Sunday, 5 September 2010

Back to School...

Not just for the children but for me as well tomorrow - up bright and early and back into the old routine with a new little boy.

Getting back into the swing of things will be hard enough for me, an adult (reputedly!), but even tougher for children with Down's who have been enjoying the home routine for six glorious weeks. I think what my daughter found hardest of all was the getting ready first thing in the morning. It was particularly hard when she was old enough to go to junior school and along came the complications of school shirts and ties to get to grips with. Fine motor skills are a problem at the best of times without these added fiddly tasks.

My advice here is to have a little word with the school and see if it is OK for your child to wear polo shirts rather than fully buttoned cotton shirts, thus reducing the buttons to one or two. Also, if a tie is necessary, either show your child how to take the tie still tied over the head at the end of the day, ready to be put on and tightened the next morning, or try and buy/make one on elastic. It is just not fair to expect your child to be able to manage school uniform suddenly and to be dressed independently on time. With tuition and repetition, your child may well eventually be able to button a shirt and tie a tie, but it is not going to happen overnight and expecting them to do it can cause frustration and misery all round. Bear in mind that it is not only the getting dressed in the morning but the changing for PE, so if you can make the process as easy as possible, the better for your child. By the same token, try and get trousers or skirts that are easily fastened, no complicated belts or buckles.

In general, I have found that trying to chivvy any child with Down's into hurrying to get ready just doesn't work. All you succeed in doing is getting the child flustered and they will either get confused or, more likely, go even slower. Even now, with my daughter at 22 years old, I do try and give her plenty of warning if we have an early start to the day and also get her out of bed in plenty of time. This way she can get herself ready at her own pace, which is far less stressful. Once it is a learned routine, then all you have to do is be the one to get them up and out of bed.

Talking of which, I know that younger children with Down's often have restless nights with bouts of walking about the house in the dead of night. I used to have to leave folded duvets in strategic places so that my daughter would have somewhere to lay down and sleep again if she was on her travels and I didn't wake. She grew out of this by about 8 years old (thank goodness!). I have come across a couple of cases where the parents of children who have these disturbed nights then leave the child to sleep in in the morning. All well and good during the school holidays, but you are doing your child no favours during term time. For a start, you are not establishing a structured sleep pattern - I know from personal experience that if I sleep late in the morning, I am not ready to go to bed early that night by any means. Far better to wake the child at the correct time for school and then put them to bed at the regular time - hopefully they will be tired enough to then sleep through the night.

Also, by bringing your child in to school late (or not at all!) they are missing an integral part of the school day. The first twenty minutes or so are spent getting belongings put on pegs and in drawers, finding out what the coming day holds and taking part in morning tasks before the register. If your child is whizzed in half an hour late, with mum in a panic and putting the coat on the peg and the lunchbox away for the child whilst pushing them in to an activity that is already half way through, how are you teaching your child to cope with school? They will be confused as to what on earth is going on, they will be flustered, you have done jobs for them that they should be doing independently, and you will also be disrupting the learning of some 29 other children who did manage to arrive on time. Do I sound harsh? It's just that I have seen it from the side of the LSA who then has to try and salvage something from the wreckage after mum has left!

It does mean a bit of thought and extra work to begin with, but if the foundations are laid early, then there is no reason why your child should not be dressed and ready to go to school along with everyone else, relaxed and happy. Good luck for tomorrow!

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