After the meeting, we all came home, had some lunch, played in the backyard, watched the refrigerator repairman shake his head discouragingly, paid for that head shaking with the for-emergencies-only credit card, and put the boys down for naps. Jason left to spend a couple hours at his office. I called my mom.
I was okay until I got to the part about the bus.
Kids who attend our school district's preschool program can ride the bus. A special bus, just for them, that comes right to your house, with car seats and an aide, and... It's... You know, short.
I stumbled over the word, laughed a little, and started crying.
Our district actually has quite few preschool programs -- varying attendance, class sizes and levels of need. Early Intervention assured us that Noah would never qualify for any of them. When I called our former case manager this past winter in a full-scale HOLY FUCKING SHIT THEY'RE GOING TO EXPEL HIM FROM PRESCHOOL WHAT IS WRONG WITH EVERYBODY freak-out, she quickly managed to talk me back off the ledge and reiterated her belief that Noah would not qualify. At the most, he'd "maybe" get itinerant services, which is basically just some poor overworked special education teacher poking her head into your child's classroom a couple times a year to make sure he's not scaling the walls and setting the hamsters on fire.
Beyond that, there are three levels of actual preschool programs that a kid like Noah might attend. For simplicity's sake, we'll call them:
Two-Days-A-Week 'Tis A Flesh Wound
Five-Days-A-Week The Full Monty
Five-Days-A-Week Okay, We're Fucking Serious Here, Your Kid Is Kind Of A Mess
I figured we were talking 'Tis A Flesh Wound. In fact, I was counting on it, and had already preemptively complained to more than one person about how two days a week was going to be such a PAIN, because it meant we'd still need to find something for the rest of the week because of my JOB and STUFF and WHATEVER. I'm...just such an ass sometimes.
The choices laid out for us yesterday included The Full Monty and...the other one, the last one. I think my initial response was something that could only be phonetically described as a squeak.
After some back and forth, the general consensus was that Noah is better suited for The Full Monty plus some weekly one-on-one therapy, although the occupational therapist did not seem entirely convinced. It's two and a half hours every day, in the afternoon, as if designed for parents who would like to keep up appearances by enrolling their child in a typical morning program.
Oh yes, Junior attends Hoity Toity Pants Quadralingual School. It's lovely. What's that? A playdate this afternoon?
<eyes dart around in a panic>
Um. We're BUSY, SORRY. GOTTA GO.
Technically, Noah could still attend Montessori in the morning. Huh. I have not decided whether to ask for my deposit back yet, though I sure could use it to fix my goddamn refrigerator.
The rush of fast and furious and conflicting emotions at these things, well. GOD, is all I can say. I was relieved to hear that they agreed with me, that they Saw It Too, that Jason and I were right after all. But oh, what a bittersweet victory it is, especially when "it" means someone looking you in the eye and saying the words "educational disability' out loud. Then you're all, "Fuck you."
But not really. I liked our IEP team members, I felt their concern was genuine, their determination not to let Noah fall through the cracks (AGAIN) was admirable and The System was working like it's supposed to and all that. They took our concerns and descriptions of Noah's behavior seriously, they understood that a meltdown at a playground is different for us, that it's not the kind of meltdown *your kid* has, no it's just NOT, that it's like someone set our child on FIRE, that there's no redirecting or soothing, there is only FLEEING. They understood and sympathized that life with such a rigid-thinking, inflexible, easily-overwhelmed preschooler is tiring, draining and that we negotiate with him from morning til night over everything from socks to food to which direction the car is driving.
It felt good to say all that stuff out loud, finally. To let my shoulders slump and admit defeat, that I just don't know how to help him anymore, and that I'm sick of his issues slowly taking over more and more and more of our daily lives.
And then I saw Noah playing quietly on the other side of the room, lining up some dinosaurs, still the perfect chubby-cheeked baby they handed me in the hospital, still one of the best things that's ever happened to me, still one of my favorite people in the entire world. I snapped my shoulders back to attention and asked that they add more social skill measurements to the IEP goals.
I am so beyond angry with Early Intervention right now I could almost hit "send" on any of the very screechy indignant emails I've composed. We shouldn't have graduated. Noah should have transitioned to the district a year ago. We shouldn't have had to endure this crappy, confusing mess of a school year on our own; it shouldn't have taken this long to get back into the system. Advice to anyone currently in the under-three EI world out there: Do. Not. Let. Them. Graduate. You. Do not let them make you feel guilty for taking up a space in a class or a therapist's appointment slot. Do not agree to end services without an official transition process at three years old. Do not let them tell you what the results of that process will "probably" or even "likely" be. Get the results yourself. Show them EXACTLY who your toddler gets his stubborn streak from.
After it was all over, the occupational therapist pushed a piece of paper towards me and handed me a pen. Signing would make it official. I picked up the pen and my hand shook. The words blurred and I suddenly felt overwhelmingly nauseated.
Jason commented that he was pretty sure Ezra pooped. I immediately volunteered for diaper duty and shoved the forms at Jason before bolting from the room. I couldn't do it. I didn't necessarily need more time to think about it -- I knew this was the right decision for us, I was happy with the recommendations and the goals. I think we got pretty much the best possible outcome. Nothing will even happen until next fall, anyway, as we all agreed it's best to allow Noah to finish out the final weeks of the school year as planned. There will likely be more decisions and appointments and hurdles and questions this summer. An IEP means there is accountability, legal protection, help. Noah needs this, he does, and there is no shame in that need and he will be even more extraordinary one day because we addressed that need.
But I still couldn't bring myself to be the one to sign the paper. I don't know why.