and sometimes? That is a quite awesome turn of events. Alyssa’s last meeting before starting school was today. It was the day that was putting more stress in my heart than anything else. I knew we’d make it through. I was grateful Neil was off to walk through it with us. However, it was still just a point of stress. It meant setting up her first Individualized Education Program (IEP) for school. I did not have worry in my heart that she would qualify for services. Just… well about how the meeting would go.
Alyssa got up at about seven this morning and I was committed to making it a peaceful wake up for both of us. I grabbed her out of bed and snuggled with her on the spare mattress in her room. I read a couple of the books that my mom managed to save from when I was little. Then, I sat in the rocker and talked to her. It’s one of the big challenges of having an almost three-year-old who is mostly non-verbal and is mostly content… to remember to tell them what is going on. I told her it was a big day and that we were going to see a lot of the people who had worked with her a few weeks ago. I told her I was so proud that she was getting so big. Mostly? I wanted to hear the words outloud for myself. I wanted her to hear them too, but I think it helped me more. However, nothing is sweeter than when you ask your child “Do you know mommy loves you very much?” and they snuggle into you, pull away, and then come in for a big kiss. I suppose the answer is a definitive yes.
We headed downstairs and after a bit Neil came down as well. I was just feeling exhausted. I think when your mind is reeling for days about something it manages to infiltrate even your sleep time. I spoke to my mom for a bit. Did you know my mom has fasted coffee for weeks to be prayerful about my sanity and Alyssa’s success in school? Seriously… she gave up something that fills her with sanity… for mine. I so badly want to be her when I grow up. At any rate, she told me she couldn’t have prayed any harder and that it was going to go just fine. With that… I dozed off on the couch and Neil let me nap for a good chunk of the morning. I woke up feeling a bit more ready to face the onslaught that was to come. We got ready, packed Alyssa’s stuff, and headed out. Alyssa doesn’t have to go to IEP appointments, but anytime that she doesn’t have to be somewhere… I kind of like her to be. It always means that it is a time people will be rattling off “facts” about her and I start to feel kind of like she’s not a person anymore. I think having her there? Helps remind each of us that she’s a smiley bright-eyed girl.
Few things in life are more intimidating than walking into a room with 8 people who are there for no other purpose than to analyze your child. One of them was her service coordinator from early intervention who I met the very first day I took her to early intervention (when she was just barely a year old) and she has been with us ever since. I was grateful for her presence. At any rate… we sat down, settled in, and the lists began. Nurse first. Just a rattle off of all the stuff that Alyssa has been through (thank God the cliff notes version!) and then on to each of the specialists. I was surprised. I expected a pretty… hmm… I don’t know. I expected them to not be quite so gleeful about who Alyssa is. I know she’s awesome. However, I was pleasantly surprised that they somehow saw HER through all the verbage on the paper.
The speech therapist said she was at the comprehension level of an 11 month old with the verbal level of an 8 month old. My reply? “Seriously? We’ll take that to the bank!” This little girl no one expected to make it to a 3 month level… ha! showed them! Everyone chuckled. She was the fourth person to talk and I think by this point everyone had realized that Neil, Alyssa, and I were all there to simply… get what Alyssa needed. I don’t mind what they have to label her (moderately mentally retarded if you need to know 😉 ) as long as she continues to get services that give her the best quality of life possible. I loved when the psychologist said something about her ranking as moderately mentally retarded and I said “OK.” and nodded. The reality? I just.don’t.care. Maybe I should, but labels are just that… labels. Does it change the fact that earlier this morning that little girl knew I loved her? Nope. Does it change the fact that as I sat behind Neil to give her a feed she called out and laughed like crazy when he turned around? NOPE! She is still her… all it changes? Is that she gets to be in a class with a maximum of 10 other kids instead of 24! That? IS AWESOME.
As we wrapped up the “recap” and established that Alyssa would of course be receiving services… one of the first pages had a couple brief paragraphs. The first was just to kind of give a quick overview of who Alyssa is and what she is “about.” One of the lines said “Alyssa has a very supportive family and is a happy and playful little girl.” That? was the *ONLY* time I came close to tears during the meeting. This woman has met us a total of three times. In a total of maybe three hours… she saw my daughter for exactly who she is… and where she comes from. I wanted to squeeze her for getting it… for understanding… for seeing! Then we set up what was important to us. Safety of course was at the top of the list. Beyond that? We wanted Alyssa to have a happy and POSITIVE learning environment. I want her to feel empowered going to school. I think I actually told the woman that for me what was most important was that people embraced Alyssa for who she is… not who they want her to be. Yes… of course I want her to reach all of our “goals,” but more importantly for me is that she feels confident in her environment. I know she will 🙂 .
We finished setting up outcomes with regards to motor skills, self-help, feeding, etc. Everything from learning to help dress herself to putting a puzzle together. We find out within the next couple days what school she is going to. She could start on her birthday but we are going to hold off and start her on Tuesday the 16th. I cannot wait for her to get a chance to be surrounded by kids every day. She’s going to have a blast! I cannot wait for her to get a chance to be surrounded by people that are not family every day. I know it will help her flourish. I also cannot wait for her to get a chance to show that many more people what a force she is to be reckoned with. She is an amazing little girl. It’d be selfish of me to keep her at home! I cannot believe that I am going to have a school bus riding, school attending, three-year old in a matter of days. People always tell you the days drag but the years fly by… I think it’s impossible to believe until you actually live it 🙂