One of the primary reasons we chose Lauren’s nursery school is because it provides 1:1 support. Every day, Lauren has a volunteer that works with her. And last night, Steve and I went to a Thank You Volunteer soiree where we met Lauren’s volunteers for the first time. They all had wonderful things to say about Lauren and described her as having a great sense of humor, a glowing personality, and always “singing” and bouncing to the beat of the music. She was described as loving to paint with paint brushes and gluing during arts and crafts and playing “jack in the box”. We were in complete shock to hear that Lauren was doing so well. I guess as parents, our expectations are high and we always get caught up in the “what’s she’s not doing right” as opposed to “what she is doing right”. We have a different set of eyes and ears than her teachers and aides. The volunteers, ladies in their 60s and 70s, and her teachers, love Lauren for who she is and not who they want her to become. It was a good night to reflect how much Lauren has grown since starting nursery school in September and we recall that only 10 months ago, Lauren was super shy, would have never made a sound, and would never socially engage with anyone. And now, last night, the volunteers are all telling us how Lauren welcomes them every day with a hug and a smile. One of the volunteers even said in her 6 years of volunteering with the school, Lauren was the first child who was more “with It” and did not have any “mental issues”. This was a complete shock, as we often find Lauren to be completely spaced out and "not with it"….but then again, perhaps the volunteer, who looks to be definitely in her later 70s, is the one who is not “with it” J. Alas, it was a great night to really say thank you to the volunteer for their patience, time and support. Without them I don’t know if Lauren would have blossomed as much as she did this school year.
As school year draws to a near, Lauren is signed up for summer camp for 6 weeks. Lauren is going to a day camp that runs 9am to 11:30am Monday to Friday. It’s a 1:5 ratio, so it will be interesting to see how she does. To be honest, I’m quite nervous, as often when we are with friends and play dates, Lauren does not typically follow the other kids and plays on her own, and I’m afraid at camp she might get left behind. But I’ve spoken to the Director of the camp, who has informed me that about 1/5 of their kids have higher needs (primary reason I chose this camp), so she’s assured me the camp leaders will know the strategies to engage Lauren into the group. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, Lauren is signed up to go to a Social and Communication Skills camp from 11:30-2:30pm at the same camp location. This camp focuses specifically on social and communication skills and is 1:1 with ECE students from University of Toronto. I’m very excited to see how this will go. On top of this, Steve and I are signed up for Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) training as parents through Early Intervention for the summer. So it will definitely be a summer of communication, communication, communication. I’ve also hired a new OT student to work with Lauren starting mid-June (the last OT student had to go on a work term). She’s a Uof T student and has 2 sisters, one of who is a Speech Therapist, and the other an Physio Therapist. Both her sisters work at Bloorview Children’s Rehab. She herself has lots of experience working with special needs kids and quickly understood our challenges and goals with Lauren. When I mentioned Lauren was almost 3 and still not talking, the OT student turned to me and said “You don’t need to talk to communicate. The most important thing is for Lauren to learn how to communicate. There are other ways to communicate other than talking” How True.