Daniel at school

So, one of my very good friends is a para in Daniel’s classroom and y’all. It’s the best. Not only does she take adorable pictures of him working at school and text them to me, I get to hear all the GOOD stories.  

Like the time he took his PE icon off his schedule, walked over to the door, waved and said bye to the classroom, and then took off down the hall. (Going to PE. Obviously. He loves PE.) 

I also got to hear about the new para who, upon seeing Daniel shove most of a nutrigrain bar in his mouth and make a giant mess of the rest, said, “Well maybe his mom should teach him how to take one bite at a time.” You guys. I could not stop laughing. The idea that A) it’s that easy and B) WE’D NEVER TRIED TO TEACH HIM is just so ludicrous I’m not even offended. (He has never worked with developmentally delayed kids, nor does he have kids of his own. My friend was quick to tell him to NEVER EVER make a comment like that again EVER, but we laughed about it together. A lot.)

Anyway. It’s fantastic. And look how cute he is! 

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IEP & a kindergarten plan

Believe it or not, Daniel will be 5 next month. FIVE. I’m in denial. But my denial won’t stop it from happening, so when I had Daniel’s IEP meeting last Friday, it was also a kindergarten transition meeting. Even though he won’t be changing schools, (his preschool is at our home school) he will be changing therapy teams, because the preschool therapists only work with preschool kids. So! This meeting included everyone on his current team (PT, OT, SLP, & preschool teacher) and everyone who will be on his team next year (new PT, OT, & SLP, a kindergarten teacher, behavioral psychologist, and teachers from both the resource room and the intensive resource room. Plus some admin people. It was a full room.)

First we went over current goals (all going well, making progress) and discussed what he’ll be working on through the rest of this preschool year and during the Extended School Year (summer school.) He’s progressed enough in most areas that they’ll move from evaluating him against the 0-3 year scale to evaluating him against the 3-6 year scale. (That gives a pretty good idea where he’s at developmentally- he’s basically on par with a 3 year old for gross motor and fine motor, quite a bit further behind on social & communication skills.)

Next we went over the plan for kindergarten. The recommendation the team gave was to have Daniel placed in a traditional kindergarten classroom and also spend time in the Intensive Resource Room. The IRR is (you may have guessed) more intensive than the regular resource room. The benefits for Daniel are that the IRR provides daily therapy practice, in addition to being pulled out of class for speech/OT/PT, and provides him his own workspace for subjects where he is far enough behind his peers that it doesn’t make sense for him to be in the traditional classroom for those subjects. The IRR has its own teacher and is tiny, in terms of student numbers. (Currently only 2 kids are assigned to it, they are also both boys with Down syndrome, which made me smile.) They also provide music therapy, which I’m sure Daniel will LOVE. Daniel will also have a para (a helper) assigned to him who will be with him all day. (The IRR will also help train the para in how to incorporate Daniel’s therapy practice into his regular classroom stuff.) Kindergarten in our district is 1/2 day, unless you want to pay for full day. However, because Daniel needs so many therapies and extra help AND we want him to spend time with his typical peers, the team recommended on his IEP that he be placed in a full day class (with fees waived, since this is considered part of his services.) They gave a sample schedule to show how his day would go, and reassured me that he’d be spending more than half his day in the traditional classroom. It all sounds pretty great, and I feel sure Daniel will thrive.

Kindergarten! 3 kids in school ALL DAY LONG! Pretty crazy.

Just imagine I put a clever title here 

We went out tonight and ate some delicious, delicious BBQ, and now I’m so full and tired I have no energy for anything. So! Funny Will story for you. 

The other day Will had a homework page where he had to fill in the missing numbers. (Sequential number lists with blank spaces.) He had zero problems with this, didn’t ask any questions or need any help after I read him the instructions. Then at the bottom of the page it asked if this homework had been too easy, just right, or too hard. 

Will: it was hard! 

Me: What? How was it hard? You knew all the answers!

Will: Those sixes are hard to write. 

You got me there buddy. Got me there. 

Questions answered

I got a couple good questions on my Down syndrome awareness post, and today I’ll be answering them!

Laura asked how we explain Daniel’s Down syndrome to other kids. The cop-out answer is: mostly we haven’t had to. Because Daniel is still so young, many other kids don’t recognize that there’s anything different about him. Our kids have known since he was born that he has Down syndrome, but I’m not sure that even now they really know what that MEANS. Kalena recently asked me, “What is Down syndrome?” which is an easy question to answer- Down syndrome is a third copy of the 21st chromosome. I gave her a quick little biology lesson, hopefully simple enough that she understood. Then we talked about how having Down syndrome affects Daniel. My short answer here is that it makes things harder for him to do. We talked about the fact that Daniel has to work harder to learn things that come easily to other kids. I didn’t get into the medical aspects, because I’m pretty sure a 7 year old doesn’t care that people with Down syndrome are more likely to have hypothyroidism, or diabetes. Also pretty sure she doesn’t know what those are. Her next question was considerably harder to answer. “Is Down syndrome good? Or bad?” I said something super eloquent like, “Well…both.” Then we talked a lot about how Down syndrome makes Daniel who he is. We talked about how great it is to see Daniel learn new things, and be excited, and how enthusiastic he gets about things he likes. We talked about how much he loves people and how happiness is contagious. And we also talked about how frustrating it can be that Daniel bites or throws things when he’s angry. We talked about how it’s hard sometimes because he takes a long time to learn and follow the rules. And we talked about the fact that many people out there do think of Down syndrome as bad. At the end I asked her what SHE thought, and she said, “Well, I think some things are good and some things are bad.” Which pretty much sums up life in general. (She then wrote about having a brother with Down syndrome for a school assignment. Because, she said, she wanted other people to know about Down syndrome.)

Then Jess asked about Daniel’s therapies! And she may be sorry she asked because I LOVE talking about this stuff. (I try not to bore people, but yeah.) So! Yes he has aged out of Early Intervention. EI ends at age 3, (pretty sure that’s true across the US) at which point kids are reevaluated to see if they qualify for continued services. If they do (and in many states Down syndrome means automatic qualification) services start through the school district. The district we’re in has a large preschool program at one main building, and then a couple of elementary schools have programs at the school buildings. I think generally if your home school has a program that’s where they will send you, but I’m not totally sure because I know other kids in our neighborhood who go to the other building. Sooooo… Anyway. Our home school DOES have a program and that’s where Daniel goes. I’m super glad it worked out this way because it means all the kids are at one school, and Daniel will be familiar with the school by kindergarten (is already familiar, actually- would NOT let us walk past his classroom on back to school night. HAD TO GO IN!) and that the staff will get to know Daniel right from the start. Side note- the big kids tell me every time they see Daniel at school. Preschool and kindergarten have the same recess time, so Will often sees him on the playground, and Kalena’s 2nd grade classroom happens to be next door to Daniel’s preschool room, so sometimes she sees him in the hall.

Transitioning Daniel to preschool was great. We met with our EI caseworker person, plus his primary therapist (his PT, who I still miss) and a district liaison person to set up goals/talk about what kind of support we thought he’d need in preschool. Then I met with the liaison and his preschool teacher for a little meet & greet (with Daniel) in the preschool classroom. Daniel thought that was awesome and was sure we didn’t need to leave. Those meetings happened before he started going to school (which actually happened a couple weeks before he turned 3.) Then, shortly after he turned 3 I met with his preschool team: teacher, physical therapist, occupational therapist, and speech therapist, for his first IEP. They have kids start coming a couple weeks before they turn 3, so that at the first IEP they’ve had a chance to observe, which makes picking goals a lot easier. I didn’t know what to expect from his IEP, but it’s essentially the same as his IFSP meetings when he was in early intervention. (IEP= Individualized Education Plan and IFSP= Individualized Family Services Plan.) He currently works with each therapist for 40 min a week (I think. Pretty sure that’s right.) Each therapist is there on a different day. The rest of his preschool time is spent with the other kids in his class, half of whom are other special needs and half of whom are typical kids or “peer models.” I’m a fan of the mixed group. We definitely want Daniel to be mainstreamed as much as possible, so to see it start while he’s still in preschool is wonderful.

Right now we’re not doing other therapies outside of school. We work on his goals at home, of course, but he’s making good progress and at this point I don’t think additional therapy would increase that progress any. We may do some in the future, though. There are a couple places here I’ve heard good things about (particularly for kids with Down syndrome) and if at some point we feel like the therapies he’s getting at school aren’t enough we will definitely look into those.

Oh! Also, he qualifies for bussing to/from school as part of his services and I’m not sure which he likes more- school, or BUS RIDE! He loves the bus. The preschool bus has car seats, so we put him on and get him buckled in and every day before we’re finished buckling him he’s saying, “Bye! Bye!” and waving in our face like, “Get off my bus I’ve got places to go!” So yeah. It’s excellent.

Daniel’s IEP

So! Daniel started preschool! Did I mention this? At age 3, kids “graduate” early intervention and if they are still in need of services, they start getting them through the school district. Which means, PRESCHOOL! Daniel actually started a couple weeks before his birthday, to give the teachers time to observe him so we could set reasonable goals for his IEP.

Unrelated to the IEP meeting, Daniel LOOOOOVES school. Loves it. So much that I can’t get him dressed on non-school days, because getting dressed means GO TO SCHOOL! Or, at the very least, go somewhere in the car. He goes Monday through Thursday from 8 ish to noon ish. I think school hours are actually more like 8:45 to 11:15, but his bus picks him up about 8:15 and drops him off about 11:45. The bus! He rides the bus! He LOOOOVES the bus. His bus is just for the preschool kids, so it has carseats and comes right to our house. It’s pretty great. Anyway! Back on topic.

His IEP meeting happened just before his birthday, and although “First IEP Meeting” seems intimidating, it really was not much different from his IFSP meetings, which have been happening since he was 8 weeks old. (For those who don’t know, IEP stands for individualized education plan and IFSP stands for individualized family services plan.) Anyway, I met with his preschool teacher, our coordinator, and the therapists he’ll see at school. (Physical, occupational, and speech.) His main goals for PT are to work on jumping, running, and lifting his feet higher when he walks so he can step over things, and step up onto a stair, etc. He’s doing pretty well with his OT stuff, the big thing we want to work on is eating with utensils, but that’s much more about behavior than fine motor skills. His speech teacher wants him to be able to name more objects (we talked specifically about using more signs.) The goal is (I think) 8 signs during a 15 minute period. She said he can definitely do that during snack time, but doesn’t do many signs during the rest of class. She asked if any of his previous speech therapists had talked to me about using more naming signs instead of just “more” or “please” when he wants something. I told her we haven’t actually had any speech therapists who did signing and that all the ones he knows are signs I’ve taught him. She was pretty pleased with that, and said she’d send a list of other signs that would be good for him to learn.

And there you have it! I could be more detailed if I bothered to go find my notes from the meeting, but meh. It’s late. I was going to add a picture, but wordpress has other ideas. SORRY.

 

school tidbits

I know we’re not even a week into school over here, but I have Thoughts. So that’s what you get today, aren’t you EXCITED?!

  • Okay, deciding to bus Kalena has been the BEST EVER. I’m seriously so glad we did this. Not having to go anywhere is excellent. Plus it means only Kalena has to be ready to go anywhere by a certain time. I can see her bus stop from our front door, so usually Will and I just watch from the front porch until we see her get on the bus. I’d been walking down to the stop in the afternoons to make sure she got off at the right spot, but yesterday her bus was early and she got home about the time I was putting my shoes on. Whoops!
  • Kalena lost her only pair of tennis shoes. She wore them to school on the first day and when I asked her to find them yesterday (because it was a PE day) they were gone. Brian and I scoured the house last night looking for them and turned up NADA. They’re just gone. Poof. She needed new shoes anyway because those were getting too small, but I’m seriously annoyed that I had to go buy some because she LOST hers. And seriously, WHERE ARE THEY?! (This is going to bug me forever.)
  • I knew that I would miss Kalena’s help during the day with the babies. I had not realized how much I would miss having her here for Will to talk to. Because HOLY COW that kid never stops talking! All day long he talks at me! I’ve gotten into a bad habit of just responding “mmhmm” to everything. Or sometimes he ends with something like, “You say ‘yes’ mama” and then I do without even knowing what I’m saying yes to. It’s terrible and I know I should be listening better but OH MY GOSH JUST STOP TALKING FOR 2 SECONDS.
  • The school sent home a list of “approved” snack foods and it is so weird to me. First of all, they don’t care what kids bring in their lunches, but they have specified foods (including brand!) that are okayed for daily snack. And I guess this is because snacks are eaten in the classroom? So they’re trying to avoid allergy problems? (I assume there’s an allergy-safe table in the cafeteria or something.) Also, they’ve differentiated between “daily snack” food and “special occasion” food which I TOTALLY get except that the way they’re split up does not seem logical to me. For instance, some foods included in the “daily snack” section: Marshmallow mateys cereal. Handi-snack pudding. Cocoa Roos cereal. Jello cups. Capri Sun juices. Hot chocolate. And some foods that are considered “special occasion” foods: Clif Bar fruit ropes. Pretzels. Animal crackers. What is going on here?!
  • Kalena takes her lunch to school which is super easy for me since PB&J is all she ever wants to eat anyway. Now I don’t have to feel bad about it. Also, I don’t have to deal with daily arguments about whether we’ll be having PB&J or mac & cheese (Will’s favorite.)
  • As much as the schedule sucked, I’m glad last year was only half days. Kalena is CLEARLY exhausted by the end of the day. Not that it’s changed her wake up time at all.

There. Aren’t you glad you stuck around for all those deep thoughts?

Day 1

Kalena starts first grade today, and somehow that seems SO much older than kindergarten. Maybe it’s that she’ll be gone from 8 to 4, or maybe it’s that I packed her a lunch, or maybe it’s watching her get on a school bus instead of dropping her off, but whatever the reason, today seemed very official.

Kalena is thrilled by it all. On Tuesday we picked up her school supplies (we purchased through the school when we registered her) and got them organized. We also got to meet her teacher and see her classroom. (She has her own desk! No more tables!) And we bought her a school shirt- she picked a hoodie, pink of course. (She wants to wear it already. High today in the 80s. Sooooo…no.)

Here she is, ready to go!

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She has nothing in her backpack, but she still wanted to carry her lunchbox. The novelty will wear off soon, I’m sure. Also, she insisted on taking hand sanitizer so she could use it before eating. (That’s what’s hanging from the lunchbox handle.) I’m torn between thinking this is a great idea and worrying that we’re making her into a germaphobe. (Mostly I think great idea.)

 

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Getting on the bus! We live close enough to the school that we have to pay to bus her, but according to my calculations we’ll spend less to bus her than to drive back and forth to her school twice a day. Plus, not having to load and unload 4 kids multiple times a day will save my sanity. And we can see her bus stop from our front door!

 

Anyway, here’s to a great year!

Kindergarten

Well, Kalena started kindergarten on Monday. On the one hand I can’t believe it’s here already, on the other, she’s been excited to start since her last day of preschool in May. It’s a little surreal, because she’s going to kindergarten at the same school where *I* went to kindergarten. Sadly they’ve changed the bussing boundaries so now we live too close for her to ride the bus. (I always rode the bus.) Fortunately Brian’s schedule is such that he can drop her off in the mornings, so I only have to worry about picking her up. Anyway, here she is, ready to go for her first day!

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Side story: I don’t know if you can tell from this picture, but Kalena lost another tooth. (The one right next to the last one she lost.) She lost it in her sleep one night, and we’re guessing she swallowed it since she and my mom looked diligently but never found it. Then we totally failed as parents because we COMPLETELY FORGOT to play tooth fairy. Luckily my mom did NOT forget, and Kalena got fifty cents for the picture she left for the tooth fairy in lieu of her tooth. I forgot so thoroughly that when she came in to our room the next morning all excited about her two quarters it took me a minute to comprehend what she was talking about. WHOOPS. (This is why we can never move out.)

Back to kindergarten. Around here kindergarten is half day, which is fine by me. Kalena goes to the morning session, 8:45-11:50. That works out well for me since Daniel naps at 9. However, it’s finally setting in that she’ll be in school EVERY DAY. Which means I should probably get into some kind of routine with Will. And that routine should probably not be: let Will watch dinosaur documentaries all morning every day while Kalena is in school. (Though I’m sure HE wouldn’t object.) Anyway, Kalena is LOVING it so far. Hopefully that keeps up!

Preschool graduation

Yes, I think “graduating” from preschool is unnecessary and a little over the top, but it is also adorable, so we participated. (Also: cupcakes.)

Here I am with Kalena before we left. I’m not sure if it’s my dress or my posture making me look pregnant here. Maybe both. (Also maybe cupcakes.)

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And here’s Kalena after “graduation” was over.

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It was pretty cute actually, they did a kind of end of the year program thing where the kids sang a couple songs for us. They also had cute little graduation caps, but all the pictures I took with Kalena wearing hers include people who may not want me posting their picture on the internet. So that’s all you get!