Thursday, March 8, 2012

Typical Kids Being Extraordinary Kids

     Last week I had a meeting at Noelle's school; it was scheduled so that we could assess her adjustment to school, to talk about all the various recommendations made by numerous professionals and to discuss her IEP. I'm loving Noelle's school and their style; they keep Nick and myself informed and involved, everyone from "Team Noelle" (therapists, social workers, low vision specialists etc) are invited to the school and consulted, and everyone seems eager and willing to modify their school and routine to accommodate our little Noelle.

     Noelle's E.A Krista is amazing! Nick and I were worried that we'd have to deal with someone who is inexperienced and unfamiliar with Idic15 and we would have to invest countless hours conducting a master class in All Things Noelle, as has been our experience with every new doctor, therapist, respite worker, bus driver, dog walker, butcher, baker, candle stick maker we've ever encountered. I'm pleasantly surprised to find myself learning new tricks and techniques from Krista to use at home. She also sends home a note every day letting us know how their day went and detailing the things that Noelle did. In these correspondences, she also chronicles how the other kids in the class react and interact with Noelle- this is the part that I find most gratifying, as that was the main reason we sent Noelle to school: to be around other kids...typical kids. We were worried about how they would treat her- would they be nice? Would they play with her? Would they unknowingly exclude her? These were needless worries, as Noelley is quite the popular commodity in Junior Kinder garden. There is one little boy who helps Noelle out of her snowsuit everyday; no one has asked him to do this, he just wants to be the first one to play with her. Another little guy asks Noelle to come play with him and his friends. Every day. Their classroom has a sandbox-table that is Boy Territory- girls don't really play there. Except Noelle. Krista said that for the first few weeks Noelle would elbow her way between two boys and join in. Now they make sure to leave a space for her. The W. Ross McDonald School for the Blind did an assessment of the school and recommended that they paint a strip on highly contrasted color three feet up on the wall in the hallways to create a visual cue for Noelle to maneuver her way from class to class. They taught her to trail her hand along the strip to feel her way around. The other kids saw her doing this- they didn't understand the reasoning behind it, but since Noelle is doing it, it's the cool thing to do. Now all 31 kids trail their hands along the strip as they walk in the hallways. One day in her book bag there was a beautifully decorated envelope with her name carefully printed on it. Inside were two small hands traced and cut out from very pretty paper. They were from her friend Ava who learned at Sunday School that it is good to give a helping hand to people that you love who need extra help; she gave hers to Noelle. I may or may not have cried a little. I'll never tell.

     At this meeting last week, the principle said that Noelle was a joy for their school and the other kids just love her. They all want to be her friend, they all want to take turns being her helper. They go out of their way to include her. In today's age of bullying and unfathomable meanness, it is a relief to know that our daughter is surrounded by kids who can see how truly amazing she is- maybe it's because they are so young, maybe because she goes to a small, country school, or maybe these kids all come from homes that still teach good values. Regardless the reason, I wish I knew who these parents were to express my gratitude at the good job they are clearly doing.

     I have to go get Noelle off the bus now; I'm always excited to open that van door and see her sitting there, swinging her feet and smiling. I'm excited to look in her bag for surprises and to read Krista's note to hear how Noelle spent her day surrounded by all her friends. We should all be so lucky...xo

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