Friday, February 10, 2012

The Kindergarten Dilemma

I have been dreading this. Kindergarten terrifies me.

We worked so hard to get Liam where he is today. It took lots of diligence and patience and busting through red tape to get him the very best possible treatment. We LOVE his ABA therapy center and feel really blessed that it has all worked out, and even better, that it is working!! I would love to leave him there forever. Unfortunately, it doesn’t count as school. In order for Liam to have a shot at graduating from high school, he must start school  by age seven. He’s six, which means this coming fall, he has to do something that counts as kindergarten, or he can’t graduate. I’m certainly not willing to take away that option at age six. Sorry.

We have major problems with starting school. First and foremost, Liam’s social skills are nearly non-existent. His receptive language skills are barely there. This makes putting him in a class with a bunch of other kids and one teacher a very difficult situation for him without help. Convincing the school that his therapist should attend with him might prove to be difficult, and getting them to pay for a full time aid is likely impossible. Our little district just doesn’t have the knowledge or resources, but Liam is not “bad” enough (according to the school) to qualify for placement outside the district in a school with better programs and resources. Secondly is the logistics of the situation. We both work at least half an hour from where we live and from the school Liam would attend.  Even “full day” kindergarten is not a full day. There is a before and after school program, but I think Liam would crash and burn being thrown into a free for all like that, especially if he were expected to do well in class later. It all just sounded like a terrifying nightmare.

We heard about an online charter school. At first I was extremely excited about this possibility because Liam could remain at the center, do his schoolwork online with his therapists, continue receiving daily ABA therapy, and still get credit for kindergarten. However, the more I thought about it and discussed it with the people who work with Liam, I began to see that this was only the best option for me…not for him. In order for Liam to gain real ground in the social aspects of life, he will need to be around typical kids, where things aren’t quite as scripted as they are in his therapy sessions. That won’t happen with an online school. The goal, of course, is to get Liam ready for a real classroom, with a real teacher, and real classmates who he really interacts with. These are mountains for Liam. Luckily our family loves the mountains.

A friend suggested a private school near the center where her son is currently attending.  We decided to look into it. This kindergarten program is part of a children’s ministry at a local mega-church. I met with the director and fell in love. They have a beautiful facility and a fantastic program that is based on developing relationships and hands on learning. It has a somewhat Montessori approach, which I loved. The best part? No IEP needed. They are completely willing to work with Liam’s therapists and program coordinator, allowing them to be involved in Liam’s curriculum planning and behavior intervention, etc. We signed him up the first day registration was open to the public.

So its settled, for one more year anyway. Liam will continue to ride the van to the center, his therapist will take him to kindergarten and stay there with him. Then she’ll take him back to the center for the afternoon and he can continue with his ABA therapy, and they can fill in some gaps that may need to be addressed before school the next day. Once again we believe we are putting Liam in the best possible situation for him.

I guess we have successfully kicked the terrifying public-school-sink-or-swim can down the road for at least another year. 


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Thinking of you today

My heart is aching for a friend. She got scary diagnosis number three today. I imagine even though this time around she knows the next steps, it doesn't make it any easier. She is such a strong, beautiful momma and is perfect for her boys who need her to guide them on their journey.

It brings back so many emotions for me. I refer to that day as "D-day" in the life of our little family. I both wanted to hear that my assumptions were wrong and also that they were right. It was such a strange dichotomy, and I'm sure other spectrum parents can relate.

The internet has been so wonderful for me. Its been my educator, my outlet, and my lifeline to others who really know how I feel - who can not only sympathize, but EMPATHIZE, truely having been in my shoes and blazed a path before me. They also see through the surface and know  how amazing these kiddos are. I am so thankful for all of the friends I've made along the way. These friends make our life seem not so strange. They help me with the hard days and celebrate the little victories along the way. They point me in the right direction and help to direct my perspective and energy toward positive things.

This friend in particular. We've never met, but I hope our paths cross one day. Love to you and your three boys.  They are made in God's image and are perfect in His sight. And in mine. And so are you.