Vince turns 6 in May. I know. Seriously. I can not believe it. However, that does not make a difference. He still does.
If we were to stay in Austria, Vincent would start first grade in the fall. In Sweden you start first grade when you are seven. However, there is a preparation year, non-obligatory which about 95% of all Swedish 6 year olds attend, that is called Pre-school class or grade Zero. Names are depending on geographic location and I believe politically correctness too.
We have decided for Vincent to start the grade zero class. It will be physically located in his future school. He will go with some kids from his upcoming day care (the kids that are 6 and moving on). It is a typical school. We have chosen full inclusion and we have chosen our future neighborhood school. We believe this will be the best for our family. We have no clue what the future hold for Vince in terms of school and education, so this is what we are doing for now. We will see how it goes and take it from there.
What IS great about this school, which is small in our new smallish town, is that there will be three kids all born in 2006 who have Down syndrome. We believe this will make it easier for Vincent and his classmates to learn about being different. It will also be a HUGE relief for us parents to be together and support each other when it comes to differences in opinions about our kids and their abilities. I am extremely happy about this.
With that said, I have had one meeting with the teachers and the principal and I was very relieved and pleasantly surprised after the meeting. No one mentioned any extra costs or the challenge of getting resources into the budget. That is huge as usually there is always the game of who will pay when you encounter a situation with a child with special needs. At least that has been my experience up to this point. The principal wants Vincent to go there and he did not even ask if we have considered non-inclusion schools or an other school in the area. Impressive and enlightening.
Another BIG advantage compared to school in Austria will be the smaller classes. There will be two Grade Zero classes in Vincent’s school. One with 14 kids and one with 15 kids. In Austria there would have been at least 20. There will be one teacher along with extra help. We have not gotten the exact percentage or head count on that, but the principal will give his input on what he thinks during our next meeting which will take place in April. We parents have put a wish in for our kids with DS to be in the same class, and my guess is that will happen. My guess is also that there will be between 2-2.5 people added to the main teacher to help Vince and his two class mates with DS in the class. I am hoping for 3, but I guess that will not happen immediately. The principal was very clear that he wants this extra staff to be on his payroll which is also significant. Once again he was not afraid of extra costs.
So that is where we stand in our school choice. I believe we are making the right decision for Vincent. This has been the toughest decision so far. It has caused me many sleepless nights and much anxiety. Things are starting to come together for the move and having a school where Vince seems to be heard and seen as just the kid he is, is a big relief.