Tuesday, November 29, 2016

So far, so...

"How's he doing?" 

"So, what do you think of the new school?" 

"Is he liking it?'

"What do you think? Better? Same?" 

The above questions are what I keep hearing about the Kiddo lately.  Last week, Kiddo started at the "New School". (Sounds like an ad slogan. "New School. Brought to you by the makers of School Bus and Lunch Box. Educate your children with a new and improved formula!")

And God, this is when I know the Kiddo is just freaking adored because EVERYONE has been asking about him and how he is doing.  It's still early days and I know I am jinxing saying anything BUT I like to live dangerously. So I'm gonna.

So far, so good. I simply like what I see in the Kiddo.  It's a lot of subtle changes but they all add up to good stuff.  Like;

1) So much freaking LESS anxiety. Thank you Sweet Baby Jesus in footie pajamas but the morning before school are so much less stressful.  I'm no longer pretending to be the freaking "Hey! Hey! Everything Is Gonna Be OKAY!" cheerleader on a Red Bull bender. Trying to save face and pretend it's all fine and not react to his anxiety. Holy crapola. It's just so much better.

2) He's actually starting to talk about the people and kids at school. Loves showing off that he knows what rooms have what classes in them.

3) His appetite has improved greatly.  Not sure if it's a growth spurt or just a settled stomach but I cannot shovel the food into him fast enough.  As a fat woman who enjoys cooking and was always worried that he was too skinny, this pleases me.  You want more food??? You got it!

4) He's engaging more.  Looking to be silly and wants to do goofy jokes with me. (Kiddo and I have A LOT of inside jokes.) Eager to show me what's in his folder from school of the work he did that day.  (FYI, he's done more academic work in five days there than he did in three months at the other place.)

5) He hasn't mentioned his old school once.  Not a single staff member. Yep, that pretty much says it all to me.

Much like Nene, Kiddo has "blooped" and left the building. 

Now, he hasn't been an angel there at the new place either.  You see, "Old School" taught him quite a few bad habits and he rolled them out at the "New School" on the first "WTF Wednesday" that came around. (If you're new here, Kiddo HATES Wednesdays. We don't know why. He just does. Cause autism. What else can I say?) The new teacher however was like "NOPE."

Not Kiddo's teacher but I suspect nothing he did was anything she hadn't seen before. 

And here's the crazy thing that she and her staff did.  THEY HANDLED IT! I know!  I didn't get phone calls. I didn't get emails the length of "War and Peace".  I was told "This happened. We did this to correct it." Most importantly I wasn't told to come get him.  The Kiddo, in the middle of one these behaviors, actually started telling his teacher "Call mom. Go home with mom." because that's what happen every single freaking time at the old joint.  Imagine his surprise when she told him "No. I'm not calling her.  You're not going home."  She showed respect to his feelings but also showed him that she was there to support him and help him when he needed it the most.

This was also the week both my husband and I realized we both have "Phone Ringing PTSD".  We still jumped every time it rang. If I called him for anything at his job the first thing out of my mouth was "Hi Hon. He's fine. I'm actually calling about something else."  A week later and I'm still doing it. Today he told me to send him a warning text before I call. ;-) So yeah, we're both still kind of jumpy.

Today he came home with a perfect report and I nearly did back flips down the street. I would try to but I'm old and out of shape and very accident prone. So let's not say I did instead.

It showed me that with the right supports, the right environment and the right attitude can help him. It gave me hope.  I know the problem is far from solved.  Good old "WTF Wednesday" looms tomorrow but  I'll enjoy the fact that it was a good day.  We live in moments and right now that moment is good.

Monday, November 21, 2016

1 in 41.

All I kept hearing was how the school couldn't provide what he needed.  Let's call it what it is.  They WOULDN'T provide what he needed and this is the problem.  In case you haven't noticed dear school administrators throughout the state of New Jersey, the rates in our state for kids with autism ARE THE LARGEST in the country.  1 in 41 compared to the national average of 1 in 68. And that's just the kids!  I'm not including autistic adults in that equation.  

Oh wait. Someone ought to tell you. SPOILER ALERT! Autistic kids GROW UP!  I know. I know. This information shocks you but it just might explain why parents like myself are so freaking nuts about wanting to give our kids a good education. 

So maybe, just maybe, New Jersey and it's public schools should get their shit together when it comes to providing a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment.  You know, that right which is protected under THE LAW.  Seeing as our kids with autism are just as deserving and entitled as citizens of this country to an education like their neurotypical peers. 

But hey old school, remember when you seemed be be baffled about providing appropriate sensory tools for my Kiddo and his classmates.  Like you had nothing and were asking me what was needed in his classroom six weeks into his time being there.  He wasn't the first autistic kid that walk in that door. He won't be the last either.  Seeing as what the rates are in this state. 

Then we had the fun of fighting you to get that FBA done. Despite my husband, myself, and pretty much every single teacher and staff member from his old grammar school saying "This isn't the Kiddo. Something is wrong.", we still had to push to get that done. We suggested that a one to one aide would be helpful here as our son was struggling with crippling anxiety and grief over this new situation he was in and I heard again and again "Oh we don't think we can." 

But you finally got your wish. We left. Yay! Congratulations!! Let's tell the fine folks at home what you have won dear school district. 

You now get to foot the bill for my son's new placement till he's 21.  You get to pay for his one to one aide that is now in his IEP.  You get to pay for an on site BCBA that will be there every day. You bank roll both speech and occupational therapy for the lad.  But the best (and I would venture to say the Kiddo's personal favorite) is the door to door transportation via a bus company that you have to contract out. 

Hey, remember Old School how you made us buy fidgets and toys for him to use in the classroom.  Now I'm no fiscal expert but I am betting buying a couple of chewelry pieces is less expensive than shipping every kid out of your district that doesn't fit your mold.  That maybe dragging your feet to hire a paraprofessional who makes $12 and change an hour would be a better investment than sending every kid that has behavior challenges someplace else.

Oh and just so your clear, when I said my son needs a weighted blanket, your suggestion and offer of a weighted vest that's a size too small is NOT the same thing.  Again, while a weighted blanket is more expensive than your average blanket. It is less expensive than sending a student out of district.

I'm not so hot at math but wouldn't making the investment in some items and education for your staff be a better use of your money in the long term.  Seeing as all these special needs students get services up to the age of 21? Just a thought!

Is it a case that you are just hoping to make it to your retirement age without having to address this rapidly growing population?  Leave it for the next up and coming administrator that takes over your job to handle? Are you just on cruise control till pension time?

Is the total figure of what it cost just to educate ONE kid with autism just so large you don't even take it seriously? I mean, it's not your money or anything.  Oh wait, tax paying dollars and all. Yeah, it is.

Wouldn't you want your money invested wisely? Cause even if you are not in my town, you're in some town.  I've been talking to a lot of Jersey parents and this pushing them out of district move is happening a lot and with the autism rates rising it's only going to get more expensive. Hell, it's about to get a lot more expensive in my town as the families coming behind us want nothing to do with the town's middle school and beyond now. Hope you new Board of Education members are budgeting accordingly.

If you don't invest in these kids now, just wait till you see what the cost will be when they are adults.

Till then, "You get to pay for my Kiddo's school!! And you get to pay for my Kiddo's school and YOU ALL GET TO PAY FOR THE KIDDO'S SCHOOL!!!!" 

Monday, November 14, 2016


Many years ago I was on a date with a guy who noticed I had a bruise on my arm. It was from an autistic student that had pinched me while working with him.  My date became even more upset and confused when I shrugged it off as just a typical day at work.

Date:"That's terrible! He shouldn't be there!  He should be sent someplace else."

Me:"Dude, guess where I work?  Someplace."

Date:"But... oh."

We didn't date much longer after that.

"Someplace" has always been in the back of my head since we have started the long and strange trip with our Kiddo and autism.  I kind of always felt that as long as he was in our town's school district, things weren't so bad.  Having worked in a private school for special needs students, many of which had autism, I really was happy he wasn't in one.

But then shit happens. ;-)

Our school district is unable to provide a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment for him.  Now I am shopping for "Someplace" for my own son.  How the feck is this even happening?  And I get to do with him in tow because I will be damned if I am getting a phone call EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. like we had been about him while we are trying to tour schools.  Last week I had enough.  Kiddo had enough. I was tired of seeing my son be a completely different person. One filled with so much anxiety and fear.  Even at home some of the things he's been saying and scripting about his school day was making me think "WTF?" on a daily basis. Like some really shitty statements that were said to him or classmates and yes I believe him because HELLO! Autism. Scripting word for word is his superpower.  He's been bit by another student.  He's taken to eloping out of the classroom, a behavior he has NEVER done.  Banging furniture. Throwing things.  Grabbing staff and students. These are the behaviors of pure fear, not malice.  So I yanked him.  I guess we'll be setting up some home bound instruction till we figure it out.

I told the director of Special Services "We're done. Get his stuff.  Get his meds from the nurse and my son.", which she did. Then the case worker packed his stuff and brought it to the main office. Not a single staff from his room came down to say goodbye to him. That said it all to me. I took his hand and we left.

I have explained to the Kiddo that we are on an extended vacation.  He still doesn't fully understand that he isn't going back there.  Until I have a place to say that he is going to, I won't say a word.  It will just confuse him more and to not have an answer will make his anxiety even worse.  I'm sad he will be leaving kids he's known since he was three.  I hate we won't have his bus driver anymore who was an absolute joy. It is what it is though.  His heart will be broken but what other choice do we have other than to deal with it.

I feel bad too because I know I'm not the only unhappy family with that school and class right now.  I worry for those kids. I can only take care of our situation though.

So wish us luck as we tour some "Someplaces" for him.  I hope the process isn't long and I dread the trauma and confusion that's about to happen when we tell Kiddo about the new "Someplace" he's going to go.  I am very concerned about how this will play out.  I know not all private schools are like the one I used to work at but I can't help but be very worried all the same.

Somethings can't be solved by just ordering another side of fries but if any of these schools just so happen to have fries on their lunch menu, it wouldn't suck. ;-)

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

I am tired of fighting.

"I am glad to see he enjoyed trick or treating. He was excited to do it. 

We are also glad to see he and his classmates went to watch science experiments yesterday for exposure to the science curriculum. 

If a typical six grader is doing something, we want our son and his classmates to be given the same opportunity. Inclusion is as simple as that.  It is vital to presume competence in autistic and special needs students." 

Off goes my latest email to the school team.  Making sure I thank them for what they give us even though all I want to do is scream how it's his right to have it.  Plus adding a little at the end to remind them why I fight the way I do for my Kiddo.

Because believe it or not school staff, it's not my aim in life to be the crazy parent.  However with all the stuff going on in our lives lately, it's been very hard NOT to come off that way.

And because we have a Kiddo who just hit puberty like a freight train and still can't accept the transition of being at this new school, I feel like I'm playing monkey in the middle right now. Between trying to get what he needs at school set up and then how he is being. I'm not Willy Wonka so I won't sugarcoat this.  It's very hard to fight and push for your child and then still have your kid acting out.

Today I had my own meltdown crying over just that.  How am I to get them to give him a chance when he still keeps acting the way he does?  All I want to do is yell at him "Don't you know how hard I am fighting for you?" I'm at the point now where I wonder why do I do it?  Why can't I be the piece of shit parent that doesn't care and isn't involved? I would love to be that parent.  Who would like to be Mama Fry? The job title is for sale. I really don't want to be her anymore.

I knew motherhood was a thankless job but lately I am seriously ready to run off to Australia and never come back. And I could too. You should see my blog stats from Down Under. You know how Jerry Lewis is big in France. That's me with the Aussies.  I could couch surf for weeks and live like a king!  (Okay, so yeah. Maybe that Mama Fry thing does have it's perks.)

 I used to be able to accept the thankless part of it.  Really. If I saw him happy and thriving,that's all I needed. Now?  Not so much so. I'm fighting and pushing. It's still not working.  He still isn't getting what he needs. He's not happy.  Where do I go from here?

Well apparently it was to be called into the school again to go over his behavior and their complete inability to give him what he needs.  It's a real special moment when a school district tells you that they can't give him the free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment as he is entitled by the law.

Before you say "SUE", which trust me, I pondered.  I sue to buy time to keep him in a place where they clearly do not want him nor can keep him safe?  There are other parents of his classmates that currently wondering if their kids are safe too.  There is just way too much uncertainly in that environment.

And since the second day of school when the principal turned to me and said "I sure hope you don't write about me in your blog.", I knew that Kiddo had a target on his head.  She did not want to deal with us.  So they are happy to send us on our way.  And frankly when she told me "Just lie and not tell him" about canceled appointments so he could have time to process things, that NEVER sat well with me that I was sending him to a school that had a staff member who could say things like that.

I'm heartbroken and scared.  I am starting all over again.  Now we scramble to find another placement for him and traumatize him again by taking him away from the classmates he has grown up with since he was three.

Licking our wounds.  Trying to figure out how we tell our son about this next direction we are all taking with him. Trying like heck to be okay so I can convince him it will be okay.

Current mood. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Let it go or let it rise?

I tried to make my peace with why the Kiddo wasn't included on the general education trip. I rationalized in my head that this wasn't the hill I needed to die upon. I said to myself "Self, just blog it up. Get it out and then you can move on."  I did and many of you shared very similar stories of the same thing happening you and your child. While it felt good to know I wasn't alone, it was still eating away at me.  

My breaking point was receiving an email from one of the Kiddo's classmate's mom. Her son and mine have been together since they were three, so we go way back. She's also one of those rare breeds that isn't on social media, so she probably hasn't read my blog or in fact know I even have one. She's a cool, calm, and collected kind of gal.  This email from her though was the 180 of her.  She was PISSED about the fact our kids were left out.

The line that broke me was "Why am I selling all this fundraising stuff to pay for trips if he can't go on them?"  Exactly.  Why are we asked to do some things but not all things. Our money is good but my Kiddo's company is not?  

Oh and a lot of you have been asking me what was the trip.  Medieval Times restaurant.  Yes, there's a show that goes on in front of it of knights on horses and all that jazz, but at the end of the day it's a essentially a restaurant.  The 6th graders went to this as part of the social studies component because that's what the general education is currently studying.  Great!  I am sure that's a fun way to explore a topic but you think my Kiddo couldn't do that?  Especially since most of his class trips or "Community Based Instructions" as they like to call them are in fact to restaurants. 

While I'm sure his OT wouldn't be thrilled with the lack of utensils, I think even she would get on board with the theme. I mean, you do get a crown.

So no, I couldn't stay silent anymore and I sent an email. In fact, I sent a lot of emails.  To all the players.  From teacher to principal. Directors and supervisors and yeah, the Superintendent of our school district because this needed to be discussed.  I've included it here for you to see and also for you to use.  I heard from way too many of you how this has happen to your child too. It needs to stop. Feel free to copy, paste, and adapt it as you see fit.  (Please note, I have removed my son's name and name of his school for his safety and privacy.)

To whom it may concern, 

My name is "E"  and I am the mother of "Kiddo". He is a 6th grader at "I". He is also autistic and in the self contained classroom.  The transition from "A" school to "I" school has not been easy due to the nature of his disability.  The "I" team has been working with us to formulate a plan to help him succeed in this new placement.  

While I am glad to see several CBI (Community Based Instruction) outings scheduled for the class, I have some concerns regarding the areas of inclusion with my son and that of his classmates. 

I received a general email info "blast" from "I" school. regarding a class trip for 6th graders on Oct. 21. I waited to hear more information and receive a permission slip. Or even to hear from the team at "I"  how they wanted to handle a class trip with "Kiddo". (Would an aide from the class attend with him and his peers? Behavior strategies? etc.) "Kiddo" also saw it on the calendar as he can go on the school site and does to look up days off, school events and the lunch menu. He too, knew it was coming. 

I was very disappointed that we heard nothing about it and that our kids were excluded from attending. Past practice had "Kiddo" and his special needs classmates attend every class trip that their typical aged peers went on as exposure to the curriculum.  (For example, plant science was a trip to "B's" nursery.) 

I worry what kind of message it sends out to the neurotypical students when things like this happen. While I am happy to hear that "I" school does an event like "Volleyball for Autism" and the "buddy" program, the simple act of inclusion can teach about autism awareness and acceptance so much more. Several students and their parents that know us even questioned why "Kiddo" and his classmates weren't allowed to go.  That is a testament to how well the inclusion program was done at "A" school.

As this trip was to Medieval Times, which is essentially a restaurant with a show, how is it possible these students could not attend?  As several of their CBI trips have been to restaurants! It would have been a wonderful opportunity for the typical peers to model for these special needs students. Not to mention a way for our kids to carry over previous lessons they have learned on their own CBI trips.  

If this could be done at the elementary grade level every single year, there is no reason it couldn't happen at the middle school level.

In the future, I will be happy to act as a chaperone on school trips if they need parent volunteers.  

And I sent it. A couple of emails and phone calls later, I'm still not sure if they get it.  

I was told there would be a trip in the spring where both his class and the "buddy program" would be going to together.  Okay, that's cool.  I'm glad that's coming in the future. 

I was encouraged to look over the calendar and basically let them know what I want the Kiddo to go on and discuss it with them.  I'm kind of put off by that.  This is where I'm thinking "They don't get why I am upset." It's all "let's move forward" and not a real acknowledging of the problem.  Not a lot of "Yes, let's fix this." More like "Oh ok. You go do the work and let us know and then maybe, we'll see. Yadda, yadda, yadda." 

So,you want me to be the one on top of this?  You're going to see me be ON TOP OF THIS. You think my Kiddo can fixate on a subject?  Where do you think he learned it from? ;-)