School’s Out for Summer (but not forever)

The year has ended and summer is here! We’re ringing in the season of fun with lots of fresh fruit and swimming pool cannon balls. We’ve enjoyed a full week of glorious nothingness, doing whatever we wanted whenever we wanted (with a few mom-imposed naps thrown in for good measure), and tomorrow officially begins the summer calendar chock full of kid-freiendly events. But before I jump head first into that balancing act of busy entertainment and quiet rest, I’m taking tonight to reflect on Javan’s school year.

Javan was in public school for three and a half fast-paced months this year. I can’t believe how fast that went! When reflecting on life, I tend to process feelings before facts; that’s just how I roll. So, feelings.

The first feeling that flashes through my mind and heart when I think about this school year is immense gratitude. I see a slide show in my mind of smiling, supportive faces. I see Mrs. Teacher, all three aides, Mr. Driver, Miss Behavior, Mrs. Meals, Mrs. Principal. I pause the slide show on Mrs. Angel, who was the first face to break through my walls of doubt and fear and shine love, support, and hope on what had become a hopeless situation. She is moving on to greener pastures this year and, oh, how she will be missed…by the parents, kids, teachers, everyone. I mean I can’t imagine the school without her. The next special education coordinator to come in is gonna have some mighty big shoes to fill.

I also feel pride. Pride at my son’s progress since being in school. We had an ARD meeting yesterday, and everyone sitting around the table had something to say about the progress Javan has made there. I’m reminded of this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The years teach much which the days never know.” Well, in this case, the months teach much. Day in and day out, it could be hard to glimpse Javan’s progress at times. Many days left me wondering if progress was even a possibility. But reflecting back on where he was in February, it’s easy to spot his growth in so many areas.

Academically, he’s gained both skills and confidence in reading especially, but also in math and even writing. His teacher was saying how when he first came to school, it was difficult to get him to write even one word; now, he can write a full sentence. When I read him his bedtime story last night, I skipped the word “it” on one page and he caught me and called me out on it. He aced the math and writing portions of his state testing. He wouldn’t participate in the reading portion. But just the fact that he did participate in two-thirds of a test like that and gave it his best effort…that’s incredible! Academic progress is being made.

Socially, he’s made enormous strides. He has friends now! Friends that he plays games with and watches and learns from. He even has a friend that he’s got an inside joke with…something about girlfriends that absolutely cracks him up. The school psychologist remembered that on the first day she met him, he charged at her and was in full-on animal defense mode with growling and claws. But as time went on, every time he’d see her he’d get up, go over to her, and ask her for a big hug. She may have gotten slightly emotional, which shows me that not only is he actually making excellent progress, but he’s in an environment with people who love and celebrate him.

Ok, one more feeling and then I’ll move on. Relief. The feeling of relief is so great. Relief that our kid and our family has gained this massive support system to catch us when we fall and even to keep us from falling in the first place. Relief that I’ve got so many other eyes and ears and hearts and minds to rely on. Relief that my relationship with my son is so much healthier now that I can “just be mom.” (Note: I know tons and tons of homeschool families who have super healthy relationships with their kiddos, so please don’t take this as anything other than a commentary on my own unique situation.)

I was going to move on to facts after feelings, but it seems they may have slipped themselves in unaware. I think we’re good on the facts about how school has effected us.

As I mentioned before, summer has been going pretty well for us too. Javan asked to attend his grandparents’ church this past Sunday and he actually sat through the entire service. I was shocked and amazed. I fully expected him to make it through part or all of the beginning worship time and then need to head out, which I would have been fine with. He enjoyed the full worship time, not participating but just watching. If he would start to get antsy, one or both of his grandparents would calm him with a touch or a cuddle. There was some drawing and angry birds involved too because we do what works. I did not realize that there would be communion that Sunday, a topic we haven’t breached with him yet due to weird symbology that surpasses his understanding and could be dreadfully misunderstood by a person with such a literal mind as his. So while the church prepared for communion, Pops gave Javan a whispered Cliff’s notes version of what was going on. He seemed ok with whatever explanation he got, and chose not to take communion himself. We were just so proud of him for choosing on his own to go to church and to be able to sit and listen (mostly) for that long.

We saw Javan’s psychiatrist Tuesday and we didn’t need to explain that Javan still has daily moments of violent tendencies because he was displaying that fact quite expertly himself. But for thr most part, hes doing really well, so we decided to leave all of his mood and behavior medicines where they are for now. The psychiatrist is uncomfortable with the amount of weight Javan has gained so we decided to reduce the only medication he’s on that isn’t supposedly weight neutral. This medication  (Cogentin) is not one that effects behavior or mood; its purpose is to prevent Tardive Dyskenesia, which is involuntary muscle movements that can be a complication of the antipsychotic medication (Haldol) that Javan takes. Javan actually had that complication about five years ago from a different antipsychotic (Abilify) so we know what to watch for and how to treat it quickly if it happens.

So at one point on our 45 minute trip home from the psychiatrist, Javan hands me some old pieces of McDonald’s french fries that had fallen in the seat some days ago and says, “Take the bread.” I was like, “Oooohhh, no, I am not eating that. Don’t eat that. It will make you sick.” I threw the disgusting, dry pieces away. A minute later, he hands me more. “Take the bread.” As I was explaining for a second time that I was not about to have old, stale french fry communion with him, I hear spitting sounds and look back to see pieces of snobbery fry flying in every direction. Well, I did warn him.

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