I filled out all the appropriate paper work, posted it, and waited for a response. The response would tell us the date of Cali’s kindergarten evaluation. I was a bit nervous for Cali, although I think a fully confident mom in this situation doesn’t really exist, autism or not. I actually think the nerves are a good thing anyway. They made me aware and caused me to take the necessary time to prep Cali for this mock kindergarten experience. Cali was nervous and so was I! We had toured the school about a year prior and she instantly fell in love, and quite frankly so did I. Maybe this was part of the reason my nerves were so high. I knew this was an amazing school and I wanted so badly for Cali to have the chance to experience learning in it’s classrooms. We still had a year and a half to work really hard to get Cali where she needed to be. I guess the question was, will she respond and progress fast enough to get her to this “ready” spot? We had to wait and see.
We received the evaluation date in the mail about two weeks after sending in the admission papers. Cali’s date was Thursday, March 20th at 3:30pm. Seeing the actual date made my nerves emerge again. When I mentioned to Cali we would be going to her new school soon, she began to tell me why she was so nervous. She was nervous about the very thing most kids get nervous about…meeting new friends. This shocked me! Cali has never once been nervous about meeting new people. She is outgoing, gregarious, loud, silly, and accepting of everyone. Yes, I was shocked. So, we talked about it.
Me: “Cali, why are you nervous?”
Cali: “What if the kids don’t like me? What if they laugh at me? (Cali has a difficult time when people laugh around her these days. She thinks the laugh is directed at her. A mean laugh is what she calls it.)
We talked through these questions. I explained to Cali that friends will laugh with you because something you did or said makes them happy. Of coarse, I told her some friends might make mistakes and may make a mean laugh, but all of us make mistakes. She seemed content with this explanation, but still showed legitimate nerves. I was confused. It was a couple of days before I finally figured out the root cause of these unexpected nerves. Turns out, Cali was reflecting on last years school tour. She remembered the kindergarten class we visited and remembered seeing all of the kids in uniform, already friends, and already playing with one another. Cali noticed she was “the new kid”. She was afraid no one would accept her because they didn’t “need” her. Sad on the one hand, and excellent on the other! This seemed to me to be some very high level social thinking! Once I explained that kids from last year are now in the grade above and all new kids would be coming to kindergarten just like her, the nerves were no more. Now all I had to do was work on my own nerves!
I gave the admissions office a call to get some details on the evaluation. I figured I could take those details and prep Cali for the experience. The call put many of my nerves to rest. The lady on the line assured me the evaluation was very low-key, and we had nothing to be nervous about. She was fully aware of Cali ‘s autism when we chatted, so her reassurance gave me comfort. Well, some comfort!
Thursday, March 20th came and Cali was prepped and ready. She was excited! We walked into the front lobby and waited with the other parents and children. Cali immediately introduced herself to a boy named Emerett. Emerett was shy and didn’t say much. Cali definitely talked about some random topics to both Emerett and his mom. Although, her comments weren’t really random. She knew what she was talking about. Sometimes Cali has a hard time referencing where the comment is stemming from so it can seem a bit random and out of nowhere. She also, from time to time, has a hard time telling stories or ideas in an appropriate order (i.e., beginning, middle, and end). Even with the comments being a bit random to Emerett and the mom, they didn’t seem to notice or care.
It was time to head back to the evaluation. All the parents were led with the kids to the school’s library. There we waited for the three kindergarten teachers. Each child was to go and pick out their name tag and stick it on their shirt. Who know I would be so nervous for Cali to pick up her dang name tag. I needed to RELAX!!!! She grabbed her name tag just fine and waited patiently just like all the other kids.
The teachers arrived and took all the kids to a room separate from the parents. My nerves were close to gone when I saw and heard Cali whisper to Emerett, “Are we going to be in the same class?” Now I just had to work on holding back the tears!
After 45 minutes we could see the kids rounding the corner and heading back to the library. Cali was just as happy as when she left. She ran to me and told me all about her paper. It had all sorts of drawings and her name legibly written on the top right corner. There was no question she had had a great evaluation! I was so proud of her and so happy! The kindergarten teachers made a general comment about the evaluation. They said it went great and we would hear back from them in about two weeks. That was it! It was so much less stressful and intense than I had suspected.
Flash forward two weeks…
Cali has been invited to their school!!!!
After the evaluation I was pretty positive Cali would be invited to attend. The only reason that might have prevented this, would have been because of limited space. The only surprise of Cali’s acceptance, was an additional call I received from the admissions office. The director of the school wants to sit down with me and Casey to clarify a few things. My guess is that he wants to make sure we manage our expectations and are aware this school does not provide what a public school provides in terms of special needs accommodations. Casey and I are looking forward to this conversation. We are fully aware of what the school provides and does not provide. We are also fully aware of Cali’s current needs and I think she is going to do just fine at this school. In fact, I think she is going to do spectacular!!!!