Monday, September 19, 2011

Spencer's First Day of Preschool

Warning: LONG Blog Post

Many of you know Spencer has an extreme speech delay. As of August 2011 when we visited the developmental pediatrician (a doctor who diagnoses developmental delays), he only spoke between 3-5 words.  As a contrast, most children his age are having full conversations with their parents.

The doctor prescribed private speech therapy 120 minutes per week with an American Speech Pathologist, as well as being around other kids his age, using a picture augmentative system (computer/ipod programs or homemade pictures to help give him another way to communicate), continuing sign language and be accepted into a special education preschool for kids under the age of 5 to help their developmental delays.  

We went through the whole process of IEP meetings (special committee meetings to approve him to receive care, as well as figuring out what goals the classroom will have to meet by the end of the year), more doctor and pathologist tests and closing out meetings with EDIS (the specialists who were helping us with him until the age of 3).

We also went through a process of getting him "ready" for school.  We knew he was going to get on a bus with total strangers so the school and our family did as much as we could to get him ready and not so scared about transitions (which is something else he doesn't like, moving from one activity to the next).  I'll post the little books we made to do this, and about the classroom's orientation, which was so darling.  But for now, I'll post about his first day of school.

We wanted Spencer to see his sisters get on their bus. Here he is with Xanthe right before we walk to their bus.  His bus was coming shortly after.

His backpack (the options were slim pickings by the time we were told we needed a full size one, but I actually love it.)
Here he is after we've buckled him in.  This was the only day he hasn't cried. I told him I was following the bus and would meet him at school.  All the days after that he has cried getting on the bus... probably because he has a 20 minute bus ride until the other kids get on the bus.  We've since gotten approval for him to bring activities on the bus and a little school book of all his classmates and teacher that helps him look forward to where he's going.

Here he is on his bus. So cute, huh?  They pick him up and drop him off every day. He's on the bus for about an hour but one of the boys he knew before is the first pick up so that makes him happy.

The bus and I arrived about 30 minutes early because the other kids who usually ride the bus with him had their parents take them to school for the first day. So, Spencer and I kind of just hung out waiting for the rest of the kids to arrive and the bell to ring.

His little preschool is inside the bigger elementary school so there were lots of kids around. All the older kids already started a week before, except for the preschools and kindergarten classes.  So, there were a lot of other excited little ones, as well as their excited parents, which made for a very exciting day.  I cannot tell you how excited he was. He was SOOOO excited.  He had already visited the classroom and met his two teachers so he just couldn't wait to get in.  This is us sitting in front of the school waiting for the bell to ring.

Standing by the front door ready to be the first in line.  

When he realized it was taking a long time we decided to go explore and find friends.

We looked for his sisters but they weren't off the bus yet (their middle school is right next door, attached to the elementary) and by the time they got off the bus and their bell rang, we had been in the bathroom and missed them.  His school starts later so we just wandered more.  A lot more kids we knew from church and the community started to show up.

At one point he just stopped and started staring at the murals on the wall. I thought it was pretty amazing he just stared at each mural like he was in an art museum.

Spencer has a crush on these two little girls from church.  He usually only sees them at church and when Sophie (the one above) ran up to him and got in his face, and Spencer realized who she was, he almost had a heart attack.  Then Ciara ran up to him and they were chasing him around and he was in heaven.

When the bell rang, we still hadn't seen his class. We must have missed that "Memo" of where to meet his class outside so we just headed inside to the classroom.

This video is long but I have realized I really want it there.  My reasoning-If I don't put it there and just leave it in a file on my computer, I'll never go back to look at it.  So this is for my enjoyment, as well as yoursm if you can sit through 2 minutes of him walking through school, and want to see a good video of Spencer's personality and excitement for school.

Part of their day is finding their locker with their own pictures on it, taking off their coat and hanging their backpack all by themselves.  They learn to take care of themselves from day one and it's pretty amazing how well Spencer does it now.

The teacher is very thorough teaching them instructions with pictures.  Spencer is a total visual learner so this has been a great strategy from Day One.

Hanging up his backpack

Hanging up his jacket

Getting his folder out of his backpack to give to his teacher

Since Spencer has been there two weeks, he has already advanced amazingly.  He is copying and imitating words a lot, and all on his own will speak about 10 words to us without any prompting.  It's so cute to see him try and know that by speaking words he can get faster.  We know he is frustrated with one-word sign language and is ready to speak sentences. He puts two or three signs together to form his own sentences, but  you can tell he really wishes he could talk.  The main speech pathologist in Landstuhl (the huge famous American hospital an hour away from us) has told us we need to get him to try repeating words after us and praising him even if they sound funny.  So... we're making progress.

I know many of you have asked what our plan is for coming home since our last comment from the doctor was that if we didn't find a speech pathologist by the end of the year we would have to go home to the states.  The status is this-- we don't have very many options over here.  We don't have any American Speech Pathologists, except for those an hour away... and traveling there two or three times a week just isn't fair to a 3-year-old... and we haven't found one "on the economy" (or German) that feels could teach him what he needs to catch up or make a lot of progress.  We'll still be trying to find someone but their way of education, etc. is different from ours so we have to do a lot of question asking and filtering.  The language barrier can be a big hindrance in this case.


Randi said...

The picture at the top of this post is should blow it up and frame it. He looks so dang cute in that jacket! I love seeing how excited he is to go to school. I am so amazed at how obedient he is to you! You always talk to him in such a calm voice and he listens to every word. I got so excited for him in the long video that part of me wanted him to ignore you and go busting through the door...good for him that he didn't. He has more restraint than I do!

Rachel said...

he is so darn cute!! i am so glad that he loves school and that he is progressing so well and so quickly. hopefully he'll keep that up! :)

Anonymous said...

It's like you said - he definitely understands what people say to him.
I hope that you find a speech pathologist! And I agree that he looks very cute (and grown-up) in his jacket.


Heather said...

I liked this post. Thanks for the update!