Friday, February 1, 2013

How to Know?

Parents of young children with Ds these days are likely to hear just how much better the opportunities, expectations, and quality of life are for their children, as opposed to even 10 or 20 years ago.

This is attributed to better medical care, Early Intervention services, and largely, in my view, to inclusion.

Being counted in as a member of society is critical.  Being a student in a classroom with other typically-developing peers, participating in community events, being seen and heard... all these factors help to raise expectations for our children.  And our children are rising to meet many of these expectations all the time.

But like other parents, I often find myself wondering just how much to push and just how much to expect.  There is such a push to prepare for school, to make sure our children are in age-appropriate typical classroom settings.

I am starting to look at preschools.  I know she won't start for another year, but it suddenly feels like it'll be here before we know it.  Her Early Intervention team feels that she won't benefit much from the school district's special education preschool and that we should start looking for a typical preschool classroom for her.  The daunting prospect of putting her in school is already giving me butterflies in my stomach.

And the whole thing has gotten me thinking...

I'm looking at taking her back to the library story time events, since her naps are finally shifting enough to permit this.  And I wonder if I should take her to the 2-year old class or the 1 year-old class.  She just turned 2.  She's small.  She doesn't really talk.  She doesn't walk.  Heck, the last time we were in the 1-year old class (about a year ago), she was one of the very few non-walkers and the 1 year olds were doing some pretty impressive things (like following instructions and participating in activities.) Thinking of what the expectations for the big 2-year olds makes me nervous.  Would she be ready?

I guess the question I've been asking myself is whether I want to constantly push her beyond where she is developmentally and expect her to be with her same-age peers.

If we push her so much will there be room for her to be where she is?   

I want to value where she is now.  My perfect moments now are when I am on the floor with Cora, delighting in the things that she finds hilarious, watching her interact with her surroundings, seeing the sparkle in her eye as she discovers something new.  Sometimes I find myself losing sight of that beauty when I am too focused on her next steps.  I want to give us both time to enjoy where she is now, happy to move forward when she is ready.

If I am constantly looking to push her, does that mean that I am not accepting of where she is?  Does that mean that I don't think that where she is is good enough?  

Not long ago while playing with blocks she'd toss them around, maybe halfheartedly trying to stack one or two before knocking them over.  And I would wonder whether I should push her harder, knowing that one day soon she will be measured by her whether she can stack blocks.

But today I watched her meticulously try to stack her blocks for almost half an hour.  For the first time, she really tried.  She hasn't mastered the interlocking pieces quite yet, so she just tried balancing them on top of one another.  And then the little smartie tried some problem solving: she pushed them over to the couch so her tower could lean against it, allowing her to stack a little higher.  I looked on with such pride.  I felt such accomplishment for her, even though she hadn't quite mastered the skill.  And I realized that I really just needed to wait for her to be ready.

I don't know what it is that makes her ready.  Somehow turning 2 has been a bit of a turning point for her.  She is eating more, nursing less, self-feeding with utensils more easily, and suddenly willing to drink from a cup.  She finally seems interested in moving her body.  These steps that I have been worriedly waiting for her to take are now happening before my eyes.  I don't know why she is now ready for them, but she is.

So I will keep questioning myself I'm sure, hoping that I can make good choices.  I'll keep watching her, keep playing with her, and keep providing her opportunities to learn.  I will try to step back and let her try, even though I want to scoop her up and make everything easier.  I will continue to work on being patient, waiting for her to show me what makes her shine.


  1. I've wondered the same thing. I decided to start Kamdyn in the 2 year old room when she starts preschool. I would prefer her to be with same age peers, but I also want her to be successful in the environment she is in. If she adjusts well to the schedule, we can move her up. I'd rather do that than have to put her back.

  2. Your post really made me think! I'm planning on sending Ben to the special needs preschool in the town where our new house is. It will be a mix of typical kids and kids with disabilities. He'll get extra therapies there and continue his music therapy which he loves! Having seen what Colin has done in his typical preschool, I really can't imagine Ben will be ready for that when he turns 3. Cora is cognitively much more advanced than Ben so I can see her really thriving. Ben loves destroying towers but hasn't built any yet:) The question in my mind for Ben is whether to start him at age 3 or to wait until the new school year starts when he is 3.5. Regarding whether or not to push Cora or not, I find myself providing opportunities for Ben to learn and succeed but I don't push him. Today we didn't do one single learning activity. But we had fun! It works for us and allows me to spend time with Colin, who only has a few more months until kindergarten:( I think you have made excellent choices for Cora. She is thriving and is so smart! I say keep following your gut because Cora is doing great!

  3. I totally get what you're saying because I'm in that place too. Owen attends our Early Childhood Special Education program through our school district. He needed the small setting and as much as I would like him to attend a preschool with his typical peers, he is not ready for it. He gets overstimulated quickly; I've seen this when we would do the early childhood family education classes (all typical peers there). There were too many kids, too much yelling/loud noises, and the teacher just didn't understand that he used sign language and needed extra help. That set of experiences led me to choose the special education preschool room for now. I absolutely love his teacher, OT, SLP, and aides and he has learned so much since starting in September. I'm not exactly sure what we will do next year (there are a couple of options for us in our district). I'm just trying to figure out what is best for him and where I think he will learn the most. I am a proponent of inclusion; but I need to make sure it is the best decision for my kiddo and where he will learn the most.

    I wonder why nearly every decision Ds parents have to make has to be so difficult?!

  4. Great post! I feel like I am always 2nd guessing myself w/decisions regarding Kayla. When you ask if you're constantly pushing her does that mean you're not accepting of where she is ... and I don't think it means you're not accepting of where she is at all! I think it just means you have confidence in her and it's ok to push beyond where she is to see what more she is capable of. I know it's a fine line of pushing or letting them do when they are good and ready...but don't think of it as pushing her; think of it as encouraging her to take the next step :)

  5. Oooh, excellent post Leah! I often think of these things. We quit Therapies over a year or so ago because I was tired of feeling like I was constantly pushing Russell to be some one he wasn't...Do things he wasn't ready for simply because we worried he would never do them. I quit the Therapies because I just wanted to let him be a little boy, enjoy the moment...I felt Ds was stealing his childhood because we were always thinking years ahead. *sigh*...Anyway, now that he is a little over three I see he is ready for more structured learning. So now is the time I am choosing to push him a little more. It's hard finding that balance.
    I say do what feels right for you and for Cora right now, in this moment. And you will feel when the time is right to kick things up a notch in the future.

  6. What a smart girl you have! Movin her blocks over to the couh is a big deal. Whichever preschool you choose I bet Cora is a shining star :)

  7. It is so hard!!!! I always have a "list" of things I'm supposed to be working on with Joey, but sometimes I just want to let him be him and play and enjoy life. It's really hard to find the right balance. He started a 2-year-old, 2 day a week preschool this year and it was so hard to send him because he had just turned 2 and also isn't walking or talking, but he loves school so, so much and that is what is the best part of it. Next year he will go to the special education school (mix of kids with extra needs and typical kids) and we visited it and they said that a number of their 3-year-olds weren't walking when they started school. Such a hard, hard balance to try and figure it all out. I read a book- "Down Syndrome Parenting 101"-- that really helped me with the school stuff-- it was mostly about schooling and it was a great read. Hugs! Cora is beautiful as ever!

  8. Great post! My advice - don't think so much, go with your gut feeling. Put your daughter where it feels right for her. She'll let you know if its not the right place too. Our kids don't mess about if they are not happy, its a clear 'NO', dont want to be here, and I have always gone with that and its always worked out for the best.
    My daughter is now 9 and in a mainstream class with 8 year olds. This has worked out well, as they are not so advanced that she stands out as behind, but they are also advanced enough so it pushes her to develop.
    Also, I am constantly getting feedback from parents of kids in my daughters classes at school, dance, gym etc about how their children come home and talk about Matilda alot (good stories!) and these parents are always saying how glad they are Matilda is in their childs class.
    So thats the other side, Cora has alot to give and kids will benefit from having her in their class. Just you wait, its the best thing!

  9. PS. Love the new photo of Cora! Looks great.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me!