Friday, July 24, 2015

A Week of College Stuff

This has been a busy week of doing college things, getting ready for college, and making observations about transitioning to college.  Here is a wrap up of the posts I have written about these things.  Enjoy!

A heat index in the triple digits and we were on campus for 2 1/2 hours doing many things to get my son ready for college.  The pool would have been a better place to be, but we were successful in our campus tasks.

My son needs a bag for college.  Buying a bag is such an ordeal that it gets its own blog post.

We are working hard on transitioning our son from being dependent upon us to answer questions for him or as he told me, "What was the point of getting the FERPA paper signed if I can't get you to handle the stuff I don't want to?"  Exactly!

I hope you have a good weekend!  I think we only have to go to campus one time next week! That calls for time on the couch with chocolate.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Stop looking at me!

During the past few weeks I have been busy running my son to the college and various other places for appointments and meetings regarding his college transition.  During these appointments, I often found myself wanting to say, “Stop looking at me!”  

This thought is not directed at the people S is meeting with.  This thought is meant for him.  I don’t mean this in a nasty way.  I mean this in a “You are 18 years old, and they really don’t want to talk to me or hear from me.  Stop looking at me when they ask you a question.  It is a question you can answer.”

Every time we leave a place I bring up this observation to him.  He doesn’t realize he’s doing it but he does it EVERY time.  I stress the fact that he is just weeks out from starting college; therefore, he is in a position to answer these questions for himself.  

This is part of his transition, and I get that.  For 14 years, he has looked to us to answer questions for him.  We have been working on this handoff for a few years. He needs to accept that he is now an adult.  We will always be there to support him; however, he has a voice, and it needs to be heard whether he is answering questions or advocating for himself.  

Throughout the years, we have had to redirect questions about S to him rather than to us. Questions like:  
“What is his name?”
“What is his address?”  
“How old is he?”

Now, we need to redirect him to answer the questions without looking at us.  He’s getting there. It will take a little more time. 

Heading off to college is a scary prospect for him. I get that. He told me, "I'm just looking for confirmation." I understand that if it's a question that he's unsure about the answer; however, he has been doing it for every question.

He just needs to stop looking at me especially if I’m on the couch with chocolate.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Who knew buying a bag was so difficult?

As we are preparing for our son to start college next month, one of the things S needed to buy was a bag to carry his books and laptop.  Most college students go to a store and buy a backpack, messenger bag, or sling bag, and they are set.  Of course, it can't be that simple. Since most things in S's life aren't easy, why would buying a bag be any different?

Because S will be using his wheelchair on campus, he needs a bag that he can easily get to while in his wheelchair.  Some people who use wheelchairs have no problems putting a backpack onto the handles of their chair and turning around to get things out of it.  S's CP and scoliosis prevent him from turning like that.  A backpack doesn't work.

Messenger Bag
He has a messenger bag that he uses on a daily basis; however, it is too small for what he will need at college.  It also doesn't lend itself to being used in his wheelchair.  Because of the way it hangs on him while he sits, it impedes him pushing himself in his wheelchair.  Sometimes he just throws it around his neck wearing it like a feed bag; however, put a laptop and a textbook or two in there and you are asking for a lot of neck problems.  He doesn't need anything else that needs to be dealt with.

Another issue he has with his messenger bag is that there are too many pockets that he can throw "stuff" into.  The problem with this is twofold:
1.  He has a hard time seeing into the deep, dark abyss that are the pockets of his bag to see what he is looking for.
2.  ADD:  He finds something else that he was looking for earlier and distracts himself from what he is supposed to be finding.

If you are ever doing a scavenger hunt, his bag would be the one you would want to dig through to find random things that most people would never carry around.  Guaranteed that you would probably find it in that bag!

Wheelchair Carry All
S has a Carry All that attaches under his wheelchair seat.  It is nice for carrying things, but it is very difficult for him to get things out of it himself.  It requires him to spread his legs and bend over at the same time.  His CP doesn't allow him to do that.  He can spread his legs OR he can bend over.  Take your pick.

Sling Bags
We think this is the best option.  He is going to have to wear it on his chest rather than his back because he won't be positioned in his wheelchair correctly.  The challenges we have found with a sling bag include:
1.  How is the zipper positioned on it? Is it angled or more a straight line at the top?
2.  What is the size of the bag?  S isn't very tall, so there isn't a lot of body space for the bag to sit on his chest/lap.
3.  Regarding the size of the bag, will a laptop fit in the bag that best fits his body?

We ordered two sling bags, one smaller and one larger.  The smaller one is a great fit for S’s body and doesn’t look like he could fit in it.  We were originally told that he was going to be getting a Surface tablet for school (one of his agencies is providing AT support for college).  The Amazon review for this bag said that a Surface tablet fits with a book.  Perfect!

Not quite so simple….S met with AT and was told he will be getting a laptop.  Guess what is just a little too big for the perfect bag?  The laptop.  We have to decide if he will use the bigger bag which is quite big but would fit his books and laptop or if we start a new search.

Who knew buying a bag was so difficult? Difficult enough that I wrote a whole blog post about it. Go figure!

I will be on the couch with chocolate and the ipad searching for the perfect bag.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Day at the College

Once again, my son and I were at the college.  He had an 11:00 appointment with the TRIO office on Monday, but we went early since he had other things to do on campus.

To start with, S was exhausted.  We were at a pool party the night before, and he spent 3 hours in the water.  Wore him out!  We headed out in the morning, and it was a balmy 96 degrees with a heat index of 106/107 degrees.  There was a heat advisory.  This is a child who sweats clicking the mouse on the computer in an air conditioned house.

Every time we are on campus, we discuss where we are at and where he needs to go.  We talk about what buildings he needs to be in for his classes.  We look for the doors that have the handicap accessible buttons.  

Just what he wants to do on a day when it is hot. Since we were there, we were going to be productive.  

Stop #1  ID Card
We arrived at the ID card office and read the sign listing the required documents.  S had all of them, but he needed to write his name and student number on his schedule.  No pen.  We decided to use the pen in the office.  "What is your student number?"  He needed to look it up on his phone.  We have been telling him for the past 2 months that he MUST memorize this number. We went into the office, and I quickly wrote his name and number on his schedule.  

The woman inputting the information started asking me questions about S.  This is a problem.  If he is attending school, he surely should be able to answer basic questions about himself (his address).  Then, she told me that S's student number is wrong.  Tell him, not me!  He's missing a number.  Of course, he is!  I said we would go out and look it up.  Another worker in the office had someone else pull it up.  S is missing the middle number in his student number.  (I found out when we left the college 2 1/2 hours later that S knew this earlier.)

They moved a chair so S could back his wheelchair into place for his photo.  They took it numerous times because the lighting wasn't good, but they finally called it good.  He now has his student ID.

Stop #2  Parking Permit
S doesn't drive, but the fee for a parking permit is automatically included in his student fees.  He is going to get one.  We saw online that there is a link to fill out the paperwork ahead of time except for the fact that it doesn't get us to the right spot.  On the signs throughout the hallway, it states very clearly that the paperwork must be filled out online.  We found another link to try.  We were going to stop and ask about it, but there was a line.  No time for that.

Stop #3 Quick tour of the building
These offices are in the building that S will be in for Statistics.  We did a quick recon of the building identifying how to find his classroom and peeked in a room to see what kind of seating they had for students using wheelchairs.  In each room, there is a table in addition to the desks. S knows that he needs to be near the front of the room because of his Low Vision.  We talked strategy to make sure the table gets moved for him.

Stop #4 Disabled Student Services Office
S had to drop off his schedule to get his accommodation letters printed.  The secretary offered to print them while we waited.  We did.  She explained to S what he needed to do with them.  She said if he lost them to come back and she would reprint them.  I informed him if he had to go back in for a reprint he better bring her chocolate!  She did not disagree.

Stop #5 Quick tour of the building
S has 2 classes in this building.  One is on the second floor, so we found the location of the elevator and went upstairs to find the classroom.  We identified locations upstairs to help him find his classroom.  "If you pass this, you have gone too far."

Back downstairs to find the classroom downstairs.  It is well marked.  He shouldn't have any trouble finding that.  He was impressed with the bathrooms on the first floor since they have buttons to open the doors.

Stop #6  Library/Tutoring Center
On our way to his 11:00 appointment, we swung by the library to see where he will need to go for tutoring.  We told him the tutoring center needs to be well known by him.  Use the help they have there for you.

Stop #7 TRIO office
Finally, the reason we were there.  His appointment.  He was there to create his Academic Success Plan.  It was supposed to take 30-40 minutes.  It took 75 minutes, and I ended up in there for the last half.

S was a hot, sweaty mess when we were finished.  There was a trip to Starbucks on our way home.

He still isn't done.  We will be back.  I just hope it's cooler.  Until then, I will be in the air conditioned house on the couch with chocolate.

Friday, July 17, 2015

This school has closed.

The Final Wrap Up

My son graduated last month.  We took his party on the road and celebrated in Minnesota at the end of June.  While we were there, someone made a comment about our school.  My husband said, “That school is closed.”  He’s right.  The end of an era has come to our house.

We didn’t set out to be a homeschooling family.  In the end, we were a homeschool/public school family.  We had one son in each setting.  We were a “do what is best for each child” family.  

For S, we decided that homeschooling him was the best option after attending public elementary school.  He was homeschooled for half of third grade in California prior to moving to Virginia. Once we moved here, he attended public school for 2 ½ years.  We made the decision to start homeschooling him for sixth grade and continued on until the end.  It’s been quite a journey!
The past week has been spent cleaning out school “stuff” from our house.  It has been a process. I thought we had cleaned out quite a bit last summer.  There were still a lot of things shoved on the bookshelves, in binders, in closets, and in files.  We have three bins of stuff to give away to friends.  It is amazing how much stuff we had considering that my son did the majority of his work through computerized options.

We reorganized the office area that my son worked in and made it more of a college student type space.  It looks very different in there.  Times are changing here.

I’m not sure what this next year looks like for me.  It will be very different.  I will be busy as we support my son in his transition to college.

Now that my office is organized and my school is closed, there will be a lot of time for me to be on the couch with chocolate...

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Ummmm...You don't know what it's like.

My husband and I have two sons, J and S.  J will be a junior in high school and is starting to look at colleges.  S graduated last month.  He starts classes at the local community college next month.   He has paid his tuition.  He has purchased his books.  He has his bag for school.  He has attended the New Student Experience.  We have transportation figured out (kind of).

Our son has multiple disabilities.  He has Cerebral Palsy which impacts gross and fine motor skills and his speech.  He has ADD.  Last year he was labeled with Low Vision.  He doesn't drive.

We have been working with our son for years to get him to achieve his goal of attending college. A few years ago we created the "Four Pillars of Life", listing skills he would need to be independent and successful.  We made sure he had the proper courses in high school to prepare him for college.  We have called various agencies and talked to numerous professionals to make sure we were on the right path of finding appropriate services and getting them in place prior to this point.   Our son works with two Vocational Rehab counselors from two different agencies. He has Assistive Technology people helping him through three different organizations.

Even though we have been very proactive in this whole process, we are still sprinting through this summer trying to finalize everything.  We are taking S to meet with someone in an office somewhere at least once a week.  I think he has been at the community college every week this summer.  He is headed over there again tomorrow.  

A recent conversation
The other day someone we know was asking S about his plans.  He told her that he was attending community college this fall working toward an Associate of Arts degree with a History focus. He intends to transfer to a 4 year school when he is finished at the community college.

This woman came up to me afterwards and said that S had been telling her his plans. I said we had been crazy busy this summer trying to get everything into place for him.

Her:  "Oh, I know what it's like."
Me:  Ummmm........(killing time....dramatic effect....trying to figure out how to respond)....

[What I wanted to say:  You do know what it's like to send your son off to college but you have NO IDEA what it is like for us.  You don't know what we are going through to send our son to a school 20 minutes down the road.  You didn't have to come up with a game plan more than four years ago just to try to get services in place that we are still working through, and S got a new label and a new organization thrown in his lap last year.  You haven't had to deal with all of these agencies that are known by a group of letters.  Your son doesn't have to keep a binder full of paperwork from all of these organizations in addition to doing the required stuff for college.]

What I said:  There is more involved than just sending him off to college.
Her:  Oh, I'm sure you have to do a little more.

Yup!  That's right.  A little more....

You will find me on the couch with chocolate (and possibly wine) because, if you are reading this, you know what it's like.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Getting ready for college

The past week has been quite busy for S as he is checking things off his to-do list for college.  

*As I am writing this, he and my husband are meeting with the Assistive Technology person through DBVI to figure out what assistive technology he will need/use during college.

*S attended New Student Experience (NSE) at the community college the other afternoon.  My husband took him and said there was good information given.

*S paid his tuition the other day, so he is officially registered for Fall semester classes.

*S bought his books for his classes.  Welcome to the reality of college expenses!

*S tried to get his student ID and parking permit, but he can’t do that until July 20.  (He doesn’t drive, but the parking permit fee is already included in his student fees.  If he paid for it, we will get it.)

*At the New Student Experience, S met a lady who runs a program at the college that he is interested in.  He applied to be part of this federally funded program that serves low income, first generation college students, and/or students who have disabilities.

*S purchased his bag for school.  (This might have to be its own post some day.  There is a lot of thought that goes into how he gets things from A to B and how he can maneuver himself to utilize the bag.)

*My husband realized that S needs to be on campus more often prior to classes starting to figure out how to get around.  With his Low Vision, he can’t see the signs on the buildings.  It’s also not just a matter of finding the buildings, he has to find the handicapped accessible doors/ramps into the building.  My husband said they received a really good map at NSE that shows a lot of that information.  S is good with maps.  He just has a poor sense of direction.  He can always ask for help.
*S still needs to get a copy of his schedule to the Disabled Student Services Office. He has already met with them to set up his accommodations for his classes.

It’s been busy at our house!  You will find me on the couch with chocolate and air conditioning.  It has been HOT here this week!

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Friday, July 3, 2015

Going to Minnesota is NOT relaxing!

My family just returned from an 11 day road trip to Minnesota the other night.  That trip is approximately 2800 miles round trip on top of the more than 300 additional miles driving around while we were there.  Why would did we do that?  My children have asked us that question many times.  The answer is simple:


He graduated, and we took his party on the road!

Why did we take his party on the road?  Because all of our family members live in Minnesota with the exception of my husband’s niece who came back from Nashville to celebrate with us.  We figured it was easier to get four of us to Minnesota rather than bringing so many people to Virginia.

[I told my children taking a long road trip like that gives them stories to talk about at future gatherings.  “Do you remember when mom and dad made us drive to Minnesota?”  J was writing during the trip because there were some very funny moments to be written down.]

We crammed a lot into our trip.  We took 3 days to get to Minnesota.


Pastries from our friend's bakery in Ohio.

My husband celebrating Father's Day in Iowa after two days of traveling.  

We toured the University of Iowa….
and I fell walking during the tour.

Made it to Minnesota!
Minneapolis skyline
We toured the University of Minnesota

We attended a Twins baseball game.


We went to the lake for a day of fun.

We attended a family reunion for my mother-in-law’s family.  It was for her siblings and their families.  There were approximately 100 people there. My husband hadn’t seen some of his cousins in 27 years since we had our wedding.  It was fun to visit with everyone.  The next day was….

The reason for the trip:  The Party

J had a creative moment with crayons and Goldfish crackers.

We drove home in two days...two very LONG days!

West Virginia
The western part of Virginia.  We live on the other side of the state.  We were getting closer!

For the Fourth of July weekend, we are doing nothing.  The boys want to stay home and not get in the van.  You will find me on the couch with chocolate or in the pool, depends what the weather is like.

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Weekly Wrap-Up

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

I think we should take my Bulgarian flag.

My son recently graduated from high school, and we decided to have his graduation party in Minnesota where all of our family lives (we live in Virginia).  Everything we needed for the party needed to be transported, so we had to be very organized and creative in our planning.

I spent hours going through pictures trying to find ones to display on the photo boards.  J put them together.  My husband spent hours some time going through pictures to create a slideshow before J took that task over on our drive to Minnesota.  There is plenty of time to do that when you drive 1400 miles.

The challenge we had for the photo boards which were displayed in chronological order (like a timeline for my son who is passionate about history) was how to handle the first 4 years of his life.  My son is very open about the fact that he was adopted from Bulgaria at the age of 4. Although he is very open about that fact, he doesn’t want to make any connection to Bulgaria. “That is in the past.  I live here.  I am American.”

We talked about the fact that he can’t ignore the first 4 years of his life.  We discussed ways to display that time.  We had a header for the far left side of the board, “Bulgaria”, and it listed the dates from his birth until his Gotcha Day.  We included a few pictures because that is all we had. He gave us the okay on the pictures we used.  We also included a map of Bulgaria showing where he lived and a map of Europe showing where Bulgaria is located.

The day before we left, this was a quick conversation that we had:

S:  "I think we should take my Bulgarian flag for the party.”
Me (astonished):  “I think that is a great idea!”

This was huge!  He even knew exactly where it was in his room which was also a big deal.

The Bulgarian flag stood next to his Bulgarian passport near the left side of the boards.  The far right side of the boards shows all the places he has been.  The pictures in between tell his story up to this point.  

It was so fun to hear everyone’s recollections at the party as they looked at the pictures. “Do you remember when….?”  

First day of PreK

You will find me on the couch with chocolate enjoying life.