February 24, 2016
I went to Noah's IEP meeting yesterday, our first "real" meeting with the new school. We had an initial "move everything from County A to County B and try to not let anything get lost in translation" meeting in the beginning of the year, but this was the Actual Annual Big-Deal one, where we determine services for the next 12 months.
The good news is that...well, it's all good news. Noah has transitioned beautifully and his new team loves him, and even better, REALLY understands him. After years of being classified solely as a SPD/ADHD kid at his old school, to the point that the team seemed surprised by his eventual Autism diagnosis (and then had to rapidly overhaul his IEP), I think it was really beneficial to move into this school with the ASD code firmly in place. No question, Noah needs those specific needs met, and here is everything this school can possibly provide.
His new IEP is strong, comprehensive and best of all, was written from the point of view that this is just who Noah is and how he thinks and learns. He is not a problem to be solved. He is a child who will need X, Y and Z to succeed at school and we're going to make damn well sure he gets every one of those things.
(You mean they put together an Individualized Education Plan that is...my God, individualized? SORCERY!)
The best news is that the school offers an extended year option for social skills, and Noah qualified for it. Four full weeks of half-day social skills/peer interaction summer camp, bus transportation included, FOR FREE. Freeeeeeeee!
(That "thud" sound you just heard? Was every special needs parent who ever had to price up the cost of a private social skills therapy group falling off their damn chairs.)
As I prepared to leave and happy-dance my way out of the school office, however, the psychologist asked if I could stay for a few more minutes to talk about...Ezra.
"I know, I know," I said. "We've already called our psychiatrist."
Ezra, my little day-dreamer, my peaceful Ferdinand among the flowers, our tenderhearted social butterfly who loves you, and YOU, and YOU, and...okay honey, stop looking at what your friends are doing and focus on what you're doing. Ezra. Ezra. EZRA!
Over the past year, he's gone from "easily distracted" (his kindergarten teacher's description) to being unable to sustain focus on anything. At school or at home. After months of begging for a guitar and guitar lessons, he can't pay attention during his 30-minute lesson for more than a few minutes at a time, then when it's time to practice at home it's like he never had the lesson in the first place. (Same thing with homework.) His class assignments come home unfinished, his homework packet is perpetually misplaced, he never knows where his library book is, his once-excellent handwriting has slowly become illegible. He buys Lego sets with his tooth fairy money but gives up on building them halfway through, asking Noah to take over because he can't stick with the instructions.
He has a nervous tic he does with his hands that now clearly seems to be a stimming-like attempt to wrangle his energy and keep himself focused on whatever he's doing...works pretty well when watching TV or something, but gets in the way when he's putting his pencil down every 30 seconds during a writing assignment.
He is, so far, still performing right on grade level in school, but his teacher thinks he can do much better than that. She'd already called the school's Instructional Intervention Team and is implementing a bunch of unofficial accommodations for him (preferential seating, OT equipment, small groups, extra breaks and time, etc.), and we've spoken multiple times to come up with other ideas to help him stay focused.
And Ezra's getting visibly frustrated with himself, with his forgetfulness, his disorganization, his sloppy handwriting, on and on it goes. He's TRYING. I can see how hard he's trying. And then watching him get angry at himself is heartbreaking. He wants to play guitar, he wants to build his own Legos, he wants to make his teacher happy and do well in school.
"I'm just distracted all the time," he said. "I'm no good at stopping all the distractions."
The school psychologist thinks it's time for, at a minimum, a 504 plan. We agree, and realize nothing positive ever comes from avoiding a proper evaluation and diagnosis, so we've enlisted Noah's long-time psychiatrist for help. Medication has changed Noah's life for the better (literally ZERO of his IEP goals or accommodations at school are related to attention or hyperactivity anymore, a completely different story from a couple years ago), and once again I find myself needing to get over myself and accept that wow, this parenting thing just never stops with the curveballs.
And speaking of curveballs, here's an Ike update: After much back and forth, we decided NOT to pursue an evaluation with Infants & Toddlers for Ike after all. Partly because 1) he totally had a language/grammar EXPLOSION in December and is now speaking much more clearly, 2) once the packet arrived and I zipped through the surveys it was pretty obvious he's nowhere near delayed enough to qualify for anything, and 3) "delayed" really isn't the right word anyway.
He's definitely a bit immature socially/emotionally and masks his shyness with a stubborn streak four miles wide, but if anything I suspect (and his teacher agrees) we're dealing with a bit of a Smarty McSmartpants over here. Who for whatever reason, prefers to hide that fact in front of other people...up until the moment he forgets, picks up a book and reads the whole thing, or completes a jigsaw puzzle marked 12 years and up. Wait, what? No, you totally didn't just see that. I can't read that, or do that, I'm Baby Ike, and I am here to make my mom toss up her arms in confusion 20 times a day.