Well we did it. We survived the first year of school. Maclain passed with flying colours, and achieved a new milestone as he graduated from SK to Grade 1.
For obvious reasons, I had long dreaded the day that Maclain would have to enter the school system. It was a day that I lost sleep over. A day I didn’t want to think about, couldn’t begin to plan for. It wasn’t that I didn’t think he would love it, I knew he would totally adore going. It wasn’t that I was upset to be without him all day. He has been going solo to programs since he was 2 years old.
It wasn’t because I thought he wasn’t smart enough. He is a very bright, motivated, and engaging child.
It was because I was handing over control to an educational system that has long been flawed. I had to have faith, and believe that all the meetings, plans, promises, and some threats, were going to come together to meet his needs as he entered into a world that is not always renown for how well they treat students with special needs. Especially ones who are so physically involved, and struggle with their verbal skills.
I think back to this time a year ago. So many meetings with too many people around a huge table. All so that one little boy could go to school 3 days a week, for only the mornings. I had decided to continue to send him to 2 days a week at Conductive Education, so I could feel confident that at least on those days, his physical and academic needs would be met.
I was filled with such anxiety, and I was in full on offensive mode. I was ready with files, photos, slideshows, and all the best reports. I was ready to tear off heads and make people cry. I know that I was not the first person to ever be in this situation, but in my world, I was a lone mama wolf heading into the wild and needing to fight for the survival of myself and my wounded offspring.I actually could see my husband cringe when I spoke during the meetings. He had that ” uh-oh, she is going to lose it” look on his face. And I did lose it a few times, and all over the things that seemed to be beyond my control. All the worst parts of the system that don’t seem to ever change were the things that were making me panic. In a bid to gain some control, I demanded tons of equipment, the exact teacher I wanted, the EA type we needed to have, how many PT and OT appointments we should have, and anything else I imagined I should have. I was going to leave nothing to chance.
I cried so many times last summer thinking that I was making a mistake, it was too soon, it would never work. But in my ear I kept hearing the voice of the Principal saying ” Mrs.Agnew, I know this is so hard, and I won’t pretend to know what you are going through. But please try to have faith. We want this to be as successful for Maclain, as we would want for any of our students. We are going to make this work, and it is going to be great”.
So September came, and the equipment was ready, his EA’s were trained, and I took up residence in the classroom. He looked so darn cute in his uniform, and he had a huge smile on his face. It took very little time for the kids to “accept” him, and he quickly made friends, and broke the hearts of all the staff who met him. Our team at the school were consistent with their communication with me, and were always welcoming when I offered help and suggestions. We found ways to make the restrictions of the system work in our favour, find ways to do accurate assessments, and aside from it taking time for them to believe me that he is super smart, we were all on the same page. As the months rolled by, I watched him dress up for the Halloween parade, participate in the Christmas concert, make Easter cards, and excel in his literacy, numeracy, verbal skills, and social awareness. I was actually shocked with myself, at how at ease I had become. It was hard to believe that all the planning had paid off, and things were good, maybe even great. I will never say it was perfect, but nothing is, and I have long since lost the concept of perfect.
When we sat around this table this year. Some faces familiar, some new, and some that will be leaving, I was struck by how different it was. The content of our discussions were more in depth and complicated, and now involved a full day every day school year, but somehow I was calm. They asked me if I would consider letting him be in school for the full 5 days, only doing Conductive Ed on the weekends. I still am not sure how I agreed to that, but I did.
We were not discussing what if’s anymore, we were talking about sure things. I heard excitement in their voices when we talked about implementing writing software, laptops, communciation devices, more time in his walker, potty training, and down the road power wheelchair trials. They were all smiling and beaming when reporting on how amazing the year had been, and how many advances Maclain had made. Even the odd stupid remark from the board SLP about how shocked she was at how smart Maclain was ( She really did say that. She couldn’t believe he knew what a flag was. WTF? She is thankfully not on our team next year) couldn’t damper the positive momentum.
I think I may actually sleep ok this summer, and not be so worried about the countdown to school starting. I am going to stay positive and optmisitic that he is going to have another great year. I am going to for just this once, have a little faith.
But I will have my fangs and claws sharpened, just in case.