I was able to gloss over the whole, "Your child's receptive communication skills are at the level of a X-month-old" part and we spent most of the time focusing on preschool. Usually everyone hands me their 2-3 page report and we go over it line-by-line. "Abigail's self-help skills are..." "Abigail's fine motor skills are..." It's impossible to ignore and gloss over the age equivalency. People tell me all the time, the paper means nothing, it's just a number, it doesn't change who Abigail is, yada yada yada. 99% of the time, it comes from the mouth of someone who has never had to talk about their child's levels of cognitive impairment. My brain knows the numbers on the paper aren't important. But that doesn't change a $%^#@*&^ thing about the way my heart hears it.
But anyway, we've been through almost a dozen of these meetings (we go through them every time we arrive and leave a state/county and every 6 months if we're in the same area for that long), and this one was the easiest to bear. There were so many people and since the main focus was on transitioning her to preschool, we didn't have time to line-by-line everyone's reports. They gave me copies. I haven't decided if I'm going to read them or just burn them yet. But no one gave me a hard time about the damn bus.
The meeting even got me excited about preschool again. Everyone was all, "Oh Ms. N's classroom has an open-door policy - you can pop in whenever you want!" I can even volunteer to help out in the classroom if I want. They are all perfectly fine (or at least they say they are fine) with me dropping her off and hanging around a few minutes or showing up a few minutes early to watch them wrap up each day. Seeing all the therapists and the special ed director and teacher made me realize that it's a misnomer to even call it preschool. It's nothing like what most kids do in mainstream preschool, what with the writing of the name, the learning of the alphabet, and the learning to color in the lines. It's more like an intensive therapy through life skills in a play setting clinic. During gym time, she'll learn how to self-propel a ride-on toy. During snack time, they'll work on getting in and out of a chair independently, combining words, and making complete sentences. During art class, she'll learn how to use and manipulate a pencil and scissors. How to peel off a sticker. How to control her muscles when she applies pressure to things. Sometimes I think to myself, "There is no reason I can get some books from the library and teacher her those things myself!" But the truth is, I'd be re-inventing the wheel. I'd stumble a lot. I'd waste time and make mistakes. And un-teaching a bad habit in Abigail is incredibly difficult. But Ms. N? She's been doing this for a while. She's taught scores of children with Down syndrome. She's pretty good at determining learning styles and has a huge database of ways to encourage kids to blossom from years worth of practice. And she's fluent in sign language.
If all this sounds like I'm justifying my decision, it's because I am. My brain knows that preschool is the right choice for Abigail this fall, but my heart is still running in over-protective mode. It needs to be coaxed a bit. Abigail will thrive. And what we decide to do in the 2014-2015 school year does not have to be what we do forever. We can send her to special ed or mainstream preschool next year, we could pull her out completely and give her a year off before Kindergarten, we could homeschool a regular preschool curriculum. All the doors are always open.
Anyway, all of this means that Abigail is almost done receiving therapy in the home. After three years of weekly therapy, things are finally coming to an end. She has one more occupational and one more speech therapy appointment left before her third birthday. We get really attached to most of her therapists. Whenever we move, I usually keep texting her old therapists for a few months until she conquers whatever skills we were working so hard on at the time of the move. Abigail's therapists always see her for who she really is. That means a lot to me. Every mom can relate to loving those who love our kids. I don't see many people who love Abigail for who she really is, so when we find someone, they really mean a lot to me.
Anyway, we are going to proceed as if we are sending Abigail to special education preschool in September. We may change our minds at the last minute, but this way, if we don't, we have all of our ducks in a row. We are even going to work on backpack training over the summer. Our physical therapist gave us a list of goals: taking it on and off and wearing it with the weight of a folder in it. I'm kind of excited to pick out Abigail's first backpack and first school folder. Does anyone know if Lisa Frank is still in business?
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Random side-notes for all those waiting for the day they see a pic and hear the good news:
-I'm 38 weeks 1 day pregnant (this is my third pregnancy and I've never been this pregnant before. Kind of funny to think about)
-The doctor's original prediction was for this Saturday, so I still might have a few days to go
-My body is still acting very "about to go into labor" what with the back pain, Braxton hicks, and slight cramping on a daily basis (I bet I'm going to be ridiculously dilated by the time real labor starts)
-Two random strangers noticed that the baby has dropped
-All of the looming appointments that would need to be rescheduled if I gave birth early are now over, so anytime after I pick Matt up from work today would be a wonderful time to go into labor. I am going to try very hard not to need the car between now and giving birth. Matt keeps assuring me he can always take a cab home, but I'd really rather he just have the car.