We Are Heading Back to School — Again

Meagan Cheney avatar

by Meagan Cheney |

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I sent my two youngest kids back to school this month for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

I wasn’t too worried about my son, Atlas, 8. He has thrived through two years of home schooling. He’s a grade ahead in math and a great reader, too, although he pretends not to like it. My oldest child, Addi, 13, restarted school in November.

But Austen, my 6-year-old with Dravet syndrome, was another story. She was only a preschooler when the pandemic started, and as a result, she has missed out on almost two years of therapies that had helped her stay at the same grade level as her peers.

She’s at grade level with math and is learning to read, but her fine motor delays mean she is far behind in writing. Add her autism and the behaviors that come with it, and I was a nervous wreck about how she would adjust.

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I spent hours in the school’s office in the days leading up to the start of the semester, both to make sure the nurses were prepared, and to explain the fine line we’re trying to walk between keeping Austen in a general education classroom and making sure she gets the accommodations she needs.

So far, it seems that all my worries were in vain.

Where we live in rural Texas, the younger kids go to a very small school with only about two classrooms per grade. Every teacher we’ve come into contact with seems to have embraced both Austen and Atlas.

Austen’s teacher is one of the kindest people I have ever met. She sends me updates throughout the day, and Austen talks about her nonstop when she’s at home. The school even made sure to print out copies of Austen’s seizure action plan to keep in her classroom and in the nurse’s office, so every adult around her will know what to do if she starts to seize. The school is even in contact with Austen’s neurologist (with my permission), so they can learn more about Dravet syndrome and what they can do to help her.

Once again, I find myself in awe. Although I’ve anticipated the worst at every step with Austen, we are always met with people who overturn my expectations. Austen’s school has calmed every doubt I had about sending her back to the classroom. I am so grateful for how much they have already gone above and beyond for her.

As for Austen herself, she loves school. She is making friends with kids in her class and can’t wait to run through the school’s doors each day. She’s also eager to tell me what she’s learned each day. On her second day back to school, she jumped in the car at pickup and exclaimed, “Mama, today I learned not to talk while my teacher is talking.”

I giggled to myself because, in all honesty, that might have been a lesson I never fully learned.


Note: Dravet Syndrome News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Dravet Syndrome News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Dravet syndrome.

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