06 June 2007

Nokie is going to school

MY SPECIAL kid Nokie is finally going to a special school.

Last Saturday, we brought her to Dr. Fe de los Reyes, a local pediatrician-neurologist who is one of the moving forces behind the HELP Learning Center. Her head is smaller than usual, Dr. De los Reyes said after measuring its circumference; it might indicate mental retardation, she added.

But I was not as worried as my wife; I know my daughter quite well and her frail frame notwithstanding, Nokie is as bubbly, vibrant and mischievous as her older sisters. In cahoots with her burly younger sister Ophelia, her capacity for mischief is practically boundless -- the trail of toys both large and small they have disassembled at home bears witness to their (mis)deeds; that to me is certainly not the sign of a retard.

After running some more simple tests, including that of hearing, which Nokie I think handled well, Dr. Fe reached the same conclusion as I did years back: my daughter's problem is essentially a speech impairment that currently prevents her from fully developing our gift of language.

What are your plans for Nokie? the doctor asked. We are planning to send her to preschool because she's raring to, we said; her school-age siblings have already started reporting for school, including Pep who's now in Grade I at Grandview Elementary.

Any school you have in mind? she asked. We're thinking of the HELP Learning Center, we answered, eliciting a smile from her. Dr. Fe then wrote a note and told us the school staff will have to subject Nokie to a more detailed evaluation.

Last Monday afternoon, with Lynn busy with their general faculty meeting at Cam High, I and her two brothers brought Nokie to the Center, which is located along Magnolia Street just beside the Educare's flagship School for Early Education and Development (SEED). Teacher Ingrid and another colleague then subjected my little girl to a variety of tests that took more than an hour.

It included stringing through oversized wooden beads using her bare hands; manually tracing straight, curved, zigzag and gear-shaped lines carved out of wood; picking red, yellow and blue paper clips and putting them in the correct plastic container; matching 3D shapes (animal, fruit and personal effects) with their drawn 2D counterparts; matching a given letter of the alphabet from an array of letters laid out before her; and matching a printed 2D number with its 3D counterpart.

It is only in that last one where Nokie -- by this time aching to play with the toys lying abundantly around her -- did not do well, failing to match the objects correctly, choosing instead to trace the contour of every wooden number set in relief over a flat panel. The rest, she again handled with ease.

Yesterday afternoon, it was Lynn's turn to pay the Center a visit, to inquire about the fees and fix Nokie's schedule. On the whole, the cost will hurt our pocket, but I'm sure we will be able to find a way. Teacher Ingrid said the evaluation results will still be discussed with Dr. De los Reyes, but I figure that next week, Nokie will finally show up for her first day in school.