Monday, February 28, 2011

School Musings

I have been thinking about school options for Ashlea next year.

Yes, the egg photo is relevant!

School is going really well for Emma this year. She has two lovely teachers - including one who is passionate about all things green. Emma's class is responsible for taking care of the school's rabbit, chickens and vegie garden. So far Emma has brought home a zucchini, some eggs and some figs for good behaviour.

Suffice it to say that I am happy with the school and would like Ashlea to attend there too.

There is a dilemma though. The school has a support unit for children with a disability. Do I apply for a place in the unit? Or do I apply for a mainstream placing???

At the moment I am leaning towards applying for a position in the unit for the following reaons:

  • I don't believe Ashlea will get enough aide time in mainstream school. Does anyone have a child in mainstream that has an aide for EVERY minute of the day???
  • I think the smaller class sizes will help her (8 children and 2 teachers)
  • I want the close supervision of the unit - especially after transplant. I want to know she is being closely watched as she will be very medically vulnerable to begin with
  • Ashlea has many physical issues that can be dealt with in the unit - tube feeding, not toilet trained etc
  • Ashlea also still has a lot of sensory issues that result in screaming meltdowns during group time at preschool.  I imagine this would be VERY disruptive in a regular classsroom!
  • The unit also has phsyio, speech and OT on site so the children can do their therapy as part of their school program

My concerns with the unit are:
  • What if the other children aren't very verbal?  Ashlea really benefits from being around talkers.  Although I do believe this can be overcome by having Ashlea in some mainstream classes such as reading and maths
  • Even though they call it integration, really, it isn't

PLEASE leave me your opinions about schooling and what has worked for you and your child.

Remember that not only does Ashlea have a physical disability (CP), she also has an intellectual impairment, a visual impairment AND a medical condition.

At the moment I am leaning towards applying for a position in the support unit.  I just don't trust that she would be given enough support in mainstream.  And seriously, I don't know if I have the fight in me to alwyas be on the school's back making sure they are providing for Ashlea's needs.


Sarah said...

Hmm, well you know our experience with Violet thus far! I really agree that they will not be able to provide enough funding support for mainstream class.

I know some may not agree with me but personally if Violet's needs were higher I would have defintely applied for the support unit, knowing she would be in a smaller class and all her needs being met.

Do the support unit at Emma's school go into the main play area of school on recess/lunch etc? Just thinking that would be a good way for Ashlea to still get her verbal side of things for at least a bit of the day?

So very hard knowing what the best thing is to do...

Missy said...

I really cant help with your questions as we are only in kindy and dont have the added issues that Ashlea has. MM only has a physical disability, so she will also remain in mainstream.

I guess your reasons towards applying to the unit outweigh your reasons not to. At our school our ed support unit kids alo participate in mainstream classes and the kids in the "main" school also head over to the unit as well to participate in activities.

I guess you need to think about what is really "best" for Ashlea in the BIG picture and go with that.

Good luck on your tough decision.

p.s Can you do one year of the unit and opt out if you dont feel like it meets her needs?

Alison said...

Missy - yes at the end of every year there is a review. So at this stage I am thinking for her first year at least of applying for a place in the unit. Once she has recovered from transplant and I've had a chance to see how things REALLY work we can rethink.

I know I can always apply for a mainstream position for her. I just don't know if that is what is best.

Anonymous said...

I've had an experience in a SEN unit attached to a school; The children got the help they deserved in terms of care, and academic help etc. But they also got to integrate a large amount with the rest of the school for lunch, playtimes and assemblies. After the children have got used to the unit they go into mainstream classes in the afternoons for playtime - and eventually also for some academic lessons with the support of a TA.

Children got alot more oppurtunities in terms of learning experiences etc

I'm not sure if this will help? but as a teaching student the best way to gain increased 24/7 support in mainstream school is to begin in the unit - if only for the the first year.

Hope this helps :)

Big brother, Little sister. said...

Hi Alison,
I think after everything you have written that you feel more comfortable and secure knowing that Ashlea would be in the Spec Ed unit at least for the first year.
but the only thing that really stands out is the lack of opportunity to communicate and socialise within a mainstream setting.
Is there the opportunity for AShlea to attend some mainstream classes- say like music for example? or even one full day? it's just about looking at Ashlea over time and seeing what is best for her and hope that the school is flexible in that too.
In Vic Cooper gets full time aide assistance so that is someone there all the time if/when it's needed. It is rather simple though as there are no medical issues and Cooper is continent.
I think it's perfect having the unit within the school so that the 3 girls can attend school together too x
good luck.

Susan, Mum to Molly said...

Apologies for not answering this when you asked before Alison...

Molly has an aide with her every minute of every day in mainstream school - and currently two aides for toileting (= nappy changes).

But our school has no support unit. I can see your dilemma...

Go with your gut Alison. One thing I have learnt is that you should always trust your instinct.

And remember - whatever decision you make, you can always unmake it if & when it no longer feels right.

Take care, Susan x

Rosalie said...

Is special school an option, or is that what it is???

In Deana's class most kids are verbal so thats not an issue.

I do think it's the right way to go and in your situation i would do the same. We have a full time aid for Deana's class of 8 children.

ferfischer said...

I kind of agree with your leanings, I think *I* would be more comfortable with the extra things the unit would provide. Cici is actually going to go to a whole spec ed school, since no other school has the nursing care she will need, and her needs are pretty big. After the first year, you can see how it goes right? Probably you can even change mid-year, don't you think?

n0thingbuteverything said...

Have you ventured into the Support Unit? If not, maybe that is your best port of call. Make an appointment to go in there, meet with the teachers and staff, watch the students at work. That will give you the very best idea if it's a setting that will work well for Ashlea. Even better if you can meet some of the parents of the kids in the Unit and see how happy they are.
Take a load of questions with you. I like Bron's idea about her having some time in the mainstream classes, that could be one of the questions you ask.
Also, could be worth asking the question about what happens if she starts in one setting and then you want to change? If that's an option then you don't need to stress about getting the decision 'wrong' because you can make a change.