Good Things For Gwendolyn: Making New School FriendsSeptember 09, 2012 by Victoria
It has been two weeks since Gwendolyn started the big kindergarten and she absolutely loves it. She wakes up each morning bright and early scanning her bedroom for her backpack, looking for her outfit set out for the school day, and impatiently demanding we hurry up -- even if it is only 3:00 am.
Everything is still very new and each day there is still at least one new experience -- an assembly with all the kindergarten classes and teachers, learning the Wildcat cheer, music class with a special music teacher, etc. What has been fully consistent is all of the children have been so incredibly embracing. And what is heartwarming is it seems to be their natural response.
At recess kids eagerly ask Gwendolyn to play and come running from the other kindergarten classes to join the game or have a chance to push her in her adapted swing. One favorite game so far has been "yellow bouncy ball" (each child bounces the ball to Gwendolyn and then she bounces it to someone new). The children all get so excited, cheer each other on, and LOVE getting to send the ball back to Gwendolyn.
And without fail at least two children, sometimes more, hold the sides of her stroller to escort her back to class after recess. They don't say much but they quickly run from all directions the second the bell rings to have a spot alongside her. It is quite the darling secret service.
A little boy, "K," is extra sweet to Gwendolyn. Every day he makes her a drawing. One day he cleared away a special spot for them to have snack together. He's always one of the recess escorts. He jumped at the chance to be her "buddy" to hold hands as we all walked back to class after the assembly. And he chose Gwendolyn to be his dance partner during music class. What was really neat is he never said, "How will Gwendolyn dance?" He never hesitated. He just grabbed her hands and promptly moved his body and her arms up and down like all the other kids and declared, "That was fun!" at the end.
There are other kids who also just seem to adore Gwendolyn and go out of their way for her. "V" brought in special books to share with Gwendolyn, is one of the consistant playtime friends, and she is always the first to answer a question about Gwendolyn's SMA if another child asks. This is one cute exchange we had with her:
Ms. E introduced the calendar and as we were talking about the months, little V whips around and whispers: "When is Gwendolyn's birthday?"
I quietly answer: "October."
V: "Is she having a party? I think she should invite me!" She then looked at Gwendolyn and asks her, "Can I come to your party?" then looks back at me, "Gwendolyn said I could come to her party. I saw her eyes go up."
As part of the dismissal one day the teacher asked each child to raise their hand and state their favorite part of kindergarten. A bunch of little hands shot up and the first child called said, "My favorite part of kindergarten is playing with Gwendolyn." Several more children answered the same way. Melt!
All of this support and camaraderie means Gwendolyn's bright spirit is only going to thrive. She is clearly determined (and perhaps a wee bit bossy) about what she wants to do each day. But she is also sensitive to how others feel and, like her peers, is working on helping others feel accepted. One of her tablemates is very shy and Gwendolyn selected her as her buddy for a drawing activity. Gwendolyn kept looking over to check in with her, nodded in response to her questions, and tapped her fingers to tell her she was doing a great job. And sure enough little "A" really came out of her shell that day and now sticks by Gwendolyn's side.
Bill and I (and the teachers and staff) are all still working on some of the logistics of the day, of the learning plan, of the year. But our anxiety about the social aspect of school is abating. The most important thing to Gwendolyn is to belong. And our hearts swell to see that her peers don't see any other way of being -- she is intrinsically one of the gang.