We have a month of school under our belt and are fairly well-settled into our school routines. As much as I miss the laziness of summer mornings (when I didn't have to drink my cup of coffee while running around the kitchen making breakfasts, packing lunches, and getting kids dressed and out the door to school), I love having a routine to our day. I love knowing that there will be chaos for about two hours until Jamie and Clare are at school, then we are more leisurely for a couple hours, followed by the lunch rush, then another break during the "quiet time" in our house before all four kids are together again in the afternoon for the pre-dinner rowdiness. It's all nice and predictable, and I am confident I can get through the crazy parts because I know those quieter times are coming.
We have received Jamie's progress report, and it was superior. He enjoys his new teacher, is thrilled that his class includes some new students (last year, there were only 11 children in his first grade), and is excited about learning to play the recorder this year. He chose a yellow recorder (which is actually quite ugly!) and likes to study the accompanying book so he can figure out new notes to play before he learns them in music class. I am still interested in getting Jamie involved in piano lessons, but I want to see what the indoor soccer schedule is like before we commit to another activity. The fall outdoor recreational league has a few more weeks left, so indoor is still a month away.
I attended the Curriculum Night at Simon's preschool last night. The teacher went into more detail about the day's schedule, the themes of each morning, the activities the children could look forward to. I know Simon is doing well in school. He loves it! There are still children who sob as they enter the classroom, but Simon is so eager to go and asks every day if it's a school day. The children have paper hand prints on the wall and, whenever they do a kind deed, they get to put a sticker on their "Helping Hand." Proud mama saw last night that Simon had four stickers - the most in his class! We have our challenging moments with Simon at home, but I am glad that, at school, he is that sweet boy I know is in there somewhere! Simon is looking forward to his first chance to be the Star of the Day (special helper at school), which happens to coincide on October 28, the Feast of St. Simon and the preschool's Halloween party. (And Jamie's school's Pie and Bingo Night - Simon believes his amazing parents planned all this just for his feast day when the other kids only got to choose a special dessert on their feast day. You try explaining coincidence to a 3-year old.)
Clare loves kindergarten. She is making new friends and has been invited to her first birthday party (a "pony party" where she will get to ride a horse for the first time - she cannot wait!). I wish mom and dad were as enamored with kindergarten. After my panic attack following the Open House, we formulated our plan. I spent 40 minutes on the phone with a fellow WS-mom and received so much good advice. That led us to do three major things - send a formal letter to the school requesting some evaluations and testing (among other assessments, the district bypassed giving Clare the kindergarten assessment since she had an IEP - which, now I know, was a mistake to just okay that), make an appointment for Clare to do the three-day Williams Syndrome Clinic out of Children's Hospital Boston in November, and finalize our plans to take Clare back to Dr. Mervis in Louisville, Kentucky over February break. Shawn also talked to Dr. Mervis over the phone, since February is a long way away and we need to see how Clare is doing now. She was able to give him some insight in where Clare should be academically as opposed to where the school expected her to be. So we have our appointments with the WS-experts scheduled, and we are waiting to hear back from Clare's school about a meeting date with her special education team to discuss Clare's progress and where to go from here.
After hearing Dr. Mervis' thoughts and talking to other parents, I am much calmer about the status of Clare's education, but I still feel there is more we can be doing for her. At home, our primary academic focus is to engage Clare in wanting to learn her alphabet and be excited about recognizing letters. I purchased an alphabet music CD, alphabet charts, and Leap Frog's Letter Factory DVD (thanks for the recommendation!). I hope that by immersing Clare in a variety of ways (auditory, visual, and tactile), we can make some progress. Clare learns differently than typical kids do. I see this every day, especially since Simon could recognize every upper case letter by the age of 2.5 and can recognize all the lower case ones a year later (and he learned this by us reading little ABC books together - nothing fancy or creative). That is our main point to the school - that Clare learns differently and needs different strategies to help her learn. This is where I think Clare's IEP, and the school, is failing her right now. There is nothing in her IEP to address her alphabet. When I question that, the answer I keep receiving is that it is part of the standard kindergarten curriculum, so it does not need to be in her IEP. When I questioned the special education teacher again about this, she stated that Clare will be "exposed" (her word) to it in the curriculum so I shouldn't worry. I argued that exposed does not mean Clare will learn it. Clare is exposed to Mandarin Chinese when she watches Ni Hao, Kai-lan but she certainly is not learning Chinese. So the next step is a meeting at the school, and we will stay tuned!