Emily finished her first year of school the week before Memorial Day. For those in RI, don't be too jealous about her finishing so early - summer vacation ends mid-August here. I was a tiny bit sentimental about the year ending. Can it really be true that my "baby" finished her first year of school? Time is just flying by!
I went to school with Emily on her last day. We had so much fun (as you can see from these pictures). She was playing musical chairs and she LOVED it. I had a blast watching all of the kids (and the teachers) letting loose. Although, the girls in Emily's class were pretty serious about musical chairs. The boys didn't stand a chance to win because those girls were competitive! The teacher had to keep reminding them that this was fun and they should be smiling. It was pretty cute.
The day before the last day of school, I met with Emily's IEP (Individualized Education Program) team. The main purpose of the meeting was to talk about a need for an aide next year. We had to make it official so the district could post the job over the summer. Emily did have her own aide this year and she will be one of the applicants, but I guess this is just a formality that the district has to do each year.
We also talked about the previous year - what worked, what didn't etc. This past year has been a bit of a roller coaster for Emily. There have been times when she cried just about every day and I wondered when I would get a phone call to pick her up (I joked with the nurse that she must have me on speed dial). Emily had lots of great times too. Towards the end of the year she was doing great every day. I laughed that we would finally get things smoothed out just in time for summer vacation. Very helpful!
One of the difficult things about preschool is that the class changes all year long. As kids reach the age of 3 or 4, they join the classroom. When Emily started, I think there were about 8 kids in the class. By the end of the year, there were about 16. That can be overwhelming for a kid that has trouble adjusting to change. I am sure the extra noise in the classroom was one of the reasons that Emily had such a hard time during certain parts of the year. Overall, the kids were really great with Emily. They always wanted to help her with things or play games with her during the free time. There was one particular girl (Olivia) and one boy (Charlie) that took a special interest in Emily and I loved hearing stories about them. I know they helped to make Emily's time in the classroom all the more special. I just think it was a big adjustment for her along the way.
I had some challenges with the therapists this year. I had very little communication with the therapists (that is one thing that will be changing next year). I never heard from the OT all year unless I ran into her in the hall at drop off or pick up time. I did talk with the PT a bit more, but not very much. She did have pretty regular communication with Emily's therapists at Children's so I felt good about that. She worked with them to figure out what equipment Emily needed for the classroom. This year, she was using a chair that was a bit small for her. The PT finally ordered a new chair for Emily during the last week of school so it will be there next year. That is a bit frustrating, but there isn't much I can do about it now. We had the same issue with a swing for the playground. That came in, but Emily won't get to use it until next year.
My concern with the speech therapist was that she didn't get to see Emily do the things that I knew she could do. She always seemed to work with Emily on the days when she was cranky and exhausted. Not ideal! She did get to visit Emily during therapy at Children's so she was able to see what Emily was doing there. That made a huge difference. I had been telling her about Emily doing amazing things at Children's, but it was nice for her to see it for herself. I was able to have a nice chat with the speech therapist on the last day of school. She was very honest in saying that she underestimated Emily this year. She thinks we have to completely start over with goals for Emily next year. I could not agree more. At the beginning of the year, I didn't know what to ask for and they didn't really know Emily yet, so the goals that were set were not great. After seeing her at Children's I have a much better idea of what she needs so I am confident that next year will go much better.
During the meeting with the team, we talked about a few things for next year. Emily will be switching to the morning preschool class. She will alternate between school and Children's each day. She will not do both in one day. We have to wait for Children's to make the fall schedule before we know the specifics, but everyone is open to doing what is best for Emily. The AT specialist said that the district has a communication device that Emily can use next year. That is HUGE! I think that will make her school experience SO much better. Emily will also be riding the bus next year. I am a bit nervous about that, but I think it will be good for her to have a bit more independence. I have the summer to prepare myself for that step.
I realized that I never shared her school picture from this year. She missed the spring picture day, but this one was taken in November. Doesn't she look so grown up?
This year was a learning experience for everyone. I definitely see more progress in Emily from her time at Children's, but I know that she has benefited from her time at school as well. Hopefully we will be able to work out some of the kinks so next year goes a whole lot smoother.