By the time my son was four, I had tried all kinds of tactics when enrolling him in a new daycare. Sometimes I would warn the teachers vaguely that his behaviour was peculiar: "Er...he tends to zone out sometimes..." Sometimes I would be specific and bombard them: "He was born with severe damage to the left brachial plexus nerves resulting in partial paralysis. He displays autistic tendencies, demonstrates speech Apraxia and fails to progress beyond parallel play. Oh, and he has feeding issues and probably won't touch the lunch you provide." Once, I said absolutely nothing at all. I half hoped they wouldn't call me to discuss my son and half hoped they WOULD call me which at the very least would show me they were worth their jellybeans and were equipped to recognize some substantial developmental delays when presented with them. They did call. After struggling for years through a pre-school environment that was getting us nowhere (along with the assistance of the 17 professionals) I mused one day that I'd probably get better results doing some of this myself. Indeed, all the tools I needed were staring me in the face and some of them were in my very own teacher-trained brain. I decided if the mountain wouldn't come to me, I'd start hiking. I turned to my colleagues for advice, and began developing programmes for my son's daycare aide (or 'shadow') that were based on the grade 1 curriculum to come. This collaboration has led to a point where my little boy is receiving the services he needs.
By the time Z entered school at the age of five, we had seen 17 professionals, including speech pathologists, psychologists and neurologists. We had paid thousands upon thousands of dollars in fees for these services and while each service was excellent, there was no cohesiveness between each therapy or treatment. Essentially, when Z finally received his diagnosis of autism and was placed in an appropriate classroom with the appropriate services, everything we had done prior to the placement was rendered virtually ineffective. We were at school, with qualified educators and specialists, but so much time had been lost on therapies and processes that simply hadn't functioned together to facilitate an effective transition to school. The lack of regulation in pre-school setting and services presents chaos for the child whose needs require, at their very core, consistency.What if we could have worked with someone from the get go who was qualified to understand the curriculum he'd face in school? What if we had been able to liase with qualified, experienced classroom teachers to help shape his early childhood curriculum so that it would reflect and enhance the school setting he'd face when he turned 5? How much time and stress could have been saved and avoided if everything we had done from the time Z was 3 had been developed with his future IEP in mind?
Z, for the record, is entering grade 2 in the fall. His language arts and math skills are at grate level, and he is doing both with 95% accuracy. He is getting dressed by himself - organising his back-pack, preparing his things for school, making sure his homework is done. He is well behaved at school and with caregivers. We've set up an outstanding network of service providers that includes speech- and occupational therapy, CLSC workers, behaviour therapy and extra-curricular activities - most importantly, all of these work together cohesively for Z's benefit. The development of this system has taken years - but we're there. Z's there, and he's thriving - beyond any expectations I could have ever hoped to have 3 years ago.