Wednesday, July 8, 2009

School DAZE

We just finished week two of the girls' summer preschool program and I'm still having a hard time with it. My heart squeezes tight each time I drop them off and I'm always eager to pick them back up again 2.5 hours later. It's definitely compounded by pregnancy hormones (almost 32 weeks now!) and being physically uncomfortable as it takes a lot work to get Hannah into and out of the building. And then added on top of that is the magnitude of this new phase we're entering with Hannah being out and about in the world.

From the first time that I managed to get both girls out by myself when they were infants, to the first time I took Hannah somewhere with her walker, each moment was a transition as I had to figure out how to navigate a world bigger than our house, where things are easy for Hannah to access, where no one stares or makes comments, where we feel comfortable. In our house, Hannah gets around like a champ, practically running around in her walker, pulling up everywhere, singing and talking and yelling and being a "typical" preschooler. When we go out, she is often quiet and tentative and slow. She gets distracted easily by sights and sounds around her and tires out quickly. When we're at home it's easy to think that Hannah is only midly impaired by her CP. But when we're out, I realize the true extent of her limits. She has come so far in her development, but there is still so much she can't do.

So now she's in school, and while the special ed teacher has been a great advocate for Hannah and is truly motivated to make it a comfortable and accessible place for her, there are things that are just not working as they should. Getting into and out of the building is a major struggle. Once in the classroom, it's becoming clear that Hannah needs more one-on-one assistance than the teacher originally thought, so that she is not left behind and is able to get where she wants to go. Hannah is also not eating her snack each day because she's so distracted by everything going on around her, so she is totally pooped by the time they go to the playground, or else she sits inside with the teacher trying to finish a snack and then by the time they get out to the playground, it's time for me to pick the girls up. (Not to mention that the walk from the classroom to the playground is very long and that alone takes a great deal of her effort).

I'm trying to set up a meeting with the teacher after this summer session is done, so we can regroup and talk about what can be done differently this Fall, when preschool officially begins. I also need to set up a meeting with the principal to talk about the problems we're having with access to the building, the inaccessibility of the playground, the modifications that should be done in the bathroom, etc. etc. etc.

All of this is adding a layer to the already emotional aspects of sending your kids off to school for the first time and it's been hard. I want to go into these meetings clear-headed and not defensive, but I feel emotionally charged and overwhelmed by all that I think needs to be done. Sigh...


Melissa said...

I know that you want to go into the meetings calmly and without being defensive, but I have to tell you that all of my experience on the "other side" begs to differ. I have been a special educator for 14 years and I have consistently seen the parents who are demanding and sometimes downright pushy are the ones who get what they need for their kids. The ones who try to work with the schools to come up with appropriate solutions are put on the back burner or ignored, because resources and time are so tight and the schools are so busy dealing with the loud, demanding parents. So, I totally get that you want to start off on the right foot, but you may find that you need to "go there" sooner than you would like.
I am just horrified to hear that you are having that much trouble simply entering the building! It sounds like they need to make some accomodations, and make them quickly.
I am usually so very proud of what I do, but at times like these, I am sometimes so ashamed of my colleagues. Now that I am a mom of children with special needs, I see my own field so very differently. I hope and pray that you are working with good people who truly care about children, and that they do their very best to make sure that both of your girls have access to a great education.

BusyLizzyMom said...

It does get better. Elizabeth was so meek and quiet when she startded school and now she is the only one to stand up to a boy who is a bit aggressive (she growls at him and will not back down). Last year when Elizabeth was at school her class would be eating their snack before Elizabeth even got downstairs, now she gets down and gets her cup in record time. Last year Elizabeth did not eat or drink due to distraction but now she is doing both and even having her lunch one day a week. At her last meeting there are concerns that we will have to deak with next year but it is amazing how much she has accomplished at her 2nd year of pre-school..
Hang in there Hannah will settle in and not be as overwhelmed.
Happy 32 weeks.