I thought it might be beneficial to write a bit about the FM Soundfield System that the school "installed" at Erin's preschool.
I always envisioned soundfields to be huge, cumbersome systems that require wiring and speakers mounted around the room. But I discovered it really doesn't need to be that involved.
The system that the school recommended is very basic. It is a single speaker, about the size of a loaf of bread. It has a microphone that hangs from a lanyard around the teacher's neck.
It is a 705iR Lightspeed Portable Infrared Audio System.
The teacher uses it any time there are group activities. Generally, the only true group activities at Erin's preschool are Morning Meeting (Circle Time) and Afternoon Meeting. Each "Meeting" is about 20 minutes long. So, she is really only using the system about 40 minutes per day on a regular basis. But it is a very critical 40 minutes. Most of the day's instruction is built into the organized meeting.
The group sings a welcome song, then the teacher discusses the day of the week, the month and the season. "Jobs" are distributed by pulling name sticks from a jar. The teacher holds up a name stick, the children read the name and the child whose name appears on the stick spells his or her name outloud, then chooses a "job."
The teacher then goes over what activities are available for free play and what craft the children will be doing that day. The group then sings a song or has another group activity. After this is done, the teacher removes the microphone, turns off the FM System and the children run off to whatever activity they are most interested in at that moment.
And that's it!
It doesn't seem like much, but it is building a foundation. A foundation of how she will learn to interact with teachers in a school setting.
It has been a hit. The teacher mentioned that she doesn't have to strain her voice as much to be heard... and she has also noticed improved attention from all the kids during "meetings." We couldn't be more thrilled to have the system in place.
It is hard to definitively measure at this point how much the system is helping her. But, I feel very confident that it is having a positive impact. Not only for Erin, but for all the kids. Erin will always have to work a little harder than others to hear what her teachers are saying. Having the FM system helps to bridge that gap. And if in the meantime it helps her schoolmates focus, then all the better.
You're probably wondering why I finally jumped on and posted an update after so long. Well...
Today was one of those days when I realized just how far we have come. I had two defining moments and wanted to share.
The first was this morning at school drop off. After we went to the alphabet posted on the wall and spelled "Erin", "Mom" and "Dad", and gave big hugs, little hugs, big kisses and little kisses, I settled her into her second breakfast of the day with her friend, "Janie".
It was one of those days where she was almost shooing me out the door. So, I was able to hang out at the window in the hallway and watch her with her friend.
While the two of them enjoyed their breakfast, Erin pointed to a large dollhouse that is new to the room and said "Janie, look at that big house! I'm going to play with that big house after I'm all done. Do you want to play with that big house?" "Janie" said "Yeah, sure!"
It seems like such a small thing. But, I was so moved to watch her interacting with a friend and planning out a play strategy for the morning. She was having a conversation with a friend over fruit loops and milk. It was one of those moments where I realized just how truly mainstreamed she is now.
All parents love to watch their kids enjoy time with a friend. But, for me today the moment was especially sweet. I left the building with tears welling in my eyes. Another mother was coming in the door and gave me a knowing smile, laden with sympathy. But, what she didn't realize was that my tears were tears of joy. It made me chuckle to think of the days when Toes was an infant when I walked out of the building with my heart breaking to leave her behind. Think of all the emotions that parking lot has seen!
Then, tonight at dinner, Erin grabbed a Highlights magazine and started looking it over. (Yeah, I know... not the greatest habit to encourage, but when Dad to Toes is out of town, there's a whole lotta multitasking going on.)
Anyway... she pointed to the picture of the magazine's editor at the front of the mag and said "She is the author."
Wait... did I hear that right?
"Erin, she is the what?"
"She is the author. She put all the words in the magazine. See? All these words. She's the author."
She picked this up from a single conversation we had *months ago* about Margaret Wise Brown's photo at the back of Goodnight Moon.
I go days and sometimes weeks now without even thinking about Erin's disability. And then I have a day where I remember. And these small moments - these ordinary miracles - pop up and remind me.
She makes me so proud.