I can’t remember if I talked about it here (and I’m too lazy to look), but BamBam’s world changed over Thanksgiving. He turned three that Saturday, marking the end of his tenure with the Kindering Center. We are going to miss the therapists there. They went beyond the call to provide him with fabulous services and truly made a difference in his life. Big love and thanks to them, especially S, J, and M.
So, as that door closed, the window on BamBam’s public education opened. The Monday after his birthday, BamBam started developmental preschool. His special ed teacher (the classroom has one regular teacher and one special ed teacher who are there full time) is absolutely wonderful and I’m certain he will fall madly in love with her. We went in to meet her the week before he started and, despite his reluctance to enter the building (he threw himself on the ground and screamed until I dragged him in), he took to her almost as soon as he got in the classroom. She does ABA (applied behavioral analysis) therapy with autistic children as a second job. After playing with BamBam for several minutes that day, she told me that he strikes her as a really smart kid who, once he figures out how to make the connections in his brain to communicate more effectively, will just take off. Did I mention that I super sparkly heart her?
Still, I was a little worried about how he would do once there were other kids in the classroom. And Mom had to leave. I talked to him about school and we went to Target to get him a backpack. He picked out a Thomas backpack with wheels and wore it around all through Thanksgiving weekend.
I took him to school on his first day. We got there early because I really didn’t know how long everything would take. Here’s a picture of him waiting for everyone else to arrive:
He did okay lining up with the other kids in front of the school, but the second we started walking toward the building he bolted. The regular teacher took the rest of the kids in while the special ed teacher and I tried to corral BamBam into the classroom. It took 20 minutes and several failed strategies, but we finally got him through the door. To the building. The classroom is another hundred yards or so from there. *sigh* We finally got him through that door, too, though, and it was time for Mom to leave. BamBam was hysterical, but I did it. I actually went to the car and came back with a different coat to leave for him. As I hung it on the hook outside the classroom, I could see the top of the special ed teacher’s head through the window. She was sitting on the floor with her back against the door, rubbing BamBam’s back as he screamed and kicked the door. It broke my heart, but I walked out again and went to a coffee shop to drown my sorrows in an almond rocha mocha. Some friends suggested I spike it, which I would have liked, but I had to go pick BamBam up in less than an hour.
When I went in to get him, he was sitting at the snack table very close to his teachers side. When he saw me, he actually said hi. His teacher told me that he’d done pretty well for his first day and assured me that’s pretty typical for kids like BamBam to react that way to a big transition like this. It took him a while to calm down, but some of the other kids came over to rub his back and then he settled down and actually seemed to enjoy himself. Until recess. He threw another fit when it was time to come in and then sat at a table inside sort of sniffling until they brought out a game they thought he might like and he was fine after that.
On the next day, BamBam took the bus. It’s really cool. For the developmental preschool, the bus pulls up in front of your house and you get to put the kid on and fasten him into a carseat, then the teachers get on the bus and take him off. I had told him all about it and he kept saying “bus,” but I don’t think he understood. When he saw the actual bus, he still headed for the car in the driveway. He resisted getting on the bus, but didn’t scream, so I took that as a good sign. He allowed me to buckle him in to his seat, though he seemed confused and I must admit that I was a bit baffled by how to make the car seat belt work. Finally figured it out and he set off. I’m told his second day at school went much the same as his first. He was crying when I went to get him off the bus, but the bus driver said he had been just fine until they turned into our subdivision. Reminds me of our dog, Sammi, at the groomers. There was this floor to ceiling window in the reception area and they would always let her hang out in there because she was a lot of fun to watch. She would dance around and flirt with all the people walking by the window. We could see her doing this as we walked around the corner to come get her, but as soon as she spotted us it was all sad eyes and “how could you leave me here” looks. Drama queen.
Anyway, that Tuesday was the end of his first week because school was closed for teacher conferences that Thursday and Friday. BamBam had developed a sniffle and cough after his first experience at school, but he seemed fine other than that. We went to a local fish fry place on Sunday evening. Sparky went to the counter to order while I sat down with the kids. Bam Bam was squirmy and coughing a bit, so I picked him up and swayed with him. Then, just as Sparky and BeBop settled into the booth, BamBam had a huge coughing fit and threw up down the front of my sweatshirt. I shot Sparky a look and ran with BamBam for the car, fully believing that Sparky would know exactly what happened because, I mean really, who could have missed the noise and smell of the event. Apparently I was biased by my proximety, because Sparky had no idea what had happened, a fact I learned via text as I was undressing both BamBam and myself in the parking lot. Eventually we worked it out and made it home, but BamBam did not go to school the next day because of the incident. He seemed fine all day Monday, so I was ready to send him to school, but he decided to be awake and, require my presence, from roughly 11:30 Monday night to 2:00 am Tuesday morning. Bleary-eyed sleep deprivation caused me to cancel school for him that morning as well. At least until I realized that he was fine and I would have to entertain him all day again, at which point I called his teacher and asked if we could drop him off a little late. We got the green light for that and Sparky dropped him off on his way to work, getting to experience the same fun scenario I did when we went to visit his teacher the first time.
Our school district does half days on Wednesdays, which means no school for preschoolers. I think this is a mistake, but they don’t seem to care.
On Thursday, BamBam screamed bloody murder when he saw the school bus. I ended up having to throw him over my sholder, carry him on, and sit him in the seat. Then he began the maneuver well known to parents of toddlers around the world where he thrusts out his pelvis with all of his might so that you can’t get the carseat straps around him to buckle them. I finally got his butt in the seat only to realize that the last kid to sit there weighed about five pounds and I would have to let the straps out, but I didn’t know how. I finally figured it out and got the wiggly, screaching toddler secured enough that I could disembark and wave goodbye to the bus. I feel like I need a nap just writing that and Sparky just asked me what I was doing that makes me keep sighing. I didn’t realize I was. *sigh*
BamBam’s acceptance of school was getting better, but it was pretty much lather, rinse, repeat on the bus experience for Friday and Monday. Early Tuesday morning, he woke me up at around 1:30 and wouldn’t go back to sleep until about 4:30. I can hear all you mothers of infants out there telling me that’s nothing. My only answer to that is to wait and see. Once you get used to your kids sleeping through the night, you lose the ability to function on three hours of sleep. So, after we were all up and dressed on Tuesday morning, I sort of lost track of time and had to sprint out the door carrying him to the bus. I set him down on the first step and was surprised to notice that he wasn’t screaming. In fact, he was smiling. He walked up the steps and gave the bus driver a high five. Then he sauntered down the aisle like some sort of height-challenged politician, saying hi to all the kids as he passed by them looking for a seat. My head was spinning trying to figure out who this kid was and what he had done with my screaming banshee. I’m still not sure, but I hope he sticks around.
I was still shaking my head as I walked back in the house and heard the phone ringing. I chose not to answer it because I didn’t think my exhaustion-addled brain was up to making conversation with anyone. But then I heard the person on the answering machine identify herself as the SNAPS (Students Needing Autism Programming Services) coordinator and immideately snatched up the reciever. Developmental preschool meets Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 8:30 to 11:00. The SNAPS program meets Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 11:00 to 2:30. The kids have lunch with their SNAPS class and the student/teacher ratio is, at most, 2:1. At some point during the first few weeks of developmental preschool, the SNAPS coordinator goes into the classroom to observe new students and assess whether they would benefit from SNAPS. I had heard that kids with an actual autism diagnosis almost never get turned down for SNAPS, but I was nervous because I didn’t want BamBam to disprove that rule. Which is why I picked up the phone, even though I was pretty sure I couldn’t spell my own name at that point.
The SNAPS coordinator was very nice. She had been to observe BamBam the previous Tuesday (I’m so glad we decided to send him that day!) and was calling to offer him a place in the program. I jumped at it and she told me the particulars, the most important of which for me (because I had already found out a lot about the program beforehand) was that his first day would be January third. A fabulous birthday present for me. The only drawback is that they don’t allow the kids to opt out of any part of the program, meaning that I’ll have to work with BamBam’s music teacher to figure out a class he can attend because there’s not one right now. We’ll work something out, though. Because, as I’m sure those of you who read Miss Allison’s blog about BamBam already realize, she is almost as crazy about him as he is about her.
In the end, I’m kind of glad I wasn’t thinking clearly when the SNAPS coordinator called because it allowed me to ask some questions of her I don’t think I would have otherwise. They were mostly about BeBop and his options for next year. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize he would qualify for developmental preschool until he was almost five, at which point I also learned that the school district won’t let kids who are five into the preschool program. They have to go to kindergarten. BeBop’s birthday is at the end of May and I didn’t (still don’t) believe he would be ready for kindergarten. Luckily, BC Maven and I (with the help of our wonderful friend who I’m going to call Hostess for now because she is the most fabulous hostess I’ve ever met) found a reasonably priced private school (preschool through 4th grade) ten minutes from our house with a kindergarten prep program specifically designed for kids who needed more than preschool but weren’t quite ready for kindergarten. That’s where BeBop is this year and he absolutely loves it. I love it, too, but he’s going to go to public school by the first grade, so we need to figure out the best time to move him. Right now he’s in school 9 to 1 Monday through Friday. The school district offers half-day kindergarten to everyone, but you have to pay for full day kindergarten. That doesn’t bother me so much as the fact that so many people want full-day that there’s a lottery to get in.
So, in addition to worrying about whether it was best to send him to a new school (kids with autism do not like change AT ALL) for kindergarten or first grade, I was worried that he wouldn’t get in to full day kindergarten and would actually be in school less next year than he is this year. That would not be good for any of us.
I told the SNAPS coordinator about his situation and asked her if there was any option like SNAPS for kids in kindergarten. Much to my delight, she said that there is a program, called something like SNAPS+ or SNAPS Time, for kids in SNAPS that don’t get full-day kindergarten. The initial step for BeBop, since he would not be coming from the SNAPS program, would be to have him observed in his classroom environment this spring. And the person who would do that assessment is the SNAPS coordinator, so all I have to do is remind her in a few months and she’ll go do it. Yay!
She also suggested we go ahead and have him evaluated by the school district (I had already started that process anyway) so that he can start any services he qualifies for through the school district. They would take place at his home school, so he would get a head start in getting to know the teachers there. I would get a head start in getting to know them as well.
Then, at December bunko, I met a lady who is head of the PTA at our home school. She’s actually like a cheerleader for the school in her enthusiasm. She looked up the date and time for the kindergarten tour there and even offered to meet me at the flag pole any day at 3:30 so she could introduce me around. ‘So I got that going for me, which is nice.’
So, January will be kind of rocky as BamBam settles in to his new routine and I have some work ahead of me to get BeBop set up for next year, but I think February to June are going to be pretty awesome. I’m looking forward to that. We could use a little more awesome around here. In the meantime, I’m kind of with the boys on this one. Transitions suck.