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Monday, 7 January 2019

Plan C and Beyond

Salam my lovelies,

Remember how The Grandparents shot down the school we listed as Plan C? I followed up with Nexus International School (nicknamed Plan C in my earlier posts) and turns out that they do not have a spot for Bean for his year group either. The framework is basically one child with special education needs in each class. We are not so sure if a school visit is still warranted, although they were ever so willing to enroll Girl.

A tiny piece of good news is that we may move on to Plan D and that is to consider an intensive Applied Behaviour Analysis program at Early Autism Project Malaysia (EAP) then let Bean rejoin his current school once his ABA program is done (since a shadow aide is not allowed into The Big School). 

We have an initial screening coming up to tailor his 1-to-1 ABA this week. The time frame he commences at EAP is also to be discussed so we can inform and discuss with The Big School how long Bean will vacate and when we expect to return. 

Considering EAP is quite comprehensive, we have served notice to stop hippotherapy for now so we can better gauge efficacy of ABA, touted to be the gold standard in early intervention and proven many times over to have worked.

What we like about Plan D so far:
1. Girl does not have to change schools. 
2. We do not have to relocate.
3. EAP is close to The Big School so school runs can be tweaked to suit our needs.

Then again, if Plan B is offered:
1. Take Bean out of The Big School and immediately commence EAP before Plan B with shadow aide from EAP kicks in this September 2019.
2. Both kids will be in the same school come September 2019.
3. Relocate to be 400m walking distance from school.

Wish us luck!

Monday, 24 December 2018

Plan B

Salam my lovelies,

Life is about how we handle Plan B (or C or D and so on and so forth...)

On the day of observation class at Plan B school, Bean came down with fever and so we had to postpone his application process to January 2019 when the class becomes available again.

17 December 2018: I needed a short siesta so I set my phone to silent mode. When I woke up, I saw an email from St. Joseph's Institution (also nicknamed The Bigger School). Bla bla bla "we currently do not have the resources to meet the needs of Bean" and I felt my hot tears well up. The rest of the email courtesy and content did not matter anymore as the time frame is also not promised. It seemed final. The fact that Bean's name was misspelt indicated to me how little attention was paid to detail. Oh, well.

My hands shook so much I nearly dropped my iPhone. I then cried. I cried because that was Plan A. It hurt a little for a short while. The non-refundable RM750 for Girl's application did not even matter anymore. Fact was The Bigger School did not even charge for Bean's "application". I missed the red flag?

Cathartic effect soon followed. Alhamdulillah because all the hurdles we did not foresee that were associated with Plan A just melted away. Like Allah swt had just lifted a huge burden off my shoulders. I was so glad I no longer had to wait till January 2019 just to receive this piece of news. I forwarded the email on to The Other Half and The Grandparents, then gently broke the news to Girl and Bean.

Girl was jubilant! Bean was indifferent, understandably so. They both continued playing as they were before.

As of today, I am thankful Girl no longer has to be in contact with a couple of her former classmates who had already left The Big School for The Bigger School. They used to belittle and boycott her when she refused to play along their silly games and for choosing to sit with "the girl no one was allowed to sit with" at recess. Alhamdulillah for her kind heart, really.

I am thankful Bean will have something better in store for him. Allah swt is the Best Planner. We do not know yet which is the best plan but He will reveal in time, inshaAllah. We can only move on to Plan B or other plans and pray for the best.

The booking at a serviced residence from Plan A firstly had to be cancelled. It was straight forward 20% forfeiture and 2% credit card charges of the booking sum of RM5000. Total loss: RM1100.

Before parting, the sales executive fed us a piece of gold nugget news. There may be one courtyard villa under developer's unit that may be available for sale at exact location of Plan B. Yes, it is a common developer. Clever master development plan they have.

When we arrived at the property gallery, we found out that the developer had 2 units left at that point of time as another unit's loan processing was unsuccessful. A quick buggy ride and viewing later, we were slightly more convinced that perhaps Plan B was not going to be as bad as we had imagined.

The courtyard villa is a short walking distance to the school gate. The built-up living space is big enough for us four. There is a central park with man-made lake and the kids love the playground. The courtyard villa comes with a rooftop garden and 5 car park lots (not that we have that many cars but extra space is always useful!). A booking was placed the following day after we slept over it (or rather could not sleep from the excitement of the prospects) and by convention, the choice was vetted by The Grandparents who were excited enough to tag along to review both Plan B School and House.

Plan B was such a gem for obliging a school tour on short notice. It was as detailed as it could possibly be given that the only staff around were from reception and admission offices. Girl and I had been once before during an open day so it was more for Bean and the rest. Bean cried towards the end because he really wanted to play at the Early Years playground but it was raining and the gate was shut. He finally settled down when we promised a cold treat and indoor play gym at a mall close by.

Now, we just have to wait for January 2019 to roll in with an observation class date for Bean. Admission Officer is confident Girl will be just fine and she will be processed as a tag along sibling with CAT4 by GL Assessment to his application inshaAllah. No application fees have been paid so far and we were given two sets of forms to fill. I feel a bit like a mother goose sitting on her unhatched eggs, to be honest.

Sincerely praying everything will fall into place come January 2019.



Friday, 23 November 2018

School and House Hunting

Salam my lovelies,

I admit that I have been Girl-centric in all my 2012 school hunts prior to Bean's condition being discussed. Heck, Bean was not even born until 2013 so I do not blame myself. The Big School has been near perfect in terms of academic rigour, sportsmanship and performing arts with so much more for Girl. The right location, syllabus, CCA, performing arts, sports, support network and fees far outweighs the minor discomfort every now and then.

In fact, Reception this academic year for Bean has been near perfect because he is learning in a Reggio Emilia environment with classmates he has known since pre-Reception. The Reggio Emilia environment has not deviated from the DNA of The Big School in terms of mind, body and soul.

So what changed?

Why are we even school hunting again?

The answer is simple.

The Big School does not have the structure to support learning differences. It does not allow any shadow aides into its premises. Said so by the Principal after consultation with Chairman of The Big School. My witnesses were The Other Half and Principal of Early Years (who personally believes and supports Bean whole-heartedly and has pleaded with us to let Bean finish up the academic year with her, bless!).

One of the suggestions from the Principal is to hold Bean back in Reception until he is ready before he goes to Year 1. But we have already done so, and The Grandparents are not keen this time. The Grandparents fully believe and support that applied behavior analysis (ABA) with hippotherapy, Bean will be able to cope in Year 1 at a school that nurtures learning differences.

To cushion the blow, the Principal agreed to waive notice period for Bean at The Big School (without the same waiver for Girl, so we have to serve notice on or before 31 March 2019).

I had compiled comparison for 3 shortlisted schools and presented it to The Grandparents and The Other Half. The spreadsheet is quite detailed, as I wanted to cover as many factors as possible for the benefit of Girl and Bean. Out of the 3, they agreed with my preferred choice for The Bigger School as Plan A. Plan B is to go to a new school with proven track record overseas. Plan C was shot down and they did not even want to consider it (despite Plan C being touted as most supportive of students with learning differences).

Last weekend, they spent their precious Sunday morning with us 4 at St. Joseph's Institution (The Bigger School). They attended the presentation, asked questions, went on school tour and endorsed my shortlisting for The Bigger School. They understood my "impulse" payment of application fees before the November Malaysian Private International School Education Fair. The Grandad and I were in public mission schools before so the DNA of The Bigger School is something familiar and not frightening per se.

We went to lunch after that school tour and I presented a relocation option suggestion. They went, they saw and they got The Other Half to place a conditional booking at Dianthus, Tropicana Petaling Jaya. Smaller unit, no bath tub, no ironing room, no surau, no fourth bathroom - but a mere 3 minutes from The Bigger School! Can you imagine how much time/petrol/toll we can save for the next 13 years? Well, the conditional booking has a minimal non-refundable sum of RM1000 and 2% credit card service charge in the event The Bigger School does not offer Bean a place by end of January 2019. We have time to hunt for alternative relocation options, really.

That is exactly what I have been doing the entire week since. Property Guru, iProperty and Waze apps are my current highly used apps. Viewing appointments of bigger units at Tropicana Grande, compiling options, presentation for discussion with family on repeat mode. Different tab to be added to the spreadsheet, just for clarity and expansion. Both Plan A and Plan B locations are covered for good measure.

When I count my blessings, I always include my Belang Moms.They are lovingly supportive friends and their prayers are greatly appreciated. Without them, I would have slipped into sadness, fatigue or even depression with all the weight that is on my shoulders at the moment. Even The Grandparents have opened up to their network of friends to discuss early intervention and such. Bless.

To be honest, we as a family never saw the challenges for someone like Bean until recently. We are so used to designs and plans for a neurotypical world. We acknowledge this time that Girl may have to uproot herself from The Big School and start over but she already has friends in The Bigger School (who left The Big School in 2016 and 2017!). Hopefully, we hear favourable news and that transition to new school and possibly home, be smooth.

Our acceptance and empathy to embrace Bean holistically have set in. As family, we want to facilitate ease for him as much as possible without breaking his sense of independence or freedom. We do not intend to cut open the cocoon just to force our butterfly to spread its wings before it is ready. Far from it. We wish to better nurture the process so he can eventually spread his wings and fly strong. Metaphorically speaking, of course. 

All that, with minimal disruption or negative impact on Girl. We still afford her the best that we can possibly can for her best interest. In fact, she is beginning to see The Bigger School as the better school for her in the long term. She has some performing art teachers in Plan B so she is not too fussed, bless. In fact, she did her school tour with me one weekend and was one of the best dates we had. Her views were valid and honest. Bean has a trial class/assessment at Plan B next Monday so we hope that is a safety net we can fall back on if Plan A does not go well.

Having said that, Allah swt is The Best of Planners and we offer this up to Him. Please do pray for everything to work out and that Allah swt will grant us ease in our journey. Amin.


Friday, 16 November 2018

Abbreviations

So this journey of abbreviations of ours started just before the kids broke for Summer 2017 holidays. It is now Autumn 2018 as I compose this.

Sometime in Spring 2018, an acquaintance of mine, a fellow mother at The Big School, posted a video on her Facebook wall about parents who missed the early diagnosis of their children for autism and the video contained this uncanny flapping of the hands (stimming) which is one of the red flags or indicators of children with autism. It goes on to conclude that not all stimming is autism but it is better to screen and introduce early intervention, than not.

Something in me reactivated. 

I was supposed to follow up with Baby & Beyond for a screening appointment for Bean sometime in 2018. I had made that request in Summer 2017. We got on the wait list soon after Bean's class teachers at The Playschool had dropped the bomb on us during our exit meeting after we had served notice of leaving back in 2017 that they suspect he may be autistic. It was the wrong message at the wrong time with the wrong people and deserves its own post. They had him enrolled for 30 months and never once hinted or indicated to us that he may be on the spectrum so to funnel us to another business entity with common directors for occupational therapy sounded really sinister to us.

What happened after that exit meeting was instead of serving out the notice period of one term before Bean joined The Big School, we took him out immediately and had our deposit forfeited for short notice. I can tell you it was worth every cent forfeited.

When he joined The Big School, it was a smaller class with better teacher:student ratio. In fact, he improved so much that I decided it was fine for me to return to workforce.

Boy, was I wrong.

In the 6 months I was a working mum, Bean regressed, symptoms-wise. He started to stutter (something new), slept irregularly (something new), became more rigid (no one else is allowed to press the lift button including strangers), became more fixated (cars, superheroes) and became a picky eater (hard, crunchy food only, often leaving out fruits and vegetables).

I was in a fix. 

Coming back to the point of that random video on Facebook: I contacted the clinic again and was given a slot to bring Bean in and at that point, we had answered a few questionnaires, his primary carer and teacher at The Big School had given her input/observation and I had pretty much decided to quit my comeback career to give him my time and devotion.

The Summer of 2018 was the summer Bean did 3 rounds of assessments (1 for speech, 1 for child wellness and 1 child IQ/Puzzle/Cognitive). I put in hours to answer more questions and online global tests. Finally, all of these assessments were completed and a cohesive report for initial findings was published.

Bean is likely to be on the spectrum. "Mild ASD, HFA likely" may seem like abbreviations to you but oh it has opened up a world of new discoveries for us a family who loves Bean and working on our way to re-engage with him. 

To be honest, our plans and parenting styles had been Girl-centric before this. These abbreviations has been a game-changer as we seek to close the gaps, help Bean form neurons in social and behavioral aspects, seek out better schooling options and other early intervention measures. It has been a journey that brought new routines into our lives that included hippotherapy, social and play therapies and such.

Quite often, I recognize points of what had seemed so difficult in the past when dealing with Bean, now makes sense and I consciously put in more effort and empathy in being a better person to Bean.

I am so thankful for that video because it prompted me to act. 

So it is true, always trust your gut instincts as a mother.
Thursday, 8 November 2018

Post-Renovation

Syukur alhamdulillah, The Flat is finally ready after a short delay!

We moved back on Deepavali Day a couple of days ago and it feels like home. The gratitude and relief of working with the right people, who understood our wishes, budget and timeline makes all the sacrifices and inconveniences worth it.

All our bedrooms walls were stripped of wallpaper and now painted white. The entire ceiling is white. All our curtains except Girl's bedroom is white. The walls at living and dining are magical indeed - it is a shade of grey slate known as "Abracadabra" from Nippon Paints. They look fresh now. The previous wallpapers have served their time and purpose to the maximum and were beautiful then.

The concealment of air conditioner wires look neat, plaster ceiling leak patches have been repaired, cracks have been hacked then sealed and door frames have been stripped of the temporary wallpaper covering and repainted white.

We also have 2 units of the living and dining hall air-conditioner replaced. Although the new units are somewhat "noisier", this is still the better choice with consistent performance so far. Hopefully the electricity bill savings will show by the next billing.

Our new timber doors have been customized and will be delivered for installation soon. They are also painted, you guessed it right, white!

Alhamdulillah it is good to be home again. Now, moving on to the repopulation and unpacking mayhem...wish me luck!
Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Merit!

Salam my lovelies,

We just got news that Girl scored a merit for her Grade 9 Yamaha piano exams. We are so thankful to her wonderful teacher, without whom this would have been impossible.

I now owe Girl one more promised present! If she had scored Distinction, she would have achieved 2 more gifts. She was rewarded one gift upon completion of the exams for dressing up, attending and doing the exams without drama. This tiered reward system seems to work at the moment.

To imagine that I once was that Tiger Mum who made her practice, "forced and bribed" her to class on Saturday afternoons when she much preferred to laze about not doing anything, and sometimes sharing the sob story of how much I wanted to play the piano when I was little but my late father did not have the budget for it...all I can say is I am so proud of her and yet humbled by His Gift. Alhamdulillah!

Let the music play on, I am so happy her hardwork paid off. She has a long way to go but this is a step in the right direction. Stay blessed, Girl. Aamiin.

The Flooring

Salam my lovelies,

We are not quite ready to place laminated wood over our marble flooring just yet. Upon second thoughts, second opinions and further reading, it "cheapens" The Flat and whilst we are not selling our home, we are not completely certain that laminated wood is the solution to our concerns.

What if the air cond leaks when we are away? The warranty says "waterproof" and yet we are not 100% certain to commit.

Speaking of the air cond...the unit near our playroom is wonky. It turns off and on before settling on "on mode" upon being switched on. Then it blows warm air. After a while, it will blow cold air if it is a cool day outside. On a hot day, it blows warm air. Needless to say, the contractor is coming to "sign its death warrant" this Friday.

The other air cond unit at our dining hall is somewhat better behaved. Alhamdulillah for that.

With these pending work and the move to The Flat At Block B (home away from home while we renovate), I am going to be bogged down this October. In my quiet joyful moment, forced spring cleaning is always good for my soul as all our worldly possessions go into keep, donate or recycle categories. Most of the children's books and art go to keep, their outgrown outfits find their way to the donation box and random 1001 items that do not spark joy end up in recycle box.

This is one journey I am determined to enjoy and be thankful for, inshaAllah. Wish us luck!