Friday, March 11, 2011

Reid's "Typical" Preschool Placement... Letter to the Parents

One of the reasons I started blogging and became so interested in other blogs was because as a parent of a child with special needs I have found that "other special needs parents" are my best resource. I have found this time and time again to be true and have gleaned some really useful information from others.... how lucky am I that the Down syndrome community is riddled with fabulous mom and dad bloggers who are fierce researchers and information seekers and that they share their findings so that we might all benefit from that our kids benefit from it. It is really a beautiful and powerful thing!

So, in that vein there is something that I wanted to share that I have not thoroughly put out there....and that is Reid's preschool placement. As he was nearing 3 back in 2009 we knew his IEP with the school district was soon to be here, near Christmastime, and the school would recommend a special needs preschool setting for him.... however, we had always said that IF he could handle it we wanted Reid to go to the same typical preschool that Luke went to. Our philosophy was that in a typical setting the typical peer speech and behavior models would be great for him. Long story short... we started Reid at Luke's old school in September of 2009 @ age 2 3/4 ....once the IEP came around in December we were already convinced that this placement was working out beautifully for him so he remained there all year on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We said, "No thank you" to the school districts preschool recommendation but said, "Thank you very much" when they agreed that he would receive speech 2x/week at what would have been his district home school, as well as OT 1x/week. This year we bumped Reid to a MWF class and again.... this little guy is thriving and we are so grateful for his loving and encouraging teachers he has who just adore him and rejoice with me/him when he reaches yet one more milestone.... what more could a mom ask for! ...ok, quick brag moment....I happened to pop in at school the other day as Reid was painting at the easel... instead of the usual paint "scribbles" ...though very artistic in their own right ;), this time he had painted perfect circles all over the paper....all different colors.... we all commented on it and then his teacher busted out a, "Reid, now you need to write your name on the paper" he had never done this fact we've never even asked him to do that before BUT.....we all squealed and hugged each other when this little guy made an attempt to paint letters on top of his paper and with each "letter" which looked more like tiny circles but still he was getting the concept...he then accurately said R_ E_ I_ D .....Eeek, so super exciting for him, and us!!!!

Another thing I wanted to share is a letter we had emailed to the families in his class. If you are going to do "full inclusion" it might not be a bad idea to make contact with the other families in the class so there is a comfort factor there for others and they know you are approachable and welcome any questions they might have. We are very fortunate in that we have been blessed with some amazing families in Reid's class and when we sent the following letter we had parents respond back ...insert watery eyes here... actually thanking us for having him there and for what it was teaching their child. Side note.... this did not go out at the beginning of the year as I had intended, time got away from me so I sent it out as we first came back from Christmas vacation...

Here goes our letter....

January 3rd, 2011

Dear __(name of school)__ Friends,

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and New Year!

I am writing because I have some pictures of your children that I have been meaning to forward to you... that I took when I spent some time here and there in class. Time keeps getting away from me and so I decided I needed to get these over to you before any more time flies by! I will forward each of you the pictures that I have of your child later today.

I also wanted to take this time to say thank you..... thank you for being so loving and supportive of Reid.

Bringing a child with special needs to a "typical" preschool is a scary thing for a parent. We have worried about many things...will my child be accepted, is it the right fit, is it meeting his needs, is he able to make friends? It may not even be necessary to explain why we chose _______ for him but thought I'd let you know a little bit about our thought process... For Reid, having Down syndrome means he will have to work a little harder to learn to do things and it will take a little longer than a "typically developing child" but he'll get there. For him, one of those milestones that will take a little longer is being able to talk. Our philosophy is that being in a typical preschool class provides typical peer speech models that will help him to develop these skills. We have found research that also supports this but for us what we have witnessed the last two weeks with him home over vacation is the proof we needed. Our little guy has just started to explode with words... beginning with the Christmas program where all our cuties marched on stage with heir little halos to sing. My husband and I both looked at each other in that room with pools of water in our eyes when we saw Reid actually singing the words to the songs, he had never put that many words together before. He has walked around the house all vacation breaking into the songs and prattling on with stories which we are not always sure exactly what he is saying (although one of his new phrases is "HOE-leeeee cow" so apparently he is talking about something big and exciting) ....but he is trying to communicate and he now has the concept of adding multiple words to his thoughts....this is huge developmentally and again I say thank you because it is because of your children... they are the best speech therapists we could ask for! :)

The second reason we chose __________ is because we live here in the neighborhood and Reid will be going to school locally with many of the children. Reid will stand out all of his life because of his extra chromosome but our hope for him is that by being in a typical setting early on he will gain friends and allies who will look out for him and who will know that he is not any different than them. ....and this is where I thank your children! There have been many moments this year that have totally melted my heart, like when we came to school late one day because of dropping my older son off and as we got there Miss _____ told a particular little boy that Reid was now there so he could show him something he had brought and had wanted to show my son... I watched as this little boy pulled a Mickey Mouse out of his back pack to show Reid and watched Reid put his little hand up to his mouth in excitement and the two of them had this sweet exchange.... That was just so precious that even though Reid's words are limited he knew enough about my son to know that that would make Reid squeal with excitement. That is just one of many stories that have helped me to take a deep breath and know that what I had hoped for was working.

I probably should have addressed this at the beginning of the year but please feel free to share with your children what Down syndrome is if you haven't already. The way we first explained it to Reid's big brother was that he was born with an extra 21st chromosome in his body and because of it it takes him a little longer to do things but that he will be able to do them with time. Depending on each child some want more information and for some that is just enough.... if you ever wanted more information please let me know... I have quite a few websites in my repertoire now ;).

Most sincerely,

Cheri and Toby

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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Revisiting The Glasses Topic (New Resources)

I have been wanting to re-visit the whole "getting glasses" issue since I first posted about Reid needing them in August. In that post, found here, about how we introduced Reid to his new glasses I mentioned that we had bought several books that we had read over and over again to help set the stage while we were waiting for his glasses to be made. I have meant to share what books we bought on wearing glasses... but since that post I learned of a fabulous....FABULOUS resource for families embarking on the "glasses road" and wanted to draw your attention to them and their list of books...because their list is even more comprehensive than mine. The site is called Little Four Eyes.... isn't that cute? Pop on over and check them out.... there is a lot of information over there...including information on various eye issues your child might have.

As for Reid, I have had people ask how he is doing with them....and honestly besides the fact that he chucked them out the window while we were driving down the road.... and us watching in horror as car after car behind us ran over them... and then upon retrieving them discovering that they now look like they have been chewed and gnawed on by 10 wild animals... they're going great! He does not give us grief about putting them on and keeping them on and is very active in them, in fact there isn't anything he doesn't do in them... proof below ;)

Well, first off he's a pretty scholarly preschooler in them.

He can "show and tell" pictures of his best brother Luke in them.

He can play a pretty good "goofy pilgrim" in them.

He can sing you Love Me Tender as well as show off some pretty snazzy dance moves in them.

He can oversee your construction project or your home renovation in them.

There "aint nuttin" he can't climb in them.

He can throw a mean fast ball in them.

He can bowl strikes in them.

He can even sleep like a baby in them.... anytime, anywhere.

Check "Little Four Eyes" out.... my original post is being featured over there right now which is kinda fun.

*For those wondering, Reid's glasses are the Miraflex brand
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