A Child’s History

Our daughter arrived by emergency C-section 12 weeks before her due date, the day before we were to attend our first pre-natal class. Unbelievably to us, she weighed only 1 lb., 14 oz. – lighter than a bag of dry pasta, or a tub of margarine.

For the next 96 days, we visited her in VGH’s neonatal intensive care unit at least twice a day. Every day, a new set of parents carrying their newborn baby would leave joyfully through those hospital doors, while for the first weeks we could only touch our baby through the portholes of her incubator. Finally, after bouts of jaundice, breathing difficulties, reflux, and feeding difficulties, we too became joyous parents leaving with our own baby.

As the parents of any significantly premature infant will tell you, though, joyous as we were, we left carrying not just our child but also more knowledge about health risks and frailty than we’d ever imagined we’d need to know. Like many such parents, too, we’ve come to know even more on the subject than we did when we left hospital with our daughter in our arms.

Before her first birthday, our daughter was diagnosed as profoundly deaf. This was especially painful given the number of hours we’d spent by her incubator reading Pooh stories aloud, thinking that even if we couldn’t touch her, she could come to know us through our voices. She received a cochlear implant a little less than a year later, after countless hours researching and debating the options available to her. A child’s reaction when the implant is “turned on” for the first time is truly amazing. It was immediately apparent that for the first time, she could hear voices! This didn’t make her happy, at least not at first, but she could hear, and it felt like we were part of the same world again.

Since then it has also become clear that she has some other developmental delays, such as in her coordination and balance, which may (or may not) be connected either to her prematurity or to an undiagnosed condition. Whatever the cause, she’s up to about two years behind her peers in many of her physical abilities.

At the age of six now, she is able to hear most of what we can, and continues to be our “miracle baby.” Books are a constant joy for her, including the Pooh stories we’d read during our long vigil. We’ve been nervous all along about how school would be for her, and we remain nervous about her future, but as it turns out, there was never a need to worry about her experiences at Island Montessori.

She absolutely adores school and not just school in general but her teachers, her administrators, and her classroom assistants. Our daughter learns so much from her peers, both typical and special-needs children. Island Montessori has had a huge impact on our lives, and we trace a lot of that positive impact to the philosophy that IMHS puts into practice in its classroom.

With its embrace of inclusion, IMHS has a much higher ratio of special-needs children than a typical school, and this has meant that our daughter experiences more children who are more like her than she would at another school. She still spends plenty of time with typical children at IMHS, but we think the higher ratio is essential to her success, as well as to the identity of IMHS. Her teachers let her follow an individual path to learning, which at this point is necessary, but they also challenge her every day to work harder. What’s most impressive to us is that in the face of such challenges, both the ones imposed by her teachers and the ones that would be part of her life wherever she went to school, she’s happy every day to spend time at IMHS. Because of that, we’re happy every day to take her there!