It is October and we are officially one month into a new school year. One month of new experiences. One month of new schedules. One month of changes. One month of data to assess. One month of bus rides and breath holding. One month down and my son Brady is beginning to thrive.
As a parent of a child navigating our way through the special education system, each year brings new worries, new fights and new challenges. After a rough first year of early childhood special education (ECSE) last year, our expectations for this school year were a little low. Unfairly low. Uncharacteristically low for a fighter like our Brady. But difficult experiences and a summer of struggles, left my husband and I questioning the type of program Brady should be placed in and what his abilities would be inside a classroom. So, in late August, we made a deal with ourselves, that if Brady was struggling and if Brady wasn't improving, we would make a change. If Brady wasn't the Brady we know and love and if he wasn't allowed to be himself, then we would make a very difficult decision and find a new program for Brady. But, first, we would give ECSE another shot. And I am so glad we did.
Brady has found a remarkable teacher. A teacher who believes in my son. A teacher who really tries to understand my son, his special needs, all the little quirks that come with having an extra piece of 1st chromosome and each and every challenge he faces in his day to day life due to the disabilities that have surfaced due to the genetic abnormality. She is allowing Brady to be Brady and she has embraced him for it. The entire team, including aides, therapists, a social worker and speech therapist, assembled to be a part of my son's educational needs have been as open and understanding as his teacher. It is a positive environment. A place that celebrates each little step forward Brady makes. There is no focus on what Brady cannot do. I no longer believe Brady cannot do things, I just believe there are things he cannot do yet. His teacher makes me believe this. His teacher does believe this.
We receive daily updates on Brady's progress toward his goals. We can see the steps forward. Some days they are baby steps. Many days they are little steps. On a few days, they are giant leaps. But always, we are aware. We are so grateful for the communication. My husband and I are realistic parents. We believe in goal setting that is achievable. We believe that progress will come with patience and compassion. We are seeing it all come together and our son's smiles at the end of each day, tell us that his days are filled with encouragement, love and a true belief in him.
It is only a month. I know much can change over the course of an entire school year. I know there are always unexpected twists and unexplainable turns that occur in the life of a child with special needs and their journey through special education. I also know that a strong and compassionate teacher, who sees each child as an individual, can make such a difference in a child's life. I know this, because I have already seen it happening in one short month. I know this, because I have seen it year after year with my own typically developing eight year old daughter and the remarkable teachers she has had. I know this because what my son is experiencing in his classroom is spilling over into our daily lives and our entire family can see it.
In the last month, Brady is more alert. He looks at us when we walk in a room and say his name. He tries so hard to really look us in the eyes, when we greet him in the morning. He is trying to find ways to communicate with all of us. He is jointly attending in his private speech therapy sessions. He is making progress. Many things have been working together in the last month. Brady has started a stimulant medication called Focalin. He has been on it for just over a month. Its goal is to help Brady focus, concentrate and slow down. Brady has been pretty healthy. He made it through late summer allergies and the change in temperatures, without an ear infection or even a bad cold. This has not been the norm for my little guy. His Type 1 diabetes is still a beast of a disease, but there have been more good days than bad lately. It could be the medication. It could be his health. It could be that he is developmentally ready to finally move forward. It could be so many things just coming together at the same time, but I know that a caring teacher, with a strong support team and realistic and achievable goals, makes us forget about why things are working and makes us just focus on what is working.
Brady is through one month of his second year of ECSE. He has climbed those big bus steps on his own. He smiles when he sees his bus peek through the tress when it turns onto our street. He never protests going to school, in fact he rushes out the door when I say, "time for school." He is always smiling when I pick him up from his class and he even looks when his teacher calls out his name to wave good bye to my little boy. Brady is loving school. As parents, my husband and I are loving the progress, the open communication and the knowledge that someone believes in our son as much as we do. It is only one month, but so far, it is so good.