Lisa

My boy is 7 and is in his third year at school. He attends a ‘special school’.

It is indeed a special school. There’s just over 100 kids who attend there and each class has around six kids in it. I feel pretty lucky that his school is one where there are many experienced and dedicated teachers and support staff. They are very child focussed, every child is well known to the staff and most kids enjoy being there.

When L started school at the age of 5 he went into Lisa’s class. He really bonded with her during that first year and made some great progress. I felt like we’d hit the jackpot when he was once again placed into her class the following year. Continuity is such a precious thing for most kids, but especially for L. I could relax, knowing he was in good hands. She was able to draw him out and engage him and most importantly, teach him.

Third time’s a charm and Lisa is once again L’s teacher. For the third year! Winning!!

Well, yes. It was a relatively easy transition back to school, but it’s been a tough term. L’s behaviour at school has been challenging with lots of attention seeking aggression and noisemaking. We’ve been working through the issues together, fine tuning the environment, giving him sensory breaks, physical exercise and plenty of one on one time.

Today it finally clicked. For me. I had a meeting with Lisa and as we were identifying his IEP/ILP goals and talking through his behaviour management and self regulation options, Lisa told me a couple of little stories about my darling little boy.

And now I know the truth! She has STOLEN his heart!!

He often asks about her at home. ‘See Lisa today?’ which I interpreted as him checking on whether it was a school day or not. Wrong! He misses her and wants to see her. How do I know?

Well here are two of the stories Lisa shared with me today. The class were recently doing an activity on the lovely wide and shady veranda outside their classroom, Lisa needed to stay inside to work on something. L was not happy about being separated and spent the entire time standing at the window looking in at her, quietly, longingly calling her name. When she is not in the classroom, L goes to the iPad, scrolls through the photos till he finds one of her. Ahh, there she is. Everything’s OK.

I asked her if she minded being stalked.

Yeah, I know he still loves me. But he loves her too. I don’t mind. She is a wonderful person. It’s early days yet, but she might just be that one teacher who makes all the difference in his life.

Teachers

 

 

 

I KNEW it!

This may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but for anyone who is tired, angry and frustrated at government cuts to services like disability, education, health and to the non-profit organisations that contribute to supporting the people in our communities who are most vulnerable, then this..my friends is like a cup of steaming hot Lady Grey on a hot afternoon (that’s a good thing in case you weren’t sure).

My argument has always been that PEOPLE matter more than NUMBERS. That being said, of course I understand that in its simplest form, we need to live according to our means. However, when it comes to the more complex economics theories and arguments, well let’s just say that’s not my strong suit.

Over at the London School of Economics, it’s just the opposite. So what a surprise to find myself on their blog, reading an article that resonated so strongly with me and backed up my people vs numbers argument.

This is readable, understandable and sensible – please have a look at what Professor Richard Layard & Paul Krugman have written in his Manifesto For Economic Sense. You will not be disappointed.

Last week our slash & burn state government provided a list of ‘savings’ made by the Education Department. Here are some highlights:

  • The Pyjama Foundation loses $100k. This is one of the most wonderful & cost efficient supports to children in care with volunteers helping them weekly with literacy & numeracy. You can read here our experience with the Pyjama Foundation.
  • Triple P Parenting loses $291k – a ‘best practice’/ made in Queensland parenting program that has helped a phenomenal amount of parents & kids. Here is my experience with Triple P.
  • Vision Australia loses $200k – these are therapists who provide incredible support for kids in schools with low or no vision. It was Vision Australia who helped guide me in the very early days of caring for my little boy with delayed visual maturation and cortical vision impairment. They still help him by providing targeted support to his teacher at his special school.

These are just a few from a list of 43 ‘savings’.

Now, why should I be so upset? As a foster carer I care for the children whose parents need to be learning about parenting from Triple P. In caring for a child with disabilities, a child whose needs by law, should be paramount in all decision making, the end result is that he will have less and less support available to him.
Meanwhile of course the child protection system is under unbelievable pressure with workers losing their jobs or not being replaced. Only one in ten matters brought to the attention of the department are investigated because there is not enough staff and resourcing.

We are now up to 14,000 public servants whose jobs have been cut. That is not a typo.

image credit: brisbanetimes.com

I am furious that nobody in our government has the spine to speak out or to do the right thing. Don’t get me started on the NDIS! It’s shameful and a vile political game where the kids and the vulnerable lose.

School Daze

Day 16: Autism Awareness Blogathon

It was the first day of Term 2 today, so we are back into the school routine. I was pretty happy with L’s transition and I think he was too. Yesterday I started to remind him that the bus would be coming in the morning. That he would be seeing his teacher Lisa and aide Sally again and that he would see his 5 classmates again too.

Today when I got his uniform out and showed him what he would be wearing, he seemed to be fairly happy about the idea of going back to school. He quite enjoys the bus and has never had a problem with getting on or off it thank goodness. The bus comes right to our door and the only time he gets anxious is when the bus has arrived and we are all trying to get down the stairs. I’m usually holding the baby (who weighs a TON) and L’s school bag and L wants me to hold his hand as well. In the mix is N (2yo) who would not miss out on some bus action for anything, so he’s trying to get down the stairs as well. Luckily there’s only 8 steps!

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So off he went happy as a lark and he had a great day (or so it says in his communication book).

L attends our local special school. This time last year I was trying to work out what on earth I should be doing about finding a school for him. Our system is based on catchment areas. So if you live within the boundaries you are entitled to go to your local state school. Autism in itself is not classified as an intellectual impairment, so the state school is usually your first port of call.

So off I went to our local school to see what they could offer my boy. They were quite wonderful, very accepting and willing to do whatever might be required to support him BUT he would still be in a group of about 25 kids, one teacher and a part time teacher’s aide. That’s it.

So after getting some more advice, I made an appointment to go to a state school that is still within our boundaries but a bit further away and one which has a special education unit attached to it. This sounded like a pretty good option. It was a small school. I have friends whose children attend there and they’ve been more than happy with the school. There were definitely a couple of kids on the spectrum enrolled there. Maybe this would work out?

I was asked to bring my boy along to the interview. So we turned up en masse – I had all three kids with me. That’s just the way it is sometimes as a single parent. We all went into the Principals office and she was also very welcoming along with the Head of the Special Ed Unit. It didn’t take too long being in a small office for L to start carrying on. That set the other kids off and before long it was all going pear shaped.  I was trying to comfort the baby, settle the toddler and keep L from going completely OFF and I was failing on all three accounts. At one point L ran around behind the Principal’s desk and started to climb up on it. He was telling me loud and clear…get us out of here NOW!

Through all this, I could see the Principal’s eyes taking it all in and the inner dialogue was loud and clear from her too. Please don’t send him here! They made it very clear that he would need to be completely toilet trained and must be able to manage getting and eating his lunch and snacks without any assistance.

We did get out of the office and at that point feeling completely overwhelmed, the tears started forming in the corners of my eyes. ‘Keep it together…KEEP IT TOGETHER!!!’ They could see that I was upset and the tone became a little softer. ‘We just want to make sure that this is the right environment for him’.

We had a look at the classrooms where 25 kids were crammed into a visually overwhelming space. They were all busy doing different activities in small noisy groups around the room. L went straight for the Dora box of tissues. There was nothing else of interest in this room for him.

I had gathered myself by this point, thanked them for their time, packed up my three marauders and got the hell out of Dodge. I realised that I had invested a lot of hope in this school being a good solution for my little guy. I was disappointed to say the least. The next day when I dropped L at his early intervention centre, his teacher asked me how the interview had gone and I just fell apart at that point.

A couple of the other parents who were there at that moment came to my rescue, hustled me off to the Parent’s Room (yes…there is a Parent’s Room), made me cups of tea and gave me tissues while I told them of my horror story. Candice & Stuart – thank you, for being so lovely, kind and understanding that day.

OK…regroup, next option?? The phone rang. It was Kerry from Narbethong (her back story is here).  She had known L almost as long as I had and had heard that I was having trouble trying to find the right school for him. She offered her help and the help of the Narby Guidance Officer. They would run interference for me and set up an interview at Nursery Road – our local special school.

Kerry came with me to that interview. I had my dear old mother watch the babies (wasn’t going to make that mistake again!). A very warm welcome, a chat, some games with L and a tour of the school. It’s not the most modern nor does it have the latest educational mod cons, but every child was being catered to according to their needs. They had a heated pool, their curriculum is ‘arts infused’, they have the wonderful bike program and I could see my child being happy here. I could see him learning here.

I don’t know why I left this option to the very last, but I guess you’ve got to work though every options to know which is the right one. I’ve been more than happy with the school so far. Bring on Term 2 and the winter horse riding program.

Tomorrow I have L’s IEP meeting. From all accounts it’s not as difficult and challenging as those I’ve read about from my friends in the US & Canada. I’ve been through quite a few of these already, so feel up to the challenge. I’m taking the advice of one of my bloggy friends though and taking along a photo of my boy, to remind everyone in the room, just who we are talking about.