Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Matt starts school!

Today was Matt's first day at his playschool. He will be going twice a week for 3 and half hours in the morning. I was quite emotional about it - not because I have any concern about him going, but rather because it is a significant milestone. Matt's world is expanding beyond my care, my guidance, and my intervention. Up until now I have always been in the background as he explores new people and places. I try to let him have his freedom, but I am always watching for the moment when I need to partner him in engaging the world - whether it be to explain something new to him, or to help others understand his signs.
School is now his place...where he has to find ways to communicate, to contribute, to build friendship...all without me. And that is really good. I know he is ready. So my heart is at peace, but my heart was still sitting in my throat as I left him this morning - in recognition of the significance of it all.
When I fetched him I was told that Matt had not been upset, but rather had enjoyed exploring and watching and also choosing to engage where he felt comfortable. His teacher was positive about Matt's experience and felt that Matt was able to make himself understood.

Here is a photo we took just before we were about to leave this morning. I am not sure how much of the idea of school Matt understood at this stage, but he sensed it was a special day (and he really liked wearing his backpack).

Finding this playschool has been a real answer to many prayers. In South Africa there are no state run early intervention programmes for kids with special needs. In our city there are only one or two preschools that cater specifically for kids with special needs. I have been unsure about whether these are even the right place for Matt. I think I spent most of last year with this knot of anxiety as to what steps we would take in terms of Matt and formal education.
This year two unrelated people recommended this playschool for different reasons. I was told the classes are small, the teacher, Debbie, is a Christian, is very gentle and focusses on each child as an individual. What's more she used to teach at a school for kids with autism so she is familiar with signing and using pictures to communicate with non-verbal kiddies. When I contacted Debbie, she shared how she had recently come across our blog, and so was familiar with Matt and me. How amazing is that!?! And she would be delighted to have Matt in her playschool. Matt and I popped in for a visit and I knew immediately that it would be a good fit, especially because Matt was so comfortable in the environment. We made a video of Matt and Lloyd making Matt's signs so that she could familiarise herself before Matt started.
I am so thankful that God cares about every detail of Matt's life and that I can trust him with all the other uncetainties and unknowns that lay ahead in Matt's future. I am so proud of Matt and the person that he is. I look forward to see how he is going to grow in response to this new environment, and I look forward to see what impact he is going to have on this same environment. I have no doubt there will be mutual benefit!

Friday, July 2, 2010


One of Matt's favourite activity of the week has been his swimming lessons. He starts squealing with delight when he sees me with his swimming costume, and starts signing "swim" over and over. In the car on the way to the lesson he loves practicing his blowing and swimming arm movements.

The lessons are held in a lovely indoor, heated pool so we have been able to keep going despite the onset of winter. This week was the last lesson of the season, and fortunately Lloyd was able to take some time out of work to join us. Thus freeing me up to take some photos.

Usually there are more kids but this time the others were absent so Matt had all the attention from teacher Laurelle. During the session the temperature outside the pool room dropped as the rain came down resulting in lots of steam inside - taking photos became a challenge but you can still see what Matt is up to desite the fog.

The kids get to play on a shallow step for the first part of the lesson - learning to walk in the water and reach down to find all the fun toys that are on the step.

All the activities are done to music and song which really appeals to Matt. Through the song actions the kids learn basic swimming strokes.

Matt and dad blowing bubbles

Through more songs Matt learns to hold on to the edge and also more blowing.

This sequence of photos shows Lloyd about to submerge Matt under the water and Matt coming up reaching for the fish toy on the side of the pool. Matt is very comfortable with being underwater, and has learnt to hold his breathe.

Matt loves the funky toys that are used to motivate him to move along the side of the pool. Here he has used his hands to "monkey walk" from Laurelle to Lloyd - to get the toys.

The pool noodle helps Matt to float a bit more independently and encourages him to kick to move forward. Here he has fun collecting the balls and depositing them in the basket.
Matt's swimming will be put on hold a little bit as his little brother or sister is likely to be born when his lessons are due to start again in September. But as soon as I am well enough to take him again, we will be back in the pool. It is such a joy to watch in the water, we would hate to deprive him of this pleasure for too long.