Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Chapter 25: Birthday Parties and Friends

Kayda’s whole year wasn’t totally taken up with hip problems and casts. She was having a wonderful year in school. I had learned as a preschool teacher that one way to tell if a child with special needs was really fitting in and being accepted by his or her peers was if they got invited to birthday parties or not. Well, that year Kayda had several birthday party invitations.

At the first party she went to, as it was just before Easter, the children had an Easter egg hunt. When the little girl who the party was for was planning the party with her mother (this child was only turning 7) she knew that Kayda couldn’t participate in the hunt as their house was on several levels and it just wasn’t physically possible. So, she insisted on buying Kayda a beautiful soft stuffed bunny. The tag said that his name was Bud so that’s what we called him. He later became one of Kayda’s prime security items. A simple gesture made by a tiny child that brought so much comfort and pleasure to Kayda for many years. It was so nice for her to be part of these special days with her friends from school. One of the parties was for a boy and only Kayda and one other girl went to it. That was quite a compliment. Another party was a princess party. At that time Kayda’s favorite story was Thumbelina. I can still see her sitting absolutely enthralled as the mother of the girl whose birthday it was read Thumbelina to all the children. These were all seemingly little gestures but they meant so much to me to see Kayda included as part of a group. That year, inclusion did truly work.

In May (right before we found out about her needing more hip surgery) the inclusion team that had been contacted during her horrible first year in grade 1 came for a visit. Kayda was very animated and responsive during their visit and they could see right away how much she communicated through her eyes. They brought something called a Big Mack. It looked like the big red switch they’d been trying to get Kayda to use at the first school. But, this switch could talk. You could speak into it and record a short message and then every time Kayda activated it, you would hear the message. This “talking switch” played a very important role in Kayda’s life over the years. The inclusion team had a ton of good suggestions on how to make Kayda’s time at school meaningful for her.

The one thing that came out of the meeting with the inclusion team that I didn’t like, was that they thought she should be with her age appropriate peers; ie; that the next year she should go to grade 3 not grade 2. The principal agreed with them. I let him know I wasn’t happy with that plan. Kayda’s birthday was in December and the cut off was the end of December so she was almost supposed to be in the earlier grade. With her cognitive level she really needed to be with younger children. But, it wasn’t my school or my responsibility to make those decisions. I gave the principal my opinion and then just left it with him.

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