I am currently facing the task of choosing appropriate kindergarten programs for my Ballerina and my Music Man. And we are very fortunate. Montgomery County, MD has some wonderful programs for children on the spectrum, especially through elementary school. And each of them have pros and cons.
If you ever speak with people who know me, they will tell you that I am a very goal-oriented person. When we first learned that our twins were both "on the spectrum" and began services with Infants and Toddlers, I set a goal for ourselves -- I would do all of the things they recommended (speech, OT, PT, ABA, etc.) because this would allow them to function in a mainstream classroom setting by the time they were ready for kindergarten. At the time, that seemed like a lofty (but attainable) goal. Well, it wasn't quite, but over time I have modified it slightly. My goal adjusted to allowing them mainstream opportunities.
Now that we are looking at kindergarten programs for the two them, we are now able begin measuring how close we are to acheiving that goal. In February, I will be visiting several programs to determine which will best serve their individual needs. One of the programs I am strongly considering for both of them is a program in our home school. It will allow for mainstreaming opportunities and will maximize the chance of them being fully integrated into a mainstream classroom before leaving elementary school.
But now all the worries are creeping up. I'm afraid of them being bullied because they are different when they play on the playground with their peers (NT and special needs). I worry about teachers understanding their specific issues and their assumption that (should they be together) because they are twins they will be the same (for the record, my twins are almost NEVER the same). And I worry how they may react to all of the changes that are coming. It's times like these that I miss the "Parent Group" that we had with Infants and Toddlers. I miss hearing other parents tell me their stories and giving me the confidence that I lacked. I miss people telling me things that I need to know.
I have to trust in the schools and in the teachers. But, to quote Alastor Moody from the Harry Potter series, I also must be sure to practice "CONSTANT VIGILANCE!". One of the things I've been learning these last few weeks is that nothing is ever EXACTLY the way it appears. You need to look carefully, and be willing to reconsider your decisions. It's important for families to always remember that they are not alone and never be afraid to speak up if they have any questions.
And perhaps we can create a parent community like that again for when our kids get older. We can remember that we are not alone and that there is power in knowledge and power in numbers. Because right now, all this thinking is making my brain hurt.