October 15, 2009 by Marj Hatzell
I drove to the boonies last night for Bugaboo’s school’s open house. I tried fifty ways to get out of going but I didn’t throw up, didn’t run a fever, didn’t have a contagious rash and thought I might wanna see what kind of progress he was making. Let’s just say I’m glad I went.
Bugaboo’s class is tiny. As in, three kids with three staff members. Next week it will be four kids with three staff members. They get tons of attention, y’all. Mostly because if you ignore my kid he climbs a fence, hops out of a window or, I dunno, climbs out of his car seat in a moving van on the way to the grocery store on a high way and hops in the trunk? I’m fairly certain they will continue to keep those number LOW in this brand-spanking-new class of brand-spanking-new students. Out of the four, Bugaboo is the oldest by nearly a year, two years older than the youngest student. Bugaboo is also the shortest out of all four. And the thinnest. And the fastest. But I digress.
Where was I?
Yeah. Went to his school. Had to leave at rush hour. Every which way I turned there were back ups and I didn’t think I’d make it in time. A little more than an hour later, I finally got there, walked into his classroom and was greeted by his teacher. She invited me to look at his desk area, his schedule, his rewards, his activities, etc. As she spoke with another parent, I also had the opportunity to peruse his data-collection book. See, when a kid has an IEP they have a bunch of LEGALLY DEFINED goals they have to work on each year. They aren’t just nothing goals. The teachers have to keep track of EVERY TEENSY THING. Good teachers can keep track by recording daily spreadsheets and checklists and sometimes anecdotal evidence. Bugaboo has some fairly simple goals to work on. We’re starting at the beginning. This boy needs to learn to feed himself, drink out of a cup with no lid or straw, wash his hands, toilet independently, dress himself, walk with assistance (as he runs away often), brush his teeth and even wipe his face when he’s finished eating. He needs to recognize his name. He needs to learn to recognize pictures and simple words and symbols so he may function independently with a schedule someday. In other words, even though he’s technically in first grade, I could give a flying f*ck which letters he knows and if he can write them. I’m lucky my boy can scribble and hold a pencil, y’all. I could honestly care less. I need him to learn to take care of himself like a typical almost-seven-year-old boy can. I need him to listen when he’s being directed to do something. I need him to NOT have a tantrum in the grocery store and NOT disappear while we’re shopping. Sounds easy enough, right?
Thing is, most kids pick up on this stuff and figure it out. When you have a kid that makes little-to-no eye contact, they have to work twice as hard. They have to be shown every little thing. They need direct and frequent instruction to master it. That’s why the teacher’s collect the data, so every time we have a meeting to discuss his needs, we can refer to it, not just think, “Hmmm. He did put his shoes on by himself yesterday.” This way we have PROOF that he can do it, and then move on to the next step.
Needless to say, I am flabbergasted. Bugaboo has been at that school for SIX WEEKS, YO. As in, forty-two days (LOOK! MY FAVORITE NUMBER!). But twelve of those days were weekends. So he has been in school for about thirty days or so. And in thirty days, my boy has made more progress at that school than he did all last year. It wasn’t for lack of trying. His previous teacher was amazing. He just wasn’t ready.
I do not doubt for one second that we made the right choice sending him to this school. It was an uphill battle, it almost didn’t happen and we almost had to settle for second-best. But Bugaboo IS there and Bugaboo IS thriving, and I cannot even begin to describe how relieved and excited we are. We are so proud of him. For the first time we see a tiny glimmer of hope. We feel that in a year or two we could take a big family vacation. We can start eating out at restaurants. We know he is going to learn and thrive and make progress. It’s the best feeling in the world!
And, not to be outdone, I received Bug Boy’s re-evaluation report yesterday (because his IEP is coming up, too!). And Bug Boy? ABOVE benchmark in Reading. ABOVE benchmark in writing mechanics. ABOVE benchmark (way above!) in mathematics. His difficulties continue to be in speech (believe it or not), creative writing composition and attention span/emotional control. We still have work to do, but OH MY HECK! He is finally on grade level! In fact, he’s far above it! He’s in the top of his class! Now all we have to work on is lessening his trips to the pencil sharpener, where he is prone to zoning out and sharpening a brand-new pencil down to a one-inch nub. I’m feeling very confident about that one. Because I’m gonna start making him write with his bare hands if he doesn’t knock it off. Watch me.
Anyways, I’m flying high, y’all. It feels sooooooo good. For the first time, my boys are BOTH doing well at the same time. After this month, when the IEPs are over, I can actually sit back and relax a little bit. Except you and I know that I’ll find something else to do with my time…