Tuesday, January 22, 2013

We've reached adult-hood!

Eighteen years ago today, a 20-year-old young man bravely approached a 17-year-old girl he'd only met once before and asked if she would like to go to the Valentine's banquet with him.

The rest is history...

Love you, Babe!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Final installment for now.

Tuesday we had our first appointment with the school-provided Occupational Therapist.

It was a smashing success!!!

Her name is Christina and she had all of the same equipment that our old OT had, and she understood perfectly exactly what Tyler needed:  sensory, fine motor, gross motor, the whole she-bang.

I just kept pinching myself, thinking "The school is providing this, hooray!"

The office is in the East Valley, so we set it up for bi-weekly appointments.  I am so thrilled!

God gave us everything that we asked for, and then some.  I am so thankful.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Update part 3

I'm not sure if it contributed to the way the meeting went or not, but we wound up having our meeting on the last day of school before Christmas break.  The Special Ed coordinator, Angela, was actually calling in from home where she was babysitting her grand-daughter, so I think it might be correct  to say that she may have been a little distracted.

Vanessa conducted the meeting.  She started it by summing up why we were here, then asked Tyler's teacher, Shauna, if she could summarize based on Tyler's academic the past year and a half (she has also his 4th grade teacher.)

Shauna's words were like a balm to my tattered soul:  When you look at Tyler's grades, you see a strong A and B average student.  But those grades are because of a mother who is involved in every aspect of her child's education.  She sees his needs, and is constantly looking weeks ahead to anticipate the coursework and the accommodations he would need.

(Just so you know, this is not how I would choose to approach academics.  Just ask my daughter.)

So often I feel like a complete failure, and that everyone is looking at me wondering "why doesn't she...?"  It was so gratifying to hear someone affirm my actions.

Then Vanessa said:  I asked Jennifer to fill out a Social Developmental form.  Usually when I ask parents to fill this form out, I get back a sentence or two, or nothing.  Jennifer gave me a book (ooops!).  But I think that it gives a very clear picture of who we are dealing with here, so I'd like to just read it exactly as Jennifer wrote it.

So she read my words out loud.

I silently cried.

When Vanessa was done reading, it was silent for a moment, and then Vanessa began to move to the next portion of the meeting.

Angela, the Special Ed coordinator, broke in and said:  Well, I think that we can go ahead and qualify him for Special Ed based on that.  Is everyone in agreement?

Vanessa was taken aback and said:  Uh, you want to go ahead and qualify him?  Oh, okay.  All in favor?

And just like that, the first part was done.

Then we moved on to qualifying him for Occupational Therapy.  I had sent Vanessa a copy of the OT eval that had been done two years ago when Ty first started going to OT.  It was long and Vanessa started reading it word for word.  Angela cut in and asked her to just read the parts that were relevant to academics.  So Vanessa read some information about Tyler's fine motor skills.  I was a little worried that this brief information would not convey the strong need for sensory therapy through OT, so I also included an impassioned plea.

Angela cut in and when she first started talking, I thought all was lost.  She has a "cut to the chase" attitude and makes quick decisions.  She said that a sensory diet was not within the realm of academics, that she wasn't even sure if their OT did that kind of stuff, and so they couldn't provide OT for that.  My heart sank.  But then she said that she would qualify him for OT for his fine motor skills, and then said that the OT could address any sensory stuff at that time, too, if they were able.

Vanessa was taken aback, apparently, and said:  So, you are qualifying him for in-person OT?

Yes, Angela was.  Then she asked me if I'd ever had a speech evaluation done on Tyler.  I was surprised by the question and said that we had not because he had never had a problem with talking.  She suggested that we go ahead and have a speech eval done, saying that speech therapy would also help, not just with the mechanics of talking, but with social skills.  I was thrilled with the suggestion.

Angela was then anxious to get off the phone, so that was that.  Vanessa said she'd call me right back.

I was a little in shock, not exactly sure what all had just happened when Vanessa called me back.

Vanessa was ecstatic.  She said that she was shocked by how positive the meeting had gone and how we had gotten everything we asked for, plus some.  She said Angela almost never approves for in-person OT, she prefers to qualify for virtual OT, so she was amazed that Angela had approved Tyler for in-person OT so quickly.

Vanessa then said that she thinks that my form tipped things over into our favor.  She praised my writing and said that it gave such a clear picture of things.

So now we were going forward...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Updates, part 2

Soon after the 504 meeting I received a call from a woman who introduced herself as Vanessa, our 504 advocate.  Let me just sum it up to say:  she is a God-send.  She has a son similar to Tyler, so she understands everything.

One of Vanessa's jobs is to help light my way through the Special Ed maze.  She sets up and facilitates meetings and is my liaison with Connections Academy.

She told me that she would be setting up a meeting with the two of us, Tyler's teacher and the Special Ed coordinator.  The purpose of the meeting would be to first qualify Tyler for Special Ed, then, once qualified, to get him approved for Occupational Therapy.

Vanessa warned me, however, that this was the best case scenario, and that it was more likely that we would be given a time of "studying" where data and case study would be gathered and different techniques would be tried.  (To which I'm thinking:  we've already done that!  But not officially, I guess).  She also cautioned me that we would have to prove that Tyler needed these therapies to help him academically, as the school system will only cover what concerns them.  She said that we may have a hard time with that, since Tyler's grades are very high and he performs strongly on his AIMS testing (90-100th percentile)

Vanessa sent me a form to fill out, a standard "tell us about your child" form.  I had the hardest time filling it out.  I would sit down to do it and just not be able to write anything.  "Why do I have to keep filling out the same forms over and over!"  I know that the forms are all for different places, but it gets wearying to say the same things over and over.  Things I don't want to say!  I just want it all to go away.

But it doesn't.

So, finally, on a Sunday afternoon I sat down and started to fill out the form.  Vanessa had asked me to include anything that I thought was relevant, that would make our case stronger.  I don't know what to say.  So I just started writing, describing life with Tyler.  I wound up writing a whole additional page.  When I was done I sent it to Vanessa with a note saying "Not sure if this is what you wanted, but it's done."

Then we waited for the meeting...

Updates, part 1

I have not sat down and blogged in a number of months.  I have a few partly done posts in my dock, but haven't had the groove to really write anything.  But, I am going to try to update on some Tyler stuff right now.

First, let me say that taking these steps are very hard for me.  I go back and forth continually about whether or not we should even be acknowledging these things, and whether or not we should be pursuing the avenues that we have been.  I've been told "we don't believe in labels", "the doctors told us (blank), but we just trusted God", and "be careful about letting the government and doctors into your home."  I've also been told "spoil the Egyptians", "get as much help as you can", and "there is nothing wrong with carefully using the resources and medical information that is available to us."

When in doubt, I remember that before we did anything else, we sought the wisdom of our Pastor.  His wonderful advice was "Get help and be careful".  He also advised to set the question before the Lord and follow his direction, seasoning everything with prayer, prayer, and more prayer.

So that is what I endeavor to do.  When faced with a possibility, if I don't have a clear "NO", I put the question before that Lord and allow him to lead.  And, when I get sick feelings, I pull back and wait until I feel assured.  I will never forget one of the things Pastor said to us during our meeting "I trust you because you are careful people."

I don't know if any of that made any sense, but I'm hoping you can see my heart here.  This is very hard for me.

Okay, where were we...I think the last time I mentioned anything significant, we were on our way to tour Gateway Academy in hopes that Tyler would go to school there.  Suffice it to say that the school was not a good fit for Tyler.

We've continued with Connections Academy this year, even though I was very frustrated with them at the beginning of the school year and came very close a few times to just dropping the whole thing and trying to go alone.  Several things stopped me, not the least of which being that curriculum is expensive and I don't have the funds to purchase my own at the moment.

The other thing that kept me at Connections was that I really wanted/want to apply for an Empowerment Scholarship Account, which is a scholarship that is given to Special Ed students through the dept of Ed.  Basically, the parents agree to take their child out of the public school system, the government gives the parents the up to $20K a year that was given to the school system for their student and the parents use that money to arrange for the private education of their child.  Sweet, huh?  But in order to apply for the Scholarship, we needed several things in place that we didn't yet have, one being a 504 or IEP.

Tyler had a 504 made up during the 2011-2012 school year, but it was for the express purpose of allowing him to do his AIMS testing one-one-one, at his own pace.  Being naive, I didn't see any other reason to have a 504 since he was being schooled-at-home and I controlled his accommodations.

This year, I have realized that these accommodations and verbal agreements that I have with his teacher are the exact things that need to go into a 504 plan (which I needed for the EPA), so I began working towards updating his 504.  It's interesting to me that, even though his 2011-2012 504 was expired and the school had told me that we needed to update it, getting the actual meeting with school proved to be very difficult.  Finally, after three or four months of asking for a meeting, it was scheduled.

That meeting consisted of myself, Tyler's teacher and the assistant principal.  I had made a list of the accomodations that I wanted Tyler to have, which was basically things that I was already doing for him with verbal approval from his teacher.  These are things like "ability to use a scribe" or "does not have to complete assignment, just has to show mastery".  The meeting went smoothly and I had not problem getting everything onto his 504 plan.

Then I asked "I know that if Tyler was attending a public school, that he would be able to receive Occupational Therapy and other needed therapies from the school during his school day.  Since you are a public virtual school, are you able to provide those resources for Tyler in other venues?"

I was told that the school has an agreement with providers, where, if we qualified, I would take Tyler to the providers office where he would receive therapy and the school system would foot the bill.  Sweet!

Now to qualify...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

"Oh, That Looks Good!"

Please tell me that I'm not the only one who looks at recipes while fasting!

I think it will take me the whole year to make everything that I've pinned in the last 24 hours.  Next thing you know, I'll be pinning a recipe for liver!!!