ImaWestie

Raising little Westies, and life as parent of a special needs son

Monthly Archives: April 2011

Educational Nirvana?

Oh my GORD!

Everywhere I look it’s horror-storys about school – and not just our emotionally charged autsies, aspies, and spectrummy kids, but even with the mainstreamers there seems to be one issue after another.

I mean, the Casey issue – and his school is right up there as the one my daughter might be at in three short years – highlights that “anyone can have a bad experience at school“.

The alternative seems to be, the school my kids are at right now. Let me say straight up: I’m sure that some kids there reckon they’re on the short end of the stick, and maybe they miss out on some things. I’m yet to see what.

Our second term there started with a very short week, just two days. My son had a bit of a rough start – in a two-day week he knew it was Friday, which means there’s an outing, right? Wrong, kiddo – not this week! So he didn’t need his car-seat, so there were “some issues” walking into the place. But his teacher advised us that there was a combined party for the Support Classes, due to a staff member birthday.

The staff. Willingly. Put on a party. For all 23 or so Support Class kids.

I don’t care what staffing ratio that is: for them to put 23 support class kids in a room, without asking for individual catering, but knowing they would meet all the dietary issues and behavioural issues, shows either extreme lack of judgement, or… surprisingly, it seems they knew what they were doing!

Mind you. This is the school that sees my son on a planned outing, then buys a trampoline based on what they have seen. Sorta the thing you expect, when they have people like Sue Larkey in each year as a consultant to advise them that my son “needs a learning environment with a lot of physical stimulation.” While our thought on hearing this assessment was “no shit Sherlock” – at least it was right and it didn’t take a three week assessment period.

This is a school that, having been given an educational kitchen by the “Education Revolution” process, wrangles the parents into constructing a vegetable patch during the holidays. And has staff who have gone out on their own, to provide chickens (to be cared for by the support class kids).

With a teacher, who having seen the benefit of the (tiny) fishtank in the classroom, is now on her own bat, buying an appropriate pet and putting it through the puppy school to be trained as a disability support companion animal. “Some of the kids need some extra help learning empathy” is about as much as she says about it.

With more teachers like her, there will be less situations for kids like Casey to feel they have to lash out… or am I only dreaming?

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Back to the grind?

Image from google

Here I am trying to work out how to get myself to stick to writing something, anything, every day, and my friend DQ wrote about “make sure you look back.”

And today, on my sons first day of term 2, it seemed like a great opportunity to do exactly that.

Not too long ago, my son had almost no words of his own. Sure, from time to time, out he would come in longer and longer scripts, repeated either straight back from what I had just said, or from some TV show or movie. Very occasionally, he might say hello or goodbye, using the name of whoever he was talking to.

Yet just yesterday, with words which were very clear and under difficult (for him) circumstances, he clearly and directly asked his brother to leave him alone. Compared to where we want to be, this is terrible.

Compared to where we have come from, it is incredible and well worth celebrating!

Only three months ago in the same situation, one boy or the other – or both! – would have been in tears, with one probably having tooth-marks and a bewildered expression to show for the experience (and none the wiser how to stop it happening again).

Even better was to come today.

After a rough start involving “shoes” (because I picked the wrong ones) we went to school. In the rain. And again, using surprising, previously unknown clarity, he said goodbye to his brother. Sure, he repeated it 20 times or so… but most kindergarten kids would do that at some time.

Amazingly, the best was still to come.

Into a classroom which he hadn’t seen in two or three weeks, and fair enough the routine came back and he hung up his bag and took a seat at a computer (not the whiteboard one – a computer which wasn’t there at the start of the year). Popped his headphones on, turned the computer on.. logged on (as you do when you’re in kindergarten!!).

Then looked up as a stream of people wandered in, until the assistant principal walked in. He said hello to her (by name).

“Don’t just sit there, go say hello” I said to him. He looked at me with a devilish look, trying to work out “what’s the trick here?” no doubt.

But he did what I asked, wandered over and said hello to the assistant principal. And calmly went back to the computer while Mum and I finished chatting to the teacher, and wandered off on our way.

This is a child who, in his last week of pre-school, still could not walk calmly into the grounds without wanting to run off and climb a tree. Who might talk to a teacher… if there was almost no other option.

If this is one term of school, I’m doing my best not to hope for too much.

The Autism Experience

The Autism Experience

The Autism Experience - Valerie Foley

No matter how big the rest of the world is, the Autism world seems increasingly small. No sooner had somebody mentioned all the good work Sue Larkey does, then she popped right into my sons school to assess all the new starters there.

Then Valerie mentions she’s putting out a book. Oh, it’s about to be published. So Felicity Moore asks me to review it! Well, apparently we’re all connected, somehow.

When I started reading this book the first thing I noticed was: written by a mother, about mothers, for mothers. So it was a bit like watching TV on SBS: I knew what all the characters were going through, because I could see it in front of me, but they were all speaking a different language to me. Because the language of a mother is very different to the language of a father.

I also had to persevere a little: because the person this book is most suited for would be very early in their journey of supporting a person coming to terms with autism. My wife and I passed through this point two years ago.

Having said that, I very quickly became comfortable following along with each of their experiences. The book really does read as though I’m reading six, eight, or ten personal journals, all at once, with some nice work by Valerie opening each topic. With the range of nationalities represented – from Australia, Asia, North America, Europe & the UK – it’s facinating to see how in different places the same mistakes are being made but they are being responded to in a range of ways which make sense on a local level.

If it was paired with the Australian Autism Handbook, these two books should be highly recommended – if not “essential reading*” for any parent trying to discover just what it is that’s different about their child.

*along with the hundred or so other books on that list


			

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<small><a href="http://autismunited.ning.com">Visit <em>Autism United</em></a></small>

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Busy-ness!

This is one of those terrible belated “OMG I’ve been so freaking busy” posts that pop up  every now and then thanks to guilt. Sorry in advance!

I know how much has gone on since my last decent post. Work has been…. that type of experience where if they’d stopped paying I would have stopped going on the spot. No questions asked! I didn’t really sign up for six day weeks, but sometimes they need to be done. But there were some positives. Cycling 20 km a day was really very good for me. Even if doing some of that along busy industrial roads isn’t quite such a great long term plan. My next challenge will be to ride to Blacktown instead of my closest station, each Friday.

BTB Fan has settled into school really well… althought, the teachers and aides seem to think the older SN kids see him as a self-mobile doll or teddy bear they can play with. At this stage it’s a bit amusing, and it is also forcing him to come up with some acceptable strategies for letting the older kids know when he’s had enough of being their toy so he can go and do the physical things he needs to do (like jumping off the top of the swing-set/climbing frame – again and again). But when the holidays rolled around, they were well and truly due for BTB Fan, Princess P and Guitar Hero Addict (who actually hasn’t played that for ages now).

I worked with a great bloke who was pretty much only filling in some time while he was on holidays. For a guy just “filling in his days” and stretching his holiday by earning a few bucks while he was in the country, we couldn’t have asked for a more professional approach. But now that Easter’s here he’s moved on, so I’m hoping he’s going to enjoy the rest of his holiday in ChCh and elsewhere.

Bec and I have helped a close friend, whose kids are also friends of BTB Fan, to get her first job since she has become a mother. I reckon she’s going to be as good a tutor as any parent would want for their kids, and as lovely a tutor as any kid would want taking up their day.

I worked some very long days, while BTB Fan went with his brother, sister and mum off to his grandparents. Then he came home, popped into bed, and said to me “let’s read a book“. It certainly made all the extra work I’d done staying home by myself seem worth it, to see him come home from a stretching, challenging, travelling experience (even if it is to a place he goes to regularly)… able to express himself in ways he was not able to do before he left.

And now all those hours worked are going to pay off, with 11 days in a row at home while the kids are visited by the Easter Bunny, and get started for term 2 of school.  Lets hope the new school term starts as well as the last term finished… but there’s some serious chocolate between now and then!

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