Saturday, December 13, 2014

Goofy's New "Team"

I started enrolling the boys in the new school a month before our move date so that we could have everything in place before they started and there would be nothing to worry about. The process coordinator has been great, she had a lot of hope for Goofy in his new school. She said he could get remedial reading and another reading and RtI reading. Reading would totally be addressed. I was excited. We talked, we made plans.

As the moving date came up, I called the school to find out how we were going to get together to be sure that Goofy's plan is followed and how he will continue with things that are comparable to what he already has. I have not had any luck with counselors in regular schools so far. Anyway, I was told there was no need. No need for a team meeting that I was requesting! Not cool. So, we're discussing in a less polite way than "discussing" implies when she basically tells me that his current IEP doesn't matter because they will write a new one within 30 days and informs me that I will be invited to attend that meeting. I got snippy and she promised to have the process coordinator get in touch with me.

The first day of school came and I still don't know who's doing what or how his needs will be met. I go meet the resource teacher, who is also very nice. She said she worked in our old school and I am so freaking happy because it's a little bit of a link to what we are used to. She will get it. I just know it... She's pretty good but I don't know how much any of the team are listening.

He's been getting 30 minutes per day of remedial reading since the start of first grade. It's one of my biggest concerns, the one I talked with the process coordinator about the most because everything else is covered in his IEP. His reading trouble is well documented in his IEP and in his education record. We had a plan and in the course of two days, the teacher decided that based on her casual assessment, he didn't need remedial reading anymore. I asked why he wasn't evaluated by a reading specialist and when I didn't get an answer, I tried to make an appointment with the principal. She wasn't immediately available so she called me back with a phone call that absolutely belongs in the Wal-Mart check out lane...or on Jerry Springer. So, I went to the administration office to talk to the Director of Special Education, she wasn't there but her assistant was very helpful and hopeful and there are more reading programs available in the school than just remedial reading.

The teacher emailed me back again to let me know that the reading specialist said he read level J just fine, he will not be getting remedial reading. We could have dealt with that, I think, worked on finding one of those other programs the administration office mentioned...but the tone of the email told me to back off and butt out, while the words told me that the teacher and resource teacher would let me know if there was a concern. Then I lost my temper.

I'm starting to wonder if I'm even capable of being nice anymore. There was a point in time that I could rationally discuss things, Alex's best principal ever taught me well, but I feel like I'm just too tired to bother and I'm irritated about having the same argument over and over.

The past 6 months have been rough and the final abrupt change has knocked us on our ass. I thought I had prepared for it, I thought I had it under control. We talked it through, we eased into it, we teamed up with the schools and wrote detailed IEPs... Everything was perfect. Both teams were awesome and did everything they could to fully inform the new schools on the boys. We worked together and talked things out.

However, I didn't count on a pissing contest. The regular school district has an attitude problem (Alex's actual school is great). Everything going wrong at the new schools is being blamed on the old schools for being lazy and incompetent, everything the old schools did to ease the transition is being ignored. Goofy's new school thinks they know best, better than the team that worked with him or the parents that live with him. I think we're back on the "professionals" and "credentials" argument. I am not at all looking forward to Goofy's IEP meeting Monday.

I have come to the conclusion that I can't handle everything on my own. Walter and Goofy are really struggling with the change, and I am not handling it well. Being a single parent is a hell of a lot harder than I remember it being. I decided to ask for help. This week we are starting family counseling and I started looking for an advocate. Even if things don't go well Monday, I have the right to request an IEP meeting at any time.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Settling in.

Our first week in our new home... The transition has been nothing short of spectacular. For example, the Goofy One decided to show me exactly how much he appreciated all of the much needed changes with a little love note..

"I'm going to run away because you're mean to me."

I congratulated him on effort and specific letter formation and offered to call his dad to come get him but he said no, thanks, he'd rather live in the wild. After he took time to think about where he would find macaroni and cheese in the wild, he decided he might be better off apologizing for his behavior.
Alex finally stopped crying. That was a relief.

Walter went straight teenager on me. That sucked.

Then there were the schools. Alex's new school is wonderful. He's only attended one day, but the time leading up to that one day puts  me at ease. Everyone has been great. And, the best thing about living in a small town is that just about everyone is connected in some way. Alex's new 1:1 aide is a familiar person- friend of a friend of a friend kind of thing. She's a good woman. One I know I can trust from the gossip I've heard over time. He met her Friday and spent some time getting acquainted. I didn't even cry dropping him off this morning, and after being with me for 12 days straight with neither one of us getting a break, he was happy to be rid of me. Not an anxious look to be found anywhere on his face.

The Goofy Child is in the Primary School, which is grades K-2. The best thing I can say about this school so far is that he'll only be there for 5 more months. *please, God, don't let there be snow days* The Process Coordinator is his until 6th grade and I freaking love her. The Director of Special Education and her Assistant are very helpful and are absolutely willing to take time to listen and help.

The one that had the most impact, though, was at the high school. Every cloud has a silver lining, you know. It was a really crappy Friday, following a really crappy week. I had several stops to make before our 10:30 appointment to meet Alex's new staff and Walter had forgotten his medication and his house key. We signed in and waited for him in front of the office. We were talking to Alex, keeping him occupied with abusing his naked, finger-paint spattered baby when a woman came out, pulled up a seat and injected herself into our small group. "I don't mean to pry, but can you tell me what we're dealing with on a daily basis here? Is it autism?" She surprised me, but she was so confident in her question that I didn't think twice. We were talking, she was telling me that she sees a lot of parents of special needs in her work and they usually look worn out and haggard, but I don't- she liked that (*snicker* all she needed to do was wait a few hours and it would be a whole new level of haggard). I told her that Alex is pretty easy going and pointed at Walter as he walked up, telling her I couldn't do it without him. She looked at Walter and told him what a good guy he was and explained that her mother was disabled. She told him some of the feelings she had about taking care of her mother as a teenager- she didn't ask for this, it wasn't fair, why does she have to do it... hearing her acknowledging those feelings and voicing them out loud, I could see Walter visibly relax. He smiled and nodded. She had a positive message, but I don't remember what it was. What I remember is it was exactly what Walter needed and his entire demeanor changed from that conversation. He won't talk to many people about the difficulty of taking care of a brother with special needs, he won't admit that it's fucking hard, but I hope he talks to her when he needs to because she gets it.

Going into our second full week, we're all feeling a little better, a little more settled and secure... until about 6am when the house goes nuts. You know how well a mobile home is insulated? It's not. Our poor neighbors. They will never let their children play with my children. The Goofy Child is literally bouncing off of the walls... and the refrigerator... and the trampoline... and the washer... and gives me a freaking heart attack when he crashed down through a heater vent. I was sure he broke his leg. I'm freaking out, he's freaking out, Walter's freaking out, Alex slept through the whole thing. Luckily, his leg was not broken, but he did end up with a nasty bruise, and I'll be damned if he didn't start back with the non-effing-stop bouncing and hollering as soon as I emailed his staff that he was fragile today.

Remember the silver lining? One of our cats has been a pain in my ass lately. Pooping in floors and wetting beds and all around irritating the hell out of me. He took one look at the open vent and decided to make a run for it. He slithered through the vent to the underside of the trailer quick as he could go. I can't help but think of the Shawshank Redemption and *cough* into my arm so the Goofy Child won't think I'd dare laugh at a cat in "danger." I was hoping he wouldn't make me post missing flyers and that the cat would find someone else to torment when I remembered the damned thing is microchipped. Lord, help me.

Yes, I'm mean. We covered that in the first paragraph.