Archive for January, 2011


The Boy in the Baby

Behold, the Ninja Goat Monkey Monster!

Have you ever had one of those moments where you look at your child and see, not the toddler, but the Big Kid he will one day be? The man?

I had this moment with Pieces the other day. He has always been the jolly child. He is just so laid back and happy about everything. He has this giant belly laugh that comes out at the slightest provocation. His terrible twos lasted for all of two weeks and this child actually cleared the space around him before carefully applying himself to the floor for what  can only be described as a laughable fit. (With Chi to contend with, this child had no chance of beating me down with a war of attrition.)  His favorite word, and quite possibly his first, was “Yeah.” As in, yes. In fact, before he started talking he would nod his head emphatically, which involved an elaborate wagging of his whole body; open his mouth in the widest grin possible showing all of his most gigantic tonsils; and say, “Uh-huh.”

**RELATED NOTE **His Uncle Doodle, who currently resides in our house, has taught him to say “I’m not sayin’. I’m just sayin’.” a’la Vince Vaughn in Wedding Crashers, and tickles this poor child mercilessly while asking him, “What’s this?” All the while jabbing his blunt fingers into Pieces’ armpits while Pieces is laughing so hard he can’t breathe and answering, “Iz NUSSSING!” (Pynni will stand aside and say, “It’s arm-pents.”) Regardless, Pieces is almost ALWAYS in a good mood. He is almost ALWAYS smiling. He is almost ALWAYS game for whatever anyone around him wants to do.

BACK ON TOPIC** So the other day, Pieces is walking through the dining room and into the living room, singing some made up song, and I am in what has become my station on the couch downstairs. I was either writing or reading, but I don’t really recall which, when I look up at him. AND HE IS NO LONGER A TODDLER. Boom! Just like that, he became a preschooler. He used to have the most adorable extra chins. He used to have the chubbiest cheekies that just required all kinds of lovin’. He used to have this little ponchie tummy that his pants hung below like an 80 year old man. NOW. Now, he is arms and legs. His tummy has slimmed and is downright defined. His chin is no longer plural and seems lonely, if you ask me. His cheekies, are still precious, but look less edible.

I am astounded in this change that seemed to happen between rooms in my house. I don’t want to let go of the baby, of the toddler. I want to hold on to my littlest jolly boy forever, but he is growing up. He can do all the things by himself (get dressed, put on his shoes, potty, brush his teeth). He suddenly has independence requirements that I thought the babies of a family weren’t supposed to have.

He is moving toward an identity of his own that does not start with “Mommy.” I wonder how I’m going to survive losing this bond that I have with him.

“Mommy, I’nna sit in your wap.” Then, I see that I have gained something that may have been lost in the busy day to day hullaballoo.

I am thoroughly enjoying this new phase of Pieces.

**History Lesson**

Pieces is also known as the Ninja Goat Monkey Monster. He was capable of quick stealthy movement around the house much like, I suspect, a baby Ninja would be. One moment he would be playing quietly on the floor at my feet and the next he would be scaling the dining room chairs and dangling from the dining room light fixture much like I figure Rhesus Monkeys do (and this was before he could walk). This child will eat ANYTHING, and that is no lie. He will eat broccoli, salad, chicken, fish sticks, oatmeal, any fruit you could name, yogurt, markers, crayons, play dough, books, rubber tires, leaves, sand, grass, cat hair, thread, gamecube controllers, DS styluses, pencils, paint. Yup, you name it, he will eat it, and I don’t mean mouth it. I mean chew it and swallow. I mean digest. ANYTHING. Frigging goat. Then, he seems to contain Tasmanian devil DNA. A space can be perfectly clean and almost faster than you can process, it will be a certifiable disaster area. I really think that I should be allowed to qualify for federal funding for disaster areas for my house. Really.

The Hard Way

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***********  THIS POST CONTAINS SOME GRAPHIC IMAGES  ***********

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In March of 2009, my husband was diagnosed with skin cancer. Basal Cell Carcinoma to be exact. Now as far as skin cancer types go, this is the kind to get. It is extremely slow spreading, rarely penetrates the deeper layers of skin, and almost never metastasizes to other organs or bone. That’s not to say it can’t be pretty serious, but generally speaking, if you are gonna get skin cancer, this is the way to go.

For all the years I can remember, and looking at past photos, I’m not exaggerating,   Hubby has had this white line on his nose. It looked as if someone had stabbed him with their fingernail and left a white half moon on the end of his nose. His nose has always been prone to acne breakouts, some of them quite painful, and all of them boilishly ugly. It is something he has been self-conscious of for as long as I can remember and something he always had said he wanted to get checked out.

Then when he went for his physical, his doctor told him to get a mole he has on his collarbone checked out. There was nothing said about his face. The mole was something he has always had. I’ve known him for fourteen years and he has always had that same mole. He was not really worried by what his doctor said, but decided to follow the advice and while we was there he could have his troublesome nose looked at.

The day of Hubby’s appointment with his dermatologist, his nose breaks out. “Great,” he says, “Of course, the day of my appointment I would get a zit over the area I want the dermatologist to look at.” I tell him to go anyway, the zits are part of his problem. So he goes and is reassured that the mole is simply a mole. His nose, on the other hand, gives the PA pause. She wants to know if he has had a severe sunburn on his nose recently. The answer is no. We are sticklers for sunblock in this household.  She goes and gets the dermatologist. He personally says that a biopsy is needed and that a biopsy should be taken of both the zit and the white ridge (which is barely visible on this day).

As the PA sets about numbing his nose to perform the biopsy, she tells him that she would not have considered testing the white ridge because it doesn’t look cancerous to her, but the zit looked like a cancer flare-up and is what had raised red flags for her. The Doc seemed to be of the same opinion except that he felt the ridge odd enough to biopsy at the same time.

So, Hubby comes home with a couple of divets removed from his nose and pain lancing through his head after the localized anesthetic wore off. He is mildly freaked and paces around more than usual. The Doc’s office calls him the next day to schedule an appointment to talk about his results and he goes in.

The results are positive for basal cell carcinoma. The zit and the ridge tested positive. The recommended course of treatment is a procedure called MOHS surgery. Basically, the Doc draws a circle around where he thinks the cancer extends and then eyeballs the cut trying to remove as much of the cancer in one go as possible. Hubby has had this ridge on his nose for YEARS so the Doc is a bit concerned that the damage could possibly extend all the way through the dermal layers to the cartiledge (but most likely not metastasized) and possibly extensively across his face under the epidermal layer. These are things the Doc can’t tell until he begins cutting. So. He tries to cut away as much of the cancer in the first pass as possible, then he divides the area into quadrants and does a biopsy on each.

This is the pressure bandage Hubby went home with after the proceedure.

Hubby sits in a waiting room with pressure bandages on his face (yes, this is all done with him awake using only localized anesthesia) for about 45 minutes while the labs are run. Then the doc will know where the cancer remains, Hubby is numbed-up again, and Doc cuts where the tests were positive. Rinse and repeat until the biopsies are clear.

The procedure took 6 hours in total for Hubby. I have never seen him more traumatized. He apparently burns through the localized anesthesia very quickly and had to be injected in his face 30 times every time he needed re-numbing. So that after the first couple of times having to be re-numbed mid-proceedure, he just sucked it up and dealt with the pain. He was in a very bad mood by the end of the day.

They sent him home with a giant pressure bandage to keep this gaping wound on his face from oozing all over the place until they were ready to do the grafting procedure. He spent that time staying as doped as possible, sleeping and trying to hold down his food and meds since the drugs and the pain were making him nauseous.

 

He was like this for weeks.

The grafting procedure was one of many options that had been discussed with Hubby when he was told the results of the initial biopsy. This procedure involved drawing an inverse template of the surgical site on Hubby’s nose onto his forhead, cutting that template out while leaving one of the major vessels that feed into his scalp intact (thus insuring the graft says alive and viable as it heals), laying the cutout over the surgical site and then flipping it over so the correct side faces out, sewing the graft on, protecting the exposed vessel with a stiff, yet wet type of tape, and pull the edges of the now damaged part of his forehead as closed as possible.

With the graft connected like this, it still had working nerve endings. Hubby could feel his forehead on his nose. With the highest point being at the tip and the lowest point being up on his bridge. He says the most painful thing was where they stretched his scalp out to make that hole as small as possible. They pulled all of the extra skin and then some toward the front and middle of his head to try and cover that place on his forehead. You can see in this photo how shiny the stretched skin is. His eyes were almost swollen shut for more than a week and he had bruising all around his eyes.

Eventually, the Doc deemed the graft connected sufficiently and severed the vessel and then tucked and sewed the leftover ends. After this, there are surprisingly few things that can be done for the look of his nose.

Right before he started the laser therapy.

All of it requires local anesthesia, pulling up the graft, scraping the graft and reseating the graft with various degrees of complexity involved. I think he’s decided that with some laser help in healing to reduce the scarring faster (which he’s been doing once a month since late July) he can just deal with any imperfections. After all, they won’t be able to give him his nose back, and even if they could, insurance wouldn’t cover it.

What I took away from this:

  1. If you have something on your body that just doesn’t seem right, GET IT CHECKED OUT! This could have been so much worse, but it could also have been much less invasive, much less traumatic.
  2. Localized Anesthesia is crap in this procedure. The Doc knew it was going to be very intense. The could have at least given him an amnesiac like my dentist does when I ask and required that he have a reliable person there to help care for him (namely me since I was there the whole time).
  3. There is nothing like having people around you who love you no matter what when this kind of thing is happening. I love this face whether it has all of it’s parts or not, and thankfully, it does.
  4. Kids are remarkably understanding. We were really worried about how this would effect our kids, most especially Chi. We told them that Daddy had an ouchie on his face that the doctor had to do some work on. This is not how it will be always. They wanted to look and ask questions and then it wasn’t a thing. They didn’t stare at him or poke him and badger him with constant questions. Even kids that didn’t live here looked, asked, and moved on.

Much better, I think. Taken Wed, 19 Jan, 2011

I would like to thank him for allowing me to air this very personal experience here in this forum.

Different but not less

Doing two of his favorite things: sitting behind me and smelling my hair.

Chi is exceptional at an astonishing variety of things when you consider that he has Asperger’s and Aspie’s generally excel in a narrow window of areas. When I think on it longer, Chi is good at numbers in general and at specific kinds of relationships. I’ve been thinking a lot about these little amazing quirks of his and I realized a few things. First, that I write a lot about his troubles and not so much about what great things he does, or just how he amazes me daily with little things. Second, that I haven’t written anywhere some of the things he does that I can’t get enough of. I remember, vividly, the raging fits and the horrible, violent meltdowns. They happen, still, when he gets overloaded or surprised. But I, also remember the really great things. Things that may seem little, but I don’t want to forget them. And, who knows, maybe someday, he’ll read this and I want him to know that even though we have had some serious difficulties with him, he amazes me and I wouldn’t trade any of these years for any others. I wouldn’t trade him nor do I wish that he were different. I like Chi, just fine thanks. It’s the number one reason that I waited so long to get him tested. I didn’t want some professional telling me that Chi needed to change in x, y, and z ways. I just wanted to help him deal with a world that is not friendly to people who are different and is not easy for people who find struggles in the mundane.

Anyway. Chi is exceptional, and here are just a few of the ways.

Chi started talking very early, around 8 months of age. By the time he was a year old he had started verbally digressing. He would learn new words and use them for a few days before dropping them and not using them ever again. By the time he was two, he spoke entirely in what I called ‘Chi-nese’. It was indecipherable to me which means no one else could understand him either. At around two and a half, he started using some English words again, but he refused to even try words if asked. He knew, for instance, that his Dad drove a Honda Civic. He would point out all the Honda’s on the road. “Daddy Car,” he would say and point at the cars with the same symbol as his Dad’s car. Then he started saying, “Daddy-Daddy Car!!” I realized this was when he saw a civic, more specifically: when he saw a Civic of the same year and model (98 and 4 door, LX). This kid could tell the difference.  Eventually he did this for all of the types of cars everyone we knew drove. He could somehow tell and communicate to me in his very sparse English heavily accented with Chi-nese that he new not only the make, but the model and he could tell which model, regardless of year, was the right one.

I don’t think Chi had to relearn English. I think he just decided to start speaking it again one day. He has never mimicked. He couldn’t be bothered. He doesn’t like certain kinds of repetition. If he already knows something, he doesn’t see the value in doing it over and over again. Needless to say, he has a hard time in school. He had to go to a speech pathologist to learn how to make his mouth muscles make the sounds that exist in his second language: the English one. Even once his language was consisting almost entirely of English, he was really hard to understand. “Tuhn da wites opp in da oppiss, pweeze Mommy?” (Turn the lights off in the office, please, Mommy?) Seems pretty straight forward as I type it, but when he spoke it, unless you knew that off=opp and office=oppiss, I think you’d be lost. Most people were.

So Chi wouldn’t mimic. He wouldn’t even TRY to say “Grammie” for me which is what my kids call my Mom. One day I was explaining to him (he was about 18 months or so) who Grammie was while trying to get him to repeat after me and I said, “Grammie is my Mommy. Grammie is Mommy’s Mommy.”  Boom! Light on! “Mommy-Mommy” is what Chi called my Mom until he either a) discarded it which is the most likely reason or b) he started saying “Gwammie”. I don’t really remember the exact happenings so far as that was concerned, but considering the time period, he probably stopped calling her Mommy-Mommy before he ever took up ‘Gwammie’. He loves to know how people are related to him from that time on, and he GETS IT. I don’t get it sometimes. I mean, the degrees of cousins removed? He gets it. I have to think long and hard about it. I had to research it so he would have all the facts straight. (My first cousin’s son, Jack, is my first cousin once removed, but he is Chi’s second cousin, etc.) These degress and titles matter to Chi. Plus I can say something about Nanny, and he’ll look at me blankly, then I say, “You know, Poppa Tom’s Mommy? My Grandmother. She’s like your Nana, only to me.” And he says, oh yeah!

Chi doesn’t get lost. For example: My brother and sister-in-law lived in a town about thirty-five minutes from our house. To get there we would drive down small roads that took us to a main artery through city then onto the beltline and around to their exit of the main interstate. They moved over to our side of town and we didn’t make that drive anymore. Chi was three and a half when then moved. When Chi was 6, we started this odyssey of figuring him out and helping him. His behavioral therapist’s office was in the same area of town where my Brother and his family used to live, off the same exit, but in the time span between their move and our visit to this office, the outer perimeter beltline was completed and we took that all the way around instead of the other less direct route. When we exited on that first morning when he was going for his first tests, Chi said, “Abshee used to live here!” We were coming from the complete opposite direction. Nothing about the area around us was similar. The two exit ramps are not the same. There is no big signs or recognizable restaurants or anything at these exits! He was reading quite well at this time, but he was THREE the last time we’d come to this side of town! I still don’t know how he knew and he didn’t know either. He does know how to get home from where ever we go. He’s know how to get to my parents’ house three states away since he could communicate such to me.

All places in his life are in relation to where he lives. I don’t think we will ever be able to move. That could prove problematic.

NOTE: I say it a lot. “Since he could communicate it to me.” Because I don’t believe for a moment that he wasn’t absorbing and recording all these things even when he wasn’t speaking my language.

I could go on and on, and I’m sure I will in future posts. For now, I hope you get some of a picture of just how special this kids truly is.

‘Different, but not less’ is a motto that Temple Grandin’s mom instilled in her and I want it on a plaque to hang in his bedroom and another one to hang over the fireplace in my family room. It’s fabulous and I couldn’t have said it better.

TMI

Ah, yes, I said when I started this blog that I would refrain from TMI. Too Much Information. But something happened the other day that I cannot stop laughing about.

Here’s a little lot of back story:  I am a mother of three. As most people with two kids find out, you have less time for everything with your second child. With Chi, I wrote in his baby book every day. I took pictures of him every day. I diligently took videos of him. I sent thank you notes complete with pics of Chi using whatever the gift was. I remembered appointments and played with Chi on the floor. I cleaned the house and did the laundry. Chi’s clothes were in order and ironed if needed. Chi stayed cleaned and perfectly coiffed. I never had one of those instances where we were out in public and he was grimy, sticky and snotty. He was always wiped, polished and buffed. He always smelled fantastic. I sent Christmas cards to everyone I had an address for. Hand written and addressed, mind you.  I had pictures taken of him professionally (that I actually mailed out to my entire christmas list with hand written notes) every three months until he was one year old then every six months until he was two then every year after that until he was 5. After age three, all of his portraits include his sister.

Along came Pynni, I wrote in her baby book occasionally, at least enough to get the milestones down. I sent some thank yous but never with pictures. I sent Christmas cards, but the addresses were printed on the envelopes and I merely signed them. I took pictures in bursts and video very rarely. The child was still clean and brushed and polished because she’s a girl for crying out loud and she has to look her best. Her clothes were always matching and she was always dressed with matching accessories. Chi’s wardrobe was not ignored either. I took her to get her portrait taken professionally every three months, etc, the same as Chi. Sometimes those photo sessions even included Chi. I occasionally forgot appointments, my house was no longer immaculate and the laundry would pile up for over a week before I would get it done sometimes. I played on the floor occasionally, but mostly I spent my time keeping Chi out of the myriad things he was king at getting into.

Along came Pieces, I have a baby book for him. I have not written in it. I haven’t sent one single thank you since he was born. I write them occasionally, but can’t find the stamps because my house, once paragon of order and temple of cleanliness, is a certifiable disaster. The organization is almost totally shot (except for the kitchen and my closet and my bookshelves and dvd/blu-rays and itunes orders itself, thank God). I take pictures if I think about it ,which sadly, happens less than I would like. Rhys had his picture taken professionally every three months for the first year and once since then. He’s almost 4. My children will spend all day in the their pajamas. I DID NOT, heretofore, DO JAMMIES ALL DAY. EVER. On the weekends, it is not unheard of for my kids to wear the same clothes from sun-up to sundown both Saturday and Sunday. They may smell good, but often as not, they look like little ragamuffins. Outfits, except for Pynni have gone by the wayside. I buy neutral pants and varying shirts for the boys and skip the outfits. Pieces has some of Chi’s stuff handed down to him. Those are the only outfits he has and that will end after 4T.

So you see. I spend much of my time bemoaning the fact that I have no time. Back injuries aside, I have not spent as much time hanging out with my individual kids as I would like. Chi, for reasons mentioned in other places on my blog, takes quite a bit of my attention and time. Pynni is so well-behaved and so quiet most of the time that you don’t even know she’s there. She also plays very well with Pieces and they keep each other occupied. Until this year, when Pynni started kindergarten, I had not spent any time at all with Pieces just by himself. He doesn’t have a whole lot to say around the other kids and until school started, he was basically a Pynni mimic. He talked like her, acted like her, did every single thing she did, just as she did it. If she tripped over a toy walking through the living room, so did he. Then school started. Pieces and school is a whole other post, but suffice it to say that he is a different kid without his siblings around.

I cannot get him to shut up.

He talks and talks and talks. He sings and dances and tells stories and plays alone quite imaginatively. Like a boy. He doesn’t play house and dress up by himself. He plays with blocks and cars and action figures. Chi never played with blocks or action figures so Pieces did not pick this kind of play up from him. Pieces plays in his own way. He has his own way of saying things. His favorite words are: cool, cute, and nussing (nothing). I have found that he may very well be my favorite three-year old. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy this age with my other kids. I’m just enjoying it with Pieces more.

So, here’s the story I wanted to tell.

I had ordered some bras online and opted to pick them up in the store nearest me to save on shipping (read: free) and I could try them on at the store so that I could exchange or return them immediately if they didn’t fit. Pieces wanted to come with me because he likes to go whenever someone is going. We get suited up for cold weather and head out. I can’t listen to music because Pieces has a lot to say, and for whatever reason, he talks exceptionally quietly in the car. So I listen to him, and understand maybe, a third of what he says because when he gets going, he is impossible to understand. I tell him to open his mouth wider when he talks (hey, it works with Chi) and he just continues talking at that rapid pace. We get to the store and we walk around for a minute looking at the sights. Pieces is astounded by the sheer volume of clothing and the monstrous mannequins that are sprinkled throughout the store. Now is the time on Sprockets when we talk at the top of our lungs. I gently explain that we are inside and there is no reason to yell. It changes almost nothing, although he says, “Yes, ma’am.”

We make our way back to the checkout counter and accost a sales associate. She gets my box of bras and shows me into a dressing room. Pieces is astounded by the “three mirrors!” And counts his reflection at the top of his lungs over and over. He talks about the couch (read: bench) in the dressing room and laments the fact that he’s never been here before (he has). His volume remains high as he crouches down by the door and peers underneath it. The view is that of the room the dressing rooms line. The door directly across from ours is a closet so he isn’t peeking into anybody’s personal time. He takes up a commentary of what he sees outside our room. “There’s a man in a chair with wheels! It’s cool!” And on and on. Finally, he becomes agitated and stands up. “That woman,” he says loudly, “was looking at me.” I say, “Well, you were looking at her.”

Now I’ve opened my box of bras and they are the kind that have formed foam cups. I pull one out and Pieces says, “OH!! BOOBS!!!” As if that explained everything.

We had the meeting a couple of days ago with the 504 team, which at this point consists of the 504 Coordinator (read School Counselor) and Chi’s current teacher and Hubs and I (if we so choose).

Aside: Can you imagine NOT bothering to show for a meeting that determines important things about your child’s day to day experience at school? Especially if that child struggles so mightily without all these special interventions? I cannot wrap my brain around it, but my presence at these meetings is merely requested, not expected nor required.

Continuing on. We met at the school after the school day had ended. A feat that, in and of itself, was a bit of a logistical nightmare which I solved by picking my kids up from school early instead if trying to figure out  who could be here to receive them from the bus. We got all of the logistics resolved and were on time (I don’t do late) and our meeting began.

I knew from the previous year that part of the yearly meeting was to determine whether the 504 was still necessary (it is) and then determining what changes, if any, need to be made to the stipulations (several, in my opinion). There was not even a discussion about whether the 504 needed to be repealed and the rest of the meeting was just lining up any changes. Miz Eff had all kinds of ideas and notes to help Chi especially in relation to the EOG’s and the other two standardized tests third graders are required to take. (These tests aren’t the answer, by the way, and they do not take into account kids like Chi who don’t test well.)

Miz Eff really GETS Chi. She understands where he is coming from and sees how to help him in ways that I haven’t witnessed in another adult besides myself. It isn’t surprising, exactly, because I have seen this in her all year, but it was very reassuring and warming to witness this wonderful teacher actually advocate for what was best from my son. I feel as if my prayers over the summer have been answered and that I can worry a little less about Chi at  school for the rest of the year because he has this wonderful person in his life.

I can’t seem to stop smiling when I think about it.

My oldest, Chi, started third grade this year. A lot of damage was done to his ability to cope in school during his second grade year (or maybe this link or this one) and it was imperative that we get a teacher that would be willing to do a lot of work with him. We got one.

Miz Eff is really fantastic. She understood what I needed when I told her what Chi had struggled with during the last year and that I felt one of the biggest issues was low expectations and inconsistencies during his daily schedule and his consequences/reward system.

Not only did I change my expectations of Chi over the summer, I worked to get him on a sensory diet to help him stay organized and calm. Integrating this diet into school was going to require the approval and assistance of Chi’s teacher and I have worked with Miz Eff to make it as unobtrusive to the classroom as possible.

A sensory diet is a variety of tools to help sensory kids cope with over and under sensitivities and to help them manage the varying needs they have for motion and deep pressure stimulation. Chi’s sensory diet includes, but is not and will not be limited to a weighted blanket and brushing tools neither of which can be used in school, but  he has a weighted backpack he can wear to and from various activites that gives the same deep pressure stimulation of the blanket and the brushing. He has fidgets that are both oral and tactile, although not necessarily both at once. He has noise canceling headphones which are probably the number one item he has at school since auditory stimuli effect him the most negatively followed closely by visual stimuli. There isn’t much we can do about the busy nature of the walls in a third grade classroom or the stimulation being in room full of colorful, active 9 year olds poses, but if we help him in all the other areas, hopefully he won’t be too overwhelmed visually. Then, with the help of Miz Eff, we have instituted some sensory break times in which Chi can go down the hall to get a drink, do jumping jacks, and wall pushups if he needs to burn energy or wake himself up from one of his over-stimulated crashes. Finally, he has a cushion to sit on that helps him with his motion needs. It can only be used for 20 minutes at a time to remain useful and is yet another thing Chi needs help from his teacher to know when to use.

At the beginning of the year, not only did I want to incorporate Chi’s sensory diet into his school day for the first time, but I needed to address the outstanding problems that had cropped up during the final months of second grade. I had a conference with his new the day before school started and again a couple of weeks into school after she got to know Chi. She has been really fantastic. She is unafraid to be stern with him and to she is able to maintain the consistancy he needs in his daily routine.

Third grade is all about teaching kids, who heretofore have had their hands held through any and all things at school, independence. It is mind boggling to me the level of independence that is expected compared to last year, and I though last year was all about the independence. Last year was a cake walk as far as personal responsibility is concerned. Outside of repairing existing damage, this has been the hardest thing for Chi to grasp.

The boy is not the least little bit organized even though he craves that very order he seems incapable of. He has to learn to remember what folders to take where and what to put in them in a way that places those folders in his internal schedule and makes them a permanent part of his school day. I may have to tape lists of things he needs to check for at 230p everyday to his desk or something. The upside of all of the organizational and independence train wreckage that third grade has been so far is that Miz Eff says  Chi isn’t so far removed from his classmates with this handicap. I know that will change and the disparities between he and his classmates will widen and glare more brightly, but for now he is able to be one of them.

Chi is remarkable at math, but I’m not so sure that’s a blessing. He can, and will, solve all problems in his head and can not seem to grasp the idea of showing his work. I don’t think there is a process in his brain that is similar to working a problem out on paper. He just sees the problem and then knows the answer. I suspect this is the case because of the way he solves word problems. He reads it and at the end, when the question is posed as to what needs solving, Chi says the answer with no pausing for pondering at all. He does this with written equations, as well, but it becomes much more obvious that he doesn’t get “working out” the problem in steps. He could just tell you the answer, but if you try to get him to work the basic steps to solve a problem he gets all flustered and can’t tell you what 6 plus 8 is. He has to count on his fingers.

So at the beginning of the school year he was “tested” to see what level of math he would fit into and was placed in the advanced class. This year the kids change classes to their different math class which means that Chi has a different teacher from Miz Eff in a different classroom. Chi flailed and flailed. We were having troubles getting him to do the two to three pages of homework every night and on some nights it would take from 530p till bedtime at 800p with a small stop for dinner to not complete all of his math homework. You know a kid is struggling when he would rather do his spelling and writing homework than his math considering that he HATES writing with a passion and will do whatever it takes to minimize the amount of time he is putting pencil to paper.

By the mid-semester mark, Chi was failing math. He was failing writing, too, but that was a big part of some of the damage from second grade that we were dealing with, and he was getting better. Even at the apex of the worst times he had at the end of last school year, Chi did his math, and now here he was, failing. His teacher seemed to think he couldn’t keep up and that he needed to be moved. I wasn’t convinced introducing change into an already tough situation was a good solution since Chi’s reaction to change is sketchy at best and severely damaging at worst. The last thing I wanted was to set Chi back after all of the slow forward progress we’d been making. Miz Eff seemed to think the change was best although she did express hesitation in introducing any changes at all to Chi’s schedule, but we went ahead with the change of class and teacher and I worked to prepare Chi as well as could be managed to help him deal with the change better. AND WHAT A CHANGE IT HAS BEEN!

Math teacher 1 harped on Chi all the time to show his work. I think he was shutting down in class because of it. This caused him to hide inside his own head and not paying attention when he needed to be learning, thus putting him behind even more. Math Teacher 2 has allowed Chi to work, generally, as he needs to, and while they work at a slightly slower pace than the first math class, they are doing the same work. There is less homework, although Chi does all of it in a flash. MT2 asks that Chi show his work occasionally because he does need to know the basic steps of working a problem in order to do more complex problems later on. Although, I personally see the value in that, I also think that Chi will astound them all and be able to go from A to X without any stops in between. I think the chemistry between Chi and MT2 is much better, but whatever the case, he is now exceeding expectations in math. From failing to working beyond grade level in three weeks’ time.

I had my last conference with Miz Eff about three weeks before the Christmas break and she had nothing but positive things to say. All of the hard work at the beginning of the year to correct things he was struggling with has paid off big time. She said that at the beginning of the year he stuck out like a sore thumb and sought out solitude over the company of his classmates in everything, including outside play, but as the year has moved forward, unless you know what to look for, or experience one of his bad days, you can not tell that there is anything unique about Chi just by watching the classroom; except that Chi insists on having his desk kept away from the large conglomerate of desks that dominate the center of the room. Chi likes his all off by himself.

You cannot imagine the relief of knowing that hard work and finding the right tools and protocols can truly make a difference. I was struggling to stay positive because even with the small forward steps it seemed like we lived in Setback Land and it had a black hole level pull. It seemed like we’d never emerge beyond the event horizon and into the light of true progress and functionality. Yet, here we are. I can not be thankful enough. I also can not be vigilant enough.

We have a meeting with the 504 coordinator in two days to discuss Chi’s 504 and whether he still needs it or if it needs modification. I don’t believe keeping the one we have in place will be an issue, but I need changes added. I’m prepared for a battle, but I don’t really believe there will be one. There is too much evidence on my side. I can not let it get as bad as it did last year. There really is no telling how long lasting some of the damage wrought to Chi’s psyche will be, but we will continue to work. Continue to fight. Continue to move forward. No breath holding here, though. We will be very proactive.