The first day of school is a huge milestone for kids. Tranisitioning from the safe cocoon of their homes and into the arms of people who they have to be with for at least 3 hours every day can be a source of excitement, anxiety, worries, pride and a whole range of emotions for both the kid and the parents.
When David started school, the only thing that was difficult for him was waking up early in the morning. The transition was easy for our kuya. He never had a crying fit in school. Although he was anxious we were able to process it together and he actually looked forward to school days.
It’s a different ball game for Noah. He grew up going to ALRES for PT, OT and Speech therapies so he’s always been comfortable around a lot of people. Although he has been in therapy since he was a few months old, pre-school is different altogether. The setting, environment, structure and of course teachers matter so much in Noah’s development. Finding a good school is the norm for all of us parents, but the challenge for Noah is to find a school with teachers who understands how he learns. Kids with Down Syndrome are mostly visual learners. Noah learns routine and tasks by following people he lives and learns with. Noah is also still largely non-verbal. He has a few words and needs to be prompted but he already knows when to say “No”, “Yes”, “Go” and “Bye”. His cognitive skills though are very high. He understands concepts and commands. He knows the meaning behind words and can match pictures to actual words. I want Noah to be in a school that respects this and not see his being non-verbal as a hindrance to school work. I want Noah to be in a school that will keep him safe and protect him from any harm. I also want a school that will INCLUDE Noah in their activities because he really loves learning.
You can imagine my anxiety when I finally called Learning And Beyond Childcare and Intervention Center (or LAB for short) to talk to Teacher Pao. I steeled myself for a little bit of disappointment but this school came so highly recommended by friends. They actually talked to Teacher Pao about Noah and they all they told me how Teacher Pao was so excited to have Noah be part of her school.“Mommy, matagal ko na po kayong hinihintay tumawag!” That was Teacher Pao’s opening line. I will always remember how excited she was to learn that we’re considering her school for Noah.
I told her about Noah – that he has Down syndrome, he is non-verbal, he is a visual learner, is not yet potty trained, and he is still learning how to feed himself. Teacher Pao understood my concerns but what I loved hearing from her was when she confirmed that Noah will be included. That she believes in inclusion and that she in fact teaches this in her class at a local university as well. She also told me that she would have a shadow for Noah — but explained that this shadow will not help Noah at all with his activities but will stand by and assure that Noah is safe in class. My concern with a shadow is that she will do the work for Noah (lots of hand on hand) which could result in Noah regressing (bakit nga naman nya gagawin yung work eh may tutulong naman sa kanya) and it would definitely affect his independence. The teachers teach via the Montesorri method and they all model tasks to the kids before asking the kids to do the work. They demonstrated their methods in their very comprehensive parent’s orientation. It was then that I knew that LAB and Noah just might be a good fit.
Noah started school in June 15 and the first quarter is officially done. We finally got Noah’s progress report in school.Naiyak ako when I saw how Noah is thriving in Learning and Beyond. I always hear how he loves dancing and how smart he is. I love that he is practicing with his other schoolmates for an upcoming presentation. I can always see Noah doing the dance steps and humming a tune that I know he picked up in school. His yaya Temya would always tell me how happy Noah is in school. Noah is much more confident with table work. We would always practice some of his OT exercises at home and he has gotten much more adept at pulling zippers and completing matching activities. His pencil grip has improved too! Then this week, the school celebrated Buwan ng Wika. Noah was included in all activities. He danced, did an action song and stood on podium to recite a piece in Filipino. The elocution piece really was just Noah standing, holding a mic and following promps from his teacher. Even thouh he didn’t actually say anything, he tried to follow his teacher, held the mic, did the actions and bowed! Everyone clapped after! The community of parents and teachers are so encouraging and supportive. Even the other kids cheered Noah. The older kids said “Go Noah!” when they saw Noah going up to the podium. Noah’s in an environment where both kids with IDD like him and “typical” kids learn side by side. It has only been a quarter but Dan and I really feel we have made the right choice with Learning and Beyond. We’ve always been in touch with Teacher Pao and have friended her on FB so that we would always have a chance to talk about Noah and what else we can do for him. I take leaves whenever I can and go to the school so that I can ask his other teachers about his progress. It’s a lot of extra work for me and Dan but we are both encouraged by Noah’s growth and happiness in Learning and Beyond. I know that there is no perfect school for any child but what makes us confident with LAB is that the teachers of LAB love Noah and more importantly Noah loves them and LAB back. If you guys want to check out the school you can contact them at:
Telephone numbers: 775-91-39 or 0922-871-6816