STOP

 

Needless to say, we’ve been a bit busy and haven’t had as much time as we used to for blogging purposes.  However, last week, Joel had another breakthrough at school we want to share.

First let me say, we have long suspected that Joel is knowledgeable about all 26 letters of the alphabet.  A couple of the only t.v. shows he will watch and enjoy are Sesame Street, SuperWhy and Sid the Science Kid.  (We really like PBS in our house.)  He has his own set of alphabet letters and when he plays with them, he holds them up and, while he doesn’t say the sound or the letter, you can “see” him thinking the sound or letter.  I know that sounds crazy, but he has this way of “emphasizing” the letter he is holding by either touching it or holding it a certain way.  I have no other way of explaining it.  You just have to see him when he does it.  Anyway.

He was at school on Thursday playing with a set of alphabet letters similar to the ones he has at home:

 

You can’t see the letters in this picture, but he’s moving them around.  This is what he spelled:

Keep in mind, he was not prompted to do this.  His teachers took a picture (obviously) and cheered him on.  They went to lunch and then about two hours later he was back to his letters where he made the word “stop” again.

According to his paraprofessional, he not only focused on this one word, he was also making the letter sounds as he touched them.  Also, he was really focused on the color red.  Interestingly, and I don’t really know if this means anything, she was wearing a red t-shirt that day.  While playing on the computer, he sought out the word “stop” there, too.

So, yeah.  We’re really excited about this.  Throw in him calling me Mama last weekend (and once again on Friday when Maya and I went to pick him up from school) and saying “Shoooe” while taking off his shoes, we are feeling very optimistic about this school year.

 

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Wordy Wednesday: Part 2 Resolution

First of all, thank you to Solodialogue and hooray for henry for the rapid responses to my previous post concerning the drop-off time of my son and the role his paraprofessional plays in that.  As always, your insight and the fact that you were “there” means so much to me and Husband.  Fortunately, the situation was resolved quite simply.  James text-messaged one of the counselors that works with Joel during the school day and filled her in on what happened and our concerns regarding the abrupt changes to Joel’s routine.  She completely understood and had already met with Joel’s paraprofessional about the situation.  The school agreed with us and we will continue to drop him off at the usual location no matter when we get there.  The way I understand it is that she (the PP) was just trying to follow the policy and was not fully aware of how it would affect Joel.  It had never once been an issue the whole of the last school year, which makes me think our previous paraprossional just overlooked it if we were ever running late and just “went with the flow” so to speak.  Husband told them we would try harder to get Joel to school at a time more conducive to the school’s tardy policy.

When we went to pick him up this afternoon, the paraprofessional was extremely gracious and it went surprisingly well.  Joel, for the first time since school has begun, did not cry or fight leaving the school.  It might have helped that we wised up and brought a popsicle from home as a bribe to get him into the car seat.  Judging by his behavior, I don’t even think it was needed.  He gave me the biggest hug (which I really needed) and didn’t fight getting into the car seat.  He had a great day, despite the craziness that occurred this morning.  He didn’t even meltdown when we got home.  I’m crossing my fingers that the transition period of the new school year is coming to an end and that Joel is feeling secure in the routine again.

I am going to chock this up as just one of those stumbling blocks on the road to becoming better aquainted with our new paraprofessional.  We have only been interacting with her for the past couple of weeks and, before today, there hadn’t been any issues.  Joel seems to like her which also reassures me.  I’ve been told by the staff that there are some people he is just more comfortable with than others, and she is one of the ones he is comfortable with.  As for her duties, I looked for information on the internet that details what her duties are and found this.  Basically, the school has a set amount of paraprofessionals who are assigned to work with the special needs children in the school who need extra attention as per their IEP.  Joel’s PP is with him from the time we drop him off to the time we pick him up.  She literally does for him what I do all day when he doesn’t have school.  The difference between she and I is that she gets a paycheck for her efforts, albeit the paycheck is probably nowhere near what she deserves.  She helps him with his school work, takes him to the bathroom and changes his pull-ups, helps him stay seated at lunch, plays with him on the playground, sits with him during storytime, provides him with the affection he needs (he’s pretty cuddly) and all of the other things he requires to make sure he gets through his day.

I know that public schools often get a bad reputation, but I have to say, we have had a very positive experience so far with our community’s school district.  The staff members are extremely warm and have been very accomodating to Joel’s needs.  I will be looking more into state-funded resources available, but I’m afraid Oklahoma is one of the many states in our nation that have not made Autism-related programs a top priority.  Because of this, there are really very few options in my very small town and why I am an Autism advocate.

 

Wordy Wednesday: I’ve Got Some Complaining To Do

Okay, so I’m a little irrate right now, but I’m going to try to maintain my cool and keep it reasonable and rational.  I am probably writing about this too soon after the fact which has a way of biting me in the arse and I figure I should get this out here in my safe place before I go full-on grouchy mom and talk to school officials.

*If you, my dear trusted readers, feel that I am making a big deal out of nothing, just let me know and I will honestly take what you say into consideration.  Many of you, my fellow bloggy parents especially, have dealt with these school issues and I seek your advice if you have any to offer.

I mentioned on Joel’s first day of school that he has a new paraprofessional working with him on a daily basis.  While it has taken me time to adjust to this new person (I really loved the woman who worked with him last year), I have tried to embrace her and treat her the same way I always treated Joel’s previous PP which is with the respect that I feel she deserves.  Despite my efforts to be friendly and open, I have felt that maybe (and this is the irrational part, so bear with me) she doesn’t like me so very much.  There.  I said it.  I’ve had people not like me throughout the course of my life for whatever reason and I have learned to trust my instincts.  I’ve tried to ignore those feelings with her and rationalize that maybe she and I are just very different on a personality level and we clash, or whatever.  The point is, and yes, I’m going to get to one, she is a significant player in Joel’s day and her attitude about things can positively and/or negatively affect how his day goes.

For example, last week there was a stomach issue that blazed through a few members of my household which caused some stress and behavioral changes for those who were affected.  Joel was one of them.  Because of this, we were about a minute or two late for school a couple of days, why? because Joel was fighting getting into his car seat.  Now, I know he has to be there at a certain time.  His dad knows this.  But, explaining this to him is where I am having difficulty because of the communication issues.

One of the mornings we were literally a couple of minutes late, the paraprofessional informed me that if we were not there before the bell rang at 8:45, we would have to drive up to the front of the school to drop him off.  I told her that it would not be an issue and busted my butt the rest of the week to make sure he would be there on time, which we were.

This morning, I pulled up to the school at precisely 8:42.  I know this because I was watching the clock like a crazy person because I did not want him to be late.  She was not there.  I waited for about a minute, not wanting to get Joel out of the car seat in case I had to put him back in, thus causing a meltdown just to drive back up to the front of the building and get him out again.  I got out of the car and walked up to the door and peered in through the window to see if I could see her in case she was just running late.  The hallway was empty.  I got back into the car and drove up to the front all the while talking to Joel in the hopes that he would understand me when I said, “Don’t freak out.  We are going to school.  We just have to go in a different door.”  Luckily, he didn’t meltdown.  What he did do was take off his shoes.  So, once I parked up front, I had to put his shoes back on and get him out of the seat.  The second his feet hit the ground, he went running.  I just barely was able to grab his hand and lead him, struggling into the building where his paraprofessional was standing in the office.  Joel ran past her and into the principal’s office where a meeting was taking place.

His paraprofessional picked him up.  He struggled to get out of her arms, which is unusual because when we drop him off at his usual location, he jumps into her arms.  But, now we were in a different environment and he wanted to explore.  So much for the importance of his usual routine.

I explained to her as politely as I could how even this very slight change threw him off, how he took off his shoes in the car and tried to run across the parking lot.  I then asked her just precisely when the bell actually does ring.  She said it rings at 8:45 a.m.  I informed her that I was there before then.  So, what time do I REALLY need to be there to avoid the craziness that this has caused?  She said 8:40 would be a better time.

**Insert mental scream**  Then why didn’t you say 8:40 a.m. last week!  We are literally talking about a two or three minute period!!

I did not say this, of course.  I took a deep breath, said goodbye to my son and walked out to my car.  If you want to get a point across to me, then treat me like an adult, but don’t try to manipulate me in such a way where it affects my son more than it affects me.  I went to my first class of the day and was barely able to concentrate because I was mentally writing this post and also mapping out how we were going to deal with this and also whether or not I might be wrong about something.

Husband and I have talked about the issue and we have decided that he will text message one of the counselors that we trust and stay in contact with during the day and let her know about our concerns for Joel and this somewhat arbitrarily strict adherence to the tardiness policy.  I understand the importance of being on time, but I highly doubt this particular person truly understands the dynamics involved in getting a child like Joel ready for school in the morning.  Yes, he loves school, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t going to one morning not allow me to put a shirt on him or comb his hair or brush his teeth.  Not to mention, the extremely aggravating fight we have been having with him lately about getting into his car seat, which Tardy policy or not, I am not going to put him in the car and drive with him unbuckled.  Forcing him or rushing him to comply only exacerbates the problem.

Like I said, I would highly appreciate and value any words of wisdom or advice.  And, of course, I will keep you all posted as to how this all pans out.