1st grade

Vince started first grade yesterday. So far, so good…. If he only knew how many days he has left in school….


At Least He is Happy

It seems as if you have a kid with special needs the ultimate goal is for the child to be happy. About school, language, society the big secret lies within ‘as long as s/he is happy’.
As long as Vince is happy that is what matter, and that should be what defines the challenges in his life.

On the other side, if you have a child without special needs, happiness is taken as a given. Or at least not as a defined goal when it comes to planning the child’s elementary education plan.

Do you realize exactly how ridiculous that is?
I mean, all parents who do NOT want their kids happy, please stand up and put your hand up now.
No, I did not think so.
If you have a kid without special needs (and guess what, I have one of those too so I have some insight) the expectations are rarely for the child to ‘just be happy’. And I am not minimizing the importane of happiness in ones life, not at all, but really? My kid has Down syndrome, and therefore as long as he is happy in school I should be fine with that?

No, I do not believe in that.
I believe he will have to be rather unhappy quite a lot of times. He is happy when he gets to do what he wants to. Does that mean he should be allowed to sit and eat candy and play on his i-pad and take breaks whenever he wants to? Does that mean he should play with the knights and the castle till he is 15, just because that is what makes him happy? Is that how life is and will be for him in the future?
At least my life is not always going as planned (and just as a side note, I chose happy).

So about school again, I want Vince to be challenged to his fullest ability, if that means learning to read when he is 8,12 or 22, is really not the point. That he is challenged after his own ability, and not after what someone else thinks he can do, is what matters. If it means that he will not learn to read because he simply can not, well then we will have to live with that, but if it is because the educational system can not find his channel to learn, him being happy just will not be enough.

You know the saying reach for the stars, it really does not make a difference the number of chromosomes you have. We still aim high for both our kids.



School Thoughts

Yesterday I had an appointment with Vincent’s teacher. It was one of those meetings I think (assume) it is easiest to picture yourself in if you have a child with special needs. It was one of those eye openers or IRL experiences you get every so often when you realize how much your child does not know. It kind of hits you and the physical pain is real:
-Crap, do 6 year olds know THAT much????
I am not trying to compare, but it is pretty impossible not to compare. My issue is not with what the other kids know or what Vincent does not know. It is neither with the school or with the teachers. My issue is within me.

I am extremely proud of Vincent and how he is developing.
I am extremely proud of everything he knows.
I am extremely proud of how mature he is becoming and how much he is his own person.
I am extremely proud of how he has made little friends an big friends.
I am extremely proud of him, just they way he is.

What I am scared of is that Vincent will not have the best ability to learn for HIM. I believe Vincent will learn a lot in school. But the struggle will be to find the Vincent-motivators that will challange him just right. If he does not want to do the work it is going to be tough,close to impossible. But if they can find the key to teaching him in a way that captures his interest I fully believe his potential is significantly higher.
I know that the more time we as parents spend with him working on homework and such, the better equipped he will be for his adult life. I also realize that there is a breaking point where the study effort is not worth it, the cost of other life aspects will be too high. Where that breaking point is, time will tell.

So I thought and my mind twisted and turned. And then I talked to the best people in the world. My bestest friends with the smartest of takes on it. Actually all with ‘only’ so called normal children. And I felt a lot calmer and relaxed and less stressed and no longer so scared and sad.

When I picked up Vince from school today I was told he had a great day. He participated all day and he did excellent in gym classes. He waited in line and took turns and walked to the cafeteria just fine. He played with the boys in his class for recess and was on the soccer field with the bigger kids too.
I talked to his assistant about how she feels she is equipped for first grade next year. She understood my concerns and we came up with some good things to bring into our next meeting in prepping for 1st grade.

The school road ahead of us is long and I have no clue in what direction we will end up. We are starting off in our neighborhood school, and so far so good. Vince enjoys going to school. Vince is comfortable there and he likes his assistant. I like his assistant. I feel we are being listened to and communication is working. And most important of all: Vincent is happy!




The snow finally disappeared last week.

Sunday afternoon, Vince sitting on the wall by our house. It was colder than it looks.

Tonight Mr B did homework with Vince, while I had the luxury of going for a run with a friend.

Homework: the letter H. He has drawn a rabbit (HASE in German or HARE in Swedish). The second part are words that start with H (really?) that I wrote down but Vince helped find. And the last part is practicing writing H and h.

And yeah, as we started running the snow start falling again. Now it is white outside again…


Off to go sledging together. Vince and his friend T.



Beyblades are big in Vince’s school. And Vince is more than mighty impressed. Vince has made friends with a lot of kids and he is constantly hanging with the beybladers. I was informed a while back about the situation, and I looked the toys up in a store without really getting the cool thing about them (total sign of being an uncool mom, I do recognise that…) so I decided not to buy one. Then Vince friend T got one. T and Vince are really good friends. It might even be so that little miss T is quite smitten by Vince and Vince sometimes abuses that point. Apparently so on the beyblade side. I was told (via our school communication book) that Vince now took Ts beyblade and treated it like his own and refused to give it back. Hence me heading back to the toy store to pick up a beyblade for Vince. Had I known how happy he would be, I would have gotten him one a long time ago!





Monday was also the first day for Edgar in the ‘big’ group. He is mighty excited and tells me daily which of his little friends he is in love with (changes daily).


School Start

We had a fab vacation, but the kids were fighting A LOT too. And there are a lot of situations that are really hard for Vincent to deal with. Waiting for food in a restaurant is never a hit, and not running away in the street is a tough one too. Not pushing Edgar in the street, off a dock, in the water or under the water is making it a constant game of always, and I mean ALWAYS being right there. Not a single second un-attended. Not one. Ever. I usually shrug it off, I am used to it, and that is just the way it is. Eds is quite a drama queen as well and I swear they tag team each other against me too. But at times it gets to me and you get a feeling of complete failure. Failure to fix, to educate, to be patient, to be there, to listen, to understand and try to understand an almost non-verbal 6-year-old. Is it a DS thing or is he mad at me cause I just can’t understand what he is trying to explain with words that to him seem perfectly clear?

There have been many times when I have asked myself if we are making the right decision putting Vince in our neighborhood school. The last weeks have been pretty tough (four weeks off). Should we have considered the special eds program more? Well, actually, that is not an option here in Sweden, the first year, grade zero, has no special ed’s classes. There is no separate plan for kids with special needs. They are all main streamed for grade zero. Made this decision a bit easier to make. However, there was the option of leaving him one extra year in Kindegarten, which we decided against. Also, we have the wonderful opportunity that in our neighborhood school there are three kids born in 2006 who have Down syndrome.

There are 19 kids in the class. Like I said, three of them have DS. There are two teachers, and three special eds teachers in the classroom. School is set up that drop of is from 6.30 am and pick up is latest 5.30. If you come before 7.30 you have breakfast in school. Lunch and snacks are also served in school. At noon, the class room turns into an after school activity room. So after school and school is in the same class room, with the same teachers. I like it. Four of the teachers are full-time, and one is 75%. The special eds teachers are not assigned to the three kids with DS, but rather to the whole group. I like that.

With that said and more than a bit nervous I took Vince to his first day of school today.
I think it went rather fine. There were some situations when he told me he wanted to go to sleep (if he only knew how many years of school he has left), a few times when he looked sad, but in general he looked pretty comfortable in his new surroundings. I was with him for half a day. There were a few things that had to be addressed and needed immediate attention. One example being that during the breaks one adult HAS to know where Vince is at all times. The school is not fenced in, it has a rather large wooded area and there is this little mountain/rock thing which one easily could fall off and get hurt. At first when I pointed this out to one teacher she responded with saying that this is a great place to learn boarders and develop gross motor skills. Very true, but as Vince (and Eds) both are kind of test pilots and crash first, then learn, this was not an opportunity I am ready to learn from (falling off the rock and then with a broken arm or leg learn to be careful).

Anyways, when I returned in the afternoon after having left him a few hours on his own, the teachers had realized that there needs to be some more definite guidelines set up. There will be a few changes in some rooms and a schedule as to who will watch Vince specifically during breaks. I like it. They could have gone all ‘We know best’, but after just one half day they realized some changes are necessary.

The principal stopped by and asked if I was comfortable and what my most immediate concerns were. I like it.

And most important of all, Vince had fun! He enjoyed playing with the things in school and he enjoyed being with his friends again. I think this is the right choise and I think Vince will learn a lot. And I like that.
Walking to his class room

Playing pool with Tea

And foot ball with a teacher

The mountain/rock which gave me a bit of a nervous break down seeing all potential injuries…
Vince is the kid in blue balancing on the edge.

I admit, great for gross motor skills and great for Vince who loves climbing…. Still a bit steep for my taste.



Last night was parents teachers conference in Vincent’s future school. The principal had gathered all parents of the new kids and along with the teacher he presented the philosophy and strategy that they believe in when it comes to teaching 6 year olds.

We have chosen a ‘normal’ school for Vincent and he will start at the same time (not delayed a year) as if he had been born without Down syndrome. If you have followed my blog you know that one of the main reasons for moving to Sweden was to try to find a good school for Vincent. So far, we are  very happy.

There will be 17 kids in Vincent’s class. Three of them have Down syndrome. That is a coincidence (minus us who actually moved here because families around here with kids with disabilities were all very satisfied with school,s support etc). There are two teachers in the classroom and two ‘helpers’ plus one special ed teacher. All for these 17 kids. The principal had done his research on Down syndrome and used useful statistics (how great kids with DS learn when in an encouraging environment etc), and he really made a strong stand point that Vince and his two fellow friends with DS definitely belong in this school. It is also nice that most parents are already familiar with the kids in the class having DS.

A bonus is of course also that from the 17 kids, I believe only 3 are kids not at Vincent’s current day care. So he will know almost everybody when they start. Kindergarten also have a great school prepping program, where the teachers come to Kindergarten to visit  now in April and May. The kids will also go to the school and eat lunch and see their class room a few times. I really like it.

Of course school has not even started yet, but not having to start with a fight to just get the resources and most importantly the support of the school itself is huge and a very welcoming relief.

About that Move

We decided in October to move to Sweden. We have been thinking about moving somewhere new, and possibly somewhere with a better laid out regular school plan than Austria. The school law has not been changed in Austria since mid 1910s (information from a school specialist in Austria working on getting some changes through). I do believe the first four years would have been somehow OK here, but at 10/11 years of age is when you pick academics (Gymnasium) or practical (Hauptschule) education. Guess which choice 99% of kids with DS end up in?

So we decided after we both were faced with a great job opportunities to try out Sweden. We are not that picky as for what country per se, and if it does not work out to our likings the world is still wide open for us. This is our fourth country (US, Mexico, Austria and now Sweden).

As the plan looks now the movers are coming March 30-31. The whole move will be handled by movers. They are packing and unpacking everything. (Have I ever mentioned that I hate moving, and has managed to be very pregnant (32 weeks plus) on both of our last moves)? The truck is then leaving on the 31st, but as you ar not allowed to drive a truck on Autobahn on Sundays throughout Europe, the truck will most likely be in Sweden and start unpacking on April 3, being done on April 4th.

When looking into exactly where to move, we had pretty much one factor we cared about. Vincent’s opportunities. And that we need to both get to our jobs which are located in Gothenburg and in Trollhättan (north of Gothenburg). Although Sweden has a national law of course each state/municipality can still read into that law. I did a lot of research talking/mailing/FBing/forum:ing with parents to children with special needs and found one municipality where all the people I talked to were satisfied with it and their contacts within the area. That is how we picked Ale Kommun, just north of Gothenburg. After some more research and contacts we decided on the specific area called Surte. It is most likely not known for being the prettiest area in Sweden, but I was pleasantly surprised (I had a really bad picture of it in my head) whenVince and I visited a few weeks ago. Surte has about 6,500 inhabitants, and is located about 10 min north of Gothenburg. Its only claim to international fame (I have heard of) is that the man who designed the original coke bottle is from there.

The kids have day care places and will start in April 10th, the same day as Mr B starts his new job. I will start my job about a week later, or when the kids are fully schooled in at day care. We visited the day care and it seems great. I am sure the kids will be in good hands. The school is also very close to there, and both school and day care are located close to our home.

Oh yeah, we finally found an apartment. It is probably easier to win a million dollars on the lotto that trying to rent an apartment (or house) in Sweden. There is this line system, so unless you have stood in an online line for at least 3 years in Ale Kommun (in Stockholm and Gothenburg a minimum of 11 years) no rental home for you my friend. Unless you sublet. We were able to find a private rented apartment. We had hoped to get a bigger one, but the one we had our eyes on disappeared at the very last minutes. We did find another one, so now we will stick with that one, just to be able to move forward.

About or school choice for Vince… that will come up next. Till then, a view of our future street: