Sunday, December 26, 2010

School Days, Snow Days

Vitals: Words cannot express how busy it has been here.  Bill and Roman are home.  I desperately needed to go to the grocery store and shop for presents before Christmas, but I wrote this entry while waiting for Ruslan’s dental surgery the week before Christmas. 

Wednesday, December 15th:   Ruslan has been going to kindergarten for about two weeks.  After the first few days we had an initial meeting with a bunch of specialists to decide how to “serve him best.”  We had a follow up meeting Dec 15th. I am still trying to decide how it went.  There are a TON of people seeing him.  The kindergarten teacher gave a report on his progress, then we also heard from the PT, OT, ESL, Speech Therapist, Guidance Counselor, Spec Ed teacher, and two others who remain undefined.  The meeting was fine, but I was surprised to hear about how many people meet with him.  The kindergarten teacher told me that she only had him in her room for thirty minutes a few days and I was starting to see why. 

As we talked about how many one-on-one appointments Ruslan has each week, I was getting a little annoyed.  It’s no wonder that he is wiped out by noon.  How many adults can handle one-on-one appointments back to back for four hours?  Everybody’s got their hands on the little guy.  My point, when they finally got around to me, was that since he spent his life in an institution and everything is still quite new to him, I would really rather that he just spend his days in the classroom and following a fixed routine so he knows what to expect each day. 

I’m not sure that I actually got through.  One of the reasons he’s been out of the room so much is that all the specialists had a limited number of days to evaluate him before the official IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting for him sometime in January.  So, I know a lot of the meetings were for evaluations.  I didn’t really get any of his appointments reduced.  There is one teacher that he meets with three times a week regularly and I really don’t know WHAT she does.  I’d like to just end those meetings, but Ruslan seems to like her so I’m not sure what will be best.  Just thinking out loud, I’m leaning toward asking for her to stay with him, but keep him in the classroom.  I just don’t think, with all this pulling him out of the classroom, that he is getting a chance to just be a regular kid.

They answered the problem of no-fixed-schedule by making him a picture board with photos of all the people he meets with each day or pictures of his activities like circle time, lunch etc.  In the morning, he and his aide discuss the board and all the things he will do that particular day.  I decided to go with this, since, again, they assured me that there will be less out of class time now that the evaluations are over, but I am not totally comfortable with a schedule that is so varied day to day that they put the pictures on Velcro so they can move them around. 

The second thing that was a little surprising about the meeting is that they are going to hire him a full time aide, just to be with him one on one—all day long.  I don’t think I can really refuse this.  The kindergarten teacher especially is not comfortable with him crawling on the floor in the bathroom and they kept referring to that, plus transition times as the reason for the full time aide.  But, he only goes to the bathroom maybe twice a day.  And he certainly doesn’t have a full time aide at home.  I am worried that he will become passive and stand out all the more with an aide by his side all day long. 

However, that was the outcome of this meeting and I have to say that overall, it’s remarkable that I am concerned that they are giving him too much attention rather than too little.  They are definitely invested in his success. 

In most other ways, Ruslan has been fitting well into his new routine, with the family and he seems happy overall.  I normally pick him up from school at 12:00 and he is always glad to come home.  He shrieks “MAMA!!” when he sees me (which is a little embarrassing) and usually gives me one of those hugs that makes me think he is trying to re-mold me like I’m a piece of playdough. 

December 16th: School was canceled that next day. Things were going well until it snowed here.   I needed to at least pick up the house and catch up on laundry in the morning and he was just DYING to go outside.  The kids were too wired to watch him well and they wanted to play with their friends so badly that I told them I would take him out myself.  I got him bundled up about 10:00 in the morning and let him play in the front yard for 20 minutes, but it was a short trip and only made him eager for more.  I finally got out with him at about 2:00.  I planned to stay out until about 4:00 and get him good and tired. 

The kids were sledding on my neighbor’s hill.  We walked across the street (10 minutes) and got him on the sled with his brothers (5 minutes).  He was in front and so excited he was shrieking.  I pushed them down the hill and they went flying.  When they got to the bottom (30 seconds) I thought he was shouting for joy, but actually, he was only screaming for joy until they ran past a short bush and he got a scratch on his cheek.  The screams at the bottom of the hill were pain, not joyful.  So, I brushed him off, told him he was OK (5 minutes) and we walked back up the hill (20 minutes).   He wouldn’t go down the hill any more, but about that time our new neighbors came out with a four wheeler and a sled attached to the back.  He gave all the kids rides down the road (it was totally unplowed, this is Virginia) and back.  It must have been really fun because Ruslan loved it. 

I stayed out with him until he was so cold he was just shaking.  Unfortunately, the other kids were still OK so it looked like I was taking Ruslan in early.  However, he was freezing. It was about 20 degrees outside and he had been out for 90 minutes.  So, long story short, I took him inside.  This did NOT go over well.  He started screaming as soon as we got in the door and by the time I got his snowpants off, he was hysterical.  I took him up to his room because I didn’t want him to think the screaming/yelling was OK, but he kept right at it.   It was another full blown tantrum. 

I planned to let him cry it out and check on him every ten minutes or so, but he was really hysterical.  Plus, the neighbor kids started coming in about ten minutes later, asking for hot chocolate etc. and none of them had been exposed to this kind of tantrum in a kid this old before and he was really loud.  So, since counting had worked so well lately, I told him that he had to calm down and I started to count.   I don’t know what I was planning to do when I got to three, but it doesn’t matter, because as soon as I said, “one, “ he started hitting himself in the head with his fist and saying, “Mama, Mama,” with the implication that I had or was going to hit him in the head with my fist.

NOT COOL.  I grabbed his hands and told him that I have NEVER hit him in the head, nor would I EVER do such a thing and he knew it. He stopped crying, nodded yes and yet, as soon as I let go of his hands and he started screaming again and hitting himself again and this time he said, “Matt, Matt,” implying this time that Matt (my 13 year old) was hitting him in the head.  So, I grabbed his hands again and told him that, “NO, Matt has never hit you in the head.”  He stopped crying, nodded, “yes,” and when I let go of his hands this time, he did the same thing again, but saying, “Paul, Paul” implying that Paul was hitting him in the head.  And so it went, all through all the people in our family, each time me holding Ruslan's hands and reminding him that, “No, no one here hits you in the head.” Yet, as soon as I would let go of his hands, he would hit himself in the head again and move on to the next person. 

So, that was annoying.  He finally got through all the family, (he skipped Bill, who was still in Ukraine at the time) and when he finally ran out of family members, he seemed to calm down, plus he probably heard the kids downstairs so he felt better about being inside.  I let him out of his room, and he did fine the rest of the day, but man, that was annoying.  I’m still annoyed with him over it. 

Bill flew home that day.  He landed about 4:00 at Dulles and rented a car.  He got here about 8pm.  I was glad to see him and he was glad to be home, but everyone was so wiped out, it was a rather undramatic homecoming.  He put Roman to bed right away and crashed himself about ten minutes later. 

Friday December 17th:  Ruslan’s teeth were so bad that the doctor suggested general anesthesia for his dental work.  She does this once a month on Fridays and December 17th was Ruslan’s day.  They pushed his appointment time back two hours because of the snow, but thankfully, kept the appointment.  Unfortunately for Bill, school was cancelled again and he was home with the kids and his jet lag for company, but they all got through it. 

Ruslan handled the dentist really well at first.  They let me hold him while they put him under and the dental work took about an hour.  (Two cavities filled, one tooth capped and one pulled.  That, plus the general anesthesia that was not covered by insurance and I am so grateful I was raised by depression-era parents who taught me how to manage money!!)  However, he did not recover well.  On the way home, he spit up three times.

Apparently, the area from the pulled tooth was bleeding quite a bit and he spit up blood that he had been swallowing.  The first spew was a huge blood clot, about the size of a golf ball.  Disgusting.  The dentist told me he would sleep off the anesthetic, but he was awake and miserable most of the afternoon, vomiting about every thirty minutes over the next four hours.  He kept claiming to be thirsty, but everything he swallowed, he vomited back up.  It was worse when his stomach was empty, because then he got dry heaves. He really didn’t seem recovered until well after dinner time.  The only consolation was that when all the kids went outside to go sledding, he didn’t complain about staying inside.    

Bill and Roman spent most of the day sleeping off the jet lag. 


  1. Welcome home, Bill and Roman! Congratulations to your family on your new sons/brothers. Merry Christmas, also. I'd love to see some pictures of the kids.

  2. glad to see your post, they use that same velcro sign thingy at our school too, probably pretty popular. We had the same issues with our daughter, we pulled her out of ESL-it is not part of your IEP they are adding it just because he is from a different country but if you think he is picking up the language at a regular pace, remove him from that class. You have the right to do that, ESL is not required. I would also not have him go to speech if that is one of the teachers unless he has a clear speech problem, ie. can not make certain sounds and such. The other one might be a school psychologist, not sure, but since he is just frustrated then that will get better over time and he can see her when his English has caught up so do remove him from that as well if so. She could also be a literacy aide or something and that would be fine. At this point I would have him in Kingergarten, PT and OT and have an aid as if she is good she needs reinforce what others are teaching him. This means that if you get the IEP written and the PT and OT sections state goals, ie. will write by himself at K level, will write alphabet clearly, color pages, etc. then aid is suppose to supervise his needs to get that done. The PT should be done separate from the classroom in my opinion with the aid then reinforcing the same physical moves in the classroom setting. I would read the IEP very carefully before you sign it and get in it exactly what he needs and nothing more. If you find an special teacher helpful but he is being pulled out too much, you can request a "push in" that meaning they do the therapy in the classroom at the right time to help that issue, such as math modules with the special ed teacher or the reading time with the literacy teacher. You'll find the right balance for him!