Home Now…

NEWS ALERT:  I AM A HOMESCHOOL MOM NOW.

Let me repeat that, just in case it didn’t sink in the first time.  I am a homeschool mom now. We are homeschool people.  We were never going to be homeschool people. I mean, never-ever-ever-ever-no-freaking-way-over-my-dead-body-ever.

And yet…

One of the most commonly heard phrases right now (at least in my neck of the woods) is “the struggle is real”.  I thought I got it.  Seriously.  Two parents with jobs and two kids and the daily crap that goes with that is enough.  Add in all the struggles and the emotional stuff and the autism stuff and my school schedule and the house that just won’t quit (breaking)… it was already way more real than was probably healthy. And now we’re homeschool people. I’d love to be able to tell you I’m having all the feelings, but I promised honesty.

I’m almost to the point of being afraid to feel my feelings.  My needle is swinging from numb to “Danger Will Robinson!” faster than Mason can say “can I have my tablet?”… actually.  No, that’s about the right speed, now that I’m thinking about it. I am frustrated beyond belief.  I am angry and disappointed and heartbroken and floating in a mist of uncertainty.  To put it bluntly, I’m terrified.

Kaleb has been riding an emotional rollercoaster his whole life.  But he was stable two years ago.  He was doing well and on a clear path. This is where we introduce the mommy guilt.  So many things have probably built up to contribute to this.  Our moving, my course load, our jobs and so much more. But really, the last 16 months have just been a downward slide of rejection, disappointment, heartache, and regression because he hasn’t been able to get joy out of the one thing he’s always found joy – learning. He hasn’t felt safe and secure in school, and that’s the one place that he’s always seen as his constant outside of home.

I’m not going into why we pulled him, not yet.  It’s too raw and I’m too damn tired to dredge it all up.  In the end, what it came down to was Kaleb’s mental and emotional wellbeing. And that’s always going to make even the most terrifying decision an easy one.  That comes first. So, we’re homeschool people now.

He’s emotionally regressed years. It’s going to take serious work to get him back to where he was, and then some. I’m talking about almost having to drag my nearly-12-year-old out of the grocery store today for behaviors he hasn’t displayed since 3rd grade.

This is scary as hell for us. How do we integrate socialization from home?  The truth is though, right now, we don’t.  We help him focus on his mental and emotional health.  And we support him as he remembers why he has a love of learning. I know this will be hard, and some serious sacrifices are going to have to be made.  But there are bright sides too.

For a start, Kaleb began virtual classes today.  In the last 90 minutes, he’s completed over 12% of his entire math course with all A’s (man, you should have seen how pissed he was when he realized he had to start with the number line).  He’s happy and shiny and pleased as punch with himself. He’s bouncing in his seat – not the erratic, anxious, picking-his-skin-until-it-bleeds kind of bouncing either.  What I’ve got here is the bonafide light, happy, “I’m doing something that makes me happy” bouncing.

Not that it was easy to get him there.  First, we had an hour-long argument over why there was an estimated completion time at the top of his list of assignments that he felt was way off the mark because he could do it in less than that time easily, and it didn’t make any sense…. we wasted an hour on this. Something I ended up coloring over with a sharpie while practically vibrating with frustration. We then had a 40 minute struggle over the set-up of the course.  It went like this:  Me: “click this button, do the lesson, then click that button to do the assignment.”  Kaleb: “WHY ISN’T THE ASSIGNMENT RIGHT AFTER THE LESSON THAT’S STUPID AND IT DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE AND WHY WOULD ANY LOGICAL PERSON DO THAT AND…

Do you feel my pain yet? It took everything I had not to shriek that I didn’t know because I didn’t design the damn thing. Only, louder. And more “mommy’s on the verge of a panic attack so just why do we have to fight about this innane bullshit?!” But I didn’t. Shriek. Or have a panic attack.

This is the point where I pause and remind myself that this is exactly why we are homeschool people now.  Because all of a sudden he needs an answer to every single thing, every single time even when there are no answers to be had. This isn’t new.  In fact, it’s old. Very, very old.  This is kindergarten Kaleb peeking through the curtains. And it’s got me completely off balance.

That is really the biggest benefit of this.  The idea that we can help to get him back to a good place. Without having to worry about school, we can tweak (and hopefully remove) some of his medications. We can adjust our expectations based on what we are seeing, not the snippets we are hearing. There are good points, they’re just hard to see through the fog.

The truth, as I’ve promised, is that I’m drained. This is just one of a dozen different things that have gone so unexpectedly sideways lately I feel like I’m never going to get a proper grip on anything again. The emotional temperature of these kids is all over the place and it’s got me running in circles with no clear direction. There are so many more unanswered questions than there are answers and so much is unknown. But we’re doing it. We’re homeschool people now.

Send wine.

SarahRichterArt Pixabay

Human Behavior…

I am supposed to be doing so much homework right now,  it makes total sense that I’m on here instead, right?  Okay, maybe not.  But I can’t concentrate.  Well, I can’t concentrate on coming up with a reasonable thesis about the necessities of a reader understanding the social and political climate in order to fully appreciate a satiric novel.

Instead, I am completely consumed with the ideas of behavioral reinforcement and/or punishment.  More to the point, how in the hell am I supposed to help my kid change unwanted behaviors when said child could not give a shit less about consequences?

That wasn’t rhetorical.  I’m open to suggestions.  Only, don’t suggest building a giant velcro wall using the trampoline base and sticking my kids in velcro suits so I can launch them Ninja Warrier style onto said velcro wall, where I can watch them like flies on fly-paper until they’ve agreed to stop doing really absurd shit.  Todd already said no to that idea, the spoilsport.

Last time I was on here I did a mini-dive into the anxieties my kids face.  But now I want to look at a whole different monster.  Because anxious or not, actions still have consequences, and I have hit a wall when it comes to effective measures of dealing with unwanted behaviors. As usual for me, I have done far too much research on this, hoping to find some kind of method or idea that we haven’t already tried (and watched fail), but I’m at a loss.

So, let’s start with the basics.  In psychology there are 4 main methods of either reinforcing or punishing behaviors:

  1. Positive Reinforcement – Adding something positive to increase a response.  Think about offering dessert for eating all of dinner.
  2. Negative Reinforcement – Taking away something negative to increase a response. Such as, my constant badgering to brush teeth stops when the kid brushes his damn teeth.
  3. Positive Punishment – Adding something negative to cut out a response. Such as having a child do an additional 30 minutes of reading at home when he refuses to do his work in school.
  4. Negative Punishment – Taking away something positive to cut out a response.  Like taking away electronics time when a major rule is broken.

So, the basic idea is that any time you want to reinforce a behavioral change, one of these four methods is implemented.  But how do you know which one to use?  Or, in our case, what the hell do you do when you’ve used all of them in various ways over the years and it doesn’t make any difference?

This, friends, is one of the most frustrating things about life with autism I have come across yet.  Meltdowns can be next level, but I can usually see them coming.  A need for routine and a constant desire for fully understanding the ins and outs of everything from the logical to the downright absurd (think going from reading stereo instructions to asking why cows need four feet), okay, fine.  I can work with that, even if it is frustrating.  But this?  Figuring out how to curb unwanted behaviors in kids who don’t really give a rats ass about consequences? This is a bitch.

Allow me to lay this out for you.  We’ll start with the littlest first.

Broadly speaking, Mason does pretty well with a combination of positive reinforcement and negative punishment.  Here’s what that looks like right now:  We have a points system we use in the house.  Points are like currency.  He earns points by doing well in school, maintaining basic hygiene, and managing a couple of small household responsibilities (making his bed, putting his laundry away, etc).  He then gets to spend those points on things he wants, such as time on electronics.  Until recently, this was a fairly lax system for Mase, as he was able to earn enough points each day to get his tv or his tablet or whatever.  However, when his behavior at school started sliding downhill, along with his grades, we changed it up.

Now, I’ve taken away the access to all electronic devices on weeknights (negative punishment), and he has to earn enough points throughout the week to have them back for the weekend (positive reinforcement). In addition to this, there are weeknight privileges he can earn as well, and a bonus point system.  For example, if he earns a minimum of 7 points today, we play a game of his choosing for family game night. If he earns 60 points throughout the week, he can have his tablet on the weekend after his chores and 30 minutes of reading are done.  If he earns more than that 60 points, the left-over points are saved, and over time he can earn things like a day at the zoo, etc.

Strict?  Yes.  Has he done better in school?  Yes.  He also sleeps better because he doesn’t have his face crammed into a screen for two hours a day.  He’s more engaged, and pleasant, and is forced to spend more time interacting with the rest of the living creatures in this house. Of course, he hates being unplugged all week – but he’ll live.

Then, here comes Kaleb.  This kid.  Without going into too much detail, let’s say that he has absolutely zero compunction when it comes to other people’s personal spaces or stuff.  And yet, if his personal space is invaded you bet your ass there is a war on the horizon.

Okay, once again, I get that this is par for the course, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.  Nor does that mean I have to be content with raising a hypocrite. So, moving on.

In the span of a week, Kaleb has had his hands in lots of pies – and none of them were his.  Devices that were not his to mess with have been altered or reset.  Rooms and workspaces that were not his to enter were violated without hesitation.  So, what do we do here?

Let me point out, Kaleb runs on a points system much like Mason’s, since they were both doing poorly in school.  Which means, he only has his devices on weekends.  So, when he does what he did this past week, our immediate inclination is to take away the ability to have the electronics at all for a certain amount of time and try come up with a different positive reinforcement goal.  He cares about this… for about 10 minutes.  Then he’s reading a book or running back and forth through the house humming Windows 98 tunes or whatever at the top of his lungs with the sole purpose of driving all of us completely mad.

Here’s where the problem lies – none of the reinforcement/punishment strategies do shit with this kid.  Positive reinforcement – okay, first of all, how do you positively reinforce someone to not take shit that isn’t theirs?  Here kid, have a cupcake every time you don’t go into my room and riffle through my stuff and take my tablet without my permission?  How does that work?

I’m not being sarcastic here, or at least, not intentionally.  I’m dead serious.  If someone has a strategy for positive reinforcement in this instance I am all ears. And before it gets suggested, we have gone so far as to lock all the stuff up in a cabinet with an actual lock. But that isn’t the point.  The point is, I should not have to do that.  I should not have to hide my tablet from my 12-year-old.

Now we look at negative reinforcement.  Look, I don’t know how many of the people who read this have met me in real life, so I’ll explain something real quick.  I do not have a deep voice.  And when I get worked up, I really get pitchy.  You wanna talk negative reinforcement?  How about not having to listen to me lecture your ass?  Again, I’m not joking.  One of the things Kaleb hates the most in the world is having to have “conversations” with me when he’s done something foolish.  He thinks it is torture to have to sit out here and discuss what has happened and what should be done about it.

So, where were we?  Oh, right.  Positive punishment – add something negative to stop a behavior.  Once again, I’m at a loss.  I can add chores, or essays, or jumping jacks or a dissertation on nuclear physics (probably not a punishment for him but it sounds like hell to me), but how do I make him do it?  He’s not 3, I cannot have him clean the bathroom hand over hand like a toddler who needs to pick up his blocks.  How do you make that stick?  As far as negative punishment – I’m pretty sure I already mentioned the removal of the electronics…

Where we are at right now is this:  Kaleb did a lot of big no-no’s over the last week.  Impulse control is an issue – always has been, and will likely be something he struggles with for the rest of his life. Impulse control in Kaleb’s world isn’t like it is for the rest of us.  When I talk about it,  I don’t mean choosing not to buy that Snickers bar while you’re standing in the checkout lane.  I mean actively making the decision not to rob a bank because your paycheck was crappy.  It’s a whole new level.  And, to make matters worse, this is not a simple matter of impulse control.  This is a matter of knowing right from wrong and choosing wrong anyway because it suits what you want at the moment.  This is hiding the stuff he’s gotten into because he knows he’s not supposed to have it, which shows he is not only aware of what he is doing but that he intends to continue doing it.

What the hell do we do?

He wants all these freedoms – and yet time and again we are unable to give them to him because he is constantly pushing his boundaries too far.  He wants to be able to be on a computer unsupervised (he screwed the desktop up so badly we had to completely reinstall the operating system and start from scratch – a fact he acts almost proud of).  He wants to have unrestricted access to YouTube (don’t even get me started).  He wants a laptop. He wants, he wants he wants.  But each and every time we get to a point where he starts to show a bit of restraint and we start to think he’s ready to take on the responsibility that comes with a new privilege, he turns around and pulls some shit like this. Which leaves me at a total loss.

How do you trust him to make wise choices, when he’s completely ruled by impulse?

We’re trying a new system this week – one that largely entails that he spends every waking minute in the presence of an adult until he is so damn sick of us both that by the time he gets his freedom back he might think twice before repeating the same mistake.  Except… we’ve thought that before, and we’ve been wrong. I am entirely open to suggestions here.  Because now I’m back to feeling more like a prison warden than a mom.

Once more for good measure, I’ll ask it again, what do you do?  How do you get through to a kid nearing teenage years who has a stubborn streak that could cross half the continent? A kid who will dig in his heels and starve rather than eat something he finds unpleasant?  How do you help him curb the behaviors?  How do you get him to see the seriousness of what he is doing and how it impacts other people?

I’m fresh out of ideas, and it’s beyond frustrating.

The Munsters…

I’m baaaaaaack…

Though why I felt the need to make that sound like an ominous thing I have no idea.  Clearly, I’ve been gone for a while – and for that I apologize.  It’s been a simply insane 6 months.  So, today I’ll play catch up, and I swear I’ll do my best to get back on track with the Monster reports!

Let’s see, where should we start?

Oh!  I actually got married (those of you that know me are probably still pondering such a miraculous event, and those of you who were directly involved with the sanity *AKA Miss Lisa* are probably still sending thanks to the universe that it’s over)!  Growing up I never figured myself for the marrying kind.  I mean, let’s be honest here – I am a giant pain in the ass.  I’m stubborn, have an issue keeping my thoughts to myself, I absolutely loathe dishes and laundry (the two things that just never seem to go away), oh and then there’s the whole ‘crazy as a loon’ thing I’ve got going on too.  Somehow or another I managed to wind up with a man crazy and brave enough to want to marry me – and the fact that he still wanted to marry me in the midst of all of my fanatically insane wedding planning is a testament to either his own brand of lunacy, or the size of his you-know-whats!  So, anyway, here we are, married.  Eventually I’ll throw some pictures up for your viewing pleasure – after I finally pin the silly man down long enough to go through them.

So, now onto the more important things – the Monsters.

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Let’s start with the main man, Kaleb.

Oh, Kaleb.  My budding thief, word connoisseurfood snob *ahem, I mean critic*, scream king, master builder, tree house dreamer, beverage expert, and all around living breathing proof that insanity is hereditary.  First things first – it was time for a medication change.  After three years, we’d hit the limit with his current medication, and after his latest growth spurt (seriously, how freaking big is he going to get?!) it was no longer doing the job.  Allow me to explain that statement.  Kaleb went from a wily, crazy, creative, loud, messy monster to… well… the truth?  A total nightmare.  We couldn’t contain him.  And I don’t mean to sound like we didn’t try – because oh good golly did we ever.  But it so wasn’t happening.  He was completely out of control.  The violent mood swings and meltdowns increased 50 fold.  The ability to stop and listen long enough for words to sink in – completely vanished.  Grocery shopping turned into a marathon game of “get in, get out, quick quick quick before the screaming causes someone to kick us out”.  Dresser drawers destroyed, toys dismantled, books shredded, ear drums pierced.

Basically, it was time for a change.  Unfortunately, our family is more like the Musters than the Cleavers, and nothing ever goes right.  For starters, the boys’ insurance plans got changed in May (can we say pain in the ass?).  Which in turn, meant we changed pediatricians – something I’d been wanting to do for a while.  However, I clearly didn’t think through the consequences of changing doctors in the middle of a state-wide game of musical chairs.  Within days I had a call from Kaleb’s neurologist informing me that due to the new pediatrician, we needed an updated referral in order to go to our appointment the following week.  So, I immediately call the new doc, requesting the very simple act of faxing over a referral so we can go to his neuro to discuss the medication change.  And I was promptly informed that they wouldn’t do it without seeing him.  Which, due to the previously referenced game, they couldn’t do until October.  Ummmmm what?!  No.  Unacceptable.  Danger Will Robinison.  I cannot wait until October.  He needs his meds changed, and he needs it now.

He needs time to adjust before school starts.  We need time to decide the correct dosage, make sure there are no negative side effects (you know, like how he rabidly devoured anything with a hint of sugar within a five mile radius when he changed his ADHD meds last summer?), and you know – chill him the hell out!  So, now I had to play a new game.  Ring around the freaking rosy with the insurance company and every pediatrician’s office in the damn county.  After a week of frustrating phone calls, I threw in the towel and requested to be sent back to pediatric hell (AKA his previous doctor’s office).  Once done – quite quickly at that, I’m pretty sure the poor lady at the insurance company has started making signs to ward off evil every time she discovered it was me on the other end of her phone – I then had the delightful task of wrangling a referral out of the world’s worst doctor’s office.  Now, don’t get me wrong – it was never the doctor I had an issue with.  It was just everything else.  The fact that I’d show up fifteen minutes early for every appointment, yet never actually see anyone until two hours past my appointment time.  The fact that nobody ever calls you back – ever.  The fact that the dragon lady receptionist wouldn’t give you a straight answer if her life depended on it.

Regardless, there I was, making a very simple request – please send an updated referral to my son’s neurologist.  The very same one you have been sending once a year since he was 18 months old.  Not so difficult.  Or so one would think.  A full month went by with me calling the neurologist every three days only to confirm that they had not yet received the referral, then calling the pediatrician to once again request that it be sent.  Finally, the lady on the phone confirmed the doctor she was sending it to – who just so happened to be the sleep specialist Kaleb hasn’t seen in years – not the neurologist.  The next day we finally got to reschedule Kaleb’s appointment, wham bam thank you ma’am!  Of course, it was for three weeks away, pushing us ever closer to the start of school.  Now, we’ve got him on new meds – but of course we’re on the lowest dose possible to start, and have to wait six weeks to go back to increase the dose if necessary (which, it most certainly is).  In the meantime, Kaleb has been a busy boy – but more on that later!

Now, on to the Mini Monster…

Ah, Mason.  Little devil.  Seriously.  Yes, he’s cute.  He’s freaking adorable.  He’s melt-in-your-mouth-sweet when he wants something from you.  He’s inquisitive as all get-out, to an excessive degree.  I mean, how many times can one person hear “what’s that?” in a fifteen minute time span without starting the slide to complete madness?  He’s also stubborn, aggressive, picky, obsessed with cars (still) and deceptively manipulative.  Oh, have I also mentioned that the kid has an arm reminiscent of a child-version of Cy Young?  I’m not joking.  If you had any idea how many times I’ve been pegged in the head by that dead-on aim you’d end up with sympathy headaches.

Not too much has changed in the world of Mase in the past few months.  His vocab is better – strangers can almost understand him more often than not!  His fine motor skills… well, we’re working on that.  He still refuses to use utensils – not that he can’t, he’s just stubborn and lazy, and prefers the easy way (can you really blame him?).  He’s still obsessed with vehicles of all mode and make.  Trucks, cars, buses, emergency vehicles, trains, boats, planes, helicopters, you name it – if it has an engine and moves, we likely have a miniature version sitting somewhere in the house suspiciously positioned for maximum foot injury.  I have to get him a new copy of his “Things That Go!” Tag book for his birthday because he reads it so often it’s hanging on by a wing and a prayer.

Mason started full-day Pre-K this year.  Cue mom getting caught fist pumping and yelling “I’m Free!” in an elementary school parking lot.

All summer long we counted the days.  7 precious hours to actually accomplish something without having to drop everything every five seconds to prevent Monster 1 from strangling Monster 2.  Or Monster 2 from throwing a giant dump truck at Monster 1’s head.  Or the destruction of the house (massive fail on that one)… 7 chaos free hours, five days a week – imagine the possibilities!  Just imagine!  We certainly did.  Dreams of solo grocery store trips and actually eating my own lunch floated through my head like relentless torture.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love my kids to death, and I’d do anything for them.  But holy crap.  Between Kaleb’s constant meltdowns and the two of them constantly at each other’s throats, it was just about impossible to even leave the house with them, let alone actually go do something fun.  Add in the cabin fever we were all experiencing by the end, and can you blame me?  I’m just proud I didn’t spend the entire first day of school curled up on the couch in my snuggy watching the freakin’ Vampire Diaries.

Anyway, back to Mase.  He’s officially a big kid now.  No, that does not mean he’s potty trained.  I swear the kid fluctuates between being convinced the toilet contains the devil, or determining the sole purpose of the device is to wash his favorite dinosaurs and matchbox cars.  But he is going to school full time now.  Now, originally, I was seriously skeptical.  Like considering getting a variance and driving him to and fro every day for the next two years to keep him in the school he was in instead of the new one.  Why, you ask?  Because he was being transferred to the school Kaleb was at 2 years ago.  The one that suspended him 17 times in a span of 3 months because the teacher quite simply (and this is a direct quote from her) “didn’t want to deal with him”.

Yeah, remember that?  Fun times.

However, I’ve got a whole lot more confidence this time around.  The reason?  There are actually a couple.  First, Mase isn’t Kaleb.  Was I worried about his brother’s reputation preceding him and making the road a bit bumpy?  Are you kidding?  I was terrified.  However, we finally got a lucky break.  When I went to the IEP meeting to discuss this upcoming year, I couldn’t have been more thrilled – he was getting a teacher I actually knew (not well, but well enough to have faith that things were going in a good direction), and liked.  I’d met her on multiple occasions while Kaleb attended the school, and I have a great deal of admiration for her – in much the same manner I do for Kaleb’s current teacher, who has turned into no less than a walking talking miracle for him.  So, that right there was a great big chunk of balm on my nerves.

The icing on the cake?  The administration has changed.  I don’t know where the old principal went, and quite frankly, I don’t care.  I don’t hate the woman, I’m sure she’s probably a generally nice lady who did her best.  However, I don’t take well to my child being treated like nothing more than a pest that won’t stop circling your head.  As much as I’d like to say she went out of her way to help him – it just isn’t true.  The VP at the school he’s at now?  I could, would, have, and will continue to say that he’s gone above and beyond.  It’s an insane comfort to know the people in charge of my child’s school actually care about the children – because I’ve met plenty that don’t in my short lifetime.  So, new administration, new teacher, new beginning.

So far Mase seems to be loving it – though I do feel bad – nobody sees the Mase-train coming until it’s steamrolled over them a couple dozen times.

So, there we have it.  New school year, new meds, oh and we finally got a golf cart!  We then promptly destroyed one of the batteries.  Yep.  We’re definitely more of the Munster type of family on this block.

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Everything Is Awesome…

So, I’m not going to lie, today’s IEP meeting was…

Freaking AMAZING!

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I am so pumped right now, I can’t even begin to describe it.  This was honestly the best IEP meeting I have ever had, and I could not possibly be happier.  It’s such an awesome relief to finally find a school with teachers and staff who really, genuinely care about my child and his progress.  Going from last year to what he has now is such a huge difference.

First of all – despite the events of the last two weeks, everyone previously agreed that Kaleb hit a bump in the road – but considered it a temporary set-back (one we are actively working on fixing), and they are getting rid of the harness!  I cannot wait to see the look on Kaleb’s face when he hears the news he’s been waiting to hear for months.  Second, he graduated out of OT!  I simply cannot believe it.  He’s been in Occupational Therapy since he was 2.  Now he’s finally met all of his goals, his gross and fine motor skills are up to par, and he’s good to go!  That was so unexpected, it’s still sinking in.

Another piece of awesome news?  Kaleb gets to keep his teacher next year!  He will technically be in first grade, but he will stay in the EBD classroom with the Godsend of a teacher he has now.  I am beyond relieved.  The thought of hashing out next year’s arrangement, dealing with a new teacher who may or may not understand how to work with Kaleb has been haunting my sleep for weeks.  To find out that he doesn’t have to deal with any of that (and neither do I!) is an incredible relief.  And let me just tell you a little something about this teacher, while I’m on the subject.  This is the kind of person who went out of her way to consult with a Gifted teacher (despite the fact that he won’t get the classification until at least next year) to figure out the best ways to challenge Kaleb’s strengths without going too far beyond the scope of what he’s able to handle.  She’s willing to go above and beyond to help him avoid potentially overwhelming situations, without stifling him or making him feel like an outcast.  She’s a freaking gift is what she is, and I’m so glad we get to have another year with her.

We talked about the gifted program (especially when the Gen-Ed teacher was consulting, and was visibly shocked by some of Kaleb’s reading and math abilities).  We hit a bit of a snag because they cannot test until at least a year has passed since the last test.  That wouldn’t be a big deal, except the school psychiatrist that Kaleb has spent the year working with and building a relationship with has gotten a promotion, and they’re bringing in someone new.  So, it was decided that we’d wait until the fall to re-do the test – giving Kaleb an opportunity to make sure he’s got his feet firmly planted under him, and he has a relationship with the new psychologist.  On a plus note, I asked if I could have our Developmental Pediatrician do a test of his own in June when we go for our yearly visit, and they all strongly encouraged it.

And, on top of everything else – the school nurse is willing to go above and beyond the call of duty to administer Kaleb’s mid-day medicine.

Seriously, this school needs to win some “Everything Is Awesome” awards!

So, overall, this was the best IEP meeting ever.  I left feeling happy, a bit lighter, and definitely reassured that my child is in excellent hands day in and day out.  I can honestly say that’s never happened before.  I’ve always left feeling deflated, slightly disappointed, angry, or slightly sick.  This was such a breath of fresh air, and so desperately needed.

I want to say thank you to this school.  Your amazing teachers, support staff, therapists, behavioralists, and administration have taken a load off my mind, improved my child’s life every day, and I truly believe there aren’t enough ways to say thank you for that.

A Moment SUSPENDED in Time…

Just a few days ago I was thinking to myself… Holy Crap!  Kaleb might actually go an entire school year without getting suspended!  

Want to know what happened 24 hours later?  I realized I jinxed myself.  I came to this realization right about the same time his teacher was informing me that he’d been suspended.

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Yep.  Two days before the pinnacle IEP meeting to remove the harness (after working for months to prove that he could maintain control of himself), he goes and gets himself suspended.  And he earned it – big time.  Honestly, I’m a bit surprised it didn’t happen Monday.  I guess on the positive side of things, I can definitely say the school didn’t want to suspend him – but he really didn’t give them a choice.  So, unlike the catastrophe of last year, this was fully merited on Kaleb’s part.  Not just because someone didn’t want to deal with him.

Then again, my 6 year old got suspended again.  Any upside is a moot point anyway.

Monday he got mad because there was no ketchup at lunch – so he threw his tray and punched another kid in the back.  Then at P.E. he didn’t want to jump rope the way he was being instructed to jump rope, and he punched another kid.  Terrific.  Then came yesterday.  Once again he got mad at lunch because he thought a kid was cutting line in front of him (which was not the case btw – he just wasn’t paying attention before) and once again threw his tray and punched a kid in the back.  Then comes the real kicker – literally.  He gets mad during P.E. again and walks up to a girl who for her own special needs (I wasn’t informed what kind) had to sit out of class that day.  He then rears back, and kicks her as hard as he can.  He then continues to do so until a crowd of other kids comes over to see what is going on, and he starts screaming “violent and unpleasant” things at everyone around him.  They end up having to pull him away.

What the hell?!

I’ll be the first to admit that he’s been devolving for the last couple weeks.  It’s been day after day of highly emotional, overwhelmed, over-reactive Kaleb for going on three weeks.  But what we haven’t seen at home is increased violence.  We’ve seen more screaming, more crying, more crawling under furniture and refusing to listen.  We’ve seen him meltdown at the drop of a hat, drop to the floor like a sack of flour, and get hysterical over the most seemingly insignificant things.  But he hasn’t physically lashed out.  Actually, that’s been more of Mason’s gig lately.  Mason’s the one using his ridiculously well aimed arm to throw, whack, and swat.  Kaleb hasn’t been an angel on that end – but he certainly hasn’t had any real change.  9 times out of 10 Mason is the one hitting Kaleb first – and Kaleb’s been just upset enough to come tattle-  rather than retaliate – most of the time.

At first I just thought it was the growth spurt he was going through.  The kid’s size 7 jeans when from resting on the top of his sneakers, to sitting three inches above his ankles in a matter of days.  And during this time he also started sleepwalking again, and looked extremely tired each morning.  So, I attributed the emotionally heightened state to that.  And it might still have something to do with it.  We might need to adjust his medication, or hell, at this point, I wouldn’t be completely against trying something new.  And the increased violence could also have something to do with a few new students being added to his class – which has definitely been known to trigger behavior issues in the past.

He’s been on his current medication for years.  As much as we didn’t want to go the medication route, his escalating violence made it almost impossible to even send him to school, and he really had no control over himself.  When Kaleb hits that meltdown mode, it’s like a switch is flipped and all cognitive thought goes out the window.  He’s 100% primal impulse.  There are many times when he genuinely can’t even remember what he did after the fact.  The medication helped with that – he obviously still has meltdowns, but he was able to stay in at least enough control of himself to minimize the damage, and he rarely sought to harm another person.  We’ve had to make some adjustments over the years, to accommodate his growth, as well as the tolerance levels building in his system.  But now we’re concerned about what we do when he hits the point where we can’t make any more adjustments – or when we hit a dosage level we are uncomfortable with.

Enter problem number 2 – Tuesday’s incident likely would have been worse – much worse – if he hadn’t been on his medication.  Because even with his escalating violent behavior, at least he still retained a small bit of control.  He didn’t completely check out while it was happening – which is when the real damage starts (you can asked my pre-medicated-Kaleb self about the concusions and severe bruises from head to toe), this I know for certain.

So, what do we do?  Do we try and increase again?  Do we try to switch things up?

I don’t know.  But I did make an emergency appointment with his neurologist for yesterday after Mason got on the bus (Shout-out to Aunt Brittany for saving my skin and getting Mason off the bus, and sitting with Kaleb for the IEP today), and re-confirmed his with his developmental pediatrician for his yearly appointment.  It’s time to gather the troops and nip this now before it gets worse.

Now, unlike 99% of the times he got suspended last year, Kaleb was seriously in the wrong this time – and I’m determined to make sure he understands why he’s in trouble.  This isn’t going to be two days of fun and mini-vacation.  We’re talking serious restriction this time around.  No TV, no Legos, no games, puzzles, or electronics.  The only things he is allowed to do are:  read, homework, clean, sleep, and eat.  This is the anti-fun time, and every single time he asks why I’m going to remind him of his suspension, and I’m going to explain again, why what he did was wrong.  Maybe it will sink in, maybe it won’t.  But it’s better than just doing nothing and blaming it on autism.  Kaleb was aware of what he was doing when he walked up and kicked that little girl, and he needs to understand why that is so very wrong.

And of course there’s the IEP meeting today.  Which is probably partly a waste of time – because I just don’t see them saying “Yep, lets get rid of the harness even though he clearly can’t control himself in school, and is therefore a potential danger to the other children around him.  Letting him loose on the bus sounds like the perfect solution for out of control behavior and violence.”  I can’t get mad if they want to keep the harness.  Honestly, I would be shocked if they said anything else.  The variables are too great.  He has tried so very hard over the past few months to prove that he was ready, and I’m so very proud of him for that.  And then he wrecked all of that hard work in minutes.  And that just sucks.  It sucks to know that he’s going to be set back by what he did.  But maybe he needs to be.  Maybe he needs to really understand how much one action can impact his life.

At the same time, I do want his Gifted testing redone, and since there’s obviously a problem with him right now, an already planned meeting is the best time to try and address it.  So, hopefully it’s only partly a waste of everyone’s time.  

Anyway, we drove to Orlando and we saw his “kid doctor” that he “loves because he is super nice and fun and listens” (this is why the drive is worth it). We decided that a change may be in the air, but some of that change is going to be determined by tomorrow’s meeting.  Which is hopefully not a waste of anyone’s time. Kaleb is brilliant, beautiful, creative, excited, enthusiastic, and his imagination is far beyond my own.  I just want to see him excel and grow, both emotionally and academically.  Which I have every confidence he will… as soon as he learns the value of self-control.

I so cannot wait until Friday.

The Assignment…

OH for the love of Pete (who the hell is Pete, anyway?  What’s so special about this guy that he pops up in all sorts of non-swearing swearing?).

If I have to hear one more second of this whining, screaming, slamming, smacking, shrieking, throwing, kicking meltdown extravaganza I may very well go lock myself in a closet with a stocked mini-fridge and a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.  And by fully stocked I am not talking about Juicy Juice here.  Okay.  Deep breath.  I am not actually naive enough to believe that would do me any good.  For starters, my bedroom closet is the Party Express Catch All right now – all of my party supply crap bins are in overflow mode and I haven’t quite felt like dealing with the mess.  There’s barely room enough for me to grab clothes, let alone get comfortable with a mini-fridge.  Even if there were, I’m well aware that the drama would follow me.  That’s kinda how it works.  Mom has a headache?  Let’s see how loud we can be!  Oh well.  It’s a nice fantasy at least.

Apparently there’s just something in the air today.  Don’t ask me what, because if I knew that I’d have found a solution to this by now.  But both of the kids are completely on edge today.  I’m sure part of it has to do (at least on Kaleb’s part) with the fact that he was up at 4:30 this morning (again) and he still has a cold.  Mason… well, he’s just Captain OCD when it comes to those damn matchbox cars.  Heaven forbid they don’t line up just right  every single time.

So, here’s the deal.  Kaleb, as I said, was up well before the crack of dawn (for the third time this week).  First he was in our hallway, then behind the couch, then on the couch, then under the desk, then attempting to build a house with blocks – at five in the morning.  miraculously, at this point Mason was still asleep, and judging from the stuffy snores coming from his general direction, in need of more sleep.  And Kaleb was in no way helping to maintain his brother’s peaceful snores.  After hearing the blocks go crashing down, I jumped out of bed again and ran out to see what was going on.  Of course, Kaleb’s answer came at a decibel about 7 octaves too high for the current situation and I just about had a mini omg-he’s-going-to-wake-mason stroke.  I sent him back to his room, informing him for the third time so far that it was way too early to be running about the house like a giant sound wave.  I gave him a book, closed his door quietly, and went back to bed.  For all of ten minutes before he emerged again only to go rummaging through the pantry.

This went on until it was time for his alarm to go off.  After he informed me that he kept leaving his room to avoid the alarm I wanted to smack myself.  His alarm wasn’t even set!  I had purposefully left it off because he stayed home from school sick yesterday, and I didn’t know if he would be going in today until I was able to see how he was feeling.  Obviously, he was feeling well enough to get his hyper-active loud and proud tush on that bus.  After arguing over his clothes for ten minutes (I had given him a tee-shirt to wear under his long sleeve hooded shirt because it was supposed to warm up today, and he insisted on wearing the tee-shirt over the hoodie.  He looked absurd, but it so wasn’t worth the fight before I’d had any real caffeine, so I let it go), arguing over his applesauce (I want pudding! Than you shouldn’t have gone running around the house at the butt-crack of dawn), arguing over his blankie, and finally fighting over his refusal to untie his shoes… we finally got him on the bus.

Of course, Mason woke up 30 minutes later.

I had to go grocery shopping, and this morning was the only real chance I was going to have, so I packed up the kid and off we went to CrazyLand (AKA Walmart).  After discovering a couple quarters in my jacket pocket we checked out the gumball machines.  I then spent the next 78 minutes of my life listening to my three year old insistently asking for cupcakes (“We get cupcakes?  Cupcakes?  My cupcakes?  Cupcakes Mommy?  Pleaaaassssse?) which I did end up buying, and will end up eating all by myself because oh man were they good today!  We did our shopping, and got home with just enough time to put away the groceries and get the Mini-Monster on the bus.

Daddy and I had to leave immediately after to go sign a contract for the place we’re renting out for the wedding rehearsal party – or so we thought.  Twenty minutes in traffic and one closed bridge later, we found ourselves going over all the details I have literally gone over on the phone more than half a dozen times in the last 8 months.  So, instead of signing a contract, we ended up working it up, and were informed it would be emailed to us.  *sigh*  Who knew this wedding business was so complicated?  I have a whole new respect for those brave enough to make careers out of planning this nonsense!

Got home, did dishes, etc… all the other normal daily crap, and realized with a start that I had all of three minutes before I had to leave to get Mason off the bus.  Everything was hunky dory until we got home.  Milo, in his typical “OMG-you-were-gone-forever-now-I-need-to-be-loved-right-this-very-second-loveme-loveme-loveme fashion, came bolting through the living room at light speed.  In the process, he managed to run right through the cars in the middle of the living room floor.  The ones Mason had painstakingly lined up this morning.  The ones I went out of my way to avoid all day so as to prevent another matchbox car catastrophe (you should have seen the hallway last week.  There was a 75 car pileup in front of the bathroom door).  And just like that, everything spiraled out of control.

Mason lost it.  LOST.  IT.  Dropped down to the ground like he couldn’t stand the pull of gravity for one second longer.  Then the kid let out a scream worthy of a high soprano opera star.  After that the real fun began… again.  Throwing the cars all over the house with as much force as possible.  Screaming what sounded like jumbled obscenities at the dog.  Repeatedly hitting himself in the head as hard as he could.  Normally, I’ll let this go until he figures out how to calm himself down, despite my overwhelming desire to make the kid stop smacking himself.  Partly because he really needs to learn how to calm himself down.  But mostly because every time I try to intervene he ends up louder, more angry, and more violent.  Unlike Kaleb (who always aimed his physical anger at yours truly), Mason has a tendency to aim his anger at himself (which I’d honestly prefer, he’s really going to hurt himself one of these days).  So I usually sit close by, and monitor him until he seems more receptive to me involving myself.  But considering he was on the verge of slamming his face into the floor with some serious force, and I had to get Kaleb off the bus in under five minutes, it was time for Mommy to jump in.  This of course resulted in more screaming, more face slamming, and more frustration for both of us.  I set him down, grabbed up all the cars, lined them back up, and he stopped.  He looked at the cars, then looked at me, gave me a face, yelled at me not to touch his cars (“My cars!  Mason’s cars!  You understand?!”  At least, that’s what it sounded like), and went back to putting them in the proper order.

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Crisis averted.  Well, crisis stopped at least.  Until Kaleb got off the bus seven minutes later.

This time we didn’t even make it down the driveway before the meltdown started.

Every week Kaleb receives a homework assignment.  This might seem a little crazy for kindergarten, but considering he’s actually doing first and second grade work, it’s good for him.  Typically, he comes home with a packet on Monday, and it is to be turned in on Friday.  The packet usually consists of five pages.  The first page is vocab/sight words for the week (so far he’s known them all already), as well as a list for me to fill out of what he’s reading each day during his 20 minutes of required reading time.  The second page is typically some form of math assignment.  The third page usually asks him to write out sentences using each of the vocab words on the first page, the fourth page is a comprehension assignment – read the paragraph, answer two questions about the paragraphs.  The last page usually asks him something random (what did you do last weekend, what is your favorite food etc) along with a place for him to draw a picture of his answer.

This hasn’t been a problem for quite some time – he generally enjoys doing his homework.  However, last week she upped the ante a bit – I’m guessing because she picked up on what we were coming to realize – it was too easy.  So, she added two new pages.  Another math assignment (with the world’s most absurd word problem.  Why do people insist on coming up with the most obscure problems for kids to solve?), and another writing assignment.  This was more of a creative writing assignment, so I didn’t really think it’d be difficult – given Kaleb’s outrageous imagination.  Oh was I wrong.  Daddy and I have been fighting with Kaleb about this homework since Wednesday.  He did the normal four pages and then came completely unglued at the sight of the two new ones.  One meltdown after another, and the homework still wasn’t done as of this morning.

So, when he got off the bus today I asked if he had homework – since he missed school yesterday I assumed he did.  He immediately started to spaz out.  The whining, dropping to the ground, high pitched “I hate homework” shriek.  All the way back to the house, barely shuffling along (once he got off the ground) fighting and complaining about the prospect of homework.  When he was finally somewhat calm I sat him down and told him he needed to finish last week’s homework – today.  He didn’t have to worry about this week’s homework right now, but the work from last week needs to go to school tomorrow.  The last thing we need is for him to get into an early habit of turning in his work late.  When he started to whine again, I informed him that he had until the end of the day to get it done, or I was going to take the Lego Airplane out of his room until his homework got finished.

Needless to say at this point, as I am sure you’ve figured out where we’re going from here – a gigantic meltdown ensued.  Pencil thrown across the room, a six year old thrown onto the floor, brain rattling, glass shattering shrieks, punctuated with high-pitched whining shouts of “I don’t want to do my homework and you can never, never, ever make me do things I don’t like!  You need to be nice to me because you are a Mommy and you can’t be mean!”  This went on for a few minutes before I got down on the floor, and informed him that if he was going to continue carrying on he needed to take it to his room until he was calm enough to talk to me.  His response?

“I HATE YOU!”  

Now, I am well aware of how freely this phrase leaves the mouths of children.  I said it plenty as a kid myself.  But oh… I was so completely unprepared for it.  The kid completely rocked me right out of my shoes.  I told him as calmly as I could to go to his room, then immediately walked away.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment.  The first time my child told me he hates me.  Five minutes later he came out of his room, and asked for milk.  I told him once more that I wasn’t going to give him a single thing until he first – apologised to me for the terrible thing he said, and second – did his homework.

He offered up the apology quickly enough, and I then spent a few minutes trying to make him understand just how terrible it is to say what he said.  I’m pretty sure it went in one ear and out the other.  I then told him to do his homework.  He asked for help with the word problem (yeah I don’t blame you kid – we’re going to be in deep crap when he hits middle school math), and I sat down to work it out with him.  As soon as he had an answer put together, I told him to write it down and finish his homework.  Enter Meltdown mode.  Again.  After another five minutes of screaming, back to his room he went.

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Now, an hour later, his homework is done, dinner is in the oven, and Mason is in his room screaming at his cars again (I swear on all that is holy I am going to melt those suckers down and throw them in the river one of these days).  It’s been one heck of a day, and I am very much looking forward to bed time.  I love my kids – more than anything – but I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to start applying wrinkle cream at night (ha!  Like I’ll ever remember to do that!).

I hope you all had a better day than we did!  And I really hope tomorrow is better – though I’m not super optimistic, stupid early release days.

The Wheels on the Bus…

I’m baaaaaack!

Kinda.  There’s no guarantee on that until Mason starts school in a little less than two weeks.  But still.  I’m back for now.  I’ve been meaning to write about Kaleb’s new school for a while now (actually, I have written about Kaleb’s new school – and a million other things – you should see the list of drafts in my folder!).  Today though, I’m not writing about the school.  Well not much.  Just to say this:  I REALLY like his new school.  And I REALLY like his new teacher.  She’s tough, but she’s compassionate, and I think we made the right decision in pairing them together.  On an overall scale I am exceptionally pleased at how it’s turned out.

Transportation though?  That’s a whole different ball game.

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Allow me to give you a little bit of insight into our history with the Transportation department for our county’s public schools.

When Kaleb was three he started going to School A.  He went five days a week from 11-2.  That first year I drove him back and forth – which was a pain for many reasons.  First, our car does not get good city mileage, and his school was a good 7 miles from our house.  In this town, that’s a minimum 15 minute commute if you don’t hit any lights (and I’m cursed, so I always hit the lights).  Second, Mason was an infant – and it was always a nightmare to try and juggle Kaleb’s drop off and pick up times with Mason’s nap schedule (which was WAY important!).  Third, Kaleb really wanted to ride the bus for some reason – but this is one mommy who wasn’t immediately cool with the idea of my baby getting on a bus and being driven around this touristy town by a stranger.

His second year at School A I finally caved and allowed him to ride the bus – for everyone’s sake.  The bus would pick him up at the end of the street around 10:30 and drop him off at the end of the street at 2:30.  This was mostly fine and dandy, save for the whole “end of the street” part.  Kaleb isn’t the most observant child in the world when it comes to his surroundings.  Now, he’ll pick up on every tiny nuance that the grownups around him don’t want him to notice – but a car coming down the road at him?  Not so much.  Turns out, at that point, his running into traffic was the least of our worries.  One morning Kaleb was having a rough time pulling himself together, and it was one of those I really hope he calms down before school days.

Not that he actually made it to school.  The bus got two minutes down the road and I got a phone call informing me I had to come get him off the bus.  I’m still not 100% on what happened to set Kaleb off – but what was very obvious, was that Kaleb had a total meltdown.  In the process of this, he got out of his seat and kicked his bus aid in the back – sending her to the E.R. and placing her on medical leave for about a month with a spinal injury.  Kaleb was 3 years old.  We called an IEP meeting and began to implement a harness on the bus – for his safety and the safety of everyone else on the bus.

Of course, shortly after this, Kaleb was transferred to the full day program.  Because we did not want to transfer him from School A to School B in the middle of the year, we got a variance and kept him at School A until the end of the year.  Now the real fun begins.  Because we have a variance, the bus will no longer come to our street – let alone our neighborhood.  Nope.  For the following half of the year I had to pack up little Mason, hustle both boys in the car, and every morning drive Kaleb two miles away from our house to wait at a bus stop in another neighborhood.  At 6:30am.  Pain in the butt?  Absolutely.  Did I consider just driving him each day?  Absolutely.  But when it came right down to it – the total fifteen minutes in the morning it took for us to get to the stop, get Kaleb on the bus, and get home was still better than the cash we’d spend in gas driving back and forth to the school.  Even if it was at the crack of dawn.

So, enter year 3.  Now Kaleb is officially in the full-day Preschool program.  One more year until Kindergarten (his birthday is past the deadline to start kindergarten at 5).  So, on to School B.  You already know all about School B.  More than 17 suspensions in three months time.  Constant battles over IEPs, Testing, etc.  School B was a nightmare of epic proportions.  But it all started with Transportation.  We were back to Kaleb getting picked up at the end of the street.  Better than two miles away?  Duh.  But still highly dangerous.  Not to mention the added level of danger with having soon-to-be two year old Mason out on a main road when he’s OBSESSED with chasing cars.  Yes, you read that right.  My dog chases his shadow – my kid chases cars.  We’re definitely abnormal around here.

For the first few weeks the bus is stopping at the curb.  Once the bus driver realizes that there is heavy traffic on the road he started to turn down our road and stopped in front of a house at the end of the street.  Every day when he would pick up Kaleb and drop him off, he’d drive right past our house.  Aside from the fact that we were still way too close to the main road for my comfort, now they were driving right past the house!  I was getting more and more frustrated each day – as Kaleb got more daring each day and was darting further into the road.  And I’ll say it again for good measure – they were driving right past our house!

So, we call a meeting, where I request to have the transportation altered to pick him up at the house.  For his safety, Mason’s safety, and just plain common sense.  After a 45 minute meeting, I am informed that Kaleb does not have a “physical disability” so therefore they refuse to offer him curbside service.  Are you kidding me?  Being unable to control himself when he gets overwhelmed or overstimulated and running into traffic despite my best efforts to prevent him is not considered a physical disability to you people?  Oh no.  According to the Transportation department the safety of the child at the bus stop is not their concern – it is a concern for the parent, and is therefore the parent’s problem.

These are the people who my child depends on for safe transport to and from school?  Jeez, he’d find more compassion on a Brooklyn subway car.  I wanted to stand up and yell at the guy.  All I could think was “Have you ever had to chase down a 4 foot tall 50lb autistic child with Hulk-like strength tendencies while keeping a grip on a 2 year old who wanted to chase the same car that was in danger of running down the first child?  No?  You should try it sometime.  Take it from me – it’s no picnic.  Hell, it’s nearly impossible.”  I didn’t yell (I might have said some of the above though).  I kept my temper.  I didn’t even cry.

Instead, naturally, I did what any other parent in their right mind would do.  I left the school, came home, ranted, raved, yelled at the sky, and finally it hit me.  They said I need to have some form of doctor’s note that coincides with my belief that he has a physical disability.  Well, it just so happens we had an appointment with his neurologist due to long suspected seizures coming up pretty soon.  So for the next week I held my tongue and bid my time.  When we got to the neurologist’s office I explained the situation, and found that he was in complete agreement with me.  This arrangement was dangerous and it would not do.  So, he gave me the note I requested, and then did one better – he informed me that if anyone at the next meeting gave me so much as an ounce of trouble about it, to call him on the phone while in the meeting – inform his secretary who I was and why I was calling, and he would immediately answer and make sure they understood in no uncertain terms that things could not keep going the way they were going.

Two weeks and another (of course, this turned out to be just the first few of MANY) IEP meeting later, Kaleb had curbside pick up and drop off.  Now, I had mixed feelings about Kaleb’s bus driver.  I liked the aid plenty, but the driver himself I was on the fence about most of the year.  He was nice enough – but it didn’t take long for me to realize he was pretty short on patience.  But, by the end of the year, I had bigger things to worry about, so that got shoved to the bottom of my list of worries.

At the last meeting we held last school year, the one that decided what school Kaleb would be moving on to (School C), my first question was about his transportation.  I wanted to make sure he held on to his curbside service, as I didn’t want to be dealing with the mess again next year.  I was assured that his transportation wouldn’t change.  Wrong.  Sigh…

When I was given the information for Kaleb’s bus schedule at the beginning of the school year I was sincerely angry.  After everything we had gone through last year, couldn’t we just once catch a break?  Please??

I call Transportation, who calls the school.  Now, on this, I really have to give a hand to the Assistant Principal of School C.  He jumped right on it – calling to let me know that he had spoken to transportation and would do everything he could to fix the problem.  Ummm… what?  You’re going to help me??  Really?  Really really?  Am I being punked?  I mean seriously, I’ve become a bit jaded toward public school administration after the last year.  Unfortunately, there was nothing he could do.  Somehow somewhere some line got crossed and his curbside service was trumped by a special stop (meaning the house at the end of the street).  UGGGHHHHHH.  How did that even happen?  He explained to me (I kept my frustration in check seeing as how I actually liked the guy, and appreciated his willingness to help), and I requested another IEP with Transportation to get this straightened out.

That was about three weeks ago, and I still hadn’t heard from the facilitator.  However, I had actually decided to let it go – for two reasons.  The first, there are actually a group of kids at our bus stop now.  They’re all Kaleb’s age, and he really enjoys playing with them each morning.  They go to a different school (the one we’re actually zoned for, but doesn’t have any ESE or gifted classes), but their buses come around the same time, so it’s something Kaleb looks forward to.  Not to mention, we’ve been in this house for five years – and in all that time, I’ve only met one of my neighbors (and they do not like me at all).  I enjoyed having adult conversations for a few minutes each morning with people who actually live on our street.

Second, Mason starts school in 9 days.  He will be in the afternoon class at School A, just like his brother.  While I’d be willing to drive him, he’s in love with the idea of riding the bus.  So, his afternoon bus will drop him off at the same corner as Kaleb at the same time.  I certainly can’t have one child being dropped off in one spot, and another somewhere else.  So, it would just be easier to have them both dropped off at the corner.  Daddy and I were both pleased with this solution, and were willing to drop the whole issue.

Until Thursday.  I was informed Wednesday morning by Kaleb’s bus driver that there was going to be a new driver on the route, so that was her last day.  A part of me was sad about this – change is hard for Kaleb, and that didn’t give me a lot of prep time.  However, this particular bus duo had refused to put Kaleb in his harness during the first few weeks of school, and as a direct result he freaks out whenever they put him in it.  Is he getting too big for the harness?  Maybe.  But I don’t appreciate a bus driver who has only known my child a couple of weeks suggesting I call a meeting and remove the harness from his IEP because she doesn’t like having to put him in it.  That particular piece of equipment is there for the safety of EVERYONE – and above all else, the safety of my child.  He may not like it – but if my now 62lb five year old has a meltdown on that bus, there’s no way to know what kind of harm he can cause.

Anyway, we get up Thursday morning like usual.  We leave at 7am to walk to the bus – now, our normal stop time is supposed to be 7:15 but she was consistently late, so Kaleb usually got about 30 minutes to play with his new friends.  His bus ALWAYS came before the other kids’ bus.  Not yesterday.  Yesterday the other kids all get on the bus and we’re still waiting.  Mason is all over the place, Kaleb is getting really antsy, and I’m starting to get worried myself.  By 7:35 I’m calling the dispatcher at Transportation, asking if something is going on.  We’ve been out there since 7am – that bus should not be anywhere near our house before 7:10, but you never know.

After sitting on hold for 8 minutes I’m getting agitated (come on, really?  I gave you the route number, how does it take this long to radio the driver?).  Until she gets on the phone and tells me he’s not listed on that route.  Ummm come again?  He’s been picked up by this bus every day since school started – how could he NOT be on the list?  Two minutes later she’s found him – his bus route has been COMPLETELY changed.  His route number is now ###, the bus will be coming at 6:45 instead of 7:20.  What the hell?

So, let me get this straight.  Someone in Transportation deemed it not only acceptable, but wise to alter my 5 year old’s bus route so he has to wake up almost a full hour earlier, memorize a new route number, and nobody thought to tell me???? 

For the second time in a month I look around and wonder if I’m on Candid Camera right now… if so, there are going to be a lot of bleep! noises.  I grab the kids and we race back to the house, where I basically chuck Mason at Daddy, throw Kaleb in the car and race off to the school so Kaleb isn’t late.  Of course, it was only as I was en route that I realized not only did I forget his smoothie money, I’m in my freaking pajamas!  Ohhhhh man.  Pajamas are cool for a bus stop.  They are not acceptable attire for the PTA driven mom-tropolis of your child’s elementary school.  Crap.

I get Kaleb to school on time (barely).  I explain what happened to his teacher – who was just as confused as I was as she’d had two other children switched to Kaleb’s old bus route, but had gotten no notification of Kaleb’s route changing (I’m not the only one being kept in the dark here).  I then rush out of there with my baseball hat hiding my tomato colored face of shame as I’m openly gaped at by a bunch of super moms (I know I should not care – but really, of course I do.  Eventually I’m going to have to interact with these women, and I’d prefer not to be known as the one who shows up in jammies).

The rest of the day is normal – as normal as we get anyway.  Then I get a phone call about five after two.  Kaleb missed his bus – because he made a big mess and his teacher made him stay to clean it up (I don’t care that this slightly inconvenienced me – I love this lady!  Way to stick to your guns!) – so she’ll call me when he has cleaned his mess so I can come get him.  The whole drive home from the school I discuss with Kaleb what it’s going to mean to have a new bus.  It’ll be a different bus, a different number (he quickly memorizes it), a different driver, and a different time.  We’re going to have to get up super early so he doesn’t miss his bus.

In the end our conversation doesn’t really matter.  We get up Friday morning, both of us dragging (I know it’s ridiculous, but that 50 minute difference in wake up times is a bitch).  Kaleb is in a wretched mood.  Bad enough that I stick a note in his folder trying to give his teacher fair warning that he’s exhausted and crotchety.  We eventually get out of the house around 6:35 (the walk to the end of the street only takes two minutes).  We stand outside chit-chatting for about two minutes before the bus comes around the corner.  Already I’ve noticed a few things I don’t like about this new arrangement.  First, it’s crazy early for a five year old with sleep issues.  Second, it’s crazy early for a mommy with sleep issues.  Third, it’s DARK outside.  And if it’s THIS dark in September, just think about how dark it’s going to be in December.  But, I grin and bear it, because that’s what we do.

Then the real trouble arrives.  The bus gets to the stop, and instead of stopping about 30 yards from the corner where it has been stopping all year – it turns down our road and stops at the first driveway.  Already this has got Kaleb in a tizzy.  He’s tired, he’s miserable, and the bus is doing it wrong!  I remind him that it is Fun Friday at school, and if he misses the bus he’ll be missing that – and he’ll spend the day cleaning his pigsty of a room instead.  Well – that at least gets him to walk up to the bus.  The doors open, and for a split second we are both so stunned we freeze.  Then I glance at Kaleb and I see the change happen right before my eyes.  Oh no.  This is going to be big, and very, very BAD.  

Have you figured out who is driving Kaleb’s new bus yet?  That’s right.  The driver from last year.  From School B.  Where Kaleb had what I hope will forever remain as the absolute worst academic year in his history.  I see it on his face the minute the thought hits him.  He thinks we’re making him go back to School B.  At this point my heart is automatically broken for my kid.  But we can’t just up and walk away from this.  We have to push through it, no matter how miserable it is.  He immediately reacts.  He starts crying and screaming, so distraught I don’t know how I’m going to get through to him.  “This isn’t where I belong mommy!  This is wrong!  That’s not my bus!  I don’t belong on that bus!”

He’s so completely upset about this I want to take him back home and curl up on the couch with him until he’s better.  This just sucks.  But I can’t do that – I can’t set a precedent like that.  He has to get on the bus, he has to conquer this and get to school.  I pick him up off the ground and start to maneuver him onto the bus – no easy feat when there’s 60lbs of uncontrollable muscle fighting me with everything he’s got.  Twice I think I’m about to go flying backwards, I can just see my head smacking into the pavement when I land.  Luckily, I’ve got just enough strength on him and I manage to get him up on the bus.  From there, it takes fifteen minutes for myself, the bus driver, and the aid to get Kaleb into his harness and buckled in properly.  About halfway through the struggle to get him strapped in, I’m wrestling him like a pro and he’s screaming that he doesn’t belong on this bus – the bus driver pipes up.  Wanna know what he said?  To my autistic five year old who is currently under the misconception that he is going back to a place he deems very, very bad, and in complete meltdown mode?  “Well I didn’t want to be here either, but they made me.”

WHAAAAT??? Did you really just say that?  Really??

If I hadn’t had my hands full of Kaleb at that moment, I might have had my hands full of bus driver.

Instead, I tuck it away for later, and finish getting my kid safely buckled into his seat.  Eventually we manage to get him properly strapped – and I step off the bus.  I watch as they drive away and Kaleb is kicking his shoes off screaming like a lunatic.  My first course of action is to grab my coffee cup off the ground – which is when I realized how badly I was shaking due to the coffee I was spilling on my foot.  My second is to call a friend and vent all of the pent up aggression I’ve managed to accumulate in the last twenty minutes.  Then I call Kaleb’s teacher.  The odds of this day ending badly are high, and she needs to know that he’ll be running with a hair trigger today.  She also needs to understand just why this was such a traumatic event for my Monster.

I’m simply floored by this latest little incident.  Someone took Kaleb’s previous driver and swapped her route with this driver – and I want to know why.  I called the school and requested an IEP meeting to discuss this development.  If they’re going to be picking Kaleb up at the crack of dawn he is no longer going to be able to enjoy his new little friends in the morning – which means I want the curbside pickup reinstated.  I briefly toyed with the idea of driving him in the mornings, but immediately dismissed it.  First, he likes the bus, that would be unfair to him.  Second, Mason’s going to be in the afternoon class when he starts school.  Meaning, we have to start keeping him up later and having him sleep in longer in order to avoid him being a tired and miserable terror by the time he gets to school.  In order for me to drive Kaleb every day I’d have to have both kids up and awake by 7:20am – a full hour and forty minutes before I want Mason to be waking up.  That just won’t work.

So, I leave a message with transportation (I’m basically on a first name basis with this woman by now – she has to be getting tired of me), requesting a call back to discuss the latest development.  Hopefully I’ll hear back on Monday.  Now I have to go find some more caffeine and make some breakfast – which I’m sure Kaleb won’t be eating since he snuck into the fridge this morning while everyone was still asleep and stole my entire banana cream pie (along with two mini chocolate cream pies).  Apparently he figured out that Daddy put locks on all of the cabinets containing food yesterday.  I don’t suppose I’ll be making any more deserts that require refrigeration.  At least he didn’t find my ice cream cones.

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