Does it ostracise them from their community?
I needn't have, he has settled in well and is making some progress. Woah. Hang on, SOME progress.
Ahem, I apologise now for the blatant boast I am about to make on Zack's behalf.
He was given some little goals at nursery when he began. Very simple ones, ones that I knew he could do as he had been doing these at home for the past six months or longer. However nursery hadn't seem him do them in the classroom and they were popped onto what's known as an IEP (Individual Education Plan).
His were to make a choice, such as choose between two toys, anticipate to something such as ready steady go, and to track or follow an object.
HE GOT THEM ALL.
......................................................I was having a proud moment. And good on him, well done Pants. I knew you could do it.
He has new goals now. Tougher ones. Not sure if he will get these but glad they are harder.
One is a social goal, spending time with another child and reacting to them etc. The second is to vocalise more in order to get attention. Apparently he is starting to do a bit of this, I like that they put this in his plan. The third is to try and get some more mid-line play happening, that is to get his hands together in the middle to play with a toy.
Okay boast over.
As I was saying this time last year, I was worrying about nursery. This year I am worrying about schools. He goes to school next year. Next September and deciding on the best place for him is a hard decision.
I took a look round the Royal School for the Blind in Liverpool. It was a wonderful place, teaching obviously geared towards children with visual impairments. Of the children that I saw a lot of them reminded me of Zack but the journey is over 20 miles, not sure if the school warrants me sending him on such a long trip each day.
In my quest to decide on the right place I have spoken to many different people about where they have sent their child and their reasoning behind it. I have also spoken to parents of children who are considering mainstream schooling for their disabled child. And it's that very consideration that often makes me pause longer than usual on the debate between special needs and mainstream school.
You see I've looked at the local mainstream primary school. It's lovely, as you would expect from a small local school. Right for Zack? I'm not so sure. Of the special needs teachers I have spoken with most agree that the right place for a child with profound special needs is with teachers who specialise in that area. But why do some parents choose to send their child to mainstream? Is it because at the very core of their decision making they want their child to be accepted as the norm? That by sending them there they are saying to the world look they are okay, they can cope with a mainstream setting? Is it lack of acceptance of their condition the real reason behind mainstream choices?
On the other hand does putting a disabled child in a school for special needs just widen the gap between their peers even further? Does it ostracise them from their community? Does it single them out as being even more different?
I know in my heart of hearts that for Zack the right school for him will be a special needs school. There he will get the right help, the right kind of teaching to accommodate his learning ability. However in saying that, I don't want him to go to a school whereby they assume that all children with similar disabilities are the same and therefore don't push him.
And as I know a special school will be right for him, I also know deep within my very core that he is bright and that if he has the right teacher, the right person to help him to communicate using whatever system that may be then he will surprise a lot of people.
To me this belief is almost like saying to an atheist I know God exists. Without proof, I know God exists. And without proof I know there is more to Zack. I say to people that I think he's bright and quite often it is met with a polite smile and a sympathetic nod of the head. I know what they are thinking, is he? Really? Aaaaah, well she probably wants to think that, gives her comfort.
Well, no it doesn't bring me comfort. You see, I will carry on making this statement and shouting about this for as long as Zack needs me too because for now I am his voice. It isn't comfort, it isn't a need to grasp onto a slither of hope that might show that he can actually do something. No it's an understanding and quiet resonating belief that he is there, listening, understanding and waiting.
That's why choosing the right school is important to us. And I will get the right one. And he will surprise you.