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The Kindergarten Trick You NEED to Try

Photograph by Twenty20

The love of my life is about to start kindergarten, and I’ll admit it: I’m a total stress case about the whole thing.

Is she ready? Will she be able to keep up? Can she sit still for that long? Listen to someone new? Follow directions, and learn and thrive?

I think the answer to all those questions is yes. The logical side of me looks at my little girl and is sure she is ready for this next step. But the emotional side of me (the side that wants to protect her and hold her close always) is nervous.

Since she was 2, my daughter has been in and out of speech and occupational therapy. She’s doing great now, meeting most of her milestones and exuding joy in everything she does. But there’s so much about who she is and what she’s been through that I wanted to communicate to her kindergarten teacher.

I just didn’t know how—until a friend shared the profile she made for her son who was recently diagnosed with autism. It comes from the concept of person-centered planning, and the blog post she shared with me actually provides a template for creating your own.

As soon as I saw it, I knew this was what I had been looking for to ease some of my mama stress and better help my daughter’s soon-to-be kindergarten teacher understand what makes her tick.

I ran the original template by a few of my teacher friends and my daughter’s speech therapist. “Am I going to be that overwhelming, extra mom if I make one of these for her?” I asked.

Most everyone teased me first, then assured me it was actually something they’d love to receive. But they had some pointers.

“Don’t include anything too generic,” they said. “No kids like being yelled at or rushed. Try to stick to things that might actually be helpful to the teacher in managing your daughter’s needs.”

So, I sat and thought about who my girl is and about what I’ve learned in this last five years of parenting her. And I created this:

In addition to just being a normal kid with normal quirks, my daughter does have a few additional diagnoses that may come into play in the classroom. For instance, a year ago she was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis—a condition that causes her pain and fatigue, and requires her to be on a drug that sometimes makes her sick.

Giving her teacher as much information as I could about that felt important, so I included a second page. In a public school setting, we would likely need an IEP and 504 plan, just in case. But since I’ve chosen to keep my daughter in private school, this felt like the next best way to communicate some of her additional needs. Most families could probably stick to the single page.

We met my daughter’s teacher last week. I had two copies of this in my car—one laminated and one paper copy I printed at the last minute, afraid the laminated one might send that “extra” vibe I was trying to avoid.

As we got out of the car, I asked my daughter which one she thought we should bring. She chose the paper one without hesitation—confirmation from a 5-year-old that I’m maybe just a little over the top.

But as I handed it to her teacher, she actually seemed impressed. “This was pretty much exactly the homework I was going to ask you for,” she said. I breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe I’m not too extra after all.

I have no doubt there are conversations still to come. But my heart feels a little lighter knowing I gave my daughter’s teacher something concrete to help them get to know her.

Now I’ll just have to keep the tears at bay when the day to drop her off finally arrives.

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