So this is what 3 looks like. In some ways it’s more glorious than I could ever have imagined, in some ways it’s so different than what I ever expected, and in some ways it’s pretty much right where I thought it would be, but I guess that’s probably true for many families. After all, it’s not like we are incredibly unique in our battles and struggles.
I’ve tried really hard not to imagine Aleck at this age but knowing that this is the age when Early Intervention ends it’s certainly been on my mind for some time. At some point, probably after we came home from our RIC life and his therapists started putting him on his feet, I thought he might walk by the age of three. And here we are with our walking little man, but I never thought it would look this good this quickly. By the age of three I thought for sure he’d be talking, but I never thought he’d look up at me from his crib and in the sweetest little voice you can imagine say, “You can rub my back mommy if you want to.” By the age of three I hoped he’d know his alphabet, definitely upper case and maybe some lower case, but I never thought he’d be reading on a first grade level. By the age of three I hoped he’d be able to count to 20, but I never thought he’d recognize numbers from 1 to 100.
Last week we went to the downtown Chicago Public School’s office for four fun filled action packed hours of IEP testing and evaluations. One of the first “problematic” conversations they had with me was discussing how to qualify Aleck for a special education program when he clearly doesn’t need any special education. Now I’m pretty sure there are plenty of kids like Aleck who have all kinds of physical challenges which is why they are put into EI in the first place, but cognitively are right on or even ahead of their age, so you’d think this would be an easy solution. At the very end when they called me in for the last big conversation they were all so excited that they figured out how to classify Aleck in order to submit him for their program, and what did they come up with, “Other Health Issues.” I started quoting Kevin Pollack from Usual Suspects in my head, “Did you put that together yourself, Einstein? What, do you got a team of monkeys working around the clock on this?” And then I had a good laugh to myself, I was kind of wiped by the time it all ended.
Basically, once they figure out which school in our area, though I let them know to feel free to look as far away from our ‘hood as possible for the right fit, Aleck would be in a blended class where there would be 6 IEP kids and 14 regular kids or non IEP kids. They even worked out what times of the day he’d have a dedicated aid; when they were walking or eating or going to the bathroom. Then they worked out what times of the day he’d have a shared aid; when they were in circle time or when they all sat down to do a craft project. He would need nursing services, he wouldn’t need speech, he would get 45 minutes of occupational therapy a week. They didn’t have a PT on hand to evaluate him (weird right ’cause you’d think that would be top priority), but the PT could evaluate him once he started the program and figure out what PT services he would need there as well. Lastly the teacher on the team spoke to me about what his goals would be in their program and one of them was writing letters. Huh? He’s not even 3.
This was the first time someone had used the word “gifted” while talking to us about Aleck. The team leader was talking to Craig about getting a handle on all of this right away since we’ll have a real fight on our hands with CPS when we want to enroll him in Kindergarten in the fall of 2016 since his birthday is in October (today ;). She was talking about researching “gifted” tracks and “gifted” programs, and I didn’t really hear much else because the word “gifted” was blasting in my ear like a bull horn.
People have been telling us how smart Aleck is since he was barely two days old. Something about how he looked in our eyes, something about how he was already making eye contact, and also a warning from our friends in the know that kids with AMC are very often above the charts smart. Reports had gotten back to one of our old pediatricians who turned to me at the end of one of our meetings saying, “I hear we got a smartie over here.” His therapists would remark on his attention span at the ripe old age of 3 months and I’ll never forget the look on his PT’s face when practicing sit to stand with a puzzle and he started calling out all the letters written on the puzzle, I think he was 19 months.
But a lot of our friends have seriously smart children so we’ve tried not to think too much about it. We didn’t really want to get our hopes up about this or anything, and we’ve nothing and no one to compare him to since he’s our first and currently our only child. I mentioned all of this to his PT at the RIC and she literally rolled her eyes at me and said, “C’mon Lynn, you knew he was gifted.” Honestly I didn’t, and to be completely honest, I’m still unsure, but here’s what I do know. Last time I took him to the library other mothers remarked on how impressive it was that he knew his colors, he’s known them for over a year and a half. And then he walked up to books we’ve never seen displayed on some of the racks and said to me, “Hands Are Not For Hitting”, the name of one of the books on the rack that we’ve never read and he’d never seen. He sits on his blue rug in his room and reads the Mo Willems Pigeon series books with emotion and inflection, to the point where I stick my head in thinking he’s crying or complaining about something, but he’s just reading out loud, using his voice to whine and complain the way the Pigeon whines and complains.
Maybe he is gifted, maybe he isn’t, I don’t want to start using that word around him. One good thing for us is that if he is gifted it’s not like we need to make a choice about giving him a “normal” childhood since that ship sailed the day after he was born. No matter what, we owe it to him to go down this track and figure out where he falls and how to keep him challenged and motivated so he doesn’t get bored. For the first time since the day he was born I’m starting to picture Aleck’s future in my head and I have to say, it’s going to be pretty sweet.