Moving on up

Reed has 10.5 days of school left until summer vacation. This has gotten me thinking lately about how far he’s come since we started at this school at the beginning of Kindergarten. Preschool in the local school district was a nightmare, so we made the decision to move to a Charter school 15 miles from home. I am so glad we did. I cannot imagine where Reed would be if we had tried to stick it out in the city schools. Granted, we didn’t have a diagnosis then, but they weren’t the least bit interested in helping him. They were only interested in what he could get for the school. They were almost drooling at the thought of the FM sound-field he’d get as a hearing impaired student, but didn’t want to do any testing to qualify him. Instead, they expected me to drive him 60 miles to his audiologist, even though they knew I had no car at the time. Yeah. Not gonna happen. He ended up not getting anything at all because they were just completely unwilling to help with anything. They actually threatened to suspend him from Preschool for behavior issues, and told us on numerous occasions to do something about him. As if we weren’t already trying.  Within just a few weeks of starting Kindergarten, his new teacher had picked up on a few behaviors that I was oblivious to (Reed is my first child, so how was I supposed to know all kids weren’t like this?). I mentioned them to his behavioral therapist, who diagnosed him with PDD-NOS. I mentioned this to his teacher the next day, and she quickly scribbled down all the information I could give her (which wasn’t much at that point) and promised to look into it. I got a call from the school psychologist a few days later asking for permission to begin testing him for ASD, and asking if we’d agree to let them assign him a one-on-one aide to see if it helped. I was elated. Finally we had found a place that wanted to teach him. They genuinely wanted to help him, and they were. Gradually, the outbursts at school grew fewer and farther between. He loved his aide, and began to love school too. We upgraded his diagnosis to Asperger’s in the spring and haven’t looked back. Well, that’s not true. It seems all I can do is look back. And I’m liking what I’m seeing.

This year has been so fabulous, I’m almost afraid to talk about it for fear of jinxing it. So far this year, he’s only had 2 days that his teacher described as “not good” and one of those we realized after the fact that we’d forgotten his morning meds. Things got even better when we discovered the magical vitamin that makes him sleep through the night almost every night. I am so proud of him I’m practically giddy. He has been filling his sticker chart like a madman, and is a mere one sticker away from the 2nd to best prize. One more week and he’ll win the grand prize: an expansion pack for his train set. I guess I better start saving up my money, huh?

I’d like to take a moment to tell you about the fantastic people who have helped Reed get to where he is at school. First, his Kindergarten teacher who was the first to catch on to some important clues that led to diagnosis. I am so grateful for her comments in that parent-teacher conference. She was kind and mentioned them not as accusations, like the last school, but as observations. She was very patient with Reed all year, even when he overturned the bookcases at the end of nearly every school day for the first 6 months of school. You have to really love your students to put up with that. Then there was his first aide, Mrs. C.  Reed’s birthday is just a few days off from her grandson, who lived out of state. She loved him like her own flesh and blood even though she wasn’t supposed to get attached. She brought him little trinkets all the time, and sent him emails a few times a week telling him how proud she was of some accomplishment or letting him know in advance what was coming up in the classroom. He was very upset when she moved across the country. She still emails occasionally to ask how we’re doing. She played an important role in his turnaround in school, and will always hold a special place in my heart. His teacher this year is so wonderful I scarcely know where to begin. If you looked up ‘structure’ in the dictionary, you just might find her picture. Her classroom is ordered, her students well behaved. She has complete control over that classroom every time I stop in, and yet she’s almost always joking with a student or offering someone encouragement or help with an assignment. She doesn’t let them get away with anything, but it’s not because they’re afraid of her. They respect her, and for 7 and 8 year olds that’s saying something. I’m selfishly hoping they keep Reed in this class for another year (he’s in a split class so staying here wouldn’t mean being held back) just so we can have her another year. That’s how much I love Mrs. B. And last, but certainly not least, Mrs. G. I was terrified when Mrs. C announced she was moving. Reed had bonded so well with her that I didn’t think anyone else could possible be as good as she was. Mrs. G proved me wrong tenfold. She is the best thing that has ever happened to him. Ever. Seriously. She can get him to do amazing things. Things that I cannot even get him to do. When she first started, I used to send in little notes in the morning, or drop him off myself so I could warn her about his mood. “He was up early and is wound up.” or “He had a meltdown because we were out of the cereal he wanted. He might take a while to recover.” I don’t have to do that anymore. If he’s having a bad morning, he tells her so when he arrives in the classroom. She can predict how he’ll react to a situation before it even happens and is prepared to help him through it. Substitute teacher? No problem. She has his things moved to her desk and he works with her for the day. School assembly? Piece of cake. She talks to him about it ahead of time and stakes out seats close to the exit in case he needs to get up and take a walk. Even little things like rescheduling a spelling test have some sort of solution already worked out before he ever gets to school. She’s even babysitting both kids for me so I can sit through my brother’s wedding uninterrupted. What’s not to love?

 Okay, I guess that’s enough rambling from me. Off to accomplish something other than Myspace for the day.

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Cuteness to the nth degree

So the kids and I went on a massive cleaning spree today (mostly because they trashed the entire house this morning while Heath tried to work on it, but it needed it anyway). While helping Reed sort through his bag of valentines from school that has been sitting on the dining room table (and MUST.NOT.BE.TOUCHED), I convinced him to keep a few favorites and toss the rest (hooray!). This one, thankfully, made the keeper pile. How adorable is this? This isn’t the first note that has come home from the cute-as-a-button Felicity (who was his first real friend this year). I think this might be the first officially sanctioned one though (it came attached to a Valentine’s Day pencil on a school-delivered “Sweet Gram”).

felicity-resized.jpg

Holy crap! Where has the time gone?!?!?

So sorry! I never meant to be away so long (yeah, I know. You’ve heard that one before, lol). The time has gotten away from me this year. A massive update is in order. We shall start with the Little One.

 Owen had his surgery (technically named a Posterior Fossa Craniectomyapparently. Better known as Decompression) on February 15. He was off to a rocky start, as they had trouble stabilizing his oxygen levels under anesthesia. They finally got started an hour and a half late, and after almost two and a half hours, they were finished. He spent a day and a half in the PICU, where he looked so pathetic.

He spent a total of 5 days in the hospital, and was his usual bouncy self by the time we got home. His incision was 2 or 3 inches long and had 5 sutures.

I am sooooo glad we had the surgery done. Before surgery, he seemed like a pretty happy, well-adjusted kid. I was concerned that we were putting him through all this for nothing, but the neurosurgeon felt it was really necessary, so we went ahead with it. Now, he is like a different kid. He giggles all the time. He speaks in complete sentences. He is more coordinated. He still doesn’t sleep much, so I’m thinking the sleep apnea didn’t go away, but I can live with that. His occupational therapist did a Peabody just before and just after surgery so we could get a benchmark. Before surgery, his grasping (hand strength) was at the 35th percentile. His visual-motor skills (hand/eye coordination) were in the 17th percentile. After surgery, grasping is now in the 85th percentile and v-m is at the 25th! And that was at 1 week post-op. His neurosurgeon warned us that it takes a minimum of 6 weeks just to get back to baseline (where he started when he had the surgery)! I can only imagine how much better it will be in a few more weeks. I am dying to get him back in to the speech therapist for another eval, but I’m pretty sure the insurance won’t pay for it, so I guess I’ll just have to keep wondering.

And now on to the Big One: Reed is doing so awesome I hardly recognize him lately. He is a model student at school, at home, and pretty much everywhere he goes. We had our IEP meeting last week (I think I might be the only parent around here who LOVES those meetings, lol). He still qualifies for services under the Autism Spectrum Disorder (duh!) and Sensorineural Hearing Loss. Which means that he will get all the same stuff next year as he gets this year (one-to-one aide, keyboard for writing assignments, and FM sound-field mostly). They will work more on weaning him off his aide next year (she’s been doing a great job of that already but he’s not quite ready to give her up completely), with the goal of going solo by third grade. They are planning to keep him in the gifted program next year, since he’s doing so well there this year. We’re not sure yet whether he will have the same teacher/classroom, or move up to the next class (his class this year is a 1st/2nd class, so he could stay there as a 2nd grader or move over to the 2nd/3rd grade class). As tempting as it is to keep him in his comfort zone with the teacher who has done so well with him this year, I don’t want to hold him back if he would do better with the more challenging material. He is doing so much better with transitions lately, that I’m thinking I might be making too much of this anyway. I told the school to place him wherever they feel he is best suited. If he has trouble in the other class, we can always move him back. He has one class a day with the other teacher now and seems to like him. He’s never had any problems in there (although it helps that he goes to Mr. Paris’ class for Geography, his favorite subject). They will be retesting his reading this week, so I will let you know if there are any more developments in that department. He will also be taking the IOWA test just after Spring Break (who schedules these things?!?). It is his first standardized test, and I’m very interested to see how he’ll do. They’ve written into his IEP that he is allowed extra help and time for standardized tests, so I’m not particularly worried about that, but he doesn’t like oral testing in general, so I am a bit worried that he will refuse to answer any questions at all.

As far as social skills, this is the area he has most excelled in this year. I was concerned about how he would get along with the kids in the gifted program, but it turns out my concerns were unfounded. Reed is actually popular this year! He has actual friends, and not just “friends” (meaning every kid in the class). We went to movie night at school last night, and he had a steady stream of kids running up to him and giving him hugs (which he easily reciprocated) or high fives or just chatting for the entire hour we waited before the movie started. Some of these kids aren’t even in his class. A few were in his Kindergarten class last year, but some I’ve only seen around the halls and have no idea who they are. It seems like every time I walk through school with him, somebody greets him with “Hi Reed!” and a big wave or hug. Where did this social butterfly come from? He has really found his place in school this year. I am so pleased! If you could see my face right now, I am grinning as I type (and chuckling to myself as I look at Reed siting next to me playing video games on Daddy’s computer while sucking his thumb, so obviously he is still my Reed).

In other news: we got a new car! Hooray! It’s the nicest car we’ve ever owned, and I’m so excited about it. It’s a 2005 Kia Rio Cinco station wagon. It’s only a little over a year old and has 20,000 miles on it (we put almost 2,000 of them on it in the 3 weeks we’ve owned it, lol). I love having a station wagon again (my first car was a station wagon. I wasn’t exactly the coolest teenager, but man you could fit a lot of people and their stuff in there!). No more struggling with the stroller. No more cramming the wagon in the front passenger seat (it didn’t go into either trunk before).

I guess that’s about it for us. We don’t generally lead very exciting lives, so even though it’s been months since I updated, there’s really not much to tell. I’m slowly getting caught up on reading all my favorite blogs, and have been scrapbooking like crazy now that Heath has built me a new computer. You can bet you’ll be seeing a lot of scrapbook pages on here, lol. In fact, I’m running out of pictures to scrap, so if you’d like some scrapbook pages made, feel free to email me. Scrapping is my stress-reliever and I love doing it. =]

Progress

I went to Reed’s Parent-Teacher conference this afternoon. I’ve been looking forward to it ever since I signed up at the beginning of the school year. I love the staff at Reed’s school, and they always go out of their way to accent the positives during conferences. It’s about the only time I am guaranteed at least some good news in a meeting about one of the kids.

Today was no exception. His wonderful teacher greeted us at the door, and chatted with Reed and Owen while I filled out a survey. They she pulled out his test scores, homework pages, and notes. She started telling me what a joy he is to teach. How he is surprising her every day with his accomplishments. How well he gets along with the other kids in the class. He is social, engaging even. Wow! Then she pulled out the results of his reading tests.

He is reading between 6th and 7th grade level.

Yes, you read that right. My just-turned-six-year-old first grader is reading at a junior high level. His comprehension is lagging behind that a bit, but at a 3rd – 4th grade level is clearly not something to be concerned about. Her biggest concern is keeping him challenged. There aren’t many books she can offer him that will challenge his reading ability, without the subject matter being way over his head.

If I don’t watch out, he’s going to be smarter than me before middle school.

Q: How can you tell if your child has a great educator?

A: When they write poetry about him. Today, Reed came home from school clutching a paper. I had to wait until after he went to bed to read it, because he wouldn’t give it up before then. Here is what I found:

Funny Boy
by Mrs. C.

I work at school with a boy named
Reed,
Sometimes I laugh as he’s doing a deed.
He analyzes, often
surprises,
Comes up with words of colossal sizes.

After being
in school for just two weeks
The progress he’s made has come in
leaps.
He’s sitting longer, listening well,
Taking his turn, there’s more
to tell…

As he reads a book, he may laugh and giggle.
My
nickname for him has become “Mr. Wiggle”.
Reed has taught me to be patient,
have compassion and joy-
Teaching is a pleasure with this great, funny boy.

I’ve always loved his aide, but now I really love her. The boost to his self confidence is just awesome, and it’s so great to hear how much she loves working with him.

Progress Report

I’ve been lax in posting again. Sorry about that. The end of summer and beginning of the school year has found me quite busy. We went on a fantastic vacation. Reed did so great! There was only one minor meltdown, and one destructive episode, but otherwise he was charming. Not bad for an 8 day vacation that took us across 4 states. We even had what Heath jokingly calls the “Wallyworld experience” in which the amusement park we had advance tickets for was closed for the week when we showed up at the front gate. I thought for sure that would be a deal-breaker for Reed, but he handled it like a trooper. He was clearly disappointed, but cheerfully participated in the remainder of the activities we planned for the day. Luckily, the park re-opened for the holiday weekend, so we still got to use our tickets (although we had to skip the family reunion we’ve been planning to attend all year. Oh well.).

And now for the best news of all: Reed is doing great in school! I was so sure that this week would be a disaster. We got home from vacation 45 minutes before bedtime the day before school started. After more than a week away from home, I was anticipating the transition from vacation to home to be difficult enough on its own. Add to that the transition from summer vacation to school and I was certain we had a recipe for disaster. Boy, was I wrong. He has had phenomenal days all week (school started on Tuesday). His teacher and aide have been thrilled with his participation. But hands-down, the best moment of the school year so far for me happened before school even started. We were standing in the hall outside his classroom waiting for the teachers to check the kids in. The hallway was utter chaos. Reed was looking a little anxious, but was overall taking it well. All of a sudden, a boy from his Kindergarten class last year rounds the corner in front of us. Reed jumped out from the wall, looked him squarely in the face and said “Hi Alex! It’s me, Reed. Are you in my class?” I nearly fainted. In spite of being pretty overwhelmed by the noise and confusion, he still managed to initiate an age-appropriate conversation without any help from an adult. Holy cow, where did this come from? The next morning, he stood in line with another boy from last year’s class and chatted while they waited to be let into the classroom, while his aide looked on from a distance. She commented that, while he mostly listened as the other boy talked, he did interact in the conversation as well. Woo Hoo! He’s making friends this year, not just “friends” (which seemed to mean anyone whose name he knew and could identify in the hallway at school last year).

One last, but HUGE victory to report for the week: Yesterday, our library had a special event to unveil the newly renovated children’s section. Reed loves the library, but has trouble with the basic library rules, so we don’t go often, but since there were going to be special guests reading stories and crafts and games for the kids, I decided this would be a good chance for him to spend some time with his beloved books without having to worry to much about being quiet and still. Not only did he do crafts with a couple other kids, and listen attentively to the celebrity guest readers, he READ ALOUD TO THE ENTIRE LIBRARY. Yes, you heard me correctly. One of the volunteers asked if he’d like to read a book, and he jumped up on stage, and read 3 short stories to 2 dozen spectators. He even remembered to turn the book to show the illustrations at the end of each page, proving that he realized that he was interacting with the audience. Naturally, I took lots of pictures, but it was with the old film camera (my digital’s been acting up lately), and I haven’t developed the roll yet. But you can bet I’ll be posting them as soon as I can.

*Gasp* 2 Posts in one week!

Shocking, I know. I’m kind of freaking out and I need all your help here.

I just found out that Reed is skipping first grade. They’ve placed him in the grade 2-3 gifted class this year. How can my 5 year old be a SECOND GRADER already?!?!? It shouldn’t be possible. Anyway, that’s beside the point.

My problem is this, this is the first school year we’ve begun since the diagnosis. I am unsure how to prepare Reed for school to start again. Since he is mainstreamed (he attends a small Charter school and has an EA), this class will likely be nothing like his Kindergarten class last year. After being away from school, and then it being completely unpredictable for him until he learns the new schedule, I’m afraid the changes will be more than any of us can take. How do you prepare your child for the start of something familiar yet different? I think it would almost be easier if this was totally new, since he wouldn’t have any expectations at all, but I’m pretty sure he will be expecting it to be just like last year.

Help! I have less than a month to prepare and I have no idea what I’m doing!

Lost focus

I have no reasonable excuse for where I’ve been. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to blog about. Owen has finally conquered his eating issues, and is talking like mad. I should be writing volumes about this. Reed has finished Kindergarten, and will be entering the gifted class for First grade full time in the fall. That should be cause for celebration. I’m not really sure why I haven’t been moved to talk about it until now. I’ve just been a bit pre-occupied lately.

So on to the good stuff. Let’s start with Reed. He finished Kindergarten with flying colors. His report card showed improvement in every single category (especially the social skills). Because some of the Kindergarten classes are integrated with 1st grade, his school doesn’t do Kindergarten graduation. I was a little disappointed, but I’ll get over it. I don’t think Reed would have enjoyed it as much as I would anyway. He was less than thrilled at pre-k gradutation last year. A little too chaotic and unpredictable, despite the numerous practice runs they did beforehand. But Kindergarten is a big step, and there ought to be something to mark it’s completion.

Reed spent last weekend at Papa and Nana’s again. It went much better this time. I explained to her ahead of time (again, but this time she listened a little better) about his need for structure and routine. Apparently they got the hint, because the weekend went off without a hitch. They even called me mid visit, to proclaim how fabulously he was behaving. What a relief. My wonderful little sister (the much-revered “Auntie”) came over to help me capitalize on his absense and try to bring some order to my chaotic house.

And now on to the even better news. Owen is talking! Seriously, totally vocal. Woo. Hoo. I cannot begin to express to you what a relief it is that all of a sudden, about 3 weeks ago, Owen started talking and he hasn’t looked back. The same week that he started talking, he also started eating. I have no earthly idea what was holding him up all these months, but who really cares? There is no feeling better than the first time your baby says sleepily “lev ooo” as he blows you kisses at bedtime.

I really can’t top that. Quite frankly, who could?

Winding down and winding up

I got a call today from the school social worker. We scheduled his next IEP/MET meeting for next Wednesday. I am so excited, I am practically dancing around the house. I have been anxiously awaiting the results of his testing for over a month, and now it’s a mere week away. Am I a geek, or what?

Keep your fingers crossed for a productive meeting.

I must admit, though, that when the phone rang this afternoon, and I saw the school’s number on the Caller-ID, my heart sank. I was so sure they were calling for me to pick him up. This week has been difficult for Reed. His beloved schedule is in shambles. His school is having a special reading-themed week. The classroom has been transformed into a campground, complete with a tent in the middle of where the tables normally rest. The usual schedule does not apply. He is trying bravely to manage this unexpected change, and so far is succeeding fairly well. He has had a great week so far, and I am so proud. The teachers were on edge at the start of the week; worried about how he’d cope with the upheaval. I feel so bad that I doubted him, being so sure that he had fallen to pieces. But for now, all is well.

Smartypants

I got an email from Reed’s mentor, the fabulous Mrs. C (no really, that’s what we call her. It’s not just an anonymity thing). Beginning next week, he will be moved to the gifted class for his Language arts (reading and such). He will spend the bulk of every morning there. The school feels that a large part of his misbehavior is stemming from boredom (I’ve suspected the same since pre-k), so they’re moving him to a more challenging environment. Mrs. C will come with him, and feels that this will be an excellent opportunity for him to excel at the thing he loves most: reading.

I’ve been hearing that word a lot lately from school. They were supposed to administer an intelligence test as part of his Special Ed testing, and I’m guessing he must have scored pretty well. They’ve asked me to have him practice typing on the computer at home, so they can direct him to more advanced websites during his computer time at school. Um, okay. That suggestion’s not been such a big hit with Reed, who was totally unimpressed by the games on my typing program, and completely refuses to do the actual exercises on the disc. It doesn’t help that the program is built for people much older, with bigger hands, and faster reflexes. The lowest setting on the game was 8 years old, so it’s just a bit beyond him.

It’s hard not to gloat. I mean, seriously, doesn’t every parent secretly want to hear that their child is gifted? It’s just so nice to finally have some good news.

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