It’s been far too long since I’ve written an update on Jake’s progress. Life has been a little busy over the last year thinking we were going to move, then not moving, then diving back into life in Colorado, then finding out we were moving after all, packing, moving, unpacking, getting settled into new school/job/house/life/routine, and trying really hard to stay on top of the bazillion details it takes to do all that without misplacing a dog or family member along the way.
One single item that took up more of my brain, worries, prayers, panic attacks and post-in notes during the move was getting Jake’s educational information transferred from Colorado to California.
If you are new to my blog and don’t know Jake’s developmental journey, I feel like I should quote The Princess Bride and say, “Let me explain. No. There is too much. Let me sum up.”
Jake was 18 months old when I realized some things were not right which led to me being an outright crazy mama bear until he and I landed in a room full of therapists who took about five minutes to decide that he has Sensory Processing Disorder. Fast forward through two years of in-home therapy in which we taught Jake how to swallow, eat solid food, walk and sit properly and we found ourselves in another room of therapists who added Auditory Processing Disorder to the list of things we needed to work on. A very brief summary of those two diagnoses would be that Jake’s brain works really well, his body works appropriately, and there is nothing wrong with the way his mouth forms words, but the connections between all of those things that would enable a person to think, talk and walk in a straight line are broken. The years of therapy have been to try to repair those connections.
While my goal has always been to help Jake function as well as he can in whatever environment he finds himself in, I knew that getting him ready for Kindergarten was going to be a big, fat hurdle. Because of how many different therapists and teachers it takes to get a child ready for Kindergarten, it’s best to remain in one educational system for the duration of a special needs child’s education. In other words, don’t move right before your child starts Kindergarten.
Despite being part of one big, happy country, Colorado and California school administrations don’t like each other very much and I started to feel like I was the mediator between two irate and slightly unhinged countries. I started to get really sick of the speech, “Since Jacob is coming to California with an existing IEP, we are legally required to honor it for 90 days.” The big question was what was going to happen after that magical 90 day period.
If you are unfamiliar with an IEP, it is short for Individualized Education Plan which puts the school and the parents all on the same page regarding a special needs child and details ways in which the child’s education will be supplemented or altered to accomodate his or her needs. More simply, if everyone agrees that Jake needs to bounce around the classroom on a pogo stick to learn Math, he gets to do exactly that. And, no, he doesn’t actually get a pogo stick, but I think I might have liked Math better if I got to use one.
Another long story made short is that after the 90 days, the IEP that was given to him in Colorado was void and we had to start all over with a new IEP evaluation. The outcome of which would determine Jake’s educational future, but could have many different results. He could have been given more services than he had before all the way down to being denied another IEP. Even if Colorado said he needed speech therapy and an occupational therapists to come into the classroom and help him with his language and writing skills, California could deny him and we would have up Poo Creek without a paddle, boat, or even a floatie vest.
A few weeks before the evaluation, I found out that all of the therapists who had been working with Jake within the 90 day grace period had been invited to the IEP evaluation. Since there was a good possibility that nobody in the evaluation would have even met Jake and I, this news came as a huge relief to me. Instead of total strangers at the meeting to decide our fate, I would have three specialized educators already in my corner.
I was super nervous the day of the IEP, but did my best to appear normal, friendly, and as un-crazy as possible. The meeting went spectacularly well and although we had to make not one, but two emergency trips to the bathroom, it was over and done with in under two hours. The results of the IEP were given to me at the end of the meeting and I was very grateful to find out that Jake will get a few more hours of speech therapy a month than I thought he would and that he will have an occupational therapist work with him as needed. The therapists will also meet with the Kindergarten teacher prior to the beginning of class to help her understand Jake and how his crazy little body can be channeled into the right direction.
Never in all my coming years will I forget the section of the IEP meeting where it was discussed if Jake was “ready for Kindergarten”. I imagined a long, drawn-out discussion on that topic with people disagreeing with each other and me having to make a final and tough decision about whether to start him or keep him back another year. Instead, all the therapists looked at each other, shrugged and said, “Jake is absolutely ready for school!”.
I didn’t cry until later.
Every mother’s job is to get her children ready to leave her and dive into life on their own. I realize Jake is not yet moving away from home and that my job has not necessarily been harder than anyone else’s, but it has been utterly time consuming. For the last three years, I have done little else than get Jake to and from therapy and school, work with him at home, evaluate every meal time, every play time, every moment to help him sit right, walk right, talk right, eat right, and communicate in the right way. Since this job is several marathons back to back, there have been weeks and months when I wondered if I was making any difference at all. Most days are hard and moments within those days can be excruciating.
There are no awards for this job. Nobody gets all us special needs mamas together and gives us medals. There is no red carpet or fanfare or tiaras for Best Therapy Mom. While we sometimes go days, weeks, and months seeing little or no change in our children, there are exquisite moments that make red carpets and gold medals seem dim and trite. Finding out that Jake was 100% ready for Kindergarten was one of those moments.
I actually freaking did it. I got my little monkey ready for Kindergarten.
There are more years of school, therapy, and work to be done. But, just for a little while, I am going to relax and know that we have made it over the first major hurdle.
In a few weeks, Jake will start Kindergarten and although it will be a day with no red carpets or gold medals, I believe I will be happier and prouder of my little boy than any mama possibly could be.
I love you, Jacob. You are, and always have been, worth every minute of working, fighting, crying, praying, determination and dedication I’ve given you. I will never regret one second of time I’ve spent on your behalf, helping you become the person you are supposed to be. I love you to the ends of the universe and back.