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, 8 June 2010


I had a decision to make, and it wasn't easy.

Boo Boo is turning five next year which means she is eligible to go school next year. She doesn't quite have to - it's all to do with the NSW legal age at which you have to start and when her birthday falls, I won't bore you with it. And he question is, is she ready?

I really have the sense that she's a bright little button and another year of preschool might not challenge her enough, but I wasn't entirely sure that big school was the right thing either. So, what to do?

In NSW we have a parallel school system for kids with special needs. And the rules there are a bit different. Due to the special needs of kids with disabilities, they are allowed to start school a year earlier, in what is then called a transition year. Speical schools tend to be small, have smaller classes and have a high student- staff ratio.

BooBoo is currently enrolled at a preschool program at a special needs school for children with physical disabilities and medical conditions (which is fully set- up for a cheecky four year old power chair driver). It's a wonderful place and I am more than happy with it - in fact I can highly recommend it.

But now, what next?

Parenting is an interesting journey. You start with certain ideals and as you travel along the road you find yourself adjusting to your childrens personalities and needs.

So despite my strong belief in inclusion I found myself In the school office of fhe special needs school enrolling BooBoo. And now I am desperately hoping that she will get accepted.


This is what I'm thinking.

Another year of preschool will not be stimulating enough for her. She's not ready for kindy at a mainstream school. So if all goes according to plan, she will go to kindy at the special school next year. Which means 5 days a week, in a class of about 6 kids and two teachers (and it's free, which is a nice bonus). And if she gets accepted, we may get the last school term at preschool free too as it would qualify as the special needs early transition to school thingy.

After her year of kindy at the special school, she will then re-do kindy at the mainstream school her brothers attend. She will then already have had a head-start on the academic side of things, and will be able to free up some brain space for the all important social interaction and getting used to being in a very different environment. And nowadays there is plenty of flexibility in the system. If we feel she would benefit from another year at the special school, then we can do that too (and go to Year One in the mainstream school).

Does this mean that I no longer believe in inclusion? No, not at all.

But it does mean that I have learned to leave my ideology at the door when it comes go doing what's best for my children. Inclusion is the ultimate aim. I want my daughter to get an education so that she can be fully included into society. What I have learned is that different kids have different needs, and as a parent I need to do what's right for her at any given time.

I admit, I walked out of the school office with tears in my eyes. I never thought that I would one day enroll my child at a special school. And not only that, actively hope she gets a place.

Parenting is an interesting journey!


Susan, Mum to Molly said...

Thanks for outlining the thought process for me/us Heike.

It makes a lot of sense, and should set her up well for a positive and successful school experience...

I can see why you made the decision(s) you did.

But I also know why there were tears.

Hugs, Susan

Fiona said...

I think it's good you don't confuse the journey with the destination. Your goal is an ordinary inclusive life for Boo Boo. It's up to you as a family to decide the best way to get there. I also am pro-inclusion/mainstream for Mr S, despite the agony :) However I think the debate has to mature in Australia. I think we have to recognise that special ed is a tool or resource, not a permanent location. We need to strategically use special ed resources if and when our kids need them. There should be no stigma from pro special ed or pro-mainstream. And like every other family, it should be your right to choose the school/s that best meet the individual needs of your children.