Three years ago our older daughter Dana was in her first week of Kindergarten. She was more than prepared and easily adapted to the independence and challenge that a full day of school offered. I vividly remember having no feelings of loss or sadness during that first week, no tears at the drop off for either one of us. Simultaneously wearing my mommy and teacher hats, I celebrated the light feeling of pride and happiness at the child that Dana had become, and tried to ignore some other lingering feelings.
Charlotte was 2 years old at the time. It was about 2 months after she had been diagnosed with sensory dysregulation. We were about 4 months into reducing gluten and grains, yet not fully Paleo. I had already been through a lot since her birth and naively thought we were through the worst of it. She had made huge gains in social interaction but had yet to receive her Autism diagnosis and the spiraling denial for services that would lead to more stress and frustration then I ever imagined.
The light and sunny feelings of Dana’s successful transition to Kinder were clouded by doubt and uncertainty about Charlotte’s school future. I couldn’t safely imagine that Charlotte would be standing in this same spotlight in just three years time. I could easily imagine Dana as a mature and accomplished third grader, but the thought of Charlotte’s anti-social sensory seeking and defiant behavior in a Kindergarten classroom left my chest tight with anxiety. Like a dentist’s child getting a cavity, I couldn’t bear the thought of sending Charlotte into any classroom without doing all I could to help her succeed.
And so it began. I promised myself I would do everything in my power to get her ready for a successful school experience. And if you’ve been reading any part of this blog, you know it’s been a labor of love. At a recent intake interview for ABA (behavioral) services, I gave her history and explained what interventions we’ve done to help Charlotte. It took several minutes to explain all we do to support Charlotte’s growth–the Paleo diet, her school environment, the constant and on-going communication with all adults whom she worked with, her exercise and therapy regime, her supplements, her outside time for sensory input, our plans for her upcoming Summer and final preparations for the start of school. I also explained how we build on what’s working and try to be flexible to change what’s not, how we’ve learned to seek help for problems that are bigger than us, and how we use Charlotte’s health as our compass for direction and assessment. I also briefly mentioned that I’ve had my own stress-related health issues to manage while trying to do all I could for her. And after taking notes, the evaluator sat back and shook her head. She paused and finally said, “You’ve attacked this from all angles. You have left no stone unturned.”
Even now, in the retelling of this story, I am flooded with feelings of relief. Her words lifted the burden from my shoulders that I had placed there three years earlier. I had done everything I set out to do. I wasn’t alone anymore with the pressure to make her all she could be. I was able to remove my blinders and see Charlotte for the amazing child she had become. It was after that interview that I felt a confidence that carried me through the rest of the Summer. When the big day came, Dana, Charlotte, Chad and I proudly walked onto campus knowing she was ready. Our confidence and togetherness defeated any lingering anxiety.
And on this first day of Kindergarten, I cried real tears of joy.