Archive | August, 2010

School again AND again!

29 Aug

On Thursday and Friday, S had two more school orientation sessions.

Thursday was Sport.

S was fantastic. He tried to do everything that the teacher asked them to do.

TRIED being the important word here. He tried and tried, but not surprisingly, there were lots of things that he just couldn’t do.

Mid way through the session, he said to me, close to tears: ‘mum, I can’t get my beanbag to go UP like the other kids’.

He so wanted to do it.

On the definite down side, there wasn’t much of an effort made by the teacher to provide alternative instructions for kids who might not have been quite as agile as some of the others. It wouldn’t have taken much to make S feel better about what he couldn’t do. Just something simple like: ‘Instead of throwing your beanbag in the air, you can hold it above your head and count to 5′. Or anything really. Just another option.

It would have made a big difference for S.

He likes to do well. He likes to make teachers, therapists etc happy. He likes to get praised, as all kids do.

But for this hour, there was just a lot of other kids doing things better, faster and easier than he was. I know what an effort he made. He tried his guts out. But he just couldn’t do all the things the other kids could. Of course not. He has a body that won’t always cooperate.

I was so proud of him for making such a colossal effort. It was more than I used to do in sport lessons. As soon as there was something I couldn’t do very well, I’d fake a sore ankle and sit it out. Seriously. He’s 10 times the sports student I’ll ever be!

And I do think part of him really enjoyed it.

But I also think it was rather confronting for him that the other kids could just do it all so much easier than he could.

He was rather emotional afterwards. I asked him if it was because of something that happened during the sport session. He told me it wasn’t. He said he was just tired.

But I know it was.

I think my little boy felt somewhat overwhelmed.

We went back to our cafe after the session for a milkshake, biscuit and coffee. Even that didn’t raise his spirits much. He told me he didn’t want to go to the school session the next day. He said he didn’t want to miss kinder.

Oh dear.

His passion for school simply could NOT evaporate this early on!!!

I talked to him about how all kids are good at different things. How he could ride a horse, which I bet lots of the other kids had never done. I talked up lots of the other things he can do. How proud I was of him trying everything. And how we could practice if he liked.

But he was still downbeat.

Damn.

On the upside, the teacher who took the session doesn’t usually take prep sport. The regular teacher is on long service leave this term. Apparently, he’s fabulous. And the  deputy principal also flagged a trial they are running this year with a smaller group of kids doing a modified sport session.

But I can see it’s something we will need to keep a close eye on. I want sport to be something he really enjoys and makes him feel good about himself. It’s important the school can look outside the square.

The next morning he was still not looking forward to the school visit, which was an actual in-class session with just two other kinder kids joining the current prep class. He actually CRIED when I got him dressed.

He still said it had nothing to do with the sport session the day before. But I know my boy. Maybe he didn’t even realise it himself.

I tossed up the idea of not going for about a minute, but I was so sure he’d enjoy being in the classroom so much that it would be the best way to counter how he was feeling.

AND it was (thank goodness!)

We spent a lovely hour and a quarter in the prep class.  The teacher read a book, they talked about their favourite food, they did some drawings, they had popcorn! Most importantly, the prep kids were warm and welcoming. They helped S get paper, choose pencils, write his name etc etc.

He loved every minute of it.

And yep, back in the cafe again, there was laughter and happiness. And most importantly a renewed enthusiasm for school as he told me he couldn’t wait to go to school again – but added that maybe he just wouldn’t do sport again.

Not until next year. And we’ll have it sorted by then! ;-)

School boy!

22 Aug

We had S’s first school orientation session on Friday.

I am sure that I was more nervous than he was.

It was a bit of a last minute decision for him to attend the session. Originally, his first session was going to be Sport next week.

But I made a mutually agreeable decision with the school on Thursday that Art might be a better starting point.

There were about 15 other kids in the group that S joined in with. Most of the mums left, but I had already decided I best stick around. I stood up the back, out of S’s sight while the kids sat on the mat and the Art teacher chatted with the group and prepared them for the activity.

I was really proud of S. He was really focused and involved and didn’t once turn around to look for me – in short, he was just one of the kids. I just stood there thinking over and over: Next year is going to be OK! He’s going to be fine!

But at the back of my mind, I was also thinking this: those kids are about to all stand up and sit on the art room stools. There is NO WAY that S can sit on one of those stools…..

And yes. There it was. Already. Problem solving how S could best stay part of the group, do his very best and most of all enjoy himself.

I spied a chair in the corner of the room with a back and sides and some books on a shelf on the far wall that could be used to prop him up a bit higher. And made a mental note to ask his OT whether we should be getting a separate chair for use in the art room.

There was a slight hiccup when the teacher’s assistant suggested he could just work on the mat with her (I very nearly raised my voice just a tad too loud to point out that he wanted to be with the other kids, not on the floor with a staff member). In the meantime, the art teacher had already grabbed the same chair I’d spied and sent another assistant to a different room to grab some cushions (better than my book idea!) and without much fuss at all, he was ready to go. Not an idea stable seating arrangement, but fine for a once off session.

The activity was fun. The kids had to draw a unique bug design and then make a ‘door’ so it was like a page from the lift the flap book they had been reading. S decided to draw a ‘Wild Cow Bug’.

While he worked, the prep coordinator dropped in to introduce herself. She seemed lovely and was very interested to meet S and took down details so she could make plans to visit his kinder and CPEC.

On the way out, one of the other mums introduced herself to me – she’s friends with a lovely friend of mine (hello M if you are reading!) .

The whole experience was lovely and warm and aside from the seating hiccup, S was involved and engaged and part of the group.

As a reward for us both, I took him out to a nearby cafe I’ve discovered (double bonus for the school to be near a great cafe!). We celebrated with a chocolate soy shake and biscuit (him) and coffee (me).

It was a success. We both felt it. Feeling very confident about next year now and SO glad to have that first session out of the way! Still a little nervous about how the Sport session will go. But then again, I never did much like sport myself at school ;-).

OH and we have a Dynavox! Long story. But I am very happy and very excited. More about that soon.

iPad apps for kids – my first reviews! 5 for words/numbers

15 Aug

Finally, some time to tell you about some of the fun and educational apps that have been a big hit in our house.

1) The first number one hit with both the boys is:

TeachMe: Kindergarten

This app takes the form of a random quiz in four areas – sight word recognition, spelling,  addition and subtraction.

Players work their way up a series of levels.  The maths component is particularly well guided for younger learners as it gives them the ability to remove and add items and then count the remainder/totals. I am sure it’s the reason M can count to 30 and recognises all numbers up to 10.

The other very appealing aspect of this app is the reward system which gives them further chance to work on their math skills as well as having a lot of fun. Players earn coins for correct answers and then they can use these coins to buy stickers for a variety of scenes, as well as fish, fish food, plant life etc for an interactive aquarium – I can’t begin to tell you how much they both love feeding the fish.

This app is easily the number one winner in our house!

2) Monkey Preschool Lunchbox

This app  has a series of simple little activities involving getting fruit into the monkey’s lunchbox. The activities include matching, puzzle, counting, finding the odd one out, choosing correct colour etc. There are sticker rewards for correct answers. He’s a cheerful monkey and the whole game has a happy fun vibe to it.It’s a cool, lightweight app that teaches a few things along the way.

3) Lola’s Alphabet Train

Yet another fun app that works with a variety of quiz type activities. As the name suggests, these activities are all alphabet/word based. There are 3 levels to choose from (Easy/Medium/Hard) and a pretty impressive range of languages – for some reason M keeps choosing to play it in its Spanish version…hhhmm, too much Dora perhaps ;-).

The premise of the game is that Lola needs to use her train to take presents to her friends.

Lola’s train travels along and you have complete a number of activities involving letter recognition/make a word/words starting with a certain letter etc.

After a number of correct answers, players can get then go to a shop to buy presents for Lola’s friends.

When the train is full of presents it reaches its destination and the game is over.

The range of vocabulary is fairly limited and therefore repetitive, but nonetheless it’s a fun app and naturally popular in our house where trains are always a winner :-).

4) FirstWords Animals

It’s a simple click and drag the letters into place activity, but it’s well done, the words are useful and it sounds out the letters and then the words in a clear distinct voice.

There are quite a few options in the settings (to make it harder/easier, use upper case/lower case letters etc) and there other apps in the same series as well.

5) Build A Word

I haven’t mentioned accessibility of the other apps, because I’ve pretty much found that S has been able to work them out with only minimal occasional frustration. I can’t believe the great motivation games are when it comes to learning how to scroll, drag, swipe, tap etc etc.

However, the ‘Build A Word’ app is definitely a bit more of a challenge for a child with less than perfect fine motor control. The letters for the words float around the screen and you have to grab them and drag them into place. And if that’s not enough, once the word is complete, you need to shake the iPad in order for it to move on to the next activity.

Having said that, there’s something about the set up of this app that both boys really love (although S does get frustrated when he runs out of time and the app finishes the word for him!).

The words are animal names and once you’ve formed the word, it morphs into the shape of that animal and does a little dance. Cute!

There aren’t that many words, but I like the concept and I think despite the frustration it causes, it’s got a good fine motor element for S to practice too. Pretty good for hand/eye coordination also, and seeing as we were told by an optometrist after a kinder eye testing session that his eye tracking needs some work, I think this is a good app to keep playing.

So that’s our first 5!

In summary, The ‘TeachMe: Kindergarten’ game, is by far the best app we’ve come across so far, but overall, we’re having a lot of fun with the others too.

I have loads more to review, but not enough time right now. I think I’ll try and review 5 each week.

Also keen to hear from others about the apps your kids are loving too.

Who I WON’T be voting for

9 Aug

I don’t often get political. But I am feeling it this time around.

Did anyone else see this in the paper today?

It appears that according to former Lib leader, Andrew Peacock: “You’d need to be pretty handicapped not to appreciate that this [Labor] government is dissolving before your eyes daily”.

Worse still, he said this in an electorate where the Labor Candidate has a severe vision impairment.

Yep.

Yuk.

On the flip side, the comments form the Labor candidate were a fabulous response:

“One of the reasons I’m running is because I want to show that people with disabilities are viable members in the community and the political process,” he said.

“For him to say that is insulting, and I hope the rest of his party don’t share the same opinion.

“I was amazed and stunned. I thought ‘I can’t believe he said that.’

“There would be some saying it’s a gift for Labor, but I don’t see it as a gift. I just see it as depressing. The whole point of democracy is that everybody is of equal value.”

As were the words of Bill Shorten:

“To say that just because a person is in a wheelchair, or can’t see or hear, that they are unable to have a political opinion is mean-spirited and shows a huge contempt for people with impairments,”

Seeing as the current leader of the Libs thinks that accessible cinemas are just waffle, it seems the attitude goes all the way to the top.

And I won’t even begin to tell you how I feel about their policy of ‘stopping the boats’ that seems to have no real care or compassion for authentic refugees….

So yes, I can safely say, the Liberal party won’t be getting my vote. That’s for sure.

Now, how are we going with an offer of the NDIS Julia?

Getting it Wrong. Getting it Right. Getting it done.

8 Aug

I’ve had a sick little Bean over the past week. Poor little guy. In the very few times that we’ve not been madly busy, it’s kept me away from the computer and on the couch providing lots of hugs.

Here’s a quick round up of other news.

Guess who sent me an email apology? None other than Ms Macsween. Apparently, she wasn’t talking about my son. It’s those OTHERS that are the problem. Hhhmm. I appreciated the sentiment of a personal apology, but I think there’s still some more work to be done there.

In case you missed it, she also apologised on air for the use of the ‘R’ word, which the program cited as being ‘from a different era’. Good. And to give credit where credit is due, I was very impressed with Adam Boland (Director of Morning TV at Channel 7). He entered the lion’s den that was the Facebook group set up asking for an apology personally and took part in some rather heated debates about who was responsible, what exactly was wrong with what was said and what should be done about it. I didn’t agree with everything he had to say, but nonetheless I was impressed that he got personally involved and engaged so actively in the issue. Encouraging.

Not so encouraging with this depressing report on ABC radio yesterday about disability hate crimes :-(.

Sigh.

It was nice to get an apology, but I found the whole business draining.

I think mostly because, I have found the whole business of preparing S for school draining. Then those comments right on top if it were just a real slap in the face.

It’s nearly all done now – the school stuff. The paperwork side of it at least.

All those reports. The meetings. The realisation that we need to find a whole heap of money to fund stuff. All those negatives that we need to focus on in order to get more money. It’s a downer. That’s for sure.

There’s still more to do. Lots more to do.

And I’ve made a few decisions.

The big one is that after all my efforts to avoid spending the big $15K, we are now applying for funding for a Dynavox after all. This is not to say that I am not loving the iPad. AND I still think the iPad is an amazing tool that can do all sorts of wonderful things. AND S will use it. Absolutely. However, there are things that it just can’t do yet. Things that the Dynavox can do. And so, the funding applications are going in. And my fingers are tightly crossed that the shortfall from the ‘big’ providers won’t be too much. I am not good at asking for money. And even worse at organising some sort of fundraising if that’s what it comes down to. BUT I know that we need it. I know that it will be a great tool for S and will help him better access the curriculum next year. I just wish that I’d worked this out 6 months ago. Because now that I know we want one, I want it now. I want to learn how to use it. I want S to learn how to use it. But. We’ll get there. Eventually.

What I wish even more is that the iPad had been out just a few years longer so there were just a few more things it could do.

We’re still working with the p2go and have set it up rather nicely. I’ve discovered that another flaw that’s been bugging me will be ironed out with a free update later this year. Yay.

The other reason I’ve been feeling so drained is TEETH. S’s teeth. You may recall a long while back the RCH recommended operating on S’s teeth under a GA. I decided to get a second opinion. Liked the second opinion (which was to hold off) and have been seeing that dentist for the past year, enjoying our visits where he told me things weren’t getting worse and wasn’t I a great parent to have held off?

Well. Guess what?

Turns out the second opinion sounded too good to be true because it was. A visit to the RCH on Friday confirmed that S’s teeth have significantly deteriorated and now he’s going to need a lot MORE work done.

I feel like such a bad parent.

AND I feel like a fool.

OF COURSE his teeth were going to get worse. What was I thinking????

And so now we’re on the Waiting List. It’s 2-3 months long. And S is complaining of sore teeth.

Great.

So another 2-3 months of on-again off-again Nurofen and Panadol and me feeling like the worst parent in the world to have not dealt with this sooner.

Sigh.

Baby A also has teeth issues. He is getting some. Which means he’s not sleeping so well. Which means neither am I. Between him and poor sick M this week, I’ve lost a LOT of ZZZZZZs (yawn).

There are some things that HAVE been going right.

Last week I walked into the kitchen and S had made a WORD on the fridge with the fridgephonic magnets – and he KNEW what the word was. It was ‘PAN’. He had put the letters together and sounded it out. What a clever little chicken.

I have spent a lot of time this weekend adding some more phonics/basic spelling apps to the iPad. I think it’s time to take it up another step know that he knows the alphabet. There’s some cute apps out there (and some real duds too!). I will post a review later.

And yesterday we had a wonderful day out at Tooradin where S got to ride a horse around a REAL farm. He thought it was fantastic. He also got to have a carriage ride. This was all through RDA. The carriage was fantastic – set up to also accommodate wheelchairs for that those who might not be able to ride a horse OR for those that just might like to go a bit fast. M also had a very brief carriage ride. All he really wanted to do was go home :-(.

I can’t believe it’s August. I can’t believe that we’ve got less than 6 months of kinder, less than 6 months before school begins. Wow. It’s going to be a busy time til the end of the year!

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