Yesterday was a big day. I went to observe a kindergarten class on Danny's behalf. A Special Education Kindergarten.
I'm always amazed when something offends or bothers me because I'm usually so whatever about stuff. The first time his Orientation & Mobility therapist brought a cane for Danny to use he paused before showing it to him. He looked to me and asked if I was ok with it -- the cane. I didn't understand what he was asking at first. I was too busy being excited for Danny to examine my own emotions. I hear a lot of parents get a little freaked out when they see their little ones using a cane for the first time. Meh. I wouldn't know.
There's a possibility Danny is somewhere on the Autism Spectrum. It's never bothered me. Whatever. He is who he is and a label on his quirkiness isn't going to change anything. What it may do, though, is identify other tools we need to provide for him to be successful.
We have always planned on mainstreaming Danny. In theory, he's just like every other kid only he can't see. Why make any more concessions to his disability than we have to? Life moves fast so try to keep up. Blah, blah. blah. Daddy-o and I don't cut either of the boys much slack in the expectation department. Sink or swim. Right. Right?
This school year it has been particularly difficult to find an aide (para-educator) for Danny. They spent a good amount of time interviewing before school started. When I finally got the gal's name I Googled her for some reason. What came up was less than comforting. There were at least a dozen sites where she professed to be a Wiccan into Paganism and the Occult. I totally lost my cool. Turns out our school district doesn't Google their potential applicants. We're on our third aide since September. The Wiccan didn't make it out of the gate so we had the Para-Educator's educator working with Danny until they found someone else. That someone else was a guy who had been aiding in the preschool class for a while. He was enthusiastic but had no formal para-education training. Danny loved him. Turns out it was because he was an enabler that didn't challenge Danny at all. Which brings us to our current aide. I'm not a fan. Danny seems fairly ambivalent. She strikes me as a clock-puncher. She has no investment in Danny's successes or failures.
Danny has done a good amount of backsliding as a result of all this instability. Our case workers have been urging us toward placing him at their main school - the one for special needs kids. That translates two ways to me. Sending him to their school would relieve them of hiring someone specifically for Danny. Also, the more kids in their school program the easier to justify it's existence. It would also mean a long bus ride each way because it's in the neighboring town. Seems like a little much for a 4 year old. Plus it wouldn't be very convenient for us. I guess the whole Special Ed thing was a big component in my resistance as well. Hey, no one is more surprised than me.
When push came to shove and The Kindergarten Decision had to be made, I had to acknowledge that Danny is just not ready. Not for mainstream kindergarten, anyway. But I didn't want to stick him back at the State Preschool again next year The class makeup could be anything from mostly 4 year olds to all 3 year olds or somewhere in between with Danny 5 going on 6.
So I went to check out the Special Ed Kindergarten yesterday. There class consisted of 6 kids of varying abilities... heavily weighted towards the Spectrum side of things. Initially, I cringed to hear the lack of verbal skills from 5 year olds in the second half of kindergarten. Surely, Danny doesn't belong here, I thought. But then I saw 1 teacher and 3 para-educators to 6 kids. And saw the required peer interaction to earn free play time. I talked to the teacher about how they spend inordinate amounts of time with each new activity or event; practicing and perfecting each routine until all are confident in their ability to perform. I wondered how often Danny feels drug through life... a traveler on a journey he has no control over. And I realized that was the place for him.
In August my son will start Kindergarten in a Special Education class. He'll be surrounded by children with Autism and mental and physical disabilities. They will be his friends. He will thrive. And I will be a proud Mom. I'll be all whatever again for the next big thing.