Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Big Changes!

    I specifically saved this post until after Johnny's IEP meeting, so I could share all the good news at one time. I can't even begin to describe the pride I feel in how well Sweet Pea and Monkey are doing. Within in a few weeks of each other, I had Jordan's 3 year re-eval/IEP meeting and Johnny's very first meeting. They went very well and are going to help pave the road to success for both of them.

     Before an IEP is established, the student has to be evaluated to assess their skills and see if they qualify for special needs services. Once it is in place, the student is eligible for 3 years and the goals on the plan are updated yearly. Before the end of the third year, the student has to be reassessed for eligibility. Believe it or not, this was Jordan's third year! Her physical, occupational, educational and speech testing took place over the month of April. She was also given a psychological assessment. All the results were gone over at her meeting at the beginning of May.

    I'm not going to lie, I was a little nervous going in. I know that because of her autism she automatically qualifies, but for some reason I had it in my head that they were going to reduce her services and I was going to have to go to battle for her. Of course I was wrong. As well as she's doing, Jordan still has hurdles she needs to overcome. She is learning to read and can write her name like a champ. She is fairly good at following directions, but can easily get distracted and will sometimes forget a step. She has some issues with math fluency, which doesn't surprise me because math has never been a strong suit on my side of the family. Her phys ed skills are coming along, though she has some work to do on object control (running and dribbling a ball, kicking a ball while running, etc.) and motor planning, which is manipulating her hands and body to accomplish certain tasks.  Her social skills are budding. She knows how to start a conversation but has difficulty carrying it on, and she is also apprehensive about initiating play with another student. She is very determined to do well, which is working to her benefit. One thing that I was very pleased to hear was that the school psychologist said she couldn't have picked Jordan out of the entire integrated kindergarten class as the student with autism! She was the most well behaved! Overall, her team is very impressed with her progress and adjustment. Next fall she will still be receiving speech, physical and occupational therapy, but she will be in the fully integrated first grade class!  I am confident she's going to do great!

    Johnny had his PT and OT assessments done together, and his speech done separately on a different day. Because he's so high energy, much of the formal testing couldn't be done. However, he is showing emerging skills. He has good motor control and planning, and though it may not be aimed at someone specific he can throw and kick a ball. He can hold a crayon and can manipulate small objects with his hands. He makes great eye contact and is able to convey to us his needs by leading us to what he wants and pointing. He jargons frequently and has very few true words. He does use intonation, so it is clear what he may be feeling or if he is asking a question. What isn't clear however, is what he is trying to say.  The speech pathologist did note, though, that he has all of the vowel and consonant sounds, and at it is just a matter of forming those sounds into words. Due to his autism, he also qualifies for special needs services and will be receiving physical, occupational and speech therapies at Mt. Pleasant Preschool. He will be attending a full day program, but will be in the ASD class as he's not quite ready for the integrated class yet. We are more than pleased that he will be seeing Miss Roxanne, who was Jordan's first teacher and worked wonders with her!  We had our first visit with Miss Roxanne's class today, and Johnny loved it! He explored the whole classroom, and was very excited when the other kids started to file in. He even sought out another student and was playing along side him. This is huge, as he usually just plays by himself. He was very sad to leave, which excites me to no end because that means he will probably acclimate well to preschool. We're going back for another visit on Thursday and are going to stay through circle time to see how it goes. Hopefully by then his IEP will be done and I can sign it so he can officially start next Monday. Yes, I know it is close to the end of the school year, but this will at least give him the opportunity to get used to the routine of going to school before summer school starts in July.

    Ah, yes. Summer school. This year, both Johnny and Jordan will be attending! It's the same deal as before. A six week program starting after the fourth of July and running through mid August, three days a week 9am - 2pm. As it stands, Johnny will only be going for a half day. However, that could change depending on how well he does over the next month in Miss Roxanne's class. I think he's going to do great and the full day will be in the cards for him. As a bonus, cousin Genevieve will also be in summer school, so Johnny will have a friend! It's going to be a challenging but fun summer  for our little Monkey as he conquers his biggest hurdle yet!

    As sad as it was for EI to end, Johnny has only benefited from seeing his Heather every week. The skills we've both learned over the past year will help us tremendously in the coming months. Through our work together not only have gained valuable knowledge, but also a treasured friendship. We just want to say thank you, Heather, for all you've done for us and we love you!

   This summer will bring new and exciting experiences for us all. I can hardly wait to see how it all turns out!

Until next time, friends!

All smiles for the beach!

Running in the waves with my big sis! 
A beautiful backdrop for a beautiful girl!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Health and Safety

Yes, this is a blog about Autism. And yes, this is a blog about the ups and downs of raising two children with Autism. However, I have the need to address something that may not be directly related to Autism, but has everything to do with raising children in a healthy and safe environment.

I love that Spring is here. The days are longer, the weather is warmer and the sunny days outnumber the rainy ones. This means that the kids and I can take more walks and spend more time at our favorite place: the playground! Johnny has recently taught himself to climb ladders and enjoys running amok on the sky high jungle gym and sliding down the twisting slide. Jordan loves the swings. She likes to kick her feet as hard as she can and soar through the air like she's flying. It's so heartwarming to watch them play with the other kids.  In recent trips, however, I have seen some things that have greatly disturbed me. One thing, actually, and it has occurred multiple times. 


Look, I get it. It's a personal choice to destroy one's lungs with tar, nicotine and other poisonous chemicals. I can't stop you from doing it. But do you have to do it around my kids? And not just mine, other people's? Children at playgrounds range in age from 2 years to 12 years. All are very impressionable. If they see adults doing this, there is a strong chance that they will want to do it too. There is also the risk of second hand smoke. Yes, it's in open air and the probability of inhalation is slim unless you're standing directly downwind from the smoker. But the probability is still there. There is also the further lack of respect the smokers have for the environment when they flick their butts on the ground, where any curious child could pick it up.

In recent years we have fought to outlaw smoking in public places. Most restaurants are smoke free, as are bars, coffee shops, and even our local mall. If we can fight to protect the health of the general public as they dine, drink and shop, why can't we fight for the health of our children while they are at play? My kids have as much a right as anyone to clean, healthy air.

I'm not going to martyr myself above other parents, but with children that have receptive language skills that aren't as developed as their typical peers, it's hard enough to convey the difference between what is healthy and what is not.I can tell them that smoking is bad for them, but that doesn't mean that they will fully understand what I am saying to them. This is why I think, as parents, we all need to take a stand against smoking at playgrounds. We should be able to take our kids out to play without having to worry about whether they will be exposed to toxic fumes or poor examples of how to take care of one's body. I know that the next time I see it, I am going to say something. I hope you all will, too. Maybe someday the right people will hear our pleas and do the same for our children as they have for the paying public and ban smoking at playgrounds. 

Playground fun!
I love the slide!