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?
Â 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 nowÂ 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,Â it’s up to her to put it and keep it in her bag. That worries me a bit. AndÂ IÂ 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?