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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What I learned on the last day of school.

It was Christian's last day of school today! He made it through his first, whole year of preschool! We really couldn't have asked for a better experience and I can't believe it went so fast.

We baked two batches of chocolate chunk cookies for Christian's team - his teacher, his aides, his PT, OT, Speech Therapist, as well as his team from where he spent the first half of the year.

That, there is a sun tea jug full of chocolate chunk cookies. You may notice Christian is not embracing this cookie jug and I'm pretty sure it's because he wants no part of giving all of them away. Sorry, Christian. They're all for the teachers!

Christian with his teacher, Miss Christy. We'll miss her, but she'll be his teacher next year, too!

I'm so proud of my little dude! He was too tired to celebrate.

This school year was full of a lot of change. I'm sure Christian learned a lot. He learned to hang without Mommy always in his face (ignore the picture above). He learned to be around other kids without getting upset or over stimulated. He made me pictures and projects and even planted a bean plant that sits on our window sill. And it's still growing!

I've learned a lot, too. I learned to trust that Christian would be just fine without me. There was not a single day that I kissed him goodbye that I felt he wasn't safe, cared for, and wanted by his classroom.

I learned that Christian is teaching others at his school about acceptance every day. And I learned that kids his age were readily accepting of him, even getting down right excited when Christian came to school. I learned that Christian had friends! He was invited to his first birthday party of a classmate, he went on his first field trip, and he got to "stand" outside with his friends. I learned there was always room for Christian.

We had a pretty positive experience this year. But in the last few days of school there was what seemed to be a foreshadowing of what may come in our future. After a whole school year of abundant acceptance, I noticed while pushing Christian through the school courtyard during lunch hour, that some of the smaller children, maybe around 1st grade, were not only staring (which we're used to and not really bothered by at this point), but were laughing and snickering at Christian. This not only happened once, but a few days in a row.

I understand the staring. They don't understand what they see. But I learned that the laughing, even from a small child that doesn't know any better, hit me right straight in the heart. I think this experience deserves a whole post, which is coming, but the short version is that I learned that standing up for Christian is going to take a different turn in our future. It won't always mean asserting ourselves and advocating in the medical world or with IEP's. It will mean something totally and completely different. But that's for another post.

For now, I'd like to highlight the positive of this year. One of which being one of Christian's little friends from school named Eva. Eva is a beautiful little girl with big, gorgeous eyes who is living with Holoprosencephaly. She and Christian get to ride in their chairs to recess. And today, the last day of school, I talked to her mom, Gabby for a little longer than we usually do. In those short, last five minutes, we were on the same page like nobody's business. We had different stories in how we were brought to the same school, the same classroom, but we shared the same grief, the longing, and the same bittersweet.

So the biggest lesson for me this year, and fittingly learned on the last day of school, is even when we feel we are alone and that not a single soul on the planet knows exactly what we're going through, we're proven wrong. And that's a really good and appreciated lesson to learn.

What else did I learn? She has amazing insight. We're learning the most from these little ones in front of us that ride their chairs to recess.

"...But I swear that little girl is a teacher! She taught me how to spell, H-O-L-O-P-R-O-S-E-N-C-E-P-H-A-L-Y, M-O-T-H-E-R and more importantly F-O-R-E-V-E-R!" - Gabby's Blog.


Erin M. Cushing said...

Hi Shauna -

I'm a regular reader of your blog (not that you know me - but you SO inspire me - in fact, my 7 month old starts ISR swim lesson in 3 weeks!), but I'm a K-5 music teacher and wanted to share a book with you. I teach at a school where we have inclusive specials - and I'm always saddened when students laugh at others who aren't "normal" (whatever that is lol). So, at the beginning of each year, we sing this book and the kids LOVE it and really identify with it. The students end of asking for it all the time, and it leads to really nice conversations with them about learning and ability differences. It might be worth sharing it with the teachers at your school - that's how it was introduced to me =)

Sarah said...

I have been "blog stalking gone" for the past several months but thought I would check in on your guys! It breaks my heart to hear that peers of your son are giggling b/c they are not taught that all students are unique and different AND SPECIAL.

I have had the unique opportunity in my own K classroom this year to have two boys w/ huge needs in drastically different directions pushed in full time with 14 other K students. My students LOVE those two boys and I think the boys LOVE my students. However one day at recess, another K peer in a different section came up to one of the boys and asked the girls that were w/him --Why is he never standing, why is he always in this green chair? The two girls spun around, and sassed w/ all the vip and vigger -- THAT IS HOW GOD MADE HIM. HE IS JUST FINE THE WAY HE IS AND HE DOES NOT HAVE TO WALK TO BE OUR FRIEND. LET'S GO MAX and away they went.

I was in tears! Talk about full acceptance. This boy does not communicate by talking, he has an AC device and all the students within my class have been taught how to use it WITHOUT assistance from an adult. However, I still feel like I missed the boat b/c my teaching mates do not especially want students like this in there classroom, how do we then continue to educate the peers of these two boys! Why is that acceptable within our schools in 2012?

Just breaks me heart! I have learned soooo, sooo much from the boys (as I do every child) within my classroom.

I fear we have the educate the world 1 classroom, 1 grade level at a time.
Sarah Hetrick

Los Peña said...

Hi Shauna, I can't tell you how special it was for us to have Eva go to school this last year. On June 15, our Eva was called home, she passed away in the early morning, she passed a week shy of us leaving to Indiana. It has been so surreal not having her at my side, I am so grateful for you, for Eva's experiences as a preschooler and especially for Christian! I never got your phone number or email but here is mine, I hope we can be in touch!

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