Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Ready or not...
I cannot wrap my head around the fact that I will be registering Cara for Kindergarten in less than a month, and that she will be 5 in July! I blinked and she went from an infant to a confident preschooler.
She does love going to pre-K and absolutely loves her teachers and therapists there. Her classmates have taken Cara under their wing and are protective of her and understanding of her disabilities.
As we move forward to making plans for Kindergarten, I am amazed at all of the progress that Cara has made in one school year (that's not even over yet)---
*She is using a low-tech communication device like this one to help her communicate her needs in the classroom and to help her participate in activities.
*Her vocabulary has shot through the roof. Cara can say many simple words [hi, bye bye, uh-oh, Momma, Papa] and approximations of lots of other words--so close that everyone close to her knows what she's trying to say. Her efforts to communicate verbally have increased exponentially, which has been so very encouraging. Cara has such of a cute voice and we know she has lots to say.
*She is beginning to grasp some of the fundamental learning concepts necessary for Kindergarten [knows a few colors, letters C & M, knows animals and animal sounds, can copy lines (straight, squiggle, zig zag), is coloring much more precisely and with more imagination than before, can imitate basic clapping patterns]
*There is no doubt that Cara is socially ready for Kindergarten. She loves going to school and being around her classmates and thrives off of the routines that school offers. She is a very social little girl and her sunny personality makes others warm up to her.
*Her gross & fine motor skills are improving [she can run, hop, jump and gallop, kick a ball, throw a ball, hold a pencil appropriately and sometimes successfully cut with scissors].
*More focus has been put into increasing Cara's sign language vocabulary both at home and at school. The Deaf & Hard of Hearing coordinator has been working with Cara's teachers and myself to supply materials and teach new signs in an effort to help Cara have a voice, both through ASL and verbally.
I recently met with Cara's team of teachers & therapist to discuss her transition into Kindergarten. While we all we amazed at how far she'd come since the IEP implementation meeting before school started, everyone voiced concerns regarding Cara's readiness for Kindergarten. Cara is still functioning, developmentally, at about a 2 1/2 to a 3 year old level, though in some areas, she right on par. I stated that I wished we could hold her back another year or find an alternative (read: Montessori) program for Cara has I feel she would benefit from another year of preschool instructions so that she would have a chance and firmly grasping all of the emerging education skills that are taught. However, because Cara has had two years of public preschool, we have to transition her into Kindergarten, at least if we are going to keep her in public school. Since I lack the monetary funds to put her elsewhere, transition is only only viable option. Her teacher & therapist did agree, however, with the right support in and outside (read: therapy pull-out sessions) the classroom, they felt that Cara would continue to excel in Kindergarten. They felt that it was paramount that expectations be clearly outlined in Cara's IEP and that the services she would be receiving at their maximum levels (so that she is receiving the maximum amount of time per week allowed for each service).
Cara will be attending the same school as her big sister which is good for a couple of reasons---
1. Two kids @ one school will be so much easier to handle in terms of schedules
2. This school as the best Level III (able to meet the needs of the most severe special needs students) program in our school district
Cara's IEP outlines services from a physical & occupational therapist, speech therapist and special education teacher. In addition, Cara will receive the help of a paraprofessional in the classroom to help her with tasks during the day. Her therapists will work with Cara out of the classroom in both small group and individual sessions. There will be another implanmentation meeting before school starts in the fall to address how exactly Cara's needs will be met at the new school and to meet the therapists who will be working with her.
In addition to what the school will be providing, I will be continuing weekly speech therapy sessions provided through our local hospital's pediatric rehabilitation center. Cara has been seeing a therapist through this program for several months and I believe that the extra therapy has really helped her make the progress that she has.
Also, over the summer, I am going to intensify my work with Cara to help get her even more ready for the big step that she's going to be taking. I plan to focus on helping her learn her colors, shapes, ABC's and 123's. I have found some wonderful resources and tapped the brains of some great parents for suggestions. Hopefully, Cara will find the activities fun & educational.
One thing that I can promise is to be very involved with Cara's education. I want to be sure that she is happy and adjusted. I often worry about her getting teased or picked on because kids will see her as "different". I don't worry so much about her peers in Kindergarten, but more about the older kids. I know that education is going to be paramount and already am planning a simple presentation for her classroom to teach everyone about hydrocephalus and what it means to Cara.
Overall, I just want Cara to have a positive Kindergarten experience. I worry daily about how she will adjust since she does not deal well with change. I want her to love her teacher, her classmates and for her to look forward to going to school each day. I remember how much I loved my Kindergarten classroom and how my teacher remained a favorite as I progressed through elementary school. I think the foundation that is laid in Kindergarten is so important and helps to define a child's education. It is my sincere hope that Cara will have a wonderful year.