“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”
The day before Caleb turned 3 I met with the school district to discuss Caleb’s eligibility to start pre-k in August (a year earlier than usual) and to prepare his Individual Education Program (IEP). I sat in the meeting with school board executives, special needs educators, occupational therapists and speech therapists to discuss Calebs strengths and challenges and what it would mean for him to start school at the age of 3 years old.
I was proud and beaming as I bragged about his love for ABCs and 123s, since his initial assessment he’d gone from counting to 20 to counting to 50 and up to 100 if he counted by 10s. I told them about his interest in different languages and how Octagon was his favorite shape. I also had to tell them about his challenges and my concerns. Caleb wasn’t eating well still and not using utensils. At the time he was still having aggressive outbursts and I was worried about his interaction with other little ones. (Still traumatized from daycare) I told them that I thought Caleb may do better sitting close to the teacher and would definitely need lots of attention and affection. It’s what he was used to home and at ABA.
By the end of the meeting I was feeling optimistic. Everyone in the room was encouraging and put me at ease. They reminded me that this would NOT be like daycare and that his teachers have trained and worked many years with kiddos like Caleb. There was nothing that I mentioned that would be new to them.
In fact based on his at-home evaluation they’d determined that Caleb no longer needed occupational therapy and that he would only receive additional speech therapy in his classroom. This was great progress! They’d also decided to enter him into the school system as “developmentally delayed” and not AUTISTIC in the system. Did this mean he was no longer autistic? No! It meant that they believe he could handle the majority of normal pre-k tasks and that by kindergarten he could even be integrated into a normal class and not a special needs classroom. All of this was premature yet positive and I was a happy mama!
We’d already seen great improvement in some of his behaviors from ABA, specifically his aggression towards others. This was my main hesitation with school, other children and Calebs lack of socialization skills. He’s always liked the presence of other children just not the children themselves and that had not changed with ABA. At least not at this moment.
In mid July it was time to register him for school, I drove onto the campus of this K-8 elementary school and everything looked large…extra large compared to my tiny baby. Once registered the lady handed me a school supply list, parent/teacher orientation information and his uniform requirements….“I’m sorry you must be mistaken he’s only 3 and will be here 3 days a week.”
“No ma’am we are a uniformed campus even for our little ones.” She smiled a little which told me I probably wasn’t the only one a little surprised by this.
No! No! Hell No! I wasn’t ready for uniforms, school buses (which I declined) and school supply lists! My baby just turned 3! (I was officially losing it!) He could probably teach a kindergarten class but he wasn’t even eating with a spoon or a fork! He wasn’t potty trained and as of right now potty was a fun game to flush loads of toilet paper(more to come on that). She continued on about the drop off and pick up lines around by the cafeteria and I completely blanked out. This was no nursery school, this was elementary school and my baby was headed off in a few short weeks.
I smiled and thanked her but internally I was rolling my eyes. The poor lady was spending her last days of summer in the school office with unprepared parents and I had made her my arch nemesis in my mind…hahaha!
I took my papers and went home to countdown the days for the first day of school. Was he really ready? He was doing Pre-k prep at ABA. He was experiencing table time and circle time, he played with/around friends. We referred to ABA as school anyway and he loved going. He would ask for his therapists on weekends and days he didn’t go. School should be just another easy transition..right?! Sure! Ok.
I felt silly and overwhelmed but I knew Gemma would calm my nerves and reassure me that this was what’s best…yeah right! My mom was not having it! I think she lost it at the uniform part also and I was so happy she had not come with me to the school to register. For days after she looked at his baby pictures and made comments like “Oh he was just on the changing the table.” and “Does he HAVE to go? Or can we just wait until he’s 4?”
Oddly enough her dramatics did make me feel better and did reassure me that the time was now! We had to rip the bandaid off for both Caleb AND Gemma!
She was right though, he was just a tiny baby laying on the changing table.