Piper turns three in about two and a half weeks. Since Piper came home from the NICU, we’ve had one occupational therapist. Our speech therapist has been with us for about a year.
Why is this so significant? When you receive services through Early Intervention, that third birthday is a biggie. It means that she has aged out of EI and will be transferred to the school district to receive her services there instead. It means that we’ll lose the therapists we have had for so long, and Piper will start a new chapter.
Because her birthday is so close to the end of the school year, we’ve chosen to not have her start until the beginning of the school year. We’ll take the summer off and just enjoy. I’m okay with all of this on paper, but I’m still not sure how it’s possible that my little munchkin will be starting school.
Piper had a “mini” assessment back in February. Basically it was just a informational session with a couple people to make sure that it was “worth” their time to do a full eval. I get that part. But it did not go as I had anticipated. We’ll leave it at I started looking into private preschools that afternoon. We had about a month before her full evaluation in which time I worried myself sick.
For those of you who have never been in this situation, let me explain. It’s torture to see your child, your toddler, “graded.” For people who don’t know your child to assess what they are and are not capable of doing. There’s something innately unfair about starting your life having to prove yourself. In a lot of ways, I feel like we’ve been working toward this transition for three years now- like this evaluation was her “final exam” and how she did was a reflection of how hard we worked, and how much we did (or didn’t do…) our therapy “homework.” I also hate that the people doing these assessments are, in essence, determining the long-range capabilities of my child. Up until this point, Piper received her therapies because she had a diagnosis. But to get services through the school district, you have to show that she needs help in areas that affect her ability to learn in the classroom. In other words, not having the extra help would deny her access to the same education as her peers. So it’s kind of a double-edged sword- you want your kid to shine and show their stuff, but not so much so that they don’t qualify for assistance they need.
I could not have been more thrilled that both of Piper’s therapists and our EI coordinator came to the meeting with us. When we walked into the room, Piper was swarmed by four ladies and was expected to “perform” and show them what she could do. I hate the evaluation process- how it’s possible to see what a kid can do in that kind of environment is beyond me. She wanted to get up, explore, and see why the heck we had brought her there- not sit down and build a train with blocks… But what I didn’t expect was their willingness to utilize Becky and Jennifer to get more information about Piper. So when Piper didn’t “perform” and do a three piece puzzle (she did a twelve piece puzzle in about two minutes this morning during OT…), they took our therapists’ word that she was able. I’m so, so grateful that they took the time to come with us to her three hour appointment.
The special educator that was there said that Piper’s pre-academic skills were very good. One thing I didn’t anticipate is that her class will be a mix of 3- and 4-year-olds. This makes me pretty nervous because Piper is so. gosh. darn. small. But the teacher said that she felt it was important for Piper to have 4-year-olds in her class because she’ll need them to have as models. She said that Piper will be a model for a lot of her classmates, which was truly awesome to hear (and kind of made me tear up a little…) The PT was next and said that Piper in no way would qualify for PT services. Except that they wanted the PT to go out the first week of school and discuss adaptive seating options and accessibility issues because of her short stature. She said that even the preschool chairs were just way too big, and they wanted to make sure that she could reach the sink and the potties. And I didn’t even have to ask! She’ll get OT because she’s at risk of falling behind. The OT said that she just wanted to offer her a little more one-on-one help to make sure that she develops the skills appropriately and can keep up with her class. She’ll get speech, too, which was obvious to me. I haven’t seen her actual IEP yet, but it sounded like the speech would be more one-on-one and not group-based (my biggest fear was that she’d be stuck working on vocabulary- her strong suit), and very tailored to her quirks. Perfect!
All-in-all, it wasn’t as traumatizing as I had built it up to be. I was bummed that Piper didn’t cooperate and do the things that she’s totally able to do, but in the end it didn’t really matter. They all oogled over her from start to finish and said that she’ll be loved in school. That’s what you really want, right? For you child to go to school, be accepted, enjoy it, and learn. And as I’m getting over my hesitations, I’m starting to get excited for what her year holds. I’m excited to see her learn and watch her grow. I think she’s ready, and I know she’ll do great!