Long story for another post, but we will be heading back to DC sometime in 2014 (hopefully summer). I'm late to the bidding game and I'm trying to make it all work now, but I find myself ultimately unapologetic for ignoring the HR aspects of my job.
My husband is in Afghanistan.
My son is awash in school and therapy and sensory-seeking extracurriculars.
My daughter is a pip who, for the first time, isn't constantly being overshadowed by all that is her brother.
For once I am not taking a work call in my office with a sick kid screaming in the background. I'm not taking a work call at home while putting PJs on an exhausted toddler. I speak to my child's teacher every. single. day. I volunteer in his class once a week.
I'm not apologizing.
This LWOP undoubtedly dinged my career a bit and, given my very strong bent toward ridiculously competitive and the Foreign Service's emphasis on ridiculously competitive, that's a bit hard to swallow.
I'm not apologizing.
With any luck, this year plus in Colorado will make it less likely that I'll be scrambling for childcare for my suspended child. It will make it slightly less likely that I'll be blamed for putting his needs on the backburner for too many years. (I say slightly less likely, because I'm not naive enough to think my children won't blame me for most things.)
I am not apologizing.
I have to keep telling myself that.
On that note, before I delve into the logistical nightmare of bidding on short notice with no access to the State system and a number of timing issues, I am going to focus on Boy, and what we find to be helpful, as there may be another stressed parent of a high-needs pugilist out there.
Here's what we've tried:
Hoping it will just go away: FAIL.
Soccer: FAIL. Boy was quite good at soccer, but couldn't handle the sensory input of a gaggle of kids rushing toward him and a ball and a whistle. There were tears more often than not.
Swimming: WIN. Did you know Boy can freestyle across a small pool? He can. He could not do that a few months ago. The first time we took him to a pool this summer, he screamed and pantsed himself because he didn't like the sensation of wet swim trunks grabbing his legs. So we went to SwimLabs (for FS families: they have a location in Vienna, VA!). The pools are small, very warm, and have an adjustable current. They also have a small class size (max 4) and a camera with monitors in the waiting room for parents and in the corners in the lab. Even at Boy's young age, teachers discuss technique with their students using video footage.
Gymnastics: WIN. For sensory seeking kids, the jumping, climbing, pushing, rolling is heaven. It helps that Boy's teacher is a middle-aged tough guy. Boy relates to that well.
Group Behavioral Therapy: WIN. Boy has been going to a school skills group for several months now, and has a vocabulary and context for discussing things that do not come naturally to him, not even in the slightest. Body space, volume, sharing, conflict resolution: it's all been invaluable.
Sensory Camp: WIN. Boy attended sensory camp this summer. He learned about body speed and control and I learned about intervention techniques. He's always used a weighted blanket, and indeed one is in his classroom for him when he flips out, but they expanded my toolkit to include a variety of deep pressure techniques.
IEP Process: We'll see? The special education coordinator needs six weeks to monitor his academic progress and his classroom behavior, and then we jump knee deep into meetings upon meetings with the nurse, psychologist, occupational therapist, speech therapist, the works. Best case scenario is he no longer qualifies for an IEP because all the rest is working. That would be great, but I'm not holding my breath.
LEGO club: WIN. Boy does LEGO Engineering after school once a week. He is exhausted when he's done, but he is so genuinely enthusiastic to have 90 minutes when he just excels, no qualifiers. He is a savant of building, and he needs that weekly success.
Kindergarten: WIN (so far). Oh, oh, oh. How thankful I am that we are back. There was no good kindergarten option for him in Estonia--he's too high needs. He's one of the youngest in his class--if not the youngest--but he's already taking off academically. He went from writing only a few of his letters to writing sentences and starting books in about four weeks. His teacher runs that classroom so tightly it's a bit intimidating, but it's what he needs. He needs rigid boundaries, constant assignments, and a challenge. I've volunteered a number of times, and I am almost always shocked at how on task he is. "On Task" isn't normal on Boy's resume. He's easier at home, he's proud of his work, and he's simply rising to the occasion.
To be clear, he's already been sent to the principal's office. But only once!
I worried at first about overloading his schedule. He wakes up so early (4:44 this morning) and is so frenetic that he's beat by 6:45 most nights. He is responding well to physical, individual activities that meet his sensory needs. He enjoys having a club where he is a star (and I enjoy outsourcing complex LEGO projects, because that's not on my resume). His iPad time chart has been changed to reward good behavior at school. I'm afraid to jinx myself, but after a year of this, we should be set.
I am not apologizing.