The girls are nearing the end of their first year in public school. There’s been a lot of trial and error to find what works best for them. But overall I’ve been amazed at how well they’ve done with the transition into school. They’ve gained a great deal of independence. The girls carry their own meal trays. They’ve learned how to maneuver through the building and they can find the restrooms, cafeteria, nurse’s office, and therapy rooms without any help. They call the speech therapists on the phone and tell them they’re on the way to speech. I’m thrilled with how much they’ve learned to do in just one school year.
I didn’t think the girls would handle the school bus well because of their sensory issues. So I’ve spent most of the year driving them to school. I was just sure the noise of the bus would upset them and make them miserable. But a couple of months ago we decided to try the bus and see how it went. The special ed. coordinator made arrangements for the girls to have a practice ride on the bus. They stood on the sidewalk and watched the bus pull up to the school. They were taught to wait until the bus driver motioned for them to cross. They showed the girls where their seats would be. They had their name above the seat so they would be able to easily find it. They took a bus ride around town and then they were dropped off at the same entrance the bus would pull up to each morning. I’m so thankful for our school system. They went above and beyond what I expected. They took the time to prepare the girls for what was going to happen when they rode the bus.
The girls were all smiles and super excited as we waited at the end of the driveway for the bus to pick them up and take them to school. I was a little nervous about it. A practice round on an empty bus is a little different from getting on a bus full of kids and a lot of noise. The bus pulled up and I reminded the girls to wait for the bus driver to motion for them to cross the street. They watched her and crossed after she told them to. They seemed a little hesitant about this new experience. They walked very slowly as they crossed the street. They kept turning around to see if I was still there. At the end of the school day the first thing I heard was “The bus was fun. Want to ride the bus again tomorrow.” I couldn’t believe it. I thought they would hate it because of the noise. What do I know?
The girls are in a self-contained classroom and they share an aide. They are constantly competing for the aide’s attention. Hope hates it when Mikayla’s getting the attention. And Mikayla hates it when Hope’s getting the attention. I can’t say I blame them. They have to sit beside each other all day long. Everywhere Hope goes Mikayla is there. Everywhere Mikayla goes Hope is there. And they get really tired of it. When my sisters and I went to school we got off the bus and they went to their classes and I went to mine. And we didn’t see each other until we got back on the bus. If my sisters and I would’ve had to sit by each other all day we wouldn’t have been very happy. It’s a beautiful thing for siblings to go to school and be able to get away from each other. It didn’t seem fair that Mikayla and Hope didn’t have that option. As the year has went on Mikayla and Hope’s frustration with each other has escalated. But what can we do? There isn’t any way to separate them. They’re the same age and this is the only classroom they can be in.
One of their therapists approached me with an idea. Would it be possible for one of the girls to come in the morning and the other one to come in the afternoon? We thought about it and decided to give it a try. The week after Easter we started the new schedule. I decided that Mikayla should keep going in the morning because she doesn’t like her routine messed up. So she rides the bus to school, eats breakfast, and then has her day by herself. I bring Hope at 11:30, she eats lunch, has her school day by herself, and rides the bus home. It’s been so good for them. It’s not easy being a twin. They feel like they’re always one of two. But now they get their own individual time at school and it’s made all the difference in the world.
The girls have made some academic progress this year. But what’s most important is that they gain life skills and independence. They’re learning to be independent of me. And they’re also learning to be independent of each other. Yesterday I walked Mikayla to the end of the driveway to wait for the bus. She turned around and said “Mommy, you need to go in the house.” Yes I do. You need to learn to go out into the world without me and I need to go in the house. You don’t need me as much as you used to. And I love it. But even though I’m in the house please know that I’ll be peeking out the window to make sure that you’re ok. And that will never change.