Zoey is going to be starting preschool! I am excited and proud and nervous and a tiny bit sad. As you may recall, we are in the midst of ongoing evaluations for what will likely be deemed Sensory Processing or Sensory Integration Disorder. The amazing mama and blogger Amber over at Normal Is The New Boring made the incredibly helpful recommendation that I check with the school district to see if Zoey qualified for free preschool through their special education department. (Amber is an amazing mom and writer, by the way. You should definitely go check out her blog about raising her amazing son, JP). So, I got on the interweb and started googling and making phone calls and filling out referrals and, before I knew it, a very friendly, supportive voice on the other end of the phone was telling me I should bring Zoey in for an evaluation.
So last week we met with a school nurse, a speech therapist, and occupational therapist, an physical therapist, a school psychologist and a case manager. The amazing thing about the Seattle Public School district is that they get all these people together, in one place, for a one-stop, three-plus-hour evaluation so you and your child don’t have to make umpteen different trips for all the separate parts of the evaluation. Everyone was kind and respectful and so very supportive. Zoey had fun “playing games” with (i.e. being evaluated by) all the professionals there.
When they sat down with me to tell me the results, this is what I learned:
Zoey scores in the 99th percentile for cognitive development and early learning (yup, the kid is freaky smart).
Her fine motor skills are at the very high end of average but gross motor is at the very bottom end of average. I attribute this to all the time she likes to spend doing quiet, fine-motor play activities rather than being the typical rowdy, bouncing off the walls toddler. Again, it’s back to the sensory stuff. She prefers the quiet and the calm.
Her social-emotional development ranks in the bottom two percent. That felt like a punch to the gut. I knew this was where we were expecting her to be below the average. This is the area her sensory issues impact her the most. But I expected something along the lines of “Eh, she’s right on the border of “normal” or slightly below.” I hadn’t realized just how very behind she is. The thing is, she has social skills. She knows how and desperately wants to play with other kids. She just can’t. Even with the kids she has known since she was six weeks old, when there’s a big group she effectively hides in a corner. She takes a single toy, finds an out of the way place in a corner or on a seat, and watches everyone else but doesn’t join in. There is just too much going on and she is too busy putting all her energy into processing it all to be able to actually play with the other kids.
So that one score qualified Zoey for the special education program. She will be in a class with other kids with developmental delays but also a handful of typically developing kids – what the school district refers to as “models.” Four half-days a week. For free. There will be lots of adults on hand, ranging from teachers to occupational, physical and speech therapists, to nurses and psychologists. She’ll get all the help she needs to learn how to cope with the chaos and noise, take breaks when she needs to, andstart interacting with the other kids. Zoey could not be more excited about this.