I received a message today. A message I was expecting. A message that still made my heart skip a beat.
From the moment the doctor spoke the words "Down syndrome" we knew our lives were about to change completely. I remember sobbing into my hands. "I can't do this! I don't WANT to do this!"
What I was fearing was the unexpected.
But life with Down syndrome quickly became our new normal. Life with Down syndrome was actually pretty awesome...and, well, normal. And what I learned was that I COULD do this, and even more surprising, I WANTED to do this. I wanted to show the world that Down syndrome is not that scary.
Yes, there were more doctor appointments. Yes, the future seemed uncertain. But if you really think about it, everyone's future is uncertain. In my arms was the most beautiful baby boy and I vowed to give him the world.
The only aspect of life with Down syndrome that took some getting used to was the fact that we now had a child who had special needs, and our child with special needs required weekly therapy to help him thrive.
At first, it was very odd welcoming strangers into our home every week, but in home therapy became a fundamental part of our lives. What once was awkward is now our norm. The terms PT, OT, and ST are a regular part of our vocabulary. Even my 4 year old can easily explain the difference! Our entire family is involved, and the older kids love to assist with Liam's sessions.
There are certainly days when I wake up and groan because I don't want to get the house ready for another therapy session. But in the grand scheme of things, 3 hours of therapy a week is NOTHING, and we are lucky to have such an amazing Early Intervention program!
Those "strangers" quickly turned into friends. Liam's OT has been with us since he was 2 months old, his PT joined the family when he was 6 months old, and his speech therapist came in at 12 months. When Liam accomplishes a task during therapy, his therapists cheer with me. When he achieves a major milestone, tears fill their eyes, too. They worry when he's sick and they smother him with love at every session. They work incessantly to help him achieve all of his goals and they fight for him when necessary.
Those strangers became a vital part of our team. They became a part of our family.
Liam loves them back. He greets them with hugs, cuddles with them during sessions, and blows them kisses when they leave. And in just over six short months, we're going to have to say goodbye to our beloved team for good.
That message I received today was about transition. On Thursday, his county coordinator will join in on his weekly OT session and discuss our upcoming transition meeting in March. When Liam turns 3 in August, Early Intervention will end abruptly and preschool-based therapy will begin. We will say goodbye to one phase of our lives and very hesitantly welcome another.
Saying goodbye to our team seems impossible, but I have another battle raging inside my head. You see, I don't believe in preschool until age 4, so this is a struggle for me.
Dylan, Lexie, and Lily spent the first 4 years of their childhood with me. We didn't just sit at home. We visited a wide variety of places. We had playdates 1-3 times a week. We started weekly Storytime at age 3. We learned at home. And they were with me, where they belonged.
The preschool transition was an easy one for all three of them and it was a positive experience. They were properly socialized, always the best-behaved children in their class, and exactly where they needed to be from an education-standpoint. They always loved school and they continue to excel in school. I do not regret my decision in any way.
I know my view is not a common one, but I feel very strongly about it. Yes, preschool is very important to prepare children for the school years ahead, but I believe one year is plenty. I believe the first four years of my kids' lives should be spent with me.
Unfortunately, we are facing a very different situation with Liam. Yes, we can keep him home and pursue outside therapy, but it's apparently quite a process. And in this situation, preschool is most likely the right choice. Liam is just SO tiny which makes it even more difficult.
The ultimate plan for Liam includes a developmental preschool followed by full inclusion. But what is the right decision? What's right for him? These questions aren't easy to answer!
I know he will thrive in school. He's very social and he loves unconditionally. He adapts easily to any situation. But is this Fall the right time?
Part of me wonders if I feel like I don't have a choice. THIS is the method the majority of people in our shoes choose and THIS is the way it should be done. THIS is the way the state tells us it should be done. But is it the right choice? Perhaps keeping him at home, attending weekly storytime and playdates for socialization, and pursuing outside therapy is the better choice for one more year? I'm honestly not sure and I'm feeling extremely torn over the decision.
The preschool transition was so positive for my other three children because I knew they were ready and I knew it was time. I'm NOT ready to let go of Liam. It feels too rushed. It feels like I'm being pressured into going against my beliefs.
Education is such a personal choice. There are conflicting opinions no matter which way you turn. What works for one child, may not work for another. I just need to figure out what's right for Liam.
Even after sending three kids off to school, it doesn't get any easier. Actually, I believe it gets more difficult with each child because I now realize just how quickly time passes by and just how quickly my children are growing up. You would think I would be a seasoned mom, but the reality is, I'm not. From the day we send our children to preschool, our children will be in school until they become adults. There is NO going back.
So that's where we are. We're preparing ourselves for some difficult goodbyes and some difficult transitions. Big changes are coming our way. I'm not ashamed to admit that I don't like it.
Are we ready? Is HE ready? The answer isn't coming to me so easily this time. I pray that over the next few months, I will find the right answer and feel comfortable with my decision.
Parenting is tough. The truth is, when we send our children off to school, we're really letting go of our babies. It's the natural progression in life, but it really is almost impossible to let go.
Was the first day of school transition difficult for you? Any special needs parents want to weigh in?
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