What I wished people knew about special schools

Here are a few things I wished people knew about special schools.

We have been so very fortunate about Danger’s early return to school post-surgery.  We really had anticipated him being in hospital much longer, but to our surprise and delight (and to the doctors!) he was healthy enough to return earlier.

With him missing nearly most of Term 3 this year, it gave me a bit of space to think about how much we value the support we have received from his school, during this process for him and our family as a whole.

Before Danger started special education this year, I was fearful of the unexpected.  I had only experienced mainstream before and to me that was hard enough.  Being a kid, in a busy school environment, is hard.  School, for a lot of us, has its awkard moments and then we go onto adulthood with work and not much changes!  It’s the relationships we form, that make the difference.

Here are a few insights I have gained this year:-

  1. There is nothing to be fearful of
    Are you in a big corporate work place in the city, or closer to home, perhaps a smaller sized work place?  Maybe you work outside and don’t have an office at all or maybe you work from home?  Just as we make choices with our work places, depending on our needs, so should be the education for our children.

    I had dreams leading up to the start of the twins prep year, that they would go hand in hand off to school on their first day, together.  But they didn’t and that became all too apparent as time went on that a mainstream school would not suit Danger’s needs.  His twin sister would be ok, despite her own learning difficulties.  However, we knew Danger’s setting would need to be greatly adapted for him to thrive.

  2. You will find smaller classes
    I had a chat with several schools about their special ed department prior to Danger starting school to get a feel of the support he would receive.  It was clear in all the schools I spoke with, that Mikey would not receive the support that he could access at his smaller special school. We are talking about large classes vs smaller classes.

    His twin is in a larger class with a diversity of children, typical, on the spectrum and physical and/or intellectual impairments, an example is Cerebral Palsy.   Some schools can cater to these needs greatly and I have friends who love their school and it fits for their family.  I just knew it wasn’t the right fit for us and for Danger.

  3. There is plenty of diversity in a special school
    Once we had made our decision, we found that Danger’s school had plenty of diversity.  Yes, all the children have challenges but there is just as much diversity in a special school, as to what you will find in any school.  It’s just the diversity is geared towards a group of children who need extra attention due to higher demands with their learning abilities.
  4. Everyone is so friendly!
    Each time I go to Danger’s school, my heart swells.  It is a beautifully, caring environment where respect is a core value.   Parents actually smile at each other(!), teachers are open with communication.  If there is an issue, it is dealt with straight away.
    Despite that there are kids dealing with chronic illness and life threatening conditions, the teachers and volunteers ensure a safe, respectful and fun environment for our kids to learn in.
  5. Learning may look different to the naked eye, but it’s still learning
    Just because Danger goes to a specialised educational setting for higher needs children, does NOT make his learning any less important than his twin who attends mainstream.
    That is like comparing Private and State School, Small Business to Big Business – each has their own pros and cons.  Do you criticise someone based on the size of their work place?  No.
    Is their money that they earn, a different colour on pay day?  No.
    Education is the same – it’s still learning.
  6. Do our kids ‘miss out’ by going to a special school?
    I will confidently say NO.  We live in a society that would have you believe if you are not part of the status quo, you are somewhat ‘missing out’?  Danger attends school 5 days a week for a portion of the day.  In the other hours, we attend sporting activities, parties, barbeques, visit the theme parks (perks of the Gold Coast!) spend time with family and friends.  Not much different to anyone else, really!  A mix of people is what Danger has in school and outside of school.

    **He does love his trampolining, music, swimming and art therapy, which he does weekly at school.  We don’t think he’s ‘missing out’!

  7. Will Danger ever go to a mainstream school?
    I have been asked this a few time this year and I think at this point in time, no.  However, as with our working environments, things change.  One year you could be working in a small environment, the next restructure could take place and you could be looking at a very different landscape.

    There is change with everything in life.  But if something is working well, why would we change it?  He loves it!

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