Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Enough Already!

I am wondering why the press have had quite a few stories recently about how awful life is when your child has Down's.  Today's contribution by the Daily Mail has an interview with a woman who wishes every day that she had aborted her son.  While I completely understand why she feels that way after 45 years of caring for him, sometimes I think these things should not be voiced publicly.  It may be how you feel and I respect that, but it gives a wrong impression of people with Down's to those who have no experience of it and who may be having to make a serious decision themselves.  My life has certainly not been easy since I had my daughter but I definitely do not wish her dead or that I had got rid of her in utero.  We were given a choice when she was born and rejected it out of hand - I would not be able to live with myself if I had taken that road.  For all the hardship, frustration and despair, having her has made me a better person and realise the priorities in life.  This is just my opinion and I am sure that I am luckier than others in how she has been affected by her Down's, but I do wish the press would not use this kind of thing for a good story.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Why Don't You LISTEN?

I'm donning my Learning Support Assistant hat here and going on a bit of a rant.  Bear with me, it will make sense!

For the past year or so I have not had any specific child to work with, for the simple reason no-one with a statement is currently attending our school.  Instead, I have been working with all the children who have special needs, helping them with their daily tasks on a one to one basis, twenty minutes each per day.  These SEN covered mainly speech, a couple of behaviour, a couple of MLD, a couple of children in care, you get the idea.  It has been interesting, rewarding, and I have learned a lot.  One of the things I learned (but already knew with regard to working with children with Down's) is the value of consistency when you work with small children.  It's no good chopping and changing whether or not a child gets SEN intervention, even worse not to follow the strategies for each particular child, and you yourself have to be consistent in how you treat that child - usually firm but fair.  If you come in to work in a bad mood, or if you are having trouble getting yourself organised that day, you cannot take this out on the child you are working with.  I often go for my break and just sit there for ten minutes in silence, relishing a chance not to be jolly for a short while!  But then you get up, go back to work and be professional about it, someone a child can trust and have a rapport with.

This week I have been working with a little chap with a lot going on in his life.  Parents split up, beloved dog given away, and the shock of moving up to Year 1 and having to sit and concentrate with everyone else after a year of dipping in and out of learning whilst playing in Reception class.  He is only five - some heavy burdens to carry, specially when you have no control over your life and are unable to put into words just how confused and sad you are feeling.  So, his way of showing how he feels appears to be lashing out at anyone who gets in the way, plus trashing the classroom.  He's not stupid - he does this, he gets sent home to mum - result.

So, experts have been called in, advice given, strategies recommended and put in place.  Strategies include a visual timetable to be shown as soon as the child comes in; a portable two subject timetable so he can see what he is supposed to be doing right now, and what will come next - as soon as one activity is complete, the card is removed and relaced with what comes next; a particular spot on the carpet, with everyone else but not within punching distance; a puzzle type toy to keep his hands busy while sitting for any length of time on the carpet; a quiet spot at the back of the class to which he can be removed if things look like they are about to get out of hand; rewards for good behaviour, intolerance of bad behaviour; I personally wrote a set of child-friendly 'rules' that he has to follow, using understandable language such as 'kind hands, kind feet'.

The two days I worked with him (as did my job share in the afternoons) we had no trouble at all. Potential incidents were nipped in the bud, the child did his work - not always with the rest of the class, sometimes on the perimeter - and was happy.

Yesterday was my day off - it was less than an hour into the school day before I got the phone call saying he had kicked off. Had strategies been used?  Had the staff in that class been consistent with the previous two days? What do you think?  It's not rocket science people, it's a mixed up child needing some stability in his life.  Why don't you listen?