Has it really been almost four years that Whistle's been with us? In some ways, it feels like forever, as he's so much a part of us. However, the idea of going to Kindergarten is pretty unbelievable. Can it really be that time ALREADY?
For kids with disabilities, beginning kindergarten has few similarities with a typical five year old. He's already had much more school experience than most pre-K kids. (We won't discuss the day-care tots - that's different, and a whole 'nother discussion.) When he was between one and two years old, we went to the site of a special needs pre-school in a near-by city for physical therapy and occupational therapy. Then for a year he attended that pre-school for 3 hours, twice a week, along with his therapies. His class of about 5 were specially chosen as "tiny-two-year-olds." The last two years, he's attended 4 mornings a week, received speech, PT and OT, and ridden a special bus. An earlier post tells about his graduation from there.
As he was finishing up his 'getting ready for school - school,' we were preparing for the real school. Medical appointments, evaluations, meetings, conversations with teachers, multiple emails, decisions, testing, and so forth. Then the school called to set up his 'kindergarten screening.' As it turned out, that was a mistake, and he wouldn't have to have more tests after all -- he'd already had many more tests with more detail than they would obtain that day. However, he would go to visit the kindergarten class. Each child attends with this year's class for one morning, to see what school is like. He loved it, of course. His only disappointment was when he found out he didn't get to go back again the next day. (When I picked him up at the appointed time, the teacher was reading a giant book to the class. The students were all sitting on the carpet, listening. That is, all except one. Whistle was standing in the middle of the group, asking a question. Then another. And beginning a third, when the teacher kindly pointed out, "Your mother is here to pick you up." :-)
In the olden days (aka not very long ago) 5 year old children started Kindergarten in the fall. It took them a little while to adjust to school, but by the end of the year it was 'old hat' to all of them. A successful plan, I would think. It seems the newer option is to start with summer school, to make the transition easier. So . . . a little over one week after the pre-school year was over, he began again! For traditional kindergartners, that may be a fine idea. For kids like some of ours, I'm not so sure. We've done the testing, and documented strategies that will help him be successful, hoping to ward off a few future difficulties. The Kindergarten teachers, therapists, and specialists have visited the other school to prepare for the group who are moving to their district this year. The IEP has carefully been written, and information prepared to be shared with those who are expected to be working with him. The only thing yet to be decided is the classroom placement (which teacher). That may even be decided - but we haven't been told yet. So . . . with every possible preparation made for the fall, we jump into Summer School. The teachers are different (in fact, one teacher for two weeks, another for two weeks, and neither will be kindergarten teachers in the fall), the schedule is more relaxed, and they're going swimming three times. Whew!! That's scary for me. It might be easier for some students to have a gradual introduction to school, but for kids who need schedules and routines . . . whoa! A phone call to the first-two-weeks teacher helped calm me some. I was able to let her know how he might be different from others in her class, and she seemed appreciative of the information, and asked good questions. She might have been receiving more info through the sp. ed. department before summer school was to start, but at least I knew she knew the basics of what she needed to know, and she was appreciative of the direct contact.
As it turned out, Whistle and I were out of town the first four days of school, but I justified it in my mind knowing that the other kids would have the routine down when he arrived, and he'd slide in smoother. Friday was his first day. He was ready to go, and helped me get ready, too, "so we can't be late." The principal met us in the hall (remember those earlier meetings? we're already known), and he took us to locate the class (not a K room in the K hallway, either) and meet the teacher. She showed Whistle where to put his back-pack, and how to mark his lunch choice. From there, it was outside with the others until class time, and the time had come for me to leave. Hugs and a kiss, and he was off with the high-school-age classroom helper, to return to us after the school day was over at 3 o'clock.
Our kind readers who are acquainted with Whistle describe him as a 'little man,' with his long sentences and big ideas. However, there is much about him that doesn't show initially, and school will always be a challenge for him, progressively more so as the years roll on, I imagine. Many people have had a part in helping him prepare for this day, and we appreciate all their support, and will rely on many resources as he continues through school.
I try not to look back at How Long Ago it was that Hugger started kindergarten, because that makes me realize How Very Old we'll be when Whistle graduates from High School, if the Lord blesses us to raise him. But if the next 13 years go as fast as the last 4 have, it will be here in no time at all!