Tuesday, September 3
I couldn’t sleep last night. All weekend I was on an emotional roller coaster. I actually cried on the way home from the grocery store Sunday night. Sebastian was starting Senior Kindergarten today. He would be in a new school with new teachers and new friends. He would be going all day (9-3). Someone else would feed him lunch. Change his nappy. Make sure he didn’t get any air bubbles in his tummy. And learn how to soothe and help when he did. Someone else would get to see that golden smile and witness his silent laugh during hysterics. Someone else would be his partner assisted voice. All day long. Right. I already mentioned that.
Today was his first day. For the new kiddos at the school, there was an open house for us parents to attend school (with Sebastian) from 9-11. And then he could home for the remainder of the day. Tomorrow he starts on his own, for the full day. I will be going in for lunch (to help the EA learn how he eats/is g-tube feed). So it will be Thursday before he’s on his own for the full day. I’m glad they enabled Sebastian, I mean, ME, to ease into the start of the year.
How did we get HERE? Flash back to February when we had an intake interview at the school we wanted Sebastian to attend this year. He totally rocked the interview. We didn’t even need to be there. He used his communication book to clearly communicate with the intake team and he got in! We had to wait until April to find out and were overjoyed when we did.
Background: We had kept him in preschool an additional year so he could have the afternoons to bond with Tallula. Kindergarten is full day in Ontario and we weren’t ready for that. We also knew that we wanted Sebastian to be in a familiar and supportive environment when his sister was born and when he had his g-tube surgery. So we stayed where he had gone the two previous years and we were so glad we did.
The school: Sebastian attends a school which is housed in the rehab hospital where he has gotten various therapies throughout the past two plus years. He also has clinics for feeding, nutrition, and a developmental paediatrician. We spend a lot of time here and he is very familiar with the environment, staff, and volunteers. The school has an integrated therapy education (IET) program for kids with physical disabilities. The program is a play based curriculum which follows the curricula of the Toronto District School Board. He will receive all the therapies we used to do privately and at the hospital previously, but now they will be integrated into his day. He will also continue to receive the support he needs to build his communication skills so that eventually he will have a high tech device to communicate with others. He has swimming once a week, mobility (riding a bike, walking in walker, etc.), library, gym, art and music. There is a huge gym with a program that adapts everything for the kiddos, whether they use a walker or a wheelchair as their mode of transport.
He is in a Senior Kindergarten (SK) with 6 (!!!) other amazing kiddos of varying abilities. It is not integrated with typically developing kids (like his preschool was). I struggled with this aspect of the program for a long time. When Sebastian first started nursery school I was against a program that was not inclusive. I still believe in inclusion – with the proper supports and program – but I learned/better understood Sebastian’s needs over time. I also appreciated and trusted the teachers that have worked with Sebastian for the past three years. While the IET program may not be integrated, it is meant to prepare the children to be integrated into the public school system – in a regular class setting – when they complete 1st grade. The goal being that the next two years will be a supportive environment for Sebastian to learn and become fluent with a communication system as well as build his physical abilities and independence (whether that be a power chair or more time in his walker).
How did it go? I loved having the morning to spend with Sebastian and meet the team he’d be working with as well as assistants and other staff and volunteers around the school. It was also wonderful to see a few familiar faces and get to know some of his classmates and the new teacher. He has an Education Assistant (EA) which is assigned to him for meal and medication times. She is fantastic. I got a great feeling from her. We saw a few old friends from preschool, which made the morning even better. And we got to sit in on library time with a fantastic librarian. I forgot to bring a few things and at the end of the morning I thought of all these other things I wanted the teacher to know but I didn’t have a chance to tell her. So I wrote a nice long note in this fabulous little communication book that goes back and forth between the teacher/staff and parents. Phew. But most of all, I wasn’t worried. I knew that he would get his nappy changed. I knew that he would get fed. I knew that he would smile and laugh because he was already in hysterics with a classmate at snack time. I knew that he would be listened to. I knew that he would learn and feel safe and have fun. I knew that it would be a good year. But I also knew that I will miss him. So much. And so will Tallula.
Stay tuned for reflections on day two and three…So far so good.