Change Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone

We are now multi-generational household! Aren’t WE trendy!

Grammy, Poppy, The Boy and I are all living under the same roof now, along with two disgruntled felines, and lots and lots of stuff that either has to find a home, or find its way to the dump. Change is always difficult, especially the older we get, and also especially for those on the spectrum. So while there is lots to be thankful for here (no chance to be lonely in this small house!), there is also adjustment – poor Grammy doesn’t really have a space to her own, and we’re still bumbling our way through setting up boundaries and routines.

But this is all in preparation for the long game. This will save us money, time, gas, and provide a little more support to The Boy and I. It’s also going to help us move toward our next step – something I’ll share more about when we know more. This split has been harder on me in many ways than my first divorce. That one was expected, and a bit of a relief. This one was neither. I didn’t want this, so working through the stages of grief will take more time, especially since there wasn’t really any closure.

The Boy, too, is still struggling, even though having grandparents here is mostly a good thing for him. Change is change in his eyes, and it’s unsettling. But the nightly upsets have decreased, and he gets more time to do what he likes after school because he gets dropped off at home now, which I think he likes.

I’ll post about the normal autism-related stuff we’re going through soon. Can you believe he’s a month away from turning 16? I sure can’t.

Cheers to all of you for hanging in there with us!

 

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He’s Excited. I’m Scared.

We got The Boy’s schedule finally, and it was slightly different than expected, with no core class second semester and a passel of scary-sounding electives like “Principles of Business & Finance.” I emailed his new teacher with my concerns, and she said those are the career and technical education courses they take as part of the Occupational Course of Study, and that the special ed teachers work closely with those teachers to make sure everything is modified. Seniors get first pick, so there’s not much left for freshman when they schedule them.

Ok. But if you have a 9th grader who still can’t multiply and divide independently?

And the lack of core classes was due to the only male PE class being offered at the same time during second semester, and he can just take Biology when it’s offered again, either sophomore or junior year.

I look at this schedule with these long-titled classes that last an hour and a half, and I know there will be no parapro, and I start to get a little queasy with all the what-ifs racing through my brain.IMG_5643

My constant refrain seems to be “How does this work?” And I have to let go. I have to trust that it will be fine. I have to give this new set of teachers a chance to prove they know what they are doing and that they are professionals.

And while I do that, I am preparing my own “curriculum” of supplementary stuff to help him find some meaning in his day, just in case “Sports & Entertainment Marketing” isn’t quite up his alley. Like maybe a coding workshop, and some time spent feeding some animals at the wildlife shelter.

“Thinking will not overcome fear but action will.” ~ W. Clement Stone

New Home Soon

The Man is making great progress with our new house. The plumbing and electric are in, and so is the septic system. We are awaiting inspections today to proceed with insulation, heating and cooling, and drywall. The roof is complete, and the siding is half done, thanks to The Man himself.

The Boy and I visit every weekend and some weeknights. He walks down the cul-de-sac that is one street over, and recently we brought his bike over to the new house so he can ride it there, as well (as he really has no space to ride it at our current house). We have met and befriended our closest neighbors, both of which have dogs, and The Boy loves to visit them. When we visited the site this past weekend, I couldn’t get him to leave.

We’ve also begun talking about his room and what he would like that to look like (blue walls with white puffy clouds, thankyouverymuch). We have begun stopping at a nearby convenience store run and owned by some great people who appreciate The Boy and his quirks. It even has a retro arcade so he can play his favorite games for a quarter.

The time it has taken to build this house ourselves has given The Boy ample time to adjust to the idea of living there, and become accustomed to the surroundings. He is now excited about the move, and this process has been ideal for allowing him time and experience to accept the change.

We can’t wait.

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Spring Break is Here. Woo Hoo.

Everyone loves vacation, right? Everyone loves a week off of school!

Nope.

The Boy in recent years has looked more forward to it, I’ll admit. But the reality is that the slightest changes in routine throw us all off, and Spring Break is a million tiny changes in our routine and a lot of big ones. Normally, I wake up at 6am to do yoga. Apparently the act of walking down the hall at that time of the morning, gives The Boy some sort of pre-wake up call that I wasn’t aware of. Because apparently, when he is on Spring Break, and does not need to leave the house as early, I am still required to wake up at 6am. Grrr.

And someone (I shall not name names) ate two packages of pop tarts (!), at some point this weekend (we usually get breakfast elsewhere), which leaves one to last us until Wednesday. That same someone complained to Grammy that he had not been given breakfast…

That same someone also required umpteen reminders yesterday to get out of bed and get ready to leave. He waited until the last minute, couldn’t find his headphones, and got upset… sigh… (later found under the bed at Grammy’s, just like everything else that gets lost).

He also thinks he can stay up all hours of the night watching movies in his room.

I’m going to wake him up in 14 minutes. That will be 15 minutes earlier than yesterday. We shall see if allowing him more time to procrastinate helps the situation. But I’m pretty sure the only thing that will help this situation is sending him back to school

Spring Break in an Autism Household looks NOTHING like this...

 

Up and Running

If you’ve followed the blog, you know that we are building a house primarily so that The Boy can attend high school with the friends he’s made in middle school. Since his program was dissolved, he would have to attend a high school with strangers if we did nothing. Coincidentally, building a house basically on his own has been a dream of The Man’s forever. He has done enough reno to understand how houses are put together, and he has enough contacts in the industry to get licensed professionals who are also friends to do the things he can’t do (like wire and plumb the house).

Well, it’s been a tough fall, dealing with a less-than-scrupulous contractor who cleared a quarter of our acre-sized lot and charged us almost $15,000. If you have no previous experience, this is quite an exorbitant sum for that amount of work, and the guy used to be a friend! We have agreed upon a settlement¬† (in other words, we won that argument), and have been able to move forward with the help of some fantastic weather. We may even have roof trusses up by the end of the day tomorrow.

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The Boy and I visited the lot yesterday evening to check it out, and he was delighted to see where his room and bathroom would be, even if he wishes it were upstairs like his friend’s room is at his house (ours will be a ranch).

The Man is working hard, sleeping hard, and probably overdoing it right now, but he is single-minded when there is a goal within reach. He hopes to have us in by the 4th of July. The Boy and I are excited, even though I see the bills on the other side. It really will be a dream come true for us.

And to top it off, when we visited the lot this weekend to make The Man take a break from installing 75 floor joists by himself, we suggested The Boy take a walk around the corner down to the end of the cul-de-sac. When he returned, he said that he saw one of his friends-who-are-girls. I thought he wasn’t quite telling the truth, but not two minutes later, a red minivan came around the corner, with a young teenaged girl pulling herself up to sit on the windowsill of the passenger side to say, “Hey!” and wave to The Boy. We suspect she may live a few doors down.

All kinds of reasons to be excited. ūüėČ

Post-Move Update

If you follow this blog, you know that we sold our house at the end of August and moved into a rental house where we will live while we build another small house that is in The Boy’s “district”.¬† In order for him to go to high school with all of the friends he’s made since moving south, we need to live in that area, so we have less than a year to make that a reality.

Moving from our former house was bittersweet.¬† The Man bought that house pretty cheaply because it needed tons of work, and then did all of the work and then some to make it a very nice house, bigger than anything he or I had ever lived in before, and the best part was that it was paid for – no mortgage payment. We were able to remodel it to our tastes, and the fact that it was paid for was what made it possible for The Boy and me to move here. It was our first house as a married couple, as a family, it was where The Man proposed to me… We had lots of really good memories there. It had a beautiful backyard up next to a golf course, so views of gorgeous sunsets, sunrises, and wildlife were common occurrences. The Boy could ride his bike or scooter to his hearts content, and we were glad that he was safe to do that without being bothered.

While our current rental house isn’t exactly as we’d want it, and there is that rent payment hanging over our heads (right at a time when I’m making so much less than I was before), I can’t help but revel in the positives here, as well. I wrote about the tree swing earlier this week, which The Boy adores, and therefore so do I. The lot itself is quite pretty, with well-placed, picturesque trees and lots for the cat to look at during the day.¬† We are placed directly between two churches, so there are no neighbors to speak of, and we are so much closer to civilization… I can’t tell you how much easier it is over here.¬† We don’t have to plan our day around a trip to Walmart – it’s now only two minutes away. We are physically not much closer to Grammy and Poppy, but the fact that you don’t have to cross two bridges and miles of two-lane road to get there make quite a difference in the time.¬† The house itself is the perfect size, just about the same size we intend to build the new house, so it is easy for us to plan and visualize what we’d like to do.

room with a view

The very best thing is that The Boy loves being closer to his grandparents, civilization, and most of all, his school.¬† The bus used to come pick him up at 6:30am. Now, we have foregone the bus in the morning (alleviating so much stress), and The Man takes him at 7:20am.¬† That’s quite a difference to a tired teenager.¬† One that makes him infinitely happier, and he is not afraid to show it. He has adapted beautifully and I’m proud of him and happy for him, too.

While we could have stayed where we were, I’m so glad we decided to take the risk and do this. Onward and upward!

The Principal’s Office

principal's officeI was asked into the Principal’s Office yesterday, and it’s amazing how that still makes me feel in my 40s.

I think many special needs parents go through this experience more often than they’d like, and I wonder how often it’s a power play. I’m beginning to think yesterday’s meeting was exactly that.

If you have followed the blog, you know that The Boy goes to a school across the district, although we live much closer now, because we worked hard to get him placed in a pilot program for those with HFA (high-functioning autism).¬† We were told that the program would likely not only continue at the middle school, but would then be expanded into the high school and elementary schools.¬† Except that it not only wasn’t expanded, it was discontinued this year. Not only did they yank the program and it’s supports, they yanked the autism teacher out of the school, reduced the teaching assistants in the school, and left the kids hanging.¬† Oh and any kids who attended the middle school were now re-assigned to their home high school, putting last year’s 8th graders into a brand new-to-them high school where they know virtually no one.¬† Nice, huh?

And the principal and the vice principal at the middle school retired, too.

Lots of change for The Boy, yet he’s handled it remarkably well.

We’ve had to deal with increased anxiety a bit this year, as will happen with teens on the spectrum from what I hear.¬† He has always hated friends being absent, and had to also deal with one of his close friend-who-is-a-girl moving away with no notice.

This past Friday was a doozy of a day. They had scheduled an assembly, another one of his friends-who-is-a-girl was absent, and he had a big performance with the band that evening at the high school football game Рvery excited, but very overwhelmed.  It was not a good day, and the lead up to the performance was very, very difficult.  I have never seen The Boy so paralyzed by anxiety, and it was heartbreaking.

Yesterday, I had to go in early to make a slight adjustment to the IEP regarding length of time, which really only required a signature, but according to the school required an IEP meeting with three teachers and myself, and ridiculous amounts of paper.¬† I took The Boy in to school. As students started to arrive, he noticed that his friend-who-is-a-girl wasn’t there again, and began to perseverate, become agitated, and look like he was going to bolt.

So when I left his TA to handle it, I went to the office to handle some other paperwork and was promptly summoned into the principal’s office to discuss any “insights” I had into The Boy’s behavior as of late.

I was told he had had four “bad days” this year, which she interpreted as an escalation, and she was wondering what strategies I could offer, as she had limited staff, and basically implied that she couldn’t afford to have her only TA walking the halls the whole day with my child, as happened on Friday. And the TA was just about the only person who could “get through to him”.

Come to find out, she was counting the morning’s troubles as a bad day (not in my book, as he was already in science class by the time I had walked into her office), and another of the “four days” involved her TA being late to her bus route at the end of the day, because The Boy insisted on giving one of his friends-who-is-a-girl a high five before he got on the bus.¬† Problematic to be sure, but again, not a “bad day” in my book.

That left us with Friday. “And Thursday was a bad day, too,” she said.¬† “I hadn’t heard anything about Thursday,” I replied.¬† “Well, it wasn’t as bad as Friday, but it wasn’t a good day.”

As happens so often, I could only formulate what I should have said after the fact. I explained his increased anxiety as of late, and offered that a lack of communication about these incidents and disruptions to his day (like Friday’s assembly) were obstacles to The Boy’s success. I explained that the anxiety was new to us at home, as well, and that I didn’t have any magic answers. And that was about it.

I should have said that her lack of TAs was not my problem. She needs to take that up with her central office. I should have said that four bad days since August meant that The Boy was doing pretty well considering all the change the district had foisted upon him.¬† I should have said that if his current TA is the only one who can get trough to him, then she needed to come up with a plan to address that, as it is her school, her educational facility, and her staff. I should have said that it was the district’s policy to employ TAs as bus drivers that was the problem on the one day, not anything that had to do with me. I should have said that kids with autism will have bad days, and that if she or his teachers couldn’t handle that, then they need more training. I should have said that she needed to be approaching the district autism specialist for strategies, rather than the parent who is not at school on a daily basis.

Needless to say, the meeting left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I’m thinking of writing a follow up email with my list of things I should have said. I’m not sure if it’s worth my time, as it seems she is ignorant of what her role is, and of what appropriate expectations of an 8th grader on the spectrum are.

I am beginning to become resigned to the fact that dealing with the school will be a continuous struggle for the next five years, and that gives me even more impetus to find meaningful opportunities for The Boy outside of the school day, and possibly start our own business to afford him a pleasant working experience. I’m just sorry to see the rampant ignorance that still exists, even within the walls of one of the best schools in the district, and even at the highest level.¬† What more do we have to do??

New, New, New

I’ve written recently about how many changes The Boy is handling at school (and at home) and how well he is doing with all of it.¬† His school schedule has been sorted, relatively, and his TA is growing into her role as the point of contact at the school.

I, too, have been handling some big change.  I left my job and got a new one, and even though it presents new challenges due to being a little less than full time, I think it quite possibly saved my sanity.  I look forward to going to work again, and learning new tasks with a new crew of people who are not constantly gossiping, backstabbing, and sabotaging.  Even though I work with people much younger than me now, the maturity level is infinitely higher than the workplace I left.

We also closed on the sale of our house and moved into our temporary home while we build on our lot.¬† The house was left fairly dirty, and the walls were a goldenrod color (seriously??), so we had to clean and paint before unpacking completely, and I was about ready to tear my hair out, but it’s been about a week, and we are finally settling in. I love being on this side of town, and we are so close to The Boy’s school, that The Man is now taking him in the morning, alleviating some of our morning anxieties. The Boy loves it because he gets to sleep in later (ha!).

And everything kind of happened at once. Autism families recognize this as having great potential for disaster, but (knock on wood) we are all adjusting quite well, and much that is positive has come from this round of changes. I guess change is inevitable, but sometimes we get scared. Life is too short to be miserable and afraid, though, and taking risks can result in positive things. It’s good to be reminded of that.

 

What’s in Store for Next Year

Well, I guess I didn’t need all that battle gear for our IEP.¬† Apparently I had made my wishes clear in the email I had sent to The Boy’s teacher specifying that I did want him to have access to his general ed peers, you know, as in, least restrictive environment?? But there are changes coming for next year.

The progrIEP documentationam teacher will now only be at The Boy’s school part time because they will be spreading her autism knowledge throughout the county, now. In other words, they are no longer funding the pilot program, and don’t want The Boy’s middle school to become a magnet school for kids on the higher functioning end of the spectrum, so they are spreading her too thin to try to knock some sense into the teachers at other schools who act as if they’ve never seen a kid with autism before.¬† My God be with her, because that will be a Sisyphean task.

In the meantime, The Boy’s day will not look too much different except that his social skills class will be a pull-out from his electives, and combined with the pull-out for speech, he could potentially be pulled out of his elective classes four days out of five for a half hour.¬† That’s a recipe for some negative behavior, if you ask me, but they didn’t, so The Boy (and they) will have to deal with it.

I mentioned that we will be  building a house in-district, to which they responded very happily, and made it clear that if we were not residing in said house by the time 9th grade rolled around, The Boy would be placed in his current home high school.  NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.  Even if we are not in said house by then.  But I will fight that battle if and when I need to.

I’m crossing my fingers for these plans not to change too much between now and August. I’m pleased I didn’t have to fight, and encouraged by the team in place. Now to get the house built…

New Friends, New Opportunities

The Boy and I went over for a “playdate” of sorts with some new friends from our local chapter of the Autism Society.¬† The Boy had gone to summer camp with this boy, and I’ve leaned on his mom quite a bit through our schooling struggles.¬† The boys had a blast – it was very neat to see The Boy getting along so well with kids his own age (or thereabouts), and I was grateful just to have the chance to do it, and the chance for him to make some real friends, something he hasn’t yet done at school.

And I can’t overlook the chance for me to make friends.¬† It can be a bit lonely moving away from almost everyone you know.¬† I still love my friends from up north, but I can’t hang out with them by any means, and so I spend a lot of time by myself, especially being underemployed.¬† It doesn’t lend itself to maintaining your sanity, let’s just say, so it was nice to get out and just hang out with someone, especially someone who really gets what I’m going through right now.

The last time he rode the bus, The Boy was in kindergarten...

The last time he rode the bus, The Boy was in kindergarten…

One of the things we have been talking about has been a possible switch in schools for The Boy.¬† We’re hoping to get him into a pilot program at a middle school across the county which is aimed at high functioning kids on the spectrum.¬† It happens to be housed where our new friends go to school (across the county, requiring busing), and New Friend’s Mom can’t say enough good things about the special ed staff, who really seem to know autism, front and back.¬† So, we are pursuing it, because his current school is still not following his IEP, and seem to be taking their sweet time even implementing any of the county specialists recommendations.

It would be a tremendous transition, again, and we have weighed that into the decision, but at this point, I strongly feel he is not in the correct placement, and I’m ready to fight to get him into this program (even though I don’t think I will really need to).

So keep your fingers crossed for The Boy.  New opportunities may be on the horizon that would be much better in the long run, but may be a little painful at first.  Just another day on the spectrum.