I can’t believe you started Kindergarten this year. A day, like most other milestones, your doctors assured us you would never meet. But here we are, you are six years old and attending Kindergarten 5 days a week. Last year Ford was not school age as he didn’t turn 5 before September 1st which meant that he remained at the Intermediate Unit for another year. We were excited to get another year with his teacher Miss Kim but we also were approved for Ford to attend circle time in a classroom at Riverside. We jumped at the opportunity as I was hoping this would be a bridge to start building a relationship with the school district Ford would enter the following year as he started Kindergarten.
Being a part of Mrs. McClean’s class was amazing and we did in fact begin to build those relationships which proved to be so important. We started the process of test driving virtual presence robots to determine which one would be best and most appropriate for Ford to use for the duration of his education experience. Last year we also had the opportunity to meet and sit in on all of the Kindergarten classrooms so we could meet the teachers and view their teaching styles. Myself as well as the school all agreed on the same teacher. Ford was going to be a part of Mrs. Sharek’s classroom. We started building a relationship with Mrs. Sharek as well as the Special Education Teacher Miss Smith who would become Ford’s home-bound teacher replacing Miss Kim.
Miss Kim and Ford
During the summer we test drove a couple other robots having one in mind that we really wanted for Ford to use throughout his school experience. Before the school year started we were informed by the school that they had purchased Ford the VGo. The VGo is the robot we wanted for Ford as it has so many functions that would allow him to experience all parts of the school day. We were super excited for school to start!!!
The first day of school was amazing and the kids all seemed to be excited to meet Ford. Mrs. Sharek had spoken with all the students and explained that Ford would be a part of their class using the robot. Sometimes a virtual presence can be a little scary or nerve racking for the kids but they seemed to be just fine. Ford had amazing first day of school and even got the job as feeding the class pet.
Ford’s experience in Kindergarten thus far has been absolutely amazing. Mrs. Sharek is an incredible teacher who goes out of her way to make Ford included in all aspects of the classroom experience. At the beginning of the year she called me to brainstorm and discuss ways Ford could participate in class and what his capabilities were. She wanted to do whatever she needed to give Ford a wonderful Kindergarten year. She has exceeded my expectations.
Mrs. Sharek sends home folders every week, a folder for each day, that contain all the activities and lessons she is planning to do throughout the week. This allows Ford to have every thing he needs to follow along with his class from home. The VGo has opened Ford’s education world like I could have never imagined. It has given Ford inclusion in a way no other technology device has or would have been able too. Ford is able (with the help of me) to drive the robot around the room and goes up to the board when his name is called. He can sit on his carpet square and also sit at the table with all of his peers. The zoom function is incredible allowing Ford to see anything that is going on in class. Sometimes the lessons are on the smart board, sometimes on the carpet. If Mrs. Sharek is reading a book Ford can see each page clearly.
Working on our writing
Practicing our letters in jello powder
Writing our letters
Calendar and number of school days
The VGo has also made it more apparent that Ford is an active participant of the classroom. This is a huge difference from just using an IPad. He is visually there because of the robot being present. Ford’s peers see him as a person and look at him as any other child in the class. They scream with excitement when he “arrives” at school, they show him pictures they draw, they wave at him constantly throughout the day and share stories of their weekends. Ford goes to Miss Smith’s class for writing every day and a little boy named Oliver walks with him down the hall daily. This shows me the acceptance that I have always hoped would be when Ford started school. They see past the fact that Ford is not physically in school because to them he actually is because of the Robot.
Math lesson on the carpet
Walking down the hall with a friend
Math lesson (Ford has his pond and fish at home)
Ford at the board doing Calendar
Sight word basketball
Ford’s peers showing him their drawings
Ford also participates in some of the specials throughout the week. He attends library, art and music. He is really enjoying going to the specials as well as participating in the academic parts of the school day. The art teacher also sends home the project each week so that Ford can be doing it with his class. She also sent home all the art supplies we would need for the year.
I am just so pleased with how the school year is going and I could not have hoped for anything better. When your child is different and you have to adapt you hope that others will choose to do that with you. Ford’s school has gone out of their way to make him feel included, accepted and wanted. The robot is an amazing thing and it truly has made Ford’s experience that much better but it really comes down to the teachers themselves. Mrs. Sharek has been nothing short of amazing and we are so thankful that she is Ford’s teacher. We are also so thankful for Ford’s other teacher Miss Smith who really helped with the process getting Ford the VGo. She is doing a wonderful job teaching Ford at home on Thursdays (even if we have to get up a half hour early for her ;). We hope and pray that the remainder of Ford’s school years will be just as good as this year has been so far.
Here are some extra pictures
Johnny Appleseed Day