Transitions.

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We had Ty’s annual IEP* Meeting yesterday.  His end of freshman year, looking at sophmore year of high school IEP.  For those counting that means we will technically only have TWO more IEP meetings and then, no more IEP meetings.  TWO MORE??  When? HOW did this all go so fast?  I know alot of my blog posts lately have been very nostalgic in nature. I can not even really explain why, that in this season of my life I am as cognizant of the passing of time as I am.

Maybe its because on Wednesday night our family welcomed our new niece Cadence (first girl for the Geroux side!)

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Our first Geroux Side Niece- Born 3/25/2015

Maybe it is because my “baby” Connor is now solidly and officially taller than me-

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even with sunglasses on my head.

Maybe it is because this May will mark the 18th anniversary of me setting off on my own meaning this side of childhood has now been longer than my childhood.

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Throwback to May 1997- CHS graduation I left for NAU 2 days later.

I don’t know why my go to emotion has been sentimentality. I am not “sad” about any of it though- just mindful.

This IEP Meeting was different in many ways.  Number One is that Tyler “led” it for us.

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he caught me trying to sneak this quick picture

Number Two is that we had so much positive focus on Ty’s strengths that I did not even feel like we were in an IEP meeting.  Is that sad?  That in all these years IEP meetings have been dreaded BECAUSE of the fact that it is a known time to highlight the areas where he has “NEEDS?” I think it is sad- but this year was different.  The shift in focus has a lot to do with

Number Three- we talked about the T word.  Transition.

Be still my heart.

I just teared up writing that.  You know, because of my nostalgia and all.

Overall we feel good about it-  With all of the upheaval in GPS with budget concerns we thought there might be some changes proposed (not sure what but we just prepared anyways)  but nope, things seem to be working well the way they are so we really talked a lot more about his future plans so we could be sure that he is enrolled in the right classes to earn him the proper credits to move forward on the path he wants to move on.

Ty wants to go to EVIT*. for Video Production (http://www.evit.com/cms/One.aspx?portalId=20222051&pageId=20598733 )  so how that works is that come junior year he would have 3 academic classes at Campo and then head over to EVIT for 3 “vocational” type classes in his program.  In order for him to get all of his academic requirements satisfied we had to scrutinize his class choices for sophomore year and agree that he will likely need to take a summer class next year. (EVIT recognizes this is an issue with EVERYONE that wants to attend and so they pay for a summer class)

EVIT will be different because they will only provide the bare minimum in IEP accommodations (so we are told)- there are no “para-pros” not even roaming ones- but there are a few special education teachers that will assist with the general accommodations.  So this last quarter and all of sophomore year will be really focused on Ty’s Independence levels. He needs to be self initiating to a higher degree and require less “cues and prompts.”   Ty does really well in both of those areas now- so this next 16 months will be good practice to get even better.

Oh baby bird- you are sprouting feathers left and right- I should probably stop calling you baby bird and start realizing the young man you truly are becoming.

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*IEP= Individual Education Plan
*EVIT= East Valley Institute for Technology

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Sabercat Pride

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Tyler has now been at his new public junior high school for a month and is settling in well.

2013-10-02 14.07.59We started off in all general ed with practically zero supports just to see what was what—At the end of the first week it just happened to be Shadow an 8th grader day so Jason and I were able to go in and essentially follow him to all of his classes (it was a half day) but we got to see each setting and get an idea of how he was adjusting.

He really made me proud- I cried at how quicky he had learned his routines and the campus etc.

I also observed very specifically to see if I thought any of the placements were “not right”

At first the only concern I had was his science class whch academically was very “over his head” espcially since he had zero science th first quarter at the private school- but as the next week came and went and as we prepared for the transition IEP meeting- the amount of work, homework and slipping expectations in several of this classes stared to show. There seemed to be a lot of expecations that he was not able to grasp (or was ignoring altogether out of being so overwhelmed with all the change) Everything was SOOO new and he was transitioing so well in a LOT of areas- but others not so much -Like in the areas that really matter-this new school is much more academically forward  then his last (or even then the previous public school we were in) so I started to worry

We only have 3 quarters of 8th grade to get Ty back up to par for public school expectations so he is really prepared to enter high school. As much as I did not want to admit- the private placement set him back significantly from where he was both academically and socially in just the 9 weeks he was there. So we have a lot of catch up to do just to get him back to where he was at the end of 7th grade at our old public school.

As a team we all decided to try out some resource classes- I am still trying to learn how GPS labels all of the special ed stuff and how that compares to settings we have been in before- but he is essentially in a step between “SPICE” which is an autism specific special ed program in the district and “iART” which is a program for really high functioning kids that don’t need very many supports but still qualify for some sort of special ed services. He doesn’t need the full on supports of SPICE but needs more then what iART provides so we are in “middle limbo land” and its basically “resource”

The new classes and accommodations seem to be geared more to his learning abilities and the home work load has improved SIGNIFICANTLY- He seems to be thriving with the PRIDE program (came really close to getting 9th hour but his language arts teacher let him have one more slide) and I think that scared him enough to know its serious business cause he has come home every day that he has had homework and gotten right to work- needing hardly any assistance and is being successful.

For now- things are doing really well.

2013-10-02 14.08.10

 

Change is in the air

How will you know if it

 

When we moved into the new house (yes I know I still owe the blog an actual New House post) We found ourselves in a weird “gap” year for Tyler as far as schooling was concerned.  He was going to have to be going to a brand new school regardless of if we had moved or not so his 8th grade year was simply destine to be this “crap shoot” before we feed him to the wolves in high school.  We took some time over the summer to research some options to see what was out there for him that may help us focus his sights a bit better and give him a good target to aim at next fall when he is a freshman.  Thanks to the many school choice options here in Arizona we had a variety of schools to weigh into our decision.   Extra thanks to the Empowerment Scholarship Account program we even had our pick of private placements.

We landed on a school for kids with autism because we wanted to see if a school that was dedicated to educating students on the spectrum could offer Tyler something that had always been difficult to get from the public school setting.  Friends.  We really wanted him to make some friends (like so bad my heart hurts at the thought of how bad I want friendships for him) we thought that since he has just always been quirky enough that friendships in the typical school environment never seemed to blossom that perhaps being surrounded by other quirky kids something would take root.  We completely downplayed the whole “social difficulties” aspect of autism that manifests itself with nearly everyone on the spectrum and thought that the autism that they all shared would be glue enough to really get some bonds to stick.

Ty was stoked out his new school, its lack of homework, its half days every Friday, the field trips, NO AIMS etc.  We enrolled and were really excited at what this next school year would bring.  We got to meet with other families at a summer pool party, I became online friends with many of the moms who have kids that go there and we couldn’t wait for school to start.

Then it did.

When Tyler came home from his first day of school and told us that “he had a great day, but he actually LIKES AIMS and can’t wait to go back to regular school” We were floored.  We thought- oh its just an adjustment period, let’s give it a few weeks.  What we came to learn about our son is that -wrapped up in this young strong bold man of ours, is a very compassionate uncompassionate personality.

What I mean by that is this- it literally sent him to tears to learn that several of this classmates simply could not talk.  He felt so very badly for them and just could not grasp why their autism would make them so they could scream or cry out, but not make any words that anyone around them could understand.  He has autism and he talks just fine- they need more speech therapy- why didn’t they go to speech therapy when they were little and learn to talk like he did? His compassion quickly wore off as he began coming home each day annoyed and frustrated.

We had to implement several strategies for Tyler including sending in ear plugs for him to use to help stay focused when other students were having outbursts.  Eventually I think some classroom shuffling relieved some of the issues- but the campus being as small as it was- the distractions were still very present. We had to have many long talks with Tyler about patience and understanding and remind him that there was a time when he would melt down at school and now he sees what that felt like for all of the other students around him.

We started to think that perhaps this placement was going to be more detrimental to Tyler then any potential benefits could bring.  The idea of segregating him from “typical peers” for four quarters to “maybe make a few friends” began to sound crazy to us. By week four of school we already started talking to one another about the possibility of not staying at this school for the entire 8th grade year but making a change at mid year- or even at the end of the first quarter.  We vowed to pay close attention to Tyler and watch and see if he started to “bring different autism” home with him or if he started to “stim” more then usual.  We did see a sharp uptick in attitude- but it is very difficult to blame that on anything other than being a 13 year old boy.

So as the weeks went by and Tyler’s annoyance and frustration with students who have a level of autism that impacts their lives much more severely then his impacts his continued to grow we began to doubt our decision.  The decision that had come so easily only a few weeks before.  A few issues popped up with regards to communication and misunderstandings from teachers that had to be ironed out with an in person meeting around this same time.  This was when we realized that we were no longer under the familiar umbrella of public school where we are aptly armed to go to battle for our son.  We were now in private school which has a totally different ring to do battle in.  Part of us had hoped to shed that armor because it is a school all for kids with autism- what battles would we need to face there?

I don’t write any of this to rip on anyone- just to be candid about our experience.  When we realized through discussions that some of the members of Tyler’s team had likely not even read his IEP and MET (because they were completely unfamiliar with some of his medical issues) we were frankly disappointed. (in ourselves)  We expect that from the state funded public school (not that its right but its to be expected), so we felt stupid for having assumed that a hefty private school tuition would make a difference in that so we let our guard down and we honestly somewhat unplugged.

We have only 4.75 school years left to make an impact on Tyler- if we are going to have to fight any battles- it will have to be done in public school where we have certain rights afforded to us. As much as I would love to stick it out and help guide the team- if we are going to be involved to that level it’s gonna be at public school where he has access to typical peers and the environment is not so starkly different then that of the high school setting he has his sights set on for next year.

We will head to Disneyland for fall break and when we get back- Tyler will begin his 2nd quarter of 8th grade at our home junior high school.

Wish us luck!