After JB’s surgery and our return to Trinidad, one of the first things I did was look into his future educational needs. I got the general message from other parents of children with T21 that there were no suitable schools or provision for our children.
I was determined to find a great school for JB. I discovered that many children with special needs went to special schools where they were considerably underachieving being only partially literate if at all and lacking an all round balanced approach.
This is not a critisism of those who own and manage the schools, the schools are considerably underfunded and on the whole, the private school fees were not very high; therefore there is difficulty with accessing the high quality resources and training that is so desperately needed.
However, I remained optimistic. I eventually came across a Montessori School and researched extensively on the Montessori system. Feeling happy with what I had discovered, I went to visit the school and the Principal was enthusiastic to have JB start the following year at 2 years old. The 1:1 issue was discussed and she was happy for me to stay intermittently with my daughter who was taking a year break from education and looked after JB when I went to work. Wow, I had done it! I found a wonderful school for my JB.
The following year I went to the school to register JB as guided by the principal the previous year. To my great devastation I was told that their policy towards 1:1 had changed and that they cannot accept him!!
I spent the following months driving all over the district visiting other private Pre-schools in a desperate and almost fanatical frenzy, determined that there must be somewhere for my JB. I did find one lovely school, but they already had 2 children with T21 and they said they couldn’t accept any more. That was the last school on my list. I had exhausted all possibilities.
I started looking online; reading research publications, blogs about homeschooling and various educational methods. I invested in some resources, did more research and started educational programmes at home. I tried techniques recommended by Glen Doman as well as Montessori and other more mainstream techniques and lots of trips to the beach! Lucky for me JB loves books and lying in a hammock, so we spent long periods every day reading. A Cat in the Hat was his favourite and we read and read and read. Alongside all this we continued with the much loved Self-Voice sessions as practiced in the A.R.R.O.W. Learning System.
Life was good. It was hard work but it was working. After a few months though, JB began to resist the learning schedules. I must have re-written the schedules at least a dozen times to keep it effective and interesting but also to find the exact stage of learning for JB. JB’s wilful personality turned our days into battles of gentle persuasion that became totally futile. He just refused to continue!
Then came the hardest decision I ever had to make. Find JB the education he needs back in the U.K. The decision was a long one that I wrestled with. The eventual plan was heavily immersed in the faith that I had to exercise in order for it to work. This meant leaving my husband and teenage child and going it alone. Four months prior to leaving I enrolled JB into a special private school with an emphasis on Montessori. Here he learned the very important lesson of detachment.
The timing of the move was crucial. I still had clients that I was working with on the A.R.R.O.W. Speech Programme that I had to close off. Nevertheless, there began a slow close off and a gradual transition in my life and that of JB.
We arrived in the U.K. on a chilly morning early in January and despite my optimistic plans for JB sto start nursery the same month, he didn’t start until April. The wait was worth it.
Inclusion was the number 1 priority for me and this was finally achieved.In addition were excellent resources, well trained staff and loving support. We decided for JB to stay in nursery until the following year, so that he has more catch up time before starting more formal education. After the second week that JB first started the nursery, he exibited newly learned skills; dressing and undressing were the most dramatic ones. The nursery teacher plans his learning carefully from week to week to take him to the next level which his key workers follow. JB has weekly goals and plans which are reviewed and rewritten every Friday ready for the following week.
The SENCO really helped us out when we first arrived by kick starting the provisions and she continues to provide much needed support. These have been the blessings. JB is very happy and he is realising and enjoying his progress. He has come so far with his independence, understanding, appropriate use of play materials, social interaction with peers and staff, communication, concentration and following instructions.
JB’s brain is waking up a little more each day. This is the education he needs at this time. I know there will be new challenges ahead, but we celebrate his achievements today and we pray for more tomorrow. We will face those challenges as they arise and find the solutions.
What have I learned from this part of our journey? That sometimes our plans take time to materialise and it’s usually for a good reason. That we must try to do all we can to make them happen. That our children feel happy and connected with their main caregiver and generally happy and loved as they learn. And finally, to change a situation if it is not working, staying hopeful and optimistic.
Please journey with me in my next blog on what we did to assist JB’s physical and sensory development.