How My Son Got Into Preschool: The Interesting Journey through Early Intervention to Preschool

This is a continuation of sorts to my previous post, to which I will summarize for those who didn’t catch it. I was anxiously awaiting the decision of my son’s fate being able to continue services through our local preschool’s special needs program. My son started into this journey because he barely spoke one or two words by the time he turned 1. After nearly a year of Early Intervention services, he has come so far though he is still much behind other kids his age or even a bit younger. I see kids younger than him that have an easier time expressing themselves and communicating, and I feel guilty that I have somehow failed my toddler. It isn’t true though; I didn’t fail him. He only missed 3  weekly sessions between both specialists in the past year, due to illness. I sat by diligently observing the sessions to see how I could help him, and listened to every piece of advice I was given to help. At age 3, he would be able to receive these services no longer and our only hope to continue these types of services was through the local preschool.

The meeting went pretty much as I had predicted, which I will get into. The evaluators were the school psychologist and the speech pathologist. The psychologist started speaking quite frankly to us. “I witnessed some worrisome behaviors”. “He has incredible attention and focus issues and is really unable to sit still for any amount of time”. “He is quite brilliant”. I was all over the place with what was going to happen. Not that I didn’t understand what she was saying; I understood everything she was saying. But it was all mixed signals. I felt I knew where this was going though. The speech pathologist also remarked how intelligent he was, but noted that she did not feel he had a speech delay. (This point was argued by my son’s actual speech pathologist, stating that not giving him specialize services could be detrimental to his progress, as she feels he may be diagnosed with apraxia, which can’t be diagnosed until 3.)When that happened, my heart dropped. This experience could have been good for him. It could have helped him.

Finally, after the evaluators stopped talking, the head of the special needs program spoke and mentioned it was decision time. She informed us that she had a checklist she needed to go through to see if he qualified. She asked the speech pathologist if there was a speech delay, she said “no, not significant enough”. I remembered thinking it was easy for her to say after only spending 20 minutes with him. The special needs lead said “cognition and social delay”. The psychologist said “absolutely yes, to a point of hindering his speech and possibly his future education”. After a the rest of the list was “no”, I had started to give up hope that this was going to happen. The lead circled another item or two on the list, and looked up saying “your son qualifies for services, so we’re going to draw up the IEP”. The moral of this story? As I had predicted, he would not get in on his speech. Also as I predicted, he got in based on his overly energetic, mischievous, curious and often troublemaker behaviors. (It was later joked by my husband that they took so much pity on me for having to spend so much time alone with him that they figured they would give me a break.) Their reasoning? He would learn structure and be able to learn how to control his often wild inhibitions and channel that energy into focusing on his learning, which they feel would help him be significantly more intelligent than he already is. If they can get him to settle down, focus, and start paying attention, it will improve his speech, and earn them a medal in my book if they can accomplish that enormous feat.

They started to write his IEP. “He is not to be left unsupervised at all; he will escape and do what he wants”. Fact: they are right. “May need breaks from the classroom to release some of his overabundance of energy”. Also fact, though it’s been my experience that he has a never-ending flow of energy. My kid will be the one having his hand held in the line because he won’t walk in it, and my mother and speech pathologist have correctly identified that it is better this way as he would probably lead a group of rogue toddlers away from the group and go to the playground by themselves. I will not complain. All that matters to me is that he got into preschool, with a guaranteed and free slot through the special needs program. He will get a positive start in his education that I would never have been able to afford. The speech pathologist said that they will quickly learn my son’s difficulties with speech and change his IEP to include services. There is no negative here. The system worked, and I couldn’t be happier.

 

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Failing Our Children

As a parent, you’re supposed to love your children. Loving them isn’t special or noteworthy; it’s human. Not loving your child just makes you something else. Loving your child does not make you a good parent; all that other stuff does. The times that you really want to sleep but stay awake with your vomiting toddler and comforting them. The times when you think you’re dying of a cold but take as much medicine as you need to suck it up because your children don’t take a time out just because you need to. Parenting is really about every fight that you do to better your child’s life in even the slightest way. Those fights and struggles are what makes a good parent.

From the moment my youngest was born, I knew I was going to have to fight harder than ever. From the beginning, he had issues that we knew that would require some amount of strength, though thankfully nothing too serious. We knew he had a minor birth defect that would need repair. We visited the specialist every few months until his surgery and spent the longest day of our lives waiting to bring him home. We had hoped that we could just be after that.

As far as his motor skills were concerned, he was always advanced and impressed his doctors. From the beginning, it was clear that he was his own person and to hell with everyone else. It wasn’t until his first birthday that I had any concerns about him, aside from having surgery at 9 months old. The minute you find out your child has any sort of developmental delay, you wonder what you could have done to prevent it. You try everything in your power to fix it, because as a parent, you want to fix everything to help your child. We tried everything: we read more, we got programs for tablets and computers, I started to go about my day as if I were a sports announcing describing even the most mundane activity aloud to help him. Six months later, nothing had worked and we left the doctor’s office deflated. She referred us to Early Intervention. Soon after, we did the evaluations and we started with a developmental specialist. Nothing. He learned how to sign, which was great to at least help us communicate a little. After a few months, she decided to add-on a speech pathologist to his developmental team. After a few weeks, there seemed to be limited improvement. We had a neuropsych evaluation to see if he was autistic, nothing. Finally, he started picking up language little by little and I firmly believe that these interventions are the difference.

We did all our “homework”. I sit through 2 sessions a week, watching on as they help my son. At age 3, he will age out of this program that has helped him so immensely. The specialists agree he’s not where he needs to be, but at 3, there is nothing more they can do for us. So we started the steps to get into the “transitioning” program. This helps EI (Early Intervention) kids move into preschool to continue services. They will get an IEP, and get free preschool. This would be huge for George, as there is a fear from everyone that he could regress without continued services. Our Early Intervention team has no say in what happens now. We did the evaluations at the school, we did the meetings, and the day has come for their decision. Getting into this school system’s particular program is notoriously difficult, and everyone has been very upfront about that. All I can do is hope.

This leads to a bigger issue with the education system that I had written about in my last Education class in college. It was a class about special needs. Our final paper was about teaching special needs, and we had to pick a topic from a list of papers. I was the last one to get the list, and I had discovered that there was one particular group that no one was doing a paper on: the gifted and talented kids. This group of children are especially ignored, because people think that they are smart so they don’t need help. Realistically, these children need an IEP just as much as any other kid with special needs. Since they don’t, they are often set up for failure. That is the fault of our schools, not truly “leaving no child behind”. My son, who is too young to be labeled as such, as shown skills and thought processes far beyond his age and his specialists note that. I fear that this will hurt his chances of getting the help he needs. I fear that him not getting in this program will set him up for failure in the future. My biggest fear, is that he will regress back to what his language was before he received help, and he will be disregarded when he starts school because they don’t realize his true potential because of a lack of speech.

I will go into this meeting with my head high, and fight as  much as I can. I’m tired though. I’m tired of fighting. But he needs this, and I need to fight for him because I know no one else will. That is what makes a good parent: the fight.

Transitions

I have contemplated whether I wanted to weigh in on this big topic of Caitlyn Jenner and her big reveal. After much thought, I decided that I wanted to share my potentially controversial thoughts on this topic. Before you are quick to hate me based on this introduction, I suggest a careful reading of my actual thoughts.

I truly applaud her for taking this journey. Struggling with such an unimaginable feeling of not feeling like yourself in your own skin is bad enough;  doing it in front of the whole world for this judgment is 1000x worse. People are blaming him for being part of a trend that is ruining America, helping break down the moral fiber of a great country and being a part of some fallacy set to further an agenda. Obviously a person is born as they were intended by God, and God makes no mistakes… right?

The true ruin of the moral fiber of America is this spread of hate and nonacceptance of people for who they truly are. Beliefs are no excuse for hate. The KKK is a group that believed they were being great Christians and promoting how white people are superior and everyone else should be enslaved or killed. Does that make them not hateful people because they use religion as a defense for their ignorance? People are born gay, not turned that way because they saw a gay couple kiss and somehow caught a disease that makes them gay and needs to be cured of it. Sometimes God does make mistakes, and modern science can help fix them, like putting people in the wrong body that doesn’t match who they are. People should do whatever it takes in order to feel better about themselves. A transgendered person transitioning into the person they feel the need to be should be encouraged to do what they feel they need to. Who are we to judge? Their decisions do not affect my life, why should it affect yours?

My problem isn’t in what she did. I think it requires a great amount of bravery to come forward, especially in the hateful world we are unfortunately living in. My issue is in the how. Everyone knew what was going on, yet she chose to sell it to the highest bidder. She discussed about how she wasn’t going to publicly identify as a woman yet in said interview. Great, she should move at her own pace. Except a couple months later, she then sells her new look and big reveal to the highest bidder. Do I have a problem with someone doing something publicly flaunting this? No. Anything to raise awareness for such an important topic is a positive. Should she be laughing to the bank, adding to her millions for it? That I take issue with. If you are going to thrust yourself out there and make yourself the face of a cause, you should step up and be more than just a glorified spokesperson and do something to help the cause.

I would have less of an issue if that money, even part of it was put into or started a fund to help the transgendered youth that are disowned and tossed out on the streets because they aren’t as fortunate to have a loving and supportive family by giving them a safe place to live. If the money was used for a fund for people who can’t afford to have such a life altering ability to transition, to have the luxury to do so. Instead, it was used to make a rich person richer.

If one of my sons felt they wanted to wear nail polish or a “girlie” outfit to school, would I consider it? Why not? If it’s just a phase, then what’s the harm. If it’s more than that and it’s truly who they are, then they’ll know that I love and support them no matter what. Because I choose to teach my children acceptance and love and not hate.

Choices

Adulthood is as awful as it can be amazing. You are able to own a home, raise children/dogs/whatever animal you choose, and you can eat ice cream for any and all meals that you may want without your mother informing you that you will get the biggest belly ache of you life. Yes, you will likely get a giant belly ache, and probably a sugar induced headache from consuming that much Hood chocolate chip deliciousness, but dammit I’m an adult and I want to. I choose it. I choose that deliciousness over my maple and brown sugar oatmeal.

Okay, maybe I did have Special K Honey n’ Oats instead of a delicious bowl of ice cream. Why, after all that ranting about “me being an adult, Imma do what I want”, did I eat a bowl of healthy cereal for breakfast? Because the important thing about being an adult is making choices, the right choices. As much as I want to eat ice cream all day long, it isn’t reasonable, healthy and it’s expensive. (Aforementioned ice cream comes at $5 a half-gallon when not on sale. You do the math.) Additionally, what would that show my kids? That they can eat ice cream all day long because mommy does it, and then I raise statistics rather than children, considering how terrible the stats for obese children in our country. It’s bad enough both boys and my lab have all picked up my nail biting habit. Choices.

As children, you make dumb choices all the time. If you’re lucky, those dumb choices will provide consequences to make you less dumb as you’re older. What happens when you grow up without any consequences to your dumb choices? You continue to make them because why not? Then, likely you look at other people who make great life choices and think “why can’t I have that?” The answer? Because YOU made a choice, and you need to either make a different choice or stop complaining about how awful things are. Because you can make choices because you are an adult.

My husband made choices to work his butt off to provide for his family. As a result, he’s a 29-year-old man and father of 2, who owns a home and can make sure that everyone is taken care of. We made a choice that our children were better off in my care than daycare, especially considering the obscene cost of daycare, so now I’m at home raising children and tending to the house. I could choose to sit around and play video games or watch television/movies all day, and every now and again I do make that choice. Instead, I’m trying to follow my dreams as a writer, and make some extra money doing so. Because I want to contribute to my household and because I want to show my children that following your dreams is important, as is being a contributing member of society.

Next time you look at something in your life that you don’t like, remember that you have a choice to change it. You can choose to go back school if you don’t like your job. You can choose to move out of your neighborhood if it’s really that bad. You can go to school if you can’t find a job, or find training and job centers to help you find something you like or may even love, or just something to help you get by. If you don’t make choices to change things, how can you possibly expect things to change? Our parents can’t help us all the time; they’ve done their job and they hope they have raised us self-sufficient enough to be responsible and functioning adults. Our parents can’t wave a magical wand to fix our choices like they could when we were kids because we’re adults in a sink or swim world. You’re the only one who can make your choices. You’re the only one who can change those choices. And if you’re not willing to, why should anyone else?

You’re going to stumble in adulthood. Some months you will worry about how a bill will get paid, or how much is on your credit cards. You will have to make tough decisions, like “is this neighborhood safe for my family?” or are the “schools good enough?” and be willing to make changes if necessary. You may not have anything in your savings account, or have to live off ramen a month straight. But life is hard and it’s sometimes painful to experience, but you can choose how you deal with it. You can make the choice to sit there and take it, or you can make the choice to change it. Choices.

We Need Choices!

We are fortunate enough to live in a place where we have choices. We can wear what we want. We have the choice to work our dream jobs. We can eat whatever we want. We have the right to choose in America, which is also a curse because half the time we aren’t even really given options to actually make choices when it comes to the important things in life.

The problem is simple: we live in a democratic nation, which gives us the power to elect the people who govern over us. Well, at least some make shift form of democracy that attempts to give us piece of mind that our vote matters. But what real choices are we given? Although we live in a place where we can choose our governing body, we are really in a two-party system, which really does not give us any actual options. This gives us sheep (the politicians, if you will), and we have to choose which herder (democrat or republican) leads them. These sheep just follow their herder blindly, uncaring what it means for the big picture.

We are in the beginning of the fight for the 2016 fight for president. I say fight, rather than election, because the process seems more vicious than civil. There is rarely a factual ad that discusses actual political ideals, but there are plenty of ads where we watch someone kicking an old person in a wheelchair off a cliff to give an attempt at wit. We don’t know what it means, but we were either outraged that a poor old person was kicked off a cliff, or amused because we thought it was satire that was meant to be laughed at, not poignant.

With the people now throwing their hats in the race, I feel annoyed at my choices. I actually almost feel betrayed by my choices. I don’t like the idea of Hillary becoming president, but at this point in time I feel the Republican Party is just handing her the election. The choices on the republican side are: someone who read a children’s book to block a bill and no one takes seriously, a doctor who’s only claim to fame is berating Obamacare while 2 ft. from the president and being launched in the spotlight for it and is now an expert on politics as according to Fox News, and Rand Paul, which I feel does not need an explanation. We need real choices guys, this is almost becoming more comical than it should be.

This is becoming more of a case of why we should eliminate a 2 party system. Hell, we should just eliminate a party system period because you are just inviting those who don’t care enough to research the candidates a reason to just blindly vote for the letter next to their name, rather than voting for an ideal that you can stand behind.

Freelancing and Me

Sure, I make beans compared to people who aren’t in this freelancing world. I have always wanted to be a writer, which is why I got into this to begin with. The only real benefit is that in the grand scheme of things, at least it’s something extra of an income to allow for a few luxuries here and there. When I can get more hours in due to my toddler being unusually behaved on a given day, I try to pile on more work in order to get a little bit more coming in. That doesn’t often or really ever happen, but sometimes it does.

It has given me a chance to complete NaNoWriMo two years in a row, and published both offerings. (Which you can purchase by following the links to the side.) Plus, with my toddler needing specialists to come to the house twice a week this really works out for me. Most people find what I do to be a joke, as if I’m a lazy person trying to pretend to work and be useful. I’m not taking any money from assistance; our family has earned every dollar. I’m not lazy, I just choose to follow a dream and not work a job that I hate. Do not make a joke out of it, because I take what I do seriously even if you don’t.

I took an internal tour and realized there is more to this than just following a dream. The reality of the matter is that I don’t do so well out there, out in the real world. I’m awkward. I’m beyond socially inept. I speak my mind, often without any real concern for how people take it or how it comes out. I try, I really try to not be this way but I am. It is even more than that on most days. The idea of making phone calls for work makes my heart rate pick up. I don’t like talking on the phone, especially when I don’t know who the other person is. Business calls cause all sorts of anxiety. I even opt to not take jobs that require such contact as Skyping to keep regular contact on projects. I much prefer to just be sent what I need to do and send it back without any other communication other than written.

Being out in public also causes this. I don’t know how to associate with other people. I don’t know how to make small talk. I try my hand at it, and I get nervous because I’m unsure of how successful I am at it. Even at events with other people like myself, I find that I have an easier time if someone just hands me a glass of wine to get through whatever mental craziness happens to get me through those moments. It isn’t healthy. It probably isn’t normal, but what really is?

Ideally, I could go out and teach a college class on literature or creative writing. I wish I could go out and do book readings or some other really cool event like that. I have managed to, as a result of having grades forcing me to perform such actions, but not without downing a container of Tums and praying nothing comes up. Maybe I was just meant to be at home and live my life pretending to be Emily Dickinson. I don’t mind leaving the house, I just mind any interaction I may have to have with a person when I do.

So I work from home on my own terms. I work from home because I hope eventually my hard work will pay off and I will see my dreams come true. Or maybe I will just stay this forever anxious mess. I’m oddly okay with that. It isn’t about admitting you have a problem. It’s about accepting it and figuring your way around it.

There is Nothing Wrong With My Son

Since last year, my family and I have been trying to maneuver around a tricky situation. Our youngest has a developmental delay. He was an early roller, an early crawler, and an early walker. Then one year rolled around, and he had only maybe a couple of words. Our pediatrician decided to recheck him a few months later and we’d go from there. And a year later, we are still on this journey.

Today knowledge is a heavily emphasized need that we have, because it’s how we succeed. It’s how we pass tests that are mandated by the states. We live in a society where competition in the education department is so heavily pushed upon our kids, and whether or not this is fair is  not what I am about to debate. This is about perceptions of children that are unfair.

There is nothing wrong with my son. Everyone felt the need to put in their 2 cents about him. And each bit of advice, albeit unintentionally so, was just as piercing as the next. I was flooded with “don’t listen to the doctors, they don’t know what they’re talking about. He’s just quiet”. I was flooded with “why does he need to be tested for Autism? He’s obviously not dumb.” It almost seemed like no one trusted that we could make an informed decision on our own.

My toddler started Early Intervention last summer. After a few months, he was still not making eye contact with anyone and still barely spoke. I second guessed my decision. “Why am I wasting an hour of my time a week while this woman just plays with my kid? Nothing is working.” It did seem hopeless. The specialist seemed to feel the same way, that this wasn’t working. She suggested to get him an additional specialist, a speech pathologist, and a neuropsych eval to see if he was Autistic.

Nervously, the evaluation came and went. There wasn’t enough to say that he was Autistic, but there was not enough to say that he wasn’t. I didn’t care. I just wanted something to help me help my son. Every week I analyze the notes the specialists take and devoted myself to the homework as if the grade was life or death. Every sound that even mimicked a word was a celebration. But then the evaluation showed something that none of the other testing did: despite everything, my son was a smart kid.

This showed soon enough. Any toy that the specialist would hand him, he would figure out quickly without needing anyone to show him how. If something was broken, he would hyperfocus on it to see if he could fix it. My son wasn’t dumb, we knew that. He just needed help without judgement. He needed someone to not analyze his deficiencies, he needed someone to help him grow his true potential. I kept him in Early Intervention because I knew they could help him in ways that I obviously couldn’t.

At 3, they age out of the Early Intervention Program. Speechwise, he is just starting to meet developmental milestones for children younger than him. At 2 1/2 with the words he does know, he can tell you colors and shapes without much thought. He can name letters with ease and can count. He can even point to numbers and tell you what they are. I can’t wait to see what he finds out when he gets more words.

Now he is readying for another set of testing. This will show us if he qualifies for programs in Preschool, which has opened up a new door of commentary. “Do we really want him in the special education programs?” “Is having him labelled as special needs so early going to scar him and give people a reason to bully him?” “What will the other kids think or the parents think?” Maybe the parents will think “those parents really love their kid to do whatever it takes to help them succeed.” Children that age don’t know what makes other kids different from them. That’s stuff we put on our kids ourselves.

The point of this is that you are a parent that needs to make decisions for your own children and what’s best for them. Sometimes kids need some extra help. It doesn’t mean there is something wrong with them or that they are somehow broken. Whether or kid is Autistic or has some developmental delay, that is something you have to deal with and to hell with everyone else. You can sit in denial and pretend you can do it yourself, or you can admit that you can’t and do whatever you need to help your child. I’m lucky that my insurance covers this, but I would easily work 3 jobs if I needed to in order to help my child have a better life and I wouldn’t even bat an eye. That is what parents are supposed to do: whatever it takes.

Don’t feel so alone when your child may fall short in their development. You’re not alone. You will know what to do because like with everything else in parenting, it’s all instinct. There are more people struggling with these decisions every day than you think, and you can find so much information on the internet to help you figure out what you can do and connect with other parents also going through it. I did whatever it took, and my son is constantly flourishing.