We have been extremely busy over the last few months transitioning Rebekah from early intervention to school-based services, and determining how we want to handle her transition. Making a decision to actually send her to school is extremely emotional and scary. One part of us wants to keep her safe and sheltered, the other part of us wants to experience more than we can provide in our home (in terms of socialization with other kids her age, access to sensory rooms, ongoing therapies, and equipment we do not have, etc.). And, of course, the fact that she has a trach and is medically fragile complicates putting her in an environment where both we and the school staff feels comfortable.
Rebekah turned 3 on 4/21/12 and, according to IDEA, can start school at that time. Because of the amount of paperwork required for her medical needs, it took us a few weeks to cover all of the requirements. School is out end of the month, and it may seem silly to send her to preschool for 3 1/2 weeks, but we are looking at this as a trial run to see how we like having her at a special needs school. There is a huge debate whether to mainstream special needs kids, or segregate them. There are pros and cons to both views, and there are scenarios that combine both possibilities.
The county that we live is one of the top 50 districts in the country based on size, so we have some options available to us that may not be available in a smaller school district. One of our options is The Washington Center.
Washington Center is a unique “one of a kind” facility. It is a separate school that serves students ages 3 to 21 with severe mental disabilities. Many of these students have concurrent challenges such as autism, blindness, deafness, or physical disabilities. The mission of Washington Center is to provide opportunities for students to explore and develop potential for independent functioning and community involvement by addressing students' individual needs and creating a partnership with home, school, and community.
We are starting here because she can be in a classroom with a dedicated nurse, and a 2:1 student:adult ratio. The facility is filled with equipment and sensory items that are perfect for Rebekah. One little girl in her class started school for the first time this year at the age of 5. The parents were told she would never walk and wouldn't "do much". When we saw her in the class, she wasn't just standing, she was walking and even remained standing for the entire class circle time. She had developed this ability and the stamina to stand for 45 minutes all in the past school year. All of the children (who from outside/inexperienced eyes probably appeared severely disabled and non-communicative), participated in circle time Big Mac button pushing, making selections, voicing happiness and displeasure... I was happy to spend the day there so I could see the wonderful things they are working on with the kids. Most of all, we are very happy with her classroom teachers and nurse (who will be with her in the fall as well).
|Rebekah's First Day of School: "Good job, Rebekah!" Her teacher was quite happy to see her catch on so quick. Rebekah was quite proud of herself and sat smirking and waving her hand in excitement|
|During circle time, the teacher talked about the weather. It was a cloudy day today. The students got to touch a cloud as they discussed the weather. Rebekah joined in and swiped at the cloud as well.|