Sunday, April 17, 2016

IEP Time

It's that time of year again, the end of the school year, when track is in full swing and the school year is wrapping up and we have IEP meetings.

IEP, for those who don't know, stands for Individualized Education Program.  If you didn't know, prior to my telling you, what an IEP is, be thankful.  That means your children mature and develop and learn right on target with other kids their age.  Any child who receives any sort of special services (Speech, Reading Assistance, Physical Therapy, etc) from a school district has an IEP, which is a legal document that spells out your child's needs, how the school will provide for those needs, and how your child's progress will be evaluated.  In the case of Moise and Kruz it's more of a legal book than a document.  Every spring we (I and all of the people involved in his education: teachers, therapists, paraprofessionals, etc) collaborate to set the wheels in motion for the upcoming school year.

For Moise, these meetings last anywhere from 2-4  hours and there are typically 10-12 of us at the meetings.  There is always a short little list of things he can do and a list longer than my arm of the many things he can't do.  It's intense and without fail I leave wondering if we made the right choices, if we covered all the bases.  Once upon a time these meetings for Moise were a source of great heartache for me.  There's nothing quite like an IEP meeting to make you fully aware of just how wide the gap between your child and his peers is. But somewhere along the way it has become less painful. I've lowered my expectation and accepted what is and what is never going to be.  The gap is no longer earth shattering. We've already had his IEP meeting and it has been determined that he will remain at Schramm Education Center next school year.  I have been overall pleased with this past year.  I do feel that, with the move, we lost a little in the area of academics but we gained much in the area of functional life skills, which is, at this point, of greater importance.

Kruz's meeting is set for this week and I am fully prepared for what's ahead.  He's not making the progress that I'd hoped.  I'm afraid...... terribly afraid.....that we (his educators and I ) are missing a piece of the very complex puzzle that is Kruz.  He, like Moise, doesn't fit any sort of mold. I know that no two children are the same, they are all unique and individual and blah, blah, blah.  But folks, we're talking any entirely different level of unique here.  His disorder is extremely rare and virtually no one, not his doctors, therapists, nor educators, have ever heard of it, much less seen it and, quite frankly, have no clue what to do with it.  Last year we set what we thought were appropriate goals for him based on his development at that time and what we thought we might be able to expect from him.  We missed the mark by a long shot.  Throughout the school year, I've waited and encouraged and gently nudged him, knowing full well that I couldn't expect too much at first.  School was a culture shock to this sweet little one whose entire world revolved around his extreme social anxiety.  His educators and I opted for sending him to our home school district based on the fact that he would have higher functioning peers to model after. We, or at least I, hoped that by being immersed in a classroom of higher functioning children he'd take off, blossom, reach for the stars.  I don't need the people around the IEP table to tell me that that didn't happen.  He, in fact, met very few of the goals we had set for him.

The big question is "why?"  Why are we not seeing steady progress in certain areas? Are we, indeed, missing something?  Is it just Kruz?  Are our expectations too high?  I've sounded the horn, having learned long ago that it's best not to wait until the actual meeting to voice concerns.  I've spoken to each of his therapists and found that they too are scratching their heads.  On a positive note, we are all in agreement that within the last month or two there has been a dramatic change in his social development. Although he hasn't met the goals, we've seen some slow progress in the area of gross motor.  It is my opinion that he can walk. He just doesn't know that he can and, therefore, doesn't.  Likewise, we are hearing a few more consonant sounds in the area of oral motor and speech development.  But in terms of cognition and fine motor development there's been very little change in the last year.  We work relentlessly on fine motor skills but it's as though there is a sort of impasse, some physical, tangible barrier that prevents him from developing in this area.  

While I do feel a bit anxious about this upcoming meeting, I am hopeful.  I look forward to seeing all of the facts of the last year on paper.  I am hopeful that with enough brainstorming and pooling our thoughts, we'll come up with something that will work.

Meanwhile, back at the farm, we're living the way life has taught us to live.... one moment at a time.   He's enjoying spring turned summer overnight, exploring the world and fishing with daddy.  And we're soaking up the pure, simple joy that he radiates.

God is good, all the time. 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

From Diapers to Diploma, Just Like That

***After weeks of  trying to convert the blog to private settings, what I have found is that blogger makes it virtually impossible.  Since starting a new blog under a different site came with a different set of problems, I  have decided to keep the blog public.  However, I will no longer be notifying of updates on Facebook or other social media.  If you wish to continue to receive updates please sign up to follow by email in the right side bar.  

You have brains in your head.  
You have feet in your shoes. 
You can steer yourself 
any direction you choose. 
~Dr Seuss

This last week a certain reality has hit home.  Our baby boy is graduating from high school and going to college.  Okay……so he’s not really our baby boy.  We have three more children after him, two of them boys, but he’s the last boy I gave birth to.  He’s the last child that I gave birth to so he’ll retain baby boy status for a long time…. as in forever. 

Last week I went with him to his first meeting with his college advisor.  When we arrived in the parking lot I turned to him and said, “this is your deal. Any questions he asks are for you, not me.”  This is the point where we start cutting apron strings and I know, from past experience that it can be painful.  Jim and I aren’t much into helicopter parenting. We’re here for support and guidance and encouragement and sometimes, maybe a bit too often, we voice our opinions, but the goal is independence. That’s what we’ve been raising them for and, now, here we are. We’re giving that nudge toward whatever comes next in his life.  We walk through the admission process with our kids, coach them as they register for their first set of classes, and then we step back. We step back and watch as they grow and spread their wings and learn and succeed and fail.  And we pray. We pray alot.  We’re not going to agree with all the choices he makes and we’re going to cringe a little, or maybe a lot, as we see him making mistakes along the way. But we know that sometimes we learn the most from mistakes and failures and not so great choices.  

I also ordered his graduation announcements this week.  They arrived at my doorstep in a bright orange box and they’re wrong.  The photos and his name are correct but the time, date and place for his graduation party didn’t print on the announcements.  I stood looking at them for awhile, mildly irritated because I distinctly remember typing the information in when I customized the announcements.  I’m not sure if the mistake was on their end or my end (probably mine) and I’m not losing any sleep over it. It occurred  to me that if this had happened five years ago, as we prepared for Jamee’s, our first, graduation, I probably would have hit freak out mode.  But Brock’s our fourth graduate, so I showed them to him. He shrugged his shoulders and said “Meh” or “huh” or “ungh” or something equally monosyllabic and  incoherent.  But I’ve been speaking his language for awhile now and I’m able to translate. In this instance “Meh” means “No biggie. It doesn’t matter if there’s printing on the announcement or not.”   And I’ve learned something after many proms and homecomings and awards banquets and graduations and all the other things that go with raising kids.  It’s profound…….wait for it…….NO ONE CARES.  No one cares about graduation announcements: how many pictures are on it or how much you spent on them, if you made them yourself, or if the print is professional or hand written.  No one cares about the food you serve at your party or how spectacular your table display is or how many awards your kid won or how perfect you may think they are.  No one cares about any of that and certainly no one believes that your kids is perfect and exactly 37 days from today, when it’s all over, none of it’s going to matter, not even a little bit.  What will matter is how respectful and responsible and kind he is. What matters is that he knows that nothing in life is perfect and nothing good comes easy and NEWS FLASH…you’re not any better than anyone else.  So I’m sticking with the announcements, handwriting the information in and feeling thankful that my son is very responsible and hoping that we’ve succeeded in teaching him kindness and respect and all the other things that matter

For the last year or more we’ve been getting things in the mail addressed to Brock M. Holmes-  brochures and pamphlets, mass mailings from colleges with his name on it.  I always wonder how they got his name and if there’s anyone on the planet who actually chooses or even visits a college based on the 5X7 “Why you should send all your money to this college/universty” brochure.  And letters……. if they have even a hint of athletic ability or any other talent, the letters start coming, stating all the reasons why you should play or run or perform at that school.  At first it seems just a bit flattering and then you start to wonder, “For the love of all that is good, how does someone in Australia know that he’s a runner??!!!?!?!” and flattering is reduced to slightly creepy.

Last week I got an email from the school about registration and sports physicals for next year.  I breathed in a deep breath of air and felt almost giddy at the idea that I don’t have to schedule sports physicals or write ginormous checks to enroll my troops in high school.  Then I quickly deflated as I realized the checks I'm writing are much larger.  They're just going to colleges instead of our school district.

As much as all of this feels really, really good….. like someone should high five me for getting 4 kids through high school…… it also feels a little sad.  Because they’ve grown so very quickly and I really don’t know where all the time went. I mean... we were just in diapers and now we’re getting our last diploma. Because I know that he will need me differently from this point on. Because life becomes so much more complex and hurts tend to be so much bigger and my ability to fix things becomes nearly obsolete.   I am going to miss how easy it is to show support… attending long chorus concerts or sitting for hours in frigid temperatures with gale force winds on cold, hard bleachers at track meets.  Those things weren’t always super fun and I can’t exactly say I will miss them (and neither will he) but they said, “I’m here for you,”  “I’m your greatest fan,” “I’m so proud of who you are.”  And if I didn’t go, which was often, it said “It’s your commitment/responsibility. I’m still here for you. I’m still proud of you but our whole world does not revolve around you," another vitally important lesson.

 The teaching and learning comes harder for them as they gain independence, almost as if there’s an entirely different layer, a whole new depth to their being that they’re just now discovering.  The learning is harder for me too.  Relinquishing hurts a little and, for parents, that’s what this phase is all about.  We’ve been down this road three times now and every one of them has marched to the beat of a different drum.  I can’t begin to think that I have any of it figured out because I know I don’t, not by a long shot. But that's what keeps life interesting.  The fact that I don't know what lies around the bend, that I have no answers, especially in this finding-who-they-are stage of life, is what keeps me on my knees.  So as I send this one off to new, exciting experiences and grown up decisions, I cover him, as I do all the others, with an extra layer of prayer.  I pray that the God of the universe will continue to grow him in the areas where we've succeeded in teaching him and fill in the spaces where we've failed.  There is comfort in knowing that there is a God.  A God who holds him in the palm of his hand.  A God who loves him even more than I do.

God is good, all the time.