Nate is Great fans, we have been missing in action because of what can only be described as a whirlwind of change. In the past month, Nate has graduated from Birth to Three; transitioned into full-time Pre-K in our public school, which is now where he receives his autism therapy; attended school for a week before a vacation at Disney World (Chad needed to go for a work conference so we tagged along!); and returned to school. It has been the biggest roller coaster of excitement and sadness; we are thrilled that Nate is happy and healthy to move on to “big boy school” but we are so terribly sad to not have Nate’s six Birth to Three therapists with us in his daily life. (I am, however, very glad that three of them are on Facebook so we’re in touch quite often!) A whole entry dedicated to his Birth to Three therapists is forthcoming but I figure a good catch up message is overdue.
After we attended our Planning and Placement Team meeting (PPT) where we were presented with Nate’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP), which we agreed to, the school, Nate’s Birth to Three team, and myself scheduled a week’s worth of transition sessions for Nate to become acclimated with his new classroom, his new friends, his new teachers (Ms. Susie, Ms. Mollie, Ms. Mechelle, Ms. Sandy, and Ms. Juliann plus a host of other teachers in integrated classrooms), and, most importantly, the new structure of therapy and education. While not all of Nate’s Birth to Three therapists were able to attend his new school, they were quite eager to see where Nate was going to be–Nate is a kid to all of us and they were quite protective about the quality of the program into which he was being transitioned. I attended all sessions with Birth to Three therapists and Chad was able to attend one, as well. We were relieved and heartened to hear Miss Katy and Ms. Lisa rave about how wonderful Ms. Susie’s programs were; they are quite confident that Nate will thrive in this new environment.
In addition to receiving therapy in the classroom with his seven classmates, all of whom are also on the autism spectrum, Nate interacts with neurotypical kids daily through integrated classroom activities. These activities include library time (Nate checks out a book every Monday and brings it back the following week. His first selection was The Gingerbread Man. So stinkin’ cute!), art, physical education, and music. I attended art with Nate during a transition meeting. He was so excited to climb up onto a big boy stool and paint to his heart’s content. There were many mediums of artistic expression set up throughout the room — drawing, painting, sculpting with clay — and kids were encouraged to find the medium that felt right for that day. (Could you imagine if our workplaces encouraged that kind of daily intuitiveness? It might make for happier adults…but I digress.) Anyhow, Nate made a lovely painting, accidentally ate some non-toxic paint, and had a blast.
Amid all of this change, we were dreading saying goodbye to our beloved Birth to Three therapists, who have been with us since Nate was eighteen months old–half of his life. They taught us how to best care for Nate and help him grow in this world. We love them forever and the thought of not having daily visits from them just broke our hearts! Their firm does not allow for clients to give therapists gifts so instead of giving them each cars and a year’s stay at Disney World (ok, not really, but we could if we would!), we catered a graduation party for Nate.
And somehow, the “no gifts” rules only apply to therapists but not to Nate because the ladies got him two birthday presents–each starring his favorite character, Curious George! Thankfully, Ms. Alison and I threw Nate a mock birthday party earlier in the week, complete with stuff wrapped up from around the house, so he could practice tearing paper admiring the gift, and cleaning up the mess. He was a pro at this party!
The next day, we hosted Nate’s third birthday party for our friends and family. Nate’s grandma, who the grandkids call Mam, came down from Maine with our sister-in-law Chris and my nephew, Cameron. Many friends came to visit from far and wide including Canada and New York City! We rented a bouncy house for the kids (and, let’s be honest, the adults) to enjoy and the event had a Winnie the Pooh theme, a movie that Nate’s recently begun to enjoy.
Because he is on the spectrum, many of the toys marketed for kids his age are unhealthy for Nate. Many electronic toys make him stim–think of it like a record getting caught in a groove. People want to give him gifts so, to ensure that they were ones that Nate could truly enjoy and grow with, we created a wish list on Amazon. Nate got so many gifts that we were overwhelmed; he’s truly set up for a whole year! He also got some awesome presents that weren’t on the list including art kits (Nate loves art!) and a catchy outfit! (I love it when people give Nate clothes! That all seems to stop after your baby grows out of the infant stage.)
We kept his actual birthday (May 20) as a quiet day. We celebrated with Nate’s Mam and played with new toys, went out to eat, fed some ducks, and generally relaxed.
As if that wasn’t enough excitement, Nate started public school that Monday. So he suited up (he must bring a backpack, dontcha know!) and became an official member of Ms. Susie’s class. He was so excited to start school! When we got to his room, Nate stood in the doorway, dumped his backpack on the floor, turned around, waved, and hollered, “ALL DONE!,” which is his way of saying goodbye. No tears, no fussing. Just toddled on in and went to the table to do an activity. Lovely!!! Naps don’t happen in pre-k so, suddenly, I had a ridiculously exhausted toddler when he came home. If I can keep him awake until 6 or 6:15, I now consider it a victory. Sadly, this means that Chad only sees Nate for about fifteen minutes a day (they eat breakfast together) but I’m sure we’ll find the balance soon.
After Nate got into the routine, we pulled him out of school and went to Disney World! This was Nate’s third trip. We won the first trip and just visited the Mouse last September. We didn’t plan to go back so soon except that Chad had a conference for work (he was one of the presenters) and it was difficult for me and Nate to accept that Chad would be at Disney World without us–so we tagged along! We tacked 1.5 days in advance of Chad’s four day conference and three afterwards so that we could have some family time and we had a blast! I even managed to solo parent with Nate through the busy parks! I’ll write a whole entry about the experience soon, including why Disney World is the greatest place for families with kids on the spectrum. There are lots of photos to share of the trip but, for now, you’ll just have to enjoy this one.
(As we were trying to get Nate to say hi to Peter Pan, Nate belched. Loudly. Peter Pan said Nate was behaving just like one of the Lost Boys!)
We got home very late on Monday; Nate didn’t go to bed until after midnight so we kept him out of school on Tuesday. He’s been in school for the rest of this week and, of course, just as he gets into the rhythm of things, he has 1.5 weeks of school left before the start of his summer break, which is 2.5 weeks, after which he’ll start Extended School Year (ESY), additional education for special ed students who will regress without continual instruction. He has five ESY weeks followed by another 2.5 week break and then school will start up full time in late August.
So, do you see why we’ve been missing for a while on this blog? :) If you miss us badly, Nate does have a Facebook fan page and I tend to post mini-updates there in between blog posts, so please come over and be our friend!
More soon, I promise! In the meantime, I hope you’re all enjoying the summertime weather and Nate hopes you get outside to splash in water tables!