Saturday, September 1, 2012

Kindergarten! Week One

Oh yes.  Big, big steps happening here.

This week was Charlie first week of Kindergarten!  A brand new school.  Brand new teachers.  New friends to be made.  New things to do.  New routine.  New faces.  New, new, new!

Listen.  This post is about to get long.  There is so much to say about our unique son Charlie, and this major transition in his life.  Here we go.

He is so big!  Here he is feeling awesome in his new Robot Back-pack. 
So how did it go?  As his Mama who knows him so well, I can say it went as expected.  We prepared for this week the moment summer school let out.  We went to his new school at least twice a week to play on the play ground, practice walking (as opposed to galloping, running, or dancing) in the hallways, practiced finding the bathrooms and his classrooms, etc.  I made a storybook about his new school and we read it a lot.  We prepared and prepared and prepared so he would know just what was going to happen, and by the time school started he had it down... and yet, was not excited to go.

His daily schedule involves going to "Special Day Class" for the first one and a half hours of his day, then he is taken to "regular ed" Kindergarten class for the remainder of the day.  Ray and I took him to school on his first day and dropped him off in his special day class, and you would never know he could hold on to a leg so tight!  Oh Charlie, new things can be hard, can't they?  We stayed with him a few tearful minutes and then peeled ourselves away.  He was prepared.  He knew just what was going on.  And he was feeling very reluctant in the face of it.  But... He did great.  He really did.

Gosh.  Remember when he looked like this?  How do they grow so fast...

A few special thoughts on a new special education adventure: 

1. It took us a long time  in Charlies life to realize Charlie has some kind of blood sugar issue, undiagnosed.  We anticipated that he may need extra snacks, and we were right.  A few times this week he has fallen to sleep, or just sort of lost willingness to participate, and each time a snack perks him right up again.  I am wondering if it is important to know why this happens, but never-the-less we know a quick snack helps this little guy stay in the game.

2.  Charlie is so blessed to be going to school with his little friend "B".  She also has Down Syndrome and her family is such good friends with us... we are so thankful for them.  B is doing well, and both her family and ours are feeling so blessed by this new school... they want our children there, want to make it work for them to be mainstreamed.  Their special day teacher is so great, as are the aids, the principal is wonderful, and they both have great Kindergarten teachers.  I come home every day thanking the Lord, praising him for this new opportunity.  The school they went to for preschool was so amazing and wonderful, but far away, and it was hard for me to feel like I could be a part of Charlie's education.  Now I get to pick him up from school every day, chat with the teachers, meet the other parents, I am neighbors with his class aid, and with one of the resource teachers.  It is a blessing and a gift to feel so at home.

Here he is on the first day the moment we rounded the corner from the parking lot into the open-air hallway.  The full weight of 'School', with all the bustle washing over him.  My very tender, prone to shyness little Charlie.  He gets this look almost every time we do something new where lots of people are involved.

3.  We had Charlie ride the bus to school starting day 2.  It is so wonderful that he gets to ride the same bus as the last three years, with the same wonderful bus driver and same beautiful faces on the bus.  I like to play a shy game of peek-a-boo with another young man with Down Syndrome who sits across the isle from Charlie in the front.  The bus is a familiar routine, a relaxing way to start the day, and no more tears when he gets to school.  The transition too school is MUCH easier when he rides the bus.  Plus, I don't have to rush to get myself ready in the morning.  And you KNOW the bus driver sees a lot of disheveled parents in the morning.  What a beautiful person she is.

4.  Charlie and B were set up with one aid between them to sort of shadow them, help where needed, etc. while the school (and us parents) decide what kind of support is needed for each child.  Charlie and B are the antithesis of each other.  Charlie is big (well comparatively to B), a cuddly teddy bear kind of guy, and B is a tiny little ball of energy--a force, really.  So small and so mighty!  Charlie is too shy to "act out" and will more likely just shut-down under stress.  B lets you KNOW if she is overwhelmed.  Charlie is really solid on those "student like behaviors" needed in school, but very, very slow on picking up academic stuff.  B is, her mom says "squirrely", but sharp as a tack with academic stuff.  It is really fun to watch how they are each adapting to this change in their own way.  Well, the aid has been mostly with energetic, fabulous little B, helping her to tone down the "squirrel factor" as she settles into a new routine, and Charlie has been mostly hacking it on his own, falling line with the other kids, perhaps too uncomfortable to draw attention by acting out of place.  He will need help with academics more intensively than our wonderful friend B, but for now, while the main focus is helping the children learn how to "do school" he is keeping up fantastically!  I am proud of him for doing so well, "hacking it" all on his own.  Despite his little blood sugar moments, he is keeping with it, falling back into pace with "doing school", almost more easily that I would have guessed.  He watches the other kids, and does what they do.  I am eager to hear week 2 reports.  And miss B?  We are very proud of our little friend.  She is also doing so well.  She has even made a new friend, I hear.  Good job, B!  These two pals are full of potential, I tell ya.

Three very nervous people in this photo!  Gosh.  We love this boy so much.  Our first born child.  A special boy who changed everything... who changes everything.  We count ourselves blessed.
5.  Charlie had some really close little buddies at his old school.  Not to mention he felt so safe and loved by his teacher and staff.  Coming to a new place has been hard for him.  I sense a very sore spot in his little heart as he realizes none of those people are at his new school.   He likes the activities, learning the routine, doing "school stuff", but is emphatic that he does not have friends.  After his first day of school he told me, "I didn't find my friends."  I think he was hoping to see his little buddies.  Every time I have mentioned friends since, he simply insists that Calvin and Miles are his friends and no one else.  None-the-less, his special day class teacher has told me he is being social and making friends in that class, which is so wonderful to hear.  I hear the same thing from the aid about his interactions in Kindergarten class, so friendship will come.  In the mean time, I find myself scratching my head on how to help him deal with his "loss".  Sweet, tender boy.  We pray every day before the bus comes for the Lord to fill him with peace, and He has, and still we move through our losses at the same time.  Life chugs on.

 6.  Charlie is so proud of himself.  He really knows he is doing big kid things and he is excited about it!  The first day when we picked him up he ran to me, jumped, pumping his fists in the air, and yelled, "I did it!"  The second day I picked him up, he ran to me yelling, "All by myself, mom!"  The third and fourth day he walked out of his class, in line without his aid beside him, and maintaining his spot in line even after he saw us.  What a big thing!  He threw his arms around Calvin so excited to see us.  He was beaming.  He knows he is doing so well.  My heart swells with joy to see him revel in his accomplishments.  Special needs parents approach changes like this with so much unknown.  We felt led to this school for a couple reasons, one it is in our town, two the culture of the school is that of one that wants to integrate children, that is excited at the prospect of helping a boy with Down Syndrome be a regular part of the community.  He is getting his chance to be that, to show he is more than able, different in many ways, but full of potential and worth.  We all believe that for him, and he is living it. 

Okay, I'll spare you the novel I could go on writing.  I'll wrap it up by saying Charlie is overwhelming me with his beautiful abilities, including the ability to be a light and a joy and a blessing to his community.  Down Syndrome is an interesting thing... sparked by one tiny wayward chromosome at the moment of conception, and as Calvin would say, Voila!--You have a life that speaks to people... in one way or another.  Charlie is introverted.   He would rather people not notice him, but they do (they notice all of us because of him... in our community we are known because of a wayward chromosome that lost it's way some 7 years ago.  Differentness can make you memorable, I 'spose.). This life we've been given--we know for us, and for Charlie, there is purpose.  Charlie is in our lives on purpose, we are "special needs parents" for a reason, Calvin and Miles are siblings of a brother who will always need them, Charlie's very existence has purpose and light and a message.  It has been a long time since this has been quite so clear, so crisply apparent, as it has this week.  Only the Lord knows the trials, the beauty, the light, and the adventures ahead of us.  And as we begin with a few hesitant steps, clinging to legs as we go through the open door, peeled away from what is comfortable, we know one thing is sure: we are cupped in His hands.  We can feel it.  He is holding us up.  He is leading.  We are right where we are supposed to be, and there is a greater story in all of it.  A story we can trust and walk in and discover.


Jenny said...

I am in tears after reading this last paragraph, what beautiful words. I just loved this post. I hope Charlie has a wonderful school year :)

BrendaLou said...

Kim, you don't know how very much I appreciate your writings. I am so moved...motivated to be a better person. To love more unconditionally those around me. How could anyone not LOVE Charlie and root for him...I know there are many frustrations with your little men, but you gracefully (full of grace!) move forward. You are a Godly woman who challenges all of us to be more like Christ. Thank you so very much.

TheHeatherGirl said...

This was beautiful and touching. I love reading...even if it makes me all blubbery! Thank you, Kim for sharing your life with us!

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