Wednesday, May 20, 2009

That Time of the (School) Year Again...

Ah, May! This is the month that spring truly arrives here on Cape Cod, when the socks and parkas get packed away for good and we start to trust the warmth and sun. The pollen counts rise and our noses start to run freely in the breeze, and the wasps begin to sneak into the family room through the as-yet-undiscovered access point in our attic, and the lawn starts looking like a rather scraggly meadow and yet the rain prevents us from mowing it down to an acceptable suburban height... God, I make it sound so pleasant, don't I? Ah, well - all of those things are happening, and so too is the end of the school year coming, which means it is also time for Peanut's annual IEP (Eye-YEEP!) meeting to plan for next year. I had a very positive meeting with his speech therapist last week and went over some of the progress he's made this year. I've spoken to his teacher about the re-organization of the school district and what his classroom structure will likely look like next year. Everybody has good intentions, but the closing of 3 elementary schools in the district means that the upheaval is tremendous. We know which school he will be attending, but our hopes for a fully integrated co-teaching classroom like the one he's had this year are slim. His teacher has been told that she will be spread through the new school as a K-2 "Autistic Integration Teacher" instead of being permanently assigned to a single classroom as a full-time co-teacher, which is disappointing. I've been doing a lot of reading about his particular issues, and coping strategies, and enrichment activities and blah blah blah OH MY GOD my brains feel like they are leaking out of my head. This parenting stuff is HARD, yo! I've definitely been stressed out, physically from being so sick for so long and mentally from trying to figure out what to advocate for my kids for next year. One of the things I've done over the past few months is participating in a "Parents of Gifted Children" discussion group, which has been very helpful in giving me some perspective on both of my kids' behavior. It has also been an interesting window into my own childhood, and I have definitely picked up some tips about keeping the kids busy and positive. In fact, the only negative part of it has been the occasional social awkwardness when I try to snatch a few moments to catch up on the required reading and someone innocently asks what I'm reading and I am caught red-handed with my dork-a-liscious "Handbook for Parents of Gifted Children" book. They are so different, and over and over again I really have to find different strategies for each of them. One of the interesting things all of this reading and planning has uncovered for me is a new understanding of what exactly is going on with Peanut... and of course, there is a chapter in the "handbook" about "twice-exceptional" children. The short version of Peanut's issues is "not Asperger's Syndrome but PDD-NOS/Hyperlexia and Gifted," all of which sounds incredibly confusing for anyone reading this who isn't interested in autistic spectrum disporders! I may write up a long version in some future blog entry, but the important thing is that this new understanding of his issues has led me to some basic changes in how I communicate with him, like writing down instructions for him on a piece of paper instead of just telling him something verbally. I gave him a piece of paper to take to school with a saying written on it to help him remember not to rush and push to be first in everything, and it really helped him focus. The meeting with the speech therapist was amazing - she was just full of wonderful things to say about him, including the progress he's made this year. An example is that one of our goals from last years IEP was to improve his narrative abilities in conversation. When she recently retested him, she said a "normal" score would be between 7 and 13... and he scored 17. And in another test she gave him, one that she's given to hundreds of kids, he scored the highest of any kid she's ever tested. Obviously, I'm thrilled to hear that kind of thing - it makes me feel all floaty and teary-eyed even when I think of it. I think we are in good shape for next year. With all of this preparation, I think the hardest part of the IEP meeting will be finding a time that Dr. V. can attend it with me, and I'm looking forward to some of the transition activities the schools are holding soon to get the kids used to the new schools. All I have to do now is worry about how I'm going to keep them busy and happy all summer, right?

3 comments:

  1. Sounds like your boy is definitely headed in the right direction! Good for him and good for you! Having support at school, I'm sure, makes all the difference for both of you!

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  2. That 17? Wow. I can't imagine how good that must've felt. What a HUGE validation - both for your son and for the team as a whole... your SLP must've flipped when she got those results.

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  3. Interesting post. I agree with you totally. On another aspect, my take is that asperger's syndrome during the early stages should be attended and no parent should ever forget that.

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