Saturday, April 25, 2009

Change on the horizon

Click to enlarge
We've got some big news about Maya.
This past year Maya has been in what is called a "communications" kindergarten - a program for children with high cognitive abilities but other challenges, such as emotional or social difficulties, speech problems, etc. She is in a class of just eleven children with a teacher (trained in special ed), an aide, and a host of professional support staff (art therapy and occupational therapy once a week and speech therapy twice a week, in addition to weekly gym and music classes). In addition, she also has weekly sessions with a developmental psychologist and a (different) speech therapist who works with her on communication issues - "how" to have a conversation as opposed to how to pronounce various sounds. She has been working her little ass off, and it shows. She has made so much progress she's practically unrecognizable as the same child who entered the class last September. She's still got her challenges, but that light at the end of the tunnel is shining brighter by the day.
For next year, Maya has been referred to a regular mainstream kindergarten class, out of the special ed system. (Because of her October birthday and her circumstances, she is entitled to and encouraged to take two full years of kindergarten. She will benefit tremendously from having an extra year before she enters full-on elementary school in first grade, and this way instead of being one of the youngest in her year she'll be just slightly older than her classmates.) She'll receive two half-hour in-class aide sessions a week (normally for cognitive issues, but in her case for social skills) and possibly, hopefully, one in-class therapy session a week, if such a thing is funded in our city next year. She'll still see her psychologist once a week (that we do privately) and will also continue with the afternoon speech therapy sessions one afternoon a week, but other than that it's head first into the deep end of the pool, complete with a mainstream class of 35 kids. (Yes, sadly 35 is the norm here - with just one teacher and one aide.) The particular class we're sending her to is in a fairly small building, so when possible they do try to keep it a bit smaller. The year Itai was there they had "only" 27. The good news is that that particular teacher and aide are wonderful, and we feel they'll work really hard to see that Maya acclimates well and doesn't get lost in the shuffle.
We're cautiously optimistic. Thrilled that they feel she's ready to return to the mainstream, but more than a little concerned about how she'll react once she's out of her very small, very nurturing special ed class with all the extra supports and staff.
We did have an option for a halfway point, a small special needs 1st grade class, but since her biggest challenges are social and emotional we all agreed that having her move programs and schools three years in a row would be unnecessarily difficult. Better to go in now with the same group of kids she'll go all the way through elementary school with, and perhaps even all the way to high school, and with a kindergarten teacher and aide that we know and trust. A harder transition now, but hopefully an easier one into the chaos of first grade (the first year of elementary here - kindergartens are in small freestanding, one-class-only buildings), since she'll be moving up with a large group of kids, hopefully friends.

So all in all a somewhat stomach-churning change, but one that will hopefully prove itself to be a very good one.


day by day said...

Robin...this is truly wonderful to hear! But I completely understand your hesitancy because being in a larger group setting will be much different. But...hopefully she has grown a lot in many ways and she will just continue to blossom!

I wonder if we have any of those Communications Kindergartens around here? I have never heard of them before.

Have a wonderful week-end!!

Maribeth said...

I could see her blossoming in your pictures as she gained confidence in herself! Yay, Maya! I'm so proud of you!!!

Kate Coveny Hood said...

This is my future... My son has one more year of his special preschool program and then he'll be mainstreamed into kindergarten. I know that I'll be so worried about him... But at least he'll be totally used to the bus and five days of school every week, while it will all seem new and scary to his classmates who have never been to a big public school before. I'm hoping it evens the playing field a bit. Who am I kidding. I'm terrified!

Leora said...

How wonderful you are so proud of all her successes! No decision is perfect. I'm sure (from a distance) she'll do great.

Phyllis Sommer said...

Hooray for Maya and for you....and may this new experience bring blessings:-)

Unknown said...

Hi, Robin

I enjoyed this post, as I'm a teacher in a small preK/K classroom which follows an inclusion model. I'm in part of a large team in a classroom of 12, which includes about half special ed kids. Going to get a graduate degree in special ed soon to round out my experience and perhaps change schools when that's over.

Good for Maya! Excellent choice to have her take two years of K. You are very wise.

Best of luck to you and your precious Maya. She is beautiful!

Robin said...

I'm in Israel, not the US, so things are different here, but it sounds like Pagan Sphinx is working in a similar program Michelle. I hope you find something equally wonderful for your daughter and see her thrive there too.

Pagan Sphinx, your program sounds like a wonderful one. I would have liked to have seen Maya in a class like that next year, but they don't have one in our town and I didn't feel it would be beneficial to her to bus her to a completely different town in a different school district.

Like I said, we're cautiously optimistic and will be keeping our finger on the pulse of things. Thank you for your encouragement, it means a lot.

josie2shoes said...

I am delighted that Maya is doing so well. I think you've made a wise decision to keep her in a familiar environment with the kids she will follow thru school. I'll be praying hard that it all works out great. Isn't it wonderful to watch our children blossom?!

maryt/theteach said...

Congrats to Maya, Robin. I wish you and she the absolute best and success! :)

Daryl said...

ACK .. I can see the photos but the posts are not visible!

Mojo said...

Umm... Robin? Sweetie? If you're gonna use a black background, you need to change your font color to something... not black. Kinda hard to read.

Mojo said...

But once I swiped across the text with my mouse and highlighted it (making it reappear as if by magic) I have to say it's wonderful news and a very, very wise choice. It sounds like it will give her a big advantage going forward and what kid couldn't use that?

deedee said...

This is great news. Maya will have this year to adjust to a bigger class.

Baila said...

This is really good news. As a speech pathologist, when there are different choices that would all be appropriate, I [not always, but usually, depending on the child] try to guide the parents into taking the "most integrated" path. 35 kids is alot, but it sounds like she is capable of rising to the occasion, with the supports you seem to have in place. And if she needs additional support, you seem to know how to access it. Good luck...

anymommy said...

It's wonderful news. It must be overwhelming and a little scary, but you know her needs and reactions so well, I have a feeling you will navigate the change.

RivkA with a capital A said...

Good luck! Keep your eyes open.

I was so thrilled when they recommended mainstreaming my kid. I was assured that we would receive additional support in the "regular" school. We did not (even though we were entitle to it by the law!).

It wasn't until a year or so later that I realized their are not enought places or funds to keep all the special ed kindergarten kids in special ed, so they mainstream anyone they can. It is not always the best decision for the kid.

Of coures, when it is the right decision, or when there is the right support, it can be very good. We have another child who proves this point as well!

Anonymous said...

that's so awesome! i'm sure it's a challenge that will be well worth it. i'm sure they wouldn't recommend the change if they didn't think she was ready for it. congrats maya!

RivkA with a capital A said...

"i'm sure they wouldn't recommend the change if they didn't think she was ready for it."Maya might very well be 100% ready for this jump forward.

But no one can say "for sure" that a child is ready unless they are writing the recommendation themselves. (and even then it takes a fair amount of hubris to guarantee such a thing)

I would hope that all parents keep an their fingers on the pulse when it comes to looking out for their children's best interests and never rely on blind faith in the system -- especially when the system has financial considerations and not enough spaces for all the kids who need extra help.

My comments were not meant to rain on Maya's parade. I am fairly sure that Robin knows they were simply meant as a cautious warning from someone who has seen the system fail.

After all, we all just want what is best for our kids! And we don't want to see anyone suffer the same mistakes as we experienced!

At the end of the day, our children are quite resilient. And they will flourish with our help in almost any situation. But some roads involve a lot more anguish and effort than others. And we don't get any extra brownie points in heaven for taking the harder route!

Spacemom said...


This is great news! I am very happy for you all!