Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What Is The Worst Phone Call You Have Received?

The Watcher - Painting by Thomas Blackshear II
I feel that I am finally able to openly discuss the alarming event that occurred the fall of this past school year. Some of the recent frustrations that I am facing are a direct result of this and to give a better background I am now going to put it all out there.

At around 3:30pm Wednesday, September 28, 2011, I received a phone call from the school where Ashton attended. As a parent, anytime the caller ID reads “THE SCHOOL”, I think we innately freeze and our heart stops beating. I personally think that biological response triples for those of us who parent children with special needs.

The following is part of the reason why....

“Good Afternoon Mrs. Parker, I am calling to inform you that Ashton got out of the school today.” “Please don't worry, he is safe now, but just wanted to call and let you know what happened.” The “downplaying” of the event promptly followed.

Once I was able to get the facts this is what occurred...

At lunch (around 10:30-11:00am), Ashton's 1:1 aide got up from the lunch table to fix his oatmeal, once she was away from him, Ashton promptly got up from the lunch table and proceeded to run through the cafeteria, down the small rear hall and out the side doors leading outside. Once he was outside the school he proceeded down the middle of the side road in front of the school towards the major highway/byway the school resides on (a major roadway where cars are know to travel the upwards of 70 miles per hour-speed limit of 55). Thankfully when he was about 15-20 feet from the highway a woman driving towards Ashton stopped her minivan, got out and intercepted him. She then led him back to the school.

What isn't said here is that I have recording after recording of IEP meetings (If you are not sure what an IEP is read here) prior to this event detailing his known elopement behavior. Especially once I knew that this school year would start with a brand new teacher, a brand new principal and several new aides working within the classroom I made sure that I over explained during several IEP meetings WHY we have a 1:1 written in the IEP and the importance of someone being within arms reach of Ashton in order to prevent something like that from happening.

There are many horrible, terrible, devastating outcomes that I am sure were rushing through your mind as  you read the details of the event.  I am beyond thankful that Ashton's angels were working overtime that day and that nothing horrible happened. It did not however, leave the school void of responsibility. After multiple meetings it was finally decided that it was appropriate for him to attend a private day school for children with Autism at the county's expense. It was promised by the new school, that he would have a 1:1 aide with him at all times and thankfully we haven't had any successful attempts at elopement since he started at his new school.

I am in shock at how well he has done and how far he has come in the last several months since this placement started. To find an environment where you see tremendous growth in your child is priceless. It was like a huge burden was lifted off of my shoulders, I felt like I didn't have to fight so hard anymore. I felt like all my dreams had come true....No more IEP meetings where you leave feeling like you want to crawl in a hole and die, defeated. NO MORE!!  These people really care!

On to recent frustrations.....

On the last day of school June 15, 2012 I received a lovely letter stating that due to the fact that ownership of the school had changed hands and that the curriculum was changing they were not going to be able to provide a 1:1 student/aide ratio any longer.

The event that occurred in September came rushing back full force. After speaking with the representative from the school that following Monday it was ultimately determined that NO ONE was going to receive a 1:1 aide and there was no way around that. They understood if I felt that placement elsewhere was appropriate for him. A flood of emotions hit me in that moment and I again felt defeated. What happened to not having to fight anymore? What happened to thinking that “these people REALLY have my sons best interest at heart”. I felt like an environment that demonstrated without question to help him was being pulled out from under him like a deceitful rug. After I said somethings that I now regret, I sat in my car and cried. I cried one of those ugly cries...you know the ones I am talking about. Make up running, sobbing with the ugliest possible contortion to your face...Yeah, that’s the one!

After a head slitting headache and the drive home. I realized I can not do this on my own anymore. Jon has never really been involved in the kids schooling. That has been completely and utterly on my shoulders alone. I attend IEP meetings alone, I go through IEP's alone, I research education laws on my own, I draft/edit IEP goals on my own....I don't care if he has no clue what is going on, I need support. We talked.

After I vented to Jon, prayed and slept, I felt a little more refreshed the next day. I called the representative back and started with an apology for my emotional response and asked if we could call a meeting to discuss options. We are talking about developing a safety plan for Ashton that meets his needs to prevent elopement without a 1:1.

This is my prayer..please join with me!

Heavenly Father, thank you so much for continually keeping Ashton safe and getting him in this program where he has shown so much growth. I know that you have a plan for this situation and that you ALWAYS have his best interests in mind. Please help us develop a plan that works. Please give guidance to the teachers and aides that work with Ashton. I pray that he continues to grow and learn in this new program. Above all, please continue to keep him safe. Place your strongest and fastest angels around him. In Jesus name, AMEN!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

I Miss You!

Me, Dad, Shawna, Barbara, Shauna

This past Thursday, June 21, 2012, marks 6 years since my dad passed away. 6 years...wow! To say that I miss him would be an understatement. I miss so much about him, but most of all his sense of humor.

Anyone who knew my dad, knew that he had a nickname for everyone. I can still hear him calling me a variation of Banny Rooster, Rooster or Roostie which apparently came from the term Bantam (or Banty) Rooster. Banty Roosters are typically ¼ the size of other roosters but make up for their size in attitude and spirit. I may be small, but don't mess with me or my family.

My love for fishing came from my dad. I remember many times growing up that he would take my sister and I fishing. We always would have a contest to see who would catch more (Shawna was usually off picking flowers leaving her pole unattended).  I remember him making me feel so good when I caught a fish. He would win most of the time of course, but I remember one particular time that I kept catching fish after fish and he caught none. He was a good sport about it but I could tell he didn't like losing.

He loved watching football, in particularly the New York Jets. I remember his quirky game watching preparation which always included green olives that he would eat during the game. He swore it was good luck. Although, more often than not it resulted in him throwing the green olives at the screen.

I will never forget how my dad always kept a beautiful salt water fish tank. I now know how difficult they are to maintain but I don't ever remember him not having one. That is part of the reason I became so interested in salt water fish and ocean life.

My dad was a mechanic, a reliable and hard working man that showed up to work on time and rarely ever called in sick. He was knowledgeable and in my eyes knew everything there was to know about cars. He always went above and beyond for family and friends. If you needed your car worked on he would make time to help you out.

Dad, I miss you! I miss you so much! Every single Father's Day that goes by it hurts a little more. I hate that you are no longer here! I hate that I can't just call you or come by. I hate that Ashton and Kayleigh didn't have the privilege of meeting or getting to know you. I hate that they missed out on getting their very own nickname from their grandpa or getting their ears “widgeed”. I hope you get to take glimpses down here often to see how we are doing. Ashton and Kayleigh are doing so well, these last 6-8 months have been tremendous. I am really looking forward to see what happens in the next several months. I know you are too. Time is a funny thing, the older I get the faster the years go. I know I will see you again, and I hold on to that. I love you, daddy! I miss you!

Keith Paul Potter
July 31, 1956 – June 21, 2006    

Thursday, June 21, 2012

What A Ride!

Footprints in the Sand

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
other times there were one set of footprints.

This bothered me because I noticed
that during the low periods of my life,
when I was suffering from
anguish, sorrow or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints.

So I said to the Lord,
“You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you,
you would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life
there have only been one set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most, you have not been there for me?”

The Lord replied,
“The times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand,
is when I carried you.”

-Mary Stevenson

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

God Won't Give Me More Than I Can Handle, Or Will He?

These last 6 weeks or so have nearly gotten me to the point of donning a “comfy” white jacket with overlong sleeves crossed at the chest and wrapped behind the back. I am also thinking of making a small white cushioned room my humble new abode.

You know the old adage “God won't give you more than you can handle”. We have ALL heard it from well meaning family or friends and may have even used that phrase to make someone in a tough situation feel better. I am also sure you can think of situations in your life where you questioned this very statement and possibly even questioned God because of the statement that we have just taken as fact due to hearing it so much. 

I have come to cringe when I hear that statement and thought I was a “bad christian/parent/person” for feeling that way. Well guess what?! It is not in the bible anywhere...period! Believe me, I looked and looked and looked. God NEVER said he wouldn't give us more than we could handle. I am no theologian by any means but He did say that He wouldn't temp us beyond our ability to withstand temptation and make good choices.

1 Corinthians 10:13 "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man, God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."

Maybe that is why I haven't actually turned myself over to the local mental health authorities demanding they give me my padded room and straight-jacket. I am withstanding that strong temptation. 

It doesn't mean however, there won't be things in life that overwhelm you, encumber you and completely wear you out pushing you well past your comfort zone and eventually past your breaking point.  He does promise however, to be there when we are weary, burdened and completely spent.  I honestly think He DOES give us more than we can handle sometimes so we do run to him for rest and solace.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)  

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Count Your Blessings!

Within the last several months we have found out that Ashton can read.  He is actually sounding some things out but has an awesome memory as well; once he learns a word it is in his memory bank for good.  The school sent me a video of him reading a book recently.  Keep in mind, Ashton being able to attend to a book page by page is a huge milestone in and of itself.  See for yourself...

Today I wrote out some flash cards with the first words that I thought of.  Some of the words were those I knew he knew, others were very random.  He did amazing.  My little guy is reading!  (I apologize for the loud woman in the video...do I really sound that obnoxious?) 

On a side note of progress...Ashton has pooped on the potty two days in a row!!!  This is huge in and of itself and I am praying that we are finally on to something here.  We have been very blessed within the last 6 months in the potty department.  Kayleigh has become completely potty trained and is able to verbally request when she has to go which is HUGE!  Ashton goes all day long dry and pees on the potty on a schedule.  He is not quite able to request when he has to go, but we are working on that.  

However.....this "poop" progress is HUGE due to other underlying reasons, It has been my arch enemy lately.  Especially within the last two weeks...in which I went through colonoscopy prep with him (YES, you read that correctly....that is an epic story alone) as well as a poop smearing art project (I will not bless you with a picture of this) on his bedroom wall only days after the colonoscopy prep madness.  So I am here to say that two days with no poop to clean up....I am practically in Heaven!! 

Special Needs Moms

Special Needs Moms
A Look Inside

You may think us “special moms” have it pretty rough.
We have no choice. We just manage life when things get really tough.
We’ve made it through the days we thought we’d never make it through.
We’ve even impressed our own selves with all that we can do.

We’ve gained patience beyond measure, love we never dreamed of giving.
We worry about the future but know this “special” life’s worth living.
We have bad days and hurt sometimes, but we hold our heads up high.
We feel joy and pride and thankfulness more often than we cry.

For our kids, we aren’t just supermoms. No, we do so much more.
We are cheerleaders, nurses and therapists who don’t walk out the door.
We handle rude remarks and unkind stares with dignity and grace.
Even though the pain they bring cannot be erased.

Therapies and treatment routes are a lot for us to digest.
We don’t know what the future holds but give our kids our best.
None of us can be replaced, so we don’t get many breaks.
It wears us out, but to help our kids, we’ll do whatever it takes.

We are selfless, not by choice, you see. Our kids just have more needs.
We’re not out to change the world, but want to plant some seeds.
We want our kids accepted. That really is our aim.
When we look at them we just see kids. We hope you’ll do the same.

~April Vernon