We’ve reached that day – the first day of kindergarten. I send you off excited for the wonderful learning opportunities you are going to have this year, but also a little anxious and a little sad. Will you be able to tell your teachers what you need? Will you be able to ‘speak’ with the other children? Will you be accepted? You see, you’re pretty special to us. We already know what a great little personality you have. We know that you are crazy about tools and that you love to play fireman. We know how to interpret that little glint in your eye when the joke’s on us. We know what each approximated word is and what each little gesture stands for. We’re pretty good at guessing your charades when you want to communicate something you don’t have the words for yet. But your teachers don’t…yet. Apraxia of speech is new to them, but I think you’re going to teach them something about it and show them apraxia or not, you are awesome.
You were so proud and excited to put on your blue kindy shirt and jumped up and down with excitement when I told you today was it – THE FIRST DAY! Bag packed, new hat, sheets for nap time, spare clothes and the all-important lunch box. You badly wanted to take ‘Bear’ who has shared all your naps up until this point. We negotiated and I think you agreed he would be safer at home, where none of the other kids would be tempted to take him home. I tried to get nice photos of you, but every time we asked you to say ‘cheese’ you said ‘tools’ instead, meaning your little lips were more like a fish than a cheesy monkey grin!
We’ve prepared for this day, meeting with your teacher, Mrs Thompson and Peta, the lady who will be your special helper this year. You’re such a wonderful three year old boy, with your cheeky grin, love of trucks and all things that go ‘vroom’, your love of climbing and building and pulling things apart, making messes with paints and banging on improvised drums. There’s only one thing you’re trying hard to catch up in – being able to talk. You see, apraxia of speech challenges your communication. You know what you want to say, but your brain doesn’t get the messages to your mouth muscles very clearly and the sounds often come out jumbled. This scrambling gets worse with the length of the word or phrase.
But – God is good and has provided some extra special help for you this year. While we are applying for some extra funding for a teacher aide to help you communicate, learn and interact at kindy, we may not get full funding. However, the wonderful director at the kindergarten has decided that you are worth it. They will provide a big person specially to help you out for four hours a day. What an opportunity! Someone who can get to know you, quirks and all. Someone who can help you to practice your words and encourage you to say more and join words together as you play, learn and explore in the kindy environment. Someone who can help you to negotiate playground etiquette and prompt you with the right words and phrases at the appropriate time and help you to interact with the other kids. Someone who can make group time just that little bit more inviting by sitting with you for singing and sharing time, so you are not so overwhelmed by an activity you cannot fully engage in. I’m almost jealous that I don’t get to be that person! But I know you will be loved and well cared for.
As I leave you at the gates on your first day, I wonder what you will do. I imagine your struggles and your joys. I worry about your strong will in the ‘mine!’ department and if you’ll cry when frustrated or wail for ‘Mum, Mum!’ when I leave. I feel a little sad because I know you won’t be able to tell me about your day, at least not much. But I left and you were fine. I came to pick you up and couldn’t even spot you. You see, I was scanning the corners and the edges of the room expecting you to be quietly playing by yourself. But you were right in the middle of all the other kids! I expected your teacher to give me a list of what went wrong and what we need to work on. She simply said,”He settled really well. We’ve had a good day. A bit unsettled at music time and group time, but he’s been good.” A sigh of relief. I asked you what you did and you said,”Play!” That’s about all I could get out of you, so I’ll just have to imagine you inspecting the guinea pigs, digging in the sandpit, playing pirates on the fort and building castles from wooden blocks. I know it must have been good, because you gave several big yawns and went to sleep without a fuss, ready to do it all again next week. Sleep well little man.
Love Mum xoxo