Ane’s school year is heading to a close. She only has five more days left, including today and taking out Memorial Day. The teachers are crunching in all the summer birthday celebrations into these last couple of weeks, so there have been “special” treats nearly every day at school.

Ane asked me for a “treat” after lunch today. “You don’t need one. If you’re still hungry, I’ll give you a banana.” I told her.

“How come I don’t get a treat?” she whined.

“Because I know that it was Emma’s birthday celebration at school today, and I saw the cupcakes that her mom brought this morning.”

“Oh.” Busted.

Next year, Ane will be attending this same preschool three days a week – Wednesday through Friday, unless I change my mind and put her into the afternoon class, which meets four days a week, Monday through Thursday. However, I think my mind has been made up for me, and she’ll be going for the three days in the morning.

Tad is going to start preschool in the fall. Not at Ane’s school – Tad’s speech test scores qualify him for special education preschool at the early education center in our local school district.

I had the “big” meeting with Kay the therapist and the school district’s intake coordinator last Friday. The bottom line is, Tad needs intensive speech therapy. His time at the current facility ends the day he turns three, and then he (and the DSHS dollars that are “attached” to his therapy) becomes the responsibility of the school district. While he could just do speech therapy at the local elementary school, the intake coordinator is recommending that Tad go into the special ed preschool program that the district offers. He will be in school 4 days a week, Monday through Thursday, for 2 and a half hours a day. The school has a great reputation, I have heard nothing but good things about the teachers there, and everyone I have talked to has commented that this will be a great thing for Tad.

And it IS positively amazing that after going through so much this last fall, feeling our way through the maze of getting Tad help, that now all of this is being offered to us free of charge (well, not quite free – we do pay property taxes, after all). I feel incredibly blessed and very overwhelmed.

I am also feeling a nagging sense of sadness and disappointment.

I am sad that Tad even needs this level of speech therapy. But there is nothing I could have done to prevent it. Physically, there is nothing wrong with Tad (aside from the flat feet), and there were no indicators when he was an infant and into the beginnings of babyhood that speech was going to be a problem for him. Now, of course, I can look back and see some instances where he was slightly delayed in one area or another, but he outgrew them quickly enough that it was never a concern. I am sad that he is going to be labeled as “special education.” Not that he cares one bit right now, but just using the phrase triggers negative connotations. I am sad that all of my plans for him have flown out the window. I am disappointed that he won’t have the same preschool experience as Ane. Her school is fantastic and she has loved it, and I know that he would have loved it there, too.

I also know that her school would probably not have accepted him. I hadn’t planned on putting him into preschool this coming year, anyway, but I doubt that he would be up to par enough to qualify the year after, either. I just don’t know. But at the early education center, they will assist in his potty training (only requirement – have the kid wear a Pull-Up to school), integrate his speech therapy into a full class structure, and they even mix the age groups and bring in older preschoolers who don’t have any delays to serve as “peer models” for the other children.

This preschool will be what he needs for every aspect of his life. I am very grateful that we can take advantage of it. I just never saw myself as the mother of a special needs child.

I never saw Tad as a special needs child.

I know that we will work through this. I know – barring any other cognitive delays (Tad is going to have a formal cognitive assessment as well, soon) – that this experience and this school is designed to bring Tad up to speed so when the day comes – hopefully when he has just turned six and is starting kindergarten – he is just as “normal” as any other kid in his class. I know that my little boy is bright and funny and loved very much by everyone around him. I know that God loves him and has a plan for his life.

And that’s what matters most.

In the meantime, I’d better get the minivan serviced and take out a loan to make sure that we’ve got plenty of gas money. I’m going to be doing a lot of driving kids to school come next fall.

One Response to “Preschool-bound”

  1. Matthew
    May 20th, 2008 07:43

    Here in California they call it “early intervention” and I like that phrase. I think the best thing you can do (and hardest too) is not to compare Tad’s experience with Ane’s. They are both two distinct people that will always have different experiences and different ways of dealing with things. (As a parent of twins I’ve had to come to terms with this early)

    And, remember, Tad is doing GREAT! Look at how much progress he’s done so far!