The off day….

Mickey woke up in a mood.  Nothing that I can define, but it was just an off day.  Perhaps he didn’t sleep as well last night? Possibly he just woke up cranky? It is impossible to say.  These days I usually just do my best to minimize plans and stick close to home.  Days like this are difficult for Mickey to regulate himself and he is prone to losing his cool over even tiny things. They aren’t terribly frequent, but they do come up from time to time.

So, normally I would cancel most of our plans and we would stay home, but today that wasn’t possible.  We had ballet at 10, a visit to my mom in the hospital after that, with a quick lunch thrown in between, then we had our first Nutcracker rehearsal and a birthday party to attend before 4 p.m.  That is asking a lot of Mickey on an off day, but I figured we had to try.  The day was tough.

Mickey lost it on the way to ballet and had a fit in the car.  Minnie went on in to class and Mickey and I had to work on cooling down before he could join the class.  It only took about 10 minutes and then he was able to join and did quite well.  We grabbed lunch and went to visit Grandma – Mickey adores his Grandma and he was fine there.  When we left the hospital we had to pick up a birthday present and the store was crowded and he was heightened, but he did okay.  He did fine during Nutcracker as I think his excitement of finally being part of it, rather than watching the rehearsal was quite interesting to him.  Plus he will be a cannon soldier, so he got to put the fake gun powder in and he thought that was cool.

Te birthday party was another story.  It was crowded, we were late because of Nutcracker, so the party was in full swing when we got there – just in time for cake and presents.  Mickey partook of the cake and then he was done.  But, we couldn’t leave as Minnie would have been heartbroken.  He cried, we tried deep pressure and his other coping skills, but nothing was working.  He asked to go sit outside and spent the rest of the party sitting outside under a tent by himself.  He was happier and Minnie was thrilled to be able to stay.  After the presents there was about 15 minutes of water sliding with the other kids.  Mickey joined but came crying twice because other kids were bumping him – normally that wouldn’t be an issue, but on an off day….

When it was time to leave he lost it again.  This is how these days go and transitions are rough for him, even more so on a day when he isn’t at his best.  He did survive the day.  The mini meltdowns bother me more than him, as I find them embarrassing in a situation where I don’t know most people and they don’t know about Mickey’s challenges.  Mickey looks “normal” and is tall for his age, so we get looks when he comes up crying looking like your average 12 year old or when he covers his ears because the squealing kids send him over the edge or he spends a party sitting outside.  Sometimes I want to explain his Autism, but it really isn’t most people’s business and his Autism doesn’t define him, but it is indeed part of him and it is harder for him on days when the stars aren’t aligning quite right.

The good news is that an off day used to necessitate that we not leave the house.  The meltdown in the car this morning would have lasted hours instead of the minutes that it did and it would have been violent.  I couldn’t trust him around other people on days like this because he would attack anyone around.  I will take random bursts of tears over kicking and clawing any day of the week.  So, a tough day but still progress.  Every single time today, he was able to cope – not as quickly as he usually can, but he did cope and get himself back together.  As is often the case, I have to acknowledge the little things because it has been a million little things that have gotten us to the place we are today. Today was a day of celebrating the little things and being grateful for the progress.

Mickey, Dept of Justice, School and the Internet

I mentioned before that Mickey is in a rather restrictive program for school.  It is part of the public school system, but is as separate as can be.  In fact, the Department of Justice, this summer, served our state with notifications that the program is a violation of our children’s civil rights and not ADA compliant.  I met with the DOJ at the end of July, and everything in their report is true, though in some cases our county is one of the better versions of this program.  I will summarize the issues and why we are trying to get out of the program, but I also want to hit on some of the finer points to the program, of which there are several.

The DOJ’s concerns:

  • The children in this program are completely kept separate from their typical peers. In some counties this is by a fence in a “regular” elementary school, in our county it is housed in a closed school – one the county opted to close and replace because the maintenance and repairs were too great to justify keeping it open, but it is suitable for special needs kids – which makes no sense at all
  • The children do not have access to any music, art, PE or even recess
  • The children cannot even visit the restroom without someone standing outside the door and are never afforded even the basic privacy that my typical daughter takes for granted
  • There are no extra-curricular activities – no chorus, band, dances, spirit nights, or even a mascot. Also no after school program options, as is standard in every elementary school in the county
  • No hands on science – most science is done via computer
  • No foreign language/home ec./graphic arts/technology or even keyboarding.
  • The school houses kindergarten through 12th grade, and the students are bussed together from all over the county
  • There is no clear entrance or exit criteria – any child can be referred to this program and then can’t get back out – it has been likened to prison for special needs kids – most of whom have an autism diagnosis, but mainly they are there because they were too much trouble in a traditional setting. To be clear, this is not where the children with legal issues or just general delinquencies go, this program is exclusively for special needs kids.

The department of justice is correct with all of these findings. These kids are stuck in a program that could be improved.  Some of them can’t be in a general education setting because of sensory issues or behavioral concerns, but the findings are that this isn’t even separate but equal, it is separate and wildly unequal. At this point the solutions are still being worked out, but obviously changes will need to come to bring this program compliant with the ADA requirements.

Now the good:

  • The teachers are amazing. No seriously, the best communication, collaboration with parents, etc.
  • Mickey feels safe and not overwhelmed – he misses the things he used to do (mainly music and recess). He is very well aware of what he is missing out on as we attend countless activites at his sister’s school
  • They take the time to see signs of trouble and diffuse before escalation (this is huge for Mickey)
  • They are firm and consistent and the environment is somewhat therapeutic, with tons of social skills and dealing with behaviors

The good is why I tolerate the bad.  We moved there for a short 6 week period and we stayed another full year because it was working for him.  But, it isn’t anymore.  We agreed in March that he doesn’t need to be there anymore.  He needs more time with typical peers and with those activities that spark his interests.  He will still need a small setting for much of the day, but our county has a very good Autism program that would be ideal and provide that while still allowing him math (his best subject), music and art with typical peers. Unfortunately, we are stuck in the “can’t get out” portion of the program.  The school, his team, the social worker, Mickey and myself all believe he is ready to go, but we can’t get him re-tracked to the other program.

With all that, today’s adventure included an email from his teacher informing me that Mickey and his classmates (K-4th grade) were on inappropriate websites on the computers at school.  All were hauled into the principal’s office, and threatened with in school suspension if it happened again. Now, generally when I get these types of notes, I start figuring out how I will discuss the issue with Mickey and try to form a consequence that makes sense.  Today’s note threw me though.  Mickey will be 10 in a month, but he skews young.  While he has a “girlfriend”, he told me even kissing her is years off because he isn’t ready.  He can certainly appreciate a pretty girl, but has not ever even commented on a female’s (or male’s for that matter) anatomy or figure.  He has asked nothing about sex.  You may think this isn’t unusual, but Mickey has no filter, at all.  If he wonders about it, he asks about it.  He also has NO unsupervised internet access at home or daycare (our home computers are locked and so is my phone and tablet – he is only allowed to get on when I am with him and doing it with him).  So, even if he wanted to, he wouldn’t know where to go (though he could certainly use a search engine).

I festered on this note for an hour.  I reached out to a support group of Aspie moms and they helped me formulate my concerns so I sent an email back.  I asked some questions.  1. Is his school’s internet not filtered like every other school in the county? 2. Is Mickey really capable of determining appropriate content? 3. where was the supervision (the kid can’t even attend the restroom without an escort, but was allowed to look up inappropriate websites in a class with 5 kids and 2 teachers in a group of 3 boys. 4. The Code of Conduct specified that the county would block all content that was deemed inappropriate and that all children would be taught appropriate computer safety as part of their curriculum. 5. How is he to be threatened with in school suspension when they aren’t supervising nor appropriately blocking sites they deem inappropriate.

I am generally pretty easy going and his teacher knows it, but with all the DOJ scrutiny, I think my note freaked them out because the director of the program was on my phone within about 15 minutes.  The inappropriate content was TMZ (and yes, that is inappropriate for K-4th graders, in my opinion), but it wasn’t porn as was implied.  I was told that the site had been sent to the county to block, but again my concern is that they are asking him to determine what is appropriate.  They were looking at a cartoon as well – one with language but no sex or nudity.  While neither is ok, neither was as bad as I had feared.  I was reassured repeatedly by the director that this wasn’t major, just an area of concern.  I reiterated my point, Mickey is not responsible for filtering the internet, nor determining it’s appropriateness, nor should he be punished for what is a hole in their filters.  Most of us monitor our kids’ access – the cartoon was a teddy bear and looked totally innocent, except for the language.  How would Mickey even judge that?

I am very rarely the “my precious snowflake” mom.  I very much expect them to hold my son to the behavior standards that we would see anywhere.  He is allowed to get angry and lose his cool, but he is not allowed to do so in an inappropriate manner, he must use coping skills, he must follow directions, etc. But in this case I feel the expectation wasn’t reasonable and threatening him with consequences when he didn’t do anything wrong (another kid was doing the searching, Mickey was sitting with them and they were showing him stuff) is counter productive.  He struggles enough trying to figure out what is the right thing to do, so we don’t need this other stuff clouding the field for him. We talked and I told him that if something was questionable, he should get an adult, but that is where his responsibility in the matter ends.

Never a dull moment.  The school agreed that they would be more vigilant while the children were accessing the internet and that he would not be suspended for any accidental inappropriate content he viewed. The special education system in our state needs serious help, but I am grateful that it is a very rare occurrence that I have to fight too hard for Mickey on stuff like this – we have been lucky to have mostly very open and reasonable teachers that will communicate an issue and work on a solution, rather than just threatening suspensions – today was certainly out of character and felt rather knee-jerk as a reaction to TMZ.

He keeps my life interesting, that is for sure.

The birth parents

Mickey has nearly endless questions about his birth parents.  He asks regularly and last night came downstairs after being in bed for 30 minutes because he is trying to make sense of his past.  His memories of the birth family are fuzzy…he confuses the maternal grandmother for the birth mother.  He was 3.5 when he went into foster care, Minnie was 18 months old, though they would visit with their birth family until they were 5 and 3.  Minnie has no real memories of them at all.  Mickey’s really only come in snipits, and sometimes seemingly out of nowhere.

We have no contact with the birth family at all.  I know who they are, but as far as I know, they have no idea who I am or where the kids end up.  Parental rights were terminated 11 months before I took custody. The foster family knows them, and of course, the foster family knows where we are, but they would never share that info.  My Facebook page is locked down, my kids are never my profile or cover photo, etc.  The birth mother lives 18 miles from us, in a neighboring county and the birth father is about 15 miles from us.  The birth grandparents sent a letter right after I got the kids asking for visitation, but I chose not to.  Not because I was against an open adoption – I wasn’t.  But, because their daughter was an addict that lived with them and she was unstable.  The grandparents also had a history of showing up unannounced with the foster family and they travel for the majority of the year, so there is no stability. I offered them updates and pictures at that time, but they declined and started a campaign to harass the social worker and the foster parents with daily phone calls, threatening legal action, emails, etc and attempted to bully them into revealing our location.  This confirmed my gut instinct was correct, so we have no contact at all.

Mickey’s issues were so profound then, that I couldn’t take the chance on setting anything off.  I didn’t even let them see the foster parents initially – though we both knew that they would eventually and we never broke off communication, but we felt it important for the kids not to be confused by Momma and Momma, which was hard enough of a transition.  We needed to form our family before outside forces came to be. They knew I still talked to their foster mother, Jesse, and they would ask me to forward her drawings or share good news.  Now Jesse and her family come to recitals and soccer games, birthday parties, etc and I can’t tell you how grateful my kids and I are to be able to maintain that connection.

Mickey wants to meet the birth parents.  He wants to know why she made the choices that she did.  I refuse to lie to either of the kids, though I am age appropriate with responses, or I have to say “I don’t think you are old enough yet for that information”.  They have to be able to trust that what I say about his birth family is true.  I have a very love/hate relationship with these people – if they hadn’t made the choices that they did, I wouldn’t get to be a mom to my awesome children.  I also know, without a doubt, that their birth mother loved them, but her addiction was more powerful.  On the flip side, I hate that her choices during pregnancy likely contributed to Mickey’s issues and made his life so much harder than it had to be, I hate that she allowed a person around her children that attempted to drown Minnie, thus creating a fear of water that would take years to overcome. I never, ever bash the birth family, but it is interesting to be angry and grateful at the same time.

Last night the questions were about the birth mother and the birth father’s relationship.  How long were they together, did they love each other? I can’t answer those questions and I have to tell him that.  Sometimes the questions are about why she ever started using drugs, or what she did for a living.  He is trying to build a picture of this woman who is very fuzzy for him, but an important piece of him.  I will support him meeting her, when he is older.  I am almost sure he will want to.  Minnie shows no interest in either birth parent, but she does know there is a half sibling and has expressed an interest in meeting her.

For the record, since we are geographically so close, there is a very real possibility of us running into them someday.  I don’t live in fear of it.  To my knowledge the birth father has gotten his act together.  The birth mother does have a job and is somewhat stable, so if it happens, we will deal with it.  But, our lives are easier without the disruption that they would cause for Mickey.  He has crafted a new family that he is very attached to, his memories are all unpleasant and he clings tightly to his new life.  He fears that they would come take him away, and no matter how many times we reassure him, he still tells every school and daycare to make sure not to let them ever pick him up or visit.  Jesse doesn’t concern him, and he loves his time with her family, but he fears the birth family will destroy the life he has and the progress he has made.  He says that he couldn’t laugh or play there, he says he couldn’t talk there and that he was a bad kid there (his developmental delays were so significant, those things were true – he was largely non-verbal when he went into foster care, he screamed, he could barely walk, was not potty trained and would rage for hours, plus he didn’t sleep).  He says his former last name gave him nightmares and that he didn’t like having to eat out of trash cans or being locked in closets.  I didn’t provide any of that information, nor do I know if that is true but, they are his recollections and they scare him.  Yet he remains convinced that he must meet her.  Interestingly, neither child really asks much about the birth father nor has either expressed any interest in meeting him.

I doubt that we will ever know the extent of the damage from those early years, but I won’t invalidate how he feels about them.  I will tell him that her addictions were too strong, too strong even to overcome the love she had for him and his sister. He knows the grandparents wanted contact and why I chose not to give it. We have talked about why drugs and alcohol are not a good choice for either of them, since both their parents had issues with both, I never want him to look back and think I hated them.  I don’t.  I hate the choices they made, but not them. My children are part of them. Mickey is the spitting image of his birth mother and Minnie her birth father, so I see these people every day in my children’s faces. This is likely a never ending conversation, and I hope I am handling it right.

Ballet

Minnie has just entered her 4th year of dance and this weekend we had Nutcracker auditions, for her 4th Nutcracker.  Mickey entered dance late last season.  He is somewhat awkward and has fine and gross motor skill delays, but he is loving dance.  This year he asked to take ballet so he could dance in Nutcracker as well.  Shock of all shocks, his ballet teacher sees talent in ballet.  He has also been moved to a more advanced hip hop class. He is stiff in both, but the ballet teacher says he has good lines and good feet.  Both kids are tall and lean, and Minnie is all legs.  Minnie takes dance for the performances, as she loves the stage, Mickey tolerates the stage but takes dance for the music and the classes.

Nutcracker cast lists were released yesterday.  Minnie moves up to drummer and cherub and Mickey is a soldier (the cannon soldier) and a squire.  Both kids are beyond excited and first rehearsal is this weekend. Every Saturday for the next three months, they along with about 100 other young dancers will be rehearsing this performance, and I am proud that they are both willing to do the work needed to make this production as wonderful as it has been in years past.

The joys of ODD

So, here is the thing about Mickey…he doesn’t understand the word no.  This is perhaps the most annoying thing about him.  He is smart and aware, but no matter how consistent I am, no matter how many times I redirect, ignore, firmly answer no, he takes it as a personal mission to drive me nuts.  He will rephrase the question, thinking that I must not understand what is being asked.  He will use the No as a grounds for negotiating.  Here was our weekend of ODD fun:

After his binder incident last week, he was given consequences.  We had a long discussion about calling it what it was – a bad day.  But, there are consequences for his choices and he was assigned sentences at home.  The quantity could have easily been done in one evening after school (they could have been done the day of the incident), but it was made clear that he was grounded until they were complete.  See, Mickey will procrastinate to the point of ridiculous, so this is a regular safeguard built into any consequence.

It is now 6 days later and of the 300 sentences, how many are done?  75.  Yes, 75. So, Saturday he was informed that the sentences must be done for him to play with the neighbors or swim in our pool.  He awoke at 6:15 am and I reminded him again, that before he started doing anything else, he needed to finish the sentences.  At 9:00 he asked if we could go out to lunch after ballet – answer? No, not unless your sentences are done.  Same question asked approximately 20 more times for the next 58 minutes, until he stepped into his dance class.  First question after dance class?  Can we go out to lunch.  Number of sentences written between 6:15 am and noon?  4.

We had to go back to the dance studio for Nutcracker auditions at 1:30, so I fed the children and told Mickey that he was going to want to swim with Minnie when auditions were over and reminded him that sentences needed to be done. I sent him to his room to work on them and lesson distractions.  Number of sentences written in that 1.5 hours?  2

After auditions we came back home and Minnie went swimming.  Mickey gave me attitude because I wouldn’t let him.  He earned 25 more sentences for screaming at me.  I kept my cool and sent him back to his room – repeat 14 times in 2 hours. Telling him that if he wanted to swim, he had to finish his sentences. At 6:30, I mowed the lawn.  Minnie went to play with the neighborhood kids, Mickey asked to as well.  Me: How many sentences have you finished. Him: 50. Me: So, no.  You are grounded until they are complete.

During the hour or so I spent mowing the lawn, Mickey appeared every 5 minutes or so, trying to explain why it was so important that he be able to play.  Reasons included: It is his right to get fresh air, he misses playing with his friends, the boys next door don’t like playing with a girl, he needs to work on his social skills (my personal favorite).  Every single time my answer is the same….when you finish your sentences.

We had a late dinner and the kids went to bed around 8:30.  Number of sentences completed for the day? 55.

Repeat on Sunday with a total of 20 completed after 12.5 waking hours.  One would think he would get the hint that I am not giving in – and I don’t. No parent is perfectly consistent all the time, but with Mickey, I do my best to be.  We periodically have these battles of will.  It is not my desire to control him, but he doesn’t care about tv, he doesn’t have electronics, he could care less about being sent to his room – the only effective consequence is sentences.  They serve two purposes – he hates them and he can practice his truly awful handwriting.  But, 6 days in, I hate everything about the word sentences.  Sentences are a known consequence for what his school calls an I.I.  The minute he made the choice to run, he knew the I.I. would happen and he knew that sentences would be the consequence at home.  I do understand his impulse control clouds his thought process, but he has connected the dots and he understands cause and effect, so there has to be a consequence and he must complete it.  Fingers crossed he does so this week, because the idea of another weekend of sentences makes me ill.

That is just one picture of the ODD.  It can be a simple question “Can I have a snack” when we get to the dance studio.  I answer no because we just had a meal or will be in the next hour and he will ask it 20 more times. I usually even give the reason, so that he understands why.  He will go to the car and scrounge up money, he will change which snack he requests, he will get belligerent, he will be sweet, he will claim that he is starving, etc.  This will go on the entire time we are waiting on his sister to complete a class.  Last night we ate dinner at the studio and 15 minutes after he finished dinner he started the snack request.  The answer was no, every single time. And yet he asked every minute or two.  This is not every studio visit, but it is a common issue.  He no longer melts down, but my goodness it is frustrating.

There has been some success with asking back “Did you already ask me that question”, “Did I already answer it?”, “What was the answer?” and having him repeat the no.  But, he will just adjust the question.  Mickey’s thought process is that a rephrased question is a different question.

Welcome to our ODD little world.

Dance and EIPs

Mickey attended his first hip hop 2 class last night.  The kid did great, and I was admittedly shocked. The class was larger than the smaller hip hop 1 class, and all girls, versus about half and half in hop hop 1. But, Mickey held his own.  His moves are awkward, but he did them and participated until the very end. So, we are making that a permanent move – Minnie stays in Hip Hop 1 and Mickey in Hip Hop 2, thus foiling my perfectly planned schedule of cramming 5 dance classes between the children into only 2 days. Plus, in an interesting turn of events, for the first time ever, Minnie had to wait on Mickey to finish a dance class – after 3.5 years of Mickey waiting for her.

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So, my biggest fear with Minnie is that I miss something.  So much of my attention is focused on Mickey and his challenges (academically and behaviorally) and Minnie is so fiercely independent and relatively low maintenance, that I don’t want her to slip through the cracks.  She has the same traumatic background, and while she didn’t have prenatal drug exposure, she was alcohol exposed.  So, I noticed as we started second grade that she is behind in reading and there are some concerns with number inversions.  I don’t want to be paranoid, nor look for problems where there are none, but again, the fear…

I emailed her teacher and told her to tell me if I was freaking out for nothing, but she said I wasn’t.  Minnie qualifies for EIP (early intervention program) for reading.  She is able to decode words well, but her fluency is way below target.  She is slow and it is almost painful to listen to her read.  We read every day, but there just hasn’t been improvement in fluency.  Even sight words, which she knows, in the context of a paragraph are being sounded out slowly.

The inverted numbers would not normally be of concern until later in the year, but this isn’t sometimes.  This is every single time she writes a 3, 5, 7, 9 they are backwards.  Even if there is a 7 printed just above where she is writing, and the bigger concern is she doesn’t see it.  If asked to correct it, she still misses it.  Math is her favorite subject and she has a good grasp on the concepts, so we need to get this addressed.  The teacher responded that if it were just this issue, we would wait it out, but combined with the reading issue, we should set up a meeting.  So, we meet next week.

Minnie adores school, she loves math and reading.  There are no questions that she is bright, so we simply must address these issues before school becomes a frustration.  I am debating a visual processing evaluation to see if that may be contributing to the issue, but I will wait until after I meet with her teacher next week.  I love her school and how quick her teacher was to jump on these concerns.  Hopefully we can help her sort this out so that she can continue on her path to Auburn Vet school – that is her dream and as long as it is, we will do our best to help her get there.

The first call of the year

So, we made it 9 days into the new school year before the first phone call from school.  So, what did Mickey do?  A binder.  Yes, a 3 ring binder was the trigger that prompted Mickey to “elope”.  Mickey goes to a daycare program after school, while I work and he put the binder together last week with some paper, a pencil bag with colored pencils and was using it to do art work at daycare.

Well, apparently he is obsessing on the binder.  I saw the first sign of the obsession this morning, when he came downstairs and had snuck it upstairs and stayed up late drawing.  He wouldn’t get ready for school this morning because he wanted to go over his drawings and he burst into tears when I told him he couldn’t have the notebook back until he was dressed.  At school he insisted on taking it to breakfast and they told him no, because he was dropping papers and stuff out of it.  So, he grabbed the binder and ran – not out of the school, but to the gym. They called the resource officer to get him and to quote the administrator “watching the RO chase him was like chasing a hummingbird”, as he zig zagged across the gym gripping his binder.

His school has what they call “the happy room”.  This is generally a cool down room – a large classroom with nothing in it – including no door.  He can ask to go there or be sent there when he is out of control.  He will be spending the day there today, but he decided that he was going to negotiate and tell them he was only staying if they gave him his binder.  LOL, no chance.  So, he kept trying to leave to go get it. So, his teacher called me and offered the phone to Mickey.  That got him back in line, but we will see how the rest of the day goes.

Autism is a funny thing.  It is impossible to know what is going to trigger the obsessions.  It is difficult to see the signs until the obsession has begun.  A binder?  I didn’t see that one coming.

Extracurriculars

Minnie has been in dance classes for 3.5 years.  She has done ballet, tap, an acro jazz class and this year is doing ballet, hip hop and contemporary.  She plays soccer in the spring too. Extracurricular activities for Mickey have been tougher. Early on we tried karate and he wasn’t able to participate – either mentally or physically.  Along with the behavior challenges, Mickey has some fine and gross motor skill delays.  They have improved, but he didn’t want to go back to karate.  He played one season of soccer and he enjoyed it, but he knew he wasn’t good.  He did participate and learn some important lessons on teamwork, so the season was successful as far as I was concerned, but he knew that he didn’t have the same skill set as his peers and we both knew that at his age the competitive level would increase.  He didn’t ask to play again. So, we continued the search for activities that he was interested in.

Music is Mickey’s passion. Listening, playing, singing, dancing.  All music.  Mickey has yet to find a genre he doesn’t like, but he leans toward 60’s rock and roll – Elvis, Buddy Holly, Beatles, etc.  He also adores Johnny Cash and dolly Parton.  Their songs speak to him, their voices, the beats, all of it.  His uncle is teaching him guitar and I am teaching him clarinet and piano. Mickey asked to take a dance class last year.  We let him join Minnie’s acro jazz class and he did well. But, acro wasn’t really his forte. So, this year he chose ballet and hip hop.  So, this weekend he had his first ballet class.  He wants to dance Nutcracker this year, so ballet was necessary.  I didn’t expect him to, but he loved his first class. Last week he did his first hip hop class as well, excluding a hip hop summer camp we did this summer. He was invited to move up to hip hop 2 after his first class.  This is mainly because the instructors are different and the Hip Hop 2 teacher is better equipped to handle him, but she also thinks he will be fine from an ability level standpoint.

This was all very exciting for Mickey.  He loves to dance and has been entertaining us for years with his dance moves.  While certainly not the most talented dancer around, he makes up for it with heart. A boy in his school last week made fun of him when Mickey shared how excited he was about his dance classes.  The boy laughed at him. Mickey stood up for himself and kept his cool and that is huge for him.  He informed the kid that he loves dance and that dance isn’t just for girls. I don’t necessarily think Mickey will stick with dance, I think he is leaning heavier to band and chorus, but those don’t start here until 5th grade, so for now we dance…though Mickey has observed the one other boy who is about 15 that is taking ballet at the dance school and he has commented about how nice it must be to be surrounded by all those pretty girls in class, so I could be wrong.  My son is no fool 🙂

We also took two other big steps this week – both kids joined scouts.  Mickey has been asking to for some time, but scouting will require some independence that we didn’t think he was ready for.  But, I think he is now.  So, we got boy scout uniforms and he has read his entire book from cover to cover and picked all the badges he wants to work on. He couldn’t be more excited.  Minnie joined girl scouts too, but we haven’t really started yet, so her excitement is somewhat tempered, though she has already called her uncle and grandpa to prep them for cookie sales.

So, between five dances classes, Nutcracker rehearsals, boy scouts and girl scouts, this momma will be busy this year.  I want my children to explore their interests and find their passions.  I think it may be most important for Mickey, because other areas are so tough for him – he needs to have something he loves that isn’t a terrible struggle. Fingers crossed for both of them that they enjoy their chosen activities for this year.

Psychological Evaluation

Today marked the end of the first full week of school.  Other than a minor hiccup yesterday, Mickey had a great week.  He got upset that they didn’t have his preferred cereal for breakfast and he hit the table and cried.  The crying wouldn’t be normal for him, but I think the summer got him out of practice on having to maintain control day in and day out.  But, after a five minute break, he was back under control and the rest of the day went swimmingly.  Minnie adores second grade and has been reunited in class with her kindergarten BFF and she is thrilled.

We had Mickey’s IEP meeting in April and we all agreed that Mickey doesn’t need as restrictive of a setting as his current placement is.  Over the summer we also learned that the Department of Justice has launched an investigation into the program that Mickey is a part of for lack of extracurricular activities, recess, art and music, etc.  The small setting has been good for Mickey in many ways, but he could easily be served in a less restrictive environment.  But, short of going back to his previous school – which we both hated, he is stuck there unless we can get him re-evaluated and switch educational tracks.

4+ months after his IEP team made this decision, we finally got the call today from the county psychologist and on Thursday of next week they will begin the evaluation process.  This is big news and I am very excited.  Mickey is somewhat nervous.  He is comfortable where he is, but he wants things that aren’t available there – like playing in band and singing in chorus. He is scared to start somewhere new and leave the comfort of a teacher that he has had since second grade who knows him and can identify his triggers before even he can sometimes.

Just a note on the IEP/Special education process around here – we have had more than our share of IEP meetings in the last couple of years, but almost every one has been a good experience.  They didn’t always have the results I wanted, nor do I always get my way, but all but two have been very collaborative (the two at the school we hated – 1 was just his teacher with no school representation at all, and 1 was when we chose to pull him from the school).  I have never doubted that all parties at these meetings had Mickey’s best interests at heart.  I have pushed for the fewest accommodations needed, and we have usually found solutions by thinking outside of the box. I want to set the bar high and move it if needed, I do not want low expectations set for Mickey, because we need to see what he is capable of.  I am perfectly content to move the bar if he can’t reach it, but I don’t want to set lower expectations – behaviorally or academically. We have a wonderful school system here, but the special needs programs need some work.  So, I don’t want to complain because we are fortunate to have a good system and good people, but we have some valid concerns, like the fact that my 9 year old hasn’t had a recess in a year and isn’t allowed outside of the school for even fresh air, nor has he attended a music or art class in that time. So, we are looking to move and hoping that he is ready.