Thursday, 30 May 2013
Jessica will be starting school in September. For any family this is a huge milestone, and the process of choosing and applying for schools, and wondering if your house being 0.1 of a mile out of the previous year’s catchment area will make a difference, is all very stressful.
But add a disability and/or special needs into the mix and the process just got a whole lot more interesting. Inclusion, segregation, resources; everyone seems to have an opinion on this – regardless of whether they have any special needs experience or even know Jessica. Comments such as “but she has to go to a ‘special school", “it’s not like she can learn anything”, or the other extreme “but surely your daughter isn’t disabled enough to need (whispering very quietly) a special needs school?”
In theory it could have been a difficult decision, but actually, it turned out to be a pretty easy choice. Jessica loves the chaos and mayhem of being around her mainstream peers, both at home with friends and her cousins and at nursery. But she does find this environment distracting, and when she has learnt new skills they are often evident at home a few months before she is able to demonstrate them at nursery. Her needs are also very complicated, and while she is clearly very able to learn, she needs the right equipment and people around her in order to access activities.
We looked round a variety of mainstream and special needs schools, and we have just found out that Jessica has been allocated to our top choice of school. We are really excited about this, as it seems like the perfect choice for her, and we really do think she will do well there.
It is a special needs school attached to a mainstream school, and pupils from both schools mix for playtime, assemblies, lunch etc. Some lessons are also mixed between the groups of pupils, so Jessica will maintain contact with her mainstream peers. However, the school has the skilled staff and the equipment that Jessica needs to access education and activities. More than that though, it was the atmosphere at the school that we loved – it felt like one big family. The staff are so passionate about the children, and as proud as any parent would be of what the children achieve.
Jessica had an appointment at the school the other day (it was nothing to do with the school, it was just coincidence that the appointment was being held there) and all the staff came out to see Jessica and say hello, and to say how much they are looking forward to having her there in September. The appointment also coincided with the end of lunchtime, and we saw all the children being escorted or pushed in their wheelchairs from the playground into their classrooms by the children from the mainstream school; it was so lovely to see.
We now have a few meetings set up with the staff at her new school, Jessica will visit a few times before September, and we are going to be given some pictures of her new classroom and teachers, so we can talk to her about it over the summer holidays.
And then a new era begins!