It's been quite a few days since my last post (which Chris jokingly commented on tonight) and there are a few reasons. One is that I have been wanting to talk about Colin and school since it's really been a long time since I've truly updated on that but I worry about having the words to convey the good place we're in right now. The other reason is simply just life and the exhaustion that comes with being a family that is constantly on the "go".
In Sunday School the other day, the topic was "prayer" and the discussion gave me a really good picture of how much I have grown as a person in the past 8 years. Before Colin was born, I had this expectation of what he would/should be like and it was completely rocked when he was born with Down Syndrome. However, my life was quickly filled with so many "wow" moments when we celebrated accomplishments like rolling, sitting, crawling, walking, talking, etc. that took longer than others to happen but were filled with so much determination. Colin taught us that although the journey was challenging, the outcomes were always worth the wait of getting there.
Because of Colin, we kept raising the bar. We gradually shifted our perspective from "what if he never does this..." to "WHEN he does this..." and the possibilities became endless. He went from being our child with Down Syndrome to just our child. (Side note...I have to sit here and chuckle to myself because we actually went through a phase where we weren't sure if we were supposed to bring up the fact he had DS to anyone/everyone that commented on him being a cute baby/toddler/etc. I vividly remember being in the grocery store and after someone cooed over my cute baby thinking, do I tell them?) We enrolled him in a typical daycare, he attended our church, had playdates with our friends' kids, and did everything you would typically do with your child.
When it became time for him to transition to the pre-k program in the district, we made decisions based on our expectations for him and his future. We knew that we wanted to continue to build on skills that were challenging for him but also prepare him for an academic future that included learning among his typical peers in a general education class. There were many bumps in the road in setting that up for Kindergarten, but September of 2014 came around and he started in a typical Kindergarten class.
If you have followed our blog for a long time, you have probably read many posts over the course of a few years that were written out of pure frustration because of the resistance on behalf of the district to Colin's placement in a typical classroom. These posts included difficult meetings, frustrating phone calls, and then eventual due process hearings (twice). We spent tons of money advocating for Colin because we knew he was capable. In the moment, it was often overwhelming and emotional but Colin himself kept moving us forward. Despite the biggest challenge (the district as a whole), we started to see so much positivity that came from staff he was working with and from Colin as he really began to mature. Even though there were so many roadblocks, there were many more reasons to keep moving.
This school year has been the first time we feel like we can completely let go of a lot of the anxiety now that we have resolved things with the district and he has remained in a placement that he has been incredibly successful in. We are so happy and thankful for his school community; for the staff who work so hard to facilitate success, his peers who accept him for who he is, the parents of his peers for treating him just like one of the kids, and for this place that he is excited to go to every day. He feels safe, cared for, and encouraged to do his best. We are so happy.
At his annual checkup today, the doctor asked how school was going and my response is a standard one these days; school is great. She made the assumption he was in a self contained class and when I told her he's in a typical 2nd grade class she turned to Colin and said, "wow Colin, that is so wonderful! You are doing so great!"
I have to say a regular prayer of thanks because Colin continues to be the one to show us all that there is so much possibility when he is given opportunities. I am so proud of all of us for working so hard to get to this day and thankful I can look back to see just how far we have all come. There will always be challenges but Colin reminds us to keep pushing through to get to the other side.