Luke has been blessed with so many wonderful people to help him through this year. I wish that I had taken more pictures of these special people throughout the year, but here are a few from his last day.
Luke's bus driver, Ms. Cara, and the bus aide, Ms. Daisy
Luke LOVES Ms. Cara and Ms. Daisy. They greet him each morning with a, "How ya doin' honey?" (Luke's imitation of Ms. Daisy is right on), and they made him feel special and safe. The bus system for the pre-school kids was awesome! The bus stopped right in front of our apartment building. Ms. Daisy helped Luke walk up the bus steps, and then she buckled him into a car seat (Yes! Can you believe that?) Ms. Daisy was sweet and happy, and both Ms. Cara and Ms. Daisy had treats for the kids nearly every Friday. Ms. Cara, especially, thought Luke was a hoot (Those are her words.) He told Ms. Cara and Ms. Daisy all about the meatloaf he had for lunch, the washing machines at Lowe's, his new booster seat, etc. Heaven only knows what else they heard about.
Luke and Ms. Ginger
Ms. Ginger was one of the aides in Luke's preschool classroom. (Ms. Gina is the other aide. She is also wonderful but was absent on the day I brought my camera.) Ms. Ginger has a son who is also in the program, and we had a fun play date with them at the Virginia Living Museum over spring break. Ms. Ginger was kind and very good at her job. She was often Luke's rug buddy. Luke has a hard time focusing at circle time, so Ms. Ginger (or Ms. Gina) would sit behind him and rub his back or otherwise help him to sit still and pay attention.
I can't even express how grateful I am that Luke was put into Ms. Sara's class. She is a woman who knows her stuff! Her classroom runs smoothly. She is organized. She has clear expectations. She keeps order without ever being mean. She worked as a team. We communicated via a notebook on a daily basis. And she asked advice about what makes Luke tic. For example, time out wasn't working, so she asked might work. I told her the threats that work (No stereo time!) and she would let me know when I needed to enforce that. We nipped the worst behaviors in the bud. But mostly she could "read" Luke. She knew when he was getting wound up and needed to spin for a minute. She understood the meaning behind his questions just like I do. For example she knew that, "I'm getting hot in here" translated to "I really, REALLY want to turn on the fan," and she would respond with, "Luke, we're not turning on the fan right now." She loved Luke for who he is. She laughed at his quirks and enjoyed them. I'm so glad that she recognized the sweet, absolutely beautiful person that he is. I love anyone who loves my Luke that much!
Luke and his school speech therapist, Ms. Kathleen
Ms. Kathleen has a lot of experience, and it shows. I watched one session that she did with Luke, and she truly understood his methods of communication. For example, she knew that if Luke repeated a question back to her instead of answering it, he didn't understand the questions. Instead of repeating what she had said, she rephrased the question. She kept Luke motivated and on task. And, like Ms. Sara, she enjoyed Luke's personality. Ms. Kathleen has a fan in her office that she turned off and hid during her time with Luke. She told me that one time she had forgotten to hide the fan before she brought Luke to her room. He walked into the room and spied it. His eyes got big and he turned his head away. He knows that he isn't supposed to touch or talk about the fan, so he put both hands to the side of his phase, building a shield and physically blocked his face from the fan. She laughed and laughed about how hard he tried to resist the temptation.
Luke and his school occupational therapist, Ms. Janelle
Ms. Janelle is another person who has helped Luke immensely. She has a vast knowledge about how to help with sensory processing difficulties. Luke struggles with every sensory category. I'm not sure how much I've explained before, but basically he can't filter sensory input very well. Most people tune out the ticking of a clock, the whir of a fan, etc. They only attune to the noises that matter. Luke has a hard time distinguishing between what is important and what is not. He has the same problem with visual stimuli, so slight changes in sunlight, etc. are very distracting to him. He notices every change. He is also oversensitive to touch, smell, and taste. All this together means that his fight or flight response is on a short trigger. (Is that the right expression?), so he needs input that is calming. Ms. Janelle was so helpful in helping Luke get the calming input that he needed. She introduced us to a pressure vest, stretchy bands, and much more.
I am sorry to leave so many things and people and places in Williamsburg. J.Blaine Blayton Elementary is on the top of my "Hard to Leave" list. I am so thankful that we had the opportunity to be blessed by this program and this school in particular. Luke has come SO FAR in the year and a half since his diagnosis. There are a lot of factors involved in that growth. A lot of tears. A lot of time. A lot of smiles. A lot of laughs. Small triumphs. Big triumphs. And so many angels pulling him along. It is amazing how many angels we walk with every day. I can name several who work at Blayton. In fact, I just did.