Lamp's teacher sends a weekly email with photos from inside the classroom that week... these are those photos and I love that her teacher takes the time to send these to everyone.
**PS--I still haven't heard from my mocc winner the elusive K. If I don't hear from K. by tonight, I will select another winner from the original comments and announce tomorrow!
I thought some of you might be interested in hearing how Lamp's preschool experience has been going so far.
In a word: Fantastic.
As you know, finding a preschool that was willing to work with Lamp in the first place was difficult. When we finally did find our preschool we had some different ideas about how we were going to introduce Lamp and her differences to the class. Having a few years experience under my belt, I know that when Lamp encounters a group of new-to-her children her differences can be a head turning and staring distraction at best and a full fledged circle around Lamp point and grab and ask questions fiasco at worst. So there was no doubt in my mind that it needed to be addressed. Additionally, we also had to meet with her teachers and introduce her to them, and try to address any and all accommodations she would need ahead of time. It was an emotional whirlwind, but one that has paid off.
In the end it was decided that on the first day her teacher would read a story I brought in that addresses differences in a very general way and then there would be a discussion about differences with the kids. Additionally I put together an email that was sent to the other parents of children in Lamps class. The email introduced Lamp, highlighted her differences and abilities, gave some tips about how to talk to their children about Lamp, and what was OK/not OK (asking questions is OK! Grabbing her arms without asking is not OK.) Apparently things went well that first day as I never heard too much about it, which is a great sign.
As for Lamp herself, on the car ride to school the very first day she told me that her tummy was rumbly. I asked her if she was nervous and she said yes. And so we had a little talk about being nervous and meeting new friends. It helped her to know that even mama gets nervous sometimes. But like I said in my first day of school report--she did great. No tears and everything was fine. Since then we've gone from rumbly tummies to all out cheers and "Hooray! I have school today!" when getting ready for school. Music to my mama ears. She tells me about her friends, music time, Spanish class and motor skills. I love that she's learning and doing new things, but most importantly I love that she's having fun.
One reason school has been so great is that she also takes and uses her power chair. This is really the first time she's used it on a consistent basis outside of the house and I was a little nervous, but it's been great. I can't tell you what a difference the independence of mobility makes in her world, but particularly in a school environment. Additionally her chair puts her up on the level of her peers instead of always scooting on the floor, which again = huge difference! Then add in the cool factor of a 3 year old who gets to drive her own chair... and well girlfriends got preschool street cred in spades.
Here's the best part of it all....the one thing that has made me smile the most. Lamp's teacher is fantastic, as are the 2 class aids. I love them all, and so does Lamp. Last week I was meeting with her teacher for parent/teacher conferences and I was once again saying how grateful I was for finding this school, for the accommodations they so willingly made. Her teacher sort of shook her head and said, there's really not that much extra they have to do for her and that having her in her class has been a valuable learning experience for her as she's realized she's just another kid. She went on to say that she's learned not to make judgements as to what she can or can't do. There was one song they learned in circle time with actions and movements that were more difficult for Lamp. So she stopped doing the song on days Lamp is at school... and Lamp noticed. And she asked why they didn't sing that song. Her teacher realized that even if she didn't do the actions and movement in the same way as the other kids, she was still doing them and more importably wanted to do them. While Lamp certainly needs certain accommodations, her teacher has learned that she'll let you know what she can and can't do and not to assume beforehand what those things are. I nodded. We've learned those same lessons ourselves.
But the creme de la creme, was when she told me that a week or two ago someone had stopped her and asked how everything was going in the classroom with Lamp and she said she was confused for a moment, like she didn't understand why this person was asking about this one child in particular and she just answered, fine. And then it hit her, oh yeah...they mean because of her disability. She said she realized that she doesn't really see her differences anymore, she just sees Lamp. Exhale. Yes, yes and yes. When she said that I know she doesn't mean she doesn't actually see them, she just sees past them.
I've heard some people in the disability world state that they one day hope people won't notice the disability first, but will just see a person or a kid. My opinion is a little different.... I don't mind people noticing or seeing Lamp's disability first, in fact good luck Chuck! in not noticing the absence of an arm and a very unique little hand. To me it's not only unrealistic not to see her dissability, but it sends the message that it's something shameful to be ignored. I know that's not what other people/parents mean... but thats just my take. However, there is a difference between noticing her differences and dwelling on them. Notice her differences yes, but don't be so blinded by them that you can't see past them to the whole person she is. I think all our kids need accommodations in one way or another, as they (we) all have strengths and weaknesses... Lamp is no different really. I knew that if I could just find the right school they'd see that her strengths outweigh her weaknesses, that she would be a valuable asset to their class and worth a little extra help. Like the rest of us, Lamp is more than the sum of all her parts. And at the end of the day, if people can see the whole package--limbs differences, a cheerful disposition, silly faces, determination, patience, sass and more--than I could ask for nothing more because they just see Lamp.
Preschool experience so far: A+