Tuesday, May 25, 2010

More alike than different

It's hard to believe that it's almost been one year since we were worried and nervous about Morgan's school placement for first grade. This school year has flown by and I feel confident we made the right decision for Morgan. It has been an amazing year! She was extremely lucky to get a teacher who was willing and excited to have a student with special needs; an aide with energy, patience and love for Morgan; and her very first best friend, Gracey.

I worried about Morgan being accepted and a part of the classroom but one of the most incredible things for me as a parent has been being able to watch friendships develop where those differences and challenges don't seem to matter to the other person. I've written about Gracey in other posts. She and Morgan are in the same first grade classroom. Gracey took an immediate interest in Morgan and they instantly became best friends. We had a scare a few weeks into the school year. Gracey moved far away from our school and we didn't think she was going to be able to keep coming to our school. I was so upset. It didn't seem fair. Morgan had finally found a friend who really cared and loved her and she was going to have to lose her. I cried and cried and cried. Not knowing what any of us (Morgan, me, aide, and teacher) would do without Gracey. The sweetest thing was that Gracey didn't care about changing schools only worried and upset about who would take care of Morgan. She knew Morgan needed her. We were so happy when they figured out a way to keep Gracey at our school.

She has been extremely helpful in the classroom. When Morgan doesn't want to do something for her teacher or aide, they know they can count on Gracey to get her to do it. But she has also been helpful out of the classroom. Things you don't think about with your other kids, but extracurricular activities are more difficult with Morgan. We have a hard time keeping track of her with the other 5 kids and usually choose to just stay home instead of going and chasing her around the entire time. Our school had a 'Family Skate Night' and we decided to go and be brave. Right when we walked inside the building, Gracey ran up to us and took Morgan's hand and asked her if she wanted to ride scooters together. "Sure!" Morgan and Gracey rode scooters the entire night. She's also helped at the school fundraiser, dinner at Sonic, playing on the playground, etc.

Riding scooters together


Gracey and Morgan at the school program


It was a school program for 3 grades (1st-3rd grade) but watching Morgan perform surrounded by her peers made it the program all about inclusion and acceptance for me. We were so proud watching her perform. It felt like our own personal victory.



It's not easy to work with Morgan. She's been known to be a tad stubborn and obstinate from time to time. We were all so lucky to get McKenna as her aide. When trying to decide between the special needs cluster classroom and full inclusion, I was told full inclusion would be better for Morgan socially but the cluster classroom would be better for her academically. I'm not so sure I agree. Morgan has done so well academically this year with McKenna. She's doing addition with manipulatives, counting by 5's and 10's, reading on an E Level (started the school year on C), taking spelling tests, writing all of her letters and numbers (she could only write the M-O-R-G-A-N at the beginning of the year).

McKenna and Morgan.
McKenna is moving back home, out of state, and won't be Morgan's aide next year. We are going to miss her so very much (such an understatement)!

Morgan brings home a new reading book each day from school. "My Messy Rooom" is the book she is currently working on.


It takes Morgan a long time to read a book. She is easily distracted by, well, anything really. I wanted to video her reading so I could remember what she was doing in first grade. I'm so impressed with the progress she has made since last year. She was able to read flash cards and beginning books. It took her almost a week to learn a new book and be able to pass it off. She is now able to read her books the day she comes home from school and take it back for a new book the next day. Here's a little sample (okay, not so little, more like 7 minutes) of her reading. I tried to edit out the distractions and pauses and it still took 7 minutes.


It may not sound like very big accomplishments to some but it is HUGE to us! We can see her progressing and that is reason enough for us to celebrate! She still has a lot of room for improvement. Socially, she still bullies any child who is smaller than she is. Behaviorally, she has a hard time controlling her excitement and yells and/or makes weird noises. Toilet training, after 15 months I'm almost ready to go back to pull ups, but I won't. Hopefully all of those things will improve with some more time too.

And the best thing about having Morgan in the neighborhood school??? Becoming a local celebrity -- both of us. We can't walk into a supermarket, library, church without some unknown child saying, " Hi Morgan!!!" or "Hi Morgan's mom!" And Morgan always knows their name and says Hi and sometimes adds, "How's school?"


Here's one last video. This was on tv a few weeks ago and I thought it was worth re-posting.

19 comments:

Sharon said...

I love this post Heather. Thanks for the update and all the great news. Morgan and your family are definitely an inspiration to me. I love hearing about her friendship too.
I was reading on facebook that summer break is about to begin in the US and was thinking of Morgan this morning. Remembering the posts you wrote at the start of the year, it's so great to read how wonderfully it's all gone. Morgan you're amazing!

tekeal said...

i love the videos and seeing how great morgen is doing with reading and singing/dancing! thanks...

Jenny said...

I really loved this post! I find great comfort in being able to see what other peoples kids can accomplish as they grow, it makes me realize that Russell is more alike than different. I loved hearing Morgan read, she did such a great job and what a sweet voice!

COOLWHIP said...

Thanks. I needed that this morning.
I too am just amazed at how fast this year has gone. Eva is starting kindergarten. Shouldn't she still be 3? Although, she is much easier now than at 3.

DKAZ said...

The performance video is priceless! She looks like she is having the most fun too. Very impressed with the reading-great job Morgan and everyone who supported her!

Becca said...

This was so inspiring to read this morning. I'm so happy she's doing so well at school, and knowing that there are kids like Gracey out there, developing close, caring relationships with our kids, fills me with hope.

Adrienne said...

Wow- she's really doing great!! Thanks for sharing this! Love that she's got a sweet little girl to call a best friend!

Toni Mehraban said...

I remember your heartbreaking post at the beginning of the school year and now look how far Morgan has come! Thanks for sharing.

kecia said...

oh I cried watching her perform with her peers and watching that cute little friend with her! gracey is exactly what we all pray our children will have! I am AMAZED at how well she is reading!! I will have to get more pointers from you...would you start the flashcards now full time with Bree or wait a little bit?

Emily said...

Okay... she is AMAZING! What a fabulous reader she is. And Gracey... what an angel. I sure hope all of our sweet ones have good friends like her!

Grandma Bethany said...

A beautiful blog about our beautiful Morgan. Brought tears to my eyes watching her perform. I loved the t.v. program...first time I have seen it. Also, extra hugs to McKenna and Gracey. Everyone needs a best friend and a caring teacher.

Grandma Bethany said...

This loving comment was made by Grandma Bethany's cousin...
"I love the article about little Morgan and I don't mind admitting that it brought tears to this old man's eyes. I wanted to post a note, but was not able to do so. Perhaps you can pass this comment on to Heather:

I am humbled. Thanks to Bethany for sending me the link to this wonderful blog by a beautiful second cousin. I guess that means that Morgan is my third cousin.

May God bless you and your family with special gifts that are needed to cope. May God bless Morgan and may He also bless all the Graceys in the world.

I'm thinking that I sure would like to know your children, Bethany. You have a wonderful family."

Love,
Mike Galbraith (Uncle Chris's son)

Brittany said...

Love Morgan, she really has done so well this last year. It really shows.

Beverly said...

how beautiful for Morgan to have such a loving friend. What a blessing. thanks for sharing

Carrie said...

Love this post! It warms my heart to hear about kids doing well and being included. What a blessing to have a good friend like Gracey, all of us need at least one good friend that will take care of us like that!

Chris said...

Oh, may all of our kids have a Gracey. It is amazing what having a good friend can do for a kid--any kid!

You should be very proud of Morgan. She is doing fabulous!

Cami said...

She is such a great Reader! you guys are such dedicated and diligent parents! Morgan will reap the benefits for the rest of her life! Thanks for being such great example's!

Summer said...

What a great post Heather! Morgan is doing AMAZING!!! I can't believe what a great reader she is. How lucky to have such a wonderful little friend like Gracey and great teachers. I am so glad that Elle and Morgan go to the same school. Maybe they will be in the same class next year. That would be fun!

Michelle said...

I just loved this post! Brought tears to my eyes too! So is it my understanding that Morgan is fully included in the regular 1st grade classroom with a full time aide? Does she not get any pull outs for anything or go to the resource room etc? Does she work on the same curriculum as the rest of the class?

Kayla's placement part of her IEP is coming up. At the last meeting it sounded like the OT and her reg. ed K teacher were recommending maybe like what you described as the special needs cluster rooms I think. The OT stated that Kayla wouldn't be able to fully function (don't remember if those were her exact words) in a 1st grade classroom and would be able to better handle a 'smaller classroom size." I agree in that Kayla wouldn't be able to sit and work independently - but with an aide I think she would. Her spec ed teacher (who comes in the K classroom to work w/Kayla) wants to see her fully included in 1st grade like she is in K now.

Anyway, loved the video of Morgan reading - she is doing wonderfully! And reminds me a lot of Kayla with the distractions (that would be one of the problems with being in the reg. classroom) How wonderful that Morgan found such a great friend too! She has come a long way since the beginning of the school year!