Monday, February 16, 2015

2 calls in 2 weeks. And a whole lotta grace. (And a Playhouse!)

It hasn't been an easy month. And I don't say this because my vacation fell through or because birthday plans were a bust with the family up in Elkhart. (I don't miss how lake effect snow can change plans so quickly.) Luckily, compared to last year, the winter here has been bearable. The kids are healthy and happy. I still received loads of texts and messages, 3 homemade cards, and even a pink cake pop for my birthday.

But I've also received 2 calls from the principal in less than 2 weeks time. Alexis has been on a roll.

I had heard multiple concerns from Lexi's kindergarten teacher about how, despite the great strides Alexis is making with transitioning from one subject to another, she's not gaining academically. After several hours of observing Alexis in class, I saw the teacher's concerns. Before I had a chance to get my thoughts in order, the first call came from the principal with new concerns regarding her safety. Alexis was leaving the classroom and the lunchroom unnoticed. She's a smart little cookie and would wait until no one was watching and head out into the hallway. Luckily, once she reached the hallway, she would wait there for someone to find her.  The principal asked to move up her annual IEP to the next week.

Oh, those blasted IEP's. So necessary, but I'd rather have a root canal.

Prior to going into the IEP, I made my notes, I did my research, and I said lots of prayers. As someone who has some issues with anxiety, my blood pressure medication wasn't cutting it. Despite having an incredible team to work with, I feel like I'm walking into the principal's office. I worry that I won't articulate my thoughts in a way that will benefit Alexis. I panic at the thought of potential conflict.

When I first walked into the IEP room and was surrounded by teachers, IA's, resource, therapists, and administrators, I told them how much I appreciate working with people who I know genuinely have Lexi's best interests at heart. I also told them that they still made me want a shot of tequila and a Xanax.

The IEP was a success. After 3 hours, we had added significantly more one on one time to help keep Alexis on task in the classroom, help her academically, and keep her safe. J and I are happy.

We are still waiting for the increased assistance to start, as the school goes through the process of bringing someone on (or transitioning their staff--we're still waiting to hear the specifics.)

But last week brought another call from the principal. Alexis had thrown books at multiple kids, injuring one of the girls under her eye. And of all the kids to hurt, she hurt the little girl who loves her the most, the girl that Lexi talks about at home. Alexis made a trip to the principal's office and apologized to her friend. Alexis spent the rest of that school day removed from her kindergarten class and with her resource teacher.

Anyone who knows Alexis knows that she's not a violent or aggressive or malicious child. While I may sound to some like a delusional parent, I have no doubt that she wasn't trying to be naughty. At home, the boys will occasionally rough-house and while I do believe that I need to let boys be boys to an extent, I have now made it really clear that they can no longer do this in front of Alexis. I even went so far as to make Blake take a brief time-out following a minor lapse in judgment just so Alexis could witness a punishment immediately following the crime (with a quick whisper to Blake that I needed his help in setting an example for his sister).

When Alexis got home from school that day, I sat Alexis down on my lap and expressed my sadness about her bad day. It's hard to know how much Alexis understands, so I make my statements as basic and to the point as possible. And as I told her of my sadness, I started to cry. Alexis was stunned. Her chin quivered as she patted my shoulder, and it probably made a bigger impact than anything I could have said. I just hope she related my sadness to her behaviors.

There were other repercussions to her behaviors that day, mainly the removal of all electronics, as the ipad serves as our greatest currency. Since the behavior is now behind us, we do a lot of talking about being nice, being gentle, and being a friend. She returned to her class the following day and had no incidents the rest of the week.
photo courtesy of Lexi's speech teacher.
On Friday I saw the mom of the sweet little girl that Alexis hurt. I apologized, felt terribly embarrassed, and fought back tears. Oh, the grace of that mom. She laughed it off, insisted that her daughter was fine, and even told me that her daughter came home and said to her mom, "Mr. (Principal) lied, mom! He told Alexis I wouldn't be friends with her anymore and that's not true!" Oh, the grace of that child.

I'm relieved that this happened before the start of the increased assistance that Alexis will soon be receiving. I'm relieved that when we're in the depths of dealing with the negative, I still get texts from the teacher saying, "On a positive, she did her very best work this afternoon! Swear it!!"


On another note, after almost 2 years of fundraising, planning, and building, GiGi's Playhouse Indianapolis is open!

I've been so lucky to meet and work with the most incredible group of people. And I've learned so much. I've never served on a board before, and to be able to serve on a founding board has been exhausting, educational, emotional, and so rewarding! We celebrated our grand opening on January 24 (Blake's 10th birthday!) and started our programming earlier this month.

Literally, larger than life! Alexis's picture in on the front of the Playhouse!

All that has been happening with Alexis at school makes me that much more grateful for GiGi's. Alexis can go there and socialize with peers, learn and grow, and I'll never have to worry about an IEP or a call from the principal. And I don't need a shot and a Xanax! I can meet other parents who might have similar struggles and we can discuss our challenges and celebrate accomplishments.

Alexis and about 500 others all helped cut the ribbon to open our doors for business. Photo cred: PCB!
Now that our doors are open, it's full steam ahead in planning our Gala. GiGi's programming is free of charge for all individuals with Down syndrome and their families, so the success of our gala is imperative. Come celebrate with us on March 14 at the Indiana Roof Ballroom with cocktails, dinner, silent auction, a band, and more! We'd love for you to join us! Tickets are available at: