Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Annual Case Review 2010

Today was T's ACR (Annual Case Review) at his elementary school, where his IEP (Individualized Education Plan) is updated for the next year. Law requires that it be updated at a minimum of once every 365 days. These Case Conferences can be harrowing experiences - for all involved. Parents & school districts can get into some very heated debates about what a "Free and Appropriate Education" looks like. Believe me, I hear about it at work every day.

Rob & I have always gone out of our way to collaborate with the schools. I suppose this is helped along by 1) my need to please others and be liked, 2) my diplomacy, and 3) both Rob's & my mother having taught in the public schools. We've grown up hearing the school's point of view, and I even did a short stint myself in the public schools, having student taught during my senior year in college. So we've approached school professionals as such: professionals, not adversaries. In our early days, when our Case Conferences actually happened in our kitchen, I baked cookies or banana bread, had coffee ready, and we all mapped out an IEP for T together. While I haven't provided a baked good in a while, we still take this approach: respect, collaborate, listen. I don't know if we've been lucky, but with only one glaring exception, we have always had an excellent working relationship with the schools, and have managed to get what we want for our boy.

(The glaring exception being the nightmare speech therapy situation in Small College Town where T didn't get speech therapy for 4 months solid - LONG story there. Another post, another day.)

I don't expect the schools to provide the Cadillac education for him. That is up to Rob & me to assemble for him, and the schools are part of the package.

Long story short: we continue to have an ABA therapist from his therapy clinic with T during one of the 1/2 days he attends. Public schools in general have a very strong bias against ABA, and most of the time it is best NOT to even mention ABA during a Case Conference (even though the movement of using Positive Behavior Supports basically is ABA - but we won't mention that). I was prepared to have to go to bat to keep this in place for him, but not a word was mentioned, nothing challenged - just keeping the same services he has this year, only adding some more directed social interaction opportunities with typical peers during recess and lunch.

I thanked all the staff for working so nicely with us, ironing out this unique situation we've put together for T. We were thanked for being so good to work with.

It feels really good. It really doesn't have to be a big battle. Perhaps the fact that T doesn't have majorly disruptive behavior problems helps - I'm sure it does - plus he's so darn cute and smiley that everyone that works with him adores him...that has to help as well!

After all the drama at his former ABA clinic last summer & fall, and all the ugly behavior and manipulation & secrecy, this was a most welcome meeting. Look out 3rd grade, here we come.

Monday, May 17, 2010

I love you, Mommy

He said it! HE SAID IT!

Okay. Yes, it was prompted. But everything he can do has started off with prompting, so I will consider this to be wonderful and miraculous.

This was a case of making lemonade out of lemons. It started when he started saying "I love you Duckett" about a week ago. Duckett was his beloved speech therapist - his first one from the public schools, and who is still the object of his adoration even though he's seen her once in three years. The one visit we had with her - just over a year ago - was memorable because of his reaction to seeing her. He walked into her office, saw her, shrieked with joy and then turned his back, covered his eyes and hid - almost as if to say "This is way too good, I can't stand it!", grinning and giggling the whole time. We took several pictures that day and they are saved on my computer's desktop so they are easily accessible. He asks to see them just about every night, and he nearly has the same reaction each time: it's too good! I must turn away and jump and hide! That's the background.

So about a week ago, he started saying "I love you, Duckett". Completely unprompted. My heart was bursting: with pride & excitement that he could put his feelings into words- unprompted, and breaking that those words weren't for me first. I resolved to remain celebratory about it, and rejoice that he, once again, has proven that the stereotype of individuals with autism not making emotional connections with others is not true - at least for him. He loves and he can say that he does. And that is huge.

I could have felt sorry for myself - and I did for a few moments. But I decided to grab the opportunity, and after a few days said to him: "I love you, T" in my clear, vocal prompting voice. And he said "I love you, Mommy" back to me.

We tested it on Daddy next. Rob: "I love you, T." And T replied: "I love you, Daddy."

8 years, 10 months. We'll take it!!!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


This morning, I told T that we were going to the dentist after school, and promised him that Dr. B would be so impressed with him. For the last several months, T has allowed me to use those flosser pic deals to floss his teeth, and I said that Dr. B would be so proud of him for doing so! I said that we were going to show off his wonderful teeth. Little did I know how impressed Dr. B would be with our boy – and how impressed I would be as well! Not only did T allow the dentist to floss between most of his teeth, but he also (with some encouragement & cheering on) allowed him to use the polisher all through his mouth! He still does not want to have anything to do with the actual dentist chair, but he sat just fine in a regular chair, and this dentist is so kind and experienced with our kids that he knew not to push the dentist chair thing. Both he and his dental assistant acknowledged that he made great progress today.

To paraphrase our Vice President (whom I adore), this is a big *bleeping* deal. About two years ago, he would get agitated if I even moved my hand toward the electric toothbrush the dentist suggested we use, let alone touch it or bring it toward his mouth. After several months of work, his Verbal Behavior therapists had him using it comfortably. We've been using an electric toothbrush since then, and I'm sure that being used to the sensation of something vibrating like that made today go as smoothly as it did. Bless his heart, the minute the dentist was done with the cleaning, T looked at me and said "Car", but he tolerated the flossing & quick fluoride treatment as well.

Other moms have told me stories of having to do several thousand dollars' worth of dental work on their child with autism because they simply won't tolerate having their teeth brushed. That adds to the wonder of this day – and the wonderful-ness of this boy!

Such a good day! We went to a party supply store afterwards to pick up things for Rob's graduation party this weekend. I tried to find some small plastic slinkies for him to play with as a reward, but I couldn't find any. No problem: the store had large (like 3 feet wide) pedestal fans going in the store. That is nirvana for T – no better reward than getting to jump and play in front of a huge fan! He earned it.