Friday, May 31, 2013

He's Ready

The small group of kids and parents waited in the school hallway during the end of the day dismissal chaos. Second graders, so tall and ready to move on to a new school soon, pushed by in lines, heading out for the buses. The principal sat at a table arranging papers to hand out to each of us.

Finally, the halls grew quieter and she approached the cluster of us standing there. The kindergarten screening was about to begin.

Ethan and his friend had been their usual after-school selves, hyper, running in circles, wanting to jump around and possibly hit each other if they could get away with it. When Mrs. M., who runs his social skills group, walked by and saw Ethan lying on the floor, eyes closed, pretending to be sleeping, she came over and said quietly and sternly, "Ethan, that's not expected behavior at school. Stand up please right now."

Ethan gave her a searching look that said Is she serious?, realized she was, and quickly stood up, hands at his sides, and quietly waited to hear what the principal had to say.

"Can I take you home?" I begged his teacher, only half-kidding.

Each of the kids was handed an index card with their name on it and was asked to stand against the brick wall of the hallway so the teacher could take a photo. The plan was for the kids to carry that card with them while they went to the nurse for their eye and ear check, went to another area to talk about math/counting/numbers, and then to yet another area where they would cover reading/letters/books. After each "station" was completed, they'd get a sticker.

I saw them all standing there, Ethan one of the tallest (and oldest). As usual he had a bit of trouble following directions, but his grin was a big one. Some of the kids seemed so small, so unsure. He has 2 1/2 years of school under his belt, and one year in the school he'll be attending for full-day kindergarten come August 27.

While we waited in the Family Resource Room I wondered again about Ethan's penchant for silliness when he feels pressure or is overtired. I hoped he wasn't rolling on the floor laughing when he was supposed to be answering questions. I thought of the way he tends to yell "I don't know!" quickly when he's asked something, even if he may indeed know it, because he doesn't feel like answering or working at finding an answer. I wondered what would happen if he went somewhere and refused to budge or open his mouth. I wondered if he would show them what he knows, or show them primarily that he's one that sometimes has trouble adapting to unfamiliar and stressful situations.

Sixty minutes later, they returned. Ethan's little group was last. He burst into the room, stickers in hand, all smiles. "I did it!" he exclaimed.

As we walked down the hall and past the principal, who was again at the table, he said emphatically, "I was really brave enough!"

(Later, he told me he had been scared because he thought he was going with a large group of children to do singing. Singing? I don't know where that came from, unless he heard "screening" and translated it that way.)

Last week, I met with his teachers and the principal to talk about the fall. By the grace of God, they heard my concerns about starting Ethan with a shared paraprofessional (he's had no one-to-one help for over a year) since kindergarten will be a new and demanding environment. His class is set, in the classroom closest to the ABA room in case Mrs. M. needs to easily pop in and check in. I feel blessed.

Ethan will have his adjustment challenges (as every child will). The social obstacles will still be there. He's still going to have to work at things that come easily to other kids, and it won't be getting any easier.

But this kid is one smart cookie, and he loves to learn. This kid is counting to 1,000, working on telling time, learning some of the kindergarten sight words, and reading very simple sentences.

It's time. He's ready. And so, although we've still got three months to go:

Kindergarten, bring it on.

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