Friday, September 9, 2011

The influence of a school.

When J-man was in Primary school he went to the public school nearby. His primary school years were grim. His school really didn't do much to support him or us to get him through.
We completed pages of assessments, took him to many many specialist appointments, had squillions of recommendations made.. and yet the school he attended did not even bother to read those reports, or to implement any of the recommendations.
The only thing they did attempt was to convince us as parents that it would be more convenient beneficial for J-man to be drugged daily.
Unfortunately, we were so busily focused on just getting through each day that we really didn't explore moving J-man to another school. I guess this was because the focus had always been J-mans problems. His issues. Never did anyone say "Well the school isn't really stepping up here either".
Looking back, the school principal would actually turn and walk quickly away when he saw me coming. At one meeting he told me he really didn't care what the plans for next year were as he was retiring then anyway. Teachers covered their arses and said they" didn't realise there was a 9 inch thick folder all about J-man". At the time there was no funding for J-man and without funding they simply were not inspired or required to do anything out of the box.
At the end of Grade 6, when J-man had been accepted to a small Catholic high school, we decided to explore Catholic primary schools for our daughters so that when high school came the transition might be smoother for them.
I rang a school and asked for some time with the Principal. I didn't tell him anything about our children or J-mans troubles as I was fairly non-commital but just asked for a general tour. He agreed and within 5 minutes I was on my way.
Here's how my eyes were opened.
He greeted me at the door and remembered my name.
He introduced me to the office staff.
We were about to enter a classroom when he turned to me and said "Now in this class is a little girl with Aspergers syndrome. She just likes to know who is coming in and out of our school. She's our little policeman."
With that he opened the door and straight away a little dot of a girl came over and shook his hand. Then she stood there, holding his hand while he solemnly introduced me!! She shook my hand and skipped back to her desk.
He didn't roll his eyes. He didn't make her feel silly. He spoke to her with respect and acted as if she had every right to be introduced to me.
My heart slowed down and I felt myself relaxing.
In the Prep building sixth grade kids were sitting with little preppies making Santa hats. There was lots of laughter. The teachers were trying on hats and laughing.
It was so very different to the school experience we had so far.
We couldn't get our girls in there fast enough.
I wonder how different things could have been if J-man had been at this type of school.
Certainly since that change 7 years ago, as I've watched my girls, including little miss 8 move through this new school system, the schools' open and welcoming attitude for ALL children has made all the difference .


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