The last several weeks have been so emotionally draining. We were incredibly blessed that Archie was able to attend the Arbor School for the past few months, but it was finally time for him to say goodbye to his friends and teachers. It was not an easy goodbye as he loves his teachers so much, and they love him the same.
Thank you for blessing us Donna, June, and Geana!
The public school world has been very different, and honestly, I was just not prepared for everything that we would face. I mean, I am really only classically trained in parenting until up to age 3.5, so this little seven year old has brought on a whole host of new and exciting challenges for me.
First there was all the testing for Archie to determine what kind of services he would qualify for. I still think it is a little crazy that a child with Down Syndrome would have to wait until testing was done to determine whether they qualified for special services- that just doesn't make sense to me. But it is the law and it is what it is.
I was in the room for the majority of his testing. He did not show his true intelligence at all. Maybe it was too much pressure, he was just in silly mode. Or maybe it was the sweet Bulgarian translator who looked exactly like so many of his caregivers at the orphanage, and clearly freaked him out and confused him. He mostly gave her the stink eye when she spoke, and at one point was telling her "no more" in Bulgarian (I didn't point out that he was saying that, and neither did she). Whatever the reason, he did not give a good representation of just how smart he really is.
Then there was coming back in to hear the results of his testing. That was one of my least favorite parts of this process, if not my very least. To hear someone in words telling you all that your child can't do, and how far behind they are, how they compare on whatever charts exist, it just doesn't feel great. Not because I care where he is on any chart, or how far behind he is any other kid, but because I just didn't want to hear somebody telling me what my child could not do. We are talking about a little boy who came to America from an Eastern European orphanage where he lived since birth, and within weeks was speaking an entirely new language; A boy who knows every word to Adele's "Someone Like You", and sings it on key; Can make a friend at any given moment, no matter where we are; A boy who plays make believe with his sister and has a sense of humor like no other. This is a smart kid.
It finally came to talking about Archie's placement and programming in school. Because of his age he would technically be placed in second grade. That was just not going to work for us. He was in what was considered a Kindergarten class at Arbor (although of course very different than a typical Kindergarten class considering that there were only 7 kids in the class and 3 teachers). But Kindergarten was just the perfect place for Archie. Academically, if he was given the chance to finish this year in Kindergarten, he could really start closing the gap and catching up to his peers. He could be involved in what they were learning. In second grade, he wouldn't have the slightest chance. Also socially-- he is TINY, would probably be the smallest kid in a Kindergarten class- but he would at least be able to develop some real friendships. In second grade he would have just been this little tiny boy who the other kids didn't even really understand why he was in their class. Of course I don't doubt that there are compassionate second graders who would have loved him and befriended him, but it just wouldn't be the same. Second graders are learning multiplication and playing football. Just not the appropriate place for Archie.
To make a long story as short as can be, what we wanted was for Archie to be mainstreamed into a Kindergarten classroom with in-class support. It was a battle. There were tears. (only from me). But....guess who is starting Kindergarten on Monday??
He will be at Hunters Creek Elementary-- which happens to be the old stomping grounds of both Joey and my Dad. It is a great school and we couldn't be happier. It is not the school we are zoned too, because that school doesn't have as much Special Education support, and he would not have been able to have full inclusion with support in the classroom there. But it is a fantastic school and everyone we have met there so far has been awesome. Archie cannot wait to get started!
This will be a huge adjustment for him, and I imagine it will involve quite a bit of trial and error for everyone. But I know that he will flourish. He will be exhausted at the end of the day, but he will be happy.
Today, your Daddy and I got you an awesome gift-- Kindergarten! Every kid deserves to have Kindergarten and you are no exception. You will be amazing. You will learn so much, you will make new friends, you will test and frustrate your teachers, but they will ALL love you. You will not be a burden on anyone, but rather a blessing. You are a smart boy and I could not be more proud of you. We love you more than words could ever say.
Just as a little side note-- none of what I have said in this post is meant to be negative towards the people who we have been working with throughout this process. Yes, there were many different opinions, some that we really didn't agree with. But we know that everyone involved only had Archie's best interest in mind, and wanted a plan that would help him to be most successful. (It just so happens that Joey and I know what is best for him-- cause we know him better than anyone!) But in the end, everyone really worked with us, heard what we had to say, and even understood where we were coming from. We had a great team in place, and the decision that we came to is exactly what we want for Archie. So we have no complaints! We are thankful that our voices were heard.
Thanks to everyone for your prayers and support. Here's to new adventures!
Lots of Love!