Today is the first day of school in our city. I sent my sophomore out the door to catch the bus at 6:10 this morning. Needless to say, S was not starting his day at that time!
It is hard to believe that S is starting his senior year. He is in denial about it. We are trying to look at the realities of it. As a friend of mine from church said when I asked if her senior was ready, “It doesn’t matter if she’s ready. It’s coming.”
As we prepare to roll into this year that is coming, I thought it would be fun to look back at S’s “first days” of school. He doesn’t fully understand how hard he has worked and how far he has come. His school journeys started when he was 4 years old, barely speaking English (he was adopted from Bulgaria in March 2001), racing around in his walker up on his toes, “W” sitting in class, constantly talking, and charming everyone in the school building.
First day of preschool (May 2001): We pulled up to Fort Rucker Primary, I got S’s walker out of the van, took him out of the van, told him, “Don’t move!”, and turned to get J out of the van. Because S was so excited about school, he didn’t listen to my instructions to not move and walked right off the curb with his walker - both hands still holding his walker. He landed on his face in the gravel next to the van. I put J down, picked S up, found something in my van to wipe the blood off of his face (probably a dirty Kleenex), and proceeded to herd my children into the nurse’s office. We ended up at the hospital because S had a cut very close to his eye, so it was bleeding badly. I walked into the Pediatric Clinic and begged them not to send me to Urgent Care. They saw S, and it wasn’t as bad as it looked. Needless to say, his first day of Preschool wasn’t at school.
First day of PreK: The first day of PreK was cancelled due to bad weather - Tropical Storm Barry. His initial IEP meeting was scheduled for the second day of school which ended up being the first day. Imagine our surprise when we found out that no one from the school had informed his teacher about his needs related to his CP or that English was not S’s first language. Her reaction in the meeting was priceless. She went from thinking she had a child who had a lot of issues to telling us how well he did for the first day.
First day of K: S was so excited to get to school! His PreK teacher had moved up to Kindergarten and had requested that he be in her class. He could write his name at the start of school which was very exciting! We had worked on it all summer long.
First day of 1st Grade: At this point, S felt like he was king of the school. The staff at this school was amazing. He went to school using crutches for primary support and his walker for PE and Recess. He had to walk to the neighborhood bus stop, so he and J could ride the bus home together.
First day of 2nd Grade: S started school in California. He was a “walker” for school transportation purposes. He would ride in his wheelchair while we hung his walker across the back and strapped his crutches into the holder on the wheelchair. We were a sight! He had helped write an informational book about himself to be shared with the class. It had pictures and explanations of the different equipment he used and why. He discussed things he would need help with and when not to help him.
First day of 3rd Grade (CA): S was homeschooled the first half of third grade. We did not have a good experience with the school system the previous year.
First day of 3rd Grade (VA): It was a great first day! Everything he needed was in place on the first day of school: transportation, support services, correct seating in all of his rooms. We had given his book from second grade to his teacher prior to his first day so she could share it with the class ahead of time. We made the decision to have him in his wheelchair during the school day to conserve his energy for academics. He used his crutches for near walking and his walker for PE and Recess
First day of 4th Grade and First day of 5th Grade: We sent S on the bus to school and then we met him there to make sure he had everything he needed in his classroom. Again, the various support services from the district were there to make sure he was set up for success.
The Homeschooling Years - 6th-11th grade: First days have been different for him than his brother who is attending public school. They are much more relaxed. Some years he has let us take a picture on the “first” day. Other years he has told us no. Some years he hasn’t even been here for the first day. He travels to Minnesota in late August/early September. Some years he has had appointments on the first day of school. Public school kids aren’t taking those slots. One year he picked up new AFO’s followed by a shoe shopping trip to the mall.
First day of 12th grade: That brings us to his last first day. He is a senior. Before we know it, his last last day will be here. It is bittersweet for us. He even let me take a picture of him on his last first day!
Through the years, he has progressed from using a walker to crutches. Surgery and AFO’s have helped to correct the toe walking. Thousands of hours of PT have stopped the “W” sitting. He still talks constantly, and he definitely has a way with people. He learned English and uses as many words a day as he can. He has learned so much and has worked so hard to be successful in school. In addition to his CP, he has been diagnosed with ADD and Low Vision. Everything he does requires so much more work on his part than it does for other students. Yet, he has persevered and taken the classes that he needs so he can go to college.
So, ready or not, it’s here! Let’s enjoy this last year on the couch with chocolate!