Monday, November 29, 2010

Beginning a Journey

More about our journey with Miss Lizzie Anne.

August 2006 saw a new school year beginning. With this year began several changes. First, Sarah came to live with us, but also Elizabeth began Kindergarten. Even though she wouldn't turn 5 years old until August 29th, the school system insisted she must enter Kindergarten.

I truly know that God's hand was on this situation from the beginning, because when I attended the Choices Fair the year before to choose a magnet school for Lizzie, I had no idea what was going to happen or what to expect (For those who are curious, a magnet school is a school that only accepts a certain number of students each year and is often more focused on one specific area. For example: Lizzie's school is a media magnet, they use video camera's, computers, and other electronic equipment to help their kids learn. The year we started though they were a different type of magnet school - their motto at the time was every child is gifted.). We knew something was wrong and that it was very likely she had special needs, but we weren't certain what her official diagnosis would be. I prayed before going into the fair, and that is where I met, Sherry Silveous. As I share more of Lizzie's journey with you, you will begin to realize that God sent Mrs. Silveous into our lives at the right moment. She has been a true guardian angel for Elizabeth in so many ways at her school Sam S. Spaght. I met her there and then we happened to meet again when we attended the Kindergarten Orientation and met Mrs. Silveous again. She and Elizabeth clicked immediately. Lizzie just seemed to know that Mrs. Silveous was awesome and she took her hand right away. Even now as I write this I get choked up, because none of us could have known how important she would be to us.

August saw Elizabeth starting Kindergarten at a new school. She was the smallest in her class, since she was younger than her classmates and she could speak, but not very well. God bless the parents of those children who took my daughter under their wings and just loved her from the beginning. They showed compassion where previously we'd found very little, they loved on her and hugged on her and protected her from the bigger kids. Somehow they knew Elizabeth and I both needed that, that year. I had requested Mrs. Silveous as Lizzie's teacher and it was approved in short order.

August also introduced us to the news that we were expecting Rebekah. After years of struggling to conceive a second time, a few months after undergoing gastric bypass, I found out I was pregnant. While at the time the timing was a bit of a concern (you aren't supposed to get pregnant for at least 1 yr after gastric bypass), it didn't help me with my hormones and keeping them under check.

This year of Kindergarten had it's share of bumps in the road. We had a lot of ups though, more than downs. Elizabeth seemed to flourish with Mrs. Silveous as her teacher. Mr. George was the main Special Education teacher at the time, and working with Mrs. Silveous and Mrs. Holle - her speech therapist, we saw Lizzie go from barely speaking to talking almost non-stop. She began to grow socially and began to learn how to handle challenges. By the end of that year, we were able to agree that while that first year of Kindergarten was a year to help her grow socially, that we could have her repeat Kindergarten again and this time focus on social skills and academics.
This was a year in which people got to know Elizabeth very well. Sometimes in good ways and sometimes in bad ways. She managed to get herself suspended at one point, but I was able to use that to make my point that she needed a little time to adjust to all day Kindergarten. We cut her back to half a day for a few weeks and eased her into a full day over a series of weeks.
She also entertained the students and staff with some of her shenanigans. I'll never forget how hard I had to fight the day I went to pick her from school and Mrs. Silveous called her over to her with "Elizabeth, come here please. Now Miss Monkey, what did we learn today?" As soon as she said that I would probably have difficulty not laughing. I had to turn around so she couldn't see me fighting the desire to laugh until my sides hurt. Only Elizabeth could figure out a way to get from the toilet to the stall door. Imagine Mrs. Silveous' surprise when the kids came out and told her Elizabeth was swinging on the door of her stall in the bathroom. I went home and shared this with Mary and Mom and we all had a good chuckle.
Or the time I was stopped and they told me the office how they loved Elizabeth because she was hilarious. I was a little concerned by this at the time. They explained that during library time Elizabeth had proceeded to climb on the table and do a Tarzan yell. Tarzan was her favorite movie at the time and I was horrified, because as a general rule at home when she would do the Tarzan yell, she stripped down to her underpanties so she was more like Tarzan. They all laughed hysterically when I asked, "But she kept her clothes on, right?" As fortune would have it she did indeed remain clothed that day, however, the next day she got in trouble for trying to strip in class. She'd grown tired of wearing her clothes at naptime and decided she needed to strip to her underpants. On a positive side, they did manage to help us break her of the need to put her hands down her pants and play with her privates in public. Thank you, Miss Rachael! We love you for that reason alone.
This was a year of huge gains for Lizzie - in fact, she made so many gains in her first 9 weeks of school that they nominated her out of all the kids in the school for the "I Earned It!" Award. They had several of these they gave out, but they chose Elizabeth out of ALL the children in the entire school as the most improved. I drove straight to Mom's house and told her and we cried tears of joy together and of course, he had to call Grandma Mary and Daddy so she could tell them all about it. The "I Earned It" gives children and their families free passes to exhibits around town, like Exploration Place (a hands on science museum), the zoo, Cowtown (a historic Wichita museum), and the Art Center. For the entire month of October we were able to entertain the girls for free. They loved it and we put the card in her memory box/baby book to remind us how far we've come from the beginning days when we struggled to understand it ourselves.
By the end of Kindergarten, Lizzie was ready to spend the next year in Kindergarten again, but this time focus more on academics. That year was a good year as well. We saw her make great strides and Mrs. Silveous decided to pursue a Master's Degree in Special Education - so that year Mr. Wade had the privelege of getting to know Elizabeth. She learned to call people by their appropriate names even. At the start of that year in 2007, Mr. Wade was called the wrong name. In fact, she called him SILVEOUS with great vim and vigor. She began to learn how to behave all day long, she learned her ABC's and to count to numbers somewhat higher than 20. It was also the last year she would go without medication, but that is for the next blog.
Both years of Kindergarten were good years, Elizabeth learned how to not cry when she didn't get her own way. Slowly over time, she no longer needed Mrs. Silveous there, constantly watching over her to protect her and others from her. She began learning to express herself in appropriate ways and not hit when annoyed by others. This lesson would continue on and is still a process, but now it's much closer to other children's frustration.
As time goes on, we still face challenges. She is still struggling to learn how to cope and be like other children. Her speak may not be absolutley perfect and she may confuse her pronouns, but she has come so far, I know it will all come together given time.
I hope you all have a good week. God bless you and keep you safe.
Love In Christ,

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