Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Joseph at Home

My boss is late for a meeting, so I'm blogging.

We are settling into a new routine-- Joseph seems to miss going to school a little, but he is such a happy kid, it doesn't make a big difference in his life.

I'll end up being complacent, and not stay focused and motivated about next year. I really must keep working on next year. If I don't blog about it, someone here must call me on it, and be sure I've been doing the legwork to find a new placement! I decided we can't buy a new house just to get a new teacher for Joe-bear. If we need a new school district, we will rent. It may not make long term fiscal sense, but I don't want to buy and move and then need to move again... Moving more than once is bad enough, but selling twice would be horrible. If I'm willing to pay enough, something decent will be available to rent, especially with the slow housing market!

I thought about it this morning as I was driving to work--Pursuing a new placement in two school districts at the same time feels like dating two guys at the same time. I was never good at that. But it is the right thing to do in this circumstance. I have to check out two, three, four different placements to figure out which is best--and I need to act like we are serious about moving, staying, or whatever... I need to be a better actress than I am!

Well, the phone just rang, the boss is here, gotta go...

Sunday, February 25, 2007


Any chance I can blog about something other than my kids school problems? I'll try! Maybe Basketball! I've completely ignored the college basketball season so far, but I did sit down to watch Wisconsin and OSU today. Go Bucks! I think I may need to pay attention to March Madness. I've always loved college basketball, and this is the first time in many, many years I didn't go to a single game. I guess that is some indication of just how busy I've been. Anyway, Dave has been going to games with Jospeh or Alex. Joseph LOVES basketball, and Dave enjoys taking him, so I may never get a chance at a live game again.

We also went to the symphony last night. Ah. Culture. The concert was better than I was expecting, so I enjoyed it.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Found a house I love

The upside to upheaval-- I get to browse the internet looking for a new house. The experts (Joseph's psychologist and behavior consultant) suggest a different district than the one that is halfway between Dave's office and mine. But still a shorter commute for Dave than where we are now.

I found a house I love on an acre of land, surrounded by trees and other peoples back yards. Now, I only love the photos on the internet, I haven't really seen the place, should be blind, right! It has well water, not city water. If the well water is nasty like Philip and Holly's was, I may not want to deal with it...and the love affair will be shortlived But, maybe the well water is fine??? We can buy drinking water with flouride! And it is in the district of the best elementary school for autistic kids in Central Ohio. There is always some way to focus on the positive.

Another positive, Joseph's tutors say he is flying through material since he has so many hours of therapy at home...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Reality Sets In

This morning, the tutor couldn't arrive on time to be with Joseph because the other child she helps was on a two hour school delay. Only way to cover it was to have Dave bring Joseph to campus on his way to work and have J-bear hang out with Mommy for two hours until tutor could pick him up. So, Joseph went to class with me. My students were good about it, and Joseph had his PSP with the sound turned almost off and he behaved okay. There were a few "Joseph chirps" during class when the game was exciting, and a few times the overhead was more interesting than the game. I'm sure it was distracting to the students. Not ideal. Makes me question my "home-schooling" plan... But I'm still not ready to send him back to school next week. I guess that is some indication of how frustrated I must be with school, if having him trail me at work is better than sending him to school.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Email I'm thinking of sending

Below you will find the text of an email I'm considering sending to the head of special ed in a suburban district where I'd like to move. Any comments? Should I give them a chance to say, no, we would rather not deal with you? I'm thinking I'd like to hear that up front... before I buy a house... Another option would be to rent for year to see how it goes in Worthington.. I still need to add a nice closing about how I'd like to meet with her and visit some classrooms to observe, etc...

We are considering moving to the Worthington School District, as my husband recently started working North of 270 and I am at Ohio State. We have two children, currently enrolled in Columbus Public Schools, both with IEP's. My husband and I would like to talk with you concerning the opportunities and services that would be available to us if we were to buy a house in Worthington. I'll try to give you brief information about our children so you know some of what we need.

Joseph is 9. (5-22-97). He is diagnosed PDD-NOS. He has been served by CPS since he was three. He started a home ABA program when he was five. He is non-verbal, but has a huge vocabulary of over 750 ASL signs, can understand, write, and read English at a level that I think is that of a typical first grader--although clearly pieces of the language process are still missing. He adds and is learning to subtract, tell time, count money, etc. He needs an environment that challenges him academically, supports our home behavior program, and includes a teacher or interpreter or aide that understands his sign. I have a video of him signing with one of his home ABA tutors if you wish to see how fluently he signs.

Alex is 8. (7-11-98) He has lived with us since the summer of 2001 when we adopted him. He is diagnosed ADHD and LD. He has been served by CPS since he was 5. He is currently in a mainstream 2nd grade class with the support of a tutor for about one hour each day. He has some visual processing issues that make reading challenging, and is about one grade level behind in reading (according to the school--I think he is doing a bit better than they.) He has a lot of challenges with math. We have been discussing placement in an LD classroom for next year. He is a creative, energetic child who loves gymnastics and dance. We are currently working with a psychologist at Ohio State to try to cope with some of his emotional and behavioral issues, which I hope will help his school performance.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Home-Schooling Joseph???

Well, the proverbial #@!* hit the fan this weekend chez DD. Dave went to Joseph's teacher conference Thursday, Friday the teacher finally sent a copy of a report written a team of four Speech Language Pathologists (SLPs), one of whom has worked with J for past 1.5 years (and I thought had a clue of who and where he was) home. This report is the tipping point for me. I've been dissatisfied with the school for the past two years--we never signed Joseph's IEP this year, hoping to inspire the system to do the right thing. Well, it is clear that no one is going to do anything to educate Joseph... At this point my plan is:
1) Keep Joseph home for a few weeks, doing ABA all day everyday and going with his ABA tutor to "home school" activities so he doesn't lose all touch with other kids...

2) Think about the next step--Do we want to officially pull him out of school and homeschool for the rest of the year? Do we want to sue the district to provide appropriate services? Do we move? Will another district do what we need without a law suit. Figure out if we have enough ABA hours, or can get enough ABA hours to cover full time ABA. If we can't get the hours, figure out how much it will cost...

3) Dave's job will be to talk with the head of special ed in other districts. My job will be to talk with a realtor.

4) I'm also going to record Joseph working with his ABA tutors at home. I don't think anyone in the school system really understands how fast J signs. I need video proof. I figured out how to record short video clips with my digital camera and play them back on my computer this morning (for a 50 year old, this was an achievement!!!) I hope I can burn them to CD/DVD to let other people see them. Or email files that others can watch... More experimenting in my future...

5) I know signing scripted sentences, reading books, etc. etc. isn't "real" language. But it is the building blocks. He has a way more sophisticated set of building blocks in his hands then PECs will ever give him. I need educators who want to work with the building blocks he has to help him develop as much real language as he can. I don't know his potential... but I know he sure as hell has not been learning a @#$! thing in school. Okay--I've started to rant. There has been quite a bit of that over the last 48 hours.

Keep in touch. Say prayers for us. Come visit in August when we will be packing and moving! I don't expect to find a perfect school or school district or teacher--but I have to find better than what we have. We are looking at privates, charters, publics, etc. etc. Everything is on the table. This is all very hard for Dave. He invested 8 years in this school system as a board of education member (most of you know that). He doesn't expect special treatment, but he is frustrated that his district--the urban district he believes in so passionately--shows such incompetence when it comes to his kid...

Friday, February 16, 2007

Joseph's Hugs

I've realized over time that Joseph doesn't have as severe of sensory issues as many autistics, but he loves to be held and hugged tight. When he was just two I would take him to OT and watch the therapist sit on a swing and hug him for ten minutes at the beginning of each session. I wanted to tell her--I can, and do, do that! Joseph still loves to sit in the rocker with me or on the porch swing and be hugged and rocked. It is therapy for him and for me. A mom I don't know very well once said that she had made her son quit hugging the tutors that work with him because as he got older, watching him bury his head in these young women's chests "didn't look good." Well, I understand the dilemma, but... I hope to help Joseph keep his face at shoulder height rather than making him stop hugging!

He is getting almost too big for the hug on the lap that he so loves. And he is getting stong enough that occasionally he grabs the back of the kitchen chair and pulls me to him so I can't get away.

So, as he grows I may need to find new ways to give him the close hug he needs and wants, but for now, I love having a lap full of bony arms and legs.

I read about similar situation on Jerry's blog this morning, and Mcewen commented "... I believe it is common for boys to become less demonstrative as they grow up, so I feel that this is a little bonus for me to enjoy whilst it lasts." My sentiments exactly... Autism does have bonuses...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I figured out how to make a title

Thank you Sarah. I've long admired other peoples title lines on their blog entries. It turns out I had to edit my settings to show a title box. Okay, it is clear that I'm not using my day at home to do work. But the cheesecake should be done in just a few minutes! I hope it is as yummy as it looks!

Is Being Lazy Part of having a Snow Day?

I just want to let boys play computer and watch TV all day--for the second day in a row. I have not yet turned on the TV today, but the computer has been on since breakfast. I'm home because they closed the University!!! Only the third time in 25 years. I'm trying to decide if I should email my students that the work due Friday is still due... or let them have a lazy day, also, and turn in the work on Monday!

It is so cold today that we won't even be able to play outside very long.

Joseph is still in his PJs.

Actually, these few days at home have been good for me. I've needed a bit of time to think and get myself focused. Alex has a teacher conference tomorrow. I think the most important thing I want to tell the teachers is "hang in there with us." We are not going to solve all of Alex's issues overnight. The psychologist says treatment will involve medication, therapy, and special ed. We are doing two of the three already. Maybe a different medication will help, but I think the therapy and special ed pieces will be more important. We are to have new testing done--and that may change the special ed services. I'm at a place with him where I know he has learning challenges, but I can see him learning. He is reading more and more fluently all the time. When he doesn't want to try, he can struggle with easy passages, when he wants to try, he is doing really well. So, it isn't the ability or the level of achievement that are the root issue, it is his motivation. Until we sort that out, we won't know what his potential really is. Math is a different story. He struggles all the time. We will have to keep working on that one.

Joseph has a conference tomorrow as well. I'm not going. I can't get past the bad feelings from the IEP meeting last October. Dave is going. He is the diplomat. All I want from Joseph's school is that they control his behavior and don't let him get away running away, grabbing, etc. Simple behaviors that he doesn't do at home anymore, but they still have problems with at school. Next year he will be in a different school. Not clear yet where, I'm working on that one. I did an experiment with Joseph the other night and tried to have a conversation all in sign. I always speak/voice with him and sometimes sign as well. The tutors sometimes just sign. He has always signed more with the tutors than with me (or Dave). He really did respond better to me when I didn't voice at all. He answered my questions appropriately, and we had a nice little conversation. He has enough language (in sign) to get everything he wants or needs, but language development beyond that has been slow. So, it is clear that he would benefit from me signing more. And me using sign only inspires him to respond. I guess if I make it clear that I speak his language, he will try harder to communicate with me. Now, of course, the problem with this picture is me. I can sign, but not very well. Old dog, new trick. I've never had much aptitude for language, and sign is so hard to learn well. In some ways the tactile part has made it easier for me to remember vocabulary, but the visual part is very difficult for me. I can say much more than I can understand. And it must be very frustrating for Joe-bear to sign something to me and have me stare blankly back at him while I’m trying to figure out what he has just said. Sometimes I figure it out, and it is echolalia, sometimes I figure it out, and it is something new and interesting. Sometimes I never figure it out.

So I guess this is a good day to laze around and let all this stew on the back burner. That reminds me, what should I let stew on the back burner of the real stove today? What do I have in the freezer that I could stew or simmer all day? I have cream cheese to make a cheesecake… Maybe I will do that. It IS Valentines’ day, after all.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Another Snow Day

Yes, it is snowing again in Central Ohio. Snow plus ice makes for a day at home. We have played store with real money to try to help learn to count change, and I've been trying to grade papers. We had ample warning of the storm, and I had already made plans to not be in the office today. Now, if boys are home again tomorrow, I'll be in trouble. Maybe it is Dave's turn.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Neighbor Children Making a Kitty House

I'm tempted to say this is a picture of Alex with our neighbors Josie, Sophie and Owen making a cat house, but that doesn't sound very good.

I'm hoping the cats have the good sense to hide until all the children are long gone, but they had a great time working together on this project. Joseph was off on an adventure to the office with Daddy, so he missed out.

I must say I love eavesdropping on the kids, listening to them when they think I'm busy doing something else. They are getting old enough to have an interesting social heirarchy, and they have played together for several years now. We are so lucky to have great neighbors. Am I really thinking of moving

Well, I just checked on the kids again, and there is blue marker all over the floor--That is more like life here chez DD.

Think I'll go bake brownies for the little angels.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Alex's new Gymnastics Uniform

Alex is on the gymnastics team at the local rec center. Not a fancy private team... practice once a week, meets once a month. The team hasn't had uniforms until this year. Some parents found a donor who gave the team fancy uniforms, both "leos" and warmup suits. The boys all looked great last week at practice. Alex is very proud. I really love the picture with the tough guy look, and then the next one with the "aw shucks, its just me Mom" face. It was also fun at the practice to watch the boys try to get comfortable in those leos and short shorts. I'm sure most of those boys had never been out of the house is such short pants!

Beautiful Winter Day in Ohio

It is clear, cold and beautiful. My pictures don't do it justice. You folks in California and Atlanta can be a little jealous--the cold and snow do have an upside! The kids have school today, and Joseph's bus was only 1.5 hours late.

I have just two manageable things on my to do list for the day--buy a new cell phone and grade midterms. My cell phone is coming apart, and turns off whenever I try to answer it. Since it doesn't ring very often, I've been in a panic twice when it rang and I couldn't figure out who called...

Oh, wait, I have a book about managing conflict in the workplace I'm supposed to read before a workshop tomorrow. But, still, I don't have to go to office to read the book, the house is quiet, and why would I want to read it before the workshop anyway.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Update on the Furnace

We spent $120 to find out what a mysterious light switch in the basement controls. You guessed it. The furnace. Alex must have flipped the switch while playing in the basement Monday evening. The furnace man said it is not "up to code" and we should have a real electrician take it out.... Next week...

I'm absolutely in "get through the day one fifteen minute chunk at a time" mode. The third day of no school because it is too cold is behind us. I hired a lot of help today--spent the whole day at the office finishing one project and sitting through interesting, but not critical meetings. Thank goodness I can find help at the last minute!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Okay, It is really cold...

School has been canceled for the second day because wind chills are predicted to be below -10. In typical DD fashion, that means our furnace doesn't work. I woke up this morning and thought, wow, it must be really, really cold. Our bedroom is always cold, but it was much worse than normal at 7 AM this morning. Well, I went downstairs and the thermostat said 52. I keep the temp low--but not THAT low. So, I checked the pilot. No such luck... the pilot was burning bright. So, I've called the furnace company, and they are to be here before 1 PM. Meanwhile, I'm baking anything I can think of, just to put extra warmth in the house. Phone just rang--the technician is on the way!!!! Yea!!!

Ironic that school is canceled so children can stay home, warm and safe. Hmmmm.... Not in my world.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Slogging or Blogging

I have the winter blahs. Rather than do my work today, I've been surfing the web looking for a new house in a different school district. Perhaps if we moved to a smaller district with fewer urban issues, my boys would have a better chance of getting the education they need. The psychologist we are seeing for and with Alex has still not completed his assessment, but indicated that the "treatment phase" of the process would include medication, therapy, and special education. None of this is a surprise, but I'm thinking that as the special education folks in the district have been so difficult about Joseph, I can’t imagine fighting the bureaucracy for two… I’ve been in contact with district officials trying to get a different, better placement for Joseph next year. They don’t want to provide a sign language interpreter, I’m insisting there be someone in the room that understands what Joseph is saying. No telling if another district would do better. It is an expensive request. A teacher that can deal with Joseph’s autism, and a sign language interpreter that knows what he is saying. The officials keep telling me they have teachers that “know some sign.” They don’t seem to understand that Joseph knows a lot of sign. Way more than I do. And I’d say I “know some sign.” It is one thing to have a vocabulary of 200-300 signs. It is another to watch Josephs hand’s fly and follow what he is saying, spelling, reading, adding…

Anyway, the good news is that it looks like we could afford some very nice homes much closer to Dave’s new office, and without counting Dave’s new salary—as long as we can sell our current home for what we think it is worth. Packing and moving sounds like a total nightmare, however!