By David Kaufer
We’re well into June, which means it’s nearly the end of the school year for kids of all ages. In our case it marks the end of an era as the twins will be leaving preschool and entering Kindergarten in September.
I remember about 10 years ago (obviously well before I was a parent myself) I had a co-worker at Cisco Systems who showed up for work a little late one day with her eyes puffy and swollen – it was obvious she’d been crying. I asked her what was wrong and she said she took her son to kindergarten for his first day of school and it made her emotional to see him already so old and composed heading to school. She said she knew an era was over and while she was excited for him, she was also sad to see that come to a close so quickly. Of course I had no idea what she was talking about even though I tried to listen and be supportive. But as is the case in so many areas of parenting, it’s definitely something I understand much better now with Ty and Stone on the cusp of leaving preschool and moving on to elementary school.
In our case the situation is slightly unique because we’ll be sending our twins to two totally different schools due to Stone’s autism. Stone will be entering a special developmental kindergarten (DK) at Chase Lake School here in Edmonds, while Ty will start at our assigned home school, Sherwood Elementary. Fortunately, both schools are close to our home so the logistics of driving each to/from school shouldn’t be too challenging — and will certainly provide a break on our gas bill. The twins have been attending Alderwood Early Childhood Center in Lynnwood since their 3rd birthday — and with Stone also attending extended days two days per week, it has meant 10 round trips to take him and/or Ty to their classes Monday through Thursdays.
It seems slightly amazing to me that the twins will be entering kindergarten with nearly three years of classroom experience already. But I’m also very grateful for the opportunity because preschool has helped both Stone and Ty tremendously – and has helped set them up for success as they move through the educational system. And while the early intervention has obviously been crucial for Stone with his autism, its been equally important for Ty and his social development, as that had lagged a bit.
The first two years in preschool Ty tended to be more passive and didn’t engage too much with other kids in this class – he would tend to stay on the sidelines and not join in group activities. But that’s clearly no longer the case as his teacher happily reported that he’s one of boys, engaging in knock-knock jokes and laughing about bodily functions.
As we gear up for kindergarten we’ve had to consider what kinds of summer programs we want for the twins. It was a bit of a challenge because their needs are so different. With Stone we especially wanted him in a program that would help him continue to advance developmentally – we don’t want any regression. So after some research and receiving recommendations from other parents of children with autism, we were able to secure him in an immersive ABA (applied behavior analysis) program in a clinic in Bellevue. This is a new form of therapy for Stone — he’s already receiving occupational therapy/floor time and speech therapy – in addition to his class time through the preschool.
The ABA approach teaches social, motor, and verbal behaviors as well as reasoning skills. ABA treatment is especially useful in teaching behaviors to children with autism who may otherwise not “pick up” these behaviors on their own as other children would. The ABA approach can be used by a parent, counselor, or certified behavior analyst. So we are working with the clinic to set achievable milestones and goals for Stone.
Ty, on the other hand, will be busy with a series of camps and activities through our local YMCA. He is enrolled in various one- week camps – including a sports sampling camp where he’ll get to play a variety of sports throughout one week. Again, we’re hoping that having the additional social exposure and interactive experience will help him as he gets ready for school in September. And I’m already enrolling him in Junior Hockey, which begins in the fall (which I know will be here before I know it).
It really is amazing how fast time flies with kids!
David Kaufer is a fun-loving Super Dad of 5-year-old twin sons, an insane Oregon Ducks fanatic (follow him on Twitter @DavidKaufer), advocate for green/sustainability and autism issues, and connoisseur of Northwest microbrews. He and his wife Renee moved to Edmonds in 2005 to raise their family (and enjoy the gorgeous views).