Way back in the spring it kind of hit me hard that Layna will need her own friends. For now she and Corra have a pack of kids from other families in our church that they fit into and age doesn’t matter so much. I know that is changing though, and I felt a sense of urgency to start exploring other options. I’ve written before about GiGi’s Playhouse, a Down Syndrome community center that we love. Unfortunately most of the programs they have for Layna’s age range are after school. Once you tack on an hour drive each way and two really busy older kids and a busy younger kid and it’s almost impossible to make those logistics work. So I reached out to a lady I met a while ago who lives closer (but her kids are babies) and she told me about a different organization that hosted a home school meet-up every other week. At the beginning of the summer I finally went and it shifted everything. Through talking with the other mom’s we realized that we have kids around the same age who are also needing friends that move at their speed. I ended up volunteering to head up a themed class for the first hour of every meet-up through December and this is the recap of that adventure. All the moms and kids loved it enough to keep going through the end of the school year and I’m really excited.
I learned some really interesting things: I love working with kids (already knew that) but I especially love working with special needs kids. They light up something in my soul. I also realized that I’m good at it. Putting together themed classes with a snack, activity, book and other stuff was super easy and adapting for each of the kids who was there didn’t cause even a hiccup in the plan. I learned that Layna needs to practice social skills in a big way. Sigh. She’s Bossy with a capital B. However, the things I learned about Corra were perhaps the most interesting.
She had a hard time navigating the bizarre situation of being younger than most of the other kids, but much more advanced. She wanted to then fill the role of “helper” rather than “participant”. I appreciated that but it didn’t really seem like a great way to proceed so she struggled to find a place. Ultimately, she didn’t. She loved the classes she came to (mostly the holiday themed ones) and enjoyed playing with the kids with Down Syndrome, even if it felt more like when she plays with younger kids. She won’t be coming to the classes when we start up in January. And that’s ok. Layna wanted something that was “just hers” anyways and Corra will enjoy the one-on-one time with her dad. More and more I’m thinking that Corra will be going to school at Garyn and Naomi’s school earlier than we had planned…for 6th grade instead of 8th. Who knows what will be the best fit for Layna. We’ll cross that bridge after next school year.
Here are some of my favorite pictures from themes ranging from The Beach to Christmas…
It may seem like an insignificant thing…but Layna’s 12th birthday is in March and it will be a friend birthday party. Up until a few months ago I was feeling real anxiety about not even knowing who to invite. Not anymore. Nate, Thea, Mia, Elliana, and Ryan plus her BFF from our church are going to make the perfect guest list and an even more perfect celebration. I can’t wait…and neither can she. She’s already started drawing maps to our house so none of her friends get lost.