A family's story

Posts tagged ‘preschool’

Teacher Appreciation

This week was Teacher Appreciation week. Like a good parent, I made sure our boys participated in the daily activities. They brought flowers, they wore baseball caps (“hats off to teachers”), they wrote a nice sentence or word about their teachers, they wrote cards, etc, etc.

As the last day of Teacher Appreciation Week approached, I made sure I got all of the gift cards ready. I had to buy several. I had them laid out last night as I wrote a hand-written note to each teacher and specialist. Each one. Hubz’s eyes bulged from their sockets. “How many of these do we have?” “Thirteen”. “Seriously?!” “Yes. It takes a village, my man. A village.”

I had a little cramping in my hand from writing so many notes. However, it was worth it. While we have had our differences with various staff members, I still am ever grateful for all that they do for our boys. It cannot be easy to modify curriculum, make sure accommodations are being honored, and seeing to it that a stubborn four year old is learning his alphabet. We may not always see eye-to-eye on everything, but I do respect them for their dedication and hard work.

Jake may not act out, and we never hear about negative behavior. However, he requires a lot of redirection, check-in, and encouragement. A lot. If he’s on the right path, he needs to be told that, and encouraged to keep going. If he gets confused, he needs to be shown what is supposed to be done. He processes information differently…he is a little slower than an average child, but given the time, he answers the questions correctly. It can’t be easy for the general education teacher to be able to give him what he needs while she’s juggling 20-some other students and their needs, as well. Somehow, it has been happening. Since our struggles mid-year, Jake is coming along. He struggles, yes, but he is also finding areas of success. And when he does get those good grades, oh, how he beams. His pride is evident.

Tate is impulsive, and wants to blow through everything. He’s smart, too, which means that even when he blows through it, he often gets it right..but he misses the concept, and it often needs to be retaught. He requires constant one-on-one help to get through academic tasks. We are absolutely appreciative of his teacher’s ability to tailor the curriculum to each child’s needs. His special education teacher has a knack for customizing the curriculum for each child so that he or she can learn it and retain it. She is amazing. She is patient, strict about adhering to the IEP and BIP, and she doesn’t let Tate use his cuteness to skip out of the hard stuff. As a result, he has made huge gains and is hitting his goals. Whoohoo!!!

Cole is a bundle of energy. He is also such a sponge. He loves to learn. He is full of “why” and “how” and “what” questions. He also retains the knowledge. He is also stubborn and doesn’t always want to learn his letters or apply the phonics he is learning…but he’s getting there. We are grateful that his teacher has been able to harness his energy and love of learning to get him where he is today. When he entered preschool this year, he knew a few letters, a few numbers, and barely knew his name. Now, he is doing much, much better. She recommended him for kindergarten..and we know her hard work is behind much of his success.

The aides in Tate and Cole’s classrooms are wonderful. I don’t know how they keep it together with all of the demands, but they do. They are patient and caring. We never worry about our boys in those rooms, because they really do care for our babies as if they were their own. And even better? They treat our kids with respect. These aides should give lessons to other aides. They just do it right.

The specialists that work with Tate and Jake deserve credit, too. Our boys aren’t always keen about going to OT, but she has been working harder at pushing them to their abilities..and we are seeing results. Both Tate and Jake are progressing. Tate’s handwriting is getting much more legible, and Jake is more comfortable with his assistive technology. Jake isn’t fighting his OT weekly, either, which is progress. The social worker gets both boys to work through their anxiety. She helps them through the tough stuff (like socializing and conversation). She knows when they need the law laid down, and when they need a big hug. She is nothing short of amazing. Oh, and the speech therapist…she’s young, and energetic, and full of great ideas. Our boys really enjoy speech this year…which is awesome! This is the first year in a long time where Jake is meeting speech goals. Tate has met his, too. She has a way of getting through to them, and I love that they are comfortable with her. I really hope she is back next year!! (It probably doesn’t hurt that she’s a cute little thing, too.)

So, while we can’t give the teachers and specialists what they are truly worth monetarily, I hope that they know that we would if we could. They are helping our boys find their way in this crazy world, and we are grateful for what they do for them. We are blessed that our boys have the teachers that they do, and that they have support staff that are able to handle their needs, as well. I hope they understand how much this family appreciates them…

The Siblings…

There is a little boy in Cole’s preschool class who still struggles with separation from his mom. On many days that he attends class, his eyes are rimmed with red from crying. He looks miserable. Cole often tells me that this child cried during class. Or that this child is “sad”. (In Cole speak, that probably means that the child is having a meltdown.) I haven’t ever been able to talk to this child’s mom about how I “get it”, as she’s always busy reassuring us parents that she’s ok, he’s ok, and that it’s just a rough morning. 

Last week, this child was having another bad morning. He was crying at drop-off. His mom looked as frazzled as he did. I asked if I could help. Another mom, who seems to know them better, asked as well. She politely declined. I smiled and wished her good luck…and threw in, “I get it…” She looked at me with slight disbelief. She has no idea about Tate…she only knows Cole…the most “typical” of our lot.

Apparently, the crying from drop-off continued through the morning. Many of the children were watching this child as he cried and sobbed during the letter of week time. Cole went about his morning routine as best as he could, and according to his teachers, didn’t give the child who was melting down too much attention. As one activity transitioned to another, the kids had some play time.  Cole scampered over to the play area and started to rummage around the bins.

His teacher said that he found what he was looking for–a stop sign. He walked up to her and said, “Can we tell _____ that it’s time to stop (points to the stop sign)–stop the crying. He needs to use words to tell us what he needs.” She said she was flabbergasted. Before she could give Cole an answer, Cole approached the boy. “_____, use your words to tell us what’s wrong.” Cole showed the boy the stop sign. The boy stopped crying. He was surprised that Cole said something. But he stopped. Cole invited the boy to play with him. The boy said no, but the meltdown was over. Cole went about his playtime.

When Cole’s teacher told me about the day’s events, she said that he was never rude or harsh. He didn’t bully. He was simply trying to help the boy who was having such a rough time at school. She couldn’t believe his method for coping with the issue, either. I told Cole’s teacher about Tate, and how Cole is accustomed to dealing with an autistic brother. This is what Cole knows. She then told me that the backstory of Tate’s autism explains a lot…she went on to say that Cole is more tolerant, more kind, more compassionate than the average kids in her class. She said he has patience and is often the first to try to comfort an upset peer. (COLE?! Our resident instigator?!)

I often worry about how our family’s experience with Autism will affect Cole and Jake. I worry that they’ll feel neglected. That they’ll feel slighted. That they’ll feel like they are less loved. I worry that they’ll act up–or out. That they’ll seek attention because they don’t feel like they get enough at home. I worry that they’ll be nasty to children who struggle.

After hearing about Cole’s experience at school, and knowing what I know about Jake, I am confident that, if anything, living with autism has given my boys perspective. It’s given them compassion–even Cole at 3.5 years old. Instead of staring, Cole went on with his day. Instead of making a production about the disruption, Cole tried to find a way to cope with it. Instead of judging, Cole tried to calm the boy and asked him to play.

This gives me hope that our boys will use the tools they have been given and will build upon them as they mature…and that the experiences with their brother will make them better men. More understanding. More compassionate. More patient. More empathetic. Just…More.


Today was a big milestone for us. My “baby” went to preschool. Cole is a preschooler. When did that happen??? He’s there 2 days a week, 2 1/2 hours each visit, but those are 5 hours I have never had to myself before. As I drove him to his first day, Cole chattered on and on about going to preschool. He was excited to see “his” kids. He was bubbly and chatty and said he wanted to learn more “stuffs”. I took his picture in front of the school. He kind of smiled for me. He was impatient–behind the door was his long-awaited preschool class. He could not contain his excitement any longer.

We walked into the building and Cole helped me put his items where they belonged. He did it without me even having to tell him–he just followed what everyone else did. He zipped up his backpack. We walked into the classroom. He took a big look around, got a huge smile on his face, and waved to me, “Bye, mom! See you later!” Huh. That was it. Ok. I left, smiling as I did. Another mom mentioned that she was going to likely break down in her car, once she was out of eyesight. She was sending her baby to school, too. I didn’t feel any tears coming on…just a sigh of relief.

The moment, for me, was bittersweet…emphasis on the sweet. I had a little tightness in my throat and tug at my heartstrings as I thought of my youngest child in a classroom–beyond my control. It made me think about how much he is READY for preschool. How excited I am for him to learn about letters, numbers, colors, shapes, writing, math, reading, and playing with friends. I smiled as I thought of him trying to rule the roost as he does at home…and how he’s going to have to learn to share and take turns with his peers. It will be an adjustment, but he can handle it. He’s ready.

I flashed back to April 2009. We sent Tate to school, on a bus. For 2 1/2 hours of preschool 5 days a week. At age 3 and 3 days. Tate didn’t talk. Tate had an incredibly difficult time receptively understanding speech. He had sensory needs that were off of the charts. He couldn’t use the bathroom by himself…in fact, he was still in diapers. He shied away from peers, preferring to sit near teachers and adults. He was incredibly dependent. He couldn’t follow directions. He had no idea how to navigate the world. And yet, we sent him to preschool. Because it was what was needed. It was for his benefit. I cried the entire day at work in my cube..until his teacher called me to let me know he had a fantastic day.

If we could do that, I could definitely send my 3 year-2-months-but-acts-like-he’s-nine-year-old to a preschool where I can drop him off, pick him up and ask him how his day went–and know that I’m getting a fairly accurate representation of his day from HIM. We got his “Cole had a great first day” certificate and he proudly put it on the refrigerator next to Jake’s spelling test and Tate’s latest assignment from school. He was beaming as he did it.

If you’re wondering what I did with my 2 and a half hours…well, it wasn’t very thrilling, but it was wonderful. I ran errands that are impossible to do with a 3-year-old. I sat at my kitchen table with a glass of water and read the morning paper. I searched the basement and the family room for a lost library DVD (to no avail), but didn’t have anyone “helping” me do it…It was glorious. And I’m looking forward to the next 8 months of this new freedom.



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