In our last ARD meeting, which is Texas Education speak for what most of you call an IEP meeting, we decided through much discussion and hashing out details that the best interest of Ryan would be to go into the intermediate school next year to be in Life Skills. The saga of heading into that meeting is here. The meeting results itself are here, if you want to catch up.
So through a lot of mental and emotional gymnastics, Ryan will not go to second grade per se. He will not go to third grade. He will go to the intermediate school a year early. Life Skills was another one of those things that I almost closed-minded Ryan into a corner over. It wasn't an easy decision, but the truth is that it's best for him. Sometimes you have to know when pushing begins to be shoving, and pay attention to how quickly the edge is approaching.
The idea is always to better him. To encourage, inspire, and train him to be all he was meant to be. But when all that we hope for him begins to crush him, it's time to take our heads out of the box and shake it up a bit.
Next year, Ryan will not be in a second grade classroom. He will, instead, walk through a year of school days tailor-made for him. He will have as much inclusion time in a typical classroom as he can truly handle. He will have PE and music, too. He will also have the speech and OT he needs. Academics will be handled by his resource teacher from this year and his Life Skills teacher, both of whom already know Ryan and will do the inspiring, encouraging, and training we expect. In addition, he will get to do some cool stuff like learning to deliver mail, cooking, that kind of thing.
All this was so exciting until the reality hit... he grew up in that elementary school.
He started there right after he turned three with summer school. He did three years of PPCD (Preschool Program for Children with Disabilites), then a year of kindergarten without an aid, then a year of first grade.
He was supposed to have one more year before he was in the intermediate school!
Okay, I was supposed to have one more year to adjust to the idea of having a child in intermediate school. But if there's anything God has used this little guy to teach me, it's that I don't always know what's coming. I have to be ready to accept what he needs, what is best for him, no matter how different it is. Even if it flies in the face of everything I dreamed for him.
I learned the hard way not to try to go on school trips and outings with him. For some reason, my face at school for Ryan is like hearing your alarm clock in the middle of the day. It's just not right. It throws him off. So I don't bug him unless I can take him home. Through at least two Polar Express train rides and no less than three trips to the zoo in Waco and a couple other field trips, I dropped him off with his teacher and went home. The only information that came about his day was what the teacher or aid offered. I don't like that, but it's how he enjoys the trips, so I stay home.
But every once in a while, I can grab a little of that room-mom I wanted to be for him.
His birthday, May 30, was the day before the last day of school. His last day of school in that building for good. So in asking around for everyone's opinion at school, we decided that he should leave like a rock star. His birthday would be Ryan's last day of school.
Right before the end of his last day in the elementary school, his last day of first grade, Daddy and I showed up with his beloved brown cupcakes.
Everyone who dealt with him was sad to see him go. His teacher is a family friend, so she was proud of him and all, so it wasn't quite so dramatic. His aid, on the other hand, was pretty teary... and we were too! She was fabulous with him. I cannot tell you how great she was with him. We asked if she'd like to come play with him some this summer, and I bet she will.
After we dropped off end of the year teacher gifts and hugged and said good-byes, we walked down the same hall I trod when I walked him into PPCD every day when he was three. We went through the cafeteria and past the place where I met his class the second and third years of PPCD.
I guess it depends on your perspective how long time seems to take. It seems to me that I just had a little ball of baby Ryan on my shoulder, yet it was eight years ago. It seems that I just hobbled into that building behind the stroller that held a not-yet-a-week-old Richie to take Ryan to his first day of summer school.
And although it was mentioned in our last ARD meeting, graduation (or his 21 year old exit from the school system, whichever Ryan is afforded) seems eons away... but the reality is that the days, as we struggle to balance between enjoying them and working through them, drag but the years fly. Through all kinds of pain and joyful exuberance, I keep learning over and over that time marches no matter how we beg. My first reaction is to say that it marches cruelly, stomping over whatever emotion may be attached to a given moment, but I think that's a bit harsh. To swing to the other side and insist that time skips gaily through the calendar is equally as foolish.
Time doesn't simply go by, march, or skip. Each moment is hand-sculpted to fit a perfect design. I may not like it. I may wish it would just hold up and minute and give me a breath. But the only true way to get a breath when things are out of control is to realize we never had it in the first place.
I'm so proud of our little Ryan, who is, as of last Thursday, a big 8 year old boy.
Thanks be to God for every minute of our lives, including the ones we've yet to live.