And just when you think…

…things are normal – that we have escaped the bad behavior that plagued us a few weeks ago, SMACK – think again.

Thursday and Friday we had construction workers in the house tearing out the basement in preparation for the drainage system that is to be installed.  Mickey found this process endlessly fascinating.  He was emailing me from school on Thursday to get updates, but apparently woke up Friday morning with a plan to be here at home for the last day of demolition.  It began with “Mom, I am shaky”, progressed to “I don’t feel so good”, then as the bus was coming “I am not going to school”.  I informed him that it wasn’t optional, and he was determined to prove me wrong.

For the record, I hear all of these complaints on a regular basis (3xs a week or so) and he hates the bus, so while he was complaining and attempting to stay home, that isn’t even remotely uncommon.  So, I sent him on his way down the driveway, but when he stomped onto the bus, I knew this wasn’t his typical whining.  I tried to get him off the bus, as did his driver.  I am not permitted to physically remove him from the bus (driver’s rules, not the school’s) and the driver won’t lay hands on him, so when Mickey refused to get off, the driver took off with him.  I knew then that this wasn’t going to end well…

And it didn’t.  His bus picks up at 6:40 am and by 7:15 (before school even starts) the principal called to inform me that Mickey had been suspended.  He kicked the windows on the bus breaking the alarm system.  Upon arrival to school he was removed from the bus and taken inside, but he didn’t want to talk about anything but going home.  So, he turned over a table and tried to push a computer off of another.  His teacher, who is good with him, wasn’t there yet and they made the call to send him home.

To be 100% clear – he deserved to be suspended – no question about that. The issue is that sending him home was what he wanted.  The day was tough on Friday – trying to keep him from hanging out with the workers was beyond challenging.  It was a long weekend here too, as we worked to show him the consequences of the choices that he made. The fact that he was “rewarded” with being sent home will likely cause us issues in the future – no matter how much I try to make the day miserable, he would rather be here than school.  That is an ongoing challenge as his dislike for school continues to grow. His feelings on the bus border on hatred and that has been an increasing problem as well.

So, I don’t have any good news on behavior for the last couple of days.  The school hasn’t contacted me today, so that is likely an indicator that the day went ok.  The workers are gone from the basement, so we won’t see that issue until they come back to do the drainage system, but I am a little beyond my whits end.

The first days

10/12/11 – our first full day together as a family.  We got up and had breakfast in preparation for our mini day at school for Mickey.  On this day Minnie would also go down and meet Nikki, who would provide her daycare and eventually after school care for Mickey. Nikki was a neighbor who ran a licensed daycare from her home and she was also a dear friend.  I was very excited to get Minnie in, as she had a decent waitlist, but all the stars aligned.

The two hour mini day at the new school would take place in the kindergarten classroom with Mrs. B, Mrs. L., the other students, Mickey and Minnie and myself. We did stations, circle time, played and generally did Kindergarten for that two hours.  I was interested to see at just 2 weeks after her 4th birthday, Minnie was totally comfortable in the class. She joined another group and left me and Mickey. Mickey was clingy and scared.  He loved Mrs. B and Mrs L though.  They would play a huge role in our next couple of years, so I was comforted by the fact that he adored them instantly.  I didn’t yet know that this would be true for Mickey with 95% of the adults he meets and this would ultimately become a red flag for attachment concerns. Along with the two teachers, we also visited Mrs. Z, where he would spend a portion of his day working on reading, writing and math – all areas of struggle.  She would also add him to her daily social skills training class, as it became apparent that he needed it.

By the end of our mini day, Mickey was very excited about starting school the next day. We also had the first of our 6 monthly case worker visits from Elise.  This is a requirement within 24 hours of placement. To describe that visit as chaotic would be an understatement.

10/13/2011 – Mickey’s first day of school

Reports from the school were good.  They were pleased with how he did.  They noted some anxiety, but overall we were all relieved.  The first of many text messages was received from Mrs. B. This is also the day that I had intended to meet Jesse to pick up the Medicaid cards and prescriptions that she had forgotten on “gotcha day” . She had an emergency placement coming and had to cancel, so she mailed them.

The rest of the week at school was fairly uneventful.  His excitement and medication gave us a brief honeymoon period. Even uneventful Mickey days were tougher than with your typical child. Mickey had no boundaries at all and complete separation anxiety.  He had attached himself to the parapro, Mrs. L, like a new appendage.  But, there were no significant meltdowns or incidents of hurting people.  We called that a success back then (and on a bad day – we still do). He did get for WOW cards for behavior that week and he wasn’t sent home once, so there were some great moments.  Those would come with much less frequency in the months to come.

Gotcha Day

I arrived at the DFACS office with nerves and anticipation.  I was greeted by paperwork, paperwork, paperwork and more paperwork.  Insurance and subsidy information was provided, guardianship and adoption intent paperwork was signed.  Jesse brought the kids into the conference room. Mickey and Minnie were both crying. Mickey clung to me, Minnie to Jesse. After good-byes were said and many tears were shed, I followed Elise to Mickey’s school to withdraw him.  We then headed to our county’s main office to enroll him there. The kids had calmed and the tears had stopped. But, Mickey was running was running all over the office, climbing on furniture and was out of control. He had gum when he left the office. Approximately one mile from the county office, he was playing with the gum (sticking it on the window, his sister, the seats of the car) and after repeated warnings, I told him to give it to me.  He freaked out! Animalistic is the only way to describe his behavior next. He twisted and came out of his booster and seat belt. I pulled the car over into a parking lot. Mickey opened the door and made an attempt at a run.  He was hysterical – screaming, hitting, kicking, crying, clawing, biting. Minnie was in tears.  He climbed in the third row after his escape was unsuccessful. It took nearly an hour to calm him. It was scary.  I left the incident bleeding and confused.  This was the worst we had seen to date.

The rest of the day was entirely uneventful. As we had seen before his behavior after a meltdown would return to normal, if not overly calm, while those around him remained completely shell-shocked. That night, thanks to his new school, I was able to walk Mickey through what to expect.  They had recorded a video of each of his teachers, including PE, Art, Music, Technology, General Ed, Special Ed, Speech and OT.  His general ed teacher, Mrs. B. also detailed the morning routine and the schedule, so that he knew what to expect

Visits

After the initial meeting we set up the visitation schedule.

2 hrs on 9/3

6 hours on 9/10

1st overnight 9/16-9/17

1st weekend 9/23 – 9/25 (the kids’ birthday weekends)

2nd weekend 9/30 – 10/2

3rd weekend 10/7-10/9

Move in date 10/11

Plus Wednesdays at McDonald’s for the first two weeks. Friends brought toys, pajamas and bikes and I busied myself getting their rooms ready for the first visit.  I painted the little Minnie’s room pink.  I added Spiderman to Mickey’s. I hand painted their names for the walls (hers had tiny daisies and his spiderwebs). Our first visit was spent playing.  Our 2nd visit was much the same.  There was no mention of why they were visiting or why they had rooms there.  On that visit we went to lunch with my parents at a local pizza place.  My dad had grown impatient and they both really wanted to meet the kids.  The kids were both all over the place at lunch, but my parents were as enthralled as I was.  Note to self – begin training for appropriate restaurant behavior.

Our 3rd visit was the first sign of the challenges to come. Mickey hit Minnie several times.  When I asked him to stop, he screamed and ran behind a chair in the living room. It is hard to describe the scream, but it is mixed with a pant and sounds like ah ah ah ah ah at full volume while rocking on his feet, knees bent, behind a chair.  This lasted 10 minutes while I tried to sooth him.  We then went back to the cookies we were making. I also found out that Jesse had told the kids that I was to be their new mom. Both kids seemed ok with this though they didn’t really seem to understand it. They loved their rooms. Mickey slept on the floor of Minnie’s room and I sat in the room with them for an hour after bedtime until Minnie fell asleep. Mickey’s meds sent him out within about 20 minutes after finishing the second book.  My cat sat at the door trying to figure out who these two little people were.

After the kids went to bed, I read the letter found in their luggage from Jesse. She offered her phone number and some basic tips for the kids and wished me luck. The kids went home around 6pm the following day via transportation provided by DFACS.  This company was hired to keep Jesse and I from having to deal with each other and was insisted upon by Elise.

The following weekend was our first full weekend – Friday to Sunday evening. It was also the kids’ birthdays – 6 & 4. I decided to pick up my niece and rent a bounce house for a small family party, with only 1 other child, two neighbors and my parents, brother and niece. We didn’t want to overwhelm the kids.  Included was Nikki, who would provide daycare for Minnie and after school care for Mickey. This weekend showed me quite a bit of Mickey’s struggles with the following directions, getting overwhelmed and frustrated and non-stop energy. I also saw a sweet funny excited little boy who held my heart.

The following week, I was invited to attend Mickey’s IEP meeting at his current school.  This would be the shorted IEP meeting I would have in nearly 4 years. Jesse and Elise were in attendance. Jesse, Elise and I also worked out a new transportation plan that had us meeting at an in between spot to exchange the kids, after transportation had dealt with a very upset Mickey and failed to buckle Minnie in. At the IEP meeting, knowing he was leaving the county, we focused mainly on existing behaviors rather than fututre planning. At that time he was getting academic support and speech only – there were no behavior or OT supports in place.  They suggested that I call his new school and set up a meeting to get started on the new IEP in our county. I did that day.  I spoke with the vice principal, Mrs. P. I would come to know this woman very well in the next year, and I found her helpful and even a little excited about Mickey’s attendance. We met the following with with his team. Mrs. B would be his general education teacher, Mrs. E his OT, Mrs. Z his special ed teacher, Mrs. B the speech therapist and the head of special ed, Mrs. C. We formulated several plans for placement and dealing with behaviors we knew about.

His general ed teacher, Mrs B., along with her parapro Mrs. D, were experienced teachers – in fact, 2 years later, after little Minnie had her for kindergarten, she retired.  She would be an integral part of our surviving the first year. She remains a dear friend now. They ordered a rocking chair for him to not have to sit still, we formulated behavioral supports, and OT and speech plans during this meeting.  It lasted 2.5 hours and we were ready for his first day of school on 10/13, though he would attend a mini day on 10/12, with me and Minnie.

In the meantime our weekend visits continued with relatively few issues.  Jesse had written me a note asking for updates or some degree of contact after placement.  By this time, we were tentatively building a relationship, mainly based on our weekly pick ups and drop offs and a few letters.  I agreed to some degree of contact, but I hadn’t decided what yet.  This was strongly discouraged by the caseworker.