At long last, the right school
Updated: Jan 19, 2019
Kate’s former preschool management team shared with me privately that they felt Kate needed to move to a school better suited to her needs. They said that they loved having Kate, but they felt that it was increasingly just a place to keep her safe, and not a place where she would be able to learn. Although I hadn’t found a new school yet, I knew that Kate’s new classroom would be a backwards step and I felt that once anyone in a school gives up on a child, it’s time to go. Immediately following that conversation, I ended our enrollment. I took Kate home and did not return.
After two unsuccessful tries at preschool, our team of private therapists felt that I should reach out to Peachtree Presbyterian Preschool(PPP). I was hesitant to go through the process again, but Kate and I went to PPP for an interview nonetheless. It was mid-July, and the weather was in the 90s. Feeling nervous, I’d asked my husband to help me get Kate dressed and ready. He’d chosen Kate’s “nicest outfit,” which in his eyes was her Christmas dress – tutu, black patent leather shoes and all. I rolled with it because I didn’t have time to change her!
I remember our early moments in the school very clearly. As we walked the halls with the school’s Director of Inclusion, Katie Troutman, I noticed that it felt like home – with real, plush rugs on the floor, soft lighting, reading nooks, and both group and private bathrooms. The school had a library room; a music room; and a dedicated room for occupational therapy, with a therapist practicing there.
Although the school was somewhat under construction, getting revitalized for a new school year, and the playground was being re-vamped (the end result of which would make it more sensory-friendly!), the feeling I had, room after room, was that this was the kind of school that I had been wanting for Kate. I commented on the ways in which it felt like home and Katie said, “We have two teachers per class, but we consider the environment to be the third teacher.” (The school follows the Reggio teaching philosophy, in which children interact with specifically designed engaging environments to further enhance their learning).
About 15 minutes into our visit, I knew that I needed to put my cards on the table and let the chips fall. As we settled in a large room decorated like a campground, complete with twinkle lights, a log cabin, and a stuffed fabric boat with oars, I watched in awe as Kate kicked her shoes off and began to run around happily. I took a deep breath and said to Katie: “I want to be honest and say that Kate has been diagnosed with a chromosomal microduplication. It’s extremely rare, and I don’t yet know what it could mean for her. She may end up diagnosed with Autism; I don’t know. We’ve had an early childhood intervention running for almost three years now, but we’ve failed at preschool thus far so if you don’t serve kids with certain types of issues, please tell me that now. I’m not willing to give her another unsuccessful experience at preschool.”
The moment that followed would change Kate’s path, and mine.
Katie looked me directly in the eyes with the warmest look I’ve ever seen on a person and she said, without a second of hesitation, “Inclusion is a way of life here. We would love to have her.”