Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Wheels on the Bus!

Thank you so much to those who commented on my last post regarding Andrew's ENT report.  It sounds like most people thought the surgery worked well for their kids, and they were glad they did it.  I plan to call a lot of Andrew's doctors this week (audiologist, pediatrician, cardiologist, etc!) and get their thoughts.  From there, we will make a decision.  Thanks again!

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!

11 comments:

Stefenie said...

What a great update Jen!! Awww it makes me sad seeing how very grown up Andrew is. Makes me stop and think that MY little guy will be leaving me soon to start preschool. Wish I could freeze time to enjoy it a little longer! {{{HUG}}}

I too love the picture of Andrew with his legs crossed. Ha ha!!

Stef, Ryan, Wyatt and Logan
www.whenlifehandsyouabrokenheart.blogspot.com

Joye said...

Hi! Thanks for stopping by my blog! I've enjoyed reading about your precious little boy. I am a teacher... a teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing, at that!

I look forward to reading all about Andrew's preschool adventures :)

The Carter's said...

What a big boy Andrew is...and how amazing that he's made such enormous gains! You'd never know he had such a rough start three years ago. Reading that makes me cry...happy tears, but still! These kids are just amazing!!

It looks like Andrew had a blast at school, and how cool that he can ride the bus! He's going to be asking for the car keys before you know it! Ha! I'm so glad you guys were able to swallow the feelings about the "label" and do what's best for Andrew. I'm sure that was hard, especially being on the other side of the table this time, but SO worth it! AND...you'll be able to relate to the parents of your students in similar situations now too. :)

Big heart hugs and prayers,
Shannon

Oh, was that a noodle center?

ShannonLeideker said...

Hello Jen, Thanks for visiting my blog! I look forward to looking back and reading about your adorable Andrew. He is such a handsome guy!! Hearts Blessings, Shannon

Jen said...

Oh my goodness, what a sweet little boy. I guess big boy now!
This is my first time to your blog (thank you for your sweet comment on mine), and I was curious if you like him in the IEP class? Does it work well for you?

Our FRC through the Birth-3 program here is really pushing me to make decisions on where I want both my girls to attend (or how) school, and I feel like its just too soon to make that decision right now.

Faith also wears bilateral hearing aids (maybe getting a CI), and has since she was diagnosed at 12 months.

I Cannot wait to get caught up on your story :)

Tracey Snyder said...

Jen~

I love the pic of Andrew wearing the sunglasses! Priceless :-)

I'm happy to hear he is adjusting well to preschool. I know how labels can hurt kiddos but also hope if we as adults teach our kids that labels don't mean anything, pretty soon they won't think anything of it. I think the whole label thing is better since we were kids! I believe we are a generation of more tolerance and acceptance and teach our kids the same :-)

Before you know it, Andrew will be soaring high and "think" he knows more than you :-D

Always,
Tracey, Jeremy, Riley, Drew and Jordan Snyder
www.ForTheLoveOfMendingHearts.blogspot.com

Olivia said...

Jen,

HOLY BUCKETS!I cannot believe he's in preschool. He is so grown up! It looks like he is having a blast in the pics!

RHONDA said...

Thank you so much for your sweet comment on my blog and your prayers for our lil man Zeb. You must be the famous Jen that Stefenie is always talking about on her blog. I love your blog and your son is absolutely adorable. I love the pics. He has the same little backpack as Zeb does. How about that? Gotta love Elmo, right? I will be praying for Andrew as well. It is hard to watch them get bigger and take on new things, but Oh the Joy to think where they were and where GOd has brought them too.

Blessings~
Rhonda

Heidi Schmidt said...

That's so great that Andrew has such a take care attitude even though the situation is new and different. That will sure take him a long way in life! Sounds like the new school is great!!

Heidi, Kevin, Ellie & Baby Girl
http://kschmidtfamilynews.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

What a great message you sent with the "label"...wow. Not an easy thing to do but you keep setting a great example for all of us parents trying to do the best we can. Thanks for sharing!

*Hugs* Jen Orvis

Kristi Mayo said...

Hi Jen ~ Finally got caught up with all of your blogging - lol! I didn't realize Andrew had started at Little Hawks. I could soooo relate to your comments about him having to exit Early Access programming and be identified with that "official" IEP. We just went through that process ourselves with Payton. He has a speech/communication delay. He'd been making good progress with our SLP through Heartland but isn't on level yet...and he was turning 3 so we needed a new plan. We didn't think he'd get enough servicing by just meeting a few times per month with an SLP so we opted for ECSE. It was a great decision on our part. Payton loves going to preschool (he's at Ashland Ridge) and his communication skills are growing by leaps and bounds even after only a few weeks. They have a great program there and the staff seems wonderful. Anyway...just wanted to share. Andrew is doing so well. I just love reading about him and all of his adventures. Good luck with the upcoming surgery, although I think this will be a piece of cake compared to what you guys are used to dealing with.

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