Ezra,  Special Needs Parenting,  The Preschool Years

Preschool Graduation: Ezra’s Trials and Triumphs

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Yesterday was Ezra’s preschool graduation. Tomorrow is his very last day of preschool, and falls exactly two years and four months from the day I first sent him off to preschool.

First day of Christian Preschool – February 10, 2014

I felt so many things that day:

Relief – that I was no longer going to be his everything, that he could look to others; that I will have all. the. time to be able to accomplish what needs to be accomplished around the house; that I was going to have freedom and whitespace and quiet and all of the things that this introvert craves

Regret – that I couldn’t make homeschool preschool work for us; that I couldn’t be enough for him; that all of my efforts to get him around other children almost daily weren’t enough because they weren’t the right consistent kind of relationship-building interactions

Guilt – that I had to send him away because I couldn’t deal with being his mom all the time; that someone else had to come to our rescue financially for him to be able to go

Anxiety – that an all-day program would be too much for him; that he would hit his teachers and fellow students; that he would poop in his pants and get kicked out; that he would feel like I didn’t love him; that he would hate it. – Read more here: On #whitespace and sending my boy to preschool

First day of Christian Preschool – February 10, 2014

Preschool was a catalyst. While I hoped that the structure that preschool offered would improve Ezra’s behavior, it did just the opposite. He was behaving just as badly at school, which was both incredibly validating and yet incredibly frustrating.

last day of k3
Last Day of K3, May 2014
First Day of K4 – August 2014

Throughout the course of his first six months of preschool – the end of that school year, the summer program, and the beginning of the next school year – I was often called to the school to deal with problem behaviors. Ultimately, the Christian school he was attending decided it was best he not continue attending, only three weeks after he returned to preschool in the fall.

It was devastating, yet a necessary part of Ezra’s life. It’s what led us to seek a behavioral diagnosis for him, and a month later, he was admitted to an inpatient therapeutic day treatment program.

First Day of Day Treatment – October 6, 2014

It was there where we were supported through his diagnoses and began to adapt our parenting to meet his extenuating needs. Slowly, we began to see improvement. After six months, they felt that he was ready to re-enter the classroom environment, this time in an “exceptional child” special needs setting with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

…[The school district] told us that they had designated Ezra as having a “Developmental Delay – Atypical” for his behavior problems, qualifying him to receive special education services. . . His IEP was detailed and demonstrated that they had a very good understanding of what his needs are, as well as what his strengths are. They assigned him to a special education (“exceptional children”) preschool classroom at a local elementary school. This class would offer all-day specialized instruction with occupational therapy support.

We visited the school, which happens to be less than a mile from our home, and felt like this was the right decision. They told us that they would be ready for Ezra as soon as he was released from inpatient therapy.

And now here we are. Today we received a discharge date for therapy, and Ezra will be starting at his new school after the school district’s spring break.

Ezra will also be able to continue with private outpatient occupational therapy and we will be starting family play therapy mid-April.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t overwhelmed and a little freaked. We’ve known he couldn’t stay inpatient forever, but now that we are here, I don’t feel ready. – Read more here: Believing in my son {an update}

graduation 2
Day Treatment Graduation – April 2, 2015

He did okay in his new class. Just okay. Not fabulous. There were still trips to the principal’s office and that one incident where he threw a chair across the room. But he made it through the last two months of the school year in yet another new environment.

Last Day of K3, June 2015

I look back on this long, hard year and I can’t help but see the progress and the changes and all the ways in which things have gotten better.

Behavioral therapy was a godsend and exactly what he needed when he needed it. But it was no magic fix. There’s no amount of charts, visuals, coping strategies, calming tents, relaxation CDs, sensory supports, rewards, medication options, or discipline strategies that can change who Ezra is or all of the layers of reasons as to why he struggles the way that he does.

But that hasn’t stopped us from trying. From hoping. That maybe, just maybe, we will find one thing that will make his life even a tiny bit easier.

And so we keep trying. This and that. What works one day doesn’t work the next. But we struggle through it.

We’ll keep starting over, if that’s what it takes.

We will take one step forward and 20 steps back. And then do it all over again. – Read more here: When the last day of school feels too much like the first {thoughts on surviving a very long year}

Then it was four weeks at a Moravian Preschool summer camp. It went well enough and was nice respite for me during my last trimester of pregnancy. In the fall, he returned to our neighborhood school, moving up a grade into PreK4 with new teachers, but still in an EC class with many of the same peers he had before.

First Day of PreK 4, August 2015

It was in this year where we saw the most improvement. The consistency of being in the same classroom for the entire year was incredibly beneficial for him. In November, we started him on ADHD stimulant medication, which was life-changing for our family. His behavior both at home and school continued to be challenging but saw steady improvements.

After a very rough patch in the early winter months of this year (2016), we pursued yet more help for him through Intensive In Home Services. This started mid-February and has continued to the present. In February, we had another IEP meeting with the school in which they implemented an Ezra-specific Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP) to help him cope in the classroom. They also split his classroom in half, so his class went from about 16 EC kids down to 8. All of this combined with a medication increase also in mid-February has led to drastic reduction in his negative behaviors in the classroom and incredible improvement on the homefront.

Final Preschool Graduation Day – June 8, 2016

I could tell you in detail about all of the things that Ezra has accomplished in the last two years and four months. He has learned all of his shapes, colors, letters, and numbers. He can write his name and draw a person with ALL of its body parts. (And by ALL I mean the teacher pulled me aside to let me know that in the future, stick figures should not have a penis.) He’s reading at a first grade level and can do simple addition and subtraction up to the number ten. He can count to 100 and count by 2’s up to 20. He knows his full address, who the President is, and how to call 911 in an emergency. He will talk your ear off, and last night he gave some adults at church a lesson in aerodynamics. (Don’t ask me, I don’t even know.)

But that’s not the stuff that I’m most proud of. It’s the stuff that’s harder to nail down:

Him finally being out of pullups at night. (We are currently on night #6 dry!)

His ability sit in the chairs at his preschool graduation – still, quiet, and following directions.


His ability to get through a school day without hitting, kicking, or spitting on his teachers and peers.

His ability to say, “I’m frustrated,” “I’m angry,” and “Can you please help me?” instead of screaming and grunting.

His ability to attend a church function that starts at 6:30 PM, behave at a church dinner and with his peer group, not get home until 9PM, and still get through the bedtime routine without a meltdown. (This happened last night – woohoo!)

These skills are still developing and not consistently utilized by any stretch of the imagination. But they are present.

What comes next for Ezra after his preschool graduation?

His IEP team wanted to push him into a regular education setting for Kindergarten, but we as his parents felt that he needed some more support for the coming year to offer him SUCCESS and positive behavioral momentum. While, on paper, he’s had a drastic reduction in behavioral incidents at school since all the changes made in February, we know that there are a LOT of factors to that. This success is new-found, and these skills need much more supported practice in a small classroom setting before Ezra is thrown into the “deep end” of a regular ed class of 15-20 kids.

It was a wearisome fight. There was a lot of pressure to mainstream, but we are his parents and we know this child. After some deliberation, they conceded to our parental desire and right. Ezra will be placed in a “Social Behavior Support” K-2 classroom setting. This is a setting of 8-10 children in Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade – all of whom present with some sort of atypical emotional or behavioral struggles. He will have regular ed time with non-disabled peers during his “specials” as well as possibly recess and lunch time.

There are only four schools in our entire district that offer this program. The school for our zone that has an SBS program is 8 miles away. However, there is an SBS program at a school 3 miles away that is out of our zone. (This is the result of the way the zones are structured and the fact that we live on the very edge of our zone.) We have put in a request for an out-of-zone transfer so that he can attend the closer school. I have no idea when we will have a final answer about where he will be attending.

For this summer, which starts NEXT MONDAY, things are also up in the air. We have applied to another therapeutic day treatment program that offers a summer-only option (entire summer, full-day!!!). Our intake was 8 days ago and the Medicaid approval can take up to 14 days. It starts on June 16th, so we are cutting it really close. The professional who did our intake said that Ezra was a great candidate and that she was confident that it would be approved; however, getting approval for day treatment on top of our continued Intensive In Home services CAN be a challenge. We are simply waiting to hear.

If it is denied, I have no clue what we will do. We can send him back to the Moravian preschool summer program he attended last year, but they started last week and only run for six weeks. That would only really offer us three weeks, and at that point I have to wonder if it’s worth throwing him back into a new-ish setting. Keeping him home for a typical non-scheduled summer also isn’t a really great option.

So, basically, I know what’s happening today and tomorrow, and that’s all I have to go on. This is incredibly nerve-wracking and panic-inducing, but I am trying to trust that God knows what He is doing and that everything is in HIS hands.

To all the people who got Ezra to his preschool graduation:

There is a saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

I would be remiss if I did not take this moment to tell you about our village. In reality, it’s more like an army. Dealing with a special needs child like our son takes patience, understanding, dedication, passion, and a heck of a lot of love.

And so, I want to thank the following people:

Our Christian preschool teachers and staff: Ms. Sarah, Ms. Susan, Ms. Christen, Ms. Pam, Ms. Paula, and Ms. Furrow (February – September 2014).


Our Therapeutic Day Treatment staff of qualified professionals, behavioral therapists, social workers, and preschool teachers: Casey, J’Nae, Tammy, Tracey, Markela, Lana, Wendy, Debbie, Anthony, Anton, Nichole, Kandice, Robin, and Mary (October 2014 – April 2015).






Our local school EC teachers and aides: Ms. Chancey, Ms. Smith, Ms. W, Ms. Stolz, Ms. Perry, and Ms. Belton (April 2015 – June 2016).


Our licensed professional counselor: Ms. Melissa.

Our Intensive In Home team: James, CC, and Tonya.

Our occupational therapists: Amber, Katie, Susan, and Liz.



You probably weren’t counting. I know I wasn’t.

That’s 34 people.

34 people who have poured their time, energy, skills, and love into our child. 34 people who have worked with Ezra so I wouldn’t have to carry that burden alone.

How many people does it take to get a #specialneeds child to his preschool graduation? It took our son 34. – Click to Tweet!


Yesterday as I watched him walk into his classroom, all excited for his preschool graduation, I was so proud. It was a battle-worn pride, but pride nonetheless.

Preschool Graduation Ceremony – June 8, 2016

I watched him up on stage during his preschool graduation – still the ham trying to steal the show – but in stark contrast to his end-of-year program two years ago when he could barely stay in his spot and caused some trouble during the ceremony. This time, he stayed right where he was supposed to be. He danced, did the motions, and sang at least half of the words. He walked slowly when he was supposed to walk. He sat still when he was supposed to sit still. He accepted his preschool graduation diploma with poise.

Two years and 4 months…what an accomplishment!!! ❤️❤️❤️ #kindergartenherewecome

A video posted by Aprille (@beautyinhistime) on

And he shone!! 


We made it! Preschool Graduation? Check! Kindergarten, here we come!

We need your continued support and prayers, because Ezra still has so much to accomplish and conquer and so many struggles yet to face. The next year especially is going to bring more transitions, a new environment, new peers, and new teachers. His skills are going to be put to the test and he needs to succeed. He’s older and more mature now – which is wonderful. But with that maturity comes a self-awareness of his needs and a realization of how he is different from his typical peers. He’s starting to verbalize these emotions. It’s hard for him. It’s going to take continued persistence, consistency, wisdom, and love to help him navigate his early elementary years.

Dear Ezra, your Daddy and Mommy love you so very much. We are so proud of your accomplishments. Congratulations on your preschool graduation, Bud! 

To read more about Ezra and his diagnoses, refer to this post: Ezra’s Story: from “typical” to a behavioral diagnosis


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