Thursday, December 29, 2016

Way Out West

For the first time since either Maddux or Ruby has been alive, we were not home for Christmas this year. We (read: I) tend to hold on to that day as a sacred, at home, our traditions day, which doesn't blend well with travel by planes, trains or automobiles. This year, however, Lehr suggested we go, and go we did.
For ten days we invaded the space at Grandma Cathie and Grandpa Jim's townhouse, leaving traces of us in every corner imaginable. We ate all of their food, slept in all of their bedrooms and offices, and filled every waking second with noise. They claim they loved it.

Eli, Maddux and Ruby were overjoyed to see the snow immediately upon landing. Not only was it on the ground, but it was on the rooftops, the cars, the lake...everything. And it snowed at least half of the days we were there, adding to the already impressive base.
We took advantage of that by making several outings to sled, including two trips to the same hill my brother and I spent our childhood climbing up and sledding down.
My parents live on the river in a very walkable area, so we walked through the snow to the 'beach' or through the neighborhood pretty much every day. Ruby preferred to be pulled by sled, but she did plenty of walking too.
One day my brother's kids came over to hang out with us all day, and then the big kids went home to his house for a movie, pizza and a sleepover.
The next day we met them just after lunch for ice skating. Ruby sat that activity out, but she followed us on the perimeter of the rink on dry ground.
The biggest event was probably skiing. Eli and Maddux have skied a few times before in North Carolina, but nothing as big as what we took them to. The first day out, we all went and pledged to work with Ruby as long as she'd let us. My parents came along to watch and to provide a ride home for Ruby when she tired of the snow. That girl was amazing! She could not stand up in the boots and/or skis very well, but she had a blast when Lehr held her under her arms so she could coast down the hill. She did NOT want to stop!
Just before lunchtime, we loaded her up on the gondola with Grandma and Grandpa and she immediately fell asleep. Eli and Maddux stayed with Lehr and I and finished out a great day of skiing. The day after Chrsitmas, Lehr and the big kids returned and knocked out another full day on the mountain.
The day before we left we drove up the coast a little to an area that was known for it's bald eagle sightings. We were amazed at the amount of birds we saw! They were perched everywhere, as well as flying overhead. It was definitely not something you see every day!
It was so great to spend time with everyone; we do not get to see my brother's family often at all. Ruby especially enjoyed meeting her youngest male cousin, Boden. She is still wandering around the house saying, "Bodie!" like she did while we were there. Hopefully we can do it again before another ten years passes!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Aftermath

In the hours after the IEP, I was at peace. I felt good, very hopeful even, about this new venture. Today the reality sunk in a little more as I've had to deal with the effect of this new plan on Ruby's current schedule.

We went to one of her three speech therapists this morning and had to reschedule our upcoming visits. Not a huge deal, but it will make Mondays extra long for my girl. Then we had to go to Mt. Zion to break the news that tomorrow will be Ruby's last day for this school year. The director is and was amazing; she's seen us go through so many changes to schedule in the last two years and she's always walked with us, which is huge. But that didn't make it easier for me...felt like we were breaking up with them a little bit, even though we know we'll be back in the fall. And now I need to try to figure out a way to keep Ruby in some type of gymnastics program to continue building her core muscles for PT purposes. Not a big problem, just another logistical puzzle to solve.

I still feel good about our plan. I still feel like the meeting was a peaceful one where God clearly showed Lehr and I the way. But I am in a weird place...kind of mourning the plan we had, kind of anxious about what January holds for Ruby, kind of cautiously optimistic about our goals...searching for the light to lead our way.
Leaning on this verse:
James 1: 2-4   Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


We had Ruby's IEP redetermination today. It was a long meeting, first reviewing the findings of all of the tests and evaluations, then determining eligibility, finally setting IEP goals for what Ruby qualified for.

Lehr and I attended, along with Ruby's speech therapist through the school, the Occupational Therapist that evaluated her, the school psychologist that evaluated and observed her, the Special Needs Pre-K teacher, and the community based facilitator. Ruby was along for the ride, eating a snack and playing in the Pre-K room the whole time. (I was surprised with how well she sat for most of the meeting!)
There were no surprises in the findings for us; they agreed that Ruby qualified for Special Needs Pre-K and speech and OT. When it came time to set the goals, things turned slightly. Not from what we expected as much as what we agreed to. For most of the time leading up to the meeting, we have been so solid on maintaining what we've set up for Ruby in the way of inclusion in the typical (private) preschool. That is and always has been our goal. But I felt a very clear vision was cast in that room that demanded a different path to that goal. The team wanted several goals for Ruby, which lined up very well with the ones I had prepared in the past few months. In order to reach those goals, they asked for Ruby to receive speech one hour/week and OT 30 minutes/week. The OT stated that Ruby's scores did not qualify her for that much speech, but she wanted her to receive that support to boost her abilities in the classroom without support. When it came to determining how Ruby's Special Needs Pre-K schedule would look, they suggested 5 days/week.

Yup. Big change.

That is not at all what I ever said I would do. It's not what I planned on. But this team set goals that I think will help Ruby get to full inclusion. Four of the members of this team have met with me and talked to me about my vision for Ruby. Four of the members of this team have observed and/or worked with Ruby already and know her strengths and weaknesses. One of the members knows the private school she's attending, and has worked with her teachers specifically. They are not basing their suggested plan on results from a one-day evaluation.

We want Ruby to be in the 3-year old class at Mt. Zion next year. In order for that to happen, she needs to be potty trained. It is embarrassing for me to admit that I have not been able to succeed in that venture, despite working since this summer. I am aware that Ruby's current schedule of Mt. Zion and speech and gymnastics and more speech does not allow for much consistency in the way of training, so this 5 days/week in an environment that supports that goal will help. Also, for Ruby to be successful in a typical preschool with other verbal kids, she needs to have more practice with attending to tasks and sit-down time for longer periods of time. She needs more practice with using her words to get her needs met. She needs more practice with fine motor skills regarding writing and scissors in a classroom setting (not just at home). The realization I came to in that meeting is that we can either address those goals for the rest of this year, or struggle through this same process next year.
I know there are no guarantees. And I know that some (maybe all) of these things are possible struggles for Ruby next year and years to come. But we've been working on them with our current strategy since June with progress, but not success. I think we owe it to Ruby to try a new strategy for this semester to see if it speeds the progress. It is not our intention to hold her back in anyway with this new plan; we see it as equipping her with an extra boost to return to Mt. Zion next year, better than ever.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Build-Up

I have not been blogging as much the last few months. Life is busy, as it is for everyone. In addition to our regular 'busy', my downtime has been a bit consumed in praying, researching, planning, preparing, reading...all things associated with Ruby and what her schooling and therapy should look like right now. Specifically, when it comes to public services.

So we've been weighing the pros and cons of her speech therapy, of her extracurricular (gymnastics, soccer, etc.), of her private 'typical' preschool class, of her other speech therapist (who has also been acting as a facilitator on occasion in her typical class), so on and so on. When we started the process of Ruby's public school experience, she was not found to qualify for anything more than one hour of group speech therapy each week. We didn't agree with that (as we knew the reasons why Ruby scored so high were not a realistic picture of what her school experience would be), but recognized that the team that would ultimately work with Ruby, the team that was making these decisions, had never met Ruby - they had only seen the evaluation results from another team. So we agreed to give them some time (six weeks) once Ruby started services (speech) in the fall to collect the data they needed and then we would call for another IEP.
This process has taken a long time. That's a painfully long time for those of us that are impatient, especially when it feels like we've been waiting since May. In reality, we called for the IEP redetermination at the beginning of October, over two months ago. We met a few weeks later to discuss the path to get there, had a few new evaluations of Ruby (psychological and OT, and a new speech, based on her current level), had 2 or 3 observations taken of her in her private Preschool class, filled out more paperwork and online questionnaires about Ruby's levels, abilities, etc., had her teachers fill out more paperwork. All of that will culminate in a meeting for IEP qualification and redetermination this week.

It feels like we've been studying for finals all semester, but without a real clear picture of what subjects will be covered. Even though we received some of the reports from the evaluations, the interpretation of them from the team may differ significantly from ours. It did last May; Lehr and I did not expect to be denied services at that time, even based on her star-student evaluation. I don't feel this is an act of deception by the team, it's just the reality that Lehr and I are inexperienced in these types of meetings, so we don't know what to expect. Friends that have gone before us have mixed results, causing some cause for cynicism, but we are hopeful.
At this time, we are praying for a clear answer of what will best benefit Ruby. We think that is her private Pre-K with a facilitator 3 hours/week, in addition to speech once/week and OT once/week. Whether or not she attends special needs Pre-K also is something we go back and forth on; we are open to hearing the team's thoughts on how that works into our plan for Ruby's full inclusion for Kindergarten in a few years.