What is it about?

The rollercoaster adventures of parenting three kids, dealing with disability and mental health - and discussing disability discrimination and how to tackle it.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009


Yes, you are all waiting to hear how it went. So here goes...

Unlike with Beaver, we chose to send Boo Boo to a special school. The local preschool was quite happy to take her, but it would be at least another year until they had a spot for her. Also, they were rather nervous about her power chair. What if she drives over some other kids' toes and breaks one? They would have to get a full time aide for her, and that costs loads of extra money and in my eyes separates Boo Boo from the other kids, who don't have an adult tailing them the whole time. Arranounbai Special School for Children with Physical Disabilities and Medical Conditions is a purpose built school, fully wheelchair accessible, and with staff trained for various medical emergencies (the school has its own defibrillator, will you believe it) and used to a wide range of disabilities and special needs. Not only that, their preschool program runs a reverse integration which means that they also accept "normal" kids. The idea is that the disabled kids learn from the others and in turn they learn to accept disability as normal. Pretty good eh? Staff are happy for Boo Boo to bring her power chair, and the small class sizes and high teacher-staff ratios mean that Boo Boo does not need an aide, but also won't get lost in the crowd. And as luck has it, there are twins in her year (a boy in her class and his sister in the other class) who will go on to Primary School with her. How good is that?

Anyway, Boo Boo was dead keen to go. She was very disappointed to go a week later (we had to wait until she was no longer contagious with the whooping cough) and very excited on the morning. She knew "mamma would go bye bye", and then she would play until "mamma would come hi". That was ok - until the moment that mamma did indeed go "bye bye" and little Boo Boo dissolved into bitter tears. I just walked out without looking back and drove straight home. Boy, I'd forgotten how hard this is! The whole day I was on edge - and I kept hearing her in the babyphone, or so my brain would have me believe. When I went to pick her up that afternoon, I could hear her at the end of the corridor. She had driven her wheelchair up to the tray with red paint, and was alternating between crying and wanting to have a go with the paint. The relief on her face when she saw me was both sweet and painful at the same time. Staff told me she had only cried half the day and had some moments of fun - and the laptop with pictures of the day confirmed that! They were very impressed with her ability to communicate and thought she seemed like a bright little girl. We went home, utterly exhausted. She had red rings around her eyes from crying, and I was a nervous wreck.

The next day, hubby had taken a day off. The plan was for us to go for a bush walk, then have a nice lunch and pick up the kids together. Well, best laid plans...

The boys were not too happy at school drop-off. Beaver simply did not want to go. There have been some minor changes recently, and he doesn't like that. Also, the thought that Daddy had a day off did not sit well with him. Possum has come down with a cold, and was trying to convince us he had to stay at home - until he saw his friends, and off he ran. At preschool, Boo Boo wanted to show Daddy her room, and the sandpit and the water play. And then when we left, she burst into tears again of course!

Hubby and I had just got to the beach for breakfast when the phone rang. School. A tearful Beaver on the phone, and a teacher who did not know what else to do with him. So back in the car we went to pick up the boy. Hubby spend the rest of the day with him, tidying up the house and doing some shopping while I painted the gutters above the deck until it was time to pick up Boo Boo and Possum. Not quite the day off we had in mind!

Possum had a fine day at school, and really, so had Boo Boo. There had been a few tears, but all in all she played well that day. At one point she played in the toy kitchen making teas with James and Patrick and according to her teachers, she thoroughly enjoyed the attention of the two boys. That bodes well for the future when she hits her teens!

I am sure there will be tears again this week. But I am also sure that in a few weeks time, she'll be happy to go, happy to wave me bye bye.


Katie said...


Now, in adult life if you have a *good* Aide / PA / Facillitator / Whoever, they anticipate your needs and know when to hang back but are alert to you calling them in for assistance, so having one does the opposite of set you apart. I love having PAs as an adult.

However, my experience of using aides in school was quite isolating, 'cos they all thought they were in charge of me and it was a nightmare having an authority figure breathing down my neck the whole time... I'd hope that in the intervening few decades they now train classroom aides for disabled students better, but I can appreciate your doubts.

Sounds like you've reached a good compromise. Be interesting to see how the reverse integration thing pans out. There's a few schools do it in Britain and it seems like a positive step.


fabig said...

Oh, ja ik denk ook dat het na een week of twee allemaal in order komt met BoBoo. Meer zorgen zijn er dan weer omtrent beaver. Hij kan nog niet de kleinste verandering aanvaarden. Hopen, dat ook zijn klein zieltje sterker word.
Jammer natuurlijk voor jullie day off.One day it will be all fine!!!!!

Cindi said...

A typical first week at preschool. Harder on the Mama I think. I went through it twice and both times it broke my heart even though the second time I knew that they settled in after I left. Anytime Dad stays home it sounds like an adventure and they want to stay home. We learned not to let our boys know and then surprise them when Dad picked them up from school.

Katie said...

You've probably seen this, and yours are probably a little too young for it at present, but in case it's of interest:


Dianne said...

How lovely that it went well! I love the modern technology - ie laptop, digi cameras that can let you have a bit of a fly on the wall insight into the day!

I hope Beaver has settled more into school for the year and that there's no more tears for Boo Boo xo