>Heart Full of Courage…..


Due to several reasons, we chose to move Maya to yet another kindergarten, her 3rd mainstream Kindy so far. This time around, we decided not to have a shadow aide to assist her in the first few weeks of the new school. More importantly, we chose not to inform the school of Maya’s history and diagnosis. We did not want the new school to have any preconceptions of Maya and we wanted to see if Maya could fully integrate into the new school without any special help. We were warned that moving Maya so soon to a 3rd school and without any shadow aide was a terrible idea. Against all professional opinions, we chose to do it our way, as usual. 
The last few weeks in her previous school, I had told Maya that soon she’ll be going to another new school for big girls. Soon she’ll be saying goodbye to her current school and she’ll make some new friends at the new school. Kids being kids, she took it all in stride. Yes, she understood what I told her. I had driven past the new school a couple of times to show her the new school. We had a little farewell party at her previous school on the last day of school. She said goodbye to all her teachers and friends and everyone gave her a big hug. It was hard to say goodbye yet again, however we felt that this was for the best. 
Both girls are now in the same school, finally. It was a relief to drop them off and pick them up from the same school, no more driving to 2 different locations everyday. Both girls now are on the same school holiday schedules, we used to have 1 girl in school and the other girl at home for holidays. We couldn’t go on family holidays as both schools were on differing schedules. It was easier for us logistically as well as in other ways. 
We brought Maya and Yasmin in for the first day of the school term in early September. There were scores of other students starting their 1st day in school too and other new parents. We introduced them to the principle and their own homeroom teachers. Then both the girls went to their respective classrooms with their teachers. Maya is in the older class with other 5-6 year olds and Yasmin in the 3-4 year old class. Paul and I hung around for the next half hour to observe both girls. By then, both girls were fully settled in their class and participating in the day’s activities. I said goodbye to Maya and told her that we’ll be back to pick her up at the end of the school day. She said bye and turned her attention back to her task. Paul and I stayed nearby the school, in case we got an emergency call from the principle. We were anxious and worried, after all, we just left our 4.5 year old and 3.5 year old daughters in a brand new school after only 30 minutes.  I worried that Maya would be anxious in the new environment, new teachers, new classmates and strange schedule. As usual, Maya surpassed our expectations.
When we came to pick them up, Maya and Yasmin were both smiling and beaming. Both girls told us of the happy things they did that day, Maya more eloquently than Yasmin. From the 2nd day onwards, we dropped them off at the school gate and we didn’t need to stay.
A few weeks before starting her new school, Maya was experiencing slight regression due to Candida overgrowth. She was a bit unfocused, her eye contact deteriorated and at times her echolalia would return. She also tended to talk on and on, not noticing that her classmates were no longer paying attention, she would go off on a tangent and ramble off the topic. We put her on a course of anti-fungals and hoped that it would be resolved before she started her new school. I wanted her to be at her best in the hopes that it made it easier for her to navigate the new social challenges that a new school demanded. 
I also told Maya that when she’s in class, we should be quiet. We should not talk unless the teacher talks to us first. We should pay attention in class and do our work. I wasn’t sure whether she understood the lesson I was trying to teach her, but I hoped some of it would sink in. 2 weeks ago, Paul and I requested a meeting with the girls’ teachers. The school explained that it wasn’t time yet for the usual progress review, but we insisted. They very kindly accommodated us. We sat down with the principle and Maya’s homeroom teacher, they explained that she is a bit quiet in class, she has made friends with all the girls and she already has a best friend. They also remarked that she is very eloquent. The teacher noticed that Maya has very firm likes and dislikes when it comes to food during lunchtime, refusing soft, mushy porridge and doesn’t want to eat fruits. I explained that Maya has always been a picky eater and requested that they continue to encourage her to expand her food choices. However, most lunchtimes, she happily sits with her classmates at the table and eat the same foods served in school.
The teacher also said that Maya needed to be reminded to finish her worksheet, not to hand it over before it’s completed. We asked if other children were able to complete their worksheet without prompting, and the teacher and principle assured us that all the other students were the same as Maya. All the kids needed to be prompted to do their work correctly and to complete the task. Phew, I was worried there for a moment. Maya’s favourite subjects are Music class and gym. She loves doing science experiments and her Mandarin articulation is excellent. Maya joins in every activity and completes every task required. Her handwriting isn’t great but her reading is above her age level. Overall, the teacher is very pleased with Maya and didn’t have any issues to bring to our attention except for her refusal to eat porridge and fruits.
Maya turned 5 years old last week. So we had a little birthday celebration for Maya in school. The school has a birthday ritual called the Birthday Walk. The birthday girl walks around the globe the number of times as her age. The parent will show some photos and tell her classmates of her life. I had brought in a birthday cake and the teachers helped to put up some photos to show her class.  Maya was very proud to hold the globe and walk around. She blew out the candles and cut her cake. She also told her classmates and teachers about each and every photo. She is a great little speaker, her teachers told me later on how great her speech was. Her classmates were very nice kids, Maya was part of a clique of girls and played well with each other. It was heartening to see how well Maya was doing. 
I noticed several other kids in Maya and Yasmin’s class who still needed either their mum or nanny to be present in school and kids who would cry for their parents after being dropped off. I thought that I would have to be at the school for at least a few more weeks before Maya was comfortable being on her own. I expected the teacher and principle to talk to us of any p
roblems with Maya. She seems to be just like any other student there. 
We were told that we were pushing her too hard, that Maya was not ready for another new school, that she was not ready to be in school without a shadow aide, that Maya will experience terrible regression, anxiety and failures. As usual, they underestimate just how high Maya can soar.  My daughter is brave and intelligent, her heart is full of courage.  She bravely takes up every new challenge and obstacles in her path, she conquered Autism. She continues to conquer every social challenge and sensorial assault till this day.  Her strength and resilience is humbling. She makes me proud of her every single day. 

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