Thursday, September 6, 2012

Ben and school - Part 1

(As I was writing this post, it got really long!  But I don't want to leave anything I'm going to split it in 3 parts (I think)).  Here is part 1.)

As I said in my last post, Ben and Daniel start kindergarten tomorrow.  And as most of you already know, Ben has CP and some gross motor challenges that make going to school a little different than it is for his typically-developing brother.

It's been an interesting process working with the school in the year leading up to today.  In our school district in New Brunswick, Canada, kindergarten registration for public school occurs in October of the year preceding the start of kindergarten.  Once a child is registered, there are a few events during the year to get the family and the child ready for school.

In early November, there was a parent information night.  I mostly found this night to be waste of least for us.  The focus was on what a typical 4-year-old should be able to do.  Because both of my kids have been evaulated "to death", we pretty much know what a typical child should be doing at 4-years-old.  However, I do believe that many parents have no idea so this information was likely quite helpful to them.  The point was for the parents to identify where their child might be lagging behind and then of course, work on this area in the next 10 months before school started.

After this meeting, I introduced myself (and my other half) to the school's principal and explained our situation.  She assured me that Ben would be assigned an Educational Aide at school based on what I said, but invited me to schedule a meeting with herself as well as the resource teacher, if I wanted one.  Of course, I took her up on her offer.

That meeting happened the next week.  I believe that both the principal and vice-principal attended as well as the resource teacher.  They gave me a tour of the school and we just talked about Ben and how the process would work.  It was a pretty simple meeting but I left feeling pretty good about the school and the people that work there.

In late November, Ben and Daniel both attended a 1-hour "intro to kindergarten" at the school.  This was open to all kids that had registered.  It was held later in the afternoon (after the "real" kindergarten kids had gone home) in the kindergarten classrooms.  Parents stayed in the classroom with their child(ren) and the kids got an intro to what kindergarten might be like.  The teacher read a story and then they moved through three different work stations (tables) and did a different activity at each one.

Over the winter months, all kids registered for kindergarten undergo a half-hour assessment.  This assessment looks at their cognitive, social as well as fine and gross motor skills.  After the assessment, the parent gets mailed a report card on how they did.  Basically, the child is given "red", "yellow" or "green" for each area.  Green means go - the child was assessed as age-appropriate for this area.  Yellow means "needs attention"- perhaps the parent should spend some time working on this with the child,  and Red means "needs help" - as in perhaps you should seek professional help such as an occupational therapist.

Ben got all greens except for gross motor which was basically "not assessed". And Daniel got all greens except for a yellow in fine motor (which was not unexpected).  To be honest, I was absolutely thrilled with Ben's assessment.

In June, all children registered for kindergarten attend another kindergarten try-out.  However, this time, the children stay behind in the classroom with the teacher while the parents have an information session elsewhere in the school.

In anticipation of that try-out, I called the school to schedule a meeting to talk in more detail of how school will work for Ben.  We had our meeting the week before this try-out.  This time, I attended along with the principal, the vice-principal, the resource teacher, a kindergarten teacher (it turns outs she is their real teacher for this year), and Ben's private physiotherapist.  I also brought the boys along as well as their babysitter as I wanted them to see Ben and what he could do. 

The real point of this meeting was to have them prepared to deal with Ben for the try-out session.  We talked about Ben's gross motor skills, the seating arrangements, playing on the playground as well as toileting. 

Our babysitter and the kids left after I felt that they had seen enough of what Ben could do.  Then we talked in more detail about Ben's abilities and challenges. 

Overall, it was a very informal meeting.  No forms were filled out and no papers were signed.  Again, I was reassured that Ben would have an aide for kindergarten.  It seemed very strange to me that there is no formal "IEP" process that I keep reading and hearing about from everyone else in the states and even in other parts of Canada.  However, Ben's PT has attended lots of these types of meetings in the past and she thought the meeting went great.  She thought the people were great and that they asked really good questions.

At the end of the meeting, I was told to call the school the week before school starts to have one last meeting and hopefully meet the aide that would be assigned to Ben.

The try-out occured the next week and it went really well.  Both boys enjoyed it and there were no issues whatsoever.  I should point out at this stage that we are keeping the boys in the same class at kindergarten.  I'll likely do a post on why we chose this another time.

So that was it for the preparation year.

To be continued in part 2...