Category Archives: Preparing for Big School

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] 

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Practically Primary

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


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four sleeps to go…

so the bibs, trying to look like they are NOT bibs, are almost finished (why did I think I could sew?),

the pencil case (hmmm, more like suitcase) is nearly packed,

the school bag is awaiting filling,

the uniforms, recently embroidered, are washed and ready…

Mac’s  seating system has been tweaked, twisted and turned – it is now pretty comfy – he is happy sitting in it…

the excitement is building…

school starts Monday!

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school uniforms

Ever wondered how to get school uniforms for a very small child?

school-uniforms-flow-chartCLICK PICTURE TO VIEW

Simple really.

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pedagogy at five

She came over to Mac’s desk.  She had just finished showing the teacher her new glasses which, she proudly explained, ‘she bought with her birthday money’.  

She was ready to start free activities like the rest of the class.

“Can he talk?” she asked me.   “No, not really” I replied.  “He has some sounds that mean things, you will soon learn how to understand him”.

“Why can’t he talk? she asked

I explained about Mac getting sick as a baby and his brain getting hurt.  I explained how his damaged brain has caused all all his muscles to stop working properly.  How his sitting muscles, standing muscles, eating muscles, walking muscles, talking muscles and seeing muscles no longer work properly.

She had been watching me put foam blocks into Mac’s hand and telling him about the shape and the colour.  She went and got her own block.  She gently picked up Mac’s hand and slowly turned the shape around under his hand.  She counted out the sides to him as she went.   “1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 7   Mac, do you know what has seven sides?” she asked.  

Hmmm, even I wasn’t sure on that one…

seven sided object

It turned out it was a 3D foam block.  A cube with a hole in the middle and, she’s right, it does have seven edges or planes.

As she continued showing him most of the shapes in the box of blocks, with a delicate swish of her wrist as she ran each ‘plane’ along his palm, we talked about how much Mac liked noises.  She went away only to reappear with two plastic blocks to tap together to make a noise Mac would like.

Mac’s face was one of sheer heaven – it’s not something I yearn for, but for Mac it was “ahhhhh, the serenity of noise”…

Good teachers come in many guises – some in the form of five year olds.

I wonder whether pedagogy is innate or learned?

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Awesome…

ORIENTATION DAY THREE…

The class buddies arrived in the form of very enthusiastic sixth graders.  Mac got to meet his buddy, Ryan. He has met Ryan a couple of times as he is my cousin’s son – but hasn’t had a lot to do with him.

It was nice to hear Ryan had actually requested to be Mac’s buddy and was proudly declaring to everyone that “Mac is my cousin”.  

During the playground break when Ryan was busy pushing Mac around the grounds in his chair and trying to ensure not too large a group was alongside I could hear him declare… “I can manage on my own you know, he doesn’t need a crowd staring at him”.  Oh well, the novelty will wear off, most of the kids just have lots of questions and are excited about Mac’s arrival – they have been expecting him.

As Ryan and Mac were wandering past one class I heard a boy of about 10 proclaim Mac is Awesome” to his mate, who responded yeah, he is so cool”.   Another contributed… and his wheels are MAD”.  

As a parent it made me smile.  We all want our kids to be liked, to fit in, to be accepted.  With a child with profound disabilities heading into a mainstream environment it has been hard to guage what the response could be.

Guess I can’t complain – I think he’s “awesome” too.

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When clapping is your passion… you need friends who can clap

Orientation Day number two was another successful day.  

Again we spared Mac the embarrassment of his parents going with him into the classroom and hired Di, his former aide, to escort him with the other children.

I did the same as the other parents, delivered my child to class, waved goodbye and walked away.  

I know much of this is to create an illusion to the others (parents, children, teachers) that Mac is not “super precious” and “needing excessive care”.  I do it partly for my own selfish reasons to allow my soul the fleeting sense of normality.  But mostly I do it because I can, he is in an appropriate environment and his needs are being catered for – just as they are for the other children.

The feedback was great.  Apparently, the room was full of noise and much frivolity – Mac was beaming from ear to ear.  The children were clapping to some song or game – really, does life get any better?

I know I shouldn’t look at the other children as useful commodities in Mac’s life but… when clapping is your passion, you need friends who can clap.  

Mac can’t clap, his physical impairments are just too great.  

And, why wouldn’t you wan’t to clap for your friend when his response is such joy and adoration for the loud noise you so cleverly make.  

We all like praise, even non-verbal praise is good.  

We all bring strengths and weaknesses to any relationship.  

And so far, it appears, ‘clappers’ and ‘non-clappers’ can exist happily in the same environment with mutual benefit.

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A fun first Orientation Day

 

got wheels, got friends - who needs more?

got wheels, got friends - who needs more?

 

Who would have thought that a little boy who can’t walk and can’t talk would be such a source of strength to his friends.  That you in your wheelchair is a great place for your friends to hang onto and walk alongside when they are feeling nervous.  That you in your wheelchair is the constant, the familiar, the norm.  That you are their safe haven.

To the children who have never met you before you were an object of their curiosity, but to your friends who were alongside you, playing with you… you were just Mac.  I don’t think it will take long for you to be ‘just Mac’ to all your classmates and in time, your entire school.

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