It’s Isaiah’s first day of kindergarten.
And my gosh, I honestly can’t believe we are here.
When Samarah was about to go to Kindergarten, the reason I cried was because of our history together – knowing that she barely made it into this world at just 2.5 pounds. I would stare at her during those long, sleepless first nights and think, “What will you be like when you’re off to Kindergarten?”
And then I knew.
Samarah’s transition from preschool in California to preschool in Minnesota then Kindergarten was effortless.
Every parent has butterflies before that first day of sending their child to Kindergarten. But the butterflies are mostly due to, “I’m sad I don’t get him/her to myself 24/7 anymore” or “Yes! No more all-day daycare bills.”
Our butterflies for Isaiah were far different.
Let me back up for just a second to talk about parental advocacy.
Advocating for Your Child
Ryan and I have been advocating for Isaiah since he started preschool in Minnesota in the fall of 2018.
We learned early on with Isaiah (as in almost as soon as we got him), that challenges might present themselves. So even when we were in California, we got help. And the help we got was perfect at the time; he made major progress (mostly with language).
As soon as he was enrolled in preschool, we also sought out evaluations and extra help. We were denied help.
Back then, neither Ryan nor I really questioned things.
This is the first thing I want you to know: ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS question things. If you have a child with any sort of special need, QUESTION then QUESTION again.
His first preschool in Minnesota did him a disservice. But instead of really putting any feet down, Ryan and I did what we thought was best; no questioning, simply removing both Amiya and Isaiah from the school and seeking out a different environment.
After that, Ryan and I got far more serious about understanding Isaiah (Maya, too, but that’s a whole different topic). Since Christmas-time of 2019 (when he was removed from preschool 1) up until the present, Isaiah has:
- done every type of evaluation possible
- had access to every single type of therapy possible
- seen massive uphill climbs
- endured challenges galore
But nonetheless, we have all worked really hard to ensure that come Kindergarten, Isaiah would be in a normal classroom setting.
Advocates for Children
Fast-forward to the end of last school year, about May-ish.
Ryan and I were told that Isaiah transferring from Owatonna to Waseca school district meant that Waseca “had to” follow where Owatonna said he should be.
If you don’t have a child with any special needs, the special ed “levels” make no sense to you. Essentially, there are 5 levels: 1 = mostly regular classroom setting; 5 = more offsite, private setting. You can see them all HERE.
Owatonna told Waseca that Isaiah should be in a level 3 or 4 setting.
With that, at the time, here were our TWO options for Isaiah:
- Level 3 = go to a separate school, in Waseca, with K-6th grade children (there were no other Kindergartners, except Isaiah, at the time)
- Level 4 = go to a separate school, in a town 45-minutes away, with other “Level 4 children,” in a locked down building (literally)
Now, there are a million things I could say and tell you about those scenarios. There are also a million other things I could tell you about what happened from May up until just over a week ago.
But I won’t because I don’t think that’s what is important.
What is important is that I can sit here and write this today with happiness, joy, and celebration.
Isaiah started Kindergarten today at the school where we fought for him to be at.
I cannot even tell you how many meetings + emails with administrators, teachers, and the PACER Advocacy group Ryan and I have done these past several months.
What I can tell you is this: we never, ever gave up.
And we never gave up because we learned the value in a truly individualized program.
The Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) is a plan or program developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives specialized instruction and related services.
Children with Disabilities
Disabilities appear in many different ways.
We are taught that when we see a physical disability to be kind.
But what about the needs of children where you cannot see anything, when everything seems “normal?”
I’ll tell you who is hurt most in these cases: child + mom and dad.
I’m telling you, both Isaiah and Ryan and I are privy to the surroundings. The last thing I want is for Isaiah to be put in any bucket. His skills for making people laugh, remembering “beats,” song lyrics and the words in every single Paw Patrol book are second to none.
He’s a leader through-and-through.
His strengths, not his weaknesses, are what we went to bat for.
And it’s within these strengths of children with disabilities where the magic lies. To pull from weaknesses is a horrible strategy. If you pulled from my weaknesses or your weaknesses only, the world would be far more dull.
Anyways, I ramble and again, could tell you so many things.
But I’ll leave it here for today — my personal message for Zay for the day when he reads and understand this……
Welcome to your first day of Kindergarten, Isaiah. You’re going to do great things in life. Big things. Your soul is golden, and zest for life unparalleled. Believe me, Zay, our fighting for you does not stop here. You’ve come a long way, baby!
Love always, Mama
Sarah, bless you for your optimism and relentless efforts to do all you possibly can to help Isaiah thrive. He will be all that he was meant to be with parents who love, support, and advocate for him unconditionally.