brothers

brothers

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Nothin' but net...

Hellooo......  Anybody out there????
Sarah is always the most popular
seat in the house.

I'm probably talking to myself here, but whatever, I'll start by sending an apology for the lack of updates out into the ether.  Sorry-sorry-sorry-sorry.

Lemme go back and see where we left off.  Let's see, when I last posted, back in September, I was talking about how Ethan was growing and developing and that it seemed like he was tired of being 3 or 4.  The post before that was from June and talked about the work we'd done last year about getting Ethan back to school and developing his school routine.

This post is basically a continuation of both of those themes.  Plus, it bears mentioning how we've been growing as a family as Ethan heads towards a normal footing.

Lemme start with Ethan.

We got just a teeny, tiny bit of snow.
Then sent the rest of it on to the east coast.
Through Ethan's first grade year, we were helping Ethan get over the negative associations he had with school and helping overcome, just the fear he felt about it all.  This fall of Ethan's second grade year has been helping Ethan continue to get comfortable in school and develop a good understanding of school routines.

The change from last spring to this fall was that we started Ethan's school day earlier.  At the start of the year, we were still ending his day at 12:15 or so, trying to stop when he was still energetic and as positive as possible.    So, overall, he was going slightly longer than he was at the end of last year.  He also had his own full-time instructional assistant this year.  This is someone who is focused solely on Ethan.  In addition to helping Ethan with school work, Ethan's IA helps redirect him or keep an eye on him when Ethan wants to head off on his own adventure.  Ethan often doesn't want to go with the other students to whatever class or activity they may be off to, or he wants to leave before the activity is done.

Caleb, Ethan, Tina and
Sarah went climbin'.
Sarah summed up the fall quite well when she noted that Ethan seemed to be working through a lot of negative behaviors that he picked up during his traumatic and ill-fated introduction to kindergarten a couple of years before.  Over the last few months, we've seen him work through a lot of negative behaviors as he tests the waters to see if any of it means he can get out of there and go home.

Through the first couple of months of the year, September and October, Ethan would flee the school building once or twice a week.  He'd wander out of class with his IA to walk around the school.  Then he'd see the door to the parking lot and he'd make a break for it.  The trick for his IA or other school staff is to keep him safe in the parking lot or keeping him from running into the street without having to physically restrain him.  Once we have to restrain him, it becomes a traumatic fight for Ethan and for everyone.

During this period, I was hanging out in the school library throughout Ethan's day.  I wanted to be on hand in case Ethan started acting out physically in a way that the school staff couldn't handle easily.  In other words, I don't want to pick him up and move him or restrain him, but if he's near the street or creating a huge disturbance in the school then it can create a difficult situation for the school staff.  I have a little bit more freedom in picking him up and throwing him over my shoulder and carrying him to a safer or better spot.
Ethan is in a dinosaur phase.
Tina made this cool dinosaur costume for him.

In the couple of months that I was in the library, I think the school staff only came to get me a couple of times, and that was perfect.  They needed to work with Ethan without me and Ethan needed to know that those were the grownups who would help him and who were in charge.  When it became clear that the staff was done coming to get me, then I started dropping Ethan at school then going home to do my own school work.

As October came to a close, Ethan stopped fleeing the building as much, then stopped running out of the building (almost) altogether.  At that point he started showing his displeasure and frustration by strippping naked.  Again, this is thing he picked up during the kindergarten disaster.   He stripped in the hallway a few times, and stripped in his classroom a number of times.  Having a student strip always creates a 'fun' situation for the school staff because they immediately need to evacuate the classroom or place a wall or shield around the neekid child less some other kid (or their parents) get offended.  At first, every time Ethan stripped in the classroom, all of his classmates would have to be taken to another room until Ethan could be coaxed back into his clothes.

Rockin' out at Ethan's 1/2 birthday party at school.
(His birthday is over the summer....)
Eventually, the staff learned to identify Ethan's escalations better and got good about moving him into a side room or the class bathroom if/when he felt the urge about to hit him.   The stripping bug was at it's peak in November and December--it's to the point where we actually have a place on his daily school report for staff to indicate whether or not he stayed dressed.   The stripping behavior has largely subsided since the return to school after the holidays. He may strip his shirt off every now and again, but he only pulls a full monty once every couple of weeks, if that.

While all of that was going on at school, we've been building up supports and routines around the house.  We hired a wonderful new care assistant for Ethan this fall.  Her name is Tina and she brings wonderful strength, energy, determination, creativity and love to her time with Ethan.  The fall was a great time for them to to build their relationship, comfort and understanding with one another.

As we've focused on school, we've kept things at home pretty low-key and boring for Ethan.   Still
Ethan (with Grandma Pat) pettin'
a puppy at his cousins' par-tay.
Tina and Ethan have great fun making tents, and castles (lego and 'real' ones) and laughing.

2016 may be a very transformative year for our family and since the start of the year, we've been putting the pieces in place for some big changes.

I'm working really really hard (well not at the moment, but overall) to finish my computer science degree this spring.  That means I've got to step it up and take two classes now and two classes in the April to June term.  Over the summer, Ethan is scheduled for a big hip and pelvis surgery. So, we'll be doing that and focused on recovery.  Then, in the fall, we hope that I'll be able to start back to work.  To us, that means Ethan's got to be established and stable in a full school day by the start of school in September.  It also means that I've got to be able to really focus on my school work over the next six months--all while trying to have enough time to spend some fun time with the other people living in the house--oh, yeah, my family!

Sarah and I met with Ethan's school team in January and asked them to pick up the pace of lengthening Ethan's school day.  For a really long time, we agreed that we would keep his school day shorter so that he could develop a good understanding of school routine, structure and expectations.  Now that he's making good progress on that, staying in class longer, transitioning with his classmates more frequently. we've move to really growing the length of his day so that he's finally getting close to a full day.

Roooooarrr!
Starting from a 8:15 - 12:30 school day in mid-January, we're lengthening his school day by ten minutes, 2 times per week.  Now, he's up to 8:15 - 1:40, and it's possible that we may have him up to a 2:30 dismissal by the end of this month.  Ethan is handling the longer school days pretty well.  His teachers say that he does get tired in the early afternoon.  And his school performance is still pretty variable. He has some days that are awesome and some days that are behavioral roller-coasters.  We're keeping a close eye on his days to see if he's really doing okay or if we need to slow things down.  But after a year and a half of a pretty short schedule, it's great to seem this concrete sign of his growth and development.

The other big shift around our daily routine is that Tina has taken over school pickups most days, and is doing a great job with that.

In addition, Sarah has been wonderful and has stepped up to take more time out of her demanding work schedule to cover more of Ethan's doctors appointments and cover more days when the kids are home from school or something unexpected comes up.

Which means that after years and years of focusing on Ethan during the day, thanks to everyone else's hard work, I'm free to goof off during the day.   Okay, well, if goof off means stare at a computer doing school work (which I need to get back to, here, shortly).  After I drop him off at 8:15 I can work from home, or even better, park the cargo bike and hop on my commuter and find a coffee shop to park at and work for the day.   This has been a huge change for me, and I'm loving it.  I've been able to get on my bike more in the last month than I have in the last six months.  I'm getting a lot of school work done during the weekdays,which means I can spend more time with the fan-damily on the weekends and we can even go out and do things together.

Over the holidays, we went to a holiday party at Sarah's cousin's place. A couple of weeks ago, Caleb and I went out to catch an animated Japanese film fest in town. Sarah, Tina and Ethan went of to the swimming pool last weekend. And Caleb has started taking a weekend class on video game design. All four of us even got out to mall a couple of times and even out to dinner together.  After a couple of years of helping Ethan find some stability and being busy with classes over the last few years, none of these are things we take for granted and each of them are wonderful and dear things.

I've got to get to work.  So I'll toss some pictures in this and close it
here.

-Todd, Sarah, Caleb, Ethan, Tina and everyone else on Team Ethan!