His Community

My son had an appointment with his geneticist earlier this week. Driving four and a half hours to see a doctor may sound crazy to some but with him when we find a doctor that works we stick with them. We made a mini vacation out of it.

On Sunday, after my parents arrived to watch the rest of our little loves, we loaded up and headed south. To keep himself busy JR packed his backpack with his LEGOs, his Five Nights of Freddy’s LEGO figures, a notebook with three pens, his tablet, headphones, juices, gummies, BBQ chips, and and a large bag a popcorn (you know all the essentials for a road trip).

He was so excited he could barely sit still. The idea of staying in a hotel had peaked his interest. We don’t stay in hotel rooms often, normally when we vacation we have to rent a cabin, hotel rooms aren’t made for large families. Most of the conversation going down was about the hotel room. Questions like; where he would sleep, would there be food, could he stay up all night, and how long would we be staying.

As we got close to our destination I told him we were going to meet up with his old bus driver for dinner. He had the biggest smile come across his face. Momma I get to see my people? I can’t wait.

His people.

We made it to the restaurant and I scanned to see if there was a table close to the door. He does not do well with large crowds or noise. We don’t go to restaurants that often because of this. My anxiety was high. I knew we needed a table close to the door so we could get out fast if it became to much for him. There by the door, as if God knew we would need it, was table it just needed to be cleaned. Perfect. We sat him close to the window with my husband by his side. I sat directly in front of him. When his bus driver came through the door he started jumping up and down. She asked to set beside him so my husband moved and sat with me. I was nervous he would try to run without one of us right beside him but he didn’t. He was so excited to see her. For the next 40 minutes he colored on his menu, played his tablet and drank his “kitty cat shake” (Kit Kat shake) We caught up on all the local news and filled her in on all the things he was doing back home. I have never seen him be so still in a restaurant. It was a moment I will not soon forget.

We said our goodbyes and passed out hugs and headed to the hotel. He was fascinated with everything in the room. He loves office chairs and he was over come with excitement when he saw the office chair and desk in the room.

The evening was spent exploring the room and taking a bath. It was a relaxing evening.

He of course woke up around 5 the next morning. He is such a happy child when he wakes up. After watching a little TV we gathered up our things and headed out the door for some breakfast. Again we had to go inside a restaurant. I was hoping the buffet would have Cheerios, but it did not. Only oatmeal. He does not eat oatmeal. My husband picked him up some yogurt hoping everything would eat it. After a few minutes inspecting it he decided it was safe to eat even though it was not his normal orange cream flavored, he would try the strawberry. After eating he and I explored the gift shop while his dad paid our ticket.

We made our way to the doctors office and the appointment went well. He had more tests done and he talked up the nurses, he is such a little flirt. The doctor went over the previous test results and we scheduled a follow up appointment. We were there for two hours. Our boy did well but he was beyond ready to leave when the time come to go. So as a reward we took him to Chucky Cheese. Being a Monday morning we had the place practically to ourselves. We bought him a play pass and he bounced, literally, from game to game. He LOVES arcade games. He has several handheld ones at home but he was in heaven being able to play “big ones”.

After our Chucky Cheese adventure we headed over to his old school for a visit. The secretary knew we were coming and quickly buzzed us in. Everyone he ran into smiled and greeted him. The secretary told us his teachers class was in the cafeteria so we got our visitors badges and headed that way. That’s when it happened.

We cut the corner to the cafeteria and the room erupted into squeals and giggles for our little guy. While his teachers class was not in there all of his old classmates were. 30 plus first and second graders all waving and saying “hi JR” “look it’s JR” “hey buddy” “are you coming back?” We miss you!

JR was stunned. So was I. Here he was included in regular classes. He had so many little ones help him throughout the day. He had friends. True friends that miss him.

We made our way to his teachers room and he was greeted with hugs from everyone. It was still lunch time so he was able to go over to his favorite toys and play while the other students finished up. We visited for a little while and then had to tell him it was time to take a picture with his teacher and aide. He paused. He knew if it was time to take the picture it was also time to go. He fought back tears while we took the photo because he didn’t want to leave. This was his safe space. Here he was loved, included, and one of them.

It broke my heart to leave.

The car ride home seemed to take years. He talked about seeing them again and when would we go back. He misses all of them.

Don’t get me wrong, he loves his teacher here. She is amazing and absolutely adores our little guy. But it’s different. His old bus driver was texting me and calling me to make she she got to see him. His new bus driver, I’m not even sure he knows our little guys name. The school here is much smaller and autism is not something he hear talked about. There autism was not a bad word, they taught about it and included kids with autism in everything. They were not those kids with autism, instead they were friends.

He misses his friends, and I do too. I’m not sure he will ever have those bonds here. And that makes me sad. He deserves to have friends just like every other child. He deserves his people.

I will continue the fight for him to be included, to be seen, to be loved just as every child should be. Together he and I will find his people here. I know they are around we just have to look a little deeper.

Be sure to pick up your copy of our story over at beautifulchaosmomma.com or on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/1973619784/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1553170235&sr=8-1-fkmrnull

Teach with what He likes

Reading, writing, and arithmetic. All skills we need if we want to be successful adults. But what happens if learning these life skills does not come easy? What happens if one simply can’t learn these things. What happens when professionals tell you, your son is autistic don’t worry about those things just stick to the basics like eating and brushing his teeth.

What would have happened if I had listened to them?

From the moment the caseworker placed him in my arms I knew he was special. Over the next two plus years we cared for him, loved him while he was in foster care. In my heart I knew God had big plans for him. At the age of two and a half he become forever ours when we were able to adopt him and I was thrilled to know that I would now get to see those plans unfold. At the age of three he was diagnosed with autism and I thought all of those big plans would be forever lost. My world came crashing down. What were we to do now?

The thing about getting the diagnosis is it makes what you already know real. You may not want to admit it but deep down you know something is wrong. We knew something was different, we knew he was not meeting milestones like his peers, and we knew some of the things he did were odd. But the day we received the diagnosis our normal world stopped. It was hard to hear it from someone else.

We could have thrown up our hands and accepted what people were saying. He may never be able to talk, He may never be able to eat on his own, He may never do this or that. The list of “he may never’s” was endless. But the thing is, I could not look at this little boy, my little boy God had placed in my care, and say you will never. I could not give up or give in to the diagnosis. After all it was only one part of our special little man, it did not define who he was or who he was meant to be.

We live in an area where specialized therapist and services are very limited. Even now in order for him to receive ABA therapy we will have to drive over an hour each way to get him there (he is still waiting on a wait list for these services) That being said he has been blessed to have wonderful people helping him from the beginning. People who did not give up. People who believed he could rather than he could not. His Birth to Three team (early intervention) was absolutely amazing. His OT, Speech, and music therapists opened up doors we never thought possible. His teachers, preschool up through his current second grade teacher have worked with him and have helped him find his own way of learning.

So how do we go from learning basic things to helping him learn things such as math? We work with what he loves. And he LOVES NASCAR.

I think it’s the repetition of the cars going round and round the track, or it could be the big crashes. I don’t know what it is, but I do know NASCAR has helped him learn how to do math. At first we would show him a car and talk about the driver and number while he lined them up and down the hallway. Then he started counting them. He would go 1, 2, 3. 1,2,3 over and over. As his lines of cars got longer so did his ability to count. Now that he is a little older he will line them up in numerical order.

The last few weeks he has been working on simple addition and subtraction at school. So to help him we use the cars and do math problems. For example we can ask him, What is 4 minus 3? He will take the Kevin Harvick car (#4) and subtract an Austin Dillon car (#3) and end up with a Jamie McMurray car (#1), 4-3=1. Math made easier with NASCAR who would have thought? (I know these are last years names and numbers. He does not have the 2019 cars yet shhhh don’t tell him)

My point is never give up. We will never give up. We look for things that spark his interest and use them to help teach him. If we would have given up like so many people told us to his life would be so much different today. Yes autism is hard. Yes there are days I wish he didn’t have the struggles he has because of it. But his life is not less because of autism. His life is full of giggles and smiles, hugs and high fives. And thanks to NASCAR (and his teacher’s throughout his years) he now has a love for math.

So Thank you all who have crossed our path that never giving up on him. And Thank you NASCAR for opening up doors we never thought possible.

Be sure to check my book Beautiful Chaos Our Story about Foster Care, Adoption, Faith and Love on Amazon.

Student of the Month

There are moments as parents we catch ourselves thinking about as our little loves grow up. There are the early questions, When will he walk? When will she talk?What sport will she play? Will he be in the band? And then questions that come as they get older, Will they go to prom? To college? Will she get married? Will he be okay? All questions that have ran through my mind more than once.

As an autism mom, some of even these simple questions leave me in tears after a long evening of stimming and repetition behaviors. Most days we fight the good autism fight. Our lives are arranged around what he can and can not handle. Is it always fair to our other little loves or our older two children? No, no it’s not. However life as we know is not fair. We do the best with what God has given us. And what He has given us is beautiful, chaotic at times but beautiful.

With my first two children, I was the typical mom. We had piano lessons, dance lessons, taekwondo practice, a little t-ball, and soccer. Then came high school and it was marching band, jazz band, color guard, concert band, winter guard, and still taekwondo, They received awards for most everything they participated in. I have a filing cabinet full of awards, still waiting to be scrapbooked. And while I was taken back if they didn’t win something, I didn’t worry about it because I always knew there would be another award/trophy around the corner. Then JR came into our lives.

Autism is so misunderstood and so complicated, yet beautiful and full of surprises. With JR we are not in a hurry to run from ball field to ball field, he could care less about sports. With him we get to see life through his beautiful heart and mind. He has taught me so many things about slowing down and enjoying the small things out of life. Not getting called up during an assembly to receive an award like the other students phases him not. But if I’m honest with myself, it bothers me a little. Ok maybe more than that, maybe more than it should. I know he could be that one in a million that becomes a childhood prodigy, but I know my son. I know that he is beautiful and funny and the happiest kid you will ever meet. I also have come to the realization that he has autism and that’s ok. He is exactly how he is supposed to be. My perfect little sometimes rotten wild man. But sometimes the “normal” mom in me becomes sad at the thought of a life he will never have.

So when my normally quiet seven year old came bouncing in from school, I knew something was up. Then I received a text from his teacher asking me if he had told me about being named Student of the Month? When I asked him about he got the biggest smile on his face. He told me all about hearing his name “over his head” (the school speaker) and how everyone knew his name now. He called his dad and told him about it, and then his big sis. He was so excited because it will mean that Santa would hear about it and maybe just maybe bring him an extra special gift at Christmas. Being student of the month is special momma. Maybe Santa gets special gift for me cause I did so good.

I asked him what kind of special gift he wanted from Santa, you know so I could pass the information along I was floored by what he said. He was not asking for a new plane, or new NASCARs, or LEGOs for himself. My son asked for a new kitchen for our house. I stared at him with a puzzled look and then he ran over to show me what he was talking about. On his tablet he had created a whole house for us. In the center of the house was a beautiful kitchen. From the cabinets to the flooring everything fit so well together. It’s the table(island) you like right momma? I can change the lights if you like. I fought back the tears. Instead of using his “extra gift” from Santa to get himself something he was thinking bigger. He was thinking about all of us. He truly he a special kid.

I don’t think Santa will be getting us that new kitchen, my boy has very expensive taste, but I’m sure he will get something extra. This beautiful little human has taught me so much about the importance of loving others and embracing life. I am so happy he is a happy child. Way to go wild man!!! Momma loves you!

I am so thankful he is adjusting well to his new school. We have been blessed with teachers who see his true potential.

We have also found some wonderful worksheets for all of our kiddos over at Education.com be sure to check them out

Your kids will love ‘falling’ into the season with this word search activity! Be sure to check out more language games and worksheets at Education.com

What’s Best for Him

Our school year is well underway, our little loves are adjusting to their new teachers, bus drivers, and schedules….well most of them. Our littlest guy was not adapting well at all. While his brothers and sister were excited to see what their new school’s had to offer them he was terrified. Completely. Terrified. This year he would be in class without his brother. This year he had a male teacher. This year he would start without knowing anyone. Kindergarten can be a scary place. His preschool had some worries about him starting kindergarten. Academically he was ready. He knows all of his colors, he can count to 100, he knows his shapes, and he can write all the letters not the alphabet. He can even correctly spell his full name. He can even sign the alphabet (forward and backward) I think he is pretty smart for a new five year old. But kindergarten is more than A B C’s and 1 2 3’s. Socially he is not ready. We tried the kindergarten class, but within a few days we knew it was not going to work. His teacher said he would stay to himself, he would not answer (or even acknowledge) anyone that asked him a question. He basically shutdown on us all.

He did not want to get up in the mornings. He cried as we went to the bus. He would not talk about anything that happened during his day. He didn’t want to go to bed at night because he knew he had to get up and go to school the next morning. Our happy, go lucky, always making a joke kid was miserable. My momma heart broke for him. When the school called for our meeting I knew something had to change.

As I sat in a room with teachers and staff that barely knew my son, I questioned if we/I was doing the right thing for him. If I stuck to the plan with him staying in kindergarten he could come out of his shell in a few weeks/months and everything could be okay. He could also be completely miserable and in the end fail kindergarten and have to repeat it again next year. Or we could place him back in preschool and help him build on his social skills and possibly transition him into the kindergarten class a few days towards the end of the year and that way he would be ready for kindergarten next year. The choice was clear. He needed another year of preschool. But how would he adjust to yet another change this year?

Part of me wants both of my five year olds in kindergarten together. But I want what’s best for him, not what I pictured life would be. He needs this. His teacher knew I was worried about the decision we made, so she sent me a few photos through this first day. I can’t tell you how much those photos meant to me. And when he got off the bus from his “second first day” the smile on his face said it all. He was happy, so very happy.

I hope as the years go by he understands why he and his brother are not in the same grade. I hope he understands we did what we thought was best for him. I hope he understands that every decision we make is in hopes of giving him a better life and giving him the best opportunity we can. But those are all questions for a later day. For now I will focus on the smile on his cute little face and know that he is happy and feels comfortable in his new class. Here’s to a great preschool year!!

I’m a Kid too… A Foster Child’s Point of View

I am more than a foster child.  I’m a kid too.

I could be a newborn, a toddler, or a teen or maybe somewhere in between.

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I may arrive at noon or in the middle of the night.

My clothes might be to small or not fit me just right. 

I’m full of emotions. I could be shy, angry, frightened, or scared. I could be crying, withdrawn, and may even avoid eye contact.

I may be hungry I may be cold. 

School could be hard for me.  New place, new faces, new friends, and new rules.

Don’t judge me because I am in foster care…

                                                          I’M A KID TOO!!!

I laugh 

I sing 

I play 

I dance

I like sports.

I like music.

I like hanging out with friends.

I like watching cartoons.

I like to eat ice cream 

I like to play video games

I like going to the movies 

I need to feel safe

I need food in my tummy

I need to feel wanted

I need a warm place to sleep

I need to feel excepted

I need to know I am not alone

Above all, I need to be loved.  After all I am a kid too.

There are over 700,000 children in foster care across the United States, over 100,000 of them are waiting to be adopted.  These children are dealing with things that most adults could not handle and yet they are expected to “deal with it”  They don’t want to be seen as ‘”the foster child”, they want to be seen as a kid.  Don’t assume that because he or she is in foster care they are a bad kid.  Most children in foster care are in the system because of what their parents or caregivers done NOT because of their own actions. All they want is to feel safe and know that someone is looking out for them.  They want a normal life just like every other child does.  Let them have that life.  Let them be little.  Let them live a life without labels.  Let them be a KID ❤

 

 

 

Looking at His future

We had our mid-year parent teacher conference for Wild Man last week. I knew by the marks on his papers things were not going great in the traditional classroom. As a mother of a child who has autism, these meetings are dreaded. I know he is not on the same level as the other children his age, I know that he is falling behind, and that bothers me.

As I chatted with his speech therapist and his autism teacher before going into the meeting I addressed my concerns. They both shared stories about my little guy that brought smiles to their faces and told me it was natural to be concerned but he was really doing great. When his teacher was ready we walked in together and sat down. His teacher went over his test scores which were extremely low. She explained that he does not do well with timed test which was part of the problem but the test are mandatory so she had to give them to him. She then explained that even though it does not show up on the written test my Wild Man has grown leaps and bounds in class. He is starting to use full sentences, he is holding a pencil, he is engaging with other students, he is setting in his seat for at least 10 minutes at a time, he is making friends, and he is making eye contact here and there. All wonderful new skills for my son but all things that standard testing do not look at. I was excited to hear he was doing so well, relieved in many ways.

But I still questioned things like his spelling words, he has spelled one correct out of the last sixty. Only one. Math is a struggle. And homework when he does have it is a nightmare. I don’t want him passed just to be passed. I also don’t want him overlooked. He falls in the middle. He is doing to well to be in the autism room full time but he is not up to level with the regular class. He is somewhere in between. I am thankful he has an aide to help him through the day.

As we discussed plans for the remainder of the year one of his therapists said they wanted to help give him his best possible life. His best possible life. That phrase hit me hard.

As a mom I have thought about all of my kids futures. I see them all doing things like going off to college, getting jobs, moving out, getting married and starting a family. With Wild Man I want these things as well but I also know they may not be a reality. He may never go off to college or hold a traditional 40 hour a week job. He may be with us for our life time. If something happens to myself and my husband who will care for him? There are so many questions and concerns I have about his future, I worry but I can’t let it consume me.

He is in good hands right now at his school. They understand my concerns and they are working on goals they feel he can reach. They genuinely care about him and his education. I could not ask for a better staff of teachers and therapists to be working with him. he has been blessed with wonderful teachers since his preschool days. We will take this one day at a time. I have a life time to worry about his future, for now I will enjoy my silly, loving, crazy little boy. We will get through this together just as I promised him the first time I held him. After all autism is not who he is, autism is just a small part of what makes him my son. My wonderfully, sweet, amazing, brilliant son. I am so lucky to be his momma.

Education and Autism

Let me start off by saying fair/equal education should be available for ALL children. It’s that simple. No child (or their parent) should have to fight for an education that many take for granted. However, if you have a child with special needs I will warn you it’s a fight. Every. Single. Day.

I will say that where we live now seems to have a better system in place then where we once lived. But it’s still a struggle. All I want, all any decent parent wants, is for their son or daughter to succeed. That starts at home and at school.

My wild man is almost seven. He attends a public school. In order for his needs to be met we have an IEP in place (some states call it a 504) Basically it is a plan that lays out my sons strengths and weaknesses. His plan gives him scheduled speech times and OT times durning school. His plan also calls for an aid to help get him on task throughout the day. Sounds perfect right? I thought so at first.

Last year he was in an autism/special needs classroom. The class size was eight children and eight aids plus the teacher. There was a calming room, sensory toys and tools, and even an OT room. He’s teacher taught him to hold a pencil and he finally was able to write his name. He was excited to go to school. He loved his class and peers. It was perfect and he was doing amazing. To amazing according to the school. At the end of the year it was agreed (I went along with it thinking they knew what they were talking about) that he would be placed in a normal classroom for his first grade year.

Normal, an odd word in the land of autism. Nothing about our lives or wild man is normal. Why oh why did I think this would work. The first few weeks went okay. I think he was excited to be back at school. But as the days turned to weeks and weeks turned to months he slowly started hating going to school. One of the things that aggregate him (okay me) is that he is now expected to do spelling test. I know, I know all kids have to take spelling test. I get that. But he is still working on forming letters, how is he suppose to spell a word if he does not know all the letters to the word? In the last six weeks he has managed to get one word correct. One. One out of sixty. The word was frog. When he showed me his paper he beamed with pride. Look momma I did good. Frog ribbit ribbit. The nine red X’s did not phase him. But they crushed me. Another his personal aid has four other students. How is she suppose to care for my son’s needs when she has four other kids? Thank you budget cuts. He has sensory issues so he eats only a few foods. Two of those being peanut butter and Stage two peas, yes the baby food peas. Well he can’t take peanut butter because someone in the other class has a peanut allergy. As far as the peas, a boy in his class called him a baby for eating baby food so those are now out as well.

He is lost and I don’t know what to do. Part of me was so excited to hear he was doing so well at the end of last year, but part of me worried that he would get over looked and left behind in a regular classroom. My fear as become his reality. He hates going to school now. And even though he can’t articulate why he hates it I have a feeling I know why.

So, I started looking for a new school. And I thought I had found one. It was a private school so the classroom sizes were small and they worked on an individual plan based program virus the whole class learning the same thing. It seemed to be the perfect school, until I was told how much it would cost. One year over 12,000 dollars. Wow. We are a one income family currently with six little ones in the house. There is no way we can afford that kind of tuition or justify it. That’s when it hit me, we need public schools that specialize in special needs. Why should it cost so much more for them to receive a descent education?

It’s time for better education for my son and all the other children who have autism, or Down syndrome, or any special need. Why should they get left behind or overlooked? Why should their disability be a magnet for educators or providers to charge more for their services? Have you looked at the cost for some of the sensory products or equipment for those with special needs? It’s insane. What’s a mom to do?

We fight. Day in day out. We become the face the principal and staff at the school dread to see. We make sure our concerns are being heard and that they are being met. We become moms like Maya DiMeo off of Speechless. We go in demanding and we don’t back down. Ooooh good you’re here...again

The fact is I would love for my son to be what society defines as normal. I think all special needs parents feel that from time to time. It’s natural for us to want our children to fit in. But the reality is he is not. He was made to stand out. No matter how hard he tries or how much I pray he will never be “normal” and that’s ok. God made him in His image so my son is exactly how he is suppose to be. He may learn different,act different, and talk different but different does not make his less. As his mom it is my job to make sure everyone sees that.

I will fight for you, for your education, for your independence, and for you to be excepted. Mostly I will fight so others can see you the way I see you. My brilliant, creative, funny and loving son. Don’t worry wild man, momma’s got this!