Sometimes it can be draining when I get progress/status reports about my kid. Often they're comparing her to other kids her age - and of course she's nowhere near them in terms of many of her skills. She's nowhere near kids years younger than her in some ways. It's tricky because right now she's sort of locked into her own body - some of the skills that standardized tests check depend on other skills that are taken for granted. If you can't stand unassisted, for example, then there's no way you can hop on one foot. If you can't hold a pencil properly, then you can't trace a shape or start to write letters. If you can't speak clearly, then you can't use multiple adjectives to describe an object. That doesn't mean you don't know what hopping is, or that you don't think of things with adjectives, or that you don't know the difference between a circle and a square, but it means...you get zeroes on the test and "only performs at a blahblah level" statements and a message that you're not where you SHOULD be and that this is bad.
Today, however, we had my kid's yearly parent-teacher conference, and the progress reports were about her and her progress alone. They were about her IEP goals and about the skills she's achieving that are age-appropriate but in terms of how she does them rather than whether she's doing them "properly" or whatever.
My heart soared.
When she started preschool at age 3 (in the older-2s classroom - the cutoff for kids is September and her birthday is in the summer, so she's one of the oldest in her classroom but her classmates start to catch up within a few months) she went for four hours a day. And she would scream. And scream. And scream. She'd be sobbing when we picked her up. She slowly started to enjoy school, but her skills were slow to catch up. She was always super social but some of the other things that were expected of her...weren't happening for various reasons. But now, at age 5 and in pre-K, she's flourishing. She can do so many things that her peers can do - and beyond - she just does them in her own way. She's demonstrating, finally, that she is IN THERE - as I say over and over and over. And her teachers - both special ed and general ed - are giving her the opportunity to shine.
Today, with each "She can do this now" on the list or each "She does this with 60% accuracy," my smile grew more and more. We are so lucky to live in the school system we're in (we knew it was good but we didn't know when we moved here that we'd need a bit more than just "good schools" in place!). We are so lucky that her teachers are on board with her, that they recognize her challenges, that they're using her AAC device as her voice - as part of her, not as a toy nor as a distraction, that they're encouraging her to do things - and to do them independently and to be ready for kindergarten. (She just needs to learn to wait her turn and to be patient. But as her impulsive and impatient and headstrong mama, I say that she really is just acting like me. Oops.)
My kid's prognosis has always been bright. Honestly, nobody has ever told us "she can't" or "she won't." Neurologists, developmental pediatricians, specialists, and therapists of all types have always said "she will" and "she can" over and over and over. I haven't taken this for granted - my husband and I have worked with our daughter to make sure that these predictions come true. It's different than fighting against the negativity I know some parents do face - I don't have that "I can't wait to go back to person X and show him/her what my kid can do now!" feeling - but I still have that mama bear instinct that makes me want to see my kid succeed like all parents want. For me, it's more of an "in your face, society!" feeling than anything else.
So today I celebrate my kid's amazing teachers and therapists (in and out of school) and the community in which we live. And I celebrate progress. She's come so far and she's only five. ONLY FIVE. Every day she does more and more and more and every day I cheer her on. Because she's awesome.