Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Is it wrong to want more?

That's the question that's running through my mind a broken record. Is it wrong to want more? Not for me, for Ayla. Which I guess is for me too.

I've been feeling a little hesitant lately about everything to do with Ayla. I guess she's just coming to that age where I have to make decisions about her future and decide what is best for her. The ironic thing is that I had already done all of this. In Queensland, I knew we had Ayla in all the right places and that the school we had chosen for her was the right place too. Don't get me wrong.....I am really liking Canberra a lot and although I am missing friends, I am very happy to be here. I'm just not happy with the choices that we have for schooling.

In Queensland, Ayla was attending Xavier Special Ed which is the only Conductive Education institution in Queensland and only 1 of 3 in the country. The kids were worked from the time they stepped into the classroom until the time they left for the day. They had playtime but it was always very structured and incorporated into a task. Ayla learnt that although her body had limitations, she could work with them to achieve the outcomes that she wanted. From 9 months of age, Xavier was teaching Ayla how to roll onto her stomach and flip her legs over the side of a table or couch in order to get down safely. It's taken a long time (she's 5 now), but we watched her do this for herself just the other day.

Today we visited a Specialist School here in Canberra and joined in with their 'programme' for the day and I have to say that I am disappointed that my suspicions seem to be correct. From my observations today, their 'programme' seems to be nothing more than moving from one sensory experience station to the next. Before anyone shoots me down.....I know that this is just what some children need. I watched a little one today go from having her eyes pretty much closed and not taking part to being wide awake and excited when they took her into the sensory room. The room is full of pretty lights, soft relaxing music, bean bags etc. But this is ISN'T what Ayla needs. Yes, she was happy to sit in the bean bag and play with a toy....but she can do that at home! I have always had a suspicion that Special Schools tend to cater for the children who have the greatest disability. And that's great....that way those kids aren't left behind. But it doesn't have to be that way and Xavier proved that to us. Here's an example....

At Xavier, there were a few kids with some very major disabilities. These kids literally struggled to do anything for themselves at all, not even holding their own toy. But these kids were brought into exactly the same programme as Ayla. Yes, they needed more help but they were worked just as hard and encouraged to always move forward in their achievements.....and believe me they achieved. They knew right from left, if they were asked to bend their right leg they gave it a red hot go and you could see it. If they were asked to raise their head, they did their best with that too. They were helped to 'step' between work stations and were expected to take part in hand tasks too. Those kids were worked and they learnt how to use their bodies to the best of their abilities.

At the school we visited today (and we visited previously too), there was none of this. On a previous visit, those children with the most severe of disabilities were to be found lying quietly on a bed with teachers and teacher aides passing by. Not good enough. Today, Ayla and I arrived after everyone had already settled (about 45 mins into the programme). When we arrived, the kids were 'finger painting' on the table with a non-toxic paint. It looked promising because it was an activity they used at Xavier as a hand task too, but the similarities ended there. At morning circle they welcomed all the kids and they had to find their name and put it on the board. They sang one song (count them.....1!) and then moved down to the gym/sensory room. The gym is awesome! There are 2 trampolines, big supersoft fall mats, rope swings, wall ladders, slides....fantastic!!!! And completely under-utilised with this group! Far out, if Xavier had this equipment they would have thought all their Christmases had come at once and every single piece of equipment would be used for the benefit of ALL the kids. Ayla and I had a little play on the trampoline and then were asked to join some others in the sensory room. Nice but boring. And it was at this stage that I had to work really hard to keep the tears from coming and remain polite to everyone. Then it was back to the classroom for lunch time and outside play. Lunch time....the kids were just fed and some of the teacher's went off for a break. I'm not knocking the break but at Xavier....all hands were on deck to help the children with feeding and learning to feed themselves. Outside play, the more able bodied kids played on swings and bikes and the least able-bodied we wheeled to a spot in the yard to watch the other kids play. Not good enough!

I know at this age, it's all about play. That was constantly repeated to me all day. But with kids, work is play! The kids at Xavier played....but it was structured play and they loved it. Come on People!!!! This is supposed to be EARLY INTERVENTION!!!! I'm sorry, I'm just not seeing it.

So again I ask.....Is it wrong for me to want more??? I know the answer is NO. But where do I go from here? This school would be perfect if I was looking for somewhere to 'put' Ayla....but I want more. I want Xavier and I can't have it. Lots of people recommend just having Ayla in mainstream schooling....but she needs more than that too. She deserves more.....I just don't know how to give it to her.


S said...

are there any little groups that have gathered to the side...the others (there must be others) that want more too?

Melissa Luxmoore said...

Sadly no. They are all really happy but I suspect that its because they haven't experienced any better. I must say though, that one of the aides said to me out of earshot, that she felt that they didn't do enough either....but it was said with a shrug and a giggle. I think she has guilt that they should do more but is kinda happy that she doesn't have to.

Fiona said...

Oh Melissa ... no it's not good enough for Ayla or the other kids. I hate the way education in this situation seems little more than child minding. Can you discreetly talk with other parents? Are there alternatives like Montessori or viable home school programs? Keep posting. xxx

Narelle said...

I've just found your blog! I'm so sorry you are experiencing trouble with finding an appropriate school for your daughter, it's a tough thing! I'm actually a special ed teacher and worked at a school that uses conductive ed prior to having my kids (still do occasionally actually!) In my experience, there is nothing quite like a school that uses CE. I've worked at other schools too and am always disappointed at how little they do. Unfortunately CE schools are few and far between, I really feel for you!

Izzy said...

Hello Melissa,

I am also having the same dilemma. In special ed schools, they did not want to over-stimulate the kids. But in mainstream schools, even though it is perfect for activities and socializing, the kids wont be able to receive one-to-one attention.

I feel you, its normal for us to want something more for our kids. However, remember, it is not advisable too keep changing schools and environment for Alya. Hang in there.