It seems like only a few years ago I was stressing about my oldest starting Kindergarten. Having a child with special needs only adds to my level of worry with expectations for such a big transition. I wish I could say this last time around will be easier. Drew does have a higher functioning form of autism meaning that I am hopeful that he will need less help to function in a regular education classroom, but he does still have some complex needs that leave me plenty of room to stress over. Thankfully, we learned a few great things the first time around and we have been putting those tools that worked for us before to good use. For those that haven’t seen or don’t remember the work we put into Damion’s Kindergarten start, check it out here.
One of the main takeaways we got from Damion’s start was to begin addressing, or at least brainstorming, the anticipated issues prior to the start of the school year. Drew may not have quite as many concerns as we had for Damion, but I believe we will thank ourselves at the start of the school year for being proactive now. Our main concerns for Drew are time for completion of tasks, ability to stay focused, receptive communication, and lunch time.
Like Damion, Drew is in a very good preschool position to help promote the best transition to kindergarten. We are in a wonderful school that I feel genuinely cares about my kids. I know and respect Drew’s current teacher, current therapy staff, and administration including the special education director. He is also in a preschool which is a part of the actual elementary he will be attending giving him hopes for not only familiar faces next year, but a big advantage in the ability to practice some of the actual transition scenarios ahead of time, which is just what we did.
Before we even had Drew’s IEP meeting, the special education director and his current teacher okayed it with me for Drew to visit a kindergarten classroom during his time at school. They were able to observe him and note his strengths as well as some areas where he was struggling. This was a big help in us forming our plan to best address those classroom issues and start working on both modifications and accommodations he will need put in place for next year to be successful.
Even though to many it may not seem school related, we also worked to address the other large area of concern I have for Drew: Lunchtime. Drew is a very picky eater (lots of sensory struggles involved with eating). We struggled in this same area with Damion but as a comparison I would say Drew’s issues are even worse for this category. Mix all that with Drew already struggling with his size means I stress a lot about my boy being at school all day and not getting enough to eat.
We discussed concerns for feeding in his IEP but decided that just like the classroom worries, it would be good to see how it would actually go as well in person. So, the school set up for Drew to come in before his regular half day preschool started and eat lunch with a Kindergarten classroom. This once again gave the team a chance to see what he did fine with and what he struggled with, letting us focus in more on our plan of attack.
Early trials and preparation made Damion’s transition to kindergarten so much easier than I ever imagined and I am hopeful all of our work for Drew this time around will pay off in the same way. I wish I could say that after all the preparation that I am finally feeling ready to send him off to kindergarten, but of course I’d be lying. Even if I had zero concerns, I still wouldn’t be ready for him to go. I may never be truly ready for my baby boy to take this next big step, but I am so grateful to know that when he does go, he will be with all these wonderful people that work so hard and genuinely care for him. I hope that everyone can say the same about the school that they send their kids too.