Granny Smith Apples

Granny Smith Apples

Friday, 1 February 2013

Beginnings

In every subculture of our society, there are unique facets and experiences you only learn the more you immerse yourself.  The special needs community is no exception.  After being actively involved in the special needs community for over 10 years as a teacher, I was exposed to the parental experience by a close friend looking for help with her 5 year old autistic son, Mark, and their preschool situation.  

Previous to this preschool, Mark had been attending an integrated preschool where he received ABA therapy and participated in a half day preschool class consisting of neurotypical children and children on the autism spectrum.  The adult to child ratio was also low.  He had succeeded in this environment but with kindergarten in the near future, my friend wanted to see if Mark could succeed with less formal assistance.  In September, Mark had started off at the new preschool well.  He followed the routines and participated in classroom activities fairly independently without a 1:1 shadow.  Periodically, there were reports of difficult behaviours but it seemed the preschool was able to cope.  After Christmas, it was a different story.  There were more reports of disruptive behaviour, difficulty following the routine and the need for one of the educators to be with Mark more than was actually possible.  At this point, my friend was told Mark would be unable to attend the preschool unless a shadow was present.  My friend was surprised at the seemingly sudden change of events and unsure of how to proceed.  After contacting her social worker, my friend found out she would be on her own.  As her daycare was a private daycare, there would be no subsidy provided for the shadow she was to hire.  On top of this, even if there was to be a subsidy there was little to no assistance from government services to find a shadow.  My friend was not only concerned about where to find a shadow and the costs to be incurred but also the quality of the shadow.  How would she know if the shadow was actually participating in teaching her child and not merely babysitting him through the routines?  My friend was unsure where to go in this situation and knowing I had experience with special needs children asked me to visit the preschool with Mark to see what the situation really was like.  It's not that she didn't trust the preschool educators.  She just needed an objective opinion regarding Mark's behaviours in the classroom.  After spending a morning in Mark's preschool classroom, I spoke to my friend and confirmed a shadow would be best.  I was also able to advise her on some strategies a shadow could employ with Mark to help him become more independent in the classroom.

This experience opened my eyes to see the difficulty parents of special needs children can have in navigating the system and getting the best educational outcome for their child.  Their desire to have the best for their child is thwarted by logistics, limitations and a lack of concrete guidance to see the overall picture.  I also saw how teachers can be limited in their abilities to help special needs students.  Training in education programs are minimal and teachers are often learning on the job.  I also saw the lack of co-ordination between government services and private services to provide aid to floundering parents.  It is my hope to help bridge these gaps.  

So look forward to reading posts about my teaching experiences, thoughts about special needs and how I adapted teaching strategies to best help my special needs students.  Links to relevant news aritcles and resources will also be provided.  I'll also be featuring personal stories from different persons influenced by people with special needs.

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