Monday, January 26, 2009

Just a quick note that we've been invited by CCI to a personal interview in Delaware OH. This is the company with which we're working to possibly obtain a therapeutic dog for Jarod. It is a difficult application process, and the final step before a tentative acceptance is the personal interview. We are attempting to schedule this during spring break. Wish us luck!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama wasn't kidding when he said Change had arrived.
And it isn't just true for the country.

This week marks the end of my teaching time, and counseling practicum officially begins on Monday, January 26th. Natalie begins therapy on March 5. Maria's speech instruction is coming to a close, and piano lessons are o the horizon. And for Jarod, with his IEP on February 5, things are looking to possibly change even more.

Shari Hart, the district's autism consultant, called me today to chat. Jarod is due for his three year evaluation. They are doing a full assessment on him. His IEP is scheduled for Feb. 5. But this is particularly important because the autism program in elementary goes K-2. Once they hit third grade, they have to be pretty independent in order to stay at Traeger. If they cannot, they are usually shipped back out to the CD program.

The issues Shari was concerned about are his serious lack of socialization at school--really isolating himself, no friends to speak of, though thankfully he's unaware of that. However, once third grade comes, the kindness of students tends to wear off and they aren't so tolerant anymore. She's worried that in regular classes he might be a target. Also, she is concerned about how dependent he is on the para, Mary. He relies on her all the time, and it's her efforts that keep him going at school. They often aren't sure how much he processes without her. So yes, he can do the work, but he needs cues and lots of extra time. He is pulled out for speech, special help with literacy, and math is likely to follow soon.

So we talked about what CDB would mean (it is the less severe--it stands for Cognitive Disability-Borderline). He may not even have to have his label changed (from autism). But it would mean he would go to school at Emmeline Cook, where my good friends Julie Anderson and Amy Sippert are. They talk a blue streak about the CDB teacher, how great she is, so that's a plus. Shari said he'd still be able to be involved in regular ed, but would have more pull out and smaller groups. She said it would cater to his need for more processing time, and that smaller groups might help him socially, not to mention the fact he wouldn't have to drive across town everyday. But then she said they could maybe make all of those arrangements at Traeger, too.

When the IEP happens on the 5th, we're going to do goals and discuss tentative placement. Since there's a semester left, we may call an interim IEP meeting to discuss placement only sometime in May, if it's needed.

I'm not sure which way things will go. We have time, we need to look at all the data, and we need to keep in mind what's best for Jarod's needs. I'm a huge proponent for inclusion (especially since Jarod behaves so much more appropriately when spending time with his regula ed peers), but third grade gets tougher. If he needs the extra time and a smaller setting (for pull out times), perhaps that is something to consider as well. Lots to think and pray about.

After the winter comes the spring. And hopefully some light will be shed so we can help Jarod blossom as I know he can.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Delaney the Wonder Dog!

2009 finds our family in the midst of new challenges. The holiday season for all of us was wonderful, though I feel terrible I never got around to sending out Christmas cards! But then Jesus never did them either, so really, I don't feel that bad about it! :) We did, however, do the traditional birthday cake and song for Jesus at the Mueller family Christmas! He is, after all, the reason for the season!

Anyway, one of our biggest challenges of late, as most of you know, is Jarod's issue with dogs. His fears have limited our ability to get around and visit others since so many families we know have dogs. We've decided this has gone on long enough, and have made some efforts in helping him. We've applied to Canine Companions for Independece for a skilled companion dog for Jarod. A friend of mine at school, John, is a puppy raiser for CCI, and he has a dog right now he is raising and will be returned to the facility in Ohio in May. The puppy's name is Delaney, and we have helped Jarod to grow comfortable with petting and playing fetch with Delaney. He asks about her often, and requests visits with her because he figures he can trust her, whereas he has little trust with other animals. Our idea is that we can help Jarod learn how to work with and control dogs in our own home, and help him generalize that to the community (as opposed to attempting to avoid dogs for life).

The application process is arduous. After filling out a 15 page application, Chris and I completed the first major hurdle which was a 90 minute telephone interview. We were honest with them about Jarod's limitations with dogs, and they appreciated our honesty since many parents of autistic children apply and lie about their child's feelings with animals, only to show up and the child has serious issues. The second step is then to complete a professional referral from the therapists which we send down. If CCI still likes us, our family is invited to Ohio for a personal interview in which Jarod would meet and briefly attempt to work with some of the dogs for the day. Next, if the personal interview is successful, we are placed on a waiting list lasting anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. Once the wait is complete, we would be invited to a team training session which is 2 weeks of daylong classes and workshops with the dog. Jarod and Chris would travel down to learn to work with the animal and care for it properly. Chris and Jarod would have to learn all of the dog's commands (more than 50!), pass written quizzes (that's Chris) and demonstrate proficiency in controlling the dog. If, at the end of the two weeks, they complete the course successfully, they bring the animal they are matched with home. The dog would then be Jarod's constant companion (except for at school), and would travel with him.

Although it is an involved process, we believe this will be helpful in many ways. First, he'll learn to adapt to the reality of dogs in life, secondly he'll have a social ice breaker--something concrete and appropriate to discuss aside from toilets and ceiling fans, and finally, he'll always have a constant friend and companion who is his best bud. As a bonus, the girls, especially Natty, love dogs, so this is a two for one deal!

Speaking of Natalie, her challenges approach as well. Natalie has completed her 2 year wait for a therapy slot and has made it to the top of the list. I'd celebrate, but then Winnebago County must still verify her eiligibility--in other words, did she improve too much in the last two years? We're waiting, but if she makes it, therapy would begin February 20th, and we're thrilled! Think of what that could mean for her and for our family!

And poor Maria had a rough day just today. First she was attempting to pull a soda out of a plastic pack and pulled the entire pack into her face, giving herself a black eye! Later, we took the kids sledding at garbag hill. She started sledding down the hill, her sled turned around, and she didn't see she was heading right for a light pole. She ran smack into it and hit the back of her head along the pole as she was thrown from the boogie board. She remained conscious (thank God!), cried big tears and peed her pants from fright--literally. We called her pediatrician who assured us that although this was possibly a first degree concussion, she was not in danger since she neither lost consciousness, nor was she vomiting, which would be expected in more severe head injuries. As I write this, she's jumping on her bed, so I'm no longer worried. Still, I think she aged me 10 years today!

In the meantime, I hope this blog finds you and your family well. I wish you all the blessings of health, family, friendship and love in the coming year!