The snow just keeps piling up and all I want to do is bury my body under 6 layers of blankets and my head in an amazing book, but already the sounds of September and school are starting to call.
A little background here. When Lily was first placed with us, we had found an amazing preschool, here in Toronto, that would have been the ideal place for her. It’s a half-day integrated program that focuses on the needs of children with developmental disabilities. They provide a 1:1 ratio, have therapists on site, and they also help look outside of the school to access programs and funding that will assist the child to reach their maximum potential. When we were moving the services from Lily’s foster mother to our home, we asked about this program and we were assured that Lily was already on the wait list. So, we waited. And then other kids that we knew were getting called and offered spots and we were still waiting. Finally, our amazing OT looked into the situation and we were all shocked to discover that the referral had never been put in and Lily was not on the wait list. At that time, we had to do a little scrambling to line up Lily’s therapies until she started kindergarten but luckily we have some amazing amazing people on Team Lily and there were no major gaps in her therapy time.
The bigger downfall to this though, was that Lily did loose out on some of the amazing benefits that this program would have offered her. In-home therapies are limited to how often they can see each child, and the preschool program provides that support on a daily basis. At first, this wasn’t a huge impact – Lily was still recovering from the delays that her cardiac arrest and brain injury had caused and so we weren’t in a hurry to push her to do more than she was ready to do. However, as I mentioned before, we’ve been seeing her make these huge leaps in her abilities and it’s clear that this kind of program would, now, be appropriate for her.
But now she’s 3. Which, of course, means that preschool is no longer really an option and she is supposed to start JK in September and my freak-out has begun. As much as I would love to try and stay positive about our school board and what resources and support they will be able to offer Lily, I do worry that it just won’t be enough. I know that she is technically the right age to start school, but I do worry that she is not even remotely ready to start school. School is big and everyone knows that there are not enough resources and supports to go around. Lily is non-verbal, has limited gross and fine motor skills and I’m very worried that she will slip through the cracks because she’s easy. It’s easy to put Lily down on the floor and let her play happily by herself, and in a classroom – even a small classroom – where there are other, busier, children, I can see how her needs could get overlooked. Even with the hope of a support staff, the pessimist in me worries about the ability of that staff to get Lily to move forward. We’ve had some amazing therapists and even they can find working with Lily challenging; with her developmental delays, her vision and her gtube, it’s difficult at times to find something that will motivate her enough to want to do the work. If you don’t have the right level of patience, it would be easy to find her frustrating and give up on her. We’ve had therapists who have gotten verbally frustrated with her and we’ve shown those therapists the door. We always say that Lily will do everything in, “Lily time,” but unless you’re willing to truly accept that, she is challenging. And I am afraid that our school board won’t be able, or won’t have the resources, to find someone who really understands how to work with her.
So, all of my hopes are in a single basket now (It’s like I’ve never listened to anything I’ve ever been taught!). Now that Lily is 3, we’ve had to transfer her services (Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Feeding assistance) from CCAC (Community Care Access Centres). We’ve been lucky enough to have access to Holland Bloorview Kids Rehab Hospital – we see a developmental paediatrician there who will help to coordinate which services Lily will need until she’s 18. As we were discovering all of the amazing things about Holland Bloorview (and there really are too many to list), we also discovered the Bloorview School Authority, which provides education to the children who are in-patient at Holland Bloorview for rehab. In addition, they also offer an Integrated Education and Therapy program for JK to Grade 1, which is the exact type of program that we think could help Lily thrive. The school offers physical, occupational and speech therapies alongside their educational programming. They would coordinate with Lily’s therapists at Holland Bloorview to create an individual plan to help her build on the gains we’re already seeing. It’s a full-day kindergarten and transportation is provided through the Toronto District School Board, In summary, it’s perfect.
Sadly, just because it’s perfect for Lily, doesn’t mean that it’s not perfect for a tonne of other children as well, and as such, the space for new children each year is very limited. We were happy that we made it through the intial screening process (although I’m sure that has to be credited to all of the pushing that Jess did – she made sure that every single therapist or doctor who could give us a recommendation, did give us a recommendation!), but now we’re stuck in waiting limbo until a final decision is made. In the meantime, it’s off to kindergarten registration for us. We are very lucky because the school less than a block away actually houses our districts diagnostic kindergarten program so we wouldn’t need to worry about transportation to another school. Plus the school itself is quite small, so it has the exact feel of a neighbourhood school that I want for Lily. The school I went to as a child really felt like the centre of a community, and I do want Lily to grow up being immersed in community; it was one of the main reasons we reasons we choose this neighbourhood when we moved. I am trying, really really trying, to stay positive and give in to the belief that whatever happens is meant to be. That, if Lily isn’t accepted into Bloorview, that there is a reason for it: one that we don’t see and may not ever see, but that’s there regardless. Although, I’m really keeping my fingers crossed that our paths our meant to head towards Bloorview – fingers crossed okay?