Now onto some news about my little man! Those of you who have followed us since the beginning on Carepages know that Andrew spent a good portion of his life in therapy to catch up with his developmental delays. Since he was born early, and had two open heart surgeries within 7 months after birth, he just didn't have the chance to learn those things most kids do. He was also born with a moderate hearing loss, and has worn hearing aids since he was 5 months old. He spent the first 5 weeks of his life in the NICU, where he developed torticolis (a head-tilt condition from laying on the same side too much). At 11 months of age, he still couldn't sit up independently. He didn't walk until he was 22 months old, and I must admit, there were times I thought the day would never come!
So I spent a good portion of my year off with him, dragging him back and forth from physical therapy, occupational therapy (because he also had eating/feeding issues), and eventually, speech therapy. He was also seen twice a month by separate PT, OT and ST through the local Heartland Education Agency (they came to our house). Needless to say, it was a busy first couple of years (Another reason why working full time was next to impossible).
The day Andrew "graduated" from physical therapy (because he walked all by himself!) was a day I'll never forget. We had waited so long, and worked so hard for those first steps. Andrew had excellent physical therapists who worked so hard with him. In fact, we love every single one of those people who spent so much time with our son in those first years, helping him play "catch up". All of them made a difference in his life, and we are forever grateful to them.
Eventually we got to the point where Andrew was only seeing speech therapy. A lot fewer appointments! Whew! His Heartland services also continued and his wonderful speech therapist, and his awesome teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (who has been with him since he was 5 months old) followed him to his day care this year and have been seeing him there. However, we were told at that time, that when he turned 3, he no longer could qualify for these services. If he still needed the help in those areas, then he would need to be evaluated for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and if he quallified, he would have the opportunity to attend an actual preschool, with a certified special education teacher.
Being a teacher myself, I'll admit, I was hesitant at first. I know what an IEP is, and the "label" it holds for kids. I've been part of many IEP meetings for my students over the years, where parents refused to sign papers because they didn't want that label for their child. I would get so frustrated with those parents. Why would they not want to do everything they could to help their child succeed? That was my teacher's perspective. Now I was the mommy. I now understood where those parents were coming from. But at the same time, I also understood that I needed to get past the "label," and do what is best for my child.
So we signed the papers.
Andrew was evaluated and it was determined that he is still slightly below the normal standards in the areas of speech and communication (this came as no surprise to us). So he qualified for an IEP. And we think it is a wonderful opportunity for him. He has already displayed so much growth. And by Kindergarten if he is caught up (which I suspect he will be), we lose the "label" and services are discontinued. We feel that right now, we are doing what is best for him.
So, he gets to take a special school bus from his day care 4 mornings a week. Here he is waiting for his bus.
I was lucky and got to go with him on his first day. I took the morning off to go along and make sure he felt comfortable, and wasn't too unsure of what was going on. I just felt he needed that reassurance that mommy knew they were taking him somewhere else and that it was okay.
For insurance reasons, I didn't get to ride the bus with him. He was a little unsure at first, but the bus driver had animal crackers. He's now Andrew's new best friend.
They even have a car seat on the bus for him. Let me tell you, this is big time stuff. Andrew absolutely loves riding the school bus. He talks about it all the time. On Wednesday mornings he doesn't go to preschool, and I guess he asks the teachers at day care where the bus is! Ha!
So here he is, arriving at school on his first day (this is one of the elementary schools in our town). The principal is greeting us at the door, and the teacher is walking him in. He didn't know either of these two people, yet he marched up to that school like he owned the place! He was so excited!
Right away he found the Thomas trains. All was well with the world!
And then he moved on and found something even better! Jungle animals!
He lined them all up in a row. He loves these animals. The teacher says he goes right to these every day now.
This was too funny. He found these little birthday cakes. He had just had his birthday, so he got really excited and kept saying "Happy birthday!"
The little candles come out and they have a number on the front so you put that amount in the cake. The little boy with Andrew here was getting annoyed with him because he kept taking the candles out! Ha!
As you can see, Andrew didn't care! He just wanted the cake! Ha!
Just a view of his classroom. It is huge! But there are fewer kids and it is a lot quieter of a setting than his day care. It is so good for him to get more one on one attention here.
Plus, he found a pretty little girl to flirt with!
I just love this picture of him. Look what a big boy he is, sitting on his little carpet square! You may recall last summer when we took him to speech camp in Iowa City, they had to strap him in his booster seat to get him to stay put!
Apparently he's learned! He's sitting up so straight and paying such good attention here! (Even though it probably only lasted a couple minutes! Ha!) He's come a long way.
I loved it when they went to their little centers. I love how hard he is concentrating here. Probably his first experience with a geoboard! He is going to be so smart! Ha!
They rotate to different centers for part of the morning.
I absolutely love this picture of him sitting and reading with his little friends! He found a Woody and Buzz book, so he was very content!
I love his little legs crossed!
He's even reading to his new friends! Ha!
I was happy to see this part! Hand washing! Ha! Before they had snack everyone washed their hands.
He ate pudding and drank out of a big boy cup. Wow! No sippy cups at this place!
As fate would have it, this just happens to be the one elementary school in town where my best friend, Alissa works as an instructional coach. Andrew knows and loves Alissa. She checks in on him for me, and gives me updates on how he's doing, and I love it! It makes me feel so good to know she is there with him, too, in case he ever needs a familiar face.
It makes me a little bit sad to think my baby is big enough to go to preschool now. But it also makes me proud. Proud to look back at everything he's been through, and to see how far he's come. I knew back then, in those days where the future seemed so uncertain, that there was a light at the end of the tunnel...but I just didn't expect that it would be so bright. He has made such amazing strides since those days where he couldn't even sit up.
Here he is saying "cheese!" on his way back to the bus after school. The bus comes to get him and takes him back to day care for lunch and nap.
I had so much fun on my morning off with Andrew! It was awesome to see his classroom and the things he'll be doing there. He is such a fortunate little boy to have these wonderful opportunities to grow and learn all that he can.
I had a great time at your school buddy!
You've come a long way, baby!