**Warning Rant Ahead****
Bridget started in a Montessori daycare within her first few months of life. Before we knew that our fragile daughter would soon become a ‘special’ child.
Transitioning at age three to an integrated preschool was difficult. She was nurtured at Montessori, they accepted her for where she was at her developmental age and they encouraged her growth. There were no labels, there were no educational plans or processes. She was just Bridget. I was so nervous the first day of preschool. I felt like I was leaving my baby, the one who had so many struggles, in a cold classroom. I wasn’t ready. She was, thankfully, more than ready to spread her wings.
She was barely off her pediatric walker, was using ASL and had three verbal words. Within in the first months her preschool teacher (who will one day be sainted) approached us about special education. She did it with kindness and grace. Told us what we needed to hear and offered solutions. Bridget continued in the preschool and began doing a dedicated special education program in the afternoons. She began to talk (now shouts), walk (now jumps) and became engaged in the classroom. She has friends. Friends that include her not because they have to but because she is Bridget, their friend from school.
Last spring we questioned kindergarten. I felt that although age-wise she qualified, developmental-wise there was no way she could transition. Her team, which includes the best preschool teacher, superior SPED teacher and educational support personnel (it should be exceptional support personnel) agreed. I believe there was one of them who said, hell no she isn’t going to kindergarten. We received a stay of execution. We were allowed to remain in a class where Bridget is so loved and known.
I was asked why I hadn’t returned the kindergarten registration forms. Truthfully I hadn’t given a thought to next year. We have a meeting scheduled for this spring to discuss next year’s placement. I thought I had at least another month before I had to figure out our next step. I want Bridget to go to kindergarten. I know she cannot stay in preschool until her teacher retires twenty years from now.
Truthfully I am not ready and I am terrified. I do not know who will be her new teacher. I do not know if her teacher will have that same spirit and thoughtfulness. This will be the first time in four years that Bridget will be in a classroom that is not fully integrated (50/50 ratio). I am terrified she will be one of 18 in a class who will need every lesson modified. I am anxious that the teacher will not laugh with me when I refuse to do the take the class teddy bear home project and hand it right back to her.
Bridget isn’t ready either. Unlike the transition from Montessori to preschool, this time Bridget is not ready to move on. While completing the paperwork I read “here are the skills children need as they enter kindergarten” (a sampling, I won’t bore you with the whole list):
- Say their first and last name (first she can do, last not so much)
- Hold a pencil or crayon like an adult (um, no)
- Say the ABC’s (um….A B B is for Bridget!)
- Print own name (she can’t even hold a pencil)
- Dresses self (nope!)
- Joins family in talks, converses easy (well, she converses but it doesn’t always make sense. Yesterday she told her OT that Abby fell off a horse and hit her head. Number 1, Abby has never fallen off a horse and number 2 Abby hasn’t been on a horse since September)
- Knows how to say I’m sorry (She can say she is sorry, but it is never in relation to anything she has to be sorry for)
- Presents information in an understandable way
- Identifies, counts and understands number concepts 1-10 (she can count to 7, though!)
She will not pass a kindergarten screening. I understand that. I understand that she is not the typical 5-6 year old entering into kindergarten and that she will not be a typical 12 year old entering sixth grade. The school knows that as well.
So why am I given the form? Why couldn’t they just say, Kerri fill out a one line form saying that Bridget will be attending school next year. That we know she is on an IEP and will be in some form of classroom/special education program but we still have to work out the particulars. It might be kindergarten, but it might be some other conceptual classroom where she can flourish. That they understand the reason why Bridget has done so well is her teachers no longer need an interpreter but understand what she is trying to convey. Something the new teacher will need to learn.
I know it wasn’t intentional. I get that there are boxes to be checked and a process to go through for the school. I just wish that it wasn’t so difficult. I wish I wasn’t so worried or that I feel nauseous that we are leaving a loving preschool program. That I have to be reminded, in black and white on a form, that my daughter will never be typical. I freaking tired (probably because I was up to midnight playing Scrabble) but I hate these forms. I hate that they ask my date of birth (unless they are sending me a gift card on my birthday for Flynn’s, then okay). I hate that they ask me what kind of SPED program she needs (776 or Title 1). I’m sure I should know that information, but I don’t. I just know that whatever SPED program she is in is working so don’t change it.
I even hate the home language survey. When asked if I require written information in my home language I said yes, doesn’t everyone? When asked who to contact in an emergency I wanted to write 911 (but controlled myself).
These forms don’t take into account who Bridget is, the milestones that she works so hard to accomplish. That this week David laughed and she said: “What funny dad”. She connected laughter with funny and we rejoiced. That isn’t on a school form. It shouldn’t be, in all honesty. I just wish we were able to give a clearer picture of who she is and what barriers she might decimate. That yes she will impact your classroom and your fellow students, but she will also enhance the class in ways you cannot comprehend.
I keep forgetting that life with Bridget will never be smooth sailing. That there will be moments like this, a kindergarten registration form, that will make me holding onto the rail and wanting to invest in motion sickness pills.
Thankfully those moments are balanced when my heart will explode with laughter as she puts her hands on her hips and sings alone with Elsa. When she tells Abby she wants a dance party and I hear them playing together. Something I never imagined just two years ago.
Then I remind myself she is more than a form and I won’t let that kindergarten registration form diminish who she is in my mind or my heart.