An Unexpected Turn

Sometimes the path we are most certain of becomes the most rocky.  The decision we thought we would never question becomes the one we can't stop questioning.

Caleb has always had a bit of a tougher time than normal with basic things.  I've always brushed it off for him as food related, or trauma related (he's had a share of those in his lifetime), or somehow health related.  He was just always the kid that "everything happened to."  Quiet, not generally disruptive, highly intelligent but damagingly explosive if he was out of his normal routine.

Over the past few years thing have gotten progressively worse for Caleb as he struggled more and more at home and with friends and family.  Incidents of yelling at family members for serving food incorrectly or refusing to eat food not labeled gluten free.  Having trouble interacting with other kids.  Over Christmas one friend's daughter wrote him a letter about how he was too much of a baby and no one wanted to play with him.  In June he was in tears at another house because the big kids were all playing together and he was being left out.  Over the last year he almost stopped using the at all.

Different people had different opinions (as they always do).  Some people thought it was a phase and he would outgrow it (I understand this...I spent a lot of time in this camp, myself).  Other people refused to believe he was anything other than cooperative and pleasant.  On the other extreme, one person told me he needed immediate and intense psychotherapy to deal with obsessive behavior while he was still young.

We started talking with our pediatrician this past spring to rule out physical causes of the accidents and to look into blood sugar levels in case that was a concern, but nothing panned out physically and she felt we should take him to a therapist.  It took me a little time to adjust to the idea of having a 5 year old in therapy, but eventually we saw no other option.  Almost immediately the therapist started talking about Asperger's and PPD.  She wanted him in individual, family, and group therapy plus social skills class.  She was hopeful that we could reduce his toileting accident by half over 6 months.  It was a lot and it happened really fast.

Tim and I gave a lot of thought to all of this.  We had several individual/family sessions and he attended some social skills classes.  At the end of the day, however, we remained unconvinced.  See Caleb had all of these "characteristic" behaviors of Asperger's, but there was also his ability to control himself and to be really successful when he was in the right environment.  When he knew every expectation for his behavior and was properly challenged he thrived.  When we were able to be 100% consistent it wasn't a problem.

Oh wait, 100% consistent with 3 other kids in a busy household with a constantly changing schedule.

With some sad reflection Tim and I realized that a big part of the problem was clear.  For whatever reason (diagnosis or not) that he struggles so much to be out of a routine, we couldn't give him that at home.  It had gotten so bad that he couldn't handle minor frustrations anymore.

This year I think he was too far into his moody sullenness to handle any flexibility.  I mean any.   Group time 10 minutes late because I had to feed the baby?  Meltdown.  History on the wrong day?  Crying that  might go on for the entire day.  The all time low came last week when he refused to eat breakfast because I served strawberry "milkshakes"  and milkshakes aren't food.  Then he refused to get dressed because he hadn't had breakfast yet.  When I came downstairs to help him, he locked himself in the bathroom and screamed at me from the other side of the door.  From start (breakfast) to finish (locking himself in the bathroom) he cried and screamed at me for almost 2 hours.

I was beat.  Beat by a 5 year old.

I realized that the way things were, no one was winning.  Aidan wasn't winning because I barely had any time to give to his schoolwork at all.  Caleb wasn't winning because no matter what I did I simply could not be routine enough for him, and I was already having a hard time challenging him academically.  The little ones were getting the worst deal because I had so little left for them.  I started to think sending Caleb to school might be a good idea.  I chatted with some friends who knew the area schools and gave me a few ideas.

I contacted a few different schools, and we ended up settling on a small Catholic school about 3 miles from our house.  There was a closer school, but they were much larger and would not evaluate him prior to placement.  We didn't feel it was wise to put him in one grade and then change him after he just started getting used to something new.  After speaking with me, this new school decided to have him come in and shadow the first grade class for a day and be observed and evaluated by the principal and reading specialist.

To say it was a success would be an understatement.  The reading specialist spent some time with him and tested his reading out at a mid second grade level with a very high accuracy score.  She described him as pleasant and cooperative.  My honest mother's heart must sadly confess I haven't thought of those words with Caleb for the better part of a year.  He followed along with the class all day and was able to keep up in the other subject areas as well.  The best part?  He loved school.  The next morning the first words out of his mouth were, "Do I get to go to school again today?"  All day not so much as a tiny accident, even after he got home.

I expect there will be a large learning curve as I adjust to getting him to and from school on time and we learn to balance home and school.

I know it will have its days.  Eventually he will get frustrated by something at school and we will all have to patient and help him work through that.

But I'm hopeful for Caleb and hopeful for our entire family.  Kylee will miss Caleb dearly while he is gone as they are fast friends, but she will relish the time to be three.  Aidan and Caleb are already getting along better just from having a break from each other.  I wish they could be close all of the time, but maybe that isn't their reality right now.  I will be far better equipped to handle his outbursts and quirks when I have a break from him during part of the day.  It is much easier to be consistent for 4-5 hours in the evening than for an entire day.

I am sad that my homeschooling of Caleb has come to an end for now, but I do think it is for the best.

I will miss him terribly while he is gone.


Marisa said...

It sounds like a wonderful fit for him, so far. I hope he has a great year!!!

Joyful Learner said...

It must have been a hard decision but one that makes him happy. I hope he will have a successful year.

Lisa said...

((HUGS)) Heidi. I can tell by your writing how hard this was and is for you. But, I know you have obviously thought this out and prayed about what is best for Caleb! God will bless you abundantly!

Kylie said...

Wow what a hard decision that was to make. I have so much admiration for you. You are a wonderful mamma. :-)

Abigail said...

I could feel the thought and pain that came into this decision. You have our prayers that everyone transitions well. God will bless your careful considerations!

Heidi said...

Thank you so much everyone for your supportive comments. I shared our decision on a homeschooling board and one comment was actually, "Well I don't see how that is going to help" was followed by another "What a waste of time" comment. I really struggled with how much I wanted to say here.

At the end of the day it came down to treating Caleb as an individual who had a different learning style/need than I could meet (sending him to school) or treating him like something that was broken that needed fixing (the intense therapy approach). Some families don't have such a clear choice and he may need additional therapies in the future, but for now I think this was definitely the right decision to make.

In a beautiful twist of fate (or hand of God as I prefer to think of it), I *think* he gets to attend Mass with one of the priests from our parish this morning as they are filling in for the week.

JoRaffe said...

Oh, honey, you (and Tim) are truly the most thoughtful, honest and reflective parents I know. This must have been a tough decision for you, but I admire you for being able to give it to God, and do what you believe is best for Caleb, no matter how much it clashed with your thoughtful and deliberate belief in the benefits of home schooling. Benefits which your other kids will continue to reap. You're my hero, my dear, and your family remains in my prayers.

Heidi said...

Thank you Joellen, you are a dear.

On a lighter note, we did ask Aidan if he wanted to go to school to just to see how he felt about it. Then he heard he had to wear shoes all day and he said, "No thanks, I'd rather be homeschooled."

That one is a free spirit to the max, I tell you!

Angie said...

LOL on Aidan's comment! Hehe! Thanks for sharing this post. You're so real Heidi and I appreciate that and all you've shared with me (and others!).

Heather said...

Sounds like a really tough decision! God gave this child to you and Tim and no one else. Only you, as loving parents, can truly make the best decision for him. As much as it hurts to end the homeschooling, sounds like you made the right choice for now, and I know you will continue to be involved, just at a different level for now. It makes me so sad to hear about judgemental comments! If only they could live in your shoes for a day, right?! Speaking of shoes...hilairious comment by Aidan! :)

Hannah said...

I hope it works out well for your family. We started out completely homeschooling Montessori, and then in a similar "twist of fate/Hand of God" moment, I ended up getting my Montessori training and putting us ALL in school, myself as a teacher. The kids are loving it, and right now it's the right thing for our family:)

Meredith said...

I, too, can hear your heart in this. I really admire your considerations for what is best for him and for the whole family. I pray that the year goes very well for him.

You know this already, I think, but I have struggled, too, with feelings of failing Simon for not being as routine/scheduled/available/
whatever for him as he needs. But seeing the benefits of our choice helps. I look forward to hearing more about his year. Bless his little boy heart. :)

Heidi said...

Meredith I think if I did not know how much you have struggled with your decisions for Simon and your courage to do something different I would have been much more afraid to take this leap. I pray that we are truly able to see benefits long term and that Caleb will find new confidence in himself to bridge some of these gaps.

I am starting to think this post should have been about shoes though... poor kid is totally overwhelmed tonight because we can't find tennis shoes that meet his school dress code. Solid color (black, brown, or white), no accents, lights, colored laces, etc. He can also wear dress shoes (solid in the same colors) but I can't see him doing gym in a pair of loafers and he can't tie his own shoes yet and that's a disaster waiting to happen! His church shoes are too small and Aidan's old ones are too big still......

elsies7gifts said...

Sounds like you are making great decisions for what your family needs right now - and that is all that any of us can do. I hope he has a wonderful year and school and it is not too hard on you having him gone.