another April 30th in the books…

April 30, 2010 – God (and a friend on Capitol Hill) worked a miracle and got our family out of Serbia.

April 30, 2011 – God displayed his sense of humor by sending me back to Serbia on the exact date I begged Him to get me out of there the year before.

April 30, 2012 – I spent my day longing for Serbia.  After many hours of melancholy, I walked into a shoe store with my oldest two children and overheard a conversation that made me as warm inside as the smell of pot roast on a Sunday afternoon.  The words floating around seemed to pass between a Serbian mother and her young child.  I hid behind a tall shoe display and soaked the music in for a while before approaching the mother/daughter duo.  They were indeed from Serbia.  And… they were ending their year-long stay in my area and planned to return to Belgrade only a few days after our encounter.  I thanked them for giving my a little taste of the place I longed to be and then I thanked God for putting them in that store at the exact moment that I needed them to be there.  He’s just good like that.

April 30, 2013 – After Bible study with ladies in my neighborhood and Seth’s IEP (his team still rocks!), I walked in the door just in time to receive a phone call from Sofija’s principal saying that she was being suspended… For the second time in just a few short months.  The teacher she kicked in the temple last time, was kicked in the jaw today.  Happy. Happy. Joy. Joy.  There’s my Serbia for the day.  But I’m not going to focus on it.  Sofija is going to be okay.  We’re all going to be okay.  God promised it.  Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.  And besides… I’m leaving tomorrow for Summit9!!

If you’re praying for our family.  Well, Chad probably needs the most knee-time.  He’s alone with the kids for the next few days and he’s going to have LOTS of Tata/Sofija time.  For me, please pray that I give and receive all that God intends for me to give and receive during the conference.

Hooray for May!

school placement

This post is for all the Mommies in northern Virginia of children with disabilities.

We live in Fairfax County.  Last year was an amazing school year for our six year old daughter Sofija and we felt certain that she was exactly where she needed to be.  This year.  Not so much.  She is now in a room where she is the oldest, biggest, and highest functioning student.  There are six other students of which two are completely non-verbal and have NO assistive technology.  The classroom is literally 1/3 the size of the room she was in last year.  There is not even room for them to bring their coats or backpacks into the class.  The primary teacher is a first year teacher who has ZERO ABA training and the two instructional assistant spots apparently have a revolving door of substitutes.  I literally cannot count the number of different faces I’ve seen in there in the first nine weeks of school.  The one IA that was familiar with Sofija from last year, dug her fingernails into the palms of Sofija’s hands and left fingernail marks under her arms within the first three weeks of the school year.  That was her last day.

I’ve been told that I’m the only parent that comes to the class daily and keeps track of what’s going on in the classroom.  It is my guess that this is the reason I’ve been called to come get Sofija three out of the last four days that she’s been to school because she was just “having a bad day”.  We’ve had two two-hour meetings and have yet to get to the behavioral intervention plan in her IEP.  The behavioral coach and behavioral intervention specialist have contributed nothing to the classroom or to her IEP.  In fact, I do not even know who they are.  We have a BCBA and BCaBA that work with her in our home for forty hours/month and they have both spent time in the classroom.  When asked, they put together behavior plans for the class that have yet to be implemented.

She is bored!  We brought her home from Serbia in April of last year.  At that time she spoke no English and did not know letters, numbers, colors or shapes.  She mastered all of those and was speaking English fluently by the end of 2010.  In January we started working on letter sounds and writing and working towards reading.  She never quits when a new tasks is presented to her and she very quickly masters every new skill.  She is literally acquiring 40-50 dolch words a week and she is able to pick up almost any book now and read through it.  She is also able to independently write sentences.  If she doesn’t know the words from memory she sounds them out.  She can count money and make change.  She’s even teaching herself to play the piano (It’s pretty amazing to hear her picking out songs by ear and singing along as she’s playing).

Having her in a room with children who cannot speak and who have physical disabilities has created a perfect storm for aggression.  The other students have a much higher level of needs and when attention is being focused away from her and she has nothing to do, she acts out.  When all of the adults in the classroom stop what their doing and focus on Sofija, her bad behavior is reinforced and it escalates.  The more attention she gets, the worse her behavior becomes.  It’s just become a vicious cycle and the staff doesn’t seem to be willing to do anything to break it.

At this point we are simply looking for another placement where both her academic and behavioral needs can be met.  I know that APTS  is great for behavior, but not so strong academically.  We are planning to visit Phillips today.  I’m hoping that somebody out there can give us some suggestions on schools to avoid or schools that they recommend.

If you read all the way through this and you have no connections in northern Virginia with schools or autism, feel free to pray for us to have clarity and peace about where she belongs.  Our prayer is simply that she be in the environment where she can reach her full potential and be loved and nurtured.

day 2 part deux (boundaries)

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. At this moment I can not begin to imagine what I will be twenty days from now. After only two days of fasting, praying and studying the sermons of Christ, I already feel like my load is a little lighter. How is it that we complicate our lives so much more than we really have to?!
I am about to climb in bed (no caffeine is forcing me to bed a little earlier than usual), but I wanted to take a second to write a bit about boundaries. That word has crept up in every productive conversation that I’ve had in the last two weeks. What’s funny is that I didn’t think I had a problem with them. I have this wonderful gift of being able to identify the lack of boundaries in the lives of others and to see how that lack of boundaries holds them back from living fully. If you were on the receiving end of any of those recent conversations, I apologize for sounding self-righteous.
Today I took a long painful look in the mirror. I’ve always been afraid that telling people they couldn’t call after a certain time or asking visitors to leave our home for fear that doing so would be perceived as rudeness. I’m a good southern girl. I don’t like to be rude.
But what if it isn’t rude to establish boundaries? What if it is actually respectable? I wanted to call someone today and thought that they were probably working and didn’t need to be interrupted. I realized that this person’s job has created boundaries that I have no problem respecting. Isn’t family supposed to come before work? If so, shouldn’t it be even more respectable to establish boundaries surrounding my family. I’m not really sure how people are going to take it, but “God has not given me a spirit of fear!”(2 Timothy 1:7) and he instructed me to “Not worry”(Matthew 6:34). So, I’m going to let go of my fears and stop worrying that people will think I’m rude and start laying down some boundaries. Feel free to pray for me in this process or share your pain if you struggle in the same area.
Change of subject…. Seth and Sofija sat at the table tonight doing their homework. Sofija kept pausing and rereading every part of her book that said something about animals. I noticed that Seth had stopped his own work and was just sitting and watching her just as he said, “I think God showed me what Sofija is going to be when she grows up. I think she’s going to be an animal scientist who studies the way that mother animals protect their young.” Maybe God was showing him something about his sister AND his Mom……