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Last Day of Preschool

For the past two years, Aden and Alex have attended preschool at our home school. Last year, preschool 3’s in the morning and this year preschool 4’s in the afternoon. Luckily they had the same teacher and support staff for both years, people who I consider not only teachers but our friends. Ms. Katie (Tate-ee), Ms. Debbie, Ms. Marissa, Ms. Mari, Ms. Lou- We will miss you!057The last day of preschool was like any other day. We played outside while we waited for the bus. Aden and Alex raced up and down the sidewalk on their big wheels nearly giving me heart failure. 056I took pictures of them on the bus…riding the bus the last time as preschoolers. As for our first experience riding the bus- it exceeded my expectations! Both the bus drivers and aides were always friendly and helpful. I felt Aden and Alex were in good hands to and from school. I only wish they could have the same drivers/aides every year. Ms. Theresa, Ms. Colleen, Ms. Darla, and Mr. Nair- Thank you! And I’m sorry you had to listen to “Let it Go” from the movie Frozen multiple times every day for weeks and weeks. I feel your pain.059058

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parents were invited to attend the last day. Each child was presented with a certificate of completion. We celebrated by taking pictures and eating cupcakes. On the ride home, it hit me: I have kindergarteners. Although, I’m pretty sure the first day of kindergarten will not be as dramatic for me as other parents. I can also say the same thing for Aden and Alex. They have already been in school for 3 years. For us, a new class/teacher and leaving me isn’t new. Plus they’ve already been in school for 5 hours a day for the past two years. The only difference will be they won’t be coming home for lunch. With that said, I’m hoping it will be a smooth transition.
??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Preschool was the best thing for Aden and Alex. I’m extremely thankful they had the opportunity. Both have come so far in two years and continue to make progress. I’m looking forward to kindergarten and the next chapter of our lives.
???????????????????????????????But first let’s enjoy summer!

After vacation it was time to switch gears and start preparing for our final IEP meeting of the school year and in my opinion, the most important IEP meeting ever! This meeting would determine what kindergarten class Aden and Alex would be attending in the fall. Going in, I already knew Alex would be attending a general education classroom (Woo-hoo!) but not knowing if Aden would be was a bit unsettling.

Aden has come a long way but still has challenges including behavior and speech/language/articulation issues. Even with these challenges, he still needs to be challenged. Setting the bar high is the best thing for him. Going into the meeting, we were prepared to fight for Aden to be in a general education class despite his challenges. I even had his developmental pediatrician write a letter of recommendation as to why she believed Aden would benefit from a general education classroom. In other words, Jon and I had our ducks in a row.

When I walked into the office, I immediately noticed the special education teacher from the nearby school I visited. Oh crap. This couldn’t be good. I was sure she was there to welcome Aden into her class for the fall. I just smiled and kept it together.

For 30 minutes, everyone talked about Aden, his progress, his challenges, his behavior. My anxiety level increased as the meeting went on and at one point I wanted to shout: What is the recommendation?! Finally, Aden’s teacher said, “after everything we’ve discussed, it is our recommendation that Aden attend a general education classroom with supports in place. What? I couldn’t believe my ears!

I left the meeting feeling a sense of accomplishment. 3 years ago when Aden & Alex started receiving early intervention, I always hoped that one day they would both attend kindergarten in general education, in the least restrictive environment. At the time, I didn’t know if that goal was attainable. I had no idea what the future held. And I still have no idea what the future holds. I just know where we’re starting.

Vacation!

For the fourth year, we took Aden and Alex to Busch Gardens, Williamsburg. It might seem boring to go to the same place every year but it is really quite the opposite. Knowing our way around is a huge perk plus we get to see how much the boys have changed in a year. 051050
We  stayed at Kings Creek Plantation, a resort with 3 pools, a playground, a miniature golf course, and a Target with a grocery store right around the corner. Best of all, our place was less than 15 minutes away from all the major attractions including a bounce house for rainy days. What’s not to love?!

We left after class on Friday; Aden and Alex were super excited. Both were entertained on the 3 1/2 hour car ride thanks to our portable DVD players- a must have for any trip over 2 hours! That same evening we went to Busch Gardens. Right away I noticed how much the boys had changed since last year. No strollers, no book bag harnesses, no constant hand holding, and no chasing them. I’d say that’s Progress with a capital P. Parents told me this day would come. That things would get easier. They were right. And thank God for it. 149Both loved Water Country, the water park. It’s sad to think that next year they will be too big for the kiddie area.109110They both rode water slides for the first time by themselves. I’ll admit I was a little nervous but since both can swim now, it put my mind at ease.072073The telltale sign of any child’s happiness is hearing the word, “again!”. We heard this plenty of times and it always put a smile on my face.078We rode more rides, we lasted longer at the parks, and once again we pushed our boundaries. It wasn’t without stress and exhaustion but Aden and Alex have worked hard this year and deserved a vacation. Although, next year I think we may plan a shorter trip.171Thanks to Mom-Mom, Uncle Jesse, Aunt Jessica, Melissa, Dustin, Landon, and Baby Luke for making our trip extra special and loads of FUN! We love you guys!

 

Motherhood

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. I had an amazing day. Jon and the boys surprised me with breakfast in bed and I had lunch with my Mom and Mom-Mom, the two most important ladies in my life. I also spent two hours with Aden and Alex while Jon spent time with his Mom. Those two hours were stressful and exhausting. But it did remind me what Motherhood is all about.

I always thought I would make a good Mother, mainly because I’m a hard worker. I always put 100% into everything I do and failing isn’t an option. Call it perfectionism; call it whatever you want, but that mindset has helped me to be a good Mother. I do have some key Motherly traits: I’m animated, creative, and caring. I’m also impatient, pessimistic, and type A. These traits make Motherhood extremely taxing.

Motherhood isn’t what I expected. I didn’t realize how much of myself I would have to give up. My career, my time, my sleep, my sanity, and my marriage- my marriage isn’t failing but kids certainly change things. Anyone married with children knows exactly what I mean.

Since becoming a Mother, I believe certain women are more equipped to handle Motherhood than others. I put myself in the “others” category. I was a career-woman with a social life; I never envisioned myself as a stay-at-home Mom. I also never pictured myself as a Mother of twin boys on the Autism Spectrum. My advice to anyone thinking about becoming a Mother would be to expect the unexpected. Life changes and you must adapt. Motherhood requires sacrifice, selflessness, and stress management capabilities far beyond your wildest imagination.

Motherhood also brings you joy and happiness that far exceed any other life experience. Motherhood gives you purpose. I’m the most important person in Aden & Alex’s world. The weight of that responsibility is overwhelming. I have days of doubt, days when I feel like I could be doing more. Even with all my negative qualities, the way Aden and Alex see me is different than how I see myself.

I think this video sums it up: http://www.upworthy.com/these-kids-finally-say-what-they-really-think-about-mom-and-her-reaction-priceless-9?g=2&c=cur1

All parents have doubts, flaws, lack confidence and patience…but your child sees you differently, in a positive light. No matter how young or how old. Whether your child can express themselves verbally or not, you are their superhero! Remember that.534171_3923419006199_42142584_n

 

HAPPY Spring!

It might seem crazy what I’m about to say
Sunshine she’s here, you can take a break
I’m a hot air balloon that could go to space
With the air, like I don’t care baby by the way
                      ~ “Happy” by: Pharrell Williams

By now I’m sure everyone’s heard the “Happy” song by Pharrell Williams. It has a catchy upbeat tune and it’s being played on almost every radio station. This song is perfect for my life right now. For the first time in a long time, I truly feel happy.

Sure, I’ve had happy moments over the past few years but the sad moments always seemed to cast a shadow over my life. At times, fear, worry, and doubt consumed me. It made it impossible for me to be happy. I finally reached a point where I was tired of being unhappy, tired of fearing the worst, worrying about things I cannot control, and doubting myself as a Mother. It was time to STOP.

Once I stopped focusing on the negative, I could focus more on the positive and we’ve had a lot of positive lately. Last month was amazing, here’s a recap:

Autism Awareness Month
April was Autism Awareness Month and as usual our weekends were packed with activity. On April 4th, I hosted the 2nd Annual Howl for Autism Happy Hour at Howl at the Moon. 50 people showed up to support Autism Awareness! I received $1 for every person who attended and the bar matched it. I donated the $100 to Pathfinders for Autism. Pathfinders for Autism provides resources for parents navigating the Autism world. They also host family-friendly events for the Autism community. We recently attended the Skate Party! The boys didn’t last long skating but it was still a good experience. ???????????????????????????????Party Time!
The first weekend in April, we attended back-to-back birthday parties. This same time last year we dreaded going to parties. It wasn’t fun. We barely lasted an hour and we constantly had to watch the boys while other parents enjoyed themselves. This year the boys did great! We stayed 2 hours at their friend Palmer’s pirate-themed party and another 2-3 hours at their cousin, Camden’s 1st birthday party. For once, Jon and I enjoyed ourselves. We watched Aden and Alex engage with other children and participate in party activities- they both loved the pirate ship piñata. On the way home, Alex told me he wanted a piñata at his birthday party. It was great to see how far they’ve come in just a year.065071Surviving & Thriving
We survived spring break! The week every year I dread turned out to be a nice relaxing week for all of us. We kept it low key. We visited grandparents, played in the backyard, and went to the zoo on Good Friday. Even though both boys were pretty well-behaved, I was ready for them to go back to school. Mommy missed her quiet afternoons.???????????????????????????????010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both transitioned smoothly back to school from spring break. Alex started typical preschool and had no problems adjusting. Alex now attends typical preschool from 1:15pm-2:30pm M-F. Aden started 2 weeks later and goes from 2:00pm-2:30pm during centers/play. So far he’s doing well playing with other children. If this continues, his length of stay will be increased to include more academics. We recently discovered that although Aden can count, he can’t identify written numbers so we’ve been working on number labeling and identification. So far, so good. Same with letters, he can now identify more than half of his letters with the correct sound! Kindergarten here we come!

Happy Christmas?
Easter was a huge success. We had an egg hunt in our backyard. Last year, Aden wasn’t interested in looking for eggs. This year he was just as enthusiastic as Alex. It was nice to see him joining in and having fun. I forgot all about sitting on the Easter bunny’s lap…maybe next year.013We also dyed Easter eggs which I didn’t even attempt last year for obvious reasons. It was messy but the good thing about dye, it washes off…eventually. 007005

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I went a bit overboard for Easter. Their baskets seemed more like a mini-Christmas present display. Yeah, I’m that person. I can’t help it! I’m excited that Aden and Alex can finally play functionally with toys! They’re actually interested in toys (Alex- Octonauts and Aden- dinosaurs and monsters, Both: Superheroes!). I’m just making up for lost time.022ROAR!
Finally, we attended Roar for Autism’s Family Fun Festival at Oregon Ridge. Again, I couldn’t believe how much Aden and Alex have changed in one year. Last year, we spent 2 hours running around bouncing to and from activities. This year they were able to focus and participate in games. They watched the mascot obstacle course challenge and engaged with the mascots. They waited for balloons and had their faces painted. No major meltdowns. Best of all, I met my fundraising goal of $500! Thanks to my family and friends! By donating, they are giving other children a chance to meet their full potential! iPhone Photos 200iPhone Photos 243iPhone Photos 248iPhone Photos 252iPhone Photos 204iPhone Photos 208

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, I have a lot to be happy about.

 

IEP Part I

Yesterday I attended IEP meetings for both Alex and Aden. The purpose of Alex’s IEP meeting was his annual review of IEP goals. The purpose of Aden’s IEP meeting was to discuss results from his articulation testing. Although placement for next year wasn’t on the agenda, I knew it was going to come up which is probably why I was more anxious about this meeting than past meetings.

Alex’s annual review was smooth-sailing. He continues to make progress on every goal and no longer qualifies for OT services. Wow. His teacher Ms. Katie talked about how much he has grown up. It’s hard to believe I will have 5 year-olds in just 5 months. Alex passed his kindergarten readiness test with flying colors and will be attending a typical kindergarten classroom next year. For the remainder of the school year, Alex will be joining the typical preschool class for both academics and opportunities for socialization. He starts Monday- yikes! I am overwhelmed with joy when I think about how far he has come. Years of early intervention have paid off. I’m so proud of him (Insert tears of joy!).029Switching gears to Aden’s IEP…

As I listened to Aden’s SLP (Speech Language Pathologist) go over the articulations results, I fought to hold back tears. I wasn’t surprised by the results. I listen to Aden everyday; I know his limitations. He’s talking more but it’s still hard to understand him which affects his ability to communicate and socialize with others. It makes me sad that he struggles with something that comes so naturally to others. I feel powerless because I cannot help him. It’s the worse feeling a parent can have.

Aden was given the Goldman Fristoe Test of Articulation. Scores between 85-115 are considered within the average range. Aden scored a 62, putting him in the 3rd percentile. For intelligibility rating, he scored poor on single words and connected speech. His sound errors included substitution and omission, which means he’s either using a different letter in place of the correct letter or he’s leaving it out entirely. For example, if Aden says “up”, it sounds like “ut” so he’s replacing the “p” with a “t”. We’ve been working on this with him. After repeating the word with the correct end sound, he is able to correctly pronounce the word, so there’s hope!030Finally Aden used many phonological processes or speech error patterns including gliding, stopping, consonant cluster reduction, deaffrication, fronting, and final consonant deletion. I’m not going to define all of these. If you’re interested, google is a wonderful tool. In a nut shell, Aden has a lot of issues pertaining to speech which will take years of speech therapy to correct. To get started, articulation goals were added to his IEP.

Recently Aden started receiving private speech on Saturdays. His SLP, Karen is working on a new method of speech therapy with him called PROMPT. PROPMT is a tactile approach to speech therapy and since Aden doesn’t have any aversions to touch, he is responding well to it. I searched “What is PROMPT?” and found this great guest blog: http://heatherspeechtherapy.com/2013/02/prompt-prompts-for-restructuring-oral-muscular-phonetic-targets-guest-blog-post-by-kendra-egan-author-of-the-blog-the-speech-and-language-lady/

After discussing articulation goals, I was asked about my recent visits to the typical kindergarten classroom and the special-needs kindergarten classroom. Both visits went well. I could see benefits to each program. However at this point, I feel it is important for Aden to be around typical peers in a structured learning environment. He needs to see how other kids behave in an academic setting. After kindergarten comes first grade. There is no special-needs first grade so why not expose him to a larger class next year and get him used to it. The typical kindergarten classroom offers Aden the least restrictive environment (LRE) which I’ve come to learn is the biggest factor when determining placement.

After hearing my thoughts, my team proposed trying Aden out in the same typical preschool classroom as Alex for the duration of the school year. I’m on board with this. I’m hoping Aden does well. If not, I’m sure this will hurt his chances of getting placement in a typical kindergarten classroom. But no need to cross that bridge just yet…stay tuned for IEP Part II. 028

On the Fence

After weeks of worrying and weighing my options, I’m still on the fence about which kindergarten class Aden should attend next fall. Do I push for a typical program with a larger class size and peer models in a structured learning environment OR do I choose a special-needs program with a smaller class size and peer models only during specials, lunch/recess? Both have pros and cons. At this point, attending the same school as Alex doesn’t matter; it boils down to which program is better suited for Aden. It’s only one year, right?

The problem is Aden is inconsistent. He’s inconsistent behaviorally and academically. Meaning, one day he can follow directions, regulate himself, and use clear words. He can also identify letters and the sounds they make. The next day, Aden is moody, unable to focus, and gets his letters mixed up. But is inconsistency enough to choose special-needs over typical? I don’t know.

Some days I observe Aden and think to myself: There is no way this kid belongs in a special-needs class. Other days, sometimes days within in the same week, I observe Aden and think to myself: This kid definitely needs to be in a special-needs class. It’s extremely frustrating.

Aden has come a long way. Aden has a long way to go. I know he is hard to motivate and generally does what Aden wants to do. I also know what he is a capable of when he puts his mind to it. The kid has potential. But by choosing a typical program, am I challenging him or setting him up for failure? Again, I don’t know.

I hate that class size even plays a factor. I attended the recent SECAC (Special Education Citizens Advisory Committee) meeting which discussed the new laws pertaining to special education for Maryland public schools. It was informative, but information can be good or bad. At the meeting, I asked the question: How do schools determine the student: teacher ratio? I was referring to typical classrooms. No one knew the answer. So does that mean some schools will have 15:1, 20:1, or 20+:1? This is a problem. How can teachers be expected to manage twenty kids and be effective? And what is the outcome for the students aka my children?

This week I observe a typical kindergarten program at Aden and Alex’s home school and I also observe a special-needs kindergarten program at a nearby school. Hopefully after observing the two, I will finally be able to make a decision and get off the damn fence. tumblr_lzke3n7qp51qchpilo1_r1_500

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