Friday, September 24, 2010

School Daze & Team Quinn

Within a few hours of his birth, "Team Quinn" began to take shape.  From the pediatrician who first broke the surprising news, to the cardiologist who pronounced his beating heart to be "perfect" and "strong", to the hospital social worker who set in motion the wave of support from the existing Down Syndrome community, our team was already forming before we stepped foot out of the hospital.
Blessed by the love, acceptance & support of family, neighbors & friends around the globe, our little nest was nicely feathered by the time we brought our son home.  For the first three years of his life we had weekly visits from an Early Interventionist (Julie oh how we miss you!) who taught us about Down Syndrome, child development in general & Quinn's development specifically.  She would often be the first one to point out some new skill he was working on, since we were much too close to see the grass growing.  Later on, our team grew to include occupational, physical & speech therapists, each new member bringing their own expertise & perspective to the mix.
When I first learned that this safe, happy little bubble of ours would be pierced by the real world on Quinn's 3rd birthday, I began to dread the coming change.  At the age of three all services switch over to the local school district.  Once again we were lucky to have an amazing group of people on our side, and this transition was as smooth as possible as we were handed over to the district.  Quinn's first preschool teacher was kind, patient & very experienced.  When she announced her retirement last spring, the panic that precedes unexpected change showed up once again.

So far in this journey we have been fortunate to have had team members who are kind, skilled & knowledgeable, each bringing their own set of expectations & goals for Quinn.  We have seen time and again what a huge difference it makes when the person working with him knows what they are doing, how to manage his stubborn nature, and how to elicit the best from Quinn.  When we began this school year in a new program, with a new teacher, the bar had already been set high.  Sparing actual details, let's just say that unfortunately this new setting was not a good match for us.  On paper this program sounded great.  The reality left much to be desired.  As it so often does, theory trumped practice.

Emergency IEP meetings were called and my own education on "how things work" began with a fury.  I studied, I wrote letters & meeting notes and undertook learning a whole new language.  One that contains magic phrases like "most appropriate setting" and "least restrictive environment."  We rallied the troops & had our very own parent advocate by our side keeping us out of the emotional swirl & focused on the task at hand... finding the best place for Quinn to learn.

In the end, we got what we asked for... Quinn started back at his old school this past week with a new teacher.  We still have some growing pains to address, but are so pleased to say that our team is once again falling into place.

Thrown into this mix, Remy recently started his own educational career.  He & Quinn are both attending a private preschool two mornings a week.  On these two precious days I get 2-1/2 hours all to myself.  Just like on a vacation or a really great date, this time is the kind that seems to pass much quicker than regular time.

Remy loves going to school like his big brother, proudly wearing his own backpack as he picks out his name card & checks his cubby for artwork from previous classes.  His favorite part of school is, of course, snack time.  Painting is a close second.  He amazes us daily with his incredible memory, verbal skills & knack for noticing the most minute details.  He has recently discovered his sense of humor & loves to make jokes & point out funny things.  Watching him blossom is a gift of another sort... how effortlessly each stage is entered & mastered... only requiring us to watch in wonder.

I often say how much I wish that every parent had such a team available as their child enters the world & grows through different stages.  If there were only a fraction of the support we have had with Quinn, I am quite certain that this world would be a much happier place.


Unknown said...

I love that you saw the new situation wasn't good and you stepped up and made them make it better. You are a wise Mommy! Very, very wise.

Your children are so beautiful!

Anonymous said...

Wow! I didn't even know all this was going on with the old school, wrapped up in my own stuff. Good for you. I love your blog. I guess I was too tired to read it before. Now I know what you do on the the computer when I am visiting and the boys have gone to bed. Thanks for the lovely bday party photos. Cahir and I love you! Molly