School and Summer Planning

As this school year is ending for all three of my kids, it means I have to do a lot of planning on my part – planning for next year, planning for summer – and as it turns out, I don’t have a crystal ball, so it is proving to be a little challenging. Just a little.  But, I do have a plan.  Don't you always have a plan?  That is SO part of being the mom, huh?

Since I have all of this on my mind, what I am doing, what I am planning, I thought I would share with you all -- because I have a suspicion that you are doing the same thing!  Let me break it down for you:

Matthew (Preschool)

Matthew finishes his first year of developmental preschool (technically half a year since he started in December), and any fears I had last fall about him progressing past his IEP and being kicked out of Developmental Preschool have been squished. Matt is not neurotypical. He is definitely marching to the beat of his own drum, and I suspect more and more that he has Aspergers, which I may look into having diagnosed this summer.

The value of the diagnosis would be for advocating and for services. But right now, he is getting the services he needs, and I am not sure that they would diagnosis it this young – I have actually been told by our Autism Center (where I take Gabe), “Well, 4 is a little young.” My response was that I am NOT your average mom who hasn’t even heard the word Autism yet – I am clear on what the criteria is for diagnosis, and I am clear that Matthew meets it – probably just barely – but meets it nonetheless.  I am proud to say that Matt is who he is. I am not worried about the label. 

But, the schools will be, and those damn insurance companies sure are, right?  So, we'll see.

Next fall he will be back in the same class: Same days, same time. That should make it fairly easy to transition back to school from summer, and sure is a weight off my mind from a planning perspective. I only wish they had something during the summer that he could continue in. For a kiddo that is as obsessed with Routine as I am with Diet Pepsi, that would be handy. At least next year he’ll be happy to be in the class photo. But super disappointed when he finds out that he is one of 2 kids in the current 8-kid class that is returning next year -- his best buds will go onto Kindergarten. Bummer.

I am considering putting Matt in a preschool for typically developing kids one day a week next year – Fridays when he doesn’t have Developmental Preschool class. But I am not sure how he will handle it. He still gets kicked out of the YMCA childcare regularly (OK, so I quit taking him, when he can’t succeed, what’s the point?), so I am not sure. A preschool environment should be more organized than the YMCA, but not as supported as his current class (no visual routines, etc.). The goal would be to slowly expose him to a typcial class as a way to prepare for Kindergarten. But maybe I am just ahead of myself here.

Summer is going to be filled with OT for Matt, and some good old fashioned small motor skill work here at home. He is just now trying to translate his OBSESSION with letters to writing– since writing is still hard for him (he is four), he taught himself to type. Really. He just opens up Word, adjusts the font to his preferred size (100pt) and then types away at his favorite words – he can probably spell 50+ words…maybe more…3-5 letter words, plus his name -- then he changes their color (another little quirk; each word in decending order has to be colored the 'right' color in the rainbow -- in order -- red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet).

He is really into patterns in letters, like word families, and how you can add “s” to “park” and get “spark” – or any other way that one letter can change a word. Fascinating! As you might guess, this little love of his allows him to read. Pretty well too. So let’s guess that summer will be filled with letters too.

At least we have put a pause on Thomas the Tank Engine. *sigh*

Matt is also doing a summer day camp one week that is geared towards kids with challenges – specifically those in Developmental Preschool and their typically developing siblings. Nick is going to join him as is a kid from his preschool class, the son of one of my friends, so I am transporting. Wait until we get to Gabe, then you’ll realize that transporting is how I am really going to spend most of my summer.

So, that is my agenda for Matt this year: Finish Developmental Preschool, perhaps a diagnosis this summer, OT, letter work, and then back to his same teacher next fall.

Nick (Kindergarten Ends)

Nick is finishing Kindergarten as happily as he started it. I am impressed at his reading skills, which have mostly been increased through reading at home. He is currently reading a Chess Strategy book that he checked out from the library. You can find him WELL PAST bedtime in his room engrossed in learning the different strategies and memorizing each new move. Either that or Star Wars. But since Star Wars is his FAVE, it is nice to see another subject creeping in.

Next year Nick will be in first grade. I am really hoping for a specific teacher – one that Gabriel had last year – and Nick truly has his heart set on it too. Sweet boy. I want nothing more than for him to get this teacher for a list of reasons – the most important being that we have an established relationship with this teacher from him working with Gabriel, and Nick feels comfortable with him. I think this teacher can help Nick with the skills I want him to work on.

Which brings us to summer: Nick needs some small motor skill help too. He just doesn’t love to write, and he sure doesn’t love to color, but I need to get him doing more writing. He struggles with coming up with ideas on what to write (I think this is a perfectionist attitude—he has to think of the *right* thing), and because of that tries to just do the minimum. He is capable of more, so I want him to reach his potential here. We will be doing some fun writing assignments this summer.

He will also be in camps. I haven’t enrolled him in all of them yet, but he is doing a wrestling camp (with Gabe) and a the summer camp with Matthew. I am also going to put him in a few others – including a tennis camp that he has been asking for.

So Nick’s plan is, finish Kindergarten, hang at home this summer with some fun camps with his friends, then head to the big 1st grade! They test for the Highly Capable Program in first grade and we are hopeful that Nick will qualify this year! They start the program in second grade. We won’t know until NEXT April. I hate to wait.

Gabriel (Second Grade Ends)

This has been a rough year for Gabriel. He is getting older and the pressure of increased social and academic challenges has proven more than he can handle. As most of you know, we have moved him to a private school, which is working out well.

He loves his school (who doesn’t love Gross-ology for science?), and is learning some valuable self-advocacy and social skills. I am optimistic that it will translate to more academic success as well. Fingers crossed.

This summer Gabriel will be in full time summer school too! WOOO HOOO! We have truly needed this the last three years – and couldn’t find anything – or afford anything. This year, I am TRULY optimistic that I will be able to minimize the chaos by keeping him busy. Nothing more difficult to manage than Gabriel when he is bored. Ugh.

But the summer school solution comes with a transportation nightmare. I have to drive him to school every morning by 8:45 (about 20-25 mins away) and then pick him up at 3:00pm. That is the bad part about the routine; but the good part is that Nick, Matt and I will be up and out of the house every day! That means, perhaps, for real this year, I will actually take them to the Zoo or the Aquarium or the Beach or some other fun summer activity that I only threaten to do because really Gabriel is too fired up to be taken anywhere.

This might be the summer that I actually DO THINGS with the little boys. I know, you’re shocked.

The overall plan for Gabriel is this: Finish school at his private school, attend the same place for summer, then the do it again in the fall. Routine. Consistency. Love it!

And that's what I am seeing in my crystal ball today.
I always have high hopes, and great plans for summer, but rarely does it work out that way.  I am truly hopeful that with Gabriel busy (and out of the house) during the day, it will translate to a overall more relaxed at home climate in the evenings.  One can only hope.
I hope all of you are finding solutions to your daily challenges, and that your Crystal Ball is revealing some great ideas for summer!


Kris said...

It is always hard/stressful to plan for summer and the following school year, esp when you have kids with special needs!!

It is interesting you are thinking of enrolling Matt in a regular preschool along with the developmental one - my son did this for 2 years. The first year he did 3 days developmntal/2 days regular. The second year 2 days developmental/3 days regular. Then he did an "At Risk" kindergarten program (not all special ed - some kids were ESL, some low income, but they were all there for a "reason"). Then because he was young, he repeated kindergarten this year in a regular classroom with an IEP. He has made tremendous strides and functioned very well this year. His Special ed teachers in pre-K actually were the ones who encouraged the regular preschool - they knew he would eventually be mainstreamed and wanted him to be exposed to NT kids and get used to a "regular" classroom that may not be as structured. (The situation may be different for your little guy though as my son does not have an issue with routines or obsessions.) Good luck with everything!!

Maggie said...

I rememeber the first summer I did summer school. It wasn't because I needed it but because I wanted to get ahead and get a class taken care of so I wouldn't have to do it during the school year.

That was one of the greatest summers of my life. I do crave structure and routine and the school gave me that. It was awesome!

I don't know if you remember me, I'm Maggie and 19 and I've got SPD along with a bucket of other things - but I always love reading your blog. Kind of like a morning ritual if there is a new post.

One of the most powerful, secure tools I have is my agenda. It is with me at all times. But unfortuantly I left it somewhere on Wednesday and don't have it and I've been really really uncomfortable. Hope I find it soon. It's cool that your kids have a mom like you who knows how important routine is.

Alysia said...

Summer has always been one of our most challenging times, but this is the first summer that we're eligible for summer preschool, and I'm so grateful for that continued routine.
I totally get what you're saying about the dilemma of "to diagnose or not to diagnose". My now 4 yr old was in that situation at the beginning of this school year. He was in an inclusion classroom, getting the supports he needed, but no "formal" plan or IEP. Without his PDD-NOS diagnosis at Christmastime, we weren't able to formalize his accommodations, or make sure they were in place for the pre-K year and kindergarten. We struggled with the "label" but in the end realized that this was who he is - label or not - and it was up to us to understand that the label was a "sentence" but a means to an end for help.
Good luck with your summer plans!


Jenna said...

I was wondering how your son liked his new school. Specifically because I know what school it is. I wish I could get our school to pay for it but my son does too well behavior wise at our school so the district won't even consider it. Yet they are keeping him behind which is why we are homeschooling next year. He does however have a FABULOUS special ed teacher this year and she has agreed to work with me on planning etc. :)

Stacey,momof 2 said...

I was going to make a suggestion about how to get the boys to write...
Take large ziploc bags and put some gel and food coloring in them and then zip up-- have the boys use their fingers to draw differnt letters on the bag in the gel... they get fine motor skills, a bit of sensory time, and they learn to write their letters! plus it's kinda fun!

Hartley said...

Kris: Matthew definitely needs some transition support, but his actual desire to interact during group times has increased dramatically! If we don't do mainstream this fall, maybe winter. :)

Maggie: Hi there -- I do remember you. :) Glad you are back commenting! Your point of view is always appreciated. Routine is HUGE for my son -- he actually asks for school during the weekends too. LOL Good luck finding your agenda!

Alysia: Matt is under a full IEP right now in preschool -- but not for Autism. He qualifies under small/gross motor skill and social. My concern is that his motor skills will most likely catch up in the next year, but worry that he will still need extra support. We'll see...

Jenna: Where are you located? OK, you don't have to answer that here, but feel free to email me privately. If the school is a good fit for your child, maybe I can help you get him there.

Stacey: Love that idea! I always forget to be creative. LOL It used to come more naturally when I wasn't so tired all the time! Another good option, that we do actually do regularly, is write the letters on the shower walls or door. You can add shaving cream on it for extra fun -- and easy in the shower clean up. Thanks again for the gel idea!


Patty O. said...

Wow, it sounds like you will be busy! I have been planning our summer out as well. I want to do schoolwork every day so that when 1st grade starts, Danny will still be in the habit of reading, writing and doing math. He loves working on that stuff at home, so hopefully it will go well.

Of course, there will be tons of therapy, and I have signed him up for the special needs baseball team with the park district. I have heard good things about it. There will also be a tumbling clinic that he and his sister will be attending. Should be fun.

Between that, time at the pool and activities at our autism center, we should stay pretty busy.

Anonymous said...

Writing is also part of our summer plans. Nate will be going to an inclusive Y camp, so I'll let you know how that goes.

Our Y program does take in kids with autism/asperger's/adhd, but not all programs do or are they prepared to take care of kids who are.

I wish you the best of luck with your summer plans with your boys!

Jaimee said...

I think I need to write out my summer planning like this. The past month or so, we've been trudging onward trying to help our 6yr old SPD child make it through the remainder of kindergarten...and now we are down to 5 days of school left and I'm feeling the summer panic! I have 3 young boys at home and NEED to have a system/schedule/routine in place pronto. ack.

Megan said...

I am so jealous that you have the option of school for Gabriel all summer! I wish that Caroline could do something like that. I am looking into getting her to volunteer at the SPCA or something. She hates our pool that we belong to because of some unfortunate incidents there two summers ago when she was manic. This is bad for me because my younger two love it and we can spend hours there to pass the time.

Charlotte said...

xcuse typing. i'm 1 handed at the moment as my dear sweet 3 yo w/autism is filling my other hand with rocks. love ur site and i know what i will be reading tonight after i put my 3 to bed. thx for visiting neo moms wish i found u sooner

Jenna said...

I emailed you privately. Check your spam folder though I bet I am in there. :)