Thursday, June 6, 2013

The kindergarten graduate ...




And just like that. Another school year over. And the youngest Needham has bid adieu to kindergarten.


And we of course leave with a mix of emotions. This place, these people, have been our safe haven for the last 3 years. But the time has come to move on. The decision on where Zoey would attend first grade was not an easy one. In the end, we opted for a school about a half hour away. It is a school exclusively for children with special needs. All levels of disability. I walk in the door of the building and I feel like I am with my "people". It's where I belong and more importantly, it is where I believe Zoey belongs. At least I think so. At least I hope so.


One of our other options put her at a school literally, a 2 minute walk from our house. But the program was relegated to a portable unit, set out on the schools blacktop and the space was just not ideal. Far from it actually. Convenient? Absolutely. Right for Zoey? My gut told me no. I do have to tell you, that it was a truly heart wrenching day, when I toured the different options available to us for Zoey's placement next year. Reality was just difficult when it was, no way around it, right in your face.




 We could of course go the full inclusion route, but, and I might get back lash from those within my special needs community, but the full inclusion deal, was just not worth the fight. The teacher was freaked. The school district was more freaked and I have to say, I just am not up for the fight. From the powers that be or from the parents who would have, without a doubt, felt that my child's presence in that classroom will take away from their typical child's learning experience. But you know what? I understand that to some tiny degree. Zoey can be loud. Zoey clicks her tongue and sucks on her tongue, at a decibel you would not believe. She does not speak so the only way she can get your attention is to scream or grab you or pinch you. I would imagine that those things, as well as others, might be disruptive at times in a classroom. I get that. I don't like it. But I understand it.



 The next option presented to us was a "special day class". It is a classroom that has children with disabilities but ... their disabilities, and again, some may not like this, the majority of kids in that class were much more "abled" then Zoey. In our area, in the school she is at right now, Zoey, as we say it sometimes, is the most "specialist" of all. This is a true statement. I stood in the back of the classroom and watched centers being done on the day I toured the special day class. Kids were doing sight word reading and letter tracing and even early math skills and I thought to myself, what in the hell would they do with Zoey? And the thing is, THEY, didn't have the answer. They have never had a child like Zoey in that classroom, so therefore there is no curriculum in place nor did it seem as though they were willing or anxious to implement one for her either. The teacher was nice. The classroom was as typical as they come but my child, would just get lost in the shuffle day to day. Add the gtube feeding, the spoon feedings and the diaper changing and well, deers in headlights is the only analogy I can come up with.


So, I'll take my child and go. To place that for now seems right. Thinking about catching an aid up to speed on Zoey and her particulars seems daunting right now so I think I will just not think about it. I think I will instead focus on this precious child. We will soak in family time and beach days and the rest, the rest will come soon enough.  

22 comments:

Claudia said...

This girl is so adorable. Everytime I see her I just want to hug and kiss her. You have to do that for me!
It will be the right way in the end, although the other option would be more convenient, you listend to you inner voice what´s best for her...and so it will be.

Sending you love!

Meg said...

She looks great and you have made a very thoughtful and good decision for her future. What is most important is finding the best fit for Zoey - and hopefully you have. enjoy the summer!

Karol said...

aaaahhh. A tough decision indeed. And I have decided that... really....there is no absolute right or wrong in this decision. Let's face it, these kiddos of ours aren't going to grow up to be doctors or educators or architects. I'm ducking the backlash already for that comment. But really, let's not try to fool ourselves. These children will remain children forever. And so we do what feels right in the place in our gut. We make the decision and we find peace there. Love and kisses to sweet Zoe from afar.

Reagan Leigh said...

She's such a doll! Anyone would be LUCKY to have her in their classroom!!!

colleen said...

Sounds like a well thought out and very reasonable way to make a decision for your child. My neighbor two doors down had her child picked up every morning so she could take a school car over an hour away w/out traffic(one way) each day. The irony of this is that my town is known for its special needs services... people move here from other towns after having a child w/ special needs because the educational services are so good... but not for the hearing impaired. Turns out a school district an hour away does a much better job- and my neighbor had to go to court to get it covered - so she and her husband did! You have to find the best fit for your child and it sounds like your school was honest about not having any experience in meeting Zoey's needs. My school district would have had a great program for a child like Zoey - thank goodness you don't have to travel too awfully far. Heck my sister sent her son to preschool 1/2 hour away in Atlanta just because it was the right fit ( typical kid!)Love the pics... Congratulations to both you and zoey!

Elizabeth said...

Those are easily the cutest damn photos of Zoey EVER! EVAH! Congratulations on this milestone passed and now onward -- it's all going to be ok. Trust me. It will be.

Laura W said...

When I say I went school shopping I don't mean for supplies. Last year I just felt there was a better situation for my Sophia and after many visits searching schools I knew instantly when I walked in the right fit for her. You'll always know what's best for Zoey and never worry what the "we know the correct milieu" crowd thinks. There's no one size fits all.

Zoey is gorgeous and tough cookie. BTW, Zoey and Sophia had the same wonderful Dr. Starnes repair their AV canal - I wonder how many are in that special club now.

Scrappy quilter said...

Our girl is growing up and oh so beautiful. Heather, go with your gut, it usually always turns out right. She is going to blossom even more. I can't wait to see where she goes from here. Love that girl to bits. Hugs

Anonymous said...

It brings tears to our eyes. Sh is so sweet!! Hugs and kisses. BruBarb

Cammie Heflin said...

ZOEY DOES TOO SPEAK!!! I've heard her multiple times my dear friend!!! I a so happy for you and your decision, I know it will be perfect for Miss Zoey, Slow and Steady :) She is so amazing and is going to thrive in first grade! We love you Zoey, congratulations on moving upward and onward!

Bea Braun said...

All of a sudden Zoey is looking older! 1st grade I can't believe it. If it's the VCOE school I'm thinking of you are going to love it. Exceptionally compassionate and caring professionals. But now it's time to let them all sleep in, stay in their pajamas, afternoon movies, going for yogurt, playing in the waves and soaking up the sun :) Seriously looking forward to summer!

Anonymous said...

I LOVE, LOVE these photos, altho the one with the graduation cap is my favorite! She looks so proud and happy. I think you have made the right decision for placement, The transportation will be a bit of a twist with the boys still in their schools, but in the end it sounds like the best choice for her.

love & hugs

bluebelle

So looking foreword to seeing everyone in a few weeks at the wedding...

blogzilly said...

You know it is funny that you often say to me privately (and yes I am outing you, but you can choose to hit publish or not, your call) that you perceive yourself in this world of blogging as somehow lesser than other bloggers because of some idea of how you write.

I've never "gotten" it, never believed it, never accepted it. It's a self-evaluation that I think is just misguided. Look at the following you have, look at the comments you get, look at the emotion you elicit.

Your style is just...different. I tell my friend Richard this all the time, who does the same thing, tries to compare while at the same time self-deprecates...everybody has their unique gifts for self-expression, they are all just different. Yours is a realness that comes through, a window into your family life that is, to me, unequaled. IN fact were I forced to give an example to someone of a blog that is real and open about some of these decisions and hardships, I would point them here.

Our kids will be headed in opposite directions...that's funny isn't it? After this new two months of the 55 minute drive be will be 5 minutes away, and yours will be 30 minutes away, and Zoey is going into a Special Needs only school, and Bennett if coming out of one. I'm scared for Bennett...I think he needs to be in the Special Needs only school. But it is just too far now. Anyway, I'm in paragraph 4 so I have to stop writing. :)

Lindsay Marie said...

What a huge milestone for Zoey! She inspires me :)

Bea, OT said...

Sounds like you made the right decision for Zoey and her happiness. I worked in a special needs only school, specifically for Autism, and there are some major benefits. I was able to do treatments specifically tailored for my student within the classroom! I saw amazing progress!

In my experience as a therapist and now as a mother of a special needs child, I believe that each child has their own road and our job is to be a guide. We cannot make decisions based on what works for others, we must make decisions based on our child's needs, wherever that leads. It seems you have done just that!

Zoey looks gorgeous!

Kristin said...

Yay for kindergarten graduates! I have been a ball of stress over ESY for Max. So dumb, but so not. I finally opted to not, and am so relieved. He is doing ABA therapy this summer, so I think I made the right choice. Guess we'll never really know, huh? Aahhh. So many decisions, and we're only in preschool! ha.

Jennifer Sullivan said...

aww she is indeed a pretty munchkin! The innocence in her eyes is priceless! So proud of her to know that she is a junior kindergarten graduate now :) yaaay... A lot of beautiful things are in store for her for sure. God bless her beautiful heart :)

krlr said...

I cannot fathom any backlash. You know your child the best and it sounds like you found the right place for HER. That's the very definition of an individualized plan, er, place. I've seen others shyly announce their slightly-less than fully included plans & then duck for cover & I've then read the scolding posts assuming that kids with Ds MUST be "included", like there's a happy place filled with unicorns that we're denying them. It just makes me angry. If it were easy we wouldn't need the damn meetings to begin with.

Rant over. Congratulations Zoey! Sorry about the drive, mom. Happy summer!

May said...

Parents are there to decide what is best for their children. You are anointed by God for that for Zoey. It is a blessed decision. Enjoy your break :)

Tish Hearne said...

Beautiful post about a remarkably beautiful girl. I loved seeing you today. My Zoey takes my breath away. <3

Cole said...

xooxxoox- Congratulations dear Zoey! Maddie's graduation was very emotional for me this year too! I'm so glad you made a decision that you feel happy with- that's the point of the IEP- or should be- that it isn't cookie-cutter one way or not- full inclusion or self-contained. That you are the head of your team steering what you know is right for your child. I'm so glad that you have a decision that you feel good about. Much love to you and to Zoey! And so glad for her recent healthy check friend!

Life and Times . . . said...

As a teacher, I find your decision highly admirable. Not because Zoey would be disruptive in an inclusion classroom, believe me "regular" kids can be highly disruptive, but because you took the time to really look at the situation and do what was best for her. I once taught a child with severe autism. He was very low functioning, wasn't fully toilet trained, and was, with the exception of about 1-2 hrs a day, fully mainstreamed. I loved him. The kids loved him. Everyone took care of him, but in a class of 22 fourth graders at various levels of both academics and maturity, I to this day feel that he received a huge disservice in my classroom. I guess some might have considered him disruptive, since his verbal communication was limited and not always appropriate. But that wasn't the issue. The issue was (and is) that I had to split my time between 22 kids when he needed so much more one-on-one than I could give him. The issue was that he wasn't learning on his level, and when I think about it, I just hope he learned something. The issue was that the whole system was failing him because we just didn't have the resources, and quite honestly, I didn't have nearly enough training to teach him properly. Sorry for the rant. My point is this, Zoey is a beautiful and adorable little girl. I can imagine that any teacher will fall in love with her, but sometimes love isn't enough. You need teachers that get her and understand her and are able to work with her as much as possible. No matter what anyone says, in the end, you have to do what's best for Miss Zoey.