Second Wave
Brainfood

Slow Burn

Noah's fever spiked last night -- not high enough to necessitate a trip to the ER or anything, just one of those HOT. DAMN. moments when you stare at the thermometer and struggle to hold on to everything you know about small children's resilient little bodies and their tendency to run 102+ degree fevers for no damn good reason.

We dosed him up with Tylenol and I hovered around his red-hot presence anxiously, obsessively rubbing his back and his hair, convinced that we were, in fact, going to end up at the ER later and that it was pneumonia or something equally horrible, and wondering who the HELL left me in charge of this small, helpless human being? And the one in the next room? And the one that's not even born yet?

Dear God, why didn't we just stop with the damn CAT while we were ahead? 

***

So I mentioned that kindergarten transition meeting thing yesterday. Kindergarten transitioning is a Big Honking Deal for the kids in the district's special education preschool program, obviously. It involves weeks of observations by a whole team of people, preliminary plans and pre-plans and planning to plan, then an initial "invitation" to the parents to go and observe a couple of the district's continuation-of-services options -- basically, whatever options the team is considering as appropriate for your specific child. 

We were invited to visit two different options: Our school's "regular" kindergarten classroom and...well, the other one. The speshul one. It's called LAD -- Learning & Academic Disabilities, though it's a far cry from the type of remedial special education classroom that you might be tempted to picture, a la Bart Simpson's "Leg Up Program" with the kids who start fires and fell off the jungle gym or just moved here from Can-ah-da, eh? 

Kids in LAD -- at our particular school, I've since found out that the program is different at pretty much every location across the county, like THAT'S not a crapshoot or anything -- spend 50% of their day with their LAD peers, usually the more academic parts of the day. Small class size, extra paraeducator support, any sensory accommodations they may need, transition help, and of course, time for any individual speech/language or occupational therapy services their IEP may include.

The other portion of the day is spent being co-taught with the "typical" kindergartners for stuff like PE and art and music and storytime, the "easier" blocks of the day, so they can get the critical social pieces of kindergarten without being impeded academically because they've just been tossed into a class of 25+ kids with one teacher and spend the entire day in an overwhelmed sensory fit, wandering around the room and singing the Star Wars theme over and over and over again while insisting that their handwriting practice sheet is "the yellow letters" and making it "crawl" in front of their face and wait...was I talking about the kids in general, or just mine?

(I should note, for the sake of UNFLAILINGLY BORING COMPLETENESS, that even if Noah was put in the typical classroom, he'd certainly still receive "resource services," like OT for handwriting help, but it sounds like there wouldn't really be any in-class support for him when it comes to his many, many other stubborn little quirks.)

(Oh! And if Noah WAS put in the LAD classroom, because it's at our home school [something that's actually on the usual side, since not every school has it and thus other kids must attend school further away], Noah could ride the "neighborhood" bus instead of the "special ed" bus. AND if, say, it was decided that by second grade or so, that he no longer needed to be in LAD, he'd still get to stay at the same school, with kids he knows and has spent time with. Other kids typically get booted back to their home school at that point to essentially start over. All in all, it looks like we really didn't do too shabbily when it came to buying this particular house in this particular neighborhood, even if the decision felt like we just panicked because our condo buyers wanted us OUT and we had no where to go so QUICK, THIS HOUSE IS FINE, WHATEVER, WE'LL TAKE IT, GAAAAAH.) 

So next week, we go and observe these two classrooms. And then we wait until APRIL for our IEP meeting, where the team will presumably make their recommendation, albeit with input from us (supposedly) and from Noah's private occupational therapist, who will also be attending the meeting on his behalf. 

A lot of the other parents are using all this hurry-up-and-wait time to tour and apply to private schools, just in case they are unhappy with the IEP team's recommendation. Hearing them discuss all the expensive private options in the area (and the multi-stage interview-and-IQ-test heavy application process) always makes me feel a bit panicky, because...well, we AREN'T considering any private schools. Are we...wrong? 

I LIKE our public school, and I LIKE the way they've provided for Noah so far. And more importantly, I BELIEVE they have the right kindergarten environment for him, and I BELIEVE that they will do the right thing for him and put him in it. And if not at first, then they will after I get done with my own personal 20-minute slide presentation on WHY YOU WILL LISTEN TO EVERY GODDAMN WORD I SAY, RAWR. 

But still, of course, I worry. I worry that our classroom observations will reveal some horrible unforeseen something-or-other that I never considered, or that our IEP meeting will go horribly awry, that I'm once again completely over- or underestimating the whole system and process and oh God, maybe even poor Noah himself, because he can't tell us what he'll really need for kindergarten next year. (Other than a Star Wars lunchbox, I'm guessing.)

Who the HELL left us in charge of this stuff, honestly? 

***

Last night, about an hour after the Tylenol, Noah's temperature was down to a cool and refreshing 98.3. And it stayed down. 

He's fine. We all are. 

IMG_8268

Comments

Suzanne

I know you've been through IEPs before. As the veteran of over a dozen now (eeek, he's only in 9th grade!), I have yet to have one where our opinion as parents didn't factor heavily into what was done.

From the first one in the county directly north of you where we said we wanted him mainstreamed at all costs to the one we had this past May, where we told the schools down here that even though he's very smart, at the core he's a 3 year old and NEEDS special interventions that only a private school can offer, the teams have been nothing but supportive.

You will be fine. Noah will be fine, as will Ezra and baby 3.0. The waiting till April part sucks, but isn't it better to let them be thorough in their observations, tests and reports?

Starbuck

The reason you were left in charge of this stuff is because you are doing an amazing job. You are tenacious. And you love Noah like no other. Keep up the good work. :)

Jennifer

Have you thought of giving him another year until kindergarten. Sounds to me like he would just flourish in the typical classroom with another year. I held my 5 year old back from kinder this year for several reasons. We spent the money for a private school this year but will send him with his brother to our home school next year. I feel like this was such an important year for him to grow and develop and I know he will be ready for typical kindergarten in the fall. Just a thought.

Sue

You'll both be fine. My son has been in MCPS Sped since we started with Child Find. On June 2 he'll walk across the stage at DAR Hall after many, many IEP meetings. I did like the LAD programs even if they did discontinue them in middle schools.

Stimey

You seem to have done pretty well thus far with finding the right places for Noah. I'm sure you will continue to do so. And if you go to your home school, you will save $30,000 a year, which, YAY!

Most of the kids in my guy's Saturday social skills group go to assorted private schools and I get stressed and panicky every time the parents start talking about it, which seems to be every fucking week.

Amalah

@Jennifer: Noah has already had three full years of preschool, thanks to his September birthday, and frankly, he's getting pretty bored with it, because he's mastered the academic skills part of it. His challenges go much deeper than just maturity issues. He will turn six one month into kindergarten as it stands now so no, i do not feel at all comfortable holding him back even further.

Em

Ah, transition season. As a preschool Special Ed teacher, I love hearing your side of this whole process. EVERY single parent of my students is all "AAH! KINDERGARTEN!? WHAT?! DO?! WE?! DO!?" And I totally get it. My advice is always "get their (district team) names, get their numbers, be the squeaky wheel, visit every classroom, ask every question that pops into your head" - because when the district knows you are on top of it, they will listen to you. They will know you are not insane, because they will KNOW you, and know a lot more about your kid. I've yet to have a parent be unhappy with their options at the end of the process. I LOVE getting district visitors and being able to sit down and answer questions about my students (I get warm fuzzy feelings from good kindergarten placements) but some districts don't come at all. And don't ask me anything. And that sucks. So it sounds like a good scenario to me, and like you're doing awesome (and fortunate about having that placement in your home school, score!). Noah's gonna rock it.


At least in my area, and I work with quite a few districts (our Early Intervention program is countywide).

amyptucson

My son is in 2nd grade so we've done about 4 or 5 IEPs. The best thing I've learned is to have side conversations with as many of the IEP participants as you can, before the IEP meeting. That way, you know where everyone's coming from, and they know where you're coming from. You'll make some allies along the way. People's guard won't be up so high. You won't get blindsided so easily by an issue that you didn't know would be an issue.

J

yay yay yay to you!!!! you are an AMAZING mother and the stories of noah's progess are kick ass!!! go with your gut, it hasn't let you down yet

Leslie

We have only had one official IEP meeting so far and one meeting where we kinda went over everything and made any changes necessary, etc. and I think overall it works pretty great.

I think the teachers/counselors like to have parents who are involved and want their child to succeed and who are willing to accept the help they are offering. The biggest surprise for us was when they told us that some situations are difficult because the parents refuse services for their kids. I was like, why would you not want someone to help your child?? Craziness, I say! So like I said, when they know your are engaged and on board with doing everything you can for your child, they are too.

Now that our 1st grader has his IEP in place and the shcool is following it, he is having great days at school and learning too. Noah will do the same, I'm sure!

Patty

Awwwww.... Noah will be great with whatever you choose, I'm sure.

I have to confess, though... Your post today made me SO glad that I still have another year before we start talking Kindergarten Transition. It was scary enough talking about afternoon Pre-K in an integrated classroom for next year.

Jen

Stand up for yourself and what you know is best for Noah...the "experts" may know the school side of it inside and out, but you are the only one that knows your child!

Also, when it comes to the IEP, don't forget that you, as parents, can invite anyone to be a part of it, as long as they know Noah. Sort of an expert witness that's in your corner. Could be his preschool teacher's assistant, his favorite babysitter who knows his habits and what works, or someone in a professional role who has worked with him.

Oh, and make sure they give you a copy of the draft IEP before you go in...and/or if you're not comfortable with what's on it or changed in the meeting, you aren't required to sign it.

I know you said the IEP isn't until April, but I'm just tossing all that in there anyway. :)

Backpacking Dad

I want cookies.

Heather

Amy,
We went through this exact same thing last year with Albert, although his issues are somewhat different from Noah's. We were fortunate enough to be able to get him into the kind of program that you are talking about--special ed kindergarten in the morning (they only take 12 kids a year so we were lucky to get a spot), and mainstream in the afternoon. It has been great and we are so happy that we went with that option. A good public school is much better equipped to deal with special education issues than a private school so I think you are absolutely doing the right thing. Good luck with everything, I know the IEP process is overwhelming and scary.

Mermil

I say go with your gut. If you like his public school, and you will be doing classroom observations, then you have done right by your boy. You cannot control everything that happens even when your kids are within your sight. All you can do is make sure you ask questions and you see how your son reacts to the changes.

When you feel unfit to be anyone's parent-- which is malarkey, by the way, you clearly rock as a parent-- recall the words of my friend, who is an emergency room pediatrician. Once when I was fretting about my kid, he paused and then said, "Look. Do you feed your kid Mountain Dew and Cheez Doodles exclusively? Because I see more than a couple of parents doing that. No? Then you're doing pretty good."


PS I heart your children. I am glad Noah is no longer a burning furnace and is cool and refreshing, like a Pond's cucumber eye treatment.

G.G.R

Any kid who wears a Beatles shirt and loves Star Wars will do just fine in school =) It's my firm belief!

mommypsych

I love all of your posts, but as a school psychologist who works on both a preschool team and in the elementary school setting, I really get so much from reading about your experiences as a parent. Sometimes as part of a school team that conducts lots of IEP meetings, I forget how much the parents go through leading up to meetings that for me seem routine, but can be anxiety producing for you as a parent. Reading about your experiences helps me remember that. My totally unsolicited advice is that the LAD program sounds like a good transition to kindergarten. Also remember that you can revise an IEP at any time, so if Noah does really well during the mainstreaming portion of the day, you should have the option to add more time in the general Ed class during the course of the year.

shel

"I LIKE our public school, and I LIKE the way they've provided for Noah so far. And more importantly, I BELIEVE they have the right kindergarten environment for him, and I BELIEVE that they will do the right thing for him and put him in it."

From a public school teacher, THANK YOU! I teach middle school, not elementary, but it gets awfully stressful when parents don't recognize that we teachers also want what's best for their children. I teach a mainstream class but have many special ed students in there with support, so I'm fairly involved in helping to figure out what's best for each child. It's a collaboration between parents and faculty - or it should be, if everyone comes in to the meetings with an open mind...

I am sure that Noah will be fine, and remember that IEP's are not set in stone - if something isn't working, it can be fixed!

MamaKaren

I generally do not quote Kurt Vonnegut to discuss special needs parenting, but "You are better than you think." We are in charge whether we like it or not, and I spend way more time questioning my own decisions about what I've done for my kids' educational and mental health needs, but we have to believe that we are doing the best we can for our children. I'm not in Montgomery County, but if their school system is anywhere on par with what Howard County offers, public school will be golden for you if you believe it will be.

Superfantastic

Like Shel said, it really is meant to be a collaborative process between faculty and parents. Unfortunately, some people come in with the mindset that it's going to be adversarial. I obviously can't speak for all schools everywhere, but as a public school special ed teacher, I can tell you that we really do want to do what's best for each of our kids. You're the expert on your kid, so your input is invaluable. The paperwork is filled in before you get there because it takes hours, but that certainly doesn't mean it's in any way final. I can't tell you how much we appreciate seeing involved parents who are willing to work with us.

sharon

... and breathe, in . . . 2 - 3 - 4 and out . . . 2 - 3 - 4! Repeat at regular intervals. Please.

Glad Noah is feeling better. The assessments will be fine. You are wonderful advocates for the very special boy Noah is and the best parents he could have. Just as you are to Ezra and will be to the baby to come ;-)

Shannon

I never comment, but as a public school first grade teacher I have to...you are doing SUCH an amazing job with everything, advocating for Noah, etc. Your neighborhood school sounds SO wonderful. I hope your visits go really well and think giving public school a try is the way to go. I am a big believer in it being all about the teacher, not the school...a great teacher can do almost anything, especially with supportive parents!

Dena

We had a similar choice to make regarding kindergarten with our now-2nd grader. We visited the special ed classroom at our home school (just like you, we were lucky enough to live down the street from *that* school) and thought it offered everything our son needed to accomodate his quirks...until the students arrived. It was pretty obvious that the special ed kids would not be an appropriate peer group for our son, who suffers from social anxiety but no learning disabilities. Our main concern was that he could learn how to be a "good, normal" child, not a "good, normal" autistic child, as many of the children in this group were autistic.

Our experience with public school and the mainstream classroom has been positive. They provide a para in the classroom and offer a frienship group for kids that need help with their social skills. The IEP meetings have actually gotten easier, too!

Plano Mom

I think I was supposed to read this post from this blog today, just before I read yours:

http://www.thisisreverb.com/2011/01/trust-is.html

Katie

Amy, I am not sure if you and Jason could red shirt him anyway, I know with my son, we tried and they said that he would age out of the system for preschool services. We did an IEP session in May before his kindergarden year, and they pushed that the special need program would work, and he would be okay with that but the majority of his time spent in a mainstream classroom. I as his parent, mommy bear, and advocate called an IEP review session two weeks into the school year. And we all agreed, um, yeah this right here, isn't working for him, he wasn't benefitting at all, he hated school, he was exhuasted every day, etc. Well, that is when they mentioned they had a program for children who are Mildly Impaired, Cognitively Impaired and I said, why didn't you tell us about this in May, put my baby in there and he has flourished. Same teacher and aide for K-2, and then same for 3-5, but they mix it up throughout the year, so even when he goes to 3rd grade next school year, we have known the other teacher since K. I want to take them both with us when he goes to middle school. And they also let him have the social interactions and he goes to "regular" class for social studies and science and with those kids for art, music, library, etc. and they all love him. Last meeting we had everybody said how sweet and smart he was and how he has flourished in two years. I think you and Jason should go with your guts, but IMHO, the LAR (???) program sounds excellent for Noah. It seems like he is also making great strides. Both of your boys sound amazing and I am sure it is a testament to your (again, you and Jason) parenting skills. I wish I could have them over for a playdate and you over for wine, you know after the third one is born (and I am firmly in the camp, that your world is going to be rocked and you guys are having a girl, lol).

Meaghan

Amy, I heard it's Delurking day - so I'm doing that, because I've been reading your blog for a while and now suddenly have been faced with finding out that my daughter's kindergarten teachers believe she has special needs. It's all so new, I'm not sure what the extent of her issues are yet, but reading about Noah and about how well you and your family have handled everything gives me great hope that things will turn out okay for us - you really are an inspiration to me!! Glad he's feeling better. Take care!

Ms. T.

I have to speak up for the LD private schools in the DC area. I'm a 2nd/3rd grade teacher at one of these schools and cannot speak highly enough for the work we do. As a parent, though, your first and foremost goal is to do what's best for your child. Please go with your gut, but don't let other parents' stress and anxiety over the private school process freak you out. If you decide the public school is providing Noah his FAPE, go for a few parent tours. It'll at least give you some insight into the differences between public vs. private.

You should be commended for the job you're doing for Noah. He's clearly flourishing and has a fantastic team behind him. Keep up the great work!

karinya @ Unlikely Origins

The part about spiking 102 fevers for no good reason is so true! Ugh, we dealt with that exact thing at our house this week. No fun.

Good thoughts coming your way re: the decision you have to make.

-Karinya @ Unlikely Origins
www.unlikelyorigins.blogspot.com

chantale

For my son, we thought of 'red shirting' him. However, our services through the preschool program end the spring before they are supposed to go to kindergarten (regardless of whether they go or not). If I had kept him home, we would not have had the preschool services anyways AND he would have been at home with me full-time. Yikes!

Kate

Any reason why you use Tylenol for fever rather than Motrin? I've pretty much taken Tylenol out of the arsenal for the kiddos because Motrin works faster, better and longer. Just wondering if I'm missing something...

MsCellania

Dollars to Donuts Noah is getting some big molars. Or maybe not. My boys got fevers with the big chompers.
We have a son who has severe learning delays and probably Aspergers. He had 3 years of District Preschool (summer b-day, so we wrangled the extra year), and now attends our wonderful neighborhood school. He qualifies for ESL (English language learner because he failed a CeLA test; yeah he was born in Korea but geesh he arrived in USA at 7 months so hmmmmm?), SLP (ST? Speech help), OT/PT check-ins; he has a 'handler' who visits the classroom and introduces the entire class to "HEY! Headphones! Some of you will Love 'em! and Ball Chairs! Some of You Will Love 'Em!" and then writes Ryan's name on one set of headphones and one ball chair, leaving 2 of each for other kids to use so they don't nab his. The handler also manages the staffing for his IEP. I refused to have him tested for TAG (talented and gifted) because how much more could the kid be yanked out of class for?!
We go to all IEP meetings (and ESPECIALLY the tri-annual meeting which happens at 5, 8, 11 etc) with an advocate for Ryan. She knows the law, knows him like the back of her hand (2x/week private therapy) and is a calming presence at the IEP meetings.
I bring food to the meetings. Girl, show up with bagels, cut up fruit, some butter/cream cheese and paper plates. If you could manage a Starbucks toter of coffee and cream, they will forever worship at your altar. Most parents go in mad/scared and angry. Fear makes us that way. Taking YOUR private therapist is perfect; she will remain unemotional and let her speak if you start to lose it.
Forget private school. Noah will do GR8 in your local school! DC has great services and he will be with lots of little fellows similar to himself. Kindy to first grade saw huge emotional and learning leaps for my son. It will for Noah, too! I am excited for you guys.

MsCellania

Oh, forgot to add that totally cool and wonderful thing is that even our quirky kids get invited to play dates. If you are in your own 'hood, it's great. Not so great if you have to drive for 45 mins. I have found the playdates to be a huge step in our sons' social/emotional development. When our Mr. Unique wasn't really even communicating, he was getting invited to play at other's houses which astonished me. Why was he included? Because he could build any lego they had or play any board game. I would stay so if he amped out we could scoot. Even 45 minutes was a victory.
I was really scared transitioning from preschool to kindy. Yes, the services diminish somewhat. But there are great benefits, too.
Also, if it's not all-day kindy, I might not do the fee-based other half day.

Lana | RaisedbyPoker

My son has been getting services since he was 2. I've found that the IEP have inevitable been very productive.

Last year we were given the choice of moving him into general ed at his home school (with pull-out supports as required), or into a combined general ed/special ed class, with supports build into the curriculum for him, but at a different school.

Having to make that decision was amazingly stressful. Like you, I kept thinking "who put me in charge of this?!!"

I feel really good about the decision in the end, but it was made at the end of A LOT of questions and information gathering. We did not go with general ed, choosing instead to ease him through a graduated transition (we hope).

You'll know better than anyone else what is right.

Quinn

So I am currently a social work intern working in special ed. Obviously I don't know Noah personally, but it really sounds as though One of the things that's so wonderful in one of the classes I work with is the individual attention the teacher gives the kids. Her class is small, so she really gets to know each child's needs, can read each child's emotional states handily, and thus cater her response to the individual student. One kid needs space when he freaks out whereas another needs gentle but firm direction. She (and other aides and social workers) know this and can provide it as necessary. Likewise, she also knows the OT needs of the kids and is prepared to provide hand-over support during handwriting, to start zippers on jackets, etc.

Obviously I don't know Noah, but from what you describe, it sounds like the LAD program would be ideal. Individual attention with normal socialization. Wonderful.

As for private school, you live in an area with some of the best schools in the nation. Your home school sounds wonderful. Don't put him in a private school just because it's a private school. Maybe it will end up being something you want or need, but check out the public school first. And remember that if it turns out the public schools can't provide Noah with what they need, the county has to pay for him to attend a private school. Free and Appropriate Education, after all.

Good luck!

Virginia

Just a little hope and reassurance for you - I was certain sure that Maxx would not make it in first grade. That the more structured environment and increased academic demands would be too much and and he would wig out and I'd have a FAS basket case on my hands and would have to try to homeschool - we don't have private options here. But his teacher this year is Awesome. His Support services co-ordinator has read all the literature we gave her on FAS and she totally gets it. The CSE chair & principal are on board with frontal lobe damage and the sorts of accommodations Maxx will need next year in 2nd grade and Maxx is doing wonderfully. He does math. He's learning to read - though his recall is a bit slow most of the time - and his social skills are improving so fast I hardly recognize him some days.

So if you feel that your district is doing for Noah what Noah needs right now, chances are that they will continue to provide and that he will continue to thrive. Go with your gut - he'll be fine. :)

jaelithe

I had one of those OH GAWD WHY HAVE I BEEN ENTRUSTED WITH SOMEONE ELSE'S LIFE moments this week, too, when my own kid's fever spiked and I couldn't decide whether to take him to the urgent care center, in the 10 degree windchill and snow, to wait for an hour in a room full other coughing people, only to probably be sent home with a dose of generic ibuprofen and pat on the back, or to keep him home where he would probably be totally fine with the Children's Advil and the soothing bath I'd just given him, unless he WASN'T. I chose home. He's still alive.

Parenting is rough.

By the by I am continually amazed and envious when I read about the services your local public district provides to students with sensory disorders. I BEGGED our public school to provide my son with OT to help with his handwriting in kindergarten. The principal laughed in my face and told me they didn't even have an occupational therapist at the school (and NO they could NOT send one of the ones from the special needs preschool just a couple of miles away over now and again to help him -- who had ever HEARD of such a thing?).

In fact, despite my having encountered several very educated and competent special needs specialists at our district's reverse mainstream preschool, all of whom had of course received training on sensory issues, most of the elementary-level educators I spoke with in my district did not even know what Sensory Processing Disorder was. A couple accused me of making it up. I wish I were exaggerating.

Maria

We're in IEP shenanigans mode too. When I think about it too hard, I can't even breathe. This stuff sucks balls.

Mrs. Flinger

You're all fine, you are. It sounds like an amazingly perfect WOW OMG YEY type of school. And, say, by 2nd grade or so when he's ready to integrate further in to the "typical" classes, he'll already have friends and it will be a much easier transition. WOW OMG YEY. And I do believe it's a great school, too. My friend Ashley's son is in a similar program and they do wonders with her son.

WOW OMG YEY!

Andrea

Myself & all three of my siblings have varying levels of learning disabilities & all were educated through MCPS. Three out of 4 of us will graduate from UMCP, the fourth who is autistic is in community college now & just isn't sure where he will finish out his BA. I cannot speak highly enough of the school system & their support for special needs. I was even in a magnet program in high school despite still receiving services.

i wish my brother(the autistic one) had a LAD program when he was back in elementary school. But he did do Bridges through MCPS (at Tilden & Churchill) for middle & high school & my whole family cannot speak highly enough of the program and they support they gave him.

Oh and if you think the IEP meetings are stressful now!- wait until Noah is a part of them. from 7th-10th grade i walked out of my IEP meeting when they read the recommendations and each time they said i had to keep up some form of "resource" classes. Of course now thank god my parents & everyone else never let my tantrums stop them from doing what was best for me.

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