Monday, February 7, 2011


Not quite a week into my expedition. 12 pre-primary schools have been phoned. 6 schools have been visited. And what have I learnt?

Lesson 1: In this day and age there are still schools that really don't want kids with special needs. One school told me straight out that they can't accept Matt. Another principal was friendly and smiley until I mentiond "special needs" - her eyes narrowed and she started telling me that the school wouldn't suit Matt because the kids move classrooms alot? What did she mean by that I am not sure? And then she asked if I had heard of about a local special needs school, her message was clear. As she gave me the tour, I told her I didn't think the school was a good fit for Matt. Not because of the school, or the fact that the kids move classrooms alot - but because of her attitude.

It has been hard growing some "rhino hide" to stand strong in the face of people not understanding Matt, and not wanting to understand Matt. And I am coming to realise that they are the ones that are missing out the most.

Lesson 2: There is a difference between tolerance and acceptance. Most of the principals I spoke to were polite and open to discuss how they would include Matt in their school. Their main concern was that Matt's presence wouldn't disrupt the school, the other kids or the teacher - so much of their discussion was about how to ensure this. I thought that this was the best that I could expect, until I came across a remarkable principal. Mrs R seemed excited at the thought of having Matt at the school, she was eager to tell me how the staff would include him, she asked questions that showed me that she understood Matt - and that she really wanted him to flourish. Yes she did speak about how the needs of the other kids also need to be honoured, but she did so in a balanced way. I was moved to tears by the way she embraced Matt's presence at her school. I asked her about her accepting attitude. She explained to me that a number of years ago a mother of a boy with Down Syndrome had approached her to let him come to her school. This was a pioneering move at the time, but Mrs R did so because she couldn't deny any child education. The young boy made a deep impression on her, so much so that she went to do her honours in Special Needs Education. Her compassion and heart shown through her eyes as she told this story.

I thank God for people like Mrs R who are willing to let their hearts grow bigger. I thank God for children like this young boy who have paved the way for Matt. I hope to meet him one day, and his mother, and to thank them.


Debbie said...

Jacqui, my heart is so warmed to read this, I know the family you are referring to and it is very possible to meet them. I am so glad that despite the bad/negative experiences you have found someone who is understanding, embracing and excited.Hopefully we'll have time to chat more about it soon.
- Debbie

Bethany Kelly said...

I loved reading this blog.

We are looking at formal schooling options for Hudson at the moment too (for Jan 2012). I too am feeling overwhelmed and unsure as I consider the options.

Hudson has lots going for him - he understands so much! However, he has obvious things going against him - mainly his lack of focus, his poor fine motor skills, his lack of toileting / self care. As a complete package, he is not attractive to most mainstream schools. We desperately want him somewhere that his strengths are acknowledged and developed and that as a whole he is respected.

I know that our loving heavenly Father has a good plan for both our little RTS boys. I pray this is revealed as we both trust and wait and believe.

Bethany Kelly (Brisbane, Australia)

Sysser said...

It is exciting that there are excited, whole people like Mrs R, who embrases both atypical and typical kids. Hope it turns out that there are more pre-school leaders like that in your area.
Unfortunately it's hard work, physically and emotionally, to get behind the attractive window-dressing of the various pre-schools, but it will without doubt pay off.
One day, when you are ready to chose, you will be so much stronger, and based on what you learnt during this research, you will be able to chose the right pre-school for Matt.
I am so excited for you guys!! :)

Lisa said...

I am so interested in hearing your experiences in schooling with Matt. I am so grateful for people like Mrs R.
I seem to be developing a passion for inclusive education. At the moment,I am starting the exciting process of introducing a child with cerebral palsy to our Zithulele pre-school. Thankfully, the teacher is really excited about it. However, the mom is concerned about whether her son will get the assistance he needs (-probably has similar concerns to you). I am confident that he will be fine and the whole situation will be so beneficial to everyone involved - the mom, the teacher, the child and the other children who have so much to learn from him.
I am excited for you, hope you are too!

Lisa (OT at Zithulele)

Jacqui said...

@Bethany Kelly - thanks for your message. It is good to know we are not alone on our journey. One thing that I found to be helpful... is to change the way that I look at the whole process. It is easy to get so focused on what our kids can't do, and what a challenge they might pose to the school. However it can be so beneficial to the school community to include children who have special needs - if handled well it can - as it can develop appreciation of diversity, compassion and sensitivity in the other children. I am certain Hudson will bring something positive to the school that is open-minded enough to see. All the best with your search.

Jacqui said...

@Lisa - that is just so brilliant. I am so excited that you guys are making that happen. Let me know how he gets on - I would love to know. Also shout if there is a need for are any special educational resources that I could find and send your way.

Michele said...

Hi Jacqui

Would you mind sending me details of the school please? Our son needs just such a school too.

My email is

Thank you and take care