Its official I am now mom to a 1st grader and a 5th grader!
Today was the last full day school. They had play day in the morning and in the afternoon the school gathers in the church and the teachers give a special blessing to each of their students individually. It was a nice quiet time to think about the amazing year this has been. I'll admit it I'm a sap and totally teared up thinking about Riley and the fact that he successfully completed kindergarten. I think there was a little bit of me that doubted that we would successfully complete the year All Saints. He had a lot of obstacles in front of him but he met them each head on and we made it. It was definitely a team effort and a lot of the work went in before he ever hit the door.
His occupational therapist, Robin, and his speech therapist Marie have put in countless hours with him and he isn't always the nicest during those times. Some days he works them as much as he works for them. It was the 3 years he spent in preschool school with his teacher Michelle that always has the highest expectations for him and never let him operate on cute. It is the childcare providers that have loved him and cared for him over the years and pushed him to do his work and play hard.
It was the Principal at school that was willing to take a chance and allowing Riley to attend school even though it was scary and they have never had a student with Down syndrome before. The team captain this year has been a kindergarten teacher with a beautiful soul that didn't let her fear get in the way. She jumped in and stepped up to the challenge. She was afraid that her lack of special education training would limit her ability to teach him. She admitted she didn't feel that she was helping Riley as much as she could because of the time constraints of a busy classroom. None of it stopped her from trying. She identified the biggest obstacles and we worked to find solutions to make him successful.
A group of moms stepped in and started having lunch dates with Riley and going to recces with him to make sure he was safe. Gramma came to school and helped him establish personal space from the other kids that were eager to help. She kept him in line and out of the tires and off the bleachers. His cousin came to help provide some extra support and to make sure he stayed on task. All of the teachers at school learned out to communicate with Riley and to hold him accountable for his actions. He was overheard telling the 1st grade teacher he was walking on the sidewalk. And when she asked what happens when he doesn't he said "you make me do it again."
My friends that listen to me and drank wine while we worked through an entire year of successes and obstacles played a large role too. They kept me sane and built my confidence each time it dipped.
The students at All Saints played a big role on this team as well. They embraced Riley in a way I couldn't imagine. They all know him and watch out for him. I joke about the rock star welcome we get where ever we go. Leaving school isn't always a quick process when he has to stop and give hugs to his adoring fans. They will take good care of him when Rex moves to the middle building next year. I'm confident in that.
All of the time the teachers and helpers invested in Riley has made a difference. It might not come out exactly how you would expect with a typical kindergarten but Riley has learned an amazing amount this year. All of these people and situations floated through my mind as I sat in church this afternoon watching the children receive their blessings. This place we call school is so much more than just a building. It is a community, a family that helps to care for our children. My boys are very very blessed.