Homeschooling Progress

Well, we’ve been at it for 5 days now. I have to say, it’s really not as hard as I thought it would be. Yesterday was a doozie of a day, but we did it and now I see that I can be much, much more consistent with discipline and enforcing expectations when I do the teaching and the parenting. Same expectations, all the time.

So far, he has done all of his work for me. On the written work, he may only do partial, but he does write. In other words, I feel like now he is actually able to get an education. He was too upset by going to “real school” to do any work or learning. He isn’t ready for “social learning” yet. That’s okay. Do I wish he was ready? Well, of course. He needs interaction with other kids to learn social skills that don’t come naturally for him. But that’s just not possible yet. Maybe after a year or two of unsocial learning in a comfortable home environment, he will be ready to gain those skills without as much anxiety.

Basically, the academics is going great. It’s “safe” for both of us. The afternoons and evenings are harder. Especially if we have somewhere to go or something to get done. Public is not an option. Social is not an option. He can’t be around people. Not at the store, certainly not at the library. I took him this week to get books to go along with what we’re learning. Can we say humiliating? Yeah. He ran from me like crazy, growled and lunged at any children unlucky enough to have chosen “our” aisle, and even hit the librarian. He had been growling at her, and somehow she thought that laughing and growling back in a cutesy manner was going to help…

I suppose the academics is going so great, and everything else is going so not great, that I’m inside outside upside down. Currently, he poops and pees in his pull-up every day. He wants to. And he won’t even tell me it’s there. Even if he gets a rash. He makes himself throw up multiple times a day. He likes it. He disobeys constantly. He can’t or won’t respond to me most of the time. He claims there’s something wrong with his ears…he doesn’t hear me. Probably the worst and most confusing part is when he doesn’t recognize me. I don’t know what happens. It’s like he’ll be looking for me and I’ll be right in front of him practically yelling at him and he can’t find me. He is truly in a panic. He can’t see or hear me. Then, he’ll finally see me and be like “Oh, there you are.”Ā  Twice in the past few weeks, he’s been with me, like right with me and then walked off and told the workers that he couldn’t find his mom. Um, embarrassing much?

When he left Crisman, I had the second professional ever ask if I’d considered residential treatment. Which means leaving him in a hospital setting until they get the drugs right. And he could have no contact with family during that time. No, I haven’t considered that. It would traumatize the little guy. He has anxiety attacks when I go to the bathroom, for goodness sakes. What am I going to do? We see the psychiatrist Tuesday. I plan to go in with a written list of what’s going on so Javan won’t hear any of it. And then just look at him. And wait for some kind of answer.

Rollercoaster or Conveyor Belt?

Is peace a feeling or a “knowing?” I’ve been given an answer. I’ve prayed and I’ve listened and I’ve heard. And I know this path is right. But I don’t “feel” peace completely. Crisman isn’t working out for Javan. Not by any fault of theirs. They’ve gone above and beyond the expected measures and really tried to help him. They truly love their students with a passion and intensity that is so welcoming to see both as a mother and a teacher. But he’s not ready. Will he ever be? Maybe. Probably. I don’t know.

But for now, he’s not. Public school did him many great injustices to say the least. We cannot have peace about taking that path with him again. And this is the only private school in our area that serves special needs kids. But he’s just too special. In good ways and bad. I am currently preparing my mind, spirit, and home for our last valid option…homeschooling.

It isn’t what I wanted, and truth be told, it’s not what Javan wants either. He doesn’t care a lick about the other kids, but he will truly miss the teachers that he’s come to know and love. For now, our world will shrink. It will be about learning the basics. Again. How to obey, how to be polite, what “scripts” to say in every possible situation, how not to poop your pants and what to do if you do, how to love God, how to, how to, how to. And there will be academic learning too, of course, but that part comes naturally to me. It’s the getting him to do the work that’s my problem. He never wanted me to be his teacher. He wants me to be his mom. But then again, he didn’t do his work for the teacher either.

Sigh. I have a peace that God has chosen this path for us. For how long, I don’t know. I prayed and asked God to speak and then I listened. He showed me Javan on the peak of a roller coaster, eyes terrified beyond a mother’s bearing. On the roller coaster there were many loud and obnoxious, excited little children and the sun was insanely bright. And the person in the seat next to him alternated between me trying to teach him not to hit and how to relate to other children and his teachers trying to get him to write his name or learn his letters. Ridiculous picture, with lots and lots of truth in it. If I were literally trying to teach him that way, it would be stupid at the least, child abuse at the most. But that’s what I’m doing, what we’re all doing, because that’s what his world is like. It’s terrifying, dizzying, confusing, noisy, bright, and segmented. I have to take him off the roller coaster, out of the park even, and bring him home.

Maybe after we learn more about the world from inside our safe little glass bubble, I can show him that the world is more like a conveyor belt instead of a roller coaster. He will probably never feel like his feet are on solid ground, but I can maybe teach him how to deal with conveyor belt speed. And then, when he’s ready, one day we can step out of the bubble and onto the conveyor belt and he will succeed because he understands.

My biggest fear is frustration. I’ve tried this before. Not to this extent exactly, but I’ve been with him 24/7 and tried to do some learning activities and I always end up yelling at him all the time, throwing my hands up on the learning activities, and popping in movies hoping that sunset will come soon. That’s the ugly truth. And I’m purposely facing it because I want to avoid it. I will pray for patience and understanding and patience that passes all understanding day and night. I want to love him the way he deserves to be loved and teach him the way he deserves to be taught. So, heeeere we go. I can do this!

He Was “PERFECT!”

He did it! He did it! He was “good” at school TWO days in a row! He gets to stay another WEEK!!! And if all goes well he gets to STAY stay. Thank you God Almighty!!!

They did say he had some aggressive moments today, but he didn’t hurt anyone. And he did his work. And he was an angel most of the day. But boy was he hyper! Last night and even more so tonight I could so so see what they were talking about. He’s full speed ahead ALL THE TIME! You can see the wheels turning and turning again and again and you can hardly get a word in edgewise, but he’s being so dang sweet!

He’s being obedient and respectful and loving and kind and giving and caring and wonderful. And he’s happy. He actually went in his playroom today and played. He just hasn’t had the energy or the happy “kidness” to do that in ages. I literally cannot remember the last time he really played like that just because he was happy and wanted to have fun. He’s coming back! Even if the fast forward button is pressed on the cassette player of his mind and body, it’s him!

Now, where’s that stinking play button?

What a Whirlwind

Today has been like a whirlwind. I mean, it has made me physically dizzy. When I dropped Javan off at school this morning, I was handed an envelope. I knew what it said without opening it. Javan cannot go to school there anymore. I mean, I hoped for the letter to say something else, anything else, but it didn’t. Friday is to be his last day at Crisman. They have valid reasons. I want to be mad at them so I can have someplace to dump all this emotion, but I honestly can’t. They have tried their very best and it isn’t working. He hurts teachers and children on a daily basis. You just can’t have that.

So…I cried all day and freaked my students out with my patchy face. I have to leave them. I have to leave the school with no grammar teacher. I cherish being at that school having relationships with those kids, and I have to give it all up. But I always knew being Mommy had to be first. Javan has to come first.

We will do tons of work and conform the office into a schoolroom. I will buy home school curriculum and go through the motions and be thankful for all the extra time I get to invest in my son. But I can’t muster the excitement or passion for home schooling that I have for teaching a variety of students. I know the feelings that will come…entrapment, resentment, monotony. And I know that my relationship with Javan will not be great. How do I know? I’ve tried this before. It didn’t go well. We don’t do 24/7 too well and we don’t do teacher/student very well…we both want mommy/son.

But if God has chosen to close all other doors, then at least I can be confident in knowing that this is his plan for us. At least for now.
There is a glimmer of hope for Javan at Crisman. We saw the psychiatrist yesterday and decided to take him off the Intuniv and increase the Risperdol just a tad. Today, his teachers and the director were dumbfounded by the change they saw in him behavior. He was “perfect.” They’ve never had a day like this – he didn’t get angry at all, not even once. Praise Jesus. We also started a gluten free diet this weekend, maybe that helped? Probably not this fast, but maybe. Anyways, if he has just as “perfect” of a day tomorrow…they may consider keeping him on for a while longer to see if the med changes have had a super positive effect.

By the way, I have to hand it to them. I LOVE the way they define perfect: “He was wild. Really wild. But we can handle wild. We just talk a little louder when he gets to the other side of the room and then softer when he laps back around to us.” They really do great things for these kids.

I Like Just About Everything

Well, I dropped Javan off this morning the same way as I always do…with a fake smile pasted on my face blowing him kisses while he’s carried/dragged away reaching out for me and begging me not to leave him in heart-breaking sobs. I had my regular morning cry and went on with my day. I couldn’t help myself this time…I texted the teacher’s aide at about 10 and asked if things were going okay. Yesterday was a super horrible school day for him, and I had to know. She answered, “We have had an awesome morning. An answer to prayer.” Yay! I then resumed my normal rate of oxygen intake for the rest of the day.

When the teacher brought him out to the car at the end of the day, she had a smile on her face and told me he did awesome all day. Which was mostly true. In his folder it said he had an awesome day all day until after lunch. The note also said he imagined another child on the playground was trying to kill him. šŸ˜¦

He did hit then, as he told me. He said he heard a big girl telling a kindergartner (not him) that she was going to kill him. Sometimes stories do change and become less personally threatening over time, but it really doesn’t matter who he thought was going to be killed. We talked about it again after a while and I explained to him what I thought might have happened. I started off trying to explain the nature of exaggeration (not in those words, of course) by saying, “You know how when someone is really, really hungry they say ‘I’m starving?'” I guess he didn’t know that…so I thought for a minute and then said, “Okay, you know how Agnes says, “He’s so fluffy I’m gonna die?” (For those of you who don’t know, Agnes is the little orphan from Despicable Me who says this when she wins a gigantic stuffed unicorn at a fair.) “Well, does Agnes really think she’s gonna die?”

“No.”

“Right. She says that because it’s a way of telling us it’s really, really, really, really fluffy and she loves it. Sometimes people say, “I’m gonna kill you,” and they don’t really mean that either. It’s a way of saying something else like “When I catch you, I’m going to give you a noogie or tickle you until you cry. So the big girl might have been playing with the little boy when she said that. It probably wasn’t a meant to be mean.”

“Oh. Now I understand.”

Okay, so I told him anytime he hears someone say something super mean or scary, he needs to go tell an adult and they might be able to help him understand if he heard it right. And hopefully keep him out of trouble. I guess we’re gonna go through this process a lot over the years, because with Asperger’s, he probably won’t ever be able to just “figure out” idioms like these. He will have to have an explanation for each specific saying and then he will be able to apply that definition in context in future situations.

I pray that he would continue to do as well in school as he did today. And continue to improve. Sometimes I think he must hate school because of the way it feels when I leave him in the mornings. Severe abandonment is pretty much how he sees it. But when people ask him about it he usually has a positive response. My mom took us to dinner at his favorite restaurant (Papacita’s) tonight. On the way there, she asked him what he liked best about school. He said, “I like just about everything.”

The Teeter-Totter Month

Why haven’t I been blogging, you ask? Sheer exhaustion. Emotional, mainly. And also confusion…how could I write what I don’t even know? I don’t know what’s going on half the time or how I feel about whatever it is. There have been some very good things happening lately, but also many not so good things. I feel like a teeter-totter that’s going so fast that it’s up and down at the same time.

Javan is doing bood at his new school…nope, it’s no type. People ask me how it’s going thereĀ  and I literally can’t come up with any answer other than “yes.” They haven’t given up on him and don’t plan to. That’s the silver lining. And they do see how sweet and loving and giving he is and they embrace that. I commend them for that. He is also extremely aggressive still though. Fortunately, not as much toward the other kids as he was when he went to the school I work at. They probably couldn’t keep him there if that were the case. But toward the teachers…bigtime. We’re talking pencils and scissors here. Scary stuff. They just keep loving him anyway. My thoughts on this are positive and negative, but I’m trying to focus on the positive. It doesn’t come naturally to me. My thoughts go something like this…Javan was hitting other kids like crazy at my school, and suddenly he doesn’t at this school? Only teachers? This must be the Lord changing his heart, although not fully, to enable Javan to stay at this school. And that must mean that this is the place he has for Javan at this time. Reassurance. Relief. (The negative thoughts are doubts and worries that he will get kicked out for aggression and blah blah blah…I try to kick those thoughts out as soon as they enter. I replace it with one of Javan’s current favorite quotes: “God is stronger than others.”)

I know it’s October and all, but it’s been freakishly hot here in Texas. Javan still refuses to take off his jacket at school. I’ll pick him up at 3 and it’s 90+ degrees outside, and there he is in his jacket…he has always, always, loved winter clothes. In fact, his Weebow (grandma) made him some super fabulous footie pajamas last Christmas and I put them away for the summer like 5 times. He kept finding them. Even when I did find the ultimate hiding spot, he’s asked for them, literally, every day all year. We got them back out recently when it cooled off, but the “coolness” didn’t last and they’re back in hiding. Anyway, a couple of days ago, he FINALLY told me why the obsession with layers and layers of way too warm clothes. “It makes me feel…exercised.” Hmmm…ok, well exercise makes you warm, uh-huh. And also exhausted and…calm?

The teachers at Crisman recommended a suit of “under armor” that’s basically like the spandex clothes that bicyclists wear. Long sleeved and pants, they said it would make him feel “swaddled,” which is still how he sleeps best at night. There’s another boy in his class that wears them under his clothes. They are his super hero outfit. And he is Super James. So. Cute. Time to go to Wally World for spandex! Never, ever, thought I’d say that.

In other news, we found out through Javan’s GI lab testing that he does not have celiac disease (although that doesn’t rule out a gluten intolerance), but he does have hypothyroidism. Great. Well, yeah, everyone in both sides of the family has thyroid problems…but they were adult onset. I’ve never even heard of a five year old with low thyroid, although what little research I’ve done shows that it’s really not uncommon. We’ve been waiting about a week and a half to get an appointment with the pediatric endocrinologist in Tyler…still haven’t heard a thing from them. Grrrrrr…. Unacceptable. So maybe getting him on some thyroid meds will help with his energy and mood. I have had it suggested that I try kelp and sea salt first as natural sources of iodine. Why haven’t I been to the health store to get that stuff? I will try to go tomorrow. Hello, forgetful self, I haven’t seen you in at least five minutes. Scat. Ter. Brained.

Speaking of mood. Can we say unstable? He is so, so sweet and loving. Right now, kind of overly loving, if such a thing is possible. He tells us constantly, and I do mean constantly how much he loves us, that he’ll love us forever, etc. I guess it’s a reassurance thing since he’s feeling insecure about being at the new school. We just return the love. And return the love. And give the love. And return the love. And, well, it could be worse.

Then, he “switches.” Even the teachers at his special needs school are amazed by this rapid – no, instant – change of mood. Of personality. He just “goes dark” is how they put it. And they know it’s not the real him, so they just wait for him to come back. Like we do. But I don’t get it. Will I ever get it? Will there come a day when this struggle to “get it” seems insignificant and far away because things are better? Today, at the allergy doctor’s office where I get a shot a couple times a week, we were sitting on the couch in the kid’s room like we always do, and he suddenly gets up, runs out of the room and around the corner, and breaks out the claws and growling face at this lady in blue. She was just sitting there waiting her turn to get jabbed and something set him off. I can’t get him to explain what’s going on in his head when he does this. But he does it a lot. And I mean, a lot. Embarrassing.

I’m also seeing some other breaks from reality. Just a few, but we’ve seen these before and there have been times when it was literally life threatening. Like the times when he thought he could break up cars by charging them while they drove past. The only dangerous one lately was yesterday when The Oven shocked me and I said, “Ouch.” If it hurts Mom, it’s bad, ok? Just like cars driving past can hurt us, so they’re bad. So, I opened the oven to take out the pizza and he charged it. I saw the claws and growly face and stopped him. We talked about it. He was going to hit it or hurt it or something, I can’t remember exactly how he put it, but he was basically going to get back at it for hurting me. While it was open. Yeah. So, other than that he just plain old doesn’t remember hitting and kicking and throwing toys and calling names at school. He. Doesn’t. Remember. We’ve seen this before too.Oh, and there was the time recently when I wore my Sesame Street t-shirt. He told me all day, “You’re not my real Mom. You’re just a robot.” Ok, so I thought it was a joke or game or defiance or something, but it literally went on all day and I eventually realized he wasn’t joking. I asked him why he thought that and he said, “My mom doesn’t wear that shirt.” I took off the shirt, which I really don’t wear often but have worn before, and I will never wear it again. Once adequately dressed, I resumed accepted motherhood.

It is a blessing and a curse to see the pattern evolving once again. I am preparing myself emotionally and mentally and keeping a closer eye on him. But, remember when you were a kid and you were waiting for a spanking? Waiting. Waiting. The anxiety. Waaaaaaay worse than the actual spanking, right? That’s kind of how this is, too. I know it’s coming. I know I can’t stop it. I’m just waiting. And watching.

On a lighter note, we’ve been thinking of ways to get him to be okay with church again. We know he isn’t ready for Sunday School. He does okay with visiting time in the lobby, but can be wild and aggressive. Recently, we went to an autism seminar (Where I met Temple Grandin! More on that later.), and somewhere in there from something she said, I had a though. He needs a job at church. He needs to be in control of the social interactions. So, we came up with greeting. Javan absolutely adores our pastor, Brian. I wasn’t sure Javan would go for it, but when he realized he would get to hang out with Mr. Brian, he accepted it right away. And he did a fantastic job! He handed people bulletins with a smile, eye contact, and sometimes even a verbal greeting, although I stood back so I couldn’t hear him well. I’ve never seen so many people smile and feel so welcomed by a greeter in my life. How could they not? I hope he will do it again next week.

As I watched in amazement and joy and pride, a friend of mine said, “Well, of course it worked. He’s just a grown up stuck in a little kid’s body. That must be really frustrating.Ā  He needs to be active and responsible.” Yep. She nailed it. Bittersweet. Seeing his grown-upness (even though he still says growm-up) is a joy and I’m so proud of his adult vocabulary and reasoning skills. He truly is amazing and brilliant (says the gloating mother). But at the same time, I wonder if he’ll ever realize that he didn’t get to be “just a kid.” Just an innocent, care free, joyous kid. And I wonder if he’ll feel like he missed out. But I have to realize that this is just the way it is. We were all given personality traits and life situations that mean we have missed out on something that others didn’t. None of us get it all.

Javan has begun getting a daily allowance for doing chores: feeding the dog, cleaning up toys and books, cleaning up clothes. He has taken his jobs very seriously, even negotiatingĀ  overtime work and pay. He has three jars for his money: spend, save, and give to God. We got this wonderful idea from my hubby’s brother and his wife and kids. Javan LOVES the give to God jar. He LOVES putting his coins in the offering box on Sundays. And tonight, his giving heart made my eyes swell with pride. He did all his chores. He earned all his money. But instead of dividing the money between the separate jars as usual, he put every single “money” in the give to God jar. He said, “It really belongs to Him, anyway.” Sledge hammer to the heart. But in such a beautiful way. I gave him an extra quarter to put in the give to God jar and told him that the Lord blesses cheerful givers. He was so happy. I love my son.

Oh, wait, I forgot to add the part where when we were discussing the whole cheerful giver thing, his response was, (cue five year old giggles) “I put an ear booger on your shirt.” Well, he is just a kid sometimes.

The Voice of Truth

Soooo tired. Javan is back to not sleeping through the night at all. And his tummy hurts all the time, which is probably why. Anyways, I’m totally not up to writing the detailed version of this blog that you all deserve, so you’ll get the short and sweet version. HE GOT IN! Even the director (like the principal) of the school didn’t see that one coming, although she wanted him to be accepted. I talked with her before the board meeting yesterday and her opening comment was… “I’m not telling you he won’t get in, but….” Then my heart stopped for a moment so I don’t know exactly what she said next. The general gist of the conversation was her telling me that the board was likely to turn him down because he was a threat to the other students. And she said there’s no way they’d let him come without having his own private aide to make non-aggression possible. AND, they wouldn’t allow her to hire an aide until she’d raised the grant money (from local churches, etc.) to pay the extra salary. Ugh.

My end of the conversation involved merciless begging, crying, even a little directed anger. “If Javan goes there, you’ll have an extra $600 bucks a month that you didn’t have before. How is an aide’s salary going to hurt you?” Not very professional, I know, but true. She said she presented his “case” to the board (background info., psych profile, school records, etc.) and they accepted him right away! They are cautious about it though. We aren’t being asked to sign the one year standard contract. Instead, it will be on a month-to-month basis. That way if he is hurting others, they can kick him out. But I truly believe that he can do it there! I’ve never seen any other school/structured environment that could keep him from hurting anyone for three whole days! Granted, he hit and kicked his teacher at the very beginning of the first day, but nothing after that. It’s like they understand the word “preemptive” or something.

We are so thankful to God for opening this door for our son. This is going to be “it.” I just know it.

Eyes…closing. Okay, so I’ll leave you with this random rendition of “The Voice of Truth” by Casting Crowns. I’m giving it as an assignment for my high school kids, and I wanted to have a clear example written so they’d know what was expected of them. The song is about defeating your giants. The things in your life that torment you with anxiety and hopelessness. The things you fail at over and over. This song is about my giants. I wrote this while waiting to hear back from the director of the school about the board meeting. It was a very painful, anxious waiting period. I prayed and I gave it fully over to God, but the anxiety and depression didn’t dissolve until I finally got the call. The call came about half an hour after I finished writing this.

Oh my God has given me
The kind of faith it takes to see my child’s differences
To battle and embrace

To step out of my ignorance
Make difficult decisions and defend them
Holding tight to Jesus’s hand

But school failure’s calling out my name and it laughs at me
Reminding me of all the schools we’ve tried before and failed
Experience keeps telling me
Time and time again, “Your boy will never win.”
“You’ll never win!”

But the voice of truth says “This is for my glory”
And the voice of truth says “Trust the Lord your God”
“You must lean not on your own understanding”
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of strength it takes to stand before his illnesses
With the right sling and the right stone
Surrounded by the teachers and professionals
Ashamed by their avoidance
Wishing they’d have given him a chance.

But his illnesses call out my name and they laugh at me
Reminding me of everything I’ve tried before that’s failed
My hopelessness keeps telling me
Time and time again, “Your boy will never win.”
“You’ll never win!”

But the voice of truth says, “I will never leave you.”
The voice of truth says, “Do not be afraid.”
God’s foolishness is wiser than my wisdom.
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.

I don’t know if there’s a stone
To put this giant on the ground
But I believe my God will say of him, “He was lost. Now he is found.”
God has plans for His son, Javan.
For prosperity and hope.
Jesus, sing over him.

I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.

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