I went into the IEP meeting ready to “lay down the law!” I had all of my notes, questions, email print-outs, and work samples with me. The first thing we discussed was a recent issue that happened in the cafeteria with a student taking some of Mj’s lunch. We already had an issue with this a year ago and I was told that there would be “more supervision.” They seem to think that just because Mj can open his own milk carton and feed himself that he doesn’t need as much supervision as some of the other students. Anyway, I digress…We began going through the IEP and I insisted that they add a goal for his social communication. The goal that they had was something about him raising his hand in class?! That was definitely not a strong goal so I had them add one regarding Mj initiating conversation with his peers. We then discussed some issues that we had regarding HW that was being sent home that was way above his comprehension level. All it serves to do is frustrate MJ, which then frustrates me, which then frustrates my husband…and so on and so on. The ESE specialist and his teacher, agreed that it would not happen again. Due to MJ’s age, they began to talk about his transition out of high school. They started talking about a possible vocational/job training program and that’s when it happened. I felt the tears coming on and said, “Oh my God, I think I’m gonna cry.” By the time I said it, the tears were already flowing. I was not prepared to hear about any of the programs and to think about what Mj’s life would look like after high school. I thought I had another year before they would begin discussing these things. I tried to wipe my tears, get myself together and continue looking at my notes but it didn’t help. The entire meeting from that moment on was me listening as they talked about the various programs that may be a good fit for MJ. I listened intently and took as many notes as I could about each and every program. Then they mentioned the need for my husband and me to get a lawyer to begin looking up guardianship. She followed that with a statement about how expensive it was to get that done. It was all just too much. I managed to ask additional questions and read through the IEP but all I could think about was… What is going to happen to MJ after high school? What are we going to do? Will he transition well? Will he get into any of these programs? Will transportation be safe? What job is right for MJ? The questions in my mind have not stopped since this meeting.
We. Have. A. Lot. Of. Work. To. Do.
Well, our summer has officially come to an end. The kids started school today. MJ is now in the 10th grade and Morgan is now a seventh grader! Today’s morning drop off was great. Both kids were super excited and I know for a fact that my daughter didn’t sleep too well! When I got to the front of the school to drop off Mj, I was relieved to see his friends, all of the aides, and the ESE specialist waiting to greet all of the students! Though I’m not totally happy with Mjs current teacher, I am being optimistic about this school year. Here we go!
The school year has begun and we are finally getting into a groove. MJ had his 9th grade orientation the day before school started. Instead of touring the school and taking his ID picture like I had hoped, we ended up spending the morning in the ESE Specialist’s office working out a transportation issue that should have never happened. After a few tears, several emails and phone calls, the issue was finally resolved and I was a little bit more relaxed about his first day of school. Needless to say, we all went to bed late due to the “summer schedule” that we were on. In the morning, MJ could barely get out of bed and get dressed. We managed to make it out of the house on time and got to his school early! As I pulled up to the front of the school and walked him to the teacher’s assistant, I couldn’t help but stare at him. My son is 14 years old, almost as tall as his dad and an official high schooler. I thought back to the early years of the screaming, kicking, crying, fighting, and hiding in the closets on the first day of school. Oh how my stomach would be in knots all day long! My, how he has come a long way. I wish those teachers could see him now-as cool and calm as a Spring day. I couldn’t wait to get off of work and pick him up. Thankfully, MJ is able to remain in the same after care that he was a part of in middle school. He will be able to utilize them throughout high school. I basically ran in the room to pick him up and asked him how his day was. “My day was good mommy!” That was the response I was hoping for. MJ was happy and all was right in the world. Now let’s just see what this school year has to offer.
I have been so busy that I totally forgot to post about our visit to MJ’s new high school! About two weeks ago, Hubby and I went to visit Mj’s high school. The school is huge and has over 2,700 students! As soon as we went into the front office we were greeted by the ESE specialist. I found it so funny that the first thing she mentioned was how safe the kids would be and how they were supervised everywhere they went. She seemed to already know that that is what we were most interested in! She went through explaining the morning drop off and told us that the official tour would start in a few minutes. During the tour, all of the parents and our kids, were able to visit three classrooms and meet all three ESE teachers as well as one of the teacher assistants. We also met one of the speech teachers who seemed to be really warm and friendly. MJ was so happy to see several of his friends from the middle school who had moved on to high school the last two years. MJ commented about how big the school was and I could see that he became more comfortable after seeing familiar faces. The entire visit really has relaxed me a bit as well (Hubby is never worried). MJ has done so well in middle school and though I’m still a bit nervous, I’m also excited to see what the future holds.
MJs IEP meeting was just this past week! No matter how many of these I attend, It’s still very difficult to hear about all of your child’s “areas of need,” before they get to his progress. It is still difficult for us to sit and listen to it all. Earlier last month I received a draft of the IEP that I immediately took to work to have a friend look at for me. She is an ESE specialist and is familiar with what happens in high school. As I write this, I honestly cannot believe that MJ will be going to high school next year! It seems as though I was just writing the same thing about him going to middle school! I have the same emotions. I’m nervous, excited, scared, and at the same time hopeful! MJ did so well in middle school and I’m anticipating the same for high school. I had to fill out a school choice form for him to be able to attend the high school that we wanted. I still have to wait another month to find out if it’s approved. I know two other autism moms that have their children at the school and they both love the program and speak highly of the teachers so I’m really praying that we get that school. One concern for me during the IEP meeting was that they wanted to decrease his speech therapy from 90 minutes to 60 minutes. Excuseeeee me! I immediately asked why they wanted to do that and no one could answer me! His speech therapist wasn’t even at the meeting! She had a fill-in instead and this person had never seen MJ for a therapy session. I looked at everyone as though they had five heads and told them, “absolutely not!” I had to keep my composure to make sure that “Nicky from the 305” did not make an appearance! I told them to change it back to 90 minutes, as speech is one of the main things that we know he needs to work on. He still has much better receptive language than expressive language. I’m still baffled by that horrible suggestion. One positive take away was how much better his hand writing has gotten since entering middle school. The occupational therapist was able to show me something that he recently wrote. You can see it below. All in all, the meeting was productive. Once I get approval on the high school, we will all be visiting there to tour the school and meet the teachers. But for now I have to get my mind and spirit ready for the fact that it’shappening…I will soon have a high schooler.
“Dear Lord, As I prepare MJ for middle school, I ask that you prevent me from having nausea and vomiting every day. Please help me to remember your word. Give me wisdom on how to make this an easy transition for him…and again the vomiting thing…seriously Lord I really need help there. Amen”
Today I decided to take a drive and show my son his new middle school. Whenever MJ is about to go to a new school, I drive by and show him the school, the area, and our driving route. I do this at least 5 times before the actual day of school. It helps him to anticipate what will be happening once the school year begins. We will often get out of the car and walk around the grounds a little bit. I make him read the name of the school and the street that it’s on. He was happy, smiling, and saying “I’m a big boy” several times while we were there today. Meanwhile, I honestly began to feel nauseous and began sweating. My mind always plays terrible scenarios of what could happen to him while he is in school. I replay things that I have personally seen throughout my years of teaching. It is difficult to get those things out of my mind. I always have to remind myself that God is protecting him and that I have done all that I know to do. I pray that the coming weeks will allow me to feel prepared as well.
MJ gazing at his new middle school.
MJ and his 5th grade teacher Ms. H!!!
Most kids are in elementary school for 6 school years. MJ was in elementary school for 8 school years because he attended school from the age of 3 with the special needs pre-k. He has learned so much in school beyond the alphabet and basic math. He has learned to be more social and make friends. He knows how to appropriately greet someone. He has learned how to use the computer pretty well. He has had experiences learning about different animals. He has even learned to fly a kite! He has also learned to be more independent and go to breakfast and walk to his classroom by himself. I know I have to cut the “apron strings” but I LOVE the apron strings. I have had them for the last 8 years. They have helped me to feel secure and know that these teachers will communicate with me daily and keep my child safe. Now that he is going to middle school my mind is racing with all of the “what ifs”. I must now pray and ask God to help me cope with his transition to middle school. It will probably be more stressful for me than him! We have truly been blessed with amazing, caring, loving, and intelligent teachers. My prayer is that this continues throughout his middle and high school career.