Monthly Archives: September 2017

Sophie’s Story: On a Positive Note, the Preschool IEP Meeting

Some parents, it seems, through my contacts with other special needs moms and dads, HATE their kids’ IEP meetings. I’ve heard stories of tears. I’ve heard stories of having to hire lawyers and advocates to take to the school and even having their kids’ pediatricians attend meetings so that they can get the needed services from their schools. NOT SO with Lancaster City Preschool! They rock the IEP meeting!

Sophie’s first day of preschool in 2015. She was 3 & 1/2 and nonverbal. WOW.

I’ve been meeting with roughly the same “team” for over three years now as Sophie has slowly waded her way through preschool (which is typically just one or two years for most kiddos). I used to dread them because I was so afraid to spend all that time focusing on her deficits. BUT, the “team” is always so phenomenal about highlighting her strengths. And… they genuinely LOVE Sophie. We do ponder her difficulties and try to problem solve together what she needs. But we also laugh over stories of her antics. The bottom line is, they know how to do their jobs well, and they love serving my girl. Who could ask for more? I certainly couldn’t. But more was what I got when I went in for her annual IEP review this fall….

Each of her therapists and teachers shared their perceptions of Sophie’s progress (ALL AMAZED by how far she’s grown — her adaptive PE teacher actually dropped his jaw in shock and awe when he met with her this fall to assess her progress!). And then each specialist highlighted what new goals they have for Sophie for this year since she met almost ALL of her goals from last year. We’re working on fine motor skills like handwriting, cutting and such. We’re working on balance and leg strength. We’re working on some speech blends and on conversing with peers. We’re working on social skills. All this I expected.

One of my favorite pictures of Sophie stylin’ during her first year of preschool, shortly after school started.

The “MORE” part that amazed me was when it came time for her speech teacher to share. She was the last to go. (If you’re new to Sophie’s story, her lack of speech two years ago was the HUGE reason we initially sent her to preschool for services. She had about five words when she started preschool three years ago at 3 and a half years old.) So, Miss Renee said that all of Sophie’s current speech articulation deficits are completely AGE APPROPRIATE, and she could probably TEST OUT of speech this year!! Talk about a jaw dropper! I was amazed and thrilled to hear this! In two years, Sophie has completely caught up in articulation. Praise God! This was SO encouraging to me!

We are, however, going to continue speech this year to work on the social piece of the puzzle. Sophie’s introverted, which is fine, and struggles with anxiety, so relating to peers isn’t always easy and isn’t always her preference. Other times, though, she performs with perfectly appropriate social skills. It’s kind of baffling. So we’re still working on that. I’m thrilled to report that she has also made a new friend in this first month of preschool. Her BFF of the last two years went off to kindergarten this year, and we noticed a gaping hole in her absence. We do miss our Evie so much!! Sophie’s new friend, who is also named Sophie, is very sweet and such a good helper to Sophie! After school they often have to hug each other goodbye. Aww!

My poor baby is falling asleep AT SCHOOL in the middle of all the chaos. Jesus give us sleep, please!

So we are off to a great start at preschool this year! Now if only we could get her sleep adjusted, we’d be all set! We are so thankful for her preschool, for her “team,” for all those who have helped her in her journey. We are truly blessed by all the support we’ve received. I’m reminded again that unless we experience difficulty in life, we often miss blessings. There are so many opportunities for blessing in the difficulties that we go through. Sophie’s “team,” as well as all of you who love and support her through my blog, are the blessing we would never have experienced without Sophie’s struggles. I find that our God is more than able to “work all things for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” It was so good to see through the eyes of others how far Sophie has come in the past two years. Sometimes I lose sight of this because I’m with her every day, and I’m in the trenches with her in her current struggles. Two years ago we weren’t even sure if Sophie would be able to speak. And now here we are, crushing goals left and right. When we are in the difficult and impossible, that is when we truly see how much God is able to do. I’m tucking that little gem away in my mind as we’re in the trenches of our current difficult things. God is able to bring us through all of this, just like he did with speech. Two years from now, everything may look very different. And if I know anything about my loving Father, I know there will be continued blessings along the way.

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Sophie’s Story: Seeing the Gift

So life with Sophie lately has been a series of battles and meltdowns. In case you don’t know, Sophie has been struggling with some unidentified issues — certainly anxiety, possibly ADHD, maybe sensory processing disorder. I don’t want to project these things on her, but this is what I’m seeing in her behavior, as much as I don’t want to see it. My heart has been heavy as we wait for her coming appointment with the developmental pediatrician, and for her referral to a psychologist for a full neuro-psyche evaluation. There are many overlapping syndromes and conditions that fit with the issues Sophie is struggling with. It could be as mild as anxiety. It could be as severe as autism. Whatever the case, life with Sophie can be challenging. Call it whatever you want to.

And on top of that she’s not sleeping right now. So that’s special. She’s lost her nap to her all day preschool class (which is AWESOME —I mean, the class is awesome, but the nap loss, not so much). And, although she’s five, she evidently still needs a nap. Because she’s been a real treat since giving up that sleep. And if that wasn’t enough to throw her into a emotional hurricane, then there’s the fact that she’s been rising every morning between 4:30 and 5:00 AM. You can guess how much the mommy and daddy of a new baby who still gets up at night just LOVE these early wake up calls. Right. So, she’s subjected herself to even more sleep deprivation. Because once she’s up, the girl is up. She is ready to start the day. W.I.R.E.D. She wants to do all the things at 5AM. All. The. Things. There is no more sleep for Sophie once her eyes pop open.

So, imagine with me how you cope with life on the days when you’ve decreased your amount of sleep by 2-3 hours. Yikes. That’s not pretty. Even for me as a grown up, it’s not pretty. Imagine doing this for a month. Are you tired yet? Now, put that on a five-year-old, with special needs, who can barely cope with life as it is. Are your eyes bulging yet? Because mine are…

I so wanted to enjoy this season with Sophie, her last summer break before entering a full day of school. And I truly did enjoy some of the moments. But there were so many days when I thought I was losing my sanity. Actually, I’m still there. There are many moments when I still completely lose my chill. Like, where is Catherine’s chill? Is that it waaaaaaaayyyy over there in Canada? Oh, yep, that’s it. Gone. No image of Jesus here. Just a crazy lady.

I have, at times, in this season, lost sight of the joy of being Sophie’s mother. Much of my time with her is just bound up in frustration, because she’s not being who I want her to be. That sounds terrible to say, but I’m sure that at least one or two of you can relate to a non-enjoyed season of parenting. I feel in a very real sense like I’ve lost my sweet Sophie who I knew for the past four years before this. Where did that girl go? I liked her. I would definitely say that I’ve lost perspective. Believe it or not, there’s freedom in this realization. Because now I can strive to regain perspective, to journey the path of acceptance one more time, which I’m sure will not be the last time…

On a recent Sunday my pastor prayed for those who were feeling discouraged. He said that God had shown him that many of us were feeling that way, and God wanted to speak encouragement into those areas for us.

Great. That’s me. I’m ready, God: Lay it on me.

Immediately I called to mind a passage from a book that I read probably at least a year ago. It’s from Jennifer Rothschild’s Lessons I Learned in the Dark. She’s writing about receiving difficult gifts from God, as her blindness was to her.

“One reason that many people struggle with bitterness or ungratefulness is that they’ve never learned to receive difficult gifts… Often we struggle with an attitude of ungratefulness because our eyes are fixed so fiercely on the gift… But if we fix our eyes on God, we can see beyond the difficulty of the gift into the heart of the Giver. Regardless of whether we asked for it or want it, it’s a gift of God’s grace, and our response should always be to receive it with thanks.”

God spoke: Sophie is a gift. Hold her hand. Walk with her. Show her Jesus. She is a gift to you, not to somebody else, not to any other mother, to you. Let go of who you want her to be and receive who I have made her to be.

Sophie is a difficult gift for me right now, or perhaps her possible disorders are, but she is absolutely still a gift. It is time again to let go of who I planned for her to be and to walk forward into what is. It’s time to once again embrace God’s story for Sophie instead of my own.

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