Okay, let’s talk about Kindergarten.
The little man has officially been a kindergartner for nine weeks now and – overall – it is going well. He has no problem waking up a little bit earlier to catch the bus. In fact, he really likes the bus driver and is usually excited when it pulls up outside the house. If I’m not in the living room when it arrives, he gives a little yell (usually “hey”) to let me know it is time to go. Then as they raise him up in the wheelchair lift he waves goodbye, just smiling and happy. We like the bus driver too; he has been driving the special needs bus for several years and is great with the kids.
Of course there have been some days he hasn’t been thrilled to head off to school, but the little man is pretty agreeable and typically gets over it pretty fast. Although occasionally he will tell me “no” when I try to put his uniform on. Sometimes that is a game – he wants me to be taken aback by his audacity – other times he means it.
He still isn’t completely sure of the routine. Every day when I carry him down the hallway to the living room he asks where his dad is. I’m assuming he just isn’t sure if it is a school day and dad has already left for work or if it is the weekend and dad is relaxing on the couch. It doesn’t bother him when I tell him dad is at work, so it’s all good.
I’m pleased with his teacher. She is absolutely still trying to figure our little man out, but is committed to finding out what works best for him. This is really all you can ask for. I mean, there is a huge learning curve with a disabled child and every single one of the kids in that class is different. I love the fact that she is supportive of our desire to get him spending some time with the typical kids. The little man has always learned better from other children and I wanted to make sure he was able to spend some time outside of the special needs class. His teacher was happy to give it a try and it worked out so well we are adjusting the IEP to add more time with regular kindergarten classes. This is during things like art and music, not standard teaching time.
He got a good report at the first parent-teacher conference. I was very happy that one of the first things his teacher said to me in that meeting was that she understood what I meant when I was explaining to her that there is a lot more going on in this head than he can communicate. The little man is profoundly disabled, but had a lot of potential mentally if we can just figure out how to get it out. I try to let everyone we work with know this, but it can be hard to get the point across – hard to make it seem like I’m not just an overly-optimistic, partially-deluded parent.
He is struggling with being comfortable around the kids, although I’m sure this will only approve. The little man is used to be the “most-disabled” in his classrooms. Being around other children in wheelchairs and children awkwardly (and adorably) traipsing around in their braces must be a bit of a shock. We are working on getting him a new chair in the classroom as he doesn’t like being in the current option that much. If he feels a little more secure when he is out of his wheelchair, I think he will feel more comfortable with the other kids. It isn’t a social problem, that’s for sure; the little man is a social butterfly.
I don’t feel like his therapy is up to the level it was at his preschool, but these are brand new (to him) therapists still learning about his skill level and possibilities. I’m not worried about this working itself out as they get into a groove with him.
From my point of view, I’ve been surprised by how much of a shock kindergarten has been for me. There is no ignoring the fact that my son is on a different educational track than the other kids in the school. He recently had a field trip where a small group from his class went to a local community market to learn about fruits and vegetables. I was conflicted – on one hand, I know the little man loved it and I’m glad he is getting to go out and about; on the other hand, I’m sad that my son’s education is going to be so based in learning navigate his world in a very rudimentary way. I’ve also discovered a new found fear of other kids (and adults, let’s be real here) making fun of him and his classmates when they are on field trips. These are my fears though, not his.