Bus Bully

The worst thing in my world happened last week. Mikey came up to me after breakfast and said he doesn’t want to ride the bus anymore. This seemed jarring, because my kids love vehicles and public transportation. Mikey was way into the bus prior to this. I began to question him. Did someone say something? Did something happen? Was there a MEAN PERSON????

Eventually, he said that yes, a girl was saying unkind things. He refused to elaborate, but when I asked him if he felt embarrassed to talk about it, he asked me what “embarrassing” meant.

“Well, embarrassing is…if you think about it, you get hot and there’s a lump in your throat and you feel uncomfortable.”

“Yes. Then I’m embarrassed about it.”

Killed me! Just killed me dead. Of course, this happened on a Saturday, so I couldn’t really do much but simmer about it over the weekend.

I did, however, call up the parents of another kid from the bus. I asked these parents to ask their son E if he saw anything. Well! E was relieved to be given permission to talk about it. He offered up right away that some big girl was saying mean things to Mikey.

E couldn’t elaborate entirely, except he did say she teases him for picking his nose. But he was very worked up telling his parents how uncomfortable it was to have this older girl saying mean things to Mikey.

We spent all weekend assuring Mikey that telling a grownup was just the right thing, that he has every right to be on that bus and to ride safely. We also talked about how bullies often feel bad inside (their love lights are dim, to use Montessori lingo) and they think being mean to other people will make their love light burn brighter, except it doesn’t work that way. But we should feel sad for this bully.

Monday morning, when the bus arrived, I marched right on board and looked pointedly at the row of faces and told the driver, “an older girl on this bus is saying mean things to my son. Please keep your ears tuned!”

Then I started a series of fruitless phone calls…people at the bus garage just were NOT listening to me (kept assuring me my daughter was in good hands), the social worker at Mikey’s school wasn’t returning emails or calls. Distraught, I got Cody involved.

He contracts with the bus garage for some of his really, really big events for work and he has a “guy” high up. Cody’s guy took our concerns very seriously, and said he’d drive Mikey’s return route that day personally and find out what was going on.

Meanwhile, Mikey got called to the office to tell what happened. We’d prepared him that this might happen. He thought maybe the bully was named Lucia, so Lucia was hauled in to the office. Mikey said, “she’s not the bully!” but Lucia corroborated Mikey’s tale and told them the name of the actual bully, who was then off the bus for a few days.

So far there haven’t been more incidents, but it still rattled my kid. My five year old kid. He won’t wear certain hats because “the bully doesn’t like those,” like he doesn’t want to provoke her.

I’m just so, so angry that some asshole kid took some of the sparkle out of my son’s eyes. Mikey is a nerdy, smart kid. He’s going to be teased mercilessly, I’m sure. You should see him running in gym class wearing a necktie. I just didn’t think it would all start so soon. He still sometimes sleeps on his belly with his butt up in the air. But I know he’s no baby, not anymore.

Air Cloud

Mikey and his friend have invented a new unit of measure: air cloud. Air cloud is more than infinity, you see. Because infinity can’t just be infinite–there MUST be something more. Thus, air cloud.

A grownup friend was at our house the other day discussing how her son has a gazillion Legos. Mikey said, “Oh yeah? Well I have air cloud Legos.”

For homework today, Mikey had to write a number sentence (whatever the hell that means). His was, “Mikey had air cloud Legos and someone gave him 7,000 more. How many Legos did Mikey have altogether?”

In sort of related news, Alex calls the plows “snow clouds,” so when one rumbles past, Alex yells, “there’s the snow cloud.”

And Mikey counters, “No. Air cloud. Air cloud is more than infinity.”

“No! It’s a snow cloud, MIKEY!” And then they hit each other while I hide in the kitchen eating chocolate chips.

Discharge

IMG_2209Mikey has graduated from wrap-around services. Officially, they use the term “discharge.” It didn’t feel like a discharge, though. We had a party! His last home visit with our BSC, Mikey was in charge of the whole plan. His ideas ranged from a trip to the bowling alley to “let’s sit on the couch and watch Lego movie.” Ultimately, we went to the grocery store and bought some fancy cookies and then played Guess Who.

Oh, and then we went out for hibachi.

At school, he barely noticed that S was gone, although he had started talking to her when she was there and deigning to suggest he was happy to see her. In front of other people, even!

Part of me was terrified of this day, that as soon as it happened we’d experience a dramatic setback and I’d be on my own. But now I know that even if something happens, I have a wonderful support system I can rely on.

Plus, any time in the next year, I can call up our agency for booster sessions with our BSC if necessary.

Truthfully, things have just been fine. Meeting with our wrap-around team is now one less thing we have to do each week. The void has been filled by Mikey having to read out loud for 15 minutes each day. And that? Well, the other day he said, “Did you know I can read inside my head? I just look at the words with my eyes.”

Next chapter, indeed.

2 Peas in a Pod

I’m often struck by how very alike Mikey and I are. Today, I was agonizing over a noise I heard in the house, but couldn’t locate. “Do you hear it??” I kept pleading to Cody. He heard nothing, kept suggesting it was the fridge. As if I didn’t know what sound the ice maker makes!

I should have asked Mikey much sooner. He noticed me searching for the source of the sound and said, “Mom, that’s just the woo-ey light by the basement potty.” He ran down, turned off the fluorescent light above our toilet, and ah! Such silence and relief.

He can hear these things with his bat ears just like me.

Today while we were watching Thomas, he sneaked up behind me on the couch and kissed the back of my neck and then ran away to terrorize his brother.

Those are the things I want to remember in 85 years–bonding over woo-ey lights and surprise kisses. Excuse me while I go stare at him in his sleep.

Tumultuous

November! November! I shake my fist at you and bite my thumb at you, sir.

November, where it’s 72 degrees on Friday and 19 degrees on Monday, 30 all week, and then slated for 60 degrees again next Monday. Who wouldn’t have tumultuous behavior with changes like that afoot?

Mikey has had a hard month. Some timeouts in specials. Some over-energetic behaviors and rough bodies at school. The kid I think Mikey is maybe bullying? He beat him up a little at recess.

But it’s all sort of ok still. Our BSC says all the kindergarten boys are acting antsy this month. The calm and peace she noticed in the classroom has given way to buzzing energy, barely contained by anyone. So it’s not just Mikey! That makes it all so much better to me.

Mikey had a bolting incident, which left my blood frozen in my veins. Unlike the previous incidents where he just made way for the street, he tells me this time he was just trying to be in the front of the line. You see, Mikey was able to verbalize that he gets anxious at the back of the line, walking behind all those slow walkers.

But he doesn’t want to be first in line, because the first kid in line has to hold open the next door and go in last, which gives him the same anxiety. His teacher told me she was letting Mikey walk second in line, but felt like that was special treatment. I asked our BSC to remind the teacher that Mikey is entitled to accommodations like this.

It’s not really special treatment. It’s an accommodation for a kid with autism to enable him to function in his learning environment.

I hung the kids’ adventure garland (cards with winter-themed activities for each day of December) and have been talking about how winter will bring some stability–some freezing cold homogeny of grey, grey days, but stable nonetheless.

Also, we bought a trampoline. So that’s helped a lot of things on the home front! Hibernation will be a little less intense this winter, which is good because I anticipate another boatload of snow days.

504 Plan in Place

A few weeks ago, I got tired of the whole drawn out process with school. I felt myself carefully verbalizing ideas I’d taken time to write out in bullet points, and then I’d receive a document with errors and omitted words and…it was just bad, and I say that both as a parent and as a person who works as a writer/editor for a living.

I talked with my advocate, and she agreed I could write a better 504 plan than school was giving us. I had given them more than enough chances, more than enough meetings. So I put together a draft, I sent it to my advocate to review, I sent it to our BSC, I sent it to Mikey’s teacher.

And now we have a 504 plan I like, that supports Mikey. I felt like the weight of the world was lifted when I signed it. It sort of was–I finally allowed myself to feel all the feelings about Stanley’s birth and our expanded family and just all of it! It’s like a seam has opened and I’ve been a puddle of feelings, a postpartum mess. Only 3 months late!

I felt really, really happy when our BSC wrote to say that another family at Mikey’s school is having a good experience as a direct result of our hard work–they are getting a beefed up 504 plan for their own child with wording modeled from ours. Hopefully more kids are getting the support they need.

“No Behaviors of Concern”

We had two attempts at Mikey’s IEP meeting in as many weeks. Each meeting was two hours long. I am still trying to figure out how I feel about them.

The first meeting was desperately uncomfortable. My advocate reminded us that the school is required to provide a copy of the evaluation report for us to review two weeks prior to the meeting. The meeting date was only set 9 days in advance and I had to ask for the eval report, which seemed to surprise them. Things went downhill from there.

I kicked off the meeting by asking where the information about Mikey’s sensory screening was located in the report. I’d read it many times and it was clear there was information missing. People from the school side began scrambling around, printing paperwork, shuffling forms, dashing into the hallway to whisper.

It became very obvious something was wrong, someone was in trouble, and we were just sitting there waiting to move on. Cody and I sat there for 2 hours, taking turns rocking our newborn, while we paid a babysitter to stay home with Alex. Cody used his last vacation day from work, a day he reserved from his abbreviated paternity leave.

Eventually, the program officer stopped the meeting. She said the school was wasting our time, apologized for that, and said we had 10 days to try again before the evaluation expired and we had to begin the 6-week process from scratch.

That put us in a really tight spot because we had to sacrifice some of our…I’m not even sure what the term is, but we had to suck it up and pay for MORE childcare, take more time from work, and spend more hours on the phone and reading through revised, properly-completed documents.

The school had not completed any of the paperwork correctly. None of it, from the invitation to the meeting to the signature page to the evaluation itself. Our advocate actually asked if the school team had ever completed an IEP before. Her question was met with silence.

SO yesterday, we tried again. This time the program officer conducted the meeting and asked us if we minded whether school personnel attended as observers so she could “model” what she expects from an IEP meeting. Yikes! I felt very uncomfortable entering the meeting, but the tone was light and professional and things went well.

What made me happiest was hearing how things are going so WELL for Mikey. His classroom teacher reports that he is meeting mastery in 30 out of 30 categories for his “report card.” The same report card last year showed him scoring in the lowest range for 30 out of 30 categories.

Mikey has no behaviors of concern. Mikey is interacting with peers in an age-appropriate (if brusque and strikingly honest) manner. Mikey responds to teacher instruction. When his attention wanders, he requires no atypical interventions to get back on track. In short, his teacher views him the same as everyone else in the class.

He does not qualify for special education.

Because he has no goals requiring specially designed instructions, he does not qualify for an Individualized Education Plan.

Quite a different picture from what was painted in June, when we were told the school recommended he be moved to an autism support classroom in another school!

So what do I make of this?

My son has a 504 plan in place to make sure he gets accommodations for some atypical behaviors (he gets to take breaks to use the trampoline in the resource room and has a special area in the classroom where he can decompress periodically). He is otherwise just a regular kid.

So why have I spent the past 5 months going through this process?

I’m not sure whether it’s a question worth pursuing or if that would just lead to increased frustrations.