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.

 

The Joys of Transitioning

Wooo, am I glad these last couple of weeks are over!  I have missed blogging, but even moreso, I have missed all of my blogging buddies.  As soon as I wrap up this post, I am going to visit all of your blogs and get caught up on your news.

So, where to begin….

I’m sitting here at my kitchen table looking over the last few days and it is all just a blur of school supplies, to-do lists that multiplied even as I marked things off, various emtional ups and downs, financial/budgetary meetings with Husband, and even a ten-year wedding anniversary thrown in for good measure.  I won’t bore you with all the minutiae as I’m sure it’s not so very different from what was going on in just about every other household across the country whether the children involved were on the spectrum or not.  Pertinent matters it is:

One of my most previous posts centered on how to go about Joel’s haircut.  I spent several days agonizing over an event that lasted only about 20 minutes.  I took into consideration all of the ideas suggested by my contributing readers.  (Thanks again, everyone!!)  I mentioned that I would probably procrastinate, and boy did I ever.  I waited until about 45 minutes before we were expected to attend the Meet the Teacher night.  Yeah, real smart, Shell.  Anyway, after all that consideration, it all boiled down to the four of us (Husband, Maya, Will and myself) working in tandem to keep Joel still while the cutting ensued.  As much as I hated to do it, we had to wrap him up in a blanket like a human burrito while I cut his hair.  It took both Husband and Maya to hold him still.  Will’s job was to hand him chocolate chips and popsickles while we worked.  It wasn’t very elegant, but hey, his hair is shorter.

The Meet the Teacher night went very smoothly.  He sat still while his new teacher walked through the curriculum and answered any questions.  We were all very pleasantly surprised last year at how well Joel fit into the routine of school; granted, he has an occupational therapist, speech pathologist, counselor and a full-time paraprofessional to get him through the day.  The fact that there is a well-defined routine is also a major plus.  Throw in a daily recess period and you’ve got one very happy little guy.

Joel started out last school year in the Pre-K classroom, but was moved up to the Kindergarten class due to a temporary scheduling conflict that occurred one week when his usual paraprofessional was absent for personal reasons.  He did so well in the Kindergarten class that they decided to transition him there for the rest of the school year.  That has worked out even more to his advantage this year as he and his Kindergarten teacher are already familiar with each other.  So, that was a bit of a weight off our minds.

Next, we went to Will’s Meet the Teacher thing at his school, which is within walking distance of Joel’s school.  Again, Joel was quiet and well-behaved and we were able to focus on Will and what was required of him for the year.  He met his teacher, found his desk, I signed papers, etc.

Next, it was time for Maya to check out her school, which was more of a walk than we were prepared to make, so we headed toward the car to go to her school.  Apparently, we did not communicate this clearly enough to Joel who went into instant meltdown mode as we put him into his car seat.  I can only imagine how it looked as we put this screaming child into the car.  People probably thought we were kidnapping the little guy.  This meltdown was pretty bad and I was afraid we weren’t going to be able to calm him so James drove us home.  He and I pulled a still-screaming and very red-faced little Joely out of the backseat and I took him directly out to the backyard.  I know that sounds crazy, but I had a feeling it would work and it did.  I let him just roam around and gather sticks and the few pine cones that are in our yard.  James wound up taking Maya and Will to her school to get her schedule and find her locker while I stayed home with Joel.  As you can see, that was a fun evening.

Yesterday was the kids’ first day of school.  I still haven’t quite understood the logic of starting the first day on a Friday, but that was how it was done.  I was wakened sometime after 5:00 a.m. by Maya who was nervous about her first day and wanted me to help fix her hair.  I slipped on my eye glasses and attempted to make something of her hair with at least one eye open.  When it was completed and she felt it was satisfactory, I went back to bed and slept another hour or so.  I said my goodbye and good luck to Maya who left for her first day of high school.  We got the boys ready.  Joel was especially helpful and even let me brush out his hair.  He was really excited after we dropped Will off and headed toward his school.  His new paraprofessional was waiting outside for him.  This was the really bittersweet moment.  You see, we absolutely loved the PP who worked with him last year and was hoping they would be together again this year, but I guess she only works with Pre-K kiddos.  His new PP has worked with Joel so she isn’t a complete stranger.  We handed her his supplies and he wore his little backpack.  We kissed him goodbye and watched as he walked into the building with her.  And, dammit, I felt that stupid little lump form in my throat and my eyes watered.  I bit my lip and got back into the car.  This was what I had been waiting all summer for, the kids to be back in school, and there I was missing them.  All three of them.  James and I went back home and got into our own cars after a kiss goodbye and went to our separate schools.  I didn’t get to see him again until almost midnight last night when he got off work.

I am happy to report that all three of the kids had a great first day of school.  Maya even enjoyed her first day of high school which seems a bit off to me considering how much I hated my high school experience.  Will managed to avoid trouble which was a relief.  The only flaw in Joel’s day was that he fell down on the playground and scraped his nose.  Everything else went great.  I’m feeling some optimism for the rest of the school year, but I think I’ll keep my fingers crossed just to be on the safe side.