It’s been so long since I wrote anything on this blog – I’m not even sure anyone still reads it! But we have had a lot of changes in the past few months so it’s time to give some updates. Pj is now 5 years old. We just moved back to Michigan two months ago after living in Wisconsin for almost 7 years. We loved both our school district in Wisconsin and our Catholic school in Wisconsin. Pj was fully included in general education in both settings. He had every support put in place for his success in school. Outside of school we had GiGi’s Playhouse Milwaukee where Pj received free programming to help him read and socialize.
Coming back to Michigan and living by my parents is truly wonderful. What we missed most when we moved to Wisconsin was the regular interaction our children had with their grandparents. But leaving our schools and supports has been beyond difficult. When I first found out we might be moving back to Michigan I began calling school districts. As we were coming from the top school district in Wisconsin I began by calling the special ed director in the top school district in Michigan. I explained that we are Michigan natives and will be moving home but now we have a child with Down syndrome. She put me on hold and the next thing I knew I had been passed off to her assistant. I was informed she was unable to speak to me any longer and that “those kids don’t go to school. Those kids go to Wing Lake. You need to look at Wing Lake” I wanted to crawl through the phone line and backhand her for using the phrase “those kids” but instead I just explained that we wanted Pj to be in general education. She told me “We don’t do that here.” Conversation over. I began calling school districts heading westward. I received similar information (in a much kinder manner) from most of the districts I called. Until I got hold of the special ed director here in Brighton. She told me that Pj absolutely could go to school and that inclusion works when children are young but becomes harder as they get older. She told me if we bought a house here in Brighton she would work with me. So I told Dave we were moving to Brighton.
We’ve been here two months now and it’s not all smooth sailing. I found out two weeks ago that Pj wouldn’t be going to our home school that all of the other kids in the neighborhood attend. He would instead be going to a different school across town. I wasn’t keen on this idea but agreed to go for a tour. I ended up relenting because I could see why this school would be a better fit for Pj. Although Pj would be in Junior Kindergarten, this school has three segregated special education classrooms. Therefore, this school has more resources to help kids with special needs. (For those wondering about Junior Kindergarten – it’s a class for children who age wise are old enough for kindergarten but they just aren’t ready. It’s a full day program.) So Pj would now be attending Hawkins Elementary. Now I needed to wait to hear who would be his teacher? his special ed teacher? his para? The Thursday before Labor Day weekend I emailed the special ed director inquiring as I hadn’t heard anything yet. She reached out to the principal and it was communicated to me on that Friday who would be his Junior Kindergarten teacher. Letters had been mailed home that Monday but we never received one. I can only guess it’s because the school was switched on us and we just didn’t get on the list in time.
So today was Pj’s first day of school. I don’t think I slept at all last night. I had no idea what we would be walking into today. I didn’t know what the first day of school schedule was as we never got the letter home. I didn’t know who his para professional would be. I wasn’t sure who would help Pj with toileting throughout the day or who would be helping him at lunch time or out on the playground. Thank God when I got to the school they were ready for him. The kindergarten teachers were meeting their classes outside and we were walking around trying to figure out which one was his teacher. But she saw us and immediately introduced herself to Pj. She was expecting him and then pulled his para over to meet us. Even the principal came over and said hello to me.
Pj’s first day was pretty good. His teacher and para are going to need time to get to know him. And he will need time to get comfortable with them and the new room. His teacher asked all of the parents to write her a letter introducing our child to her. She probably isn’t expecting three pages typed but that is what she is getting from me. I went out tonight and bought a notebook for home to school communication and then I wrote two more pages in that notebook about Pj’s toileting habits and the help he needs with eating. I wish we could have sat down last week and spent thirty minutes where I could share this information with them. But all I can do now is give them as much information as possible so they can work with him and he can have a successful year.
Here’s praying for another successful day tomorrow!