Tuesday, September 17, 2013

To start school or not to start?

Since May, my son's speech therapist and service coordinator have been telling me about preschool. After he turns 3, Gio can no longer receive services from Child Find, unless he goes to preschool. I found out, however, that he can receive speech therapy through Medicaid. When I found that out I was a little relieved because as his third birthday gets closer I just don't see Gio ready for school. Preschool is not like daycare. It is a very set routine and takes a lot of discipline. It's probably my fault, but my son is not very disciplined. I know preschool would be so good for him especially right now that he's so eager to learn, but because I lacked the need to really discipline him and teach him how to behave in a way that he would be prepared for school I'm leaning towards waiting a year before sending him off into the world of education. He has the mentality of maybe an 18 month old and I don't know many mothers who would send their 18 month olds to preschool. However, I have realized that I have not been pushing him as much as I should. It isn't because he is "special needs" or because I feel like he isn't capable because he is VERY capable and VERY smart. He is amazing at learning things visually. Anything you show him he will imitate and have down in a matter of minutes. He is the sweetest so I know I'm afraid that he wouldn't defend himself if another kid were to be mean to him. He is so eager to please and loves sharing. He of course has his moments where he would rather play alone, but that comes with being an only child. I haven't necessarily neglected his learning I feel I have just tried to enjoy him as my baby. He may be a little behind, but like a friend reminded me, I am also here to push him to his limit and beyond so that he succeeds in all he does and doesn't use his own disability as an excuse for anything. I have determined myself to teach my son and catch him up within the next year. So that come next fall, when all the kids are preparing for school, he will be a part of that. He will be excited for school and to play with the kids and excited for all that he will learn. He is so clueless right now, which is what I think hurts me the most about trying to put him in now. His dad and I have both decided we can't baby him anymore and we need to push him. We have decided to teach him ourselves along with help from the therapists provided to us by Medicaid to prepare our son for preschool. It may not seem like a big deal to some, but it is a HUGE deal for us. Most parents don't even consider putting their kids in preschool or do it because they are too old for daycare. This is so much more for us than that. At first, his dad was mad at me for even considering preschool because he wasn't raised that way. Now that he has seen how much it will help Gio he is as determined as me to get our son ready for next year. This is the beginning to our son's education. I've been lazy and I've been slacking, not realizing that the one truly being affected was my son. How can he succeed if we do not expect him to reach for the stars? If we allow him to settle for average? I'm still learning and making mistakes, unfortunately, is how we learn most of the time. Gio has taught me so much, I meed to return the favor and teach him all he needs to know. We're growing up together. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Gio First.

This story is from my mom's point of view. I wanted to share other peoples' perspectives on what is going on with my son because I am not the only one affected by it, or that cares and loves him, but obviously no one loves him as much as I do (;
I will be inputting stories from other people once in a while and getting their view on different situations or on certain milestones my son has met. This won't be the only time I do this. I think it is necessary to bring in other opinions and share how the people who love my son feel, as long as they are willing to share. I am VERY fortunate that I have a ton of support and my son has love all around him.

Unique, different, and amazing are three words I've always used to describe my daughter. From the minute she was born, she was amazing in many ways. She was born at 33 weeks and the doctors were well prepared for the worst; instead, she was fine, breathing on her own and all, ready to be discharged the next day, but we had to stay because I had one of the worst cases of toxemia that they had seen in 10 years, or so they said.

From that day forward, she became a fighter; helped me become the person I am today. She has the gift to lead by example and transfers her strength to others in a very unique way, one that cannot be explained. She has always been an amazing daughter, sister, and friend.

When Gio was born, she showed me how strong and stubborn she is, she held him close and tight to her heart, the feeling of seeing that little boy is unexplainable. After the doctors checked him and confirmed his health, I felt such relief mainly because I've always wanted a struggle free life for her; the thought of something being "wrong" with him never left my heart. I don't know if it's a grandma sense or what. I could see how happy she was with her little boy and as the days went by, that feeling became stronger and stronger; I wanted to forget about it and get it out of my heart, but I couldn't. I'd give her gentle hints (or I thought I did) about asking the doctor why this or that. It was primarily his growth or lack of that concerned me the most, only because I've spent my whole life working with kids and I know how important that is for their development.

It was the summer after he turned a year old I decided to go with her and push doctors to find what was wrong with Gio - I'm not sure I'm happy with that decision now because what you don't know doesn't hurt you! We went to weekly weighing appointments and I tracked his weight very closely. After the third week, I was extremely frustrated and expressed that frustration loudly because that was not giving us answers. I remember Karla saying that I was rude and almost embarrassed her when the doctor walked out of the room, but then thanked me at the end of the appointment because we got a referral to the endocrinologist. I felt we were one step closer to figuring out this mystery.

We attended this appointment together a few weeks later. All his thyroid test results were within the normal range. The only other suggestion was to run a genetics test. When I heard those words, I left the room. I fell apart, I went for a walk and cried for a while. I knew Karla needed me by her side, but I fell apart and have always known that I need to be strong for her. From that day until the test, I prayed to God for strength to accept whatever He had prepared for us. The day of the test came and I took Gio to such appointment. The doctor told me Gio looked different from the previous time he had seen him, but he wanted to run the test just to be certain. I asked him if he was thinking Gio was Down Syndrome and his response was "Oh no! Not Down syndrome!" I felt relieved and left that Appointment with such joy; however, that feeling that something wasn't right didn't leave my heart.

Three weeks later I get a voice message from Karla saying the doctor called and confirmed the Down Syndrome diagnosis! Being in the middle of teaching, I asked the kids to read silently while I called her back, I couldn't wait any longer! Yes, my deep feeling was confirmed. I felt my world was falling apart, not because Gio has Down syndrome, but because working with kids with disabilities for over 15 years taught me how challenging life can be for both parents and the child. I asked my principal if I could leave for a few minutes to go hug my baby. She needed her mommy, but I think that hug was more for me that it was for her. I wanted to go home immediately and hug him tight! I had parent teacher conferences that day and didn't get home until 8, Karla told me she was proceeding with her normal routine and I decided to simply wait, his diagnosis was not going to change what I did for him or how I felt about him, it was simply going to help me do things a little different now.

Gio is very special, not because he has Down syndrome, but because he carries a special charisma in him. There have been many times when they come over and the tension in my house is very obvious between my son (his uncle and godfather) and I, but Gio has the gift to break such tension and change his mood almost miraculously! Gio has a touch that alleviates any stress or pain; his smile first thing in the morning is the best way to start the day, his kisses are so intense I can feel them even days after he's given them to me. He is extremely smart and senses dislike and love from those around him and figures out a way to make sure he is likable by every one.

My baby is very special, not because he Has Down syndrome, but because he is my grandson, because he gives my daughter strength to fight for a better day tomorrow. Gio is my life! I'm learning with him, he's teaching me how to make his life a better one for those around him; Gio is..... I can't find the words to explain what or how I feel for him! He is part of who I am and I'd like to remind every one that Gio is first, then his disability! Gio is not Down syndrome, he HAS Down syndrome and that does not change who he is. Gio should and will always be FIRST!