We were already set up for a followup IEP meeting yesterday for Race Car Man. As it turned out, even if there hadn't been one on the calendar we would have had it anway. Tuesday...
...He had a good morning. He was medication-compliant. He got dressed when he was asked. He rode the bus, stayed in his seat, kept his hands and his voice to himself, and earned a reward: iPad time when he got to class.
Except when 10 minutes of iPad time was up, he was not ready to be done. He melted down, all the way to the core. It was bad, not only bad enough that he had to be picked up but also bad enough that he said some things he really should not have and got himself suspended for a day. In the wake of events across the country, everyone is on edge and things they might have shrugged off last week aren't getting a free pass this week.
Later that afternoon, the new dog, who had been doing wonderfully well, was unpardonably aggressive. We are responsible dog owners. We knew what had to be done. We checked out some alternatives but none of them were workable.
Tuesday night was kind of a blur of sadness, frustration and fear. Its Christmas, dammit. This is not how I hope for the holidays to commence -- with another tough IEP meeting where I get the distinct impression my son's teacher wants him in a different placement, followed by a tough decision about the fate of a much-loved pet who cannot be rehomed and who is a danger to people.
Fortunately at our IEP meeting, I had support from the district counselor whose opinion and mine were the same: A change in placement doesn't solve the problems. The problems will still exist and we can't ignore the danger of disrupting a child who is already struggling. If the accepted model of behavioral therapy is applied, we see that we are trying interventions that aren't working. Either we are mis-reading the antecedent behavior or the responses we are implementing are not working and we need to figure out new approaches.
We ended the meeting with some plans in place -- my ex will be spending time in Race Car Man's classroom on his weekday off. The district counselor will work with the teacher, the aides, the school counselor and school psychologist to implement some different positive interventions. We have an appointment with a new behavioral therapist and a plan to access some skills classes for both my son and for us as parents. Clearly we all need some more tools for our toolboxes, and although the timing is unfortunate, we've got to move forward with intention and resolve.
I left that meeting to attend another work-related meeting that lasted the rest of the day. I welcomed the chance to concentrate and engage with a cross-functional team of adults on everything BUT autism and dog problems.
When I got home last night I spent some time engaging Race Car Man about what happened on Tuesday. I'm always struck by how honest he is. He admits his behaviors. He doesn't try to deny what happened, but tells me he can't control himself when he gets that upset. And he's right, he can't. He doesn't have those skills yet. So we talk about what are things it is OK to say when we are mad and things that will get you in big trouble, and I know we will have to spend some time helping him to practice using different words when he is angry and upset so that the next time it happens he has more tools to reach for.
I suppose I should be feeling worse than I am, but despite the heavy baggage of the last couple of days, I have a sense of relief. We have a plan and we have a good team to help my son. I know that a lot of his issues are temporary -- he will either grow out of these behaviors or he will receive enough therapy to help him improve them. Naturally, these problems will simply be replaced by other problems, but that's true for every person who ever lived, autism be damned. I am terribly sad about our dog, but its spilled milk; I can't undo what happened and I can't take chances with my family or with other people's families. I salve the wound by offering to foster again after the grandpuppy goes home with her dad, who is spending Christmas with the Washington State family next week. We are all very excited about seeing him.
And finally, with all that has happened the last few weeks, we've gotten a break in an area where we really needed one: SG interviewed for and has been offered a job HERE. ALL THE TIME HERE. Knowing that I will not be dealing with the upcoming months of February and March without my husband at my side makes a lot of things a lot more bearable. Its not that his presence solves all the problems, no one can do that. But his presence means I have someone here who's got my back, who loves my kids, who fills an empty space in my house I didn't even know was there until I met him.
Happiness tempered by sadness tempered by excitement tempered by fear. That's life. That's OK.