It’s been an emotional week in the Herschelman household as students get ready to go back to school.
While I have enjoyed seeing all the photos of the kids with their backpacks and school supplies, it’s also been a reminder that Grace isn’t starting school this year with all her friends.
If things in our life were “normal,” Grace would be starting third grade this fall at Beckemeyer Elementary School, a place where she found lots of love and laughter for two and a half years. We made the hard decision last fall to take Grace out of her classroom because she just didn’t have the stamina to stay, even for just two hours in the afternoon.
But for six years, I got to take a “first day of school” photo with Grace and celebrate in the joy school brought to her.
She started at our church’s preschool program with a full-time aide just before her third birthday. At the time, we knew Grace had some developmental delays, but we had no idea she would be diagnosed with INAD just three months later. She had her very first school program just after we found out she had INAD, and though I cried most of the way through it, I still remember her trying to sign the words to “Jesus Loves Me.” She also got to play the bells during her first Christmas program and play her drum when the kids got to bring instruments to school.
During her three years in preschool, Grace was lucky to have two really great aides in addition to her teachers. They helped her with art projects. In the beginning, she was able to help with some special crayons we bought, and the aide would mark the portions of the page Grace helped with. She has always loved reading and being read to, and just interacting with kids.
After her preschool years, Grace spent two and a half years at Beckemeyer. She went to school for two hours in the afternoon, and had time to socialize with her friends in kindergarten. Although Grace would never learn to read or write, she loved this one lamb puppet and reading Junie B. Jones books with her teacher. We were very blessed that she had some amazing aides and teachers in kindergarten as well.
I think the thing that always amazed me the most was the way the kids interacted with her. When I would bring her into the classroom, everyone would say “Grace” and come over to see her. They found joy in their interactions with her, even though she couldn’t talk to them. They still found a way to connect. My teacher friends tell me that’s the mark of some really great teachers, and we were lucky to have some of the best.
It was a hard decision to pull Grace out of school, but as INAD progressed, it affected her hearing and her eyesight, making it harder for her to enjoy all the things that once made her smile. But it warms my heart to know she is still making a difference in the lives of so many of her peers.
So, my momma heart is breaking a little this week watching other moms send their kids off to a strange, new school year. But I will forever be grateful for everyone who made school such a joyful place for our Grace.