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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!