Success does not happen overnight, we make it happen.
Yesterday GiGi began High School. I am excited, petrified and proud. As I look at her schedule today; Biology, Global Studies, TV production, Math concepts and Expanded Literacy, I know she can do this. We are prepared today but this is not how we started.
I remember when GiGi was 11 years old and I went to her IEP meeting. Middle school was a big step and I was anxious and excited. That excitement soon faded when they told me they wanted to put her in a life skills class. Life skills class??? Her little brain was still learning! I didn’t understand it. Why wouldn’t they double up her reading or her math? Why aren’t we trying to educate all our children, not just the typical ones? GiGi had done nothing but prove herself for the previous eight years. She tried hard every day, and yet the school was still giving up on her.
I remember when I asked what the life skills class was about the teacher said “they learn skills like washing windows and emptying the recycling bins.” What??? The only place GiGi is going to empty the recycling bin or wash the windows is at my house! That is not what she goes to school to learn. She was 11 years old and needed Math, Science, English and she needed extra help with that, so why would we take the time to teach skills like window washing?? What does that show the other kids? Neither her older brother nor sisters learned these skills in class; why should GiGi be any different?
I remember being the mean mom all during middle school not allowing her to go on the “functional field trips” or passing out donuts to the teachers or learning life skills because her brain still had more to learn academically! I think those programs may work for some kids but GiGi was getting all the socialization and life skills she needed at home, she did not need it at school! I have the skills to teach her fun stuff! I needed the academics to be taught by the teachers while she was in school. I do not put my other kids in classes that are easy and review, nor does the school. They challenge them and that is exactly what I am going to do for her.
It’s a fight, sure. Sometimes it’s a fearsome one—but it’s so worth winning! The thing that hurt me the most about it is that GiGi never showed that she couldn’t learn. And yet still, they were giving up on her. This has not been easy but it has gotten us to where we are today!
I am glad I did not give up on her. Every time I challenge her she steps up!! I am so excited to see the amazing person she is going to be!! I refused what they were proposing and built a successful plan that helped prepare her for her high school years. We have to advocate and prepare our kids so they can learn to be their own best advocates.
I am grateful to her teachers and to her tutors and therapists at GiGi’s Playhouse who continue to reach for the stars with her!! I honestly know she would NOT be where she is today without their help and guidance.
Preparing for High School goes far beyond the IEP
I feel like everything I see for back to school involving kids with special needs is about their IEP. (Individualized Education Plan) I think an IEP is great and necessary but I feel like my job, as her mom, is getting HER ready for the rigorous demands of her High School schedule to ensure she is successful in her IEP.
What does that look like?
Cardio ready! For the last two weeks she has needed to log 10,000 plus steps a day to get her ready for class. When we did the walk through at school last week, she logged 7,000 steps!! I was so grateful we had been preparing her for that.
*Clothing and confidence! You look good, you feel good! No more cute kid clothes, just style and sophistication! When you walk confident you are less of a victim and more of a person people want to be around!**
Appropriate behavior! Since she graduated middle school any type of behavior not becoming of a high school freshman was noted and discouraged.
Get involved in the school. Open up your circle of friends, go to games, meet new people. (Mom, you too!) There are clubs for kids with special needs but there are even more clubs for EVERYONE!!
*No step tracking device? If you have a cell phone there is an app. Go to the gym or walk around the neighborhood and then drive it to see how far you have gone, etc… Start at 2000 (approx. 2 miles) steps and work your way up. (GiGi does sprints to get extra steps! And to avoid walking the dogs!)
**These things do not involve a lot of money. Plato’s closet has some great, gently used clothes at great prices!
It may sound like I got my sh- uh stuff together but believe me I do not! I made sure GiGi was mentally and physically ready but I PERSONALLY was not!! I literally faxed in her required physical form yesterday (Sunday!) and went through last years back pack this morning for day 1 school supplies! (Seriously not a spiral notebook to be found!) It was a good thing I went in that old back pack because her school appointed computer was in there! PHSHEEEW!! Then once she was on her way, I left and I got to work and forgot my laptop at home!
At least she had it all together! A freshman in high school with a challenging schedule and a hot new outfit! Oh and a nice Mani and Pedi to boot! Remember, you look good, you feel good!! Do the facials, do the primping, build that confidence so they walk in to school ready to conquer the world! And now, if there is time, give yourself the same treatment! BAHAHAHA!!