"We are going to focus on LIFE for Katya. I believe, one day, she will amaze the world."

Dr. Ben Carson on Katya Dueck

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Educational Progress and Challenges

We have always home-schooled our children. In fact, we first were led to homeschool because of our oldest child's obvious special needs. At the time we did not have a diagnosis for him, and it took until he was 7 before we were finally able to get a diagnosis that was accurate, but we knew homeschooling was going to need to happen for him. It was a bit of radical and scary knowledge at the time, as we were members of a very conservative church that expected all members to send their children to the little church school. We knew that the school was not equipped to met our child's challenges which included health, educational and neurobiological issues that were going to mean he did not fit into a little standard box. Our choice to homeschool meant an entire change of church, the loss of a lot of our church friends from that particular denominational group and so on.

However, with God's help and the support of others who understood homeschooling we have been able to homeschool for many years now. Our oldest has graduated and is enrolled currently at a local college. Even when Kristina was added to our family, we figured out a way to make homeschooling her work. But when Katya came along, it quickly became obvious that if I was going to be able to meet each child's needs effectively Katya would need to go to school. That was a hard decision for us to make, esp. just a few short weeks after she was home, but it had to be done.

We love Katya's classroom teacher and feel very blessed that Katya has her. There are many things we appreciate about the school, and the progress they have made with Katya. However, we will frankly tell you that we DO have our challenges with them, our jaw dropping moments, and our "They said WHAT?!" times! At one point a few months ago, we had to get our home-study Social Worker involved in the situation with the school. It seems like they have taken our determination to make sure that no stone is left unturned for Katya a bit more seriously since that very  intense and unhappy meeting with our wonderful Social Worker, Paul and I in the face of SEVEN of them. (Yeah, we were seriously out-numbered!)

Part of that "leaving no stone unturned" has meant that we contacted the International Adoption Clinic that we used initially with Katya and explained the concerns and frustrations we were having and asked for some guidance. They referred us to a psychologist that they knew had extensive experience working with children that are adopted.

Paul and I drove to meet with that lady yesterday for about an hour-long meeting. I have to say that the 2.5 hour trip *one way* was worth it to both of us! We think that Dr. I. is going to be one of the best things that has happened to Katya since she is home with us! She is going to continue gathering some more information, study the records, assessments and samples of Katya's recent work and then make recommendations about testing for Katya.

She also told us that she would say based on all the things we told her and what we showed her in Katya's IEP that in order to get the amount of help that Katya needs to be a successful adult some day we will have to go completely outside of the school system and get our own independent testing and then therapy. She pointed out that the school is doing what is easiest for them and what makes school work better for them--not what is necessarily best for Katya's long-term good.

Roger that. It's what we have been saying for awhile now.

Do they care about Katya?? I have no doubt that they do. I just honestly think that they don't have the knowledge to realize how urgent it is to address the needs she has NOW and how little time there is to dicker around fighting over services and IEP's and taking a "wait and see approach" like they want to do.

I have to say, it's easy for me to see why God had me cut my teeth first on all my other children before adding Katya to my life in my 'old age'. I wouldn't have had the knowledge, the resource base, nor probably the ability to be the polite but extremely persistent advocate for Katya that I am needing to be. Also, ironic as it may be, the advent of Facebook has connected me easily and almost effortlessly with people all over the world who are praying for Katya. There are others who are founts of information and advice, and the ones who just say, "Hugs!" All of it is necessary because I have to admit that this journey we are on with Katya is a big one--a draining and tiring one. At times it totally breaks our hearts, as we watch Katya becoming more and more alive and then so very, very frustrated when it's obvious she desperately WANTS now to communicate with us far more than she has the ability to do. The look of sheer frustration in her eyes and the frantic vocalizations she makes at such a time drive me to prayer again and again.

However, it is also rich with rewards!

*The joy of seeing her now be able to write her first name and moving on to learning how to write her last name!

*The excitement of seeing new ASL signs being ones Katya  recognizes and uses to communicate.

* Hearing the Dr. yesterday say, "Based on every thing you are telling me, I'm guessing Katya's cognitive functioning is fairly good." (Yes, we think so too!)

*And still . . . as always . . . hearing her super cute giggle and knowing that it's been worth it all . . . every stress, every financial sacrifice, every loss of sleep, every bit of fear we went through due to circumstances out of our control while in Ukraine, every tough, ugly, and painful thing we have gone through so far . . . it has all been so worth it!

Katya raptly watching Curious George--we think she identifies with him since he doesn't speak--just makes noises! She has very little interest in any other movies--if she watches anything, it's usually Curious George. (Initially she had little to no interest at all in any videos, and while we don't think video watching is all that important in a child's life, it's occasionally handy when it's nap time for Dad! ;-) So we are glad she is now watching sometimes.


The imPerfect Housewife said...

Watching this journey has been so special for me, and praying for your family is something I'll continue to do. I love hearing about every little success she has and am with you (if only in thought) during the rough times as well. You all are an amazing family!

Lara said...

Have you (or a speech therapist)tried augmentative communication devices for Katya? Since her cognitive functioning is good, it coud be a way for her to communicate to you. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2LnUxFAaMQ&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL

Sandie Flannery said...

I have been following your blog and Katya for quite a while now! I wish I lived closer so I could do a Developmental Assessment of her in your home! She needs augmentative communication such as the Prologo Program on an Ipad. If nothing else a Picture Exchange System along with ASL. Feel free to contact me, via Faceeook and possibly we could arrange something! (I have been in Early Intervention for over 25 years now and have my own daughter with special needs.) I actually had a child in my class recently who had a simple craniosynosis to Katya!

Julie said...

I've enjoyed seeing Katya blossom since she's been home and I will be very interested to see how it goes with school. Unfortunately you get to educate the educators, but I know it will all turn out for the best for Katya.

Curious George is great! Dasha will sit still and watch "Babysongs" but not much else holds her interest. Sometimes Mommy needs a moment to visit the restroom alone!