We mess around with these things a bit to try to give him more flexibility and it has worked. By mess around I mean, we stretch things out here and there and I think it has made him a lot more flexible. If we have a lot of homework left to do I'll send him to go "do the jack in the box" and come back. It literally takes a minute and a half, maximum. It doesn't bother me. If it is going to get him to focus on the rest of his homework, who cares? The good thing is if we are not home, he doesn't worry about it. He'll just do it when he gets home. I don't bring it on vacation. We have gotten it to the point that it's a ritual WHEN HE'S HOME. I think that's perfectly acceptable.

2. The Elevator On Thursdays after swimming (with Darling Nikki this semester) he comes out of the locker room to the lobby where I'm waiting. Then we get in the elevator and go up to the second floor. When we are in the elevator he says, "Starting at one and going up". "One, one floor, Two, two floors I love it ha ha ha" (for those of you that recognize this it is the Count from Sesame Street) The door opens, he presses one, the door closes and he says, "Starting at 2 and going down". We do it every time. It drives my husband nuts. Mind you, he isn't there. It just bugs him that I do it. My opinion is, who cares! It's once a week, maybe 5 - 6 months a year. It makes him happy, he really doesn't ask for much. Well. . . he does do this at speech on Mondays now too. We changed locations and there is an elevator. I don't think Todd realizes this (shhhhh don't tell him) Since he has never once gone to speech it will be my secret. We take the stairs down to speech, elevator up. The stairs down was my compromise, so we didn't have to do the routine both ways. He readily accepted this. If we are out somewhere see an elevator and we don't have to take it, I tell him no. He's fine with that. Is this enabling?

3. . The bedtime routine: read, fill out job chart, write in his feeling journal, take Meletonin, sip of drink, use bathroom, brush teeth, close curtains, turn on air purifier, turn on night light, turn off light, take off glasses, have Fantasia Mickey mouse do a flip into bed. Say the good night script with myself or dad (it is different for each of us). I don't believe this is ritualistic in a negative way. Don't you do the same thing before bed every night? I do. (not the same as Daniel, my own routine) Is that weird?

4. Morning: Go to bathroom, eat breakfast, go online, bring dishes to sink, brush teeth, go get dressed when I go to bus stop with Zachary, undress, get into bed (naked), lay there (not sure what else and I don't want to know) get dressed, make bed (YES I SAID MAKE BED, yea for me) come downstairs, watch video for 15 minutes, go to school. Again, if we were late, it would disturb him. A teacher consultant at school suggest we have a "hurry up schedule" which is an excellent idea. I have not yet done this and frankly if we are late some day, I'll let him do his schedule and get to school late. Which would be upsetting too. So maybe we do need a "hurry up" schedule. Because I guarantee he isn't leaving the house without making his bed.

5. Lunch: He eats the exact same lunch every single day, without fail. I can't remember when he's had a different lunch. But if we are out somewhere he will eat Mc Donald's or something without complaining. And if we are at home it is the exact same time every day.

6. Snack. When he is home he has the same snack twice a day. Once in the morning and once in the afternoon. He gets this himself. Part of the snack includes 10 saltines. 10. It is his favorite number, which I totally understand. It is a perfectly round number. It was my jersey number when I played softball, as my choice. I always liked the number too. So 10 saltines are counted out onto a plate, twice a day, I'm embarrased to say the a poptart goes with it. When he's at school he has animal crackers for snack. At home he absolutely will not ever eat an animal cracker. Isn't that weird?

The rituals are somewhat situational. I don't know if I just made that up , but if we are home or he is at school he'll do them. If we are on vacation he doesn't have to. He let's a lot of it go. He'll do his bedtime routine but I don't feel it interferes with our lives, which, to me, is when enabling comes in. Ok internet? What do you think? Am I enabling him? Are his rituals stopping him in some way? I honestly wouldn't have thought there were so many rituals when I started writing this. I anxiously await your thoughts.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Putting the puzzle together. . .

Last Friday Todd and I met at the middle school for a quick tour. I have to say I am so glad that I went. It didn't look nearly as scary to me as I thought. I, of course, knew it wasn't the same, but middle school conjures up images of darkness, crowds, yelling, and bullying. For some reason these are not very good memories.

We met the Psychologist in the main office and the assistant principal came out and introduced herself to us. It was so welcoming and the message of the day, was definitely "whatever he needs we'll do it". It was all about making us feel better. It didn't seem or feel condescending in anyway, but very authentic. She asked lots of questions about him as we walked around the 7Th grade wing of the school. There are still lots of questions about where he will fit in. They have co-teaching in regular ed classrooms, resource rooms, teacher consultants, REACH, which I keep hearing about and not remembering what the heck it is! It is still a puzzle to me, the outside pieces are all put together and I'm starting to fill in the middle. What will he do for his two electives? Band will be one, but what will we do with the other hour? He could do this, he could do that. Speech. How does it all fit together?

I can say that I know it will work out. We'll figure it out, we always do. It just takes me longer than some (like Todd) I was still asking questions at the end and Todd said, "she told you it was this this and this." But I can't keep it straight. He hears it once and remembers it. For me it doesn't work that way. Until all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place I keep moving them around here and there, checking to see if they fit. Right now there are still pieces of it missing for me, but I can see the other side and know eventually I'll slide that last piece of the puzzle into place and the satisfaction I'll feel will be wonderful. Hopefully I'll feel that way March 25.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Listen to your mother!

After our usual swimming and dinner out last Thursday we arrived home at 6:30 pm. The little red light was blinking on our phone so I sat down to listen to my messages. There was just one and it was from our Special Ed Director from our school district. Her message said she had been at Daniel's school that day and spent some time with him and that she would "like to have a chat with me".

I called her back at the office even though it was way past office hours, but crazier things have happened I thought I might catch her. I got her voice mail and I left a very pleasant message telling her my availability the next day. I threw in, on a whim, that Todd and I were touring the middle school the next day at 1:15 if she wanted to join us. I thought this would be appropriate since we were going to scout out the school for our IEP. Otherwise I'd be home at 9:00 am from dropping Daniel off at school.

Whenever I see the school district's name on my caller ID the inner turmoil begins. I am gripped with a, usually, momentary fear. Momentary because I then pickup (OK pounce on) the phone and brace myself for whatever comes next. It's sort of a Pavlovian response. Phone rings, parent jumps on, parent hears what child has done to prompt phone call. Some people from the district, now lead with "everything's fine" when it is, so I can relax right away and not have to wait through the whole phone call. Crazy? Maybe. The early years brought so many calls of him hitting teachers, throwing himself into doors and windows and being inconsolable I can't seem to get past that. I don't know if I ever will.

This time, not only was it the school but it was the Special Ed Director calling me. Since we are in the middle of a transition and I have been hearing mutterings of his support for next year and placement, I assumed that of course she had "spent some time with Daniel" to see how he's been handling himself at school and MAYBE how much support he needs at school. Getting the information first hand would be the most direct way for her to gather information. Most of you know we are in Michigan. Michigan, even more than the rest of the country is in dire straights. Our state has even less money that usual and our schools have recently received an announcement that they are getting even less money than they were promised. Cuts are coming. Again.

I spent the night running over scenarios in my mind and rehearsing what I'd say. After bringing Daniel to school the next day I was basically WAITING for my phone call back from her. All morning. The longer I waited the further my claws exposed themselves. I was ready to protect Daniel no matter what. Were they going to discuss cutting his para support? (He has a full time para) What else could it be? I was ready.

The phone finally rang about 11:30. Our special ed. director has only been with our district for just over a year, but I actually have known her for over 6 years. She used to work at the Intermediate school district and she oversaw a program that Daniel was in during his kindergarten year. After that she was very helpful when we were having a hard time in 1st grade even though he wasn't part of her program any more. After that I would see her at conferences and meetings and we just crossed paths a lot. She really has been someone I have felt I had a connection with in some weird way that I cannot explain. When she was hired into our district I was so thrilled I cried. Our district has really struggled with leadership in this position and I felt like maybe we might have something finally in place to get things in order. Not to mention I already had a relationship with her and that HAS to be a good thing. Right?

We chatted for a moment with the lead in pleasantries while I was bracing myself, little did she know I had my claws exposed, ready for attack. They were hidden from her, but ready if needed. She began by telling me that she was in the resource room yesterday meeting with the teacher and Daniel came in for his break at the end of it.

(OK does this mean she didn't go in to spend time with him specifically? Clink, the claws slightly retract)

She had a great conversation with him and he started telling her jokes.

(Clink, in another notch)

I told her that he has the same repertoire with jokes that he scripts. She said she thought so but she intentionally kept trying to trip him up to get him off script and he thought it was HILARIOUS. When he was telling all the "why did the chicken?. . . " jokes (every thing but the original joke) she said "Daniel maybe the chicken just wanted to get to the other side". He paused, apparently, and thought about it, then cracked up laughing as this was the funniest thing he'd ever heard.

(Clink, in another notch)

Then she proceeds to say, "Michelle, I haven't interacted with him since kindergarten and I can't believe how far he has come, it overwhelmed me and I just had to call you to say how wonderful he is and that it brought me to tears to see him interacting the way he is, it's amazing"

(Clink, claws are now fully retracted and frankly I feel a bit bad about my thoughts! Head hanging low.)

She then says, "I had to call my mom and tell her about it because I was so thrilled. You've done an amazing job".

(OK now she is TRYING to make me feel guilty)

She ends with "when I told my mother I just had to call you about it and I left you a message, my mom said, "I hope you told her why so she doesn't worry' ". She should really listen to her mother.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Darling Nikki

Thursday, when we got to swimming Nikki was waiting for us as usual. The thing that was different is this time SHE HAD A GIFT FOR DANIEL! Yup. My darling Nikki brought Daniel this rubber duck which is now proudly displayed in the grandest of locations on top of his dresser (told ya Amy!)

A rubber duck you ask? At swimming they have a few toys like that here and there. For years I have been trying to get Daniel away from the rubber ducks. It isn't that he sings "Rubber Ducky" ala Ernie from Sesame Street when it's in his hand, or that it is a well, a rubber duck and he's 12. (OK that MIGHT be a small portion of it) it's that he constantly licks the water off of it. It sends chills down my spine to watch him lick that darn duck. I have long ago said, any germ that is out there, Daniel must have built up an immunity to by now. I received more calls in elementary school about Daniel licking this, Daniel drank the water out of the bird feeder, Daniel's eating dirt. What am I supposed to do about it, really? Honestly, after all of these years, the approach of IGNORING it seems to me to be the best self preservation that I have. Because I really don't think that telling him for the 1,359,822 time will help. Will it? Will that one more time make him say. "Oh, I can't lick that, why didn't you say so?" When I'd get the calls, mostly from one very well intentioned, slightly obsessive teacher, I'd uh huh and oh no and I'll talk to him through the whole conversation, only to ignore it. Maybe I'd talk to him and he'd say "I can't do that, it's gross, I won't do it ever again" until the next time. . .

So when my darling Nikki presented him with the duck, part of me said da#!. And the other part, said, that is the sweetest thing ever! She saw a duck that said Michigan State with a hat and a backpack and had to buy it for Daniel. I wish I could pack her up into my backpack and make her live with us FOREVER. Daniel didn't know what to make of it at first and he looked at me and said, "can I take this home?!"

"Yes you can Daniel." He was thrilled.

The OTHER part of my brain was saying, "he will take this out to the pool and THIS will be a problem". Because there was no way in HELL he would let someone else touch that duck. He couldn't very well carry it around for an hour in the pool. He was going to put it down and it was going to get taken and I was proud of myself, because of instead of trying to control the situation I thought, "well, let's see what happens, if nothing else, Nikki, my wonderful Kinesiology student will learn something today." That being, wait until AFTER the lesson and give it to him so no one else lays their hands on HIS duck!

When he had taken MUCH longer than normal to come out of the locker room and I'm in the balcony and Nikki is waiting too on the pool deck for him. I knew the trouble had already started. He finally appeared and his face was all pink and blotchy which means he was already upset. The coloring of his face is a dead giveaway on him. My best guess is he set it down in the locker room to change and immediately someone picked it up to look at it. So far, I'm right on track.

Throughout the whole swim lesson he'd put it down on the side of the pool they'd swim a few laps, come back and not be able to find it. To his credit, he handled it fairly well. He would get stressed but there was no screaming. But Nikki was doing a lot of scrambling around trying to find that duck! It happened over and over. Then they'd find it and he'd be happy. By the end Gail, who runs the program found a ton of ducks and dumped them all in the pool, I assume as a diversion from THE duck so maybe everyone would stop grabbing Daniel's duck.

By the end of the lesson, the duck was in hand, to go home to the dresser, and afterward Nikki met me in the lobby and said, "maybe I should have waited until after?" Lesson learned. I love her. Daniel's happy, Nikki learned something, and I wasn't a control freak and let all the things happen. Everyone was richer for the experience! All in all, it was a great day!

Leap of Faith

It's been a long time since Daniel has had a friend over to our house. A long time, as in maybe, never? He has been to a couple of people's house's here and there. It usually ends up looking like Daniel doing his own thing and it was never very comfortable. For some reason, last week, I got the bright idea for Daniel to have a friend over from school. I have bragged of Daniel's wonderful peer support and that's true. It just rarely extends outside of school.

When Daniel was about five or six, we went to a Dr. at a major university who specializes in autism. It was mostly a wasted experience. I had seen the Dr lecture and he was very good at that. But from the office visit, we walked away saying "enough". I remember one thing very clearly that he said. We really needed to find a kid for Daniel to play with regularly. One not on the spectrum, who would be patient enough to deal with him, who would give hours a week to us. I remember thinking, "where would you find this magical child who would be so giving of themselves and expect nothing in return?" By nothing in return, I mean not get interaction back from him. I found myself shaking my head. My thought that we could never find such a child.

I was surfing around on facebook earlier in the week, and saw that a mother of a boy in Daniel's class was on fb too. So I made a leap of faith and I popped over to her page and just asked if her son would be around this weekend and would he like to come over and hang out with Daniel. I have to say, I don't know if I would have gotten around to actually calling her, but the accessibility of seeing her picture right there and the ease of clicking on "comment" and typing the question, made it simple. I didn't have time for the fear to rise in me. It's a dark cloud that I have. I don't know if all parents do, I assume so, but I have a feeling it is more prevalent when the child has a disability. It's a cloud within me that rises up. It makes me want to shield him and protect him from being hurt. It's like a monster because while protecting your child can be a good thing, it can also prevent you from pushing them forward and it can keep them from growing and progressing. That Dr. at the maize and blue university said, "you can keep these kids babies forever if you want, if you don't push them forward". That's always been in the back of my mind. I guess I did get something out of my hundreds and hundreds of dollars that day. . .

We got a very enthusiastic response from the mother and we had a tentative plan for a get together. I warned that Daniel might not last more than an hour or so, but that is a good start don't you think? Well today said friend came over. I thought the Wii would be a good equalizer. You can interact, and play against each other. I talked to Daniel ahead of time and told him, it's OK if he doesn't win. He tends to get upset when he doesn't win, and we are working on that. I'm happy to report that he was here for about an hour and a half. Daniel was more than done by then. Todd, my husband, spent most of the time with them, being near to help facilitate. He even gave up watching the second half of an MSU basketball game. Now that's love!

It was a very successful time. They spent about an hour with the Wii. They bowled. Then, said friend, asked to play tennis, to which Daniel agreed. He never plays tennis. How cool that he was willing to do something out of his norm to make his friend happy. That is actually taking someone elses point of view. What a huge step. When I was around them things were winding down and they boys were playing Rokenbok. I could tell Daniel was getting annoyed and he was talking in scripts, but that is why this kid is so great. He understands Daniel and doesn't get put off when Daniel starts talking video talk. He is happy just hanging with him and spending time. He asked him a question and as soon as he knew Daniel was starting to get annoyed he said, "should I put it back Daniel?" "Yes" he answered. Most kids don't have the incite to Daniel like that, except his brother. This kid has been his friend since 1st grade. He is always there for him. He religiously shows up for Daniel's friendship group. He was the first to respond when we had a birthday party when we invited his whole class. He is a friend in the truest sense of the word. What a blessing. I'm glad I made that leap. I knew he was ready.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Dark Side

The logos can bring such joy and happiness, but they also can bring panic and anger. There is one logo that is so "scary" to Daniel that it holds our family hostage. This is the logo that he fears will show up on the T.V. therefore, he will not watch any show that isn't on HGTV, Nickelodeon, TLC, The Disney Channel, or PBS. Anything else, is unacceptable and he'll leave the room, often running, for fear of what the next commercial will be.

We cannot go to ANY restaurant that has T.V.'s on because he goes into a panic. We have sat in the car countless times as my husband runs in to see if the establishment has TVs. If it's a small place and no one's there, we've requested they turn them off so we can dine in peace. One little place by us used to do that. There were also times when someone was watching a game and we had to move on and go somewhere else.

We won't be going to Tiger Stadium any time soon. Said logo is ALL over the stadium. We went ONCE. Enough said???? We spent the whole time in the area where the restaurants and carousels are, and are logo free.

When we were driving to bike camp last summer in the Detroit area, we passed billboards on the way, bigger than life, with the horrible logo upon it. Luckily in our area, we don't have this business, so we don't, yet, need to change the route somewhere due to "scary signs". After the first day going to camp, he knew where the billboards were, and when we'd be getting close I'd glance behind me to see Daniel bent over with his head between his knees, hiding his face until we had passed into safety. I'd be telling him happily that it's just a picture, nothing can happen from it. Everything is o.k. Wasting my breath once again.

I suppose you'd like to see the most evil logo ever invented. The logo that prevents any sports from being on in any room near Daniel. That if basketball is on in our basement, he is upstairs with all the doors closed. That if I go ahead with the speech therapist's suggestion and I bring him to individual sessions at $50 a pop, she will work on desensitizing him to it. Ready?

Isn't it frightening? LOL? My only thought is that when he was maybe 3 we had a little stuffed Belle Tire guy that someone had given us. This is when we lived in the Detroit area for a few years. When you squeezed it it said "Belle Tire" in a sort of demonic way. He hated that and I think that's where it stems from. But here we are EIGHT years later being held hostage by the Belle Tire guy. The panic that this smiling little tire instills in my child is unbelievable. I still haven't been driven (pun!) to doling out the $$$ to try to get him over this. I'm not sure what the therapist would do, because if you even start talking about it he starts yelling at you to stop talking. If she persisted he would probably refuse to see her ever again. Does any one's child have an irrational fear that you have had to help them deal with? I'd love to hear your ideas!

PS thanks Beck for your suggestion!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


See this logo? It is, apparently, THE PERFECT logo. Ever since Daniel first saw this logo every where we go, if he sees it he yells out, "Look! A Direct TV logo, do you see it? do you see it?"

"Yes, Daniel, I see it."

"Isn't it beautiful?" he says breathlessly.

"Yes Daniel, it's beautiful." When I asked him what he liked about it, specifically, he just said, "It's perfect." with a sigh. What do you think? Is it the movement in it? Maybe there is a job out there somewhere where he can be a test market for logos?
The kid LOVES logos. He'll look them up on You Tube endlessly. The brand recognition is unbelievable.

Dreamworks, he loves it. I must admit, this is something I wouldn't normally even be aware of. This is a beautiful image. I think he loves the clouds and moon with the boys sitting on it fishing.

This Columbia/Tristar logo is the best!! I have actually drawn these for him. This is NOT easy! What was I thinking spending hours drawing the "Columbia lady" and "Pegasus". The way these logos merge together on screen! AHHHHHH, it's just bliss for him. In the video store, when he chooses videos, he immediately flips the DVD or VHS over to look at which studio made the movie.

The other day new neighbors were moving in across the street. Daniel and I were headed upstairs and he saw out of our front window a Direct TV truck IN THEIR DRIVEWAY. Daniel is not very stealth like but he darted to those windows like I've never seen. He honestly had his hands and face up against the window, screaming "mom a Direct TV truck do you see it?" I actually had a thought of "oh my God what if someone actually works for them and the truck will always be there?" We'd never get him off the front porch, he'd be out there all the time staring at the truck pointing out it's beauty to everyone who passes by. Fortunately (or not?) I haven't seen the truck since. They were probably just getting it installed. Hopefully he doesn't think he can get in there for a look at the Direct TV system, if he does, they had better keep their doors locked.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Post meeting

We had an informative meeting last Thursday. I was SO glad that Todd came along, because there is no WAY I could have relayed the information to him. For some reason I have been avoiding writing this. I don't know why. Usually when I'm avoiding something I'm a bit afraid of it. Not that I'm afraid of writing, but afraid of what's coming. There are a lot of options available at the middle school and we are trying to figure out which will be the best for Daniel. Todd and I are getting a tour this Friday of the middle school so we can have some information stored away for our March 25 IEP. It sounds like it is going to be an overwhelming one for me because a lot of discussion will take place during the meeting about placements and we'll decide then. Although I will not sign anything at the IEP. I never do. It is hard for me to process information auditorily. I heavily rely on Todd to translate for me when I have no idea what's going on. It is something I've learned about myself, I do not process information very well or very quickly. It explains a lot about my childhood and college! But however you process things it is still my advice to everyone who goes to IEP's to not sign it then. You are allowed time to go home and process the information. TAKE IT. But after a certain amount of days it will go into effect without any action taken. Be aware of the laws.

The past several IEP's have pretty much been set when we walk in the door. So this will be a bit different. It is always an anxious time for me even when I know EXACTLY what is going to happen. So with the big changes next year and not knowing what's coming, I should be a big fat mess. In terms of support I have no idea what is going on and that really makes me nervous. I have heard wonderful things about the middle school, but Daniel has always had one para pro assigned to him exclusively. Even when others have had that change a bit we have been able to keep that in tact. He really has only had 3 parapros since 1st grade. One didn't even last all of 1st grade and that is a huge nightmare story! The next one was awesome and we had her through the end of 2nd grade. She got "bumped" (it is a union thing and someone with more time in took her spot) and we got Mindy, who we have had since 3rd grade. For the most part, we've been very very lucky.

From what I can gather next year, there are different people who sort of specialize in an area. So he might have one para during math and english, then depending on where he goes it will change. If this is the case, it should be interesting to say the least. They have co teaching in the classes meaning it is a general ed class and they may have a special ed teacher come in and co teach. It is the best of both worlds, extra help and staying with your peers. I hate not having total control of the situation. It leaves me feeling nervous and aggitated. Some of the decisions we have coming are tough. Do we send him into social studies even though the language completely escapes him? Do we double up on math because he seems to have the apptitude to learn this? The question of "where does he fit?" always seems to leave us at a loss. Because really he doesn't present like many other kids on the spectrum in our district. He is more classically autistic and most are more aspergers. But here he is, doing the math with everyone else. Obviously you never know if you are making the right decisions when you are making them. When he was in PPI and someone said, "are you thinking the basic classroom route or general ed?" We didn't hesitate with general ed. We didn't know what we were up against with back then. Probably being totally naive helped us make that leap. Sometimes that's better! I wonder where we would be had we said the basic classroom? Not necessarily worse off, or better off. Just different. It is one of those sliding door decisions that you don't know how things would have turned out differently. Maybe I don't want to know. I'd like to think we have made the "right" decisions along the way for Daniel. Maybe there are certain things, like his group speech on Mondays that we could have started earlier. Maybe they have worked because we waited until we did. I can and do drive myself crazy with these thoughts.

I can feel some of those decisions coming again later this month. I will continue to mull them over and make myself nuts with the different scenarios. When I brought up middle school to Daniel the other day the only thing he said is, "are my kids going to go with me?" Meaning all of the wonderful peers he has in his grade. I assured him that they are. That right there shows he has come a long way. He has gone from asking if his para is coming with him to if his peers will stay the same. I guess that means we've made SOME of the right decisions? Yes, I'm sure we have.