Friday, July 29, 2011

You know those puzzles in a plastic frame you find in goody bags?

We spent Thursday morning together at the Albany Art Museum. Alex went to a mosaic class and Kath and I roamed the museum. Since we were there for Alex's class, an hour before the museum opened, we sat and read books in the closed gift store's outer chairs first. One would think that it would be like a cemetery in a big old museum before the people come, but it's really an energy filled place. But that may have been partially due to my company.

Once we were permitted to roam we scanned some rooms of newer art. Kath surprised me with her perspective. In front of some pieces she stepped away and said, "I don't like that one." I said, "Why not?" "It's broken." And sure enough the picture showed some sad component of life. Hmmm.... Later on that night she plopped down on the couch and said, "When I growed up, I'm gonna be an artist."

How great is it that she sees so many options in her future? (After a class at the science museum she said she wanted to be a science teacher in a museum.) How many 4 year-olds even think of that? How many 40 year olds do?

We saw the sculptures, one of her favorite exhibits. Then the Egyptian section. She. Did. Not. Like. That. Room. She made me hold her as she peered at the two mummies as if she expected them to sit up at any moment.

A snack on the grass in front of the buildings watching Albany traffic pass us by, restored her good humor. Double Stuff Oreos are magic.

Alex made a beautiful tiled mosaic picture (I'll upload a picture). She loves art. She loves making and doing anything creative. Her art teacher at school calls her Georgia (as in Georgia O'Keefe).

On the way back home, so big bro Nick could watch the girls while I ran to the pediatric neurological psychologist for Kath's results, I snapped at Kath. I've been so patient, not that I haven't tried to move her along at times, or that I've allowed her to walk all over me, just that I haven't snapped with impatience/anger. I've been able to slow down this summer and really follow her thinking, if that makes sense, so that I can anticipate issues and try to provide her with some balance and tools so she can better figure out this world and its rapid changes. Not this time. She looked at me as if I betrayed her and she wailed. Not the cry of someone who got caught doing something wrong, not the cry of someone thinking, "Oh, yeah! Make me miserable, I'll make you miserable (and deaf)." No, this was a look and a cry of, "I thought you 'got me' but you're just like the rest." During this past school year there was lots of that, with me going back to teaching full time and her entering preschool, but this summer we've really been able to figure out our rhythm, for the most part. And I believe that has made a huge difference in how far she has come this summer, she's been a sponge.

It broke my heart and stayed with me the rest of the day. But I had to get her home and run back out to the appointment 45 minutes away.

The appointment. According to the doctor her play is the play of someone a year younger than she is, especially because of her cooperative play, he says she doesn't do that. I'm not real sure how that is gauged, perhaps from a school report. However, when Kath is home and playing with her sister the two of them reenact books they've read, movies they've seen and many times they just make up stories. Kath does usually follow Alex's lead, but Alex is the big sister. Although Kath is not the kind to just go along if she doesn't want to (as anyone who has read any of my FB statuses knows!).

She was tested as knowing 6 letters from the alphabet. She of course knows more than that now when they are in order, but since she's been home for the summer she has been sponging all things ABC. We restarted our ABC movie nights. We choose a movie that begins with the letter we are covering that week, then we have food that also starts with that letter. I point out the letter where ever we see it in the real world as well as books we read. Today we watched "Beauty and the Beast" and ate burritos, blueberries, black bean salad, rapsBerries, blueberry juice, bananas. Since another aspect the doctor told us would be difficult for her is her connecting the sound to the letter, we started to work on that this week, too. (B says bbbb)

A few other highlights from my appointment were that there was a huge discrepancy in how the school and in how we scored Kath for her executive brain functions in regards to how she handles transitions/shifting. We both ranked Kath as normal range for inhibition and emotional control, and in the danger zone for working memory and organization/planning, but her school ranked her normal also for transitions.

These scores are not based one question, but a survey of questions (I think there were over 100 questions) that are then scored and ranked to provide the range for each area.

Anyone who has spent an hour with Kath, especially when she has to work at something, knows that she doesn't transition easily/normally. That's actually a huge deal in her learning process. And I find it very concerning that her school would not have remarked that transitions were so tough for her. Although it does help me to understand her level of frustration in regards to school itself the past few months and maybe they just thought she was not behaving.

The doctor and I spent time talking about how lucky we are that Kath is female since girls have a stronger ability to use both sides of their brains even after the stroke impairs one side, unlike boys who are usually more one-sided. Then we had huge important conversations about reading readiness and how, because of where the stroke hit in her brain, she will have to be handled differently with her reading process.

Many of you know (or will) how important reading is for the success of a student in school and then of course in many aspects of critical thinking and life (and how it starts waaaay before the actual reading begins). Kath also has vision issues which can hamper her ability to see and handle reading as well. And yes, I have hopes that my Kath will far exceed the prognosis she got at Boston Children's (where we went for a second opinion) when we were told she might not ever graduate and will have heavy Individual Education Programs for her whole school experience. I am however, expecting she will live a full and complete life, have a career and a family, travel (and take me with her!), write, read, and do whatever she would like.

So. I haven't written because it was exhausting to once again process all and then try to figure out what to do with the information.

I calmly absorbed the information in the office. Like I said, no big surprises other then that the doctor acknowledged that I know my daughter. He said usually the school gets it more right in regard to how the child 'works.' But he acknowledged that I seem to be more on target with who she is and I'm very in-tuned with her.

But once in the car those nervous tears began. "What am I going to do to make sure that Kath gets all that she needs from her schooling when during her first year in, I feel like she didn't? And her evaluation from them also seemed to show some misunderstanding of who she is." (There was another part of the evaluation where the school report was pretty much a polar opposite to what I thought in regards to her attention level. The doctor said sometimes teachers score that side down so doctors won't prescribe meds...really!?) We got a report from the school before the end of the year that the staff didn't know how to deal with Kath when she got frustrated. That disheartened me when I consider that she was in a really small class and she should have been able to find a solid footing of success there. Especially since she was in a special education school. What will happen in a public school?

(I'm not trying to bash her teacher or her school. As a teacher I know full well how overwhelming teaching is. I believe they did the best they could with what they understood about Kath. I'm now worried about Kath going into school at a time when so many education cuts have drastically reduced programs for all students and have overextended teachers to the a dangerous point.)

Then I had a sudden thought. I had brought up with the doctor when he was discussing how she would need a program like Reading Recovery that I had my Master's degree in Reading.

But what I suddenly thought about Master's in Reading certifies me to teach Kindergarten through 12th grade, which is in one of the most important and fundamental areas my daughter is going to need help with. I could teach other people's children in any grade K thru 12, why not mine? And after seeing the special ed teacher's appraisal, maybe I wouldn't be such a bad option afterall. I know her. I know teaching. I know her.

When I chose my Master's Degree I didn't really know what to choose. It was more of a fluke. Sure, I enjoyed reading. Sure, I wanted to be the least expendable crew member by being able to teach all grades...and when I first began my education I DID want to be an elementary teacher...until I actually taught the upper grades and fell in love with that. So now all of this has me wondering if everything has been gearing me towards this.

Whatever 'this' is.

When my boys were younger I wanted to homeschool them. I was talked out of it and I am a bit glad I didn't because I know so much more now. Every year we have considered it with Alex. And now here I am again. Although with Kath it would be so much more intense, what to do with the therapies?

I believe I am on the cusp of so many huge changes, I just feel it, but I feel like I'm one of those puzzles you find in a child's goody bag, where you have to shift the pieces around in the plastic frame to make the picture. I keep getting closer to what I want/to figuring out the Big Picture, but then a piece will be out of place and I will have to readjust and redo a huge chunk of the puzzle, then I get close again....

So, only time will tell what 'this' is. What the Big Picture is. I suppose the only way I could realistically trade in my classroom keys for my house keyed classroom is if somehow money was not an issue.

Like I said, things feel close to pulling together. Wouldn't it be great if this blog morphed yet again into a blog about a writer on the cusp of publishing her first YA book and homeschooling her stroke survivor daughter? :) The opportunities are there. I just need that door to open a little wider so I can get my butt in. :)

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