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I’ve fallen in love

Posted by Sarah on May 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

Wow! I absolutely loved Emerson. Thank goodness! The gentleman who showed us around was just lovely which helped of course. He knew all of the kids by name and seemed to genuinely love his job. It wasn’t too far to get there either. Amanda came with me again as did Bec – Will’s mum. They both seemed impressed too.

Academically and extra curricular activities wise I guess it was on a par with Heatherwood. There were excellent cooking facilities, art rooms, automotive workshop and woodworking areas. We looked around the junior, middle (where Beth would be) and senior schools. The middle school are moving around the corner next year to new premises at an old primary school. This is off of Heatherton Road in a Court which was a plus. Even the main school though was away from the road. There were high fences everywhere. They were so conscientious of each individual’s difficulties. For example one child was a runner so they had him in a brightly coloured vest to highlight this. Every room had visual schedules. The playground had that stuff on the ground like in McDonalds playgrounds. When I asked about discipline they said that they like to use a positive approach. The class sizes are bigger than at Heatherwood, about 12 – 15 with one teacher and one aide. I explained that Beth may need extra work to start with as she has an aide nearly fulltime at the moment. This didn’t seem to faze them as they have classrooms that they can do more intensive work one on one if necessary.

Basically it comes down to gut instinct. While Heatherwood is an excellent school it is a very long way from our home. I didn’t get that ‘feel good’ feeling from there either though it may have been the shock at how different it was than mainstream school. I did get that feeling at Emerson however. The man we spoke to said he’d like to come out to our school to assess Beth in her current environment and to transition her over a few Tuesdays. Next step is to gather all our paperwork and assessments and organise Paul to come and check it out with myself and Beth. I feel so relieved!

 
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Off to Emerson

Posted by Sarah on May 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

I’m off to check out Emerson today. It’s similar to Heatherwood as in it’s a school for kids with a mild intellectual disability. It’s also closer than Heatherwood. I could drive Beth fairly easily there. It’s be just over an hour round trip. I like the idea of having some input into Beth’s schooling life, even if it’s just driving her there and seeing what’s going on. At Heatherwood I would never be there if she went on the bus as they don’t encourage parent participation. Still, I would be commiting myself to 2 hours a day of driving and no chance of a full day job. Hopefully if it’s Emerson we decide on there would be other kids in the area, then at least there’s a chance of car pooling.

I’ve been writing a few social stories lately. I wrote one for school about when you don’t win a game. I thought maybe I could put a page on here with a couple of examples, a list of the ones I could do and see if people are interested in buying them. Our principal said she is happy to write me a testimonial and recommend them to the schools. If I do it properly it could turn into a little job.

I’ll be back on this afternoon after I’ve been to Emerson. Then the choice will be made, Emerson of Heatherwood. I can’t tell you what a relief it is to know that it wont be mainstream. I’m still nervous about the whole thing but even Beth liked the look of the Heatherwood brochure. I’ve told her that she’ll be going to a school with others like her and she didn’t say she didn’t want to go there so that’s a start. Emerson’s a prep to 12 school too which means that Beth could start transitioning this year with the kids she’d be in with next year. I’ll let you know how we go x

 

 
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Been to Heatherwood

Posted by Sarah on May 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

Well today was the day that we went and checked out Heatherwood. Paul met myself and my friend Amanda there. My first impression was about how close it was to Springvale Road. It’s not really an issue anymore; though Beth doesn’t have any sense of traffic danger she doesn’t tend to wander off as much as when we were looking at primary school.

It’s an excellent school and just what Beth needs. I do have a bit of a battle to sort out within myself however. We went into a meeting to start with to discuss what happens during transitions and during schooling. The emphasis is really there on getting these kids independant. When I told the lady showing us around that our aide from Primary School was willing to come along to transition mornings I was told that she was welcome to come and see the school but she wouldn’t be allowed to go into the classroom. Beth wont have a one on one aide when there, therefore it’s not good for her to have one for the transitions. When asked if parent participation is wanted I was told that no, in fact parents aren’t wanted at the school at all. What teenager wants their parent at their high school?

 In my head this all makes sense and I realise that it’s the best place for Beth. My heart has the problem of not wanting to cut the umbilical cord however. I can’t help but think that (to start with at least) Beth will hate the place. If she’s anxious or upset about something in particular now in class her aide can take her for a walk or sit with her and read. I didn’t really think about this until driving home and realised I should have asked what happens if they have a meltdown in class. What sort of punishments and consequences do they get? How will she cope without having that one on one aide time that she has come to rely on?

It’s quite a distance too which once again is my issue. Even if Beth is on the bus it wont bother her much, if she’s playing on her dsi she’s oblivious to the time.Mind you, she has to be in charge of her dsi, it’s up to her to put it and keep it in her bag. That worries me a bit. And I  hate the thought of her being so far away. The traffic was horrid going there, I’m become spoilt, living in an area that doesn’t have city traffic. There is another school in Dandenong that is similar so I’m thinking I’ll check them out too, just in case. I could even drive her there in the mornings as it’s an easy drive. Of course I’ll have to weigh it up if the school doesn’t offer as much as Heatherwood.

On the plus side it has great facilities. The woodworking shed is fabulous, they have dune buggies to teach them how to drive, they have industrial kitchens to learn. The 3 bedroom house has cooking facilities also and they are taught simple tasks such as matching socks as well as more difficult tasks such as cleaning bathrooms and making their own doctors appointments. There is a mechanic’s workshop, lawn mowers and a canteen run by the kids. We met some of the kids in the kitchen and they really seem happy. I know Beth would fit in and eventually love it. The year seven and eight classes are similar to primary school too. This means that other than the speciality subjects all of their classes would be in the same classroom with the same teacher.

I asked about the use of laptops as at primary Beth has been using one quite a bit. I was told that yes, they do have them in the computer room, but they didn’t encourage the use of them in the normal classrooms, they expected them to write. I guess I agree with this, while they are used in mainstream high school to modify the curriculum, Heatherwood has a modified curriculum anyway. I do have to learn to let them assess Beth in their own way too. When explaining the classrooms before going in we were told the first one was for the more dependant children. I said that Beth was fairly dependant, she has a full time aide after all. When looking around the classroom though I noticed that it was quite similar to a junior school classroom in primary school. We were then told that kids who were in there had problems with reading and writing. Beth is an excellent reader and I could have done her a disservice by getting her put into a class of kids less functioning than her, thus not challenging her which she needs.

All in all it was a positive visit. Paul seemed quite taken by it and Amanda seemed quite keen too. I know it’s the best place for Beth. She needs to learn not to lean on me all the time and she can learn how to be independant. She can do work experience and volunteer work, she can study to be whatever she wants to be. There’s support there for her that I would have to source independantly if she was at mainstream school. It’s just so scary, she’s only 12 for goodness sakes! Of course lots of these independant things wouldn’t start in year seven.

Basically if nothing else it has decided for me that mainstream high school isn’t for her. I’ll check out Emerson in Dandenong and if it’s not as good then Heatherwood is where she’ll be. I showed Beth the magazine and she quite likes the look of it. After we’ve decided between the two schools we’ll take Beth for a visit. I can’t believe it’s nearly June already, where has the time gone?

 
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a social story about periods

Posted by Sarah on May 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

just thought I’d share this if anybody out there has a girl.

When girls start to get a bit older they go through what is called puberty. Puberty can seem a bit yucky sometimes. You get hair in funny places. You get it under your arms and on your vagina. Sometimes your underarms start to smell and you have to start wearing deodorant to make you smell nice again.

This can happen at all different ages. Some girls start their puberty at 8 or 9, others don’t go through puberty until they are teenagers. Usually when girls start puberty they have to start wearing funky bras because their boobs start to grow too!

Something else happens when girls go through puberty. Blood starts to come out of the vagina sometimes. This is called a period. It can be pretty messy  so girls put what’s called a pad in their knickers. This stops the blood from getting on to their clothes. It can feel a bit uncomfortable sometimes before you get used to wearing them. They have a sticky strip on them to stick them to the undies and sometimes have what are called wings which stick underneath your undies.

It’s a bit scary when you first get your period if you don’t know what’s going on. If blood starts coming from your vagina you should speak to an adult to check what to do. All mums and female teachers or helpers know what to do because they’ve all had their period. Dads and male teachers are ok to talk to too as they know what periods are. It can seem a bit embarrassing to talk to somebody about something so private but everybody understands.

There’s nothing wrong with you when you get your period, it doesn’t mean that you are hurt just because you are bleeding. It’s natural even though it’s a bit yucky. Girls get their periods every month. Usually they bleed for about 5 days. Sometimes it feels like you have to change your pad all the time, especially when your period starts but it gets less and less as the days go on. When your period first starts it’s good to have something under you when you sleep, just in case a bit of blood leaks out.

Just remember, every woman has had their period or still gets their period so it doesn’t mean that anything is wrong. Even people on telly and in pop bands get their periods! It’s messy and a bit yucky at times but it’s natural and nothing to worry about.

 
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So proud of my girl

Posted by Sarah on May 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

There’s been an issue at school lately with Beth fancying a boy in her grade. It seemed funny to start with and quite cute but last week our principal told me that the boys parents were concerned as it was getting out of hand. Beth wouldn’t stop telling him that she loved him and telling him to dump the girl that he is going out with. He had tried to be nice about it but it had begun to upset him, understandably. Our principal had asked if I could do a social story for the situation.

I did a generic story so it wasn’t all about Beth and this boy. I read it to her from the computer and as we read I talked about their situation. I explained that he couldn’t help how he felt. I validated her feelings and said that I knew she was hurt and it was ok to talk to adults about these feelings. I said that it wasn’t ok to go on and on about it and that he wouldn’t even like her as a friend if she embarassed him or hurt his feelings. She seemed to understand.

This was on Thursday. Today is Tuesday. This morning the boys mum came to me and said how well the social story had worked. She said that Beth had gone up to her son and not only apologized but had told him that she didn’t realise that it upset him so much. I was so proud of her. I didn’t even cover apologizing or explaining, thinking it was enough for her to stop the behaviour. Therefore she did this on her own. Our principal reiterated this, saying that the boy in question had spoken with her about how pleased he was. What a nice boy!

Tomorrow’s D Day! I’m so excited to finally be going to see Heatherwood special school. I’ll let you know how we go.

 
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Sensational session

Posted by Sarah on May 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

Beth and I just got back from Sensational Kids. Once again she had a pretty good session. First Beth had speech therapy with Rod. Last time they had made up a story with a picture of a girl with her bag of apples which had fallen to the ground. Rod started with the same picture this time. Last time it had also involved a boy pushing the girl and a bump in the road as reasons why she may have dropped these apples. They weren’t in the picture this time but Beth, rather than working on something new, tried to use them as reasons why the apples had been dropped. Rod told Beth that she had to use what was in the picture. He gave her some multiple choice questions to try and bring in the girl in the picture’s feelings. Once Beth had these guidelines she could write that the girl was sad. She did find it difficult to explain why the apples may not have been all right to eat after being dropped and kept saying silly things about aliens and the grim reaper rather than saying that she needed help. The ideas of the apples being bruised, dirty or broken didn’t seem to occur to her.

It’s amazing the way her mind works, you can tell that something is going on in there but it’s getting it out that’s the problem. For example this morning Bill was talking on the way to school about a movie with Will Smith. Beth piped up with the name “Jayden Smith” and then said “Justin Bieber” and the name of a song. I was trying to get her to explain what the relationship was with what Bill had told me. I could tell Bill was itching to tell me the answer but I wanted Beth to tell me. As I didn’t know the answer I couldn’t prompt her. She just couldn’t explain it so Bill told me. Jayden Smith is Will Smiths son and Jayden and Justin Bieber sang that particular song together. I figured it was something like that but Beth, though knowing the answer, didn’t know how to explain it to me.

Next Beth had Occupational Therapy which seemed to go well too. Whiskas (not her real name) had a little dial that they had made for Beth to take to class to show the ‘speed of her engine.’ There were activities too that Beth could do to make her engine run ‘just right.’ This is to regulate kids like Beth when they’re feeling sluggish or too hyper.  I also got a report to take to our year 6/7 review for high school.

I have made an appointment to go and see Heatherwood next Wednesday. I had a look on their website and it looks like it’s designed for Beth. As Beth’s IQ score was over 70 in previous years we didn’t qualify for anything but mainstream schooling but it has now dropped to 63. Much as I hate the lower score, this means that we can now look at special schools. The only thing that concerns me re Heatherwood is the travelling time, over an hour each way on their bus, but the pros outweigh the cons as far as I’m concerned. The thing I love for us too is that it’s only for mild intellectual disabilities so she would be with kids like her. She could make friends who want to have playdates and sleepovers and they could be equals. I hope it lives up to all that it seems because it sounds amazing.

 
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On a lighter note

Posted by Sarah on May 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

Just thought I’d put in a Beth funny. We were on the way to swimming (she’s doing amazingly by the way) and Beth spotted somebodies tights hanging from the electricity wires. She starts laughing and says “It must be whacky Thursday!” All the way to swimming she picked out things that were a little bit strange and she would giggle to herself, look at me and say “It must be whacky Thursday.” She cracks me up!

 
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Looking at another school

Posted by Sarah on May 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

I’ve been having a bit of a rethink in regards to a special school. There’s a school called Heatherwood that caters to special needs kids, the problem is that it’s so far from us. We’re in Belgrave/Upwey and they’re in Donvale. It’s not too far as far as driving goes but I’ve got 2 other kids to think of and their school is in the opposite direction. I’ve heard that there is a bus but I’m tipping that it’s at least an hour each way by bus which cuts out any downtime that Beth may have in the evenings. In the past however I’ve discounted the idea of different schools because of their reputation or because I haven’t thought they would be suitable before looking at them. I feel that I need to at least go and see what Heatherwood is like and find out about the transport – it may not be as hard as I think. I’ve left a message for them to call me back.

It’s such a hard thing to think about, high school. Basically it scares the shit out of me. At the same time I don’t want to do Beth a disservice by assuming that she wont cope. When I spoke with Heatherwood this morning they told me that there aren’t any waiting lists so we could apply as late as fourth term. I’m going to go and have a look. Our principal from Beth’s primary school has said that she would be happy to come along with me as she knows the ‘hard’ questions to ask. I want to see if there are kids like Beth. I don’t want her to go to a school with kids that are all low functioning as she will assume that role too. I want her to be an equal amongst others, I want her to have a social life outside of school and I want her to be happy to go to school. Surely that’s not too much to ask? If I like what I see I’ll take Beth and her current aide who has kindly offered to come with us. I will also take her to the high school we are looking at. I figure that we should know with our transition days to high school whether she’ll be happy to go there or not. I will ask her which one she likes best. The good thing about no waiting times for Heatherwood is that we can try Beth out at the high school and change her to Heatherwood if it doesn’t work out. I just feel so confused and anxious about all of this at the moment, I can only imagine how Beth is feeling.

I was talking to a friend in the staffroom at school this morning and I heard Beth come into the sick bay. She didn’t see me but she was in an argumentative mood and telling her aide what she should be saying. Beth kept saying that the aide had to call me, that she was homesick and wanted to go home. She’s been so unhappy lately, not wanting to go to school at all. I have no idea what’s going through her head. She got quite upset when the whole class was to go to a high school visit. I had told her about it that morning, explaining that it wasn’t the school that she was going to and that it was just a visit. Our principal called me to say that Beth had had a meltdown and what did I think. I said that as it wasn’t our high school there wasn’t any harm in her not going. I said that when it comes time to visiting our high school I would be going also, at least to get Beth in the door. I wont tell her we’re going so she doesn’t worry. I think it’s the fear of the unknown, once we get somewhere Beth is usually ok. I think I’ll do this with both high schools if the Heatherwood one is suitable, then she hopefully wont be as stressed. I’ll write on the calendar where and when we are going for future visits so she knows it’s not permanent yet. Poor luvvy, it’s stressful enough for most grade 6 kids thinking about high school, it must be so hard for her as we don’t really know what she understands and what she doesn’t. I asked our principal to be honest with her opinion of Beth going to mainstream high school. She said it worried her too.

 
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Beth at our session today

Posted by Sarah on May 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

 
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Sensational Kids and stuff in the news

Posted by Sarah on May 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

I just had a look of the transcript of a speech Bill Shorten made, thought I’d share part of it with you. I was particularly touched by the bit at the end that speaks of a ‘Shut Out’ report from 2009 which says that the government relies on parents never being able to abandon their children. They say that the parents are being exploited by caring for their adult children until they (the parent) dies from fear of what could happen to their children if they are not around. As a parent it is one of my biggest fears. Clearly you want your children to outlive you, that is nature, but if nobody else can look after them with the dignity and respect that you do what choices are there? Hopefully by the time we are in that situation there will be housing and other facilities in place for special needs adults. I have heard of individuals being put into institutions and retirement homes simply because there was nowhere else for them to go.

We’ve just got back from Sensational Kids. Beth seemed a bit vague today but the work that Rod is setting for her is more challenging and she tends not to want to make too much effort when it gets too hard. Today Rod drew a picture on the whiteboard of a girl called Debbie who had dropped her bag of apples and was sad. Beth had to think of three things that could have caused this. She had said at first that she was sad because she had dropped them. Then number two Rod had to draw a little bump on the ground so that Beth could say that she may have tripped over the bump. She had problems with a third answer, even when Rod drew in a boy laughing. I think the confusion may have stemmed from Beth thinking that all three things had to be linked rather than three different scenarios. Even when she realised that the boy was the cause of the problem she still thought that it was because he had put the bump in the road. Rod encouraged Beth to ask me questions but she’s not quite there when it comes to giving me information. She kept asking me to help with the whiteboard but when I asked what sort of help she wasn’t sure what to say. I guess if she’s not sure of exactly what is asked of her she needs to learn to ask for clarification.

In the end Beth got some good sentences out, of course with her sense of humour intact. For example Rod drew a teacher who came in to clear up the situation and Beth thought she should be called Mrs Stein as she looked like a monster! The story was something like – Debbie was very sad because she had dropped her bag of apples. Don had pushed Debbie over on purpose. Mrs Stein came over and said “Don, don’t push Debbie over on purpose.”  Debbie put her apples back in the bag and went home. I was really pleased with these sentences. Rod says we are working on :

1) formulating a story using the right syntax

2) expanding on the ideas from life experience – postulating

3) understanding others motives/emotions and causaling

4) seeking clarification from others

5) requesting information from others and being specific

When Beth got an answer wrong Rod would make the ‘bu-bow’ noise like you hear in a quiz show and a ‘ting’ noise for a yes. Beth thought these were hilarious. Afterwards Beth went in with Whiskas (not her real name), the Occupational Therapist. Whiskas did some work with Beth on Beth’s favourite things again which they seem to enjoy. Beth then wrote it all down on a laptop. I have asked our O/T report to recommend the use of a laptop for high school which Whiskas was happy to comply with. I should get the reports in the next couple of weeks.

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