Wednesday, 22 February 2017

learning every day and changes ahead

Last year saw some incredible changes in our life and through them all I have found that I personally have developed a far better understanding of how my kids tick and what it is like to be in their world.

Now I will never pretend or claim to know exactly what it is like, every child is different and I can and will never I believe fully understand them all the time, there are many days when I want to throw up my hands and go what the literal beep beep beep, my family knows when I swear I have reached breaking point or am extremely passionate about the current topic or situation but in any case, over the last year I have begun to understand and put myself in their shoes when it comes to circumstances occurring at the time.

For instance it took me this long to notice that Loghan stims when he is agitated, I didn't even know what stimming was until a fellow autism mum pointed it out, but I now know that he does it and can preempt certain situations and meltdowns, Loghan's overall body language and the intensity and volume of his voice are also very indicative of when he is starting to become over stimulated or has even reached over stimulation.

Gabriel on the other hand is a completely different kettle of fish all together, when he becomes over loaded or over stimulated he will rock, suck his thumb, curl up into a feotal position or hide making himself as small and unnoticeable as possible, that or he will fall asleep, I am not even kidding yesterday he fell asleep whilst doing homework and he has also fallen asleep in class and he goes to bed before 8 and sleeps like a angelic baby (well one who cuccoons themselves or hangs half way off the bed in a precarious position with his mouth open).

Brothers and yet so completely different and this is one of the cornerstone factors for us when we chose to move Loghan, it is the fact that every child whether neuro typical or not is different, they learn differently, behave differently, different things over or under stimulant them and their senses but that is not how the schooling system treats children, every child is put in the same box, wears the same uniform, must conform and behave in the same manner, must all complete their work within the same time frame being taught in the same way when some children are visual and others verbal or prefer repetition and written work.

The subject choices stay the same and yet not everyone is good at or enjoys math or science or even art, some kids would excel in architectural drawing or different languages or even hospitality or consumer sciences.  So why are children still being taught the same things in the same manner, it clearly isn't working for so many children, so many children on anxiety meds before 10 years old among other medications and many of them misdiagnosed, and as one teacher said to me: as a teacher you are left with an incredibly difficult decision- do you help the kids who are clearly struggling and will likely not pass or excel or do you focus your attention the stellar students the one who will bring the school a great name and reputation if they are given a bit of extra attention.... Sadly the fact is that one teacher can simply not give attention to all 35 students.

So with this we have officially decided and will be removing Gabriel from mainstream as well, he will be attending a cottage school and I cannot wait for him to start this journey, I never actually realised how large the homeschooling community is in our area and I think that is is only going to grow as the conditions in schools continue to worsen, the social groups and events are great and allow for far more socialisation and outings outside of the child's peer group which I think is fantastic, and the smaller numbers also allow for more attention to your child and also allow the tutor to cater your child's education and learning to their needs.

Gabriel is incredibly excited and I am really looking forward to moving forward and seeing where this journey will take us.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Shame and politics

There are few things in my life that I have an extreme passion for and one of them is the support and aid of special needs children, not only because I have 2 of my own but because I feel that there is just not enough awareness and support raised around and in aid of these kids.

You all know my story or at least you should know it if you have followed my blog for some time but this year we chose to remove Loghan from mainstream and enrol him in a tutor centre that has a majority enrolment of special needs kids.

We removed Loghan after seeking out our options… of which there were few.

We could have enrolled him in one of TWO government special needs schools only one of which is in our area, however we were looking at a waiting list of 2 years, not only that but I know several people whose kids attended or are in attendance there and there is not only a very large bullying issue in the school but the numbers are growing which really does defeat the object of the need to more one on one attention for your child.  I also know two people who taught there and now run a cottage school because of what they saw and experienced at said school.

The second option was a private school of which there are MANY, however I have 3 kids and the fees alone never mind the enrolment and admin fees amount to nearly 2/3 of my salary, so how would we be able to put food on the table never mind send our other 2 kiddos to school, so that unfortunately was out of the question.

The last option was home-school/ tutor schooling- now I lack both the patience and the ability to home-school my kids, the ability because I need to work and bring in and income and because I do not have the knowhow, I also personally feel that a home-schooled child needs to be socialised as often as possible especially for us in Loghan’s case because his social skills are severely lacking, if I do not have the money to put food on the table because I cannot work how can I afford classes and private sports never mind once again the issue of schooling my other kids…

So we searched and found the tutor centre he currently attends, the curriculum is CAPS based, the classes amount to 6 kids and the kids are still able to socialise with not only the kids in their class but the other kids in attendance as well, I also like that my child has the chance to socialise and interact with kids all the way across the spectrum, in creating awareness and understanding I feel this is a wonderful.

We removed Loghan from the public school system because he couldn’t cope with the numbers and the teachers/ schools were not equipped and did not have the resources to handle a special needs child, there are still a few special needs kids at the school however Loghan was unable to cope and everyday was an uphill battle, one which all but ruined his social ability, one that meant he came home angry and frustrated and not only took this out on his siblings but us as parents, he had no friends and was for lack of a better word MISERABLE.

Since changing over the change in him is amazing and our home is happy and calm once again, everything was peaches and cream and we had finally settled down ready to tackle the school year with full force.
So you can probably imagine my dismay when the school started receiving complaints, first it was about parking, then about the kids making to much noise at 2pm in the afternoon, now I would like to point out that there are several businesses surrounding the school as well as two crèches in the same road, a government school a block or so away and a shopping centrum a block in the other direction, but oh no the complaints are all about the school.

The people who made the complaints then chose to involve our ward councillor and that’s how things have led up to this post because according to said councillor these kids should be put into proper schools with proper teachers ie the local government schools and or the local special needs school which might I remind you has a waiting list, and many of the kids would not fit the criteria of the school in any case.

The same councillor remarked that the centre is made up of delinquents and uneducable kids!!!!   I mean can you even, besides the fact that the centre had the highest math mark in the western cape last year, these kids are not stupid or useless, personally we have Loghan’s IQ tested and he is way above average, that aside these kids are amazing EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM and so is every single staff member at the centre who takes the time to help these kids get the education they need, I would also like to add that the centre is a registered NPO and that the fees generated are barely able to sustain it and many of the parents are sponsored, where does this person expect these kids to go, she has also remarked that the owner is taking desperate parents for a ride and making a fortune off of them, now I am not going to get into what I pay but I can tell you it is on par with what I was paying at the local government school and includes aftercare, holiday care, food, stationary… I mean common now she really must be raking in the funds right.
I am completely shocked and disgusted at how someone who is supposed to represent the needs of our local community has such an ignorant and imbecilic outlook and view, clearly she has no idea what it is like for either the parents or the kids and clearly she is not interested, and this above all is the most frustrating issue of them all!!!

I am angry… no I am IRATE and I have emailed our mayor, I have tweeted our local government party but to no avail, now honestly I didn’t think they would get involved (even though they should) but at least an acknowledgment of what is a very serious issue in the country would be nice… it’s not just about the centre it is about a very real issue in our country and about the thousands of kids who do not have access to any kind of education because they are deemed by the system to be a lost cause!!!!!

I will not stand aside and be quiet as a parent I have the right to see my child educated in the manor I feel is in his best interest at an institution or even in my home and gosh dam if I need to toit toit outside the education department I will do it so help me I WILL because these kids need and deserve a voice, our councillor wants to pass it over as zoning and other bs along that line when it is purely ignorance that has fuelled this issue!

UPDATE: When I wrote this post yesterday the owner of the learning centre was in the process of seeing the education department and I am extremely elated to report that the centre has the complete support and backing of the department!  We unfortunately do have a zoning issue and will need to find a correctly zoned house or building to run from however despite the selfishness of the people above this was a great step forward for the special needs community and our area and I could not be happier!!!

Monday, 13 February 2017

No more public schooling

Right, so I mentioned a little while back that we have started experiencing issues with Gabriel at school again, according to his teacher he is a very needy child (which I will not argue), who constantly fidgets, is in his own world struggles to complete his work but not for the lack of being able to and so forth, now his teacher is lovely I do not think this is due to her not being able to do her job in the least, I do however feel that this is due to the numbers in the class and I am pretty sure that Gabriel has a Sensory Processing issue, if you look at his constant motion, his thumb sucking and rocking when he becomes agitated or overwhelmed, his neediness and issues with food textures, noises and a need for material items as comfort items, we would obviously need to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis but honestly from raising my own child this is what I see. 

So as I said he is having issues and I did have to fetch him from school last week, the school has now suggested an evaluation through red cross.

So here is what it comes down to…

Gabriel can and is perfectly able to do the work expected of him, I myself have sat with him on several occasions this term and done his class work and/or homework with him, when he is in a one on one situation he is perfectly able to do his work, he takes a bit longer than perhaps some students do but he is perfectly happy to do it, if he makes mistakes he is eager to correct them unlike when I used to do Loghans work with him; Loghan would perform and get frustrated and would take hours to perform one menial task, Gabriel is eager and happy to do his work, this is of course a one on one situation.

Secondly whilst going the red cross route was an amazing help with Loghan and I do feel they are brilliant there, the end result will most likely lead to medication and whilst I am not a doctor since Gabriel is able to work perfectly fine in a one on one situation, we as parents do not feel he needs medication unlike Loghan who even in a one on one situation needs his medication in order to hold his focus and concentration and whilst in Lohans situation the difficulties he was having at school led to violent and agrevated behaviour which caused disruptions at home as well, Gabriels issues are solely on the school front and his bahviour is perfectly manageable at home.

So with this we are left with the option of either keeping him in mainstream where he is clearly struggling and unable to receive the attention he both craves and needs, we can struggle and fight, we can medicate him and force him into the mainstream box which may lead down the same road it did with Loghan whereby we end up removing him at a later stage with damage already done, or.

We can remove him now from mainstream and place him in an environment where he will benefit, where we do not have to medicate him and where he will flourish.

The decision for us is obvious, and to be honest I have lost my respect for public schooling in this country and it is not going to get any better, this is not the fault of the teachers because I truly feel we have encountered many wonderful and amazing ones who have tried their best to help, but unfortunately until the actual situation of the schooling system changes, until there are more schools, until teacher are given proper support and resources I am not in favour at all and will choose homeschooling/ tutor schooling for Jesse when the time comes as well.

We have found a place and I honestly feel that Gabriel will excel there, we have chosen not to put him in the same school as Loghan, because they aggravate each other and we do not want to set Loghan back when he is doing so well, we also feel that whilst Loghan is doing great in a place where he only has 6 in his group but more in the general school population, Gabriel needs a very small environment as a whole. 

I am very eager to start this journey, since Gabriel started having the problems at school it has set everyone on edge again and I am in constant fear of a school phone call, it is not a life or home situation I enjoy putting my family through especially when I know there are other options.