Saturday, February 21, 2015

Starting School

At the end of January, Joshua started school for the first time.  He is in 'Transition', which is the equivalent of Kindergarten in other states/countries.  

It was an emotional day to send my little man off to school for the first time, but he has been going for 4 weeks now, and I am really happy with how things are going.  

Here are some pictures of him in his school uniform, ready to go on his first day:

Joshua is attending a special needs school, and I definitely feel that this was the right decision.
He is in a class of 6 children, with two teachers.  Some of the children in the class are only attending part time with the view of gradually increasing their attendance, so often there is only 4 children there.  This means he is getting plenty of attention from his teachers.  

The activities are play based, and they take Joshua's interests into consideration when planning activities. Joshua loves anything transport related, and you can see here in the first week they made sure to have activities like trains out, to help Joshua settle in for the day.

Joshua started out really well, happily going to school without a problem, but after about the first week and a half began to have some settling issues, getting upset when dropped off and having some teary moments throughout the day which was mostly happening at meal times and meant he wasn't eating very much at school.   He has mostly come good again now, and is back to eating well and most days he doesn't cry when I drop him off, though it does still happen a little bit.   
When he was getting upset at meal times, the teachers said they were going to trial putting on some transport related movies for him to help settle and distract him so that he would eat.  I like that they are able to be flexible and use little things like that, that they know he likes, to try and make his day better.  

He has a communication diary which the teachers fill out every day with a little note about how his day has been, which is great to get that feedback since he is not able to talk enough to tell me about his day.     I can use it to write a note back to the teachers as well if needed.  

Some of the activities Joshua has been doing at school include art, music, Jolly Phonics, Stories, puzzles, duplo, water play and sensory activities like Kinetic Sand and play dough.   They have an interactive smart board on the wall in his classroom which they use for activities, and the school also has a heated pool, where he does swimming with his class once a week.  

They do a lot of things to support communication visually using pictographs and photos.  They display their days schedule of activities visually so that the students can see what is going to happen and the order it will happen in, and use pictures to help the students make choices.   Each day when Joshua arrives at school, he is shown a "choices" card, and is asked to point to which activity he would like to do.  At the moment, the activities have been sand, play dough or puzzles.  They encourage verbal communication as well, but Joshua isn't able to say any of those things verbally, so the pictures really help.   Here he is, looking at the choices card on the board:

His teachers have reported that Joshua really likes the pictographs and that he likes getting them to show the other students what is next.  

Here is another example of some of the pictures they use.....  in this one, they have a velcro dot on each of the photos and they are able to move the photo of the child to the picture to show them where they are going.   I moved Joshua to each location and took a photo.  Because it is cute and I wanted to!  Haha.   

As I work three days a week, Joshua has also been attending the Outside School Hours Care program on those three days, where he gets an afternoon snack and does other fun activities (including swimming, and time in the schools gym where they have lots of gross motor activities)  The co-ordinator has said that he is a very happy boy, and a pleasure to have there.  

It may just be a coincidence, But Joshua seems to have "grown up" a lot since he started school.   He is talking more and seems to be understanding more.   One of his teachers even said that he is "such a big school boy".   So for now, I feel really good about him going to school and feel like he is in a good place to help him learn and grow at his own pace with the right supports.   

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