Ali Edwards Capture life. Create art.

August 10, 2007



Simon has officially completed his Early Education Program (EEP).

They had a great little graduation ceremony last night celebrating all the kids.

The three of us have grown so much over the time Simon has been enrolled in the EEP and EC Cares (he began this program back in September 2005). Loved going back and seeing my post from his very first day there – he was such a little guy.

The EEP is a reverse-mainstream preschool classroom that welcomes both special needs and typically developing children in a small setting with a very low teacher-student ration (about 15 kids + 5 teachers). The value in having the kids all together is tremendous.

In the very beginning, in my profound naivety and ignorance, I remember thinking and questioning why a parent of a typically developing child would want to put their kids in this program? Now I know – more than I ever thought possible – I know. We have so much to learn from one another regardless of our abilities, our incomes, our needs, etc. Simon teaches me this every single dayI am such a better person because of him. I am so thankful that there are parents out there willing to enroll
their typically developing kids in this sort of program. They learn so much from
one another as they model behaviors, develop empathy (this is huge – we could all use a bit more of this), demonstrate language, and share their educational experience.

It was pretty emotional for me as we left last night. Giving each teacher a hug I held on pretty darn tight. These teachers have been with Simon from day one (I really think that consistency was key) and they have made such a difference in his life. I don't know that I could ever effectively communicate that to each one of them.

They taught him to love school. They challenged him in his language. They helped us develop systems here at home that make him successful and our lives a bit calmer. They taught him about making choices and following instructions. They worked with him on trying different foods (and were much more successful than we have been at home). They promoted interaction with other kids every chance they could find. They listened to our stories and answered our questions and were always available for a chat. They encouraged him every single time he walked in the door whether he melted down to the floor crying or came in with a huge smile. And most important, they loved him 100% for who he is an individual.

They are seriously something special.

I know they are excited for him to move on to kindergarten. And because of their hard work and patience and persistence and love, he is ready and looking forward to his "new school." In fact he has been ready to go and asking to go for the last few weeks.

After the party we did a bit of celebrating on our own. We drove over to the new school and looked in the windows and played on the playground before heading over to one of our favorite little restaurants, Laughing Planet.

Today we are playing trains and staying in our jammies for as long as we can.

Edited to add: I wanted to mention that last week I listened to a great episode of This American Life called Special Ed (dated july 20, 2007). Loved it.


  • 1.
    Rachel Mason said…

    so happy for simon and your family! have a FABULOUS day.

  • 2.
    Peggy said…

    My son had a motor delay when I took him from his regular sitter and put him in the school he is in now I cried. That sitter had been in our life for 7 years. But it turns out that we made the right decision. We moved Greg and in six months time he has made such progress. He went from saying 12 to 15 words in Feb to lots and lots. I can’t keep track anymore. Now we have conversations. Some teachers just are the best aren’t they! I know exactly how you feel.

  • 3.
    Colleen said…

    Congratulations Simon! Love the picture! Hope he has an equally wonderful kindergarten experience!!

  • 4.
    Michelle Klomp said…

    A moment to be happy and sad. Congrats to Simon, I hope he likes his new school.

  • 5.
    tania said…

    ali, i read often, but rarely take the time to comment—-today i just couldn’t resist. your post today has put a smile on my face and is helping to know that we are making the right decision for our daughter. she has a sensory disorder and instead of starting kindergarten this year, we’ve made plans for her to entering an EEP—8 special needs students, 4 peer models. it’s so easy to question our decisions as parents isn’t it? after reading your post today, i’m a little more confident that we’ve made the right decision! thank you for sharing your journey with simon’s education and congrats on getting past another hurdle.

  • 6.
    JE Gates said…

    We feel the same way about Caleb’s pre-K teacher. It was a tuitioned program for his age group full day at the primary school. She took him from so far behind to the head of the class. He just looks at this teacher with admiration now… I think he knows. Enrolling him in that program was the best step we ever made. It also got him in the system as far as Section 508- and they made us stop paying tuition because the state took it over after he was placed in OT and Special Ed (while still being mainstreamed), he had been in speech for over 2 years. Sometimes you just have to do what may seem hard, odd, or weird that you ended up there. The reason you are there exists, you just don’t know about it till later. Call it fate, mother’s instinct, whatever… we know they all lead us to here, to this school, to these teachers and therapists. My son is thriving (as is yours)… I know America and “the system” may not be perfect, but there are some pretty darn good things. Thankful every single day to live where I do.
    Go Simon go. Good job Mom and Dad… he is lucky to have you, you are lucky to have him.

  • 7.
    shelley said…

    hey ali – congrats on a successful year. at kennedy’s 2 yr dr checkup, i questioned her sensitivity to touching and feeling certain textures. i had noticed very early on that she would close her fist when crawling so that her palms never felt the floor. i thought it just normal infant behavior. then, i had an experience where i put a different blanket on her one afternoon while we were snuggling and she flipped out when her hands touched it. i then became REALLY aware of a pattern. grass, carpet, anything really loaded with texture she will not put her hands flat down on. her blankets have to be fleece, not chenille or bumpy. I questioned this and the dr asked is her sensitivity stopped her from performing a task or getting somewhere. no – it doesn’t. asked is she got frustrated or angry – a little. dr said the words sensory intergration disorder. and only nothing to be concerned with now, but to watch carefully to see if sounds, sites, or smells affect her. not so much. i am posting this, because i imagine someone reading your comments might be going through the same thing. i read one above me that sounded similar. do you know if this is on the autism range? how would i look into one of the preschools you speak of? as she is “typically” advancing.. i want her to know and love other children just like simon. i want her to know and love handicapped children. i think a program like that is just the right fit for us and our family.
    let me know. thanks!

  • 8.
    Joy said…

    Congratulations Simon! (And you and Chris too.) I can’t believe that it has been two years already. And what leaps and bounds Simon has made…so awesome. Thank you for including us all on this journey with Simon…it means so much, even for someone like me with “typical” kids. The insights you three have gained help so much!

  • 9.
    jessica said…

    oh my god, ali.
    this is so cool.
    just think of all the amazing teachers that have impacted our lives. I wish i could reach out and thank them with as powerful of words are you shared here.
    i am so excited for simon. he is growing and learning.
    and so are you.
    love you,

  • 10.
    Tina said…

    My oldest son was one of the “peers” in his preschool. He absolutely loved it and I do honestly believe that it has made him more tolerant of others and their differences. He has three little brothers, so any tolerance is great!
    Congrats to Simon for his accomplishments! And to you and Chris for seeing him through it.

  • 11.
    LisaZ said…

    I’m so excited for Simon. Yay!

  • 12.
    suetreiber said…

    wonderful for Simon
    it’s a great acheivement!

  • 13.
    Juliana said…

    Happy Graduation Simon!

  • 14.

    Ali – Hooray for Simon! I wanted to share that I sent my typically developing 7 YO to an integrated program, and now my 10 month old goes there as well. The care is top notch, and the empathy and awareness my oldest have learned are astounding!

  • 15.
    Kathleen said…

    Ali, this is so great! Congrats to Simon!
    My oldest son attended a pre-school similar to this because of a speech delay but benefitted so much more than his progress in speech. We sent our 2nd son to the same pre-school just because of the awesome environment and the differences in the children. It was such a good experience for our whole family and really taught our children to accept everyone for who they are, not “what” they are.

  • 16.
    Joey said…

    Yea Simon…way to go!
    Ali, I started reading your blog this summer and am really enjoying your daily dose of warmth and optimism…hearing of Simon’s accomplishment prompted me to comment, I couldn’t be happier for him (and you!)

  • 17.
    Suzanne said…

    I cried as I read this entry. Simon’s success is remarkable. I, too, am the mothe to a child with autism, Every success makes you feel as if you just reached the summit, and you see many more mountains in the distance.
    Your strength and your love will carry you far, Ali. I am happy for you, and for Simon.
    He EARNED this.

  • 18.
    Sophia said…

    I am in NY for the summer and love checkin your blog every once in a while to get a little fix of Oregon. This picture of Simon is great and so is the post. I’m so happy to hear he’s doing so well. Please tell him and Chris hello from me! I’ll be back to Eugene at the end of September and hope to see you.

  • 19.
    sara said…

    yay simon! and yay edwards family!
    when i was in college working on my elem. education degree/cert. and psych degree, i did an internship at a similar program here in seattle. i did it to satisfy a psych internship, and it happened to go hand in hand with what i was studying in my elementary ed classes.
    it was an awesome experience!
    i learned so much that semester — so much from my students, but also from the wonderfully trained and caring teachers.
    i can imagine how hard it must be to move on. at the same time, you’re clearly so excited about what is ahead.
    congratulations to you all!

  • 20.
    Jen said…

    As a speech-language graduate student and EEP teacher in a classroom for kids on the spectrum (some of whom are integrated part of the day), I cried reading this post. We send some of our little ones off to kindergarten next week, and I know I cannot thank their parents enough for what they have all taught us as educators and as humans.
    Thanks for your heartwarming post and congratulations, Edwards family!

  • 21.
    Erica said…

    Congratulations on all of the progress made! It must be gratifying to see the positive changes start to take hold and affect the quality of all of your lives in such a meaningful way.
    And I really enjoyed the Special Ed TAL as well…especially the interview segment. It’s so touching how without guile, the interviewers pressed forward…undaunted by the interviewee’s inability to contribute much to the conversation. Just to make someone happy and produce something interesting in such an innocent way. I loved it!

  • 22.
    Meg said…

    Oh Ali, I’m crying here. Congratulations to Simon, I know he’ll love Kindergarten, he’s getting an awesome teacher. I can’t believe that next year I’ll be having the same celebration for my little guy. Your experience encourages me so much every time I read of Simon’s successes!
    Anytime you want to come over for some more train time, give me a holler!

  • 23.
    cathy said…

    Good Job Simon!!!!! :)

  • 24.
    Sherryann said…

    Ali, congratulations on Simon and your graduation from EEP. I am sure he is going to love Kindergarten. I am the mother of a special needs child and feel that I am always learning if not from him from others around him.
    Keep up the great work.

  • 25.
    Liz Ness said…

    Oh, wow! Congratulations Simon (and Ali and Chris) for completing the program! Also, congratulations for “seeing” the growth and the blessings. That can be so hard!

  • 26.
    Penny said…

    Go, sweet Simon, GO.

  • 27.
    Dalne said…

    Have you ever read “Expecting Adam” by Martha Beck. I just love that book. In it she writes that they always thought it was their able-bodied children that would teach them a lot about life when in fact it was their son Adam who has Downs that taught them some of the most valuable lessons in life. After reading the book I have been strengthened in my resolve that EVERY person has VALUE so we better be open minded to recieve the lessons. Thanks for sharing the joy of Simon’s successes. They should be celebrated, he should be celebrated and his parents should be celebrated. He would not be in this wonderful place if it has not been for your love, interest and persistence in finding what is best for your dear little boy.

  • 28.
    teensleuth said…

    Maybe I’m just emotional today, but that made me a little misty. THANK YOU to the parents out there who want to expose their children to lots of different folks and teach them empathy. You make the world better. I don’t have kids yet, but I love to observe those that do, especially those that do that well.

  • 29.
    Laura Reaux said…

    Ali, how exciting & awesome! Your post, and specifically your link to EC Cares has really made me want to move there now. I actually just spoke with Jeromy a bit about it.
    I’m so happy things have gone so well for Simon. I’m thanking God for what he’s done for Simon and for whatever he has planned for Camden. :)

  • 30.
    shelley said…

    We just visited our new school too…high school! Thank you for your eloquent words. You say things the way I feel them! It’s great to see our kids changing, moving forward, and loving life! We definitely have many things to learn from them. In fact some days I think Jordan has the best life…he doesn’t worry about money, who likes or doesn’t like him, and all the trivial things we do. He is happy, loved, and gives unconditional love. Oh to be so free!

  • 31.
    Peg Graham said…

    Ali- Congrats to Simon!!!
    My son, Porter starts his EEP this fall, but will only start out with 1 hour per week at home, due to his medical issues (hypohidrotic ectodermal displaysia with immune deficiencies). I will ask for an increase though. Porter is ’3′ and has many of the same issues Simon has had to deal with. He NEEDS this too.
    Anyway…I love to see Simon’s progress. Gives us hope for Porter.
    big hugs-Peg

  • 32.
    Becky said…

    As graduates of EEP ourselves (our son with autism and our typically developing daughter) I couldn’t agree with you more! Now our son is starting college in the fall, and I definitely credit the great start he had at EEP for helping us see all that he could become. Autism Spectrum Disorders are not the bleak diagnosis one might think they are. Thank you for putting a face on the experience for folks. Simon is a great “spokesperson” for all the kids out there that learn differently.

  • 33.
    Jennifer said…

    As the wife of a teacher I want to say thank you for posting a blog entry that praises those teachers. My husband is a dedicated teacher who gets up early every morning (5am) to go to school and prepare for the day. Then sit through several hours of school, skips his lunch to do lunchroom duty, stays after school to help and instruct kids and then goes to football, wrestling or some other kind of practice.
    He often comes home late at night after a long day…anyway, my point is, after rambling on and on, that teaching is a hard job and he comes home many times with a sour expression because he has some kids he wishes he could help more or parents whom he wishes would do more for and with their kids. Often times he is depressed because there are so many good kids in bad situations or bad kids who just need help.
    So thank you for recognizing the hard work and dedication teachers so often put in and rarely feel and gratitude for. Thanks. :)

  • 34.
    Lexi and Kayce said…

    Simon – we are so proud of you! This is a wonderful achievement and things will only get better from here. We’re rooting for you all the way! Rock on, little dude!

  • 35.
    Sue said…

    Congratulations to Simon! This school sounds like a perfect way to begin in the educational system for your whole family. I hope the next step is just as successful.

  • 36.
    Jenny M said…

    BIG congrats to little Simon! I love reading about how he´s doing. Such a charming little man. :) It always touches me how wonderful you are as a family. I don´t know you personally but after following your lives in this blog I must say that I think Simon choose his parents for a reason. You guys are awsome!

  • 37.
    Didi R. said…

    Wow you got me all misty eyed here! My dad always used to give me one of his “major milestone” speeches when we would have a day like that. My little guy (who is not so little anymore, he can stand behind me and rest his chin on my head!) has Aspergers Syndrome and will be starting High School in a few short weeks. He has come SOO far in the past 3 years socially, emotionally, and I dunno what all. He is SUCH a different kid it is amazing.
    I love that you are willing to share Simon with us so we can celebrate his successes too. He is awesome and amazing too!!! Go Simon!!!!

  • 38.
    Patti said…

    Loved reading this and have to say that restaurant sounds really interesting and I so wish we had something like that in So Cal. We are trying to eat organic and have noticed a huge difference in how we feel and would lov eto find a place to eat out and get organic doing all the prep is a lot of work. I enjoy reading about Simon and truely think he is an amazing person as are you.

  • 39.
    liz said…

    Aunt liz is crying – I am so proud of him and you two!

  • 40.
    Jacquelin said…

    Lovethis – how fabulous – my youngest son was in a similar program that ended in June and he enters kindergarten in a month – I am all nerves and excitement. I fel so lucky that he had theopportunity – my older son did not and the kindie year was a nightmare for all of us. Nw he is enteringgrade three and doing so well – thanks again to the support of his wonderful Learning Assistant. These people are truly angels! Yah for Simon and for you, too!

  • 41.
    mimi said…

    Congratulations Simon !!
    you have done such a good job !
    Ali, this is so good, thinking of you,
    take care

  • 42.
    Ky said…

    as a teacher in an inclusive middle school, parents of students with special needs often ask me “are there really ‘typical’ kids in the classrooms?” because their dear hearts cannot believe that it works. but it does, and i get to enjoy the wonders of it everyday. =) congrats to simon on this momentous occasion!

  • 43.
    Irene Haugland Sørsdahl said…

    Thanks for sharing and reminding me of the endless importance of family and motherhood and love and community again today :) . Visiting your blog so often fill my heart the good way!!

  • 44.
    Robin Weiss said…

    Ali, The good news is that you will keep moving forward and feeling that intensity. I remember when Benjamin was in 4th grade playing a drum and singing on stage with everyone else – I cried. When he graduated from 5th grade – I cried. Last year (7th grade), he was on the honor roll and in the awards ceremony. I can’t tell you the number of times I cried myself to sleep thinking it would be a miracle to get him on a bus to school. He just returned home from flying to Orlando by himself! (His flight even got diverted and he spent an extra 3 hours on the plane…) I wish for you the continued success of Simon, even when you only dare to dream some basics…

  • 45.
    Penny said…

    Girlfriend, it is time you had another child! :)

  • 46.
    Rose said…

    First of all CONGRATS to all of you for all the hard work!
    Being a mom of an autistic child I know exactly how you feel. It is such a thrill to see them move on and so scary to leave that place that you know your child is so safe and protected. But believe me there are so many special caring teachers for Simon yet to meet. Each one will be so special to you and Simon has many gifts to share with them as well.
    Awesome job Edwards family!

  • 47.
    kal said…

    Hi Ali, I just wanted to delurk and say how happy I am that Simon had such a wonderful preschool experience. As a mom to twin boys who have autism and who will be entering their own special classrooms in the next few weeks, it made me feel hopeful and happy. But it is hard to say goodbye to all the wonderful professionals who’ve worked with us… we are doing that as well. Anyways, enjoying your blog!

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