Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘relocation

Paper Weight

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Two weeks until our big move, and I’m in the midst of what is by far the most laborious task of moving: sorting out the paperwork. This time around is extra challenging. Previously when we’ve moved, our air shipment has followed us around a week later, and the rest of our belongings our shipped after 2-3 minutes.

This time though, we’ll be heading to the states for two months, and even after we arrive at our next post, we can’t receive our belongings until after we have been accredited…some 4-6 months later. Which means we could be looking at 8 months without the filing cabinet that purports to document our lives. 

So you see, the challenge of forgetting to put the right piece of paper in our luggage could be pretty critical. The problem is, paperwork is never critical until you don’t have the right one. Marriage and birth certificates are always essential. As is my naturalization certificate and our immunization records. Do I really need that reference from 10 years ago? This paperwork is taking up too much space in our already crammed luggage, and weighing us down.

And then the most critical, but cumbersome paperwork of all: the kids’ psycho-educational reports and school paperwork. Five years and two kids is easily filling two boxes, and yet, hardly capturing them at all. Because what kind of evaluation can ever capture their joy, resilience, sensitivity, and adventurous spirits? Qualities that aren’t necessarily required in the classroom, but certainly are helpful outside of it.

As I read through Pudding’s past reports, one thing keeps striking me. Each contains a sentence along the lines of “…doesn’t reflect an accurate measure of cognitive ability.” And yet, international schools, not bound by law to accept children with disabilities are always searching for those cognitive skills as evidence that a child can measure up to their peers academically. It is the reason we keep testing- to check that we are not failing her, tweaking her supports and interventions as necessary.

But if they aren’t an accurate measure…aren’t they just paper? Weighing us down.

A few weeks ago, we got some different results. Pudding’s support teacher administered the Woodcock Johnson III. A useful measure for us, because she has had this test before, and comparing Pudding to her own self has always been more meaningful than comparing her to her peers- at least in terms of deciding if our interventions are working as hoped.

These new results, however, show a dramatic improvement in her written language skills. Her mathematics and calculation skills are average, but compared to her peers she shows superior academic skills when it comes to reading, writing, and spelling. 

And these results are truly amazing, more evidence that inclusion (with the right supports) is working for her. Evidence that we need to have, in order to convince international schools that she has a right to be there.

But they also add to the confusion. How will we support these strengths as well as her weaknesses? Or were we somehow already doing that without trying? Who knows. It is hard to think about these things without it adding to this constant weight- which always feels more burdensome at moving time- are we doing the right thing?

Like every other piece of paper, it captures just a tiny aspect of her. It is no more a description of her than anything else that goes in the filing cabinet. One interesting fact to add to the others, just like that her birth certificate is written in Luxembourgish.

While we ponder on the data, I’ll do what I have to with this the same as most of the other papers- scan it and save it in digital form. That way we can keep it, consider it, yet not let it weigh us down.


Written by Spectrummy Mummy

May 17, 2014 at 9:53 am

Making Connections

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As you read this, I will be finishing packing, getting the kids ready, heading to the airport, taking our first flight, making our connection in the busiest airport in the world(!), or on our second 16-hour flight.  Or I’ll be a stranger in a strange land, figuring out what to do next.  At least for me, that is familiar territory.

When Pudding was first diagnosed, I struggled to learn a foreign language littered with phrases like “echolalia” and “proprioception.”  Eventually I became fluent in this new language, even making up my own translations for some of those tricky phrases.  This language would be how I communicated with Pudding’s educators, therapists, and doctors; but to communicate with my girl, I had to learn to speak her language, just as she struggles to learn mine.

During the last two years, I made connections with those who could help me navigate this strange land.  In particular a teacher and doctor whose care and attention extended beyond Pudding to our entire family.  They acted as my guides so I didn’t get too lost.  Eventually I found community resources, and made sense of insurance regulations and somehow managed to find a path to follow.  It wasn’t always the easiest journey, but I could stumble my way along.

I would be lying if I said I’m not intimidated by starting all over again.  Making new connections, and finding trusted professionals who have my family’s best interests at heart.

At least once I began blogging, I found that there were so many of us, we could find our way together.  By reaching out to one another, we make new connections, form a community that doesn’t have geographical boundaries.  I have friends walking the same path, holding my arm if I should happen to stumble.  I’m grateful beyond measure for the friendship and support I’ve found through this blog.

Connections matter.  A few weeks ago a friend from university announced he was going to be the manager of a new independent cinema in England.  I immediately though about how great it would be if they could do the sensory showings that we enjoy here in the US, and suggested to him that they do just that.  He said he’d get back to me, and earlier this week he wrote back saying that when they open later this year, the cinema will be offering sensory showings every three weeks.

If that can be done in the UK, why not South Africa?  Why not everywhere?  We just need to keep making those connections.

I want to thank you for reading, commenting and sharing this blog over the last year.  It has been an incredible journey, that in many ways is only just beginning.  Time for me to go and make my connections.  Time for more adventures abroad!

If you would be so kind, I would love it if you could visit here and vote for Spectrummy Mummy as one of the top autism blogs.  Many thanks!

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

August 1, 2011 at 6:03 am

Further Perspective

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Yesterday I was struck down by the nasty illness that is going around locally.  It had already hit both kids and the husband, getting a little worse with each successive victim.  It floored me completely, and made it easy to stick to my vow of backing off the whole move panic thing for a little while.  There are still emails to respond to, forms to fill out, questions to be asked, but I just can’t do it right now.  There is nothing like a timely, but temporary, illness to make you appreciate your generally good health and physical strength.

What I did manage to do yesterday was catch up on some reading.  Like most of the world, I’ve been following the events in Cairo and Tunisia at a distance.  Now that I’ve read some first person accounts, the whole thing is so much more real.  Cairo was one of the places on our original list.  There are some really good schools for special needs children out there, so there is no doubt in my mind that there are other foreign service families with special needs kids over there, or at least there were until ordered departure came.

Evacuation has never personally touched our lives.  Friends and colleagues have had this experience, but we haven’t yet lived in a region of instability.  I was able to have both babies in Luxembourg, despite some early complications with the second pregnancy so I’ve never even had to do a medical evacuation.  I’d never given it much thought, I suppose most people don’t until they have to, but reading how trying an evacuation is for families filled me with cold dread.  Can you even imagine how hard this would be for children on the autism spectrum?

If we were at post, and departure orders came, the chances are that my husband would have to stay behind because of his particular job.  The kids don’t react well to daddy going on a trip even when I can show them when he will return, imagine not being able to provide answers to their fears?  And they would naturally want to know where they were going, but there’d be no opportunity to provide a social story of what the safe haven would be like.  There would be no choice but to just take them to an alien environment.  There’d be no goodbyes with friends and teachers, no knowing when, or even if they’d ever see them again.  Imagine trying to explain to your anxious child that they may never go home again.  And leaving behind everything familiar?  Whether you have 24 hours, or a matter of minutes to pack, it won’t be enough.  Nor is a suitcase ever going to be enough to contain all your child needs to be comfortable in the world.

Safe havens can be anywhere in the world, depending on where you’re evacuating from, so you might be dealing with yet another foreign language that neither you nor your terrified children understand.  If like my kids, they have several allergies, how do you figure out what foods are safe to eat?  Usually time at a safe haven is pretty short in duration and your family gets transferred on.  But to where, exactly?  It wouldn’t be home for them without daddy there.  And for how long?  Kids like ours can’t go for very long without their therapies or educational services, so as the weeks, possibly months wore on, we’d have to put together a program.  Dealing once again with waiting lists and insurance problems, not knowing if your efforts would even be worth it if you were returned to post.

We don’t think it is likely that we’d have to evacuate out of Johannesburg, but then it is a critical crime post, and I’d have said that Egypt and Tunisia were pretty safe too.  From now on while we’re overseas, I’ll do my best to be prepared, once I figure out exactly what that means.  My heart goes out to anybody affected by this political turmoil.  The other thing to note is that evacuation means safety, and if you’ve been in the midst of such rage and violence, that might even put the disruption into perspective.  After all, we are fortunate to be taken out of there, local people have to stay.

Suddenly my six months to plan doesn’t seem such a hardship, more like a wondrous gift of preparation time.  So yes, I’m giving myself that week off.  I have a week to spare.  My panic once again put into perspective.  I’m going to rest and recuperate and enjoy the gift of security for as long as we have it, and hope that we have it for a really long time.

Thank you all those whose service overseas grants us our safety.  We know the sacrifices that you and your families make.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

February 3, 2011 at 8:57 am

The List

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One week ago today we got the list of overseas positions that will be vacant next year. For the most part, it came as no surprise to us. We have been researching overseas schools for a while now, to find ones that will accept Pudding as a student, and provide the services she needs. Unlike here in the US, international schools are under no legal obligation to take on Pudding as a pupil. The ones that would don’t always have English speaking staff and therapists, or the class sizes are so big that Pudding would get overwhelmed, overlooked, and overloaded.

It is our turn to do a “hardship” or “differential” posting, which means the quality of life is measurably poorer than that of the US. This could be due to crime, political violence, war, famine, poor medical care etc. This reduces considerably the number of places we are able to go. The good news is that Pudding’s Asperger’s diagnosis means that she will not be medically cleared to go to any country that can’t provide the services she needs. This is the reason why we didn’t go to Bolivia.

To further complicate matters, those currently serving in certain hardship posts can get linked in to their choice of follow-on assignment. Put this all together, and your guess is as good as mine as to where we’ll be living this time next year.  But, hey, we all know the journey is more important than the destination, right?

From our initial work, we have found 6 posts that are differential, and a further 9 non-differential posts which we believe have quality schools for Pudding. As we aren’t able to visit these schools in person, we don’t know for sure what there programs are like. Fortunately, there is a bureau whose job is to do just that. We send our list of fifteen best guesses to them, and sooner or later we find out if we need to discard any from our list, or proceed.

It is daunting, and even with all this planning, things can still go wrong. Teachers can leave, schools lose their accreditation, therapists retire or relocate. Some families choose to home school, hiring their own tutor, teacher or therapist as needed. I can definitely see the benefit to this one-on-one approach, and the flexibility it would provide. For us though, we think Pudding needs to spend more of her time interacting with other children.  School it is.

I’m not letting myself think too much about any of those fifteen places. We’ve decided not to tell anyone what is on our list. We learned a year ago that all the plans you’ve made can be swept away in an instant. What we are left with afterwards is what is meant to be. We’ll find somewhere new to live sooner or later, and wherever we are together will be our Home.  You’re welcome to join us on that journey though!

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

August 10, 2010 at 7:16 am