Maura’s finally back in school. For about four weeks – then they’ll let out for the summer and start back again in September. They’re still arranging busing, so I’m commuting her via the train so she’d be able to start right away.
Maura had been doing inclusion in the States, mainly because that was the only option given to us. But it did work for her, even if it meant a jammed pack schedule. She spent part of her time in a regular classroom with an aide, and the other part either in a special ed room or with a therapist. The girl was all over that school, lol!
They do have inclusion here in Ireland, but right now it’s a little difficult to do if your a child with many needs as special needs assistants (or as we called them, aides) are a shortage. Most SNA’s here seem to be working with two or three kids. And while one school was more than willing to take her, they couldn’t because they didn’t have a spare aide to devote just to Maura. It would be the same story everywhere, as SNA’s are usually handed out in the beginning of the school year and the budgets have been cut, so schools are actually losing SNA’s, not gaining them.
Our other option was a special school. I called around different places, talked to different schools. It seemed most of our alternatives dealt with behavioral issues more than developmental ones. Let’s be honest – Maura doesn’t need to be in a class full of kids with behavioral issues. So we finally took a look at the special school for kids with moderate disabilities.
To be honest, my first instinct was “MY daughter doesn’t belong there!” We did visit, met everyone, started the process of enrolling her mainly because we had run out of options. Then I met the social worker, who was quite nice and listened to concerns I had about Maura being in a special school. Then we met with the psychologist, who came to assess Maura, and she was even more assuring. Honestly, after her visit, I re-thought my stance on the school.
Part of the change was their attitude towards life skills. Let’s face it – Maura’s a bright little girl, but academics aren’t her strong point. At the special school, while they do some academics, they really focus on life skills. They were surprised I hadn’t gotten more help with potty training Maura. (Please note – her old staff were amazing, love them all still. They were referring to people being sent to my house to help out. Which I might have actually laughed when they asked about that. And respite care. I’m still giggling over that.)
The other thing that helped sway me to this option is that they take the kids swimming every week. Maura LOVES water. LOVES it. Her knowing how to swim would be such a relief to us. Not that we’d ever let her swim on her own (hello, seizures!) But if she should happen to fall in when we aren’t right there and can keep herself afloat? That would be a good thing.
So yesterday, Maura started at the special school. She impressed everyone when she blew me a kiss and said “Bye!” without a second thought. When I picked her up, they were even more impressed because she had a great day, no problems, adjusted instantly to the settings, and didn’t bat an eye when another student had a meltdown. She met me babbling about trains and class and cake! Yes, they made a cake and she had a piece to bring home.
Today was more of the same. The SNA who brought her out was actually impressed with how much language Maura was using that day. Of course, when she saw me, Maura was SO excited, she was saying “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!”, which cracked me up because she never calls me “Mommy”, usually just “Mom”. They had another exciting day today as the fire brigade came for a visit and let the kids try out the hose. The SNA told me that the other kids had to be shown how to pull the lever back to turn on the hose, but Maura knew instantly what to do.
On Fridays, they go for a walk to the shops, so I’m to send two euros with Maura so she can buy something. They’re going to find out that Maura already has some mad shopping skills. She’s had years of training at our old coffee shop.
Meanwhile, the girl is worn out! We walk to the train, ride the train, then walk from the train to the school. Then it’s five hours of school and a return trip. Today I found her in her room…she fell asleep while sitting up. Of course, this is after she took my eye cream and eye shadow brush and painted her bedroom wall…sigh…