We’ve decided to keep Grace at the 6-7 building for an extra year. In doing our due diligence we talked with a lot of people, we met with the 8-9 teacher, we saw the next school, we heard over and over we couldn’t make a bad choice. We also heard (from some of you that read along with us – THANK YOU!) that we should make a decision and stick to it. Never look back.
It came down to a handful of things, a few of which we can share:
- We love Grace’s teacher in the current building. She is doing great things with Gracie. She’s pushing her especially in the area of communication and it feels like we’d be interrupting their work to move Grace now.
- The aides in Grace’s current building are also pretty incredible. They write the best notes home – carefully recording the good, bad, and funny in Grace’s days.
- Grace loves music and seems to love playing with the band. We were told in the next building that most likely Grace wouldn’t be able to continue playing in the band. It’s possible she wouldn’t even be able to go in and listen. This took me a bit to come to terms with…while I respect it this makes me very sad.
- The new building also has much to offer her when she arrives. They have adaptive art and adaptive PE. While it sounds like Grace wouldn’t leave the classroom as much there will be more kids who come into hers. Most of the kids who come into volunteer are the ninth graders, meaning her first year there the kids she’s with now will most likely be the volunteers.
- Finally, we made a chart. Grace can be in school for seven more years. They recommended to us that we do not keep her any more than four years at any one school and more than one person told us that three years with a teacher is some kind of sweet spot. When you look at it that way she can afford to be in the 6/7 building one more year.
To be really honest I’ve gone back and forth a lot, but last week as I sat at her band concert I somehow knew that we needed to make the choice to have her stay. It doesn’t hurt that in her communication book an aide let us know that when talking about band that day Grace had used her device to say “I like band concert.” It is the best choice for Grace to stay. Another year of her being the one going out and about sounds good. We’ll need to soak that all in.
In making that choice I also realized at that same band concert what I will miss in her being held back. That night Grace and I were greeted by the White family, Vis family, Bogue family, and I glimpsed the Brinkmeyer family from across the room. These families each have “regular” 7th graders and have been in our lives at least since Grace and their kids started kindergarten. When I walk into a big school function they are the people I know and being known by them is comforting. None of them are shy about greeting Grace. I feel like it’s also important to mention that the only new families in our school community that I’ve come to know since kindergarten for Grace are families with kids in special ed.
I don’t know if I will know anyone in the class that will absorb Grace next year. Without the four families I mentioned above at times I’m sure that I would have felt invisible or like we didn’t belong. I imagine it will feel that way next year.
And even though Grace will at times catch up with those kids and their families she won’t be doing the same things and I imagine our interactions will be even further limited. There is great isolation in special needs parenting. As the gap between us and normal grow, so it seems does the isolation. Kevin and I have been very lucky to find a special needs family crowd who have positively impacted our lives in so many ways. In no way am I discounting that. Those relationships are true gifts. I also want to say though that different people serve different purposes in our lives and I’m not choosing to change my relationships with these four “regular” families because they aren’t working, it’s happening because Grace is Grace.
I walked out of the concert with one of the dads of those families. I’ve known him longer then I’ve known Kevin. He knew me when I was younger, more idealistic, and more carefree. When he asked me how we were I replied “ We are taking it one day at a time.” My most honest answer that I could give in the 30 seconds we had together. “Fine” would have been untrue because he knows better and cares. The thing is no one else there would have asked.
So, I am indulging in a little looking back. Looking back to when we didn’t seem so different. Looking back to the times I’ve reached out to those families to figure out what kind of music kids Grace’s age listen to, and where I go to buy the cool clothes. They are the people I called on when I felt like Grace had been placed far apart from the rest of her classmates at an elementary concert and I just needed to know if it looked like that to someone who could be more objective then I could. I can’t help but smile as I see their kids looking so grown up – they’ve each come so far. Grace has to but in a different way.
To the four families: Thank you for being a part of Grace’s story. Thank you for helping us feel not quite so alone. We will miss seeing you.