As we’ve learned so many times along this way, delays and detours often lead to answers better than we could have hoped for in the beginning. Today, was verse number four of that song.
In the morning, we took Abbie to visit her potential classroom at Ali’iolani elementary. She was excited to see the other kids, meet the teachers and aides, and see the room. As I talked with Paul, the teacher, and looked at the layout of the room, I began to share Abbie’s excitement.
Then came the screeching of mental brakes…I learned that all of the third-grade (as well as second-grade) classrooms are upstairs. There is no elevator. My hopes of her having time in a normal classroom evaporated, and I tried to hide my disappointment until I could really reason through it. We had a meeting scheduled with the whole IEP team later in the afternoon, so I figured we could talk about it then.
I sought counsel from a trusted special-needs mom, and talked a bit with Ray. Mostly, I felt like a melting Jack-o-lantern. My hopes had been burning so brightly, but now the candle was snuffed out and my smile began to turn down at the corners.
I arrived at the meeting with a knot in my stomach — so torn because I truly like every member of the team at Ali’iolani, but I just didn’t want to trap Abbie away from her peers. I am glad that Ray and I opened our ears more than our mouths! As we outlined our concerns, as well as Abbie’s recent cognitive explosion, not only were we able to come to reasonable conclusions and create workable plans, but we got to know the team even better…and realized how profoundly blessed we are.
Just some examples:
* I showed them Abbie’s curriculum when they visited the house, one of which is a homeschool curriculum. Not only have they already researched both in-depth, but they have already ordered them to use with Abbie, to ease her transition to school.
* The teacher showed me a consent form for videotaping in the classroom, and asked if I would strongly consider signing it, because when the therapists visit his kids, he tapes the sessions so he can make sure he is working with the kids correctly.
* During the meeting I asked the third-grade teacher present if at some point I could look at the third grade content to ensure Abbie would receive all of it. After the meeting she pulled out each of the texts and workbooks, walked me through each one, showed me where the class was now at, and gave me copies of blank worksheets they have already done.
* Abbie’s teacher mentioned that he is very into technology, computers etc, and runs the Lego-robotics activities at the school. I told him that thrilled me, calling technology “Abbie’s bridge to the world.” He smiled and said, ” You know, I am really thinking of her as more of a Stephen Hawking….she is so intelligent, we just have to find a way to get it out. I see her as more of a ‘Resource’ kid than an ‘SMI’ Kid, and I was a resource teacher for three years before moving to SMI, so I am very familiar with that.”
I had to ask him to define those terms for me: SMI means something along the lines of “severe, multiple disabilities”, while “Resource” means just needing some extra help or different adaptations to learn. He already sees her for who she is, and is very willing to welcome me into his classroom to help everyone get to know her better.
We are hoping that we can get all the necessary paperwork done to have Abbie start in 2 weeks or so. If you happen to have children at Ali’ioilani, you should be very proud of the staff and school. I have, at times, had severe reservations about the Dept. of Ed’s ability to deal fairly with a girl like Abbie. I knew it would take just the right people to gain my trust…and today we found them!
Abbie also had a lot of fun on Saturday, dressing up as Alina, the butterfly princess from one of her beloved Barbie movies. We even decked out her chair with some butterflies, ribbons and streamers. I was so sick that I missed her morning therapy session, as well as her trip to the mall that evening….but, faithful Auntie Rae took this picture on her phone for me: