Tag Archives: special education

Wrapping up the year

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We are in the home stretch. 24 hours until we are done with school for the year. I can’t believe it. It has been a surreal year. It feels like we never really found our groove, and now here we are at the end.

Here is a look into all our end of the year news:

Soccer season is coming to a close. We have one week left and it is hard to believe it is almost over. This happens every spring. It seems to just begin and then it’s done. This is so different than football season which GOES ON FOREVER! I must admit I prefer soccer season! This year has been particularly relaxed and enjoyable. It has been such fun watching Tyler excel and grow on and off the field.

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Soccer is just one of many activities that are wrapping up for Tyler. This past week marked the final Occupational Therapy session of the year and Barton tutoring session of the year (until summer session begins.) We are so proud of how hard Tyler has worked this year. Academics don’t come easily for Tyler and he has clawed his way toward success, overcoming a lot of obstacles that make learning more challenging for him than the average child. This year we saw a lot of improvement in the area of reading and writing under the support of a new occupational therapist and a new reading tutor. Miss Jan has been awesome with Tyler. She uses the Barton program to tutor students with dyslexia and this spring Tyler finished level one and two with her and has progressed to level 3. We are so proud of all Tyler’s hard work!

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Two weeks ago the three big kids had their last seminary live class. Seminary is a religion class offered through our church to high school students. It is an amazing program that requires great commitment and dedication on the part of these high school kids, as it means getting up early and completing an hour-long religion class prior to starting their school day. This is an optional, enrichment activity that all three of my high schoolers choose to participate in. They are students in the online class which requires them to complete 4 independent, hour-long lessons a week and one live class every Monday morning at 5:50 am. This year they read and studied the New Testament. It has been an awesome, testimony building experience for each of them and we are proud of their dedication and commitment to the seminary program.

This was their final live class for the year and Gracie’s last seminary lesson for good. She is a seminary graduate! Way to go Grace!

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Grace has also been keeping busy with creative projects. For her one-on-one time this past week she asked if we could make bows together. This is a craft we did a lot when she was little. This time she had a specific idea in mind. She wanted to create some “Disney-bounding” bows, reflective of certain Disney characters. It was a fun, creative project and we both enjoyed the challenge of trying to capture the essence of a certain Disney character in a single bow using only color, texture, and a few accessories tied on to portray some of our favorite characters.

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Can you guess which Disney character this bow represents?

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While on a creative streak, Grace decided she wanted to do something special for her learning coach for the last few years of support. At her cyber school the students are each assigned a “learning coach” which is in essence a personal guidance counselor/head teacher who stays with you through your four years of high school. They monitor your progress, communicate with parents, keep you informed on school activities and outings, and act as your mentor and advocate. The students who have IEPs are assigned a special education teacher as their learning coach which is a huge benefit to the student as they have a trained mentor who is familiar with the unique challenges of a student with learning disabilities and can support them in a way that specifically meets them where they are at and can help them grow and achieve from there. Grace has been profoundly blessed to have had two awesome learning coaches who both singlehandedly affected how Grace sees herself, understands her disability, and then showed her how great her potential is, challenging her to rise to the level of excellence she has while a student at 21CCCS. The first of those teachers was Mr. Dolan. He is the reason Grace now wants to become a special education teacher herself. When he moved away halfway through Gracie’s high school journey she was devastated but God knew what He was doing and gave Grace Mrs. McGuire to walk with her and be her cheerleader for her last two years of school. Now that Grace is graduating she felt a desire to thank Mrs. McGuire in a special way and let her know the great influence she has had on her life.

Stealing an idea from Pinterest Grace sent Mrs. McGuire a “Box of Sunshine.” It was a gift box full of yellow products that Grace personally loves and she sealed it with the quote:

“Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.”

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The final end of the year event that took place this week was our End of the Year Co-op Picnic. After not seeing our co-op friends for the last few weeks it was fun to get together and catch up.

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We had a potluck lunch together of hot dogs, chips and salsa, salads, and desserts.

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We ordered a graduation cake to celebrate our two graduating seniors: Grace and Olivia.

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While there Grace received this adorable handmade graduation card from Miss Tauni. Isn’t it charming?!

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Everyone had a fun time hanging out with friends, celebrating the final week of school, and catching up on each other’s lives and summer plans.

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How blessed we are to be sharing our “home schooling” journey with such a special group of people. We love our co-op!

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Now here we are, days away from another school year coming to a close, and my last year schooling five students.

 It is the end of an era.

 Life is changing,

but

New adventures are on the horizon!

 

 

A Visit to CAL U

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Monday was President’s Day which meant the kids were off school. This day off proved to be a blessing because it also happened to be the day of California University of Pennsylvania’s spring open house.

California University of PA, better known as CAL U, happens to be on Gracie’s short list of potential colleges. She has been accepted and offered a scholarship there, but due to unforeseen obstacles in the fall, hadn’t actual visited the campus.

Now that we are in the final leg of decision making it has become necessary to visit CAL U to determine the pros and cons so that she can make her decision which school acceptance she will accept.

Tyler’s vote has been CAL U from the beginning when Grace first expressed an interest in going to CAL U.

To which Tyler responded: “Caillou?!  I LOVE Caillou!”

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CAL U is about 1 ½ hours south of us in the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania.

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Some of the pros already established include cost and proximity to home, but we were eager to get a big picture glimpse into life on CAL U’s campus and the other pros and cons only revealed through a more in depth look.

Grace and I made a day of it and had a great time enjoying some one on one time. The weather was beautiful and the event was wonderful.

We arrived and were assigned a tour group based on prospective majors. Grace toured with the other education majors. When we reached the education building the students were broken down even more specifically when they were given the opportunity to sit down and talk to one of the professors in that major’s department.

Grace and one other girl were the only Special Education majors so they received some incredible one on one time with the head of the department where they were given a behind the scenes, all access tour of the latest and greatest technologies utilized by the Special Education majors. The girls had the opportunity to ask questions and really get a feel as to what they can expect as Special Education majors.

From there we joined up with other potential students for a tour of the campus. It was a beautiful campus and a beautiful day to tour it.

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Following the campus tour we returned back to the student union building where tables were set up with representatives from all facets of campus life, from security to study abroad to clubs and organizations.

Here we were able to meet with a representative from the students with disabilities office to discuss possible accommodations and assistance Grace can expect as a student with Dyslexia. I was SO impressed at the lengths they are willing to go to so that all students can find success in the college environment.

From there we headed over to the housing area to tour one of the dorm rooms. Grace liked the exceptionally large dorm rooms and the fact that each dorm room had its own private bathroom and shower. I liked the fact that it was a three-deep security system and that a security guard was stationed at the entrance 24/7.

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As we drove home we went over the list of notes we took while on tour and compiled a list of pros and cons… with the pro list far outweighing the cons.

Grace finds herself so conflicted, uncertain which school and which path to her future God is calling her to.

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Stay tuned.

I’m sure the reveal will be coming soon!

Catching up on Journaling our Life

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When I began blogging I had no idea what this journey would look like. My original vision for this blog was to simply record our adoption journey with Tyler…the good, bad, and blessed pieces of this journey. My hope was that it would serve as a sort of love letter to him from his adoptive mother detailing the start of our life together. My plan was to print out the first year of blogs in the form of a book that could be given to him as an adult.

I had no idea how much more this blog would become. I had no idea the joy it would bring me to share and connect with others. I had no idea what a valuable form of therapy it would be for this frazzled mother. I have found a solace and joy in recording our life through this medium in a way I would have never expected. For me blogging has become my reward, my recreation, and a part of my day that I selfishly look forward to.

I have always enjoyed and valued the act of recording the story of life. Beginning as a girl I filled journals and diaries with recordings of the events of my life and my thoughts and observations. Once grown I was able to marry my two passions of journaling and photography when I began scrapbooking. Now that life is fuller and busier I find I don’t always have the time to scrapbook the stories of our life and thus blogging has filled a void.

I blog because it brings me joy, but I also blog for less selfish reasons,

primarily to record our family’s story.

I do this for my children.

It is a way I can leave a piece of myself behind when I am gone. My children and grandchildren will know what I believed and what I valued by the words I spoke and the things I photographed. Most importantly my hope is that they will feel my great love for them and understand the joy I received from being their mother.

Every so often  I print the previous 6 months of blogs into a hardbound book through the company, “Sharedbook.”

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These hardbound books sit on a shelf in our living room and I often see the kids lounging on the floor reading through past years of blog entries. It is better than reading a novel because it is their story. They are the heroes, heroines, jesters, and sometimes villains of these stories. 🙂 They enjoy reading their past stories and remembering.

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And for this reason some blogs I share are nothing more than a recording of the ordinary comings and goings of life. I apologize for these sort of entries that are nothing more than a time line of ordinary living…

for those blog posts that don’t make you laugh or cry,

just simply yawn 😉

But that is the reason why.

Here are some of those ordinary day to day happenings that I have been meaning to catch up on.

The last week has been one of “catching up” after a full holiday month of parties and fun. We are officially back to reality and I must admit it feels kind of nice. The last week has been filled with paperwork, appointments, working on Christmas thank you notes with the kids, and school testing.

Tyler’s report from his IEP evaluation came back and my suspicion’s were confirmed. In addition I received a lot of new insight that helps me better understand his struggles in school. While I won’t go into all that the testing revealed I will say that we have a long road ahead of us and I am grateful for answers so that we can begin that climb.

I have been through this process with three of my other children and I have become well educated about the world of special education services and IEPs. As someone that has never struggled with a learning disability  I struggled in the beginning to figure out how to teach a child with Dyslexia or other learning disabilities. I have had to relearn how to teach. I have spent hundreds of hours researching and studying in an effort to learn how my children best learn individually and teach them accordingly. It can be a daunting and overwhelming mantle of responsibility, which is why I am so grateful for school support, great teachers and therapists and a loving God that blesses me with energy, talents and patience that are not my own and come only from Him!

Molly also had an IEP evaluation this week. Her last evaluation was when she was in 4th grade. (Her first was in 1st grade.) It was in that first evaluation that she received the diagnoses of Dyslexia. For the first six years of school she had an IEP and received special education support. In 6th grade the cyber charter school she was with felt that she had met her IEP goals and no longer needed an IEP. That changed when she hit high school. Immediately her learning coach saw the struggles she has with reading, writing and math, and while she was able to maintain all A’s the amount of time and effort she was putting into getting those A’s indicated a learning disability. When I confirmed that she did indeed have a Specific Learning Disability (Dyslexia) he suggested we have her retested and evaluated for an IEP. Her test took place in our home on Tuesday. A school psychologist came out to our home where he administered an IQ and achievement tests to determine her strengths and weaknesses. We received a call on Friday that the results of the test came back and confirmed what we already knew. Molly has an IEP meeting scheduled for two weeks from now.

Gracie feels that Molly is going to find more success now that she has access to the same special education support services that Grace does (who is also Dyslexic.) But in the midst of all this good news Grace received some heartbreaking news. Her special education learning coach, Mr. Dolan, is leaving the school as a result of moving out of state for his wife’s job. He called Grace this week and there were many tears. Mr. Dolan has had a profound affect on Gracie’s educational experience and success. She credits him for encouraging her to step outside the boundaries of what she felt she was capable and comfortable with as a Dyslexic student and reach higher. At his encouragement she joined National Honor Society and even tackled the Goliath challenge of Honors English. Because of his profound affect on her life she wants to go to school to become a Special Education teacher so that she can help other kids like herself. Gracie is going to miss Mr. Dolan but is grateful to have had him for a teacher.

In addition to a lot of school meetings and testing we have been working on regulating Tyler’s medication. Getting his ADHD (which has been diagnosed as severe by his doctor) managed will help him be more successful with school…and will make life easier for the entire family. The problem we are having is that Tyler is in a small percentage of children that metabolizes medication too quickly. The result is that his 12 hour dose is wearing off in 6 hours. At our last appointment his doctor put him on a quick release afternoon dose to help control his symptoms until bedtime. It has worked but the downside of a stimulant given at 4:00pm is a child who is wired until midnight. So on Friday we met with the doctor again for medication adjustment. Before we consider introducing another medication we are going to try moving his afternoon medication up two hours and giving him Melatonin (5mg) at bed. Last night was our trial run and he was asleep by 10. We will see how tonight goes! 🙂

All in all it was a week of ordinary living without a whole lot of excitement, but it was a week of answers…much needed answers…and that is a blessing!

The Blessing of Answered Questions

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This past month has been focused on Tyler, on assessing his struggles and trying to better meet his needs.

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We feel like we finally have all the services in place to help Ozzie be successful and now that things are finally settling down with him our focus has turned to Tyler.

Tyler has been with us for three years. When he first joined our family we were in survival mode, just trying to hold our family unit together and meet everyone’s most basic needs as we tried to bond with our new son. Our time and energy was spent on managing epic sized tantrums and deep, deep hurts. As time passed and Tyler found comfort and security in his new life and new home we were then able to focus our energy into expanding our efforts into other areas of need. We focused on building family relationships, teaching basic skills, filling in the gaps of learning that were a result of early childhood neglect. We worked on self care, washing hands, how to sit at the table, how to pray.

Once his physical needs were met we could then focus on his educational needs. When Tyler arrived in our home there were huge learning gaps. He couldn’t identify most of his letters, he couldn’t name all his colors. We went back to the beginning and started building that foundation he was lacking.

And it was hard!

I have had my share of teaching challenges with my kids. Rusty is the only one who hasn’t struggled in the area of school. It was a challenge for me, someone that has never really struggled with school, to understand why my girls “didn’t get it” when I started to teach them to read. Later both were diagnosed with Dyslexia and I had to relearn how to teach in a way that they could learn.

It was hard. It required a lot of patience to work on the same skill 100 times knowing that if we just kept at it it would eventually click…and that was the best feeling in the world, to see them master a skill that they struggled with for so long.

Through my experience with my other kids I am very familiar with the world of special education, accommodations and IEPs.

And my “patience” muscles have grown through much use and practice over the years,

but no child has stretched me as a teacher like Tyler has! 😉

Teaching Tyler is like trying to keep a kangaroo contained in a box without a lid. Our school sessions are full of movement as I follow him around the house teaching him wherever I can corner him. We have done math in blanket forts, phonics on the trampoline and science in the kitchen.

Teaching Tyler brought challenges that were new to me. I was used to teaching to a disability but teaching a child with ADHD took me into a whole new world of crazy. I quickly learned how to work with him rather than against him. I learned short learning sessions with breaks in between were essential. I learned that the trampoline was the greatest invention ever for an ADHD child. I learned that he had to be moving if he was going to learn. Phonics were done on a hopscotch board or with fingers in a tray of shaving crème.

As the year passed things got easier. I wasn’t sure if he was less bouncy or if I was just becoming accustomed to it. 🙂

As he grew older his ability to focus and and sit still improved and we went from 15 minute school sessions to 30.

But as much improvement as I was seeing on that front there was still concern in the back of my head. Skills were improving but not at the rate they should. I knew he had a lot working against him. Between his early childhood neglect, ADHD, 5 placements before Kindergarten, and his mother’s drug use while pregnant with him, it made sense that there were educational struggles…

but I couldn’t shake that nagging feeling that perhaps there was more going on.

So I began searching for answers.

The first step was getting him in to see Tina, Ozzie’s therapist. I knew we needed to begin addressing past trauma. At her first appointment with him she was amazed at his bounciness. I guess I have become so accustomed I just am not shocked by it anymore. But she was concerned. She said that if his ADHD medications were correctly dosed we shouldn’t see any of these behaviors.

Next step was to see a new doctor for medication check. We set up an appointment with the doctor that works in Tina’s office, the same one who manages Ozzie’s medication. Our initial appointment lasted an hour as we worked through his file and he bounced around the room. At the end of the appointment she said to me, “There are different levels of severity in ADHD kids. He has one of the most severe cases I have seen.”

She then increased his medication with the heads up that even this new high dose may not be enough. She told me that she suspected that Tyler is in the small percentage of kids that metabolize medication so quickly that it is ineffective. We tried the new dosage and discovered her suspicions to be correct.

The next step is meeting with a doctor in Pittsburgh that specializes in kids like Tyler.

Then we set up an appointment with the school psychologist, Dante, to have Tyler evaluated for an IEP. Tyler has been tested for many things in the past and came to us with a long list of diagnoses, but has never been evaluated educationally. I just wanted to see if perhaps on top of all the obvious reasons for his struggles there might also be lurking a learning disability.

On Monday Tyler and I drove out to our cyber charter school building (about three hours away) to have Tyler tested. We had a nice drive out. Since it was the first day of hunting season we passed the time playing “I Spy” as we looked for hunters dressed in orange along the hillside and in the woods.

When we arrived I had the pleasure of meeting a member of the school staff who also reads our blog. She was very sweet and it was a treat to meet her face to face. (Hi, Amanda!)

Tyler had testing for about 4 hours while I waited in the lobby. The testing involved skill assessment tests to evaluate reading, writing and math ability. He also had an IQ test. It is the difference between the scores of these two tests that determine whether a child has a learning disability.

The results were enlightening. The  school psychologist really helped me understand why Tyler struggles like he does. His test scores were fascinating and made it clear that there are many factors contributing to his struggles.

Now we wait for the final report with recommendations as to how we help Tyler moving forward.

Tyler was a trooper. He worked so hard and gave his very best. On the drive home he complained of a headache from “all that thinking.”

I am just grateful to finally get some answers so that we can help Tyler find happiness and success in all areas of his life.

We love that boy of ours!