Archive for February 23, 2014

Kalyn and Kindergarten

February 23, 2014

Kalyn started going to public kindergarten at Cottonwood Plains in January. The reasons why are a bit of a long story. P1020188

The easiest place to start is probably in the fall when Kalyn started at the Options program. The Options program is a once a week classroom enrichment offered to homeschoolers in our area. Kalyn was in a classroom with about 15 other kindergartners who were also homeschooled for the rest of week. From the first week, Kalyn had problems. She would have difficulty staying with the group, and when she would get in trouble she would have tantrums, with yelling and hitting, and often run away and hide, and then be sent to the office and eventually sent home. She didn’t get sent home every week, but probably about half the time. At first we tried working out a behavioral plan with the school, but this did not prove sufficient for Kalyn.

Now, I have to back up and say that I suspected that something was not right for Kalyn for a long time. We have always known she is very smart, but she has also long had trouble with social settings and regulating her emotions. We worked very hard at home to do all we could, but her problems still seemed to me to be much more severe than anything I ever witnessed any other kids having. I spoke to our pediatrician about it when Kalyn turned 4, but he was dismissive and insisted Kalyn was just “hyperactive.” I also allowed some well-meant but ultimately very hurtful comments about my parenting to cause me to doubt myself and believe that somehow I just wasn’t being a good enough parent.

So, when I saw Kalyn’s teacher at her complete wit’s end with the same issues that Kalyn had been struggling with for years, something clicked and I finally became determined to get Kalyn properly evaluated for developmental issues. The best route to do this appeared to be through the school district’s screening program. First, we tried going through the Poudre School District, but were told that since we weren’t really officially in the school district we had to go through Thompson’s program. That ultimately turned out to be a good thing, because the indication I got from PSD is that they would have just turned us away anyway because we were homeschoolers.

It also took a frank discussion with Tim’s parents to also realize that Kalyn’s issues are much more severe than Tim’s were at Kalyn’s age. From the time we started dating I had heard so many stories about how much of a handful Tim was as a child that I had assumed that Kalyn was just taking after her father. Once we actually discussed the nuts of bolts of Kalyn’s issues compared to Tim’s, though, it quickly became apparent that Kalyn’s issues were much more severe than anything Tim went through at her age.

It took a few months to work through the process with the school district. First, we had to contact the district and schedule a time for Kalyn to work through all their tests. We also filled out a bunch of questionnaires, and so did Kalyn’s teacher at the Options program. It took several weeks to work through all the tests. The evaluators even went and observed Kalyn in her classroom at Options. We were super impressed by how kind and thorough they were in Kalyn’s evaluation, even though Kalyn wasn’t even an official student at their school, and at the time had no plans to become one. No one ever complained about or criticized our choice to homeschool, which I found especially reassuring as evidence they were taking us seriously.

And then the test results came back! The results found exactly what Tim and I had observed of Kalyn. First, Kalyn is super smart. Her IQ test was in the “superior” or “very superior” range on every subtest. This was no surprise to us, but did seem to surprise the evaluators and teachers. Her behavior and social abilities, though, had real problems. One the autism scale and behavioral problem scale Kalyn scored well within the ranges that would indicate that there is a problem.

At the time of the review they did not feel comfortable giving Kalyn an official label of high functioning austim, (what used to be called Asperger’s) because they did not feel they had seen enough of her in person and they didn’t know if her symptoms would be alleviated enough by interventions that a label would not be necessary. A label of autism is a serious thing, and I appreciate them taking it seriously. It is also not an all or nothing thing, either. The diagnosis of autism considers not just whether or not the symptoms are present, but whether they are severe enough to cause a significant impact on the person’s life. There is no question that Kalyn has the symptoms and characteristics of high functioning autism, but we will wait and see how things develop as to whether those issues will be severe enough to officially be given a label. Instead they gave her the generic label of “developmental delay” which is a way of saying there’s a problem now but it may or may not go away as the child gets older so further evaluation will be required.

After seeing how well they handled the evaluation, and their plans on how to help Kalyn in the classroom, (and considering that we were just about to have another baby) we decided to go ahead and put Kalyn into the school as a full time student.

So far, Kalyn has seemed to be doing really well. She definitely had some rough spots at the beginning, which everyone expected, but she seems to have adjusted and is doing okay now. She hasn’t ever been sent home early, but that is also because they actually have the training and resources on sight to deal with Kalyn’s meltdowns, which they didn’t have at the Options program. Kalyn will still tell you she doesn’t like school, but the complaints are fewer and seem to be said more out of habit than actual strong dislike. She definitely comes home happy, and if she really didn’t like school she would be much more upset about going. They asked us if we could have her ride the special education bus to and from school, since they had some problems with her wandering off and getting lost on her way to class, and she has LOVED that. It is also nice to have the bus come right to our door. The adults on the bus are always so excited to see Kalyn, it helps me feel better about sending her off to school every day.

Honestly, though, I don’t know the whole story of how things are going at school. I am used to knowing more about her day to day behavior, and the one thing I probably miss most about not homeschooling is just not knowing the full story of how things are going. Still, Tim and I are confident that this was the right choice.

The whole process has been one of hope for me. It has been so great to see so many people so eager and willing to help Kalyn with her problems. We have not always received so much kindness and understanding from others. It is great to see so many people really appreciate Kalyn and be willing to work with her.

It also has been incredibly helpful to finally have someone see in Kalyn the problems I have seen for so long, and not just dismiss them as a result of bad parenting or as just me worrying too much. I will not lie – at times over the past few years it has been super hard as I have tried and tried to work with Kalyn on the problems she has had. We tried so many things and so many activities! Sometimes we were asked by those in charge not to come back. Sometimes people have made comments that make it very clear they think we are incompetent parents. It has been lonely and hard. So, to finally have someone – experts, even – acknowledge and actually help with things has been such a blessing. I am starting to have faith in myself as a parent again!

I also am so greatful for the many many times I prayed for help and guidance in how to help Kalyn, and had been given inspiration on things that later proved to be exactly what she needed. I have a great testimony that God knows me and he knows my children and that he is helping us.

Crazy Times at the Wessman House

February 23, 2014

The past couple months at our house have been , as the title suggests, pretty crazy.

First, little Piper was born! She has been such a joy for us to have. She has been growing like a weed and keeping Mom busy (and tired). She has her two month checkup the week after next so we will let you know the stats then.

Second, Kalyn started going to the public kindergarten. I will make another post about why in a bit.

The first week of kindergarten Kalyn seemed to catch, and bring home, every sickness she missed out on by homeschooling for a semester (not that she avoided sicknesses then, either, as she still brought plenty home from her options class). For a couple weeks there we all were pretty sick. We still have some lingering effects a good month later.

We are selling our house! It all happened a lot faster than we had originally planned, which meant completely re-organizing the house and super-cleaning it top to bottom in about a week and half. Then, once the house was clean, we have kept it clean as we have showings coming through all the time. The keeping it clean has been much easier than we anticipated – I think it is having to be out somewhere all the time is the hardest part.

Since we have to be out of the house for showings, and Saturday is usually the busiest day for showings, we have gone down to Denver almost every Saturday to do fun things as a family. We went to the Denver Science Museum, and the zoo, and visited Tim’s aunt and uncle. We also went up to Estes Park once, which was a fascinating drive as it was our first time driving up the canyon since the floods last fall.

We also had birthdays! Kalyn turned 6 and Garrett turned 4. We kept celebrations pretty simple and we plan to have some kind of party once the house stuff is figured out.

So, yes, it has been two crazy busy months. Any one of these events would have been big thing, but all together it has been a bit of a ride. Still, we have been very blessed through all of it and I feel like things have actually been a lot better in a lot of ways than we would have been without it happening the way it has. The house stuff has helped me have something to focus on as I learn how to take care of three kids instead of two. We have spent a lot of time having fun together as a family, which has also been a blessing. And, good things are on the horizon! It’s been crazy but I wouldn’t change any of it.