Inside the kindergarten registration packet that arrived in the mail in March was a two-page flyer printed on bright yellow paper. Since participation in the advertised event was optional and the deadline to submit wasn’t until June, I set the flyer aside as I completed the mandatory forms.
A month later, those gaudy pages were still blank when we met at Philip’s future school for the kindergarten transition meeting. As we reviewed his IEP with both the preschool staff and elementary school team, the topic of summer came up. The teachers told us that Philip did not qualify for extended school year. That left it up to Peter and me to find structured activities to occupy Philip in June, July, and August.
When your special needs child isn’t potty-trained and your budget is tight, your options are limited.
Hopeful, I asked the elementary school staff if they had any suggestions. The intervention specialist did, in fact, have an idea.
“Many of our students come to Safety Town.”
Ah, Safety Town, the topic of the yellow flyer that I had been ignoring. I have washed-out images in my brain of going myself. They seem like happy memories. I wanted to send Philip so that he could create his own happy memories, but I worried. Will Peter or I need to stay with him? Will he run off when they are outside? Will he be scared, anxious, or uncooperative?
I admitted that I had seen the flyer, but hadn’t been sure about whether to send Philip. That’s when I learned that the Safety Town coordinator used to work in the same preschool program that Philip attended only based at a different site.
“Chris is great,” the intervention specialist assured me. “Feel free to contact her and ask any questions.”
Without further delay, I registered Philip. He’ll go next week, and I feel confident that he will be successful. Why? Because Chris is great.
I emailed Chris to introduce myself and Philip. She followed up with a phone call. She asked questions about Philip’s likes and dislikes, his strengths, his fears, and everything else she could think of. She explained the schedule for the week. Based on my responses and her many years experience, Chris came up with a plan.
The first part of her plan was to identify Philip’s helpers. Students at the high school are required to do volunteer hours. Some of them fulfill their commitment during Safety Town by serving as group leaders. Chris decided that, in addition to the group leader, she would assign not one but two students as his “two-on-one” aides. “I wasn’t sure if he would prefer a male or female, so I found one of each,” she explained.
The second part of her plan was to have Philip meet everyone in advance. On Wednesday evening, we met Chris and her fellow Safety Town teacher, Mrs. S, at the school. Emily was on vacation, but Jeremy gave up part of his evening to come to the school, too.
Once at the school, Chris showed us where Peter will drop off and pick up Philip. We then sat at a cafeteria table and went through the schedule. We talked through how Philip might react in different situations, from being in the “smoke”-filled fire safety house on Tuesday to being outside when the Life Flight helicopter lands in the schoolyard on Thursday. Next, I gave a quick tutorial on using Philip’s iPad with speech app, and Mrs. S wrote out a list of words for me to add to his vocabulary. We then walked to the boys’ bathroom; Philip wasn’t too thrilled about going inside. Through it all, the goal of the conversation was to make sure that Philip will stay safe, learn skills, and have fun.
Not only will Philip benefit from attending, I’ve already learned some new skills by preparing to send him. I’ve learned to ask for accommodations. I’ve learned to brainstorm what those accommodations might be.
Philip’s going to Safety Town. I’m going to town on advocating for him.