Wednesday, August 29, 2012

School started last week.

My son turned 15 last week.

Today is Day 6 of school.

I have had multiple tests and doctors' appointments in the past few months; not all the results are in yet.

I've added cheese back into our lives, though we're still (mostly) gluten-, corn-, soy-, and casein-free.  Mostly.

All of these topics could be fleshed out.  I'm just too tired and, let's face it, approaching discouraged, to do it.  I've quoted it before, probably even on this blog awhile ago, but this about sums it up for me:
The devil once offered to sell at auction all his tools save one -- discouragement. "For," said he, "if I have that, I can get along very well without the others." (Helen C. White)
Don't all those great Hollywood movies and epic stories talk about the power of hope?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Start-ups

School starts in two days.  While I'm so ready for that -- 10-plus weeks of summer vacation is entirely six-plus weeks too much -- I don't want the stress of the school year, either.

My son will have four STEM classes.  Based on the workload last year with only two STEM classes, we're going to have to do a lot more overseeing this year.  And he doesn't have the study skills class this year that he had last year.  This is a problem on multiple levels: his resistance to help, his single slow speed, his lack of comprehension of the necessity of planning projects before doing them, and his sister's insistence for attention when a parent focuses on her brother.

My daughter will start off her first full year in general education since 3rd grade.  Transferring out of STEM last March took the workload pressure off her plate but added right back the "unchallenged" factor.  With a lack of gifted programming in our elementary and middle schools (with the exception of STEM), appropriate rigor is always in the hands of each teacher.  Even at the end of this past year in the new school, a couple of teachers indicated that their general education classes weren't at my daughter's level and that's just the way it is.

It seems to me that my school system does average really well.  However, exceptional students (of any kind) may or may not have their needs met.  In my case, both my children are twice-exceptional (2e), and I can't seem to get both sets of needs met at the same time, if at all.

I've been thinking about why my son was able to succeed in the middle school STEM program but my daughter went under by the third quarter.  (A friend's daughter just pulled out after making it through 6th and 7th grades.)  My son was already identified as 2e when he started the program.  Although we had a fair quantity of trouble getting his IEP implemented in the STEM program, he had an IEP from the start, and he did eventually get the supports he needed to access the curriculum.

My daughter, on the other hand, was successful in the elementary STEM program (almost straight A's) I believe because the elementary STEM program is quite different from the middle and high school programs.  It is across-the-board above grade level, but it seems to understand that the children are nine- and 10-year-olds.  They are children in the STEM program; they are not little adults in the STEM program.

When my daughter entered middle school, her special needs had not yet been identified in the school setting, and the demands put on her were too much without supports.  Though her difficulties were first brought to the school's attention in October, nothing useful happened through the time she left in March.  (Apparently several of her teachers hadn't even known she had a PST plan that had started in December!)  I will always wonder if she would have been successful if she had had the supports she needed from the get-go, or if the supports she needed had been identified and supplied immediately.

So here we are starting up another school year.  Open Houses are tonight and tomorrow, and, as usual, I have to go in asking, "You know my son has an IEP.  Yes, really.  Have you read it yet?  Have you read my daughter's 504 Plan?"

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cornwall

You know the story, "Welcome to Holland," by Emily Perl Kingsley, right?  (Go here to read it if you don't.)  I've shared it multiple times with parents of children with special needs (usually autism spectrum disorders) to help put it all in perspective.  I've lived in Holland a really long time.  I've never made a visit to Italy, but that's OK -- It can be really nice in Holland. 

Someone recommended that I watch the British TV series, Doc Martin.  From the Amazon Editorial Review:
He’s surly, tactless, self-centered, and uptight—but he’s the only doctor in town.
The doctor is in--but he’s not happy about it. After developing a crippling fear of blood, hotshot London surgeon Martin Ellingham (Martin Clunes, Men Behaving Badly) is forced to retrain as a GP and relocate to the charming seaside village of Portwenn. Dour, discourteous, and dismissive, he immediately clashes with Portwenn’s quirky villagers.
They had me at "surly, tactless, self-centered, and uptight."  Just who does that sound like?  Maybe your favorite, beloved Aspie?  Well, bless Amazon Prime Instant Videos for letting me watch the first four seasons free!  I just love it (enough to buy Season 5).  I watched the whole series over the course of a few weeks, and I've gone back and re-watched episodes several times since then.

But why?  Other than the Aspie-like connection and the fun of British humor, what's the draw?  The story lines revolve around village life -- slower paced than what I'm accustomed to, with an occasional sheep or pig involved, and people's idiosyncrasies are accepted without comment or incident.  But really, I just love Portwenn (really Port Isaac) in Cornwall.  It's gorgeous, from the cliffs overlooking the water to the cottages and buildings to the old seawall.  It's picturesque, quiet, and soothing.  I've even thought about moving there for a life of quiet retirement.

What I've come to realize just recently, though, is that I want to be there because I don't want to be here.  Holland, at the moment, just stinks.  Smelly, nasty, nerve-wracking stinks.  I don't want to be here with the never-ending harangues, the ingratitude, the demands.  I don't want to be here with needs of everybody pressing on me constantly, no time off, no time away, and no one caring for or about me.  I don't want to be here with the diagnoses that fill this house.  I don't want to be here.

I want what Cornwall represents.  I want to be in a there that is quiet.  A there that is calm.  A there that lets me be.  I've been hanging on tightly to the countdown 'til the start of school -- just 3 more weeks now -- but I know that though the house will be mine from 7:31 a.m. until 2:15 p.m., the new school year will bring its own set of demands and problems, potentially big ones.

The trick will be to find Cornwall in Holland.


Four years, never forgotten

I'm reposting this in honor of Ryan Baumann and with prayers for the comfort of his family, my neighbors.  Thank you for your sacrifice.

Patrolling the hills of Afghanistan

Formal pose

From the Arlington National Cemetery Website:

Sergeant Ryan P. Baumann, 24, of Great Mills, Maryland, died August 1, 2008, on Route Alaska, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Kentucky.


Ryan's family

Ryan Baumann
made a difference in this world.