Tuesday, February 1, 2011

An expedition begins

I wish I had a travel guide to Holland - not the real country, but the one written about in the poem where Holland is a metaphor for raising a child who has special needs.
We have reached the point where we need to find a preschool for Matt for next year; and also need to start thinking about school for the year after that. Part of me wishes Matt could just stay in his little playgroup forever - he is just so happy and comfortable there. He is understood and liked for who he is. But I know that he is growing up, and with that means finding the next educational step for him.
Last week I met with an educational psychologist who will be an important resource in terms of helping us understand Matt's capacity- will he cope in mainstream with support, or in a remedial school or is a special needs school better for him?
The educational psychologist is definitely a "tourist guide" in this unknown land of Holland, but we still have to do the leg work; there is still so much uncharted territory; and there are no guarantees or definites. There are no specific preschools who cater for kids with special needs so we just have to visit all of them in our area to see which one might work for Matt. It feels like a tricky task - trying to discern how Matt would fit in the school. Trying to read between the lines as to the real attitudes of the principals and teachers towards kids with special needs.
Today I stood in a classroom as a principal was giving me a tour of the preschool. She was telling me about how the teachers interact wtih the children, and explaining their philosophy around education. Half listening to her, I was battling my own doubts. I couldn't imagine Matt in a class with 20 other kids - I was scared he would disappear in the background. I wondered if he would be able to make himself understood. I was fighting fears of him being teased by other kids, or under-estimated by the teacher. She showed me the toilet facilities, and I wondered if Matt will be toilet trained by then.
I left wondering how on earth I would be able to make a decision about which school would be best for Matt. There are just so many unknown variables. The psychologist wants to wait before he does an official assessment of Matt, because he says so much can change in a year. I wonder what Matt will be like in a year? How do I make a decision today about next year?
Over the next two weeks I will be visiting a handful of preschools to see what they have to offer, to carefully watch the facial expressions of the princial as I mention that my child has special needs. I am praying for wisdom and discernment beyond my natural ability.
In 2003 my husband and myself, along with some close friends, undertook a 4 month overland travel through south and east africa. We headed off into the sunset with two sketchy guidebooks, relying heavily on information from the locals as we got to the different places. Not stressing too much about where we might be in a few weeks, rather we enjoyed the adventure and exploration of the unkown. That is the kind of attitude I am needing as I start this expedition.

3 comments:

Cindy said...

Great analogy, Jacqui! You know we're going through a similarly difficult decision process. I just want to encourage you that Matt's first year of school will be eye opening and life changing for him...I only see him blossoming!

Nicky said...

Hey Jacqui - thinking of you as you throw yourself into THIS expedition :) In my opinion, it would be humanly impossible to more thoroughly research and investigate your options than what you are already doing...so when you do make that final decision, it will be most carefully considered. You have such a strong intuition about your boys that I am certain when you do find the "right" school...you will instinctively JUST KNOW IT! Hugs xxx

Kristi said...

I'm praying for you. This is hard. I know when I was looking for the right preschool for Noah it was extremely difficult for me. But as Nicky said when I found the right school for Noah I knew it right away. I'm sure that is what will happen for you. Noah has developed so much since starting school this past August. It's truly amazing. And this will be what you will see with Matt.