A couple weeks ago, I realized we are nearing a pretty big milestone in our house. At the end of this month, our sweet Sammy baby is going to turn three. Three! Does that mean I have to stop calling him Sammy baby? Because that's what I've been calling him the last three years, and I am surely not ready to let it go. He is my darling little babe who is proving in so many ways every day that he is no longer a baby.
One reason turning three feels like such a milestone is because it means Sam will be graduating from his early intervention program, which is often referred to as Birth to Three. I prefer to say he is 'graduating' rather than 'aging out,' a phrase often used in this situation. But I feel like the phrase 'aging out' has some ugly stuff associated with it, and there is nothing ugly about what our Samuel has accomplished in the last three years. He has worked regularly with a teacher, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, and a speech therapist at different times since he came home from the hospital in June 2012. All of these resources have been provided at no cost to us through the school district. They even come to the house! However, the day Sam turns three, he will leave the Birth to Three program and enter a program for older kids in school. I just can't wrap my head around that, though. He's still my baby!
In preparation for moving into the next program, we've been busy with lots of in-home appointments with his therapists. Yesterday, we had a visit from his occupational therapist. To be honest, though, this was the first time we met her! Sam has pretty much been a rock star with his fine motor skills since day one, so we haven't done any occupational therapy through the school district. We do, however, have regular sessions with his physical therapist, and that evaluation was last week. He is growing by leaps and bounds and is almost constantly trying new things. He's crawling everywhere, including backwards, and pulling up on lots of furniture. It won't be much longer and our little guy will be standing on his own and taking his first steps!! That will be an incredibly emotional day for us all, I am sure. Next week we will meet with our speech therapist through the school district and conclude the following week with a meeting to create his IEP – an Individualized Education Program.
As a teacher, I frequently worked with students had IEPs, especially when I was teaching reading to high school students in Owatonna. They are very detailed plans mapping out an individual's goals in lots of parts of a student's life. Some are fairly short while others are quite long and detailed. It's just not really something I imagined needing to do with one of my own children, so it's a little odd to think ahead and know I will be working with Sam's teachers in a couple weeks to create one as the parent, not the teacher.
Preparing for Sam's IEP meeting and upcoming graduation, I am thankful for two things. First, I'm incredibly thankful for my teaching background. I know some, not all, of the important things we need to focus on as we prepare Sam for school. Also, IEPs are not new to me, and I can easily navigate through the education jargon used during these planning meetings. I have many friends who have not been in such a situation, but instead found themselves cornered and uncomfortable. Most teachers wouldn't intentionally do that to a parent, but it can still be a little overwhelming for parents who aren't familiar with the way these things are often handled.
The second thing I am thankful for in this process is the fact that we will likely not be in the States when Sam starts kindergarten. We hope to move just before Sam reaches that point, at which time I will fully take over his education. I will have the freedom to personally individualize his everyday learning activities to fit his specific needs. It's the dream of many teachers, really. Being able to determine exactly what a student needs and tailor the curriculum to such needs is not something I ever got to do while teaching in a typical classroom. There were far too many students and an individual personality and educational needs to go with each! But I will be able to do just that as soon as we begin homeschooling in Kenya.
Though I'm looking forward to homeschooling, one thing Pete & I are pretty excited to do is send Sam to a typical preschool this fall. We're still determining which school it will be, but sweet Samuel will certainly be going to school two or three mornings a week! Can you imagine? He's going to be so crazy adorable all dressed up for school. It will be so good for him to attend preschool with a group of kids his age, all learning to socialize and follow directions and sit in a circle for story time. I don't push those skills aside as invaluable. They are incredibly important, and I'm very happy he'll have the opportunity to learn alongside new school friends!
Through these transitions, Sam will continue to see his physical and speech therapists downtown each week. He thoroughly enjoys his time with them and has been making tremendous growth. This kid really does have big, exciting things ahead!