To say that Luke is having a tough transition to kindergarten is a bit of an understatement. I've written earlier posts about Luke and his unhappy face and his stomach telling him to do bad things. And while sometimes we can work through a situation by laughing, we can't do it all the time and still address any issues that pop up.
We wrote Luke's IEP last year with a tough transition in mind. We know him. We know he doesn't like change. We wrote in the IEP that he was to be pulled out of his class for both continued speech services and for some additional time where his special education teacher takes him out of class and they work on paying attention or social skills or any other random area where we feel Luke might need some extra attention.
He was doing so well during the first week that his teachers were talking about pushing his services into class (the next step after removing him from class for services - his speech and special ed teachers would work with him in his classroom in and amongst his peers). Nate and I just weren't comfortable with this yet, and although we didn't feel as though the teachers agreed with our decision, we all agreed to keep Luke's IEP intact as it is, to transition him through these first 9 weeks of kindergarten with our plan from last year.
Since then, Luke has come home with an unhappy face on his daily report about once per week. Additionally, on average of once per week, his after school program reports that he isn't cooperative. When we try to ask him what is going on, he tells us that his brain is telling him to do these things, or that his friends told him that his picture didn't look like a house and that made him sad, or that he doesn't like gym class. The bad reports from school or the after-school program make him so sad. He WANTS to be good.
We've tried lots of hugs, talking to him, special time with parents, moving up bed time, more rules, fewer rules... so far, no changes.
I went back to his special education team last week, and asked them to rethink how they were approaching this whole good report/bad report thing. His special education teacher worked with his regular ed teachers on breaking up his day into smaller chunks, so that he would receive more happy/unhappy faces in a day - they would be more task dependent and not so daunting for Luke. Now he basically gets an average of several smaller daily reports, rather than one single report.
Luke is a preemie. As easy as it is to think he's doing great because he doesn't have as many challenges as Will, well that isn't really fair to Luke. While he can walk and talk and feed himself, he still has a challenge with coordination and attention and over reacting to situations. These are all common of preemie kids as they grow, and things we will likely continue to attend to.
So this weekend, we got away. For Luke. To change his scenery and allow him to regroup and reset. Maybe that sounds silly for a 5 year old. But I honestly think he needed it. All he could talk about when he woke up on Friday was that when he got home from school, we were going away to a cabin.
We got in the car and drove 4 hours, leaving school and after school and unhappy face reports behind us. We arrived at Douthat State Park in Millboro Virginia and checked into our TV-less, computer-less cabin and pressed the reset button.
On Saturday morning we woke up and we hiked. Will in a backpack, Luke and Matt on foot. Uphill, downhill, nearly 3 miles of trails. At one point, as I tended to Matt's shoe and Nate and Will peered across the lake, Luke decided to run.
He looked free. He looked coordinated. He was measured and balanced in his steps, running downhill amongst leaves and tree roots. He was happy. And so proud!
A year ago, I don't think Luke could have run as well as he did on Saturday. He would have been nervous or turned his left foot in or tripped himself. But this boy, he's gaining confidence. He doesn't want to feel different or held back by anything, and I love that about him. When friends ask him about his feet braces, he answers confidently that "these help me run but I won't need them forever." There's no shame in his voice.
He was ready to go to bed tonight, talking about going back to school tomorrow and going to a doctor's appointment. The change of scenery maye have just done the trick. As we continue to support him through this transition to kindergarten, I know he'll find his stride. These days of unhappy face reports will go away. His ability to attend to his classroom work will improve. Its going to take some time. Sometimes running away can help you see the forest through the trees.