Tue, 08/31/2021 – 13:48 pm | By: Courtney Tesh
This is the time of year. Freshly sharpened pencils and unused glue sticks, brand new backpacks and perfectly packed lunch boxes, and of course the photos from the first day of school.
But with the excitement of a new school year comes the inevitable back-to-school nervousness. Whether it’s from the perspective of the student, parent or teacher, we all know the nerves that come with a new school year. New teacher, new subjects, new friends, new rules, all new.
And there is something more nervous about these pre-maternal and maternal nervousness. Something about this first year of formal school that brings excitement along with a healthy dose of worry. Everything seems so great. The backpack, the cafeteria, the large drop-off. Even if you are sure your little one is ready, there is something about this step that stops you dead.
And if that little under that big backpack has special needs, those concerns are probably even more pronounced. Will they understand it? Will he get the help he needs? How am I going to defend him if he doesn’t? Is she ready? Is this the right solution for him? Will she make new friends? Are we making the right decision?
These are the types of questions that many parents with special needs will ask themselves when their little one walks through those big doors for the first time. And while no preparation or support can eliminate these problems, staff at the Children’s Center for Communication and Development at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) do everything possible to alleviate them as much as possible.
“As my 5-year-old got out of my van in the car on her own, put on her backpack and walked to school with confidence on the first day, I immediately thought of the Children’s Center,” said Katie Martin , mom of Children’s Center graduate, Rylee Martin.
“I felt confident in her ability to navigate the halls, the classroom and all the new things she will encounter this year. This confidence was acquired at the Children’s Center. Rylee was prepared for all the hardships of going to ‘big kids’ school, and so was I.
Rylee was enrolled in therapy at the Children’s Center as a baby, after being diagnosed with Down’s syndrome at birth. For the first 5 years of her life, she attended speech therapy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and special education courses at no cost to her family. At first it looked like therapists visiting her home, working on skills like sitting independently and drinking safely from a sip cup. In recent years, he has evolved into group therapy at the Center, practicing skills like taking turns with friends, holding a meal tray at the Center.
at school, expressing their needs and wants to teachers and peers, and preparing for this next stage in life.
“Rylee is a shining example of why we do what we do at the Children’s Center,” said Sarah Myers, Director of the Center. “She and her family worked so hard during their time with us. And the results of this hard work, and the undeniable passion of Rylee’s team at the Children’s Center, cannot be ignored. This independent, funny, sassy and sweet girl will be missed by us and her family. But we’re so excited for the next part of their story.
As Katie Martin said, “As we move into Rylee’s next chapter, I’m sad to be leaving The Children’s Center, but know that we will always consider him and the team as family. They taught us how to help Rylee be the best of herself and exceed all goals and expectations in the future! ”
But back to school doesn’t always look like carline and depot and cafeteria lunches. Sometimes back to school is like arranging your home to best meet your child’s learning needs. Sometimes it’s mom who puts on her professor’s hat and dad who conducts a science experiment. But regardless of the setting for this new kindergarten year, many of the concerns and uncertainty remain the same. And the support of the Children’s Center is equally appreciated and valuable.
“We thought that once we graduated we wouldn’t hear from the Children’s Center again except for ‘I miss you’ and updates on our son’s progress,” says Raven Tynes, mom of the graduate. from the Children’s Center, Solomon Tynes. “We were wrong, in the best possible way. Just recently, for example, Salomon’s occupational therapist came to our house to help me make sure his learning space here at the house would serve him the best, even going so far as to lend us tools to use. She’s gone above and beyond because she loves her. And in our experience, that’s the Children’s Center way. And I think that’s what makes the difference when you see children thrive in therapy.
And thrive, he did. When Solomon was enrolled in the Children’s Center at almost 3 years old, he was unable to communicate verbally and was diagnosed with apraxia of speech. Throughout his time at the Center, he and his family worked hard to learn and master many modes of communication, including an enhanced and assisted communication device (AAC) in the form of a tablet equipped with a communication. And as he was closing this chapter at the Center last spring, he walked into the building, returned his device to his therapist and said, “I don’t need it anymore.
Tynes goes on to mention the ways in which Solomon’s entire team helped prepare him and them for this next chapter. “Since we are planning to do homeschooling, the Center has really done a great job of helping me figure out what’s next. They helped us make a plan and even helped us prepare to enter the school district later in case we decide to go that route.
“So here’s the most important thing,” Tynes said. “The Children’s Center taught us how to advocate. They told us about the challenges our child faces every day, so that we know how to help him. And if I don’t have the answers, they taught me how to find someone who does.
Ultimately, no matter what the next chapter looks like for a parent with special needs, and whatever chapter they enter, knowing how to stand up for their child is key to calming that nervousness and allaying these questions in their mind. . . And the Children’s Center is working hard to support families and provide them with the tools they will need to do so.
“We can’t tell you how proud we are of Solomon and Rylee and the rest of our little ones who boldly and courageously move on on the next part of their journey,” Myers said. “We know they will do great things in this next chapter, and we are very honored and grateful to have played a part in the beginning of their story.”
About the Center for Communication and Children’s Development
The Center for Communication and Children’s Development at the University of Southern Mississippi is a non-profit organization that provides free transdisciplinary communication and developmental services to infants, toddlers and preschoolers while educating, training and supporting families, university students and professionals. For more information, visit www.usm.edu/childrenscenter.