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End of Year IEP Meeting

I am always a ball of emotions during IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meetings.  I am happy to hear of any progress Tysen has made.  I am disheartened to hear of any goals not met or behaviors he struggles with.  And it can also be a very surreal experience to be on the other side of the table.

When I was a little girl, I remember walking the halls of my elementary school.  When walking past what was known as the “special ed” room, I was very curious about what exactly made this room special.  I, of course, noticed that some of the children seemed very different from me.  Some of them could not walk or talk.  Some of them rode in special chairs or had other devices to help them be mobile.  Some of the other children appeared to be just like me.  I didn’t understand why they were in the special class.  Sometimes, the children would visit my classroom with an assistant.  Their mental and physical disabilities always fascinated me.

When I became a teacher, I had the opportunity to participate in IEP meetings for some of my students.  My focus was to ensure they could accomplish their goals and even do things they felt they weren’t capable of doing.  I never had any experience with students with physical disabilities.  My students had mental, emotional, and educational issues.  What I enjoyed most about working in such a small school was the individual time I could devote to the students who needed it most.  It almost feels surreal sometimes to now have a child with special needs.  I often think about how I never intended to enter into the field of education.  My intention was to enter the dental field.  However, by my senior year in college, I decided that I no longer wanted to pursue those career goals.  I was unsure of what path I would take.  My counselor suggested that I take my teaching exams and teach school until I figured out what I wanted to do.  As it turned out, educating youth was exactly what I wanted to do.  I never dreamed that the path my career has taken me was, all along, preparing me to be the mother of a child with special needs.  That, along with my faith in God, would give me all of the tools I needed to take this journey.

As a teacher, it was hard for me to understand what a parent must have been feeling when faced with their child’s educational challenges.  My main focus was to educate and prepare my students to succeed in the world.  Now, as a parent, I am faced with two sides of the spectrum.  As Tysen’s mother, it hurts my heart that his medical condition will force him to face extraordinary challenges.  It is my job to nurture, love and support him; believe in him and pray for his strength and courage every day.  As his teacher, I have the same goals as before.  I am to take a large role in educating him and preparing him to supersede any challenge  or expectation.

We have been extremely fortunate thus far to have teachers that not only educate Tysen, but nurture and support him as well.  They put their all into his goals, and are just as excited about his accomplishments as I am.  Watch out world, Tysen is on the horizon.

 

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A Visit to a New School………………..

Over the past school year, Tysen’s aggressive behavior has increased more than usual.  Both his teachers and I became increasingly concerned about the cause.  I reached out to the parents in my support group for help.  Many of them had, at some point, experienced the same thing.  Some of them had to spend more time in the child’s classroom to help with adjustments.  Others advised teachers on things that helped at home.  And some parents  felt their child needed a change of scenery.  This began to make me think of all of the things I needed to consider with Tysen’s changing behaviors.  There were definitely some things that I could share with his teacher that helped in calming tensions at home.  But I also began to wonder if Tysen just needed a change in scenery as well.  I met with Tysen’s teacher and recommended some tactics that work for me at home in helping to calm Tysen’s aggression or assist him in making transitions.  His teacher mentioned to me that Tysen thrives in the general Kindergarten classroom that he visits each afternoon.  He enjoys the surroundings and participates very well.  Both of us agreed that Tysen might benefit from a change to a different classroom.  After all, academically, he has made so many significant leaps and bounds.  He has surpassed some of the skills of other children in his classroom.  Of course, this change would not be able to happen until the next school year.  But now was the perfect time to discuss this with his other care providers and begin setting things in motion.  So after a meeting of the minds, the administrator and I decided to schedule a time to visit the district special needs classroom at another school.

When I think of Tysen, I think of that movie, The Loretta Claiborne Story.  I think of how the mother in the film refused to give up on Loretta, although discouraged at times.  She also refused to treat her like she was different.  Would she have to work harder?  Absolutely!  But her mother gave her the courage to believe that she could accomplish anything she wanted.  This is the approach I take with Tysen.  It is absolutely devastating to any parent to know that your child has challenges to suffer with throughout life.  But you can’t let it hinder them from getting the most out of life they possibly can.  Tysen has been so blessed to have so many wonderful teachers and support in his learning.  It is always important for children to have a great support group at home and at school.  Double the effort, triple the success.

I recently visited the district special needs classroom, along with the district administrator.  The experience was superb from beginning to end.  Right away there was a warm welcome from, not only the teachers and assistants, but from the children as well.  They seemed to be so excited about seeing us there.  They were really a happy bunch!  They said “hello” and asked us our names and other questions.  This experience was very different from Tysen’s current classroom, where most of the children are mildly verbal (like Tysen) or not verbal at all.  It was a real joy to see them talking and interacting with us and others in the room.

I was particularly drawn to this little boy (I forget his name), who was working with one of the assistants on matching the letters of his name.  Every time he got one right, he would look up at me with the biggest grin.  I got excited for him. I got emotional on the inside picturing Tysen getting excited about learning a new skill.  Almost all of the children seemed very engaged and interested in their individual tasks.  There were a couple who had an obvious want for other things (like sleep), but that is perfectly common.  I know Tysen gets his best naps in at school.  Between his disruptive sleeping patterns and general health, he often tires quickly and can sleep during a better part of the school day.

My favorite part of the visit was circle time.  This was not your average ordinary carpet time with the students.  This was a pretty lively activity.  First, there were exercises and songs.  Then, the big dance.  In one part of the dance, the children were paired with someone in the room to get their boogie on.  Then they grouped into a circle for more body-shaking fun.  After the dance, it was relaxation time.  The kids got to stretch out on the carpet and rest.  The teacher came around and passed out stuffed animals for the children to rest with.  Their current theme is the forest, so all of the animals were forest animals.  They were happy to grab their favorite forest pal and allow all that energy to die down.  One little boy decided to use his pal as a pillow!

Overall, I believe that considering all of the academic progress Tysen has been making, a change in classroom scenery will really work in his favor.  Especially among children who are working on a similar level.  I look forward to sharing with you all that is to be told about the next school year.

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Tysen and His Friend…………..

My baby has a very special friendship with a plastic pig at school. The pig has a name, although it escapes me at the moment.   I have no idea what the connection is here, but he LOVES that pig.  Maybe he was a Man of Agriculture, like my grandfather, in a past life!  Who knows.  He carries the pig everywhere.  It has really been one of his first attempts at pretend play.  When the teacher made me aware of this, I went out on a desperate search to find a little plastic pig that looks just like the one at school.

Every time I would go to a store, I would check the toy aisle to see if I ran across one.  Then, finally, on the Saturday before Easter, it appeared.  The perfect, little piggy replica to Tysen’s school friend.  I was so excited to have finally found one, and was even more excited to give it to him on Easter Sunday.

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I got so tickled when he first saw it.  He was examining it as if to say, “Is that you?”.  They have been attached at the hip ever since.  The little piggy has also been helpful in calming some of those aggressive spells!  I think piggy will be a lovely addition to our family!  The picture above shows Tysen and piggy having breakfast.

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Let’s Get Started, Shall We………………….

I should have done this a long time ago.  I meant to do this a LONG time ago.  But it wasn’t until today when I saw a video online that I finally decided to drop everything I was doing and start this blog once and for all.  The video was from a lady, a mother of a special needs child, who was angry and upset over a joke told on the Steve Harvey Morning Show during a skit with the character, Miss Odell.  I did not hear the joke itself, only her explanation of it.  I wasn’t sure how to feel about it exactly. As comedians go, they poke fun and make us laugh about every everyones shortfalls and flaws.  And things are relatively funny until the joke applies directly to us or someone we know and love.  I have heard my share of jokes about people with special needs and have found most of them to be amusing and relatable.  I have, on occasion, also experienced jokes that I found to be too personal, rude or down right disgusting.  So although I completely understand how the mother feels, I can’t really give my opinion on that until I hear the joke for myself.

However, there is apparently a part of the joke that references the special needs person and church.  Particularly the part about the person’s language not meaning “Amen”.  THIS is where I took it to heart, as this is what I experienced personally last year at a church in Sacramento, CA I had been frequenting and planning to join.  My husband and I took all of the kids to church with us that particular Sunday.  I believe it was a special day, Easter or Mothers Day.  Tysen gets particularly excited when at church.  He’s always smiling and laughing.  He’s playful and just seems happy to be there (when he’s awake).  So, this Sunday was no different.  Tysen was very joyful, laughing and making his happy sounds, which everyone thought was fine and cute until the preacher began his sermon.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am the type of parent who feels that if a child is being loud or disruptive, would happily escort him outside to hang out or calm down.  But on this day, Tysen wasn’t being loud or disruptive.  He was being expressive, much like every other adult in the church shouting out their “Hallelujahs”, “Amens” and “Say It Pastors”. His voice didn’t boom over the pastor’s as those of the vocal folks in the audience did.  One lady shouted out a “Yes Pastor” after every ten words, but that didn’t seem to bother anyone.  Because my child can’t say those specific words, his joy was taken to be that of a disruptive little boy whose parents need to take him out.  A few minutes into the sermon, a deacon came over to my husband and whispered something to him.  Shortly after, my husband got up and took Tysen out of the sanctuary.  Although he didn’t say anything to me when he got up, I knew what that deacon had asked him to do.  I felt so hurt and angered that my child had been singled out amongst all of these others who were far louder in their expressions that he was.  I couldn’t help but think that when Tysen is old enough to sit in church on his own, will he then too be escorted out because his delayed language of expression disturbs others?  Up until that very moment, I thought that a small church would be the perfect setting for my family and I to blend ourselves into.  Our church home in Vallejo was a smaller sized congregation.  Although we loved them dearly, making the weekly trip with three little ones was hard.  Not to mention, it was impossible to participate in weekly activities.  So, we began to look for worship elsewhere.  Maybe a family like mine needed a large church.  So that we would not have to be worried about Tysen’s joy disturbing someone else.

I grabbed my things and my other two kids and quickly exited the building, only to have an apologetic First Lady come after me. Most of what she said was a blur to me.  My anger seemed to supersede anything else happening at that moment. I am sure she could feel that by the death stare I was giving her.  I knew that I just needed to leave before my things got ugly and I allowed my feelings to take over and further ruin a beautiful Sunday.  I didn’t plan on cursing when I got to church and I wanted to keep it that way. The only thing I can recall she said was asking us to please come back again. I simply said, “I don’t think so.”  I later learned in the car that my husband had a long conversation with the deacon before I came out.  He explained Tysen’s condition to him.  After which, he was very taken aback and very apologetic.  He even offered for them to come back in.

As hurt as I was, I refused to let it ruin a great day with my beautiful husband and kids.  However, I will forever be scarred by the incident. Situations like this are what keep me in my defense mode when out with Tysen; aimed and ready for someone to stare or pass judgment.  I don’t mind telling Tysen’s story or answering any questions people may have.  But to be ignorant and rude is just something I refuse to tolerate.  As much as I would like too (LOL!), I can’t fight everyone that comes at me “sideways” about my son.  What I can do is make everyone understand what it is like to be him.  I have, for the most part, been fortunate that most people have been understanding and curious about Tysen, rather than rude and judgmental.  I have, however, had to put a couple of people at Wal-Mart in their place a time or two.  Outside of that, most of the people I encounter have children or know children with conditions such as Autism, and enjoy being able to hear about Tysen.  I can guess that almost everyone who reads this post knows a child with a developmental condition.  So, of course, we may be prone to be sensitive about certain topics in a comedian’s joke.

Comedian Bruce Bruce has a joke about a special needs child that I found to be absolutely hilarious.  So funny, that I often repeat it to people because it reminds me of my Tysen.  In the joke, Bruce Bruce references an upset, non-verbal child making unintelligible noises in the car with him and his friend.  When he asks his friend what the matter is with the child, the friend explains to him that the boy wants to go to Target.  Bruce Bruce, baffled, says “I didn’t hear him say Target”.  I almost wrecked my car the first time I heard this joke.  That is the exact same explanation I have to give people when Tysen, also non-verbal, is making a fit about wanting to go to McDonalds.  He knows exactly where the McDonalds near our home is and how to get there.  He is very smart and has gotten “hip” to me trying to go a different direction from McDonalds to throw him off.  If you pass by a McDonalds ANYWHERE and don’t stop, there is trouble in the car for the next ten minutes!  Although those scenarios can be frustrating when they happen (because he also lashes out at the other people in the car), it’s funny and relatable jokes like these that can turn a frown upside down and make you see a brighter side of things.

So this is where it is going to begin for me folks.  It’s time for me to really play my part, tell Tysen’s story and make a difference in the lives of others.  I hope everyone reading this will help me do that.

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