One of the scariest things as a parents is having the understanding that the choices we make for our kids could forever effect their lives -- determine the direction we send them in and mold their inner thoughts and feelings. Being a parent of children with extra needs takes this concept to a much scarier level.
Last year we made the decision not send Angela to a special needs educational program through our local intermediate unit. We just felt like it wasn't right for our child. It's a wonderful program for children who need more intensive intervention and programing but it just didn't feel right for our little girl. Angela was making progress. She was developing faster than anyone would have ever thought -- we just didn't want to mess with a good thing. Owens developmental boot camp, as we jokingly call our home, was working!
And oh did people let us now that they did not agree with our choice.
But we didn't care. Angela continued to thrive and when she turned four, something happened that we never once imagined would ever happen. She was ready. Our girl who once lived her life in a deep stim was now a social happy little girl ready to take on the world. What was once my fear, that she would be left in a corner to stim with no redirection turned into a fear of her talking during quiet time and turning her card to yellow.
Angela started typical preschool three days a week over a month ago and she has blown us all away. I can say with full confidence that we made the right choice. Angela has found her place, is making friends and maybe even learning the fun things every four year old loves to learn!
We walk into school and the children come running up to her. They ask her questions and wait for her to respond on her iPad. The other children light up when they hear Angela call them by name! Angela has been line leader, pencil hander-outer, calendar kid and lots of other fun stuff. She is thriving!
And now we want more.
The idea that Angela will go to Kindergarten next year with her peers in a regular kindergarten classroom makes my heart full. This is not about trying to make Angela as "normal" as possible. This is about thriving. Special education is a necessity and beneficial -- it just looks different for every kid! For Angela, she has lots of supports within the regular classroom, and in November we hope to move her to the specialized classroom for an additional two days to work further on her motor and communications skills.
Making these big decisions is so hard -- and so scary. But I love that I have the assurance that even if I mess up, it doesn't change the big plans God has for my children's lives. I'm sure I am gonna make mistakes, in fact I know I have made so many. I'm also sure that Adam and I are not doing this alone. So thankful for a God who cares about the details of our lives and is more that wiling to give direction and maybe even nudge us back on the right path if we get lost.