Category Archives: kindergarten at last

one year on…


Oops, I missed my blog’s first anniversary.

It was just a couple of days ago.

It’s interesting to look back at the Orientation Day post where I felt (hoped) in time Mac would simply be just “Mac” – if that is our ‘yardstick’ then I believe we have had phenomenal success. 

Thanks for sharing the journey with us.  Thank you for your comments & insights.  

Here’s hoping 2010 is as successful as this year.

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to the Max!

His eyes lit up when he spotted it.  

“What’s that coloured thing?” he asked.  It was Mac’s Macaw AAC device.

“Its a new talking box to help Mac make some choices and ask questions in class”, I explained to Mac’s friend Max as they came out of class together at the end of the day.

“How?” Max enquired further.

So we showed him.  

Mac pressed the button for it to say “Hi, how are you?”… Max grinned.

Mac pressed the button again and it said “What have you been doing?”

At that Max rolled his eyes…

“Maccy, you KNOW what we
                       have been doing, pfft!”

 

At least I know the kids will keep us ‘honest’ making sure anything we put on the Macaw is relevant and useful.

I love these guys.

 

 

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Filed under friends, Inclusion... straight up!, kindergarten at last, Technology - things that help

yes! no!

The yes/no options with switches are working well – very easy to incorporate.

I know it is only a starting point but this is what I learnt from Mac when I asked him about his day…

  • His teacher today was Mrs C and his aide was R.  
  • They didn’t make planes but they did make ships.  
  • He did some numbers and he knows that seven is bigger than four.  
  • He also told me that two plus three (2+3) does not equal four, seven or nine but it does equal five.  
  • 23 is bigger than seven and 32 is not bigger than 43.  
  • He does not like the yes/no buttons but he does love them.  
  • He doesn’t want anything to drink nor does he want anything to eat, but he does want the TV on.  

He was consistently pressing the buttons with his feet and because I tend to watch his face, his expressions as I read them were matching his foot answers.  I know all except whether they did numbers today were appropriate answers.

The benefit of the physical answers with the switches is that it tends to keep you engaged for a little longer regardless of whether the answers are right or wrong.   This is way more than I would ever have managed to drag out of Mac’s cousins when they were his age – but then you don’t tend to ask yes/no questions – maybe we should.

Yesterday in class he was asked by his teacher whether he liked chocolate – she said he used his cheek to quickly hit the yes three times.  Still a chocoholic it seems.

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chucking a sickie?

Mac stayed away from school on Wednesday.  There was a dreadful dust storm and we decided that two days in the dust for someone with potentially ‘titchy lungs’ was not a wise move.

Dusty Days

So Mac stayed at home.  We snuck out briefly to get Mac a long overdue haircut.  (If kids didn’t have wear hats at school it would be fine, a good slab of hair product to keep it high and spiky works a treat… but when you have to put the obligatory school hat on your head and then it goes flat and pokes you in the eye.  On weekends he was able to get around with ‘mad’ hair, not so at school)

Thursday the sky was clear and school was on the agenda.  Mac wasn’t enjoying breakfast but we thought he was just tired.  He started to get quite distressed so I picked him up to give him a hug and he was boiling hot… a raging temperature.  So… no school Thursday.

Friday he was still spiking some temps with no other symptoms so yet again, a day at home.  

We did have to call in at the school on Friday afternoon to collect one of the other kids and pop round to her house.  As we wandered over to the playground some of his classmates spotted him.  Out of the classroom ran about eight of the Kindy kids, checking up on their friend, telling him they missed him, checking he wasn’t too sick, and determining just what, in fact, the actual illness was.  Mac was grinning from ear to ear not looking one bit sick.

When bell rang his ‘posse’ of senior friends spotted him, over they ran, checking up on him.  When they asked him if he was sick he gave the most evil smile as if to say ‘nuh, just pretending’.  So they now think he was ‘wagging’ which apparently is pretty cool.

The temps have now turned into sinus and hayfever, most likely a result of the dust.  He is a bit miserable so here’s hoping he is well for Monday.  He misses being at school as much as the kids miss having him there.

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a masterful maneuver

We should never underestimate the might and will of 5 & 6 year olds.   There is healthy competition for the right to have Mac as your reading partner each morning in class.  Some of the kids certainly ‘outwit, outplay, outlast’ their classmates.  Don’t even think about getting to school too early… the negotiations in the playground are ‘insane’.  

We tend to arrive just as the bell goes (or a little after, oops).  The process is, wheel into class, shift Mac, already sitting in the special tomato soft sitter clipped into his wheelchair, directly onto the soft sitter wheelbase for floor time.  It takes about 10 seconds – pretty quick set up.

The latest development is that two of his more ‘wily’ friends, Grace and Sophia, have cottoned on to the process and worked out a way to ensure Mac sits next to them.

On arrival I find they have already secured the wheelbase into position between them, reading to one another ACROSS the wheelbase, until such time as Mac arrives and is ‘inserted’ between them.

Then, of course, they both commence reading to him, at the same time, regardless of whether they have the same book or not – pretty funny.

The other ‘regular maneuver’ by the kids is that of putting away Mac’s ‘talking box’ (one-step communicator).  The child who packs it up generally places it a spot ONLY THEY know – therefore ensuring their role in helping the next day.

Clever kids!

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‘gotcha’

The school system is not completely without hope.  Just as I believe much of the problem in DET lies at a grass roots attitudinal level…

I also know the silver lining is found in the same place.  NSW DET has some amazing teachers who simply ‘get it’ when it comes to teaching & including children with additional support needs.

Mac’s teacher for Term 2 and Term 3 is a recent grad, and, let’s face it… his class is not a ‘walk in the park’.  Mac, with his multiple, severe, complex disabilities is not the only child with additional support requirements in their class of 23 children.

It is wonderful to see her embrace this challenge – a lesser mortal may have run a mile.  

Miss A is a great teacher and this experience so early in her career will ensure she goes on to become a phenomenal teacher.

What I love most is seeing the development of the relationship with Mac and Miss A go from guarded uncertainty, to slight wariness, to reasonable comfort and finally, what is now a full on ‘gotcha’.  

Miss A and Mac sent a text message to one of Mac’s aides the other day.  The text went something like this…

“Dear R, I have just snuck over to Miss A’s desk to use her phone while she is busy with all the other kids.  I just want to send you a very Maccy Moo Birthday Wish.  Love Mac”

What I love about this wasn’t just hearing how excited ‘R’ was about receiving it. 

I love Miss A understands that these moments do need to be facilitated, but that doesn’t make them fake.  

It shows her recognition and respect for Mac by providing him a delightful one on one opportunity with her, his teacher.  She said he loved doing it – he knew they were up to something tricky.

Often kids with Teachers Aide supports miss out on ‘one on one’ opportunities to interact with their teachers – Mac’s teachers have been excellent at ensuring this isn’t the case.

Oh, also… we know Miss A is ‘fully got’ because she has had the ‘Mac running & talking’ dream – that is more impressive than the ‘Mac walking’ so many others have had.  

Now there’s an IEP goal if ever I saw one…

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bleary-eyed superhero


It was a day worth celebrating – 100 days of Kindergarten!

Party fever was in the air.  Zero the Hero was due to visit.  Everyone was taking ‘zero shaped party food’. 

superheroMac, well he was just a bit weary.  100 days is a lot of days to have to be dragged out of bed when you would rather be sleeping – he ‘channels’ teenager very well. 

Mac, like many children with brain injuries, believes sleeping is optional.  It certainly shouldn’t occur under the cover of darkness, and as far as Mac is concerned, the most appropriate time for sleep is between 4am and 11am.  This doesn’t auger well for the standard school day (nor the sanity of his parents). 

So despite the excitement of wearing ‘superhero’ clothing rather than school uniform, having a new zero chest-plate harness to finish off the red & blue outfit and taking zero shaped lollies made into flowers on toothpicks… it took a while for the bleary zzzs to leave.flowerlolly

It was revealed a bit of chocolate at first break had him sparking up – he does love the chocolate.  By the time I collected him at the end of the day the sugar highs had kicked in and he was his normal, wild little self.   He was a good kid though, he did eat all his lunch.

If only school was a party every day – oh, that’s right, for Mac… IT IS!

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the ME project

Term 2 saw our first official ‘project’ due.  You know the type, cardboard, photos, glue, glitter (optional).

It was an “About Me” project and it took some thinking about what to put in and what to leave out.

It was an opportunity to provide some education, without being “in your face” about it.

We left out:

  • pictures with tubes, medical imagery or obvious ‘premmie’ shots 
  • the term Cerebral Palsy as it doesn’t really explain anything about Mac and who he is and what he can/can’t do to Kindy kids (well, to anyone really)

We put in:

  • who he is, what he likes, his family portrait, where he lives and a couple of his footprints (1 month of age and 6 years)
  • an explanation of how/when he got his brain injury
  • reference to his ‘angel sister’ (as quite a few kids know of Meg)

Cardboard posters are difficult to store.  So I had a play with one of my new(ish) bits of software.

Here’s a ‘gallery’ version of the pictures that appeared on his poster.

It does need some audio – we haven’t yet decided whether to go with background music or have Mac’s cousin, Alex, voice the text and convert it to Mac’s pitch to retain as audio.

The software is PulpMotion Advanced.  I bought it initially to make some eBooks and I have been having lots of fun with it.  Mac’s cousin Lucy has recorded the audio for  a couple of books for him.
PulpMotion Logo

 

 

 

 

I plan to make some ‘sight words’ options as well as some more ‘numbers & letters’ versions.  

I’ll be sure to share when I get them organised.

By the way… I wasn’t the only parent who had to help their children in the preparation.  I possibly will be in a few years, but am sure we will get better at them in time.

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wheels for every occasion

Today was the annual Book Fair at school.  The theme of the day was ‘safari’ and everyone was encouraged to dress up.  And so they did, there were lions and tigers and bears [oh my]!

Our new wheel covers in honour of the day…

More Wheels

Cute jungle animals running round one wheel and, on the other,
a fearsome tiger claw bursting through…
Mac was ‘fitted out’ in full khaki, pith helmet and the obligatory crocodile strung across the ‘bow’ of his wheelchair as a handy footrest.

He came home with a ‘haul’ of four new books courstesy of Mum’s credit card.  If only the publishers (all publishers) would make picture books available in TRUE eBook format so he could access them himself (ie with picture and text support, an option for adding your own audio and the ability to use ‘switch’ or ‘touchscreen’ technology to access them).

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Kindergarten or bust – a time to reflect…

Here’s a copy of an article I wrote for the ALEA publication Practically Primary.  It appeared in their journal back in February 2009 and was focussed on ‘transitioning to school’.  [note: some names have been removed from the article for privacy reasons] 

<< CLICK THIS LINK TO VIEW >>

Practically Primary

You can visit ALEA online at http://www.alea.edu.au/


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Filed under How did we get here?, Inclusion... straight up!, kindergarten at last, Preparing for Big School

portrait of a friend

More the same, than different…

Portrait of a Friend

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It’s MaccyMoo… don’t you know!

It was a different start to the morning for the students of KC.

Their teacher and teacher’s aide were off to a meeting. They had a fill in teacher and they had Mac’s Dad, Shawn, in the class to help out.

Shawn made himself available to ensure the entire teaching team of the class could attend the Learning Team meeting with me.

We had scheduled a 1.5+ hour meeting to plan for the next term of work with the vision support itinerant staff, the DET inclusion support officer et al.

Shawn and the ‘fill-in teacher’ were left holding the fort.

Our meeting went well and apparently class went well too. Shawn’s used to teaching university students so kindergarten kids probably aren’t too much of a stretch when you think about it.

Shawn was quite delighted at being ‘shhhhushed’ by one of the young girls because he was making Kookaburra sounds when they were meant to be working quietly on the letter ‘K’ – my guess is he ignored her. 

He then went on to prove you can make the sound of a kitchen… ‘bang, crash, whirr, wiz, whoosh’ – hmmm doesn’t say much for my style of cooking really…

I am not sure who was enjoying themselves the most, Mac, the rest of the table or Shawn.

But most of all, he loved being ‘put in his place’ when calling Mac – Maccaroo (Mac has lots of nicknames).  

He was roundly critised by the kids who explained to him rather emphatically that it is NOT Macaroo… it is MACCY-MOO.

Sheesh, you’d think his Dad would KNOW that.

I am pretty confident there would have been a few eye rolls by Mac’s peers at that type of adult ignorance.

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the Merit Award

We wondered if it would happen? What would it be for?  Did we want him to receive something just because it was his turn?  Would he be truly deserving of such recognition?  How will it not be seen as the “sympathy award”? 

OK, we are new to this school caper… plenty of kids get awards for all sorts of funny little reasons – clearly important to that individual… who cares if they seem silly to others.  Personal growth is indeed more important than comparison to others – we absolutely understand that – nice to have the reminder though.

We had a nice chuckle to ourselves when we realised this.  We thought back to the pride we felt when we were five years old receiving an award for one thing or another but we did wonder, was our award ever as insightful as this  one for Mac, did our Teacher “nail it” as far as really ‘getting us’?

Mac received a Merit Award for his “Keen Interest in Music”.  

This is a very appropriate award for Mac (although the fact he cried when they turned off the heel-n-toe polka might have been a bit of a give away).  Even so, there are a few things that make Mac tic… music is one of them. 
It was wonderful to have that not only identified, but recognised.

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10cm to Inclusion…

We knew it wasn’t ideal having a classroom seat that couldn’t quite fit under the same kindy desks as all the other children.

But, while we are waiting for suppliers to bring us some seats to trial it is the only option. And let’s face it – it is only 10cm difference.

It means Mac sits in his high/low chair at his slightly higher table and three other children sit at the other two desks perpendicular to his.

They are all grouped together, it was working OK.

Special Tomato

Today we took in the wedge base for the Special Tomato Soft Sitter from home. It was only slightly too low for the standard Kindy desk (with taller casters it might be perfect) BUT it worked well enough to allow Mac to sit in right next to Sophia at her desk… ‘HER desk’ became ‘THEIR desk’.

However, the most surprising aspect was the impact on the other children. As we wheeled him in place, next to his friend Sophia, there was a sense of excitement building on the other tables. They were enthusiastically chattering amongst themselves, pointing out Mac has his “own proper chair” now.

We often think little children are quite self absorbed and only aware of their own space – I don’t think this can be said of Mac’s classmates.
They rejoice in us doing inclusion well – it is important to them too.

10cm is important, we knew this, I just don’t think I realised JUST how important.

I guess it proves sometimes we should ‘sweat’ the ‘little things’ because they really do make a difference.

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Filed under Access all Areas, kindergarten at last

the Crying Game

Mac cried,
the ‘aide’ tried,
and Mumma had to get him.

Mac cracked the ‘sads’ yesterday at school.  It was bound to happen at some stage – I have never met a child who is 100% happy 100% of the time.  Why should a child with a disability be expected to be 100% happy (or good for that matter)? 
Oh, I remember…  because (insert sarcasm here…) “they’re always such happy children” (ugh). 

I wan’t super surprised.  Mac cries with incredible gusto when he decides to ‘let rip’ .  It at times doesn’t seem humanly possible he could be producing the sound without amplification, so I knew it was bound to happen at some stage and would shock the staff.  And I know it was only out of concern for his wellbeing that we were contacted. 

But, for the uninitated here are some reasons a child with a disability might cry…
– they are sad
– they have a pain
– they are hurt
– they don’t like what they are doing or being asked to stop doing
– they don’t like who they are with
– they are tired or hungry
– they are faking it to get out of something

groundbreaking isn’t it… kinda amazing it is exactly the same for a ‘non-disabled’ child.

For the record I could have left Mac at school because he was absolutely fine when I went to check on him, I assume he had a teeny tiny burp and decided to ‘bung it on a little’.  But as I was at a conference and had already missed lunch to head out to school, I was loathe to miss the last speaker who I was really keen to hear at the end of the day… so Mac and I left early and went back to listen to the Commander of the Middle Eastern Task Force speak – she was a fantastic speaker and Mac loved the talk.  Must have something to do with his passion for ‘The Bill’, he glaarred everytime she spoke about the street gangs and undesirables.

I will not be collecting Mac from school every time he cries – I am sure other parents don’t do that.

The school will learn to deal with it and respect it for what it is.  Let’s face it, crying is only communication (as is all behaviour).  We are all allowed to protest and complain, it’s a basic human right.

More learning for the staff.  It’s all experience, all good.

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