It took me months and months and months of discussion, thought, visits, worry, prayers, stress, and anxiety before I finally came to the conclusion that special ed preschool this fall is what would help Abigail the most. (Read it real time: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V) But as all moms know, there can sometimes be two layers of decision-making and once you determine what's best for the child, you have to get yourself there emotionally. So even though I knew that preschool is really more like 3 hours a day (4 days/week) of therapy, and I knew that Abigail would thrive there, and I knew that the teacher's experience will be able to help Abigail very quickly in ways it would take me months to figure out, I was still wondering if it was the right decision. Part of me kept arguing that I'm her mother and no one could help her better than I could.
All it took to get me ready for preschool emotionally was the terrible threes.
My gosh. This child has got oppositional issues that I am not equipped to handle. Two weeks ago we met with a child behavioral psychologist (Abigail gets free evaluations everyone so many years) and she noted that Abigail scored "abnormally high" in the repetitive oppositional behavior category. And of course all that is normal for a kid with Down syndrome. But it actually made me feel a little better to hear that! I was thinking I was becoming a terrible parent.
The second issue I'm stoked to have help resolving is the issue of her running. Running is more commonly found in kids with Autism, but I know of a few people in the Ds community who struggle with runners. Its when your child runs full-speed away from you. In an instant. And has no concept of danger. My only saving grace is that Abigail is not a very fast runner.
We were at a splash pad on Saturday and while I was feeding Eleanor while Matt kept his eye on Abigail. When she bolted out the exit, Matt watched her for a second before running after her and hauling her back. He told me later that he thought she would turn around and come back in the park. But she didn't turn around, he said, shocked. She didn't even look back. She was headed full-speed toward the parking lot. But that's Abigail - she'll slip out of a hand-hold and dart away at any time at any place. The grocery store, church, walking down the sidewalk. She doesn't seem to have any concept of cars as dangerous. It's gotten so bad that I don't walk alone around our apartment complex during the day anymore. Too often I've had to leave Eleanor in the stroller alone to run after Abigail. That's not safe for anyone.
Ms. N, the amazing, talented preschool teacher was telling us on our visit back in December that they work on walking in a line. First they all walk through the halls holding a rope, then they slowly drop the rope and walk along together in a straight line. Through the bustling halls of a school. With other kids and noise and stimulation. And somehow all the kids stay focused and walk in a straight line.
I'm trying to think of a simile here, an example to help convey my shock and disbelief. It was as if I'd told you I had a seeing eye cat. Or I'd trained an elephant to clean my apartment. What?! It's not possible. I have been working with Abigail for months and months and I still can't depend on her not to bolt from our front door when I'm locking it.
Preschool is the right thing for Abigail and as much as I'm sure I'll cry when I drop her off the first day, I'm totally stoked about it. The politically correct term right now is "developmentally delayed," but it doesn't really feel like Abigail's just delayed. She's not just at level 2 while everyone else is at level 3. She's not going to hit the same milestones as everyone else a bit later. It feels more like she's playing with a different deck of cards. Like she's trying to spend złotys when everyone else is using dollars. Ain't nothing wrong with złotys, they're just not what this country is designed to use. I need The Amazing Ms. N to show me how I can structure our house to play with both złotys and dollars.