The End of The School Year

DCBarney

DC has been out of school since 2012. He walked with his class at the high school in 2010 and then moved on to the school system’s Transition Program for the two years between 18 and 21 (“school age” in this area is age 3 to 21 for SPED students).

The tiny boy with the bigger than him Barney lunch box seems like forever ago and not that long ago at all.

When, as the parent of a SPED student your life is pretty much all encompassed by the school system; IEP’s, therapies, fighting for everything (oh, the fighting), it is very difficult cutting the cord when it is all over.

Yes, there are still meetings – we call them IP’s now (no E for Education) and there is still the paperwork (which has more than doubled) but it was really a rude awakening. It took a few years for me to stop panicking when winter, spring, Christmas school vacations came around thinking I did not have a plan for DC, only to realize I did not need a plan because he was out of school and his program was year-round.  It was very hard to make a break from the school calendar.

I remember going with *Salli’s mom (and our caseworker) to look at the many Group Supported Programs in the area, trying to find a good fit for DC and *Salli for after they aged out of the school system. We saw many programs, good and bad.  I specifically remember coming home each week feeling drained and depressed. I did not say anything at first because I really just thought it was me being overly emotional until *Salli’s mother said the same thing to me one day. There was no more “school”, no more moving into the next phase in the school system – we were looking at the rest of their lives. This was it. This would be their life.

It just hits you in the face.

We have adjusted though, it was a long adjustment period but we have made the adjustment. Now I find myself oblivious to the last day of school and anything related to school.

I remember getting a message from one of DC’s friends and explaining, when I answered him later that day, that I did not want to reply while he was still in class.

DC’s friend: “It’s July. It’s summer vacation”

Yes, I am now officially oblivious to it all….

Except for the bus. I do, at times still call DC’s work transportation  – the bus.

Me: (Answering DC’s daily “I’m going home Nowwwww” phone call to me) “Are you on the bus?”

DC: No!

Me: (panicking a little) Where are you? Aren’t you on the bus?

DC: No!

Me: (panicking more) Where ARE YOU!

DC: In the car.

His adjustment is complete.

*****

Finish the Sentence Friday is a link-up where writers and bloggers come together to share themselves with a particular prompt (different formats each week of the month). Hosted by:  Kristi Campbell of Finding Ninee and Kenya G. Johnson of Sporadically Yours this week we are finishing the sentence, “It’s the end of the school year, and…”

Everything is related – Toy Story

The second in a series of “Everything is Related” entries:

Everything is related; from an earlier post – Everything is related – Mary Poppins to New York City:

– Everything being related, many times, is the ability to relate one movie or actor to another. This has helped him to be more open to watching something that may not be Disney-based. This was not always the case, but now he can go and enjoy a movie with his friends or at an ARC activity without issue……..

Everything being related, oftentimes just explains his love for a particular city, game, song or some of the many other things that he does or says.

Everything being related,  has, many times been used as a learning tool. “

This post is about just that…

ts

DC as Woody and Candy as Jessie from Toy Story – Halloween

 

EVERYTHING IS RELATED – TOY STORY…..

Again we start at Disney. Disney, Disney, Disney anything Disney. When the first Toy Story came out way back when, I wasn’t sure DC would really go for it at all. Yes, it was Disney, but it was not the Disney he was used to. There were no princesses, no castles, no Haley Mills and most of all, no music. Of course I know that there was music, but not the “Hollywood musical” type of music – characters would not be belting out a song at the drop of a hat. DC was never a “toy” kind of kid. He never really liked or played with toys, so the toys in the movie were nothing that he would be familiar with. But, to my surprise, he loved it AND the two that came after. This boy who does not like toys actually owned a Woody, Buzz, Mr. Potato Head and a Jessie. No, he did not want to play with them, he just wanted to own them.

Tom Hanks brought him to “The Polar Express” and of course “Saving Mr. Banks” (also related to Mary Poppins).

Tim Allen…..Tim Allen….. he loves Tim Allen. That love brought him to “Jungle to Jungle”, all of the Santa Clause movies, “Christmas with the Kranks” and “Home Improvement” (yes, woo hoo, an actual TV show)…. but there is more…..

When DC was younger, transitioning into a new school was never easy, but it did seem to be easier on him than some of his other friends (and me).  “School age” for Special Education here is 3-21 years of age. So there were many moves and many transitions during his time in the school system – kindergarten building to elementary, to middle school, to high school. The school handled these transitions very well. They started early with many tours of the new school, picture books with photos of the classroom and other areas of the school and a few visits (orientations) with parents. DC was always anxious about these moves but he always did rather well due to all of the work the school system and I put in to make the transitions go as smoothly as possible.

The number of children in SPED in DC’s age group seemed to be much larger that the kids moving up in previous years. This meant that the schools they were moving up to had a lot more students to accommodate at one time than ever before. We always joked that our kids always seemed to be the “test subjects” for these new or expanded programs. At times this did not go well.

When DC was in his junior year, I started looking at alternate programs for him to attend for his last two years of school. DC would walk with his class at graduation at the end of his senior year (at 18) and then either spend two more years in the high school or I could have him out-placed into a different program that focused more on getting him ready for the next phase – a work/day program and life. I already knew I did not want him in the high school for another two years and I was already leaning towards another program the next town over. Mid-senior year, the high school announced that they were creating a transition program of their own in conjunction with a local university. It would be up and running in time for our kids to start that September. The program they came up with sounded wonderful but, our kids would be the first ones through and again the “test subjects”. This worried me.

On the other hand, I was torn because it had only been over the previous couple of years that DC recognized “friends”. He had real friends. Not just the children of my adult friends, but real friends. People that HE considered friends. Friends that he did things with and wanted to do things with. DC had always gravitated more towards adults and with the exception of his friend of many years, BB, did not pay much attention to kids his age at all. I didn’t want him to lose that connection. I rationalized that “social skills” were one of his major issues and if I tried this program and really did not like it, I could always move him to the other program I was looking at earlier.

Putting this program together was a long process. Obviously there are many legal issues to address when creating this type of program. By mid-summer the other parents and I were beginning to panic that this program was not going to be up and running by September. Fortunately by August it was a go, but they had lost all of that transition time they would have had during the school year. We did get to visit a few times before the school year started and I did talk to him about it all summer. Some of my friends children have siblings that went off to college so in turn their children expected to go off to college too. DC doesn’t think like that. He doesn’t have any expectation of what should come next. He lives in the ‘now’ until the ‘now’ changes to a new ‘now’, but we were calling it ‘college’ for everyone’s benefit. “College, College, College” he was going to college. I was still worried, having missed all of that transition time.

Toy Story 3 had come out right around this time. We bought the DVD and watched it at some point during that summer. It didn’t even occur to me while we were watching it or even up to the point when DC was standing at the front door waiting for the bus on the first day of school, that he made a connection in his head with the movie…..

He turned to me and said “Mom, I am going to college, just like Andy in Toy Story”

….. and he was.

With that, everything was just fine.

I can see clearly now….

DC has worn glasses since he was 4 or 5 years old. Originally only for distance but he quickly took to wearing them all of the time.

I was a little bit apprehensive when it occurred to me that it was time to start taking him to have his eyes examined. He was not verbal at all and was not very cooperative with doctors. His pediatrician would strategically place wastepaper pails around the examining room when DC was due to come in for an appointment because he would work himself up to vomiting – everywhere –  every time.

Even now, though so much more agreeable, I do still have to bring reinforcements – his Dad and Doug, when he has to have a shot The 4 of us go marching into the examination room along with a nurse and the doctor. As hard as we try, we can not hold onto this boy.  The doctor really just ends up chasing him around the room in the hopes of getting a lucky shot.

I will always remember a little girl that was in DC’s Birth to 3 class. She was just a tiny little thing, with the strongest, thickest glasses I have ever seen. She, like DC was non-verbal. Even with those thick, thick glasses, the teachers had to get right up in her face so she could see them. I remember one day, walking into DC’s classroom to visit (I worked 5 minutes away and visited often) and there she was without the glasses! Her mother explained that she had changed eye doctors just recently and the new doctor had determined that she did not need glasses at all, she never did! So needless to say, I really wasn’t looking forward to having DC’s eyes examined.

Yes, he could sign the letters on the eye chart but if he was not in the mood to cooperate that day – how would we know if what he was signing was actually what he was seeing? Before we even get to that point, how could I explain to him that we wanted him to sign the letters he was being shown?

I finally thought I found a doctor that understood the situation and brought DC to his first appointment. The doctor did say that his vision was not 20/20 and he would probably need glasses eventually. It would be helpful but not 100% necessary at this time. He did suggest that I may want to do it now so he had the chance to get used to them. That is what I did.

dcglasses

It really did not take that long for him to get used to the glasses and his teacher reported that he was much more focused in the classroom. I must say, he is and has always been very good with his glasses. He has not lost or broken any pair he’s had over the years (knocking wood).

After a couple of years and after a few screw-ups, we switched to another doctor in the practice.
This worked out well for awhile, but eventually, after so many issues that you might think were a work of fiction if I wrote them down- we left that practice altogether and not very quietly.

The last few times DC needed a new prescription and while we were still going to the doctor mentioned above, I opted to just change the lenses in his frames. Some changes are not all that difficult for him , but when it comes to glasses, shoes or switching seasonal coats and jackets, he has a hard time. It was becoming apparent that these frames were not going to last very much longer, so it was time to find a new doctor and get new frames, whether he needed a new prescription or not.

We found a new eye doctor that came highly recommended by my brother and sister-in-law. It was just amazing how smoothly this appointment went. I did not even have to explain to the doctor that given the choice of two options, he will almost always choose the last one, just because it is the last thing he heard. We were in and out in less than an hour, where as if we had gone to his previous doctor, this exam would have taken two very long visits and then the follow up visits to correct what they had done incorrectly.

Our previous doctor had an optical shop on site. This new doctor did not, so off we went to a department store where plenty of other people I knew bought their glasses. We started the process of trying on different frames.  As expected, DC was anxious.  He yelled “No!” to each and every pair that he tried on. Now it is never really clear if he just does not like the frames or if he is saying “no” because  the sample frames just have regular glass in them and he can’t see. I have tried to explain this to him many times, but I am really not sure that he understands.

I do not know if he was just tired of trying on frames or if he actually liked the pair that he had on his face at that moment, but he finally said “Yes”! The girl who was helping us was so very excited – “He said ‘yes’!” . Once she said that out loud, he went back to “No”.  I had a “yes” for a minute, I wasn’t going to let it go that easily. I asked him to look in the mirror. He did. A customer that must have been listening to this whole exchange (how could one miss it?) told him that he looked very handsome in those glasses. He was sold.

We sat down to place our order. At this point DC had enough and it was time for a panicked sprint to the restroom with me running behind yelling for him to slow down, as he raced to the other end of the store. He does this when he becomes overwhelmed. It is also his way of trying to get out of doing something he doesn’t want to do. I assumed I was in for the long haul as much of my life is spent standing outside the men’s room or yelling into the men’s room. To my surprise, he calmed down relatively quickly for him, but I am certain the girl waiting to finish our order was probably thinking we had skipped out on her. We finally made it back to complete the order and were told his glasses would be ready in less than a week.

I got the call 4 days later that his glasses were ready to be picked up. I didn’t want to wait until the weekend to go as his glasses were on their last legs, so I asked Mrs. H to take him after he got home from his program.

I was home from work by the time they arrived home. DC walked in wearing his old glasses carrying the new glasses in the case. He didn’t realize that now that he had the new glasses, he was actually supposed to wear them. I don’t really know what he thought he was supposed to do with them, but wearing them was not on the list.

Old wire frames

Old wire frames

I asked to see them. I asked him to put them on and explained to him that his old glasses were ready to fall apart and he should start wearing the new ones. He put them on and I put his old glasses in the case and stored them away just in case we ever needed a temporary pair. He was fine for a little while, but later came into the kitchen looking around very determined to find something. I asked what he was looking for and he replied “Glasses”. He was looking for his old glasses. He still did not understand that he was supposed to be wearing the new ones.

I really was beginning to think that this was going to be more difficult than I originally thought. I explained again that his old glasses were going to fall apart and this is why I bought him new glasses. He has to wear the new ones. He should be able to see much better wearing the new pair too.

Just like that, he left the kitchen and never asked for the old glasses again. I was impressed. This had to be the easiest transition to anything we’ve ever experienced.

First he chose frames that were dramatically different from the old frames and then after only an hour or two, let the old pair go and never looked back.

New Black Frames

New Black Frames

 

 

 

 

“Funny Friday”

“Monster”

For the two years after “Graduation” DC attended a transition program through the school system at a local college.

I was visiting the school for a class event, one Friday afternoon and his teacher, “Mr. Disney” (as DC calls him) excitedly came over to me and asked “Did you help him with his jokes today?” Not knowing what he was talking about, I said “No, what jokes?”  One of the IA’s (“Para’s” to some of you) chimed in to tell me that he had told 3 jokes for “Funny Friday” that morning.

Mr. Disney went on to tell me that every Friday is “Funny Friday” and all of the students tell their favorite jokes at the morning meeting.

Okay…. Let’s pause here for a moment……

I don’t know how long (or if ever) it will take before anyone will understand that HE IS NOT GOING TO COME HOME AND TELL ME THESE THINGS! If someone else does not tell me, I am not going to know. If I had known about “Funny Friday” I would have helped him with some jokes, but unfortunately I was never told.

I was surprised that he actually TOLD a joke because DC’s idea of a joke – and it’s always the same – is:

“Ha, Ha, Ha! Funny Joke!”

Me:   “What’s the joke, Bud?”

“Monster!”

(Insert “cricket” sound here – that is it)

They proceeded to tell me the jokes he told that morning. He told them properly complete with a bow and…. they were actually funny – real jokes!

“Why did Bo Peep pour chocolate on her sheep?”

“She wanted a chocolate BAAAAAAAAR”

“Why can’t Cinderella play Soccer?”

“Because she ran away from the ball”

“What do they call a Fairy that doesn’t take a bath for a month?”

“Stinker-Bell”

He told honest – to – goodness JOKES!  After years of “Monster”, he actually told, not one joke, but three and UNDERSTOOD why they were funny!

Later, I ran into the Interim Dean of Health Sciences, of the college who couldn’t wait to tell me about the three jokes that DC shared that morning. Everyone was very impressed, to say the least!

Still I had no idea where he found these jokes.

About a week later, “Mr. Disney” finally got DC to tell him where he found his material.

Actually, he showed him……

After asking him all week, DC went to the computer, typed “Disney jokes” in the search engine and found a web-site full of Disney jokes.

He memorized them and had them ready for “Funny Friday”!

He was able to figure out on his own that “Monster” wasn’t cutting it for “Funny Friday” and he needed better jokes. He went about finding them himself, remembered them and had them ready for Friday!

“Monster” ?? Still his favorite joke.

(Graduation – I do not know what it is like everywhere else, but here school-age for SPED is 3 to 21 years old. DC “graduated” from the High School after spending 4 years there. Having two years left of school, after his senior year – the options were to let him stay at the High School or to have him outplaced into an appropriate transition program. Fortunately the town put together this transition program right before DC was ready to graduate.)