"We are going to focus on LIFE for Katya. I believe, one day, she will amaze the world."

Dr. Ben Carson on Katya Dueck

Thursday, April 18, 2013

School Visit Part 4

When I last blogged about the visits to other schools, and our concerns, we had a good bit of feed back, both on the blog (thank you, blog readers!), on Facebook, and in real life.

I have also had a lot of dialogue with a Mom friend of mine who is a powerful advocate here in our community for families with special needs kiddos. Since speaking with her, I feel a lot more reassured about some of my concerns.

She was able to give me first-hand info on what life in the classroom we are considering has been for her son. She pointed out that even with the kids who have aggressive behaviors, the adult to child ratio is so high that the kids generally never hurt any of the other kids--they are intercepted before anything can escalate that quickly.

She also assured me that the current teacher, Mrs. S, is absolutely on top of the ball with communication with parents, preventing any problems from becoming out of control before you find out. That sounds good to me!

My friend also laid a lot of concerns about transportation to rest. She said that we can politely ask for, and expect, transportation that is appropriate and safe for Katya, and acceptable to us. Since the school district wants to switch Katya to another district to have her educational needs met, it is THEIR job to provide safe and appropriate transportation for Katya. Safe and appropriate does NOT include bus transfers, nor a long, circuitous jaunt on a school bus where she has no one who can communicate with her because they don't understand her ASL. My mentor and friend was most emphatic that if transportation is not acceptable, then we have the freedom to tell them it's a no-go.

Since communication for Katya IS one of our big concerns, my friend reminded me of how fluent and comfortable Mrs. S. is with ASL, and pointed out how much happier Katya could be even in spite of the changes, if she really has the freedom to communicate. We know that since Katya has been having pull-out services since the end of Jan. where she has a Spec Ed teacher who has a bit of ASL background, that Katya is signing more and more again here at home. (Something she had really regressed on after starting back to school in the fall.)

Katya checking herself out before going to school today.

So it is entirely possible that being with Mrs S. could really swing wide open doors for Katya in communication that have only been cracked to this point.

Katya was using the reflection in the window to see the back of her head, we think.
We long--oh so desperately--to see those doors swing wide open for Katya. It's clear that **she** wants to communicate. She makes facial expressions, she vocalizes as much as she can, she points, she leads us to show us things, and she uses what signs she knows, or even makes up her own. Those were things she did NOT do when she first came home. Ignored, shut down and isolated by her lack of speech, Katya huddled in her own little world, breaking only out in screaming at the top of her lungs when the misery of being forced to hold her bladder beyond endurance triggered her bellows of panic, or someone crossed her to the point that she howled in screams of anger and frustration.

Stripped of the most basic elements of being a human--communication, love, kindness, medical care, and plenty of food, to us, the miracle is that Katya not only lived, but that she came out of that able to love, to laugh, and to enjoy life.

And along with that laughter, love and enjoyment of life, Katya has the drive to communicate. She wants to express her clothing choices, her desire for specific foods and such. She sees beauty in the world, and she wants to share it with us. This spring one day, she was wandering around the yard inspecting things, and she found the first crocuses of spring that had come up just in the last 24 hours. She walked to the swing where Charity was, got her attention, signed, "Flowers" and then took Charity with her to go see the crocuses. This is our kiddo . . . and we long for that door of communication to open wider and wider.

Maybe . . .just maybe this new classroom is part of the door. Maybe . . . just maybe. . . . we need to walk through that door for Katya's sake.

I don't know yet, for sure, but you keep praying for us as we keep praying and seeking information. It is hard to weigh all the angles carefully and in a balanced perspective. But we are giving it our best shot, for Katya's sake. She had no voice to advocate for her and to speak out for her. Now she has us, and by God's grace we will speak for her until such a time Katya can speak for herself adequately.

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