We’re now into week 3 of a new year at Primary School – and Primary 2 is suiting Tilly well so far. She’s adapting to a new classroom, new pupils and 2 new teachers. Its obvious from how happy she is going into school that she’s pleased to be back, as am I!!
This year, the school are planning to challenge her more, push her to try new things (using a paint brush for longer than a quick dab, for example) and they will create a bespoke development plan with individual targets for her to aim to meet. I’m fully supportive and keen to take a role in helping them create her development plan – we don’t know how long mainstream school is going to suit her, but while it does, and while she continues to be happy, we’re going to push her as much as we can. She’s made big strides in many areas of her development over the last year so we all feel she’s ready to continue down that path.
One of the changes for this year is to get her involved in after school activities. It’s something I’ve avoided in the last year for several reasons – firstly was her stamina. The wee thing collapsed in her bed for a chill most afternoons in the first few months of Primary 1 so she couldn’t have coped with an extra activity after school. The second reason was accessibility. Despite asking about after school activities, I never felt it was met with an open mind from the activities co-ordinator, or other class instructors. And thirdly was fear. Sadly, I felt scared and nervous (and still do to an extent) to take Tilly to an activity/class/party/event where I knew that her inability to follow instructions or to communicate, her sensory issues (the lights she could look at, the speakers she could hug, the blinds on the windows she could rattle etc), in fact all of her ‘differences’ , would be glaringly obvious to everyone and be met with stares and whispering. I worried she’d get in the way.
But her stamina has now improved and most days when she gets home from school, she has a bath (she demands it!!) then is full of beans either playing in her bedroom or in the garden. There has also been a shift in the instructors’ way of thinking, as a couple of classes have been suggested that we hope will interest Tilly. And I also think its about time we tried her in these classes – why should she miss out?
Her first class, Hip Hop, was tonight and she loved it! Admittedly she didn’t do any of the dance moves, she tried to climb onto the dance teacher’s knees whenever he was on the floor (she loves a cuddle), and she dragged him to the iPod whenever there was a pause in his music. But her face was beaming throughout and she loved watching the other children almost as much as she loved watching herself in the wall of mirrors!
As they are with school, Tilly’s learning objectives in the dance class aren’t the same as they are for her class mates. She’s not there to learn the dance moves and to do everything the teacher asks. She’s there to have fun, enjoy the music and movement (in her own way), and to watch and learn from her peers. She may not show it yet but she’s observing all the movements the other kids are making and who knows, one day she might do a jump or side step. But in the meantime, she’s being included in an activity that her neuro-typical classmates have automatic access to.
Just because she has a learning disability, I don’t think it’s fair that she misses out on an activity she clearly enjoys. Inclusion is such an important part of her development and I hope that other classes/instructors/teachers will also open up whats on offer to more kids with disabilities. They may not think those kids are learning but trust me, in their own way, they are. And, at the end of the day, if that child is happy and having fun, surely thats the most important thing?
Next up this week is Cheerleading. More music, dancing and….poms poms. A dream come true for a girl with a strong sensory passion for tactile toys!!