Friday, January 7, 2011

In My Life

Over the holidays, our household experienced some mild upheaval but it all ended happily ever after.

Right before Christmas, a huge tree in our backyard feel on and took out the lines for our Verizon Fios internet, cable and home telephone lines.  It had been raining heavily over the previous week, and the tree was dead enough and the tree's root system week enough that all it took was a massive amount of rain and down the tree came.  Luckily, no on was hurt and the broken fence will eventually be replaced.  

Verizon sent a rep came out to inspect the damage the following Monday.  The only way to enter our backyard is through a gate that is secured with a padlock, and when the Verizon rep left, he didn't close the lock so the gate was left open.

Just to give you an idea of how cute my doggies are, here is a pic  - Lucy is on the right & Ringo is on the left.


About 6:30 that night, right after I had discovered I'd lost my cell phone, Doug tells me "I can't find the dogs".  We discovered that Ringo and Lucy were let out into the yard and had escaped through the unlocked gate. It was dark and rainy, but we roamed the streets and drove around the neighborhood for over a half hour trying to find them.  We finally gave up as it was clear they weren't in the immediate area.

Both dogs are microchipped and had tags with our contact information, so we knew if they were turned into the animal shelter they'd eventually be returned.  Ringo's tag has our home telephone number, which was unoperational due to the downed tree, and Lucy's tag has the cell number of her previous owner, Doug's son Max.  Lucy came to us because the alpha dog in the house had been attacking her, so she needed a safe place to live.  Luckily, as you'll soon learn, we never updated her tag so she still had Max's number listed on her tag.

After we returned from our search, Doug checked his cell phone and discovered a message from Max.  As it turned out, a very nice young man found both dogs about a mile from our house.  When then he couldn't reach us on our home number, he called the number on Lucy's tag, reached Max, and then Max called us.  We quickly drove over and picked up both dogs, safe and sound just 45 minutes after they escaped, though now they were wet and smelly from the rain.

I realize how lucky we were.  Ringo and Lucy travelled in the rain over two very busy streets.  They could have easily been hit by a car and killed.  The area where they were found is not an especially nice neighborhood.  They could have been found by someone who wasn't an animal lover like us and been hurt by someone cruel.  The outcome turned out to be a happy one, due to the good fortune that our pets were found by a nice young man who took the time to call us and stay with our dogs in the rain until we arrived to pick them up.

I've been thinking about how lucky my family was in this incident, and this has gotten me to reflect on how lucky I've been with Jacob.  We are in a good place at the moment.  He's doing well at Culver City High School.  His grades are good, his teachers are all saying good things about him, and he even has a buddy at school, though Jacob isn't one to fill me in on the details about anything that happens at school.  He just got a job through the school's Workability program as a clerk for a couple hours a week at Petco, and the store's manager reports that he's working hard and putting in a lot of effort.  He's showing more interest in others, and he's engaging in more conversations with both Doug and me, though these are largely limited to his own particular interests.  It's been over 13 years since his diagnosis of autism, and he's come such a long way since the day that I heard the words "Your son has autism".

As any parent of a child with special needs knows, the progress their child makes does not happen in a vacuum.  You count on the help of a lot of professionals, therapists, and friends to assist you and your child.  Just as the nice young man who found Ringo and Lucy who made it possible for their safe journey home, there have been others that have assisted both Jacob and me in our life's journey.

There was Dr. Sandra Kaler who was the first professional to accurately diagnosis Jacob at age 3 1/2.   Not only was Dr. Kaler supportive, she pointed me in the direction of the Westside Regional Center and the Los Angeles Unified School District.  She referred me to a professional speech therapist.  She recommended the one-on-one aide that made it possible for Jacob to stay enrolled in a private preschool and public kindergarten with his neuro-typical peers.  Dr. Kaler's assistance was invaluable, and, without it, I would have been lost.  I know that the road would have been much longer, cumbersome and more difficult in my quest for Jacob's services had I not had Dr. Kaler as my initial guide.

There was the director of the the developmental preschool that Jacob attended for a year.  When I decided that I wanted switch Jacob to private preschool with a developmental kindergarten from the district's in-house preschool, the class was at it's limit for boys and I was told I would have to wait on their final decision until they received more applications.  I called the director almost everyday for nearly two weeks until she finally agreed to let Jacob enroll.  He had a rough start in the class, but the director allowed Jacob to stay if I was in the class as his shadow until I could find someone to take over the role.

That's when I found Cambra Gilbert, the one-on-one aide that was referred to me by Dr. Kaler, and she stayed with Jacob in the classroom for the next two years.  She was so patient with Jacob and good getting him to stay focused, Jacob's ability to maintain in a mainstrem classroom would have been impossible without her.

There were the teachers, administrators, and therapists at Jacob's public elementary school who were always so warm and supportive.  Though most of his teachers had limited firsthand experience with children with autism, they were receptive to any information that I supplied.  There was the school district's occupational therapist who put in a lot of time and effort into marking sure Jacob had what he needed.  And the IEP's that were held, all I can say is I was truly blessed.  There were always at least half-a-dozen representatives from the school district at each meeting, and they were all focused on discussing what they could do to meet Jacob's needs.  The school district always supported me in my request for services, and the district even reimbursed me for the entire amount of Jacob's private speech therapy which at that time amounted just a tad over $10,000.

There was Robin Kurshner at Pathways Speech and Language who worked with Jacob for over two years.  She helped him with his use of language, how to be more flexible and focused, and how to make proper eye contact.  

There was my RDI consultant, Christopher Mulligan at Groupworks West who worked with Jacob and I for about two years.  He was such an asset in helping me to become a competent parent, and I've experienced a tremendous decrease in the daily struggles with Jacob that used to feel so unmanageable.  Jacob still attends a once-a-week social skills class at Groupwoks , and I've seen a big improvement in Jacob's ability to become more socially adept.

There are teachers at Culver City High School where Jacob is currently enrolled who have helped Jacob acheive a smooth transition to a large public high school setting.  He's doing this with a slightly modified curriculum and relatively few supports in place, and, by all accounts, it's been a success.  There is Dan Phillps with the Workability program and his assistant, Alana; she has also been Jacob's job coach at his Petco job and was able to completely fade out after just a few weeks because of Jacob proved he could manage the job on his own.  And his teachers - Ms. Donahue in Algebra, Ms. Kaiser in English, Mr. Roth in World History, Coach Wright in PE, Ms. Scherling in Biology, and until the holiday break, Mr. Dicey in Culinary Arts - they have been so tremendously supportive this year.  There are also the school district administrators that have attended Jacob's IEPs and have helped to implement the goals that have made everything work so well.

And last, but not least, there were my friends that were there for me when I needed to talk it or offered a shoulder to cry on.  There was Susan who always told me how wonderful I was and treated me to a spa day on my 40th birthday.  There were the moms of other special needs children who understood everything that I was going through.  And most important, there is Doug, who has been my best friend and partner for the last eight years.  Even when I have been upset, worrried, or a royal pain-in-the-butt, he has always supported me no matter what.

There are a lot more people who have made a difference in the lives of both Jacob and me, but it would take way too much time and space to mention each and every one.  Some I can vaguely recall, but they are all there none the less.  And because the work is not yet complete, there are still more people that will play key roles in our lives.  I say to the people that I've already met, thank you for the time we've shared.  And to the people I've yet to meet, I look forward to the time will will one day spend together.

I feel very lucky that both Ringo and Lucy had a safe journey home.  I also feel very lucky that my journey with Jacob has included so many kind and caring individuals..  When Jacob was diagnosed, I had no idea of what the future would reveal.  And now 13 years later, I realize that the people that we met were the most important aspect of the journey itself.
I think the Beatles said it best.

In My Life
Though I know I'll never loose my affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life, I love you more

5 comments:

  1. There are many wondeful people around, lovely post :)

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  2. I think I already commented on this post at HP, but what gorgeous dogs!

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  3. Thanks - gorgeous and oh so sweet!

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  4. I was the one who forgot to lock the gate...still like me? :-)

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  5. Now everyone else knows! And I was trying so hard to keep the identity of the guilty party a secret.

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