It's IEP meeting season, again, and supercharged.
It's Noah's re-evaluation year AND time to start planning for his transition to high school (!!!!!WAT!!!!!) next September. His meeting was mostly spent debating whether he continues to qualify for special education services, so...it was a short meeting, because surprise! He's got Autism. Still! Imagine that. My mother-in-law will be so disappointed. Must've been the flu shot. Or our lack of interest in essential oils.
So he won't be losing any supports or services this year -- if anything, he'll get more, since the middle school team likes to send kids off to high school with fully loaded IEPs, and then let us decide once he's made the transition if anything is overkill or unnecessary.
I was also expecting Ike's meeting to be similarly short and to-the-point -- we'd just had parent/teacher conferences and gone over alllll his reading progress and goals last week -- so of course, I was thrown for yet another loop when the team expressed their universal worry that Ike is showing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
"He's just not the same Ike this year," the school psychologist said. "I've known him since kindergarten. Something is different now."
And it's true, he's been coming home with almost nothing but tales of dramatic woe. No one likes him. No one plays with him. Everyone makes fun of him and laughed when he fell down on the playground and had to go to the school nurse and she gave him an X-ray and told him he wasn't allowed to do chores for at least 18 days.
He has multiple good friends from our neighborhood, but according to him, they refuse to play with at recess. According to his teachers, it's because he doesn't ask and instead runs to a bench to sulk the whole time, rebuffing any and all offers to play from anyone else. When I ask him about this, he'll say that he TRIED to ask his friend A to play, but then the whole school started teasing him because A is a girl, and now A doesn't want to play with him because she doesn't want to get teased anymore.
This...never happened. A lives three houses up the street. She comes to our house to play multiple times a week. I buy Girl Scout cookies from her. Her family came to Friendsgiving. When I ask him again about this, I get another wild tale of bullying and heartbreak and catastrophic playground injuries that SOMEHOW the school nurse forgot to call me about.
His teacher tried to get Ike to write a personal narrative about a true story that happened to him. He told her about the time a car ran over his arm when he was three, and then how he broke his leg when he was four. When she suggested maybe he write about something a little happier, he said, "I don't have any happy memories. Nothing good has ever happened to me."
He ended up writing a personal narrative about diffusing a ticking time bomb in the school science lab with his dad and his brother. His teacher knew it wasn't true, but was just glad he come up with something that had a happy ending. (Though I'm sure his first draft insisted that yes, the school totally blew up. It probably happened on a day she used a substitute.)
It was these flights of wild fabulist fantasy that made me sign him up for an after school drama program, thinking that he just needed more creative outlets and maybe a wee extra bit of attention and audience applause. And he IS genuinely enjoying it so far -- he only came home once with a story about someone being mean to him, but then they got kicked out of the show for being bad at singing, so it's okay now. But at school, the stories continue.
And unfortunately, despite almost none of these stories having any basis in reality, Ike now views all his peers with suspicion and has completely withdrawn from them. If we run into someone he knows at Target or the grocery store, he recoils from their cheery "Hi Ike!" as if he's been slapped. He glares at the floor and refuses to say hello back. I've asked him SO MANY TIMES what's going on. I chaperoned his damn field trip just to get a sense of where this is all coming from and maybe discover which kids were being little shits to him, and instead found an entire classroom of friendly, engaged and well-behaved children who clearly have NO PROBLEM with Ike, and in fact seem a little baffled at his rejection of them.
Meanwhile, I watched Ike try to curl himself into a small ball at his desk and disappear. He made faces and scowled at everyone around him and refused to participate in a group counting game. I made pleading eye contact with him, mouthing "what's WRONG??" over and over again. I don't think he knew. Because I think it was probably everything.
I know that feeling. All too damn well, unfortunately. Genetics! A hell of thing.
Ike is a smart kid with a learning disability. Anxiety and depression are very common for kids like him. I knew this too!
And yet I still didn't really know. I didn't see it. Consider it a retroactive lightbulb moment.
The school has ordered several new psychological assessments. We won't be waiting for the results.