At three years old kids with special needs enter public school preschool so just a few weeks after Claire learned to walk I was putting my tinny little peanut on the bus. She went to a self contained special ed class at that year. We were underwhelmed to say the least. It really felt like free half day childcare which is not what we were looking for. They hand-over-hand did everything "with her" but really for her. She wasn't expected to walk to circle time, hang up her coat, put away her dishes... We disagreed with her teacher all year about many things chiefly that she needed to be challenged.
Thankfully the following year, five, she was able to stay in her preschool class with the same amazing teacher!
Six years old and it's time to go to Kindergarten. Claire started out at the same school in the integrated kindergarden program but it wasn't a good teacher fit. We were running into problems daily. That year we watched Claire go from friendly, excited and happy to be at school to dreading it. I would have to physically pull her out of the van every morning. It was heartbreaking. Half way through the year we decided to move her to a different school, school number four.
Being in special ed was actually not as scary as I thought it would be. Claire thrived with a new teacher and quickly learned to love school again. For the first time she was in class with other kids who have Down Syndrome which I'm sure was crazy for her teacher but super fun for us.
The following year she was six and kept the same awesome teacher going into the first grade. They moved to a new building which is essentially a new school. I'm not going to get into it but mid year we decided to homeschool her for the remainder of the year.
Now here was are, 8 years old, starting second grade at another new school because we moved. Hopefully this will be good, so far so good. Claire's second grade teacher is amazing!!! (Yes, three exclamation paints of awesome.) Getting her general eduction time has not been an issue (which is huge!). I do feel like I am waiting for the worst after everything we have been through. I didn't realize how truly traumatized I am until we didn't have any drama starting out this year and I was anticipating problems all day long. Every time the phone would ring I just knew it was school calling to tell me something bad happened. Every time her teacher wanted to talk I expected her to tell me she is pulling Claire from her time in gen ed...
We are four weeks into school and I'm starting to relax, slightly. I know God has blessed us with this school. My friend Melissa is just across the hall from Claire's special ed class and she is also Makenna's kindergarden teacher, so cool. Also our friend Chad is just down and across the hall from Claire's second grade class. It feels very safe.
Makenna has been waiting so long to go to school with Claire and they are having a blast.
In Spokane, district 81, special ed is not at your neighborhood school. Claire's school was whichever building had the special ed program they wanted her in. Programs move from year to year and you never really know where you will be at the following school year. This is our first experience having the kids our girls play with at the park and on the street at school with them, it's awesome!! I love seeing all the neighborhood kids at drop off and pick up. They recognize all our kids and are so sweet to them. Claire is already like a celebrity walking down the halls, everyone says "hi Claire." I love it and sometimes dread how time consuming it is, but mostly love it.