Saturday, November 24, 2012
The transition to school plan- part 3- Kindergarten Orientation
We have done pretty much everything we can to prepare her, and the school, for her starting there next year. We have a few appointment left to go with our fantastic psychologist, who is helping us with developing social stories and working on some social skills prompts. Apart from that there is very little left to do.
So, let me tell you about the Kindergarten Orientation program that we have just been involved in.
First, I'm going to quickly say how much I LOVE my kids Primary School. It is "just" our local public school, and it has historically had a "bad reputation" due to being in a "rough neighbourhood". All the local talk about it is highly exaggerated, and mostly untrue. The school has the most dedicated and talented staff I have ever come across, and we feel so lucky to be able to send our kids there. It is a small school, and the effort they put into all areas of the children's development and welfare is exceptional. The care and commitment The Principal and other Staff have shown to supporting MissG in her transition has made things so much easier for her and for me, and I honestly would not send her anywhere else next year.
The Kindergarten Transition Program the school ran this year was 7 weeks long, and ran on Wednesday mornings for 2 hrs. Some mornings MissG didn't want to go- but that wasn't for any other reason than that Wednesday is a Preschool day and turning up 2 hours "late" was a break from routine that she found a bit of a challenge. Each week we met at the schools Community Room, where many of the kids were used to going for playgroup, and the kids played while parents chatted and got to know each other for half an hour. After that the teachers took the children off for some activities in various places they need to know- classroom, library, playground, music room.... while the parents went and learned about different school programs, resources and services available. It was fantastic to see the kids gain confidence moving around the school and interacting with the staff and with each other. By the end of the Program, they would go off for their activities with no fuss, perfectly comfortable with the staff. Great to see!
The thing that strikes me most about the success of the Program is that it was beneficial for the "normal" kids and the kids with higher support needs alike. None of the children were singled out but all were catered for in exactly the way they needed. And so were the parents!
For privacy reasons (ours and the schools!) I'm not going to name the school, but let me tell you- they are amazing!
When you go looking for somewhere to place your kids who have special needs you are looking for somewhere like this, that offers Programs that are inclusive of all children, are well thought out, well executed and for staff who are open minded, caring, relaxed and committed. It can, unfortunately, be hard to find (we tried 4 other schools before we found this one), and with the NSW Governments commitment to cutting funding to our schools I fear will become even harder to find. Harder, but not impossible. So- my thanks go out to our great school. MissG really benefitted from the Kindergarten Transition Program. It has made a big difference to our family.
Separately form the Transition Program, I have been keeping dialogue going with The Principal about things that have been on my mind. A couple of the issues we have discussed recently are helping teachers learn strategies to assist MissG cope with changes in routine and unexpected interruptions, how to support her if she is hurt or if another child does something she finds difficult to cope with (an accidental bump that could induce sensory overload, for example) and some ways the school can help MissG manage playground time. I have been grateful to have the help of the Preschool Director with this task. She was generous enough to sit with hubby and I for an hour last week and work on compiling a list of strategies The Preschool has used successfully that she will compile and present to the school. Support like this is invaluable to me, and speaks again of the exceptional community support we have around us.
If you are reading this and thinking that it's all fine for me, as I obviously have a lot of great help around me, I would like to say that while it is great to have the support, much of what I am talking about can be initiated by parents, or even done by parents if need be. If you need ideas to help you get started or tips on how to approach the schools to encourage them to establish some similar programs, drop me a line and I'd be happy to point you in the direction of some great online resources that can help you get started. One worth mentioning up front is Sue Larkeys website, where you can go to sign up for regular email tis on managing schooling for ASD kids. Sue also has a facebook page.
The next step for me is to get social stories organised with our psychologist, so we can use them over the Christmas break. I'll let you know how we go with that in the next transition to school update.