Lessons in Special Parenting: Decisions, Decisions

This was the week we had to make the decision of which school to send Zoe to when kindergarten starts in the fall.

You may recall how I struggled with this when Amelia was younger. Her kindergarten experience did not fit her abilities in my opinion, and Seven Gen was not opened yet.  (A social butterfly like my Amelia does not belong in an autism class.) But Zoe is not Amelia.  Zoe cannot speak, she’s got a lot more sensory issues, she is shy and reserved, although still affectionate with trusted people.  She is only just starting to play appropriately with toys, sleep through the night, and handle crowds.  She still doesn’t play with her peers properly, doesn’t completely obey commands, and doesn’t draw properly, just scribbles lines.  On the upside, she is smart, has known her alphabet for several years, and can master puzzles easily. She loves to spell with preschool shows or even when Amelia is practicing.  All that is 100% different than Amelia at 5.

That means that full inclusion,  our only option at 7 Gen, will probably be challenging for her.  I thought it in her best interest to see what the local district was offering.  My neighbor said it was wonderful, and the program is run by Amelia’s special needs teacher from kindergarten, who I adore.  It was amazing! She really did a lot of work to set up the rooms and areas for the special needs kids. There were lots of disabled kids in that school, with a variety of challenges, and number of aides and therapists from the all the preschool programs my kids went to.  Not only that, but the kids who attend have the option of a great looking camp that’s close to home, with a pool, just for special needs kids, in the summer.  (7 Gen at present has no summer options yet, which means waiting lists or lotteries or first come, first serve or lots of money. I’m not keeping the kids home all summer, not again!)

On the other hand, 7 Gen is really good at inclusion…and they do a thing called “Responsive Classroom“.  It’s a bit complex to explain (it’s going to take at least 3 years to fully adopt the program), but RC is “what they  use” in terms of behavior. The first step in the program is called morning meeting.  All the children and teachers and aides meet first thing in the morning to interact and discuss. They are taught to be interested and look out for each other, to see their classmates and themselves.  It’s been wonderful for Amelia.  Today, she came home with a “best friend” sheet, where she named her best friend and drew a picture of him.   That was not possible in kindergarten.

I woke up thinking, “Wow. Maybe Zoe could really benefit from Morning Meetings.”  It was like, as Gru says, “LightBulb!”.

I don’t have all the answers. No parent does, and any decision is a crap shoot. With one school, she would have a program that would foster her academics but her inclusion could be minimal and has a plethora of assistive devices. At the other, she might struggle with learning her curriculum, but will fully learn social skill even if it’s difficult.

My lesson this week is simple:  The best we can do as parents is go with our gut, and correct mistakes down the road,  letting go the guilt of not having a crystal ball. There’s always a backup plan, and that’s nothing to worry about.

What decisions are you facing as you transition your child into their next school? Share your battles, difficulties and victories in schooling your child!