Back With a Bang & a Whimper
Kindergarten, Day One

The Road To Here

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I woke up this morning to discover that a big giant kid crept in and ate Noah up last night.

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I was pretty annoyed, so I walked him to the neighborhood bus stop and sent him off to school with a bunch of other big kids. Whatever.

***

The other parents snapped pictures as their kids lined up and boarded the bus. I just stood there. I'd abandoned my camera on our front step because Noah was having a hard morning and me standing around trying to capture the preshus memories of childhood rites of passage was clearly NOT HELPING. He didn't want to get out of bed, he didn't want to get dressed, he didn't want a shirt with too many buttons and he didn't want breakfast and he CERTAINLY didn't want to walk to the bus stop. 

But of course the minute we rounded the corner and he spotted other kids at the bus stop his anxiety melted. He cheerfully climbed on the bus and stopped mid-step to turn around and give me the most picture-perfect first-day-of-school wave in the HISTORY of first-day-of-school waves. 

I waved back. I bit my lip. I turned around and walked home. 

Noah will spend part of his day in the mainstream kindergarten classroom. Mostly the "easy" stuff like homeroom, lunch, art, recess. Close to 30 kids with one teacher. (Who, okay, is a dude. And Ezra's preschool teacher [he starts next week] is a dude. Lots of dudes all of a sudden!) The rest of the day he'll be in a smaller special education class. He'll get one-on-one OT once a week and other support services as-needed for issues related to attention, behavior, anxiety, sensory stuff. It's all good. We're extremely pleased and are hoping for a mostly-smooth year. We're also continuing to take Noah to private services every week to plug the holes in his IEP, because we still aren't that idealistic. Ain't our first rodeo, and all.

I get asked from time to time about the whole blogging-about-Noah thing, and it's a totally fair question. (Provided it's asked in a way that doesn't assume 1) that it's something that has NEVER EVER OCCURRED TO ME TO THINK ABOUT, and 2) that there's only one right answer, and that it is not the one I've come up with.) 

Here's the thing: Yes, I suppose it is possible that Noah's classmates might one day read this blog and learn that he experienced developmental delays. It is possible. Likely? I dunno. I imagine by the time they're of the age where they're Googling each other and allowed to visit random blogs with R-rated langauge unsupervised, Noah will have his own online presence that will supercede this one in the search results, or this blog will be offline or entries will have been removed (I do that, sneakily like, sometimes) and hey, if kids really want to spend hours and hours tracking down an unformatted cache of overwrought ramblings from somebody's boring old MOM on Wayback Machine, well...Noah has my blessing to mock the SHIT out of them right back. 

(I also own the possibility that any of my children might one day look at me and say, "Wow, I really wish you hadn't done that," about blogging or posting pictures or hell, any number of parenting choices we make that might, in hindsight, suck.)

But the fact is, other kids don't need to do all that much to figure out some of the things I've shared here, if they want to. They just need an older sibling with a yearbook, because Noah's name and picture have been in there for the past two years, as part of the district's preschool program. 

And they'll see him leave the classroom every day. That part worried me, as hypocritical as that probably sounds.

I asked the special education teacher about it on Friday: Do the other kids...notice? Do they ask? Do they figure it out? 

No, she assured me. Just about every kid gets "pulled out" at some point during the day or week. There's a large ESOL population and those kids go to their own classroom too. Some kids need handwriting help, or speech therapy for lisps or stutters. Others go to special reading groups -- both remedial and gifted. Some kids see the school pyschologist, some get tutoring, and all of this happens in mysterious "other" rooms than the homerooms, so no one knows why anyone is leaving. When everyone is special...no one is. Huh.

"Mostly, the kids who stay behind think the ones who leave are lucky," she said. 

And really, Noah IS lucky. He has an amazing barrage of services being made available to him, even in an age of crazy district budget cuts and school overcrowding. He has received great services from this school already, in addition to all the private therapy and camps and whatnot. 

And he is lucky because once upon a time, his mother poured her heart out to the Internet when she feared her baby might be speech delayed. And when she found out that he was. And when she first heard of "Sensory Processing Disorder" and "Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified" and Asperger's and dyspraxia and ADHD and any number of acronyms and diagnosis codes that have shown up in paperwork or conversations. 

He is lucky because when I did that, people listened. And they helped. They left comments and emails and sent me book and website recommendations and phone numbers and taught me how to be his advocate and let me cry on their shoulders both virtually and in real life. They taught me how to write social stories and that visual schedules help and have you talked to the miracle workers at The Treatment & Learning Centers? They donated money and a kick in the pants when I was stressed and hesitant about an insanely expensive private school tuition bill. They told me I would never, ever regret spending that money and they were 100% right. They taught me not to be afraid or ashamed, but let me know that it was okay to feel that way sometimes.

You listened. You shared. You taught. You helped.

Thank you.

I don't really feel compelled to share the daily ups and downs of raising a challenging child quite the way I used to, when Noah was little and baffling and I felt so lost and overwhelmed all the time. He's big and still baffling but...we got this. More or less. Some days are better than others, just like always. We're trying some new things and re-introducing some old things that stopped working so well but seem to help again but mostly we just...enjoy being around our boy. Who enjoys going places and doing things except for the places and things that he doesn't. We just have to try to keep it all straight, and then be prepared when he changes the rules on us again. No biggie. 

But, you know. I'll still keep you posted. Don't worry. 

In the meantime, though, one small favor: If your child comes home from school and tells you about how some kids talk funny or can't sit still or can't keep quiet or don't like to be touched and those kids get pulled out of the classroom during math and reading and science and asks you where do those kids go? And why? 

Tell them that gee, you can't say for sure. But those kids sound pretty lucky. 

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Comments

Dawn

Here's to a great year! Thanks so much for sharing the ups and downs with such honesty.

Stacy

When I was in elementary school kids were pulled out for various reasons, and I remember thinking how lucky they were. My friend Heather was frequently pulled out for one on one work in the speech department. She told me one day proudly when I asked as we were swing on the swing set at recess. I was actually jealous!

Thanks for sharing with us, and for being so super proud of your kids. You are a role model for us all.

agirlandaboy

Noah got the exact right mom he needed.

judi

man i really don't comment nearly enough to tell you that i think you and your whole family are pretty much just awesome. you always make me cry!! i wish all the very best in SCHOOL(! OMG SCHOOL!) for noah.

andrea

I wouldn't worry about what the kids think when he leaves to attend his classes. I had speech therapy sessions throughout elementary school. While I don't think they really helped at all with my "r's" my classmates were more jealous that I got to leave rather than critical of my speech issues.

The Mommy Therapy

Yeah for first days of school! And for options, resources, and a lot of special.

I hope he loves school and you enjoy the other two. It was life altering in my house to be left with just the younger two this past week. It took me a whole week to yell about anything again. So much peace I don't know what to do with....and a lot of enjoying my oldest boy when he comes home challenged and exhausted and happy.

Good luck Noah! Good luck Mom!

Sarah

As someone who has been labelled as "different" her whole life (I was born with radial club hands) I say bravo. Kudos for being the strong woman you are, kudos for fighting like hell to get your kid the help he needs, and kudos for letting him know being "different" doesn't mean that he's any different. I struggle every day with my disability- it's not easy. But at 24, I've learned a lot about life, a lot about who I want to be, and a lot about the type of people I want around me. Noah is so lucky to have someone like you as a mom.

xtina q

Dang it Amy, these posts always sneak up on me. My son is now in the 5th grade and I still have the same struggles you write about. I worry about the pulling out a lot too. But you described it perfectly. In CA with insane school budget cuts and ginormously large classes we are truly lucky that my son "qualifies" for the amazing extra services he gets. It was very odd feeling like we won at the end of last school year when he FINALLY qualified for an IEP instead of teetering on the edge of not quite bad enough to get help and seeing him continue to struggle in his mainstream class. We talk very openly with him about WHY he is getting the extra help and always encourage it as a very positive thing. They WANT to do well in school and hopefully after they see they are able to keep up with their peers they will also see the value versus the "different".

Melanie

I have been teaching high school social studies for 12 years. I read your blog all the time and I have for a few years now. Your blog has taught me more about being a great teacher. Currently mainstreamed in my regular (and even honors) Civics and Economics classes, I have two students diagnosed with Asperger's and one with dyspraxia. I have others with ADHD and severe behavioral and emotional disablities. Please know that all of these children are doing VERY well and most of the other students have no idea about these issues. Thank you for opening my eyes about many issues as a teacher:)

Heli

I read this yesterday and spent the last day thinking about it. I think what you are doing for Noah by documenting these years, so eloquently might I add, is worth so much more than any of these other concerns.

Yes it may be hard at times to reflect back on all the good, bad and ugly, but it's so great to be able to personally look back at all your thoughts and feelings. And for everyone else...it's not about them so they need to get over it! And for your kids, what a wonderful opportunity to be able to get all these details about their upbringing even if it sometimes is hard to understand.

Keep doing what you are doing!

jody

Damn you, woman, for making me cry again. I hope I am the kind of mom to my boys that you are to yours. Hoping it's a wonderful year for all of you!!

Kelly

I've been a high school special ed teacher for a few years and people (especially parents) often ask how the kids handle it. They are champs. When it "should" bother them the most, they start to own it. I've had kids ask why some kids leave for testing and the special ed kids will just say, "Well, it's hard for me to understand what I read, so she reads the questions to me." I love their honesty, and if Noah still needs to answer those questions when he is old enough to, he will definitely be brave enough to explain it.

Cara

I'll echo what everyone has said about the lucky one's getting to leave class, my son was going for reading help in kindergarten and it's so normal to them he did not even tell me about it! He also has a peanut allergy and sits at a table alone at lunch so his teacher made it a positive for him by letting him choose a lunchmate daily if he was good in the morning (thereby helping his behavior) and all the kids want to be his friend for the day so they can sit there, too! It's all in how it's presented, isn't it?

Karen

Amy,
So glad you are getting awesome services for Noah. I know my guy is very similar to him but we don't get nearly as much in NC. I had to fight to get what we have and then we get in this week and nothing is ready. His IEP was not even looked at yet. *sigh* I think we'll always have to fight and advocate. But, I also think we have to pick our battles. Our gen ed teacher doesn't think he is very different from his peers and I was about to argue and then said, "sure." Let her figure it out mid-tantrum when she doesn't know what to do. Or maybe she is right and we won't have the same issues. Time will tell.
I hope Noah has a great year!

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