I can’t even BELIEVE that Sara will be going into High School next year!! How did that happen?? But she is – its a fact, so I better get on board quickly!
The most shocking thing is not that she is OLD enough to be attending High School next year – its that she is HEALTHY enough!
This really is such a welcomed surprise. I remember when things were looking particularly grim last year (she barely attended school), we had to have a hard, cold look at the likelihood that Sara could/would attend High School.
It was painful to realize that it just did not make sense. Aside from the fact that she was virtually unable to be PRESENT in school each day – she was absent/late 146 days last year – she was also cognitively so disconnected that it was getting harder and harder to imagine her being able to be successful in many classes. Even her very lengthy IEP was unable to accommodate the continual decline of her cognitive skills. At times she struggled to understand basic instructions or answer simple questions.
But, there we stood in the concourse on Thursday night with a few hundred other eager middle schoolers, all trying to digest both the size of the school, and the vast number of courses and clubs available to them next year. Sara was giggling with her group of friends and not one bit bothered by the hot, crowded space that resounded with the chatter of a few hundred excited grade 8 kids.
We went on a walking tour with a few dozen other families and as we ducked in and out of classrooms I was struck by how normal Sara was in this new setting. She moved easily down the halls not overwhelmed with the passing clusters of other touring groups. She was able to linger in the rooms where the air was heavy with strong chemicals – like the darkroom, shop and cosmetology rooms.
She stood smiling as she watched the very LOUD drumline perform, and when we left the music room where the grade 9 band performed she looked at me with wide eyes and said “I’m definitely joining this!” Before she would have had her hands clamped over her ears and most likely would have had to step out before the performances were complete.
Then we piled into the Gymnasium to hear the Phys-Ed teacher warn them that Grade 9 gym class was nothing like the gym classes they were used to. No more dodge-ball. No more lazy laps around the gym. Instead these kids would be hooked up to heart monitors, which were displayed on a huge screen, and every student was expected to do 20 minutes of cardio intense enough to reach the proper heart rate. Every single day. No exceptions. No free passes. I glanced at Sara and saw her laughing with friends at the thought of it.
Six months ago this alone would have sent us packing. It was unfathomable that Sara could manage this. Some days she could not get out of bed. Many days she avoided the stairs because she was too exhausted. Most days she was too lethargic to laugh or spend time with people.
Before she would have hated how big and confusing this new school was. How loud, chaotic and unfamiliar it seemed. She would have been nauseous from the smells, over-heated from the crowds and turned off by the loud noises that met us at every turn. Hearing about how gym class was no picnic would have sent waves of doubt over her.
But here we were…just excited by the potential of this new place. There was no doubt. No apprehension and no moments that I had to “handle” her. No situations that overwhelmed her. She was just a normal teen at her High School open house.
We got home and, according to my husband, we burst into the house exploding with energy. She was excited about all the cool new things that were available at the school and I was excited that she is getting her life back.
Sara is going to High School next year.
She really is.