Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Do We Have Another Aspie?

This is my second son, Thomas. Such a cutie with such a personality, but as the years have gone by we wonder again, does he have Asperger's too? Does he show some of the same signs and traits?

Back when we were testing MJ, the doctors and psychologists hinted that we would probably have more than one kid genetically linked to their dad with the Asperger's traits. They spent some time with him and made a few comments, but he was only 4 then and I don't think they were ready to make any real professional opinions yet.

Much different from MJ's personality, but Thomas has such strong emotions and sensitivities. He absolutely can't stand any loud noises. He shrieks if I turn on the vacuum cleaner. He can't stand most of his clothes, socks, or shoes. He says they don't feel good. He says he doesn't like the way most things taste, feel, sound, or look. He can't handle bright lights or sun.

Sometimes I think he's going to drive me insane with his oversensitivities! I remember MJ being really sensitive by his clothes and textures of food and such when he was very young, but I grew used to it. With Thomas, I think I am just annoyed that he won't wear what I give him and he can't seem to find anything else that "feels good".

He's very smart like his brother, although he doesn't get into such intense thinking as MJ does. He did learn to read at 4 and skipped Kindergarten and is in the same gifted program as his brother. While MJ was obsessed with reading, Thomas developed an obsession of the piano. He taught himself to play and would play the piano for hours and hours on end. He wanted to look up and find new sheet music on the internet. He wanted to play through book after book.

There's that whole processing delay thing that I think goes along with Asperger's. As my husband says, it's just a matter of having to take the time to organize your thoughts before you can speak them because you want to make sure you say it the way you want it perfectly. Thomas seems to take a little to long to answer questions and respond, just the same way MJ and my husband do.

Transitions are crazy! He is always bawling that he didn't have enough time to do this or that or play or finish whatever.

Who is to know? I'm not out there looking to pinpoint traits or trying to prove he is an Aspie too, but it's good to keep an open mind if he does. He has always been so literal along with his brother about everything having to be called the exact thing that it is.

I worry sometimes that since he is going through the same teachers in the same program that these teachers might refrain from making any comments being that they don't want to have to deal with another Aspie kid or another set of instructions or accommodations.

We want the best for all our kids. I guess all we can do is just watch and observe and try to get the best for each of our kids no matter what their quirks, strengths, or weaknesses.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Completing the 504 Plan

So, we met with the Social Worker, the Principal, and MJ's teacher on a Friday to write up a list of goals on the 504 plan. If you aren't familiar with what this is, it is basically a binding contract between the student, parents, and teachers as to what goals are to be met and how each person is going to contribute to making these goals happen. On one side is the goal, and on the other side is what each member of the team will do to aide in this goal.

As we sat together, it was interesting as I realized me as the parent probably knew the most about what was to take place and what should be established. I was impressed that the social worker and the principal had been researching into Asperger's and they had several articles they had pulled up on the internet, and the Principal referred to a book about Asperger's. So it was good to know they were actually interested and wanted to to their best.

Anyway, here is what was established:

They set up 3 main goals.

1-Organization (to help him get more organized, i.e. having teacher sign planner and review that he has actually gotten his stuff in his backpack to go home for homework)

2-Maintaining Personal Space (help him when cued to back up or give people more space)

3-Placement of Written Work on Page (using graph paper, limit written work, more oral type assignments)

So this was it for them, and being a good advocate for my child, I did not sign it, but told them I would take it home to review.

During the meeting the teacher kept saying there was a lot of things that she already incorporated with MJ in the classroom, but I felt that it would be best to have a legally binding document to keep her doing these things, so after a bit of extra researching and studying up on 504 Plans for Asperger's, I added 3 more goals and brought it back to the school. I added:

1-Executive Functioning (saying the teacher must monitor in class work, use direct and literal instructions, and give preferential seating close to the teacher)

2-Speed in Completing Assignments (allowing extra time for any tests or timed tests as needed)

3-Communication (cueing MJ to slow down or talk louder or softer depending on the given situation)

So, in the end, we had 6 goals for MJ and we all signed it and I was pretty happy with it being that they accepted everything I requested.

I was excited to see how this would make things more smoother for MJ and us. Hopefully now he wouldn't be coming home everyday with homework assignments, but not the homework. And hopefully he wouldn't be failing assingments because of these timed tests that were too fast for his processing delay. Hopefully he would be understanding more instructions that were literally directed to him and he was going to have a happier year.

Of course the only problem was that this was the middle of May, and school was basically over for the year, so we would only hope that starting out next fall that things would go smoothly. MJ was going to have the same teacher next fall for 4th grade (he's in a full time gifted program that joins every 2 grades together), and hopefully this year would be better.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The School Decides on a 504 Accommodation Plan

So, observation after observation went on, and tests, and questionnaires one after another were sent home to us. I felt like it was a little redundant, being that MJ had already been diagnosed by trained professionals and doctors, and yet the school seemed to want to come to their own decision, but I filled them out and sent them back in.

After 2-3 weeks the social worker got back to me and told me MJ didn't really have too many problems with social issues and that he had a lot of friends. This I'm not so sure if I agree totally with because I see MJ as one who thinks he is playing along or kids are playing with him and yet he's not really involved or doesn't realize that the other kids aren't paying attention to him, but oh well, it wasn't a huge deal yet. I was more concerned with the miscommunications and problems that were happening within the academic school setting. She said she had reviewed the tests and previous testing and did see a need that MJ needed some accommodations.

Yay! Finally! I was thinking, yay, he would finally have an I.E.P. But I was wrong. The social worker said she would rather not do an I.E.P. because then he would "have to be labeled as autistic" and they didn't want to "do that to him" (like in a negative tone, like it was leprosy or something). Now, I was thinking. Isn't that what he had? Yes. He has Asperger's. Isn't that a kind of high functioning autism? Or did they not think that and they would think that was wrong? They said it wouldn't be a good idea to put that label on him now, but we might choose to do so when he entered Junior High depending on how things go. OK, so I still don't understand why this would be wrong or not. It's not like we're lying or something, but I guess they felt he shouldn't be put into that category for some reason. I don't think it's like he's going to have a sign around his neck that says "I have autism!", but then again, I guess I am just confused.

Anyway, she tells me they can set up something called a 504 Plan (which I already knew all about and was glad to get it after so long of nothing) that was a way of making up binding accommodations for those with disabilities that don't qualify for special ed services or an I.E.P (Individualized Education Plan).

I was excited to finally have something. She said we would meet later that week with her, the teacher, and the principal to make a list of goals, and objectives to meet those goals.

So this was good! Maybe this would be a start! I spent the week researching and reading up on every legal right that a kid with Asperger's should be allowed in a school setting, and I prepared myself for what I should request when we would meet.