I am so excited! A friend from church who is also a great special needs educator has given me a whole bunch of assessment tests for Dale. These tests cover a range of subjects---language arts, sight words, oral reading, reading comprehension, and math. Some start at pre-kindergarten level and some start at first grade level; all go through eighth grade. I can administer these tests at various times; she will then grade them to give us an idea of where Dale is in these areas! These are not comprehensive tests, nor are they necessarily standardized; if we are able to get Dale any therapy through the public school system (free), they will administer their own tests. These are just to show us (1) how well Dale's brain has retained knowledge and processes, (2) what areas he shows weakness in, and (3) where to start. I have been thanking God every time I see the packet of tests on my counter for this wonderful lady! She and I have been friends for years and I was always aware of what her career abilities were; I just never thought I would need her help like this. She further stated that, once we know what areas Dale needs help in, she has tons of papers and worksheets and stuff to help him---all the way through twelfth grade, if need be! YES!!!
I fully expect him to breeze through the sight words tests up to his grade level and beyond. Dale loves to read! I also expect him to have difficulty staying focused during the oral reading tests; we already know his attention span is nil. I am looking forward to administering the reading comprehension tests to see how well he listens and can answer questions. The math assessment test is HUGE. We'll probably need to break that up into several small sections to keep Dale from getting frustrated or tired. All in all, these assessment tests are, I believe, the next big step toward getting Dale on track with his education.
Friday was the big school-wide field trip to the Pumpkin Patch. I thought about taking Dale along---he would have enjoyed being outside and touring the farm---but decided against it due to several factors: the long distance needed to travel (45 minutes one-way), the probable bathroom difficulties (porta-potties---yuck!), and the fact that he had a SP appointment scheduled for 11:00 a.m. My girls all went and had so much fun. My two youngest came home tired and somewhat muddy, wearing big grins and proudly carrying their pumpkins. (Their smiles dimmed a bit once they saw the size of Katie's pumpkin. She had gone as a chaperone with a church family; the grandmother bought her a big $12 pumpkin, much larger than their $6 pumpkins. I had to do some fast talking to remind them that they couldn't have carried her pumpkin anyway. Rule #1 at the Pumpkin Patch states: You must be able to carry your own pumpkin, otherwise you must choose another one. This saves alot of bickering, whining, and chiropractor visits for stressed-out teachers and parents!) My girls promptly fell to drawing faces on their pumpkins, decorating the pumpkins, their fingers, and the table for autumn. I'm glad they got to go; it's a fun annual tradition.
As it turns out, not taking Dale to the Pumpkin Patch was a really good idea. We attended SP; Dale did okay. He cried alot, but again, I think he was frustrated at having to go through all this. He did stick with it and finished each task she set for him. Instead of reading him each instruction ("Which picture has _____ in it?"), I encouraged him to read the sentence for himself and then point to the answer. He did well with this. The SP therapist was careful not to give Dale the answers right away but also not to let the moment drag on too long before offering help, thereby not allowing more frustration to creep in. As she had promised, before we left she copied off a few pages of "homework" for us to do. These vary from finishing sentences like "We hang pictures on the _____" to answering questions like "What would you use to ________?" She even had Dale accompany her down the hall to help her make the copies. I think he enjoyed using the copy machine, even though all he did was press one button four times!
The other good reason to have avoided traveling so far away is....the van died again. I know, I know----what now?! We left the SP building; I helped Dale into the van; I got in and put the key in the ignition; and nothing happened. Literally nothing. With the problems before, the van would start and then die. This time, there were no lights, no buzzers, no radio, nothing. We were now stranded in the middle of the Tacoma Mall parking lot, my husband was at work, and I had no idea who to call first---the towing company or my shrink! (No, I don't really have one. I can't afford it!) I called Chad who said to call the dealership and go from there. Thank the Lord I followed the advice of a very good friend who said she always puts the numbers of companies they do business with into her cell phone. I actually had Tacoma Dodge's phone number! They said they would be waiting whenever we got it towed in. I then called USAA to take advantage of our free towing policy. Loooooong story short (kind of): the tow truck arrived within half an hour. Chad had called me to suggest I ask Tacoma Dodge if they had a courtesy shuttle who could pick Dale and I up since there was no way Dale was going to be able to climb up into the tow truck's cab. Good point. We only had to wait an extra two minutes for the shuttle to find us and then we were off to the dealership. We were only there about 10 minutes before it became obvious that Dale was not going to be able to wait there the entire afternoon until (a) they fixed our van or (b) Chad got off work and could pick us up. Again, the wonderful staff at Tacoma Dodge had their courtesy shuttle take us home---a good 45 minute drive. It was well past lunchtime and cutting into Dale's regular rest period. It was raining quite heavily and windy, too; the only thing we wanted at that point was to get home. Imagine how frightening it was for us to pass not one but two major car accidents on the way home! They were both within a half mile of each other, and both involved at least four cars! I had been praying anyway: for God to let the tow truck get there soon, for them to be able to figure out what the problem was this time, for the repairs to not be costly, for us to get home. I quickly changed the tenor of my prayer. "Please, Lord, let us arrive in one piece!!!" I know we get alot of rain in Washington state, and we should be used to driving in it, but those were some terrible road conditions. The shuttle driver kept saying, "I am getting off this road as soon as I can!" Please don't think he was being unhelfpful; he was just expressing what we both were feeling! We didn't get home until nearly 2:30 p.m.; once home, I quickly got Dale a PBJ (comfort food) and heated up some soup as well. Once he had eaten, I had him lie down for a nap; he fell asleep within minutes. The poor guy was exhausted. I think he may have been more tired out from our unexpected ordeal than if he had gone to the Pumpkin Patch.
When my second oldest (Katie) got home, she was shocked to find the van gone. I explained what happened, and her reaction was what mine was---"You've got to be kidding me!" I told her, "I've been praying about it nonstop. I told God we couldn't afford any more expenses; anything over $20 would stretch the budget. He is in control; He'll do what is best." Little did I realize how much God was going to show His awesome prayer-answering power. We received a phone call from the dealership around 3:00 p.m. The diagnosis was corroded battery terminals. Apparently the terminals leading to/from the battery were too corroded to allow the charge to get through; thus, it mimicked the symptoms of a dead battery. My husband had cleaned these terminals already; I'm wondering if God just wanted to teach us something. My usual response to the van breaking down is to flap my hands and cry, "Woe is me." This time, I prayed. I even had Dale close his eyes and pray with me. I didn't get upset or cry or wonder, "Why me---again?" I actually trusted God to work it out for good. I quoted that verse to Dale (and myself) and just waited. We got home safely, they fixed the van, we drove out later and picked it up (avoiding the accident-prone road). All was well. Oh, the total cost of repairs: $19.62. Don't tell me God doesn't care about the small stuff. Don't try to tell me He doesn't hear and answer prayers exactly. O me of little faith! There are so many people who believe that either God doesn't exist at all or He created this world and then left it to run on its own. We don't need Christians to act like they believe that too.
Today (Saturday) has not been one of Dale's stellar days. He woke up cranky and rebellious, not at all his usual self. He has managed to get one word out consistently---"NO!" All morning, all we heard was, "No." He didn't eat all his breakfast; he had trouble getting down the stairs even with Chad helping him; he's screamed at his sisters; and he wouldn't eat much lunch. The only bright spot so far has been when he walked into our living room. Chad and I were sitting on our loveseat watching TV. Dale walked up beside my husband. He started to cry and Chad asked him, "What do you want?" Dale very clearly said, "I want to sit down." We were surprised and glad to hear him speak. But once he sat down, he was back to his usual actions---bending over, sitting up, leaning against me, crying. He's calmed down for now. We've been putting him to bed at 8:00 p.m. every night in an effort to ensure he gets a full night's sleep. He's had a sore throat for the past few days as well. It would be easy to try to explain away his agitation, but the truth is: this is how someone with a TBI (traumatic brain injury) behaves. He may not always act like this, but he might. We're praying this is just a phase that he will improve out of, and we are actively re-teaching him what appropriate and inappropriate behaviors are. Thank God for the wealth of information, support, and love we've experienced that helps us remember that, while we may feel overwhelmed by all this, we are never alone going through this. I pray the Father daily that we get through this, that we are not in this phase to stay. I know I can trust Him, come what may.
Hebrews 11:16-19 "But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a city. By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received Him in a figure."