For any parent, the start of Kindergarten brings a flood of mixed emotions. It is the moment where you realize that after five years of micromanaging every aspect of your child’s life, you must let go of the reins and entrust their well being to the hands of their teachers, who will be spending more time with your child then you will. You must come to terms with the fact that your days of play dates, surprise lunch trips and afternoon snuggle time is over. In that one second that they walk out the door on their very first day, the dynamic of your relationship permanently changes. This is probably one of the first of many difficult realizations we face as a parent…this moment when we send our child off into the world. Ask any parent how they felt that day they sent their child to Kindergarten and I am sure they will tell you it was one of the toughest days of their lives. Last week was my moment and yes, it was indeed one of the most difficult things I have done.
As the parent of a child with Sensory Processing Disorder, this transition to Kindergarten comes with an extra set of emotions. Those of you who have followed our journey know that my daughter’s introduction to school was a difficult one…from that first time a teacher labeled her as a “typical, spoiled only child” at the age of 2 1/2, my daughter spent three years being misunderstood. Regardless of how many different schools we tried (there were three in total) , no teacher could ever quite understand my daughter’s needs. With each new school experience, more data was provided to show evidence of the root of all my daughter’s issues…a profound inefficiency to process information through her senses. And regardless of how many separate evaluations showed similar outcomes, no one quite knew what to do with her. So, naturally the thought of starting elementary school was something I started worrying about years ago. I was determined to have my daughter’s needs recognized and to have proper support and interventions put into place for Kindergarten to ensure her success. Every decision I made in regards to my daughter was in preparation for Kindergarten. And finally, after three years of pleading my daughter’s case, I used the educational system to the extent of which my child is entitled by the law. When I didn’t like the answers I received, I agreed to disagree and I asked for a reevaluation. In the past I was not confident enough to challenge a teacher when I didn’t like the feedback I was given. I was too afraid of looking like one of those “crazy parents.” And my daughter was the one who suffered because I was too afraid to speak up. So, by the final days of preschool, I spoke up. And someone FINALLY listened. The proof had been there all along. All it took was for someone to actually look at it.
The intention of this post was not to rehash the days of preschool gone bad. It was all a part of the journey with lessons learned along the way. That chapter of our lives is over and a new one has begun. And, this chapter, begins a story of hope. This chapter tells the story of how a child with Sensory Processing Disorder can be set up for success in school. She has accommodations tailored to meet her needs such as access to a quiet work space, breaks as needed and a sensory diet to be implemented in the classroom on a daily basis. This chapter includes a monthly consult to review her accommodations and make changes as necessary to meet her ever changing needs. This chapter contains custom written IEP goals designed to reduce and/or eliminate sensory overload. Most importantly, this chapter is illustrated with pictures of a determined child who got on the school bus the very first day without ever looking back and who comes home each day with a smile on her face, excited to tell me about a new school experience. And while our story is far from over and may include difficult moments along the way, it is teaching people a lesson..and the more lessons learned, the better things become for a child like mine.
So, after all this preparation, the time finally came last week to hand the reins over to my daughter’s teachers as they, not I, will be the ones to guide her down the path of this next journey. And while I may not be the one to be fully in charge of where this journey takes her, I am not nearly as nervous as I thought I would be. This time, the journey begins differently because my daughter isn’t being led blindly…this journey comes with directions from the start instead of having to stop midway to find out where to go. And if ever they come to a roadblock, I am ready and waiting to provide them with an alternate route of how to get to the desired destination..the destination of a happy and successful child!
**To all my first time Kindergarten moms whose children are starting a journey of their own..a word of advice from a wise friend who told me that when the time comes to let go and send them on their way, just sit back, relax and know you did everything you could to get them where they need to be! Pat yourself on the back for a job well done and watch the amazing individuals your children are growing into!