Six years ago I was in a quandary, I had come to terms with the fact that Nick would never fit into mainstream schooling BUT what to do?
Fast forward to now…...
We have ‘Kids First’, a small self contained unit/school for children with developmental disabilities. It’s hard to believe that we have been in operation for nearly six years! I have always maintained that for the sake of our kids I will only take a maximum of five children. I have no doubt that I can easily increase our numbers; however, for the kids (and for my sanity) we will continue to stay ‘small’.
To walk through the gates of Kids First on a Monday morning always gives me a feeling of peace. The street is hushed, the neighborhood dogs are sleeping, the house is still and there is an air of tranquility about the place……. Nick runs ahead of me, bag bouncing on his back, a big smile on his face! My boy is happy to be there!
Visitors are always amazed at the peacefulness that surrounds the school, the lack of noise, the slow pace, the gentleness, the calm.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like that all of the time! We have a local monkey troop, who thinks it is great fun to run up and down on the garage roof and then jump onto the cars below. They fight in the trees and run around the garden generally causing mayhem! We also have some dreadful prehistoric looking birds that made the most horrendous noise (Grey Ibis, although we call them ha-de-dahs) ~ Nick hates them with a passion and their squawking can ruin his day!
Our kids also have their ups and downs and we never know on any given day what that day may bring. Nick may refuse to go outside; a child may need to jump on the trampoline for half an hour because of sensory issues, another child may suddenly throw a hissy fit! ….. the list goes on!
Regardless, Kids First is a safe and nurturing environment!
It has crossed my mind that I really need to put together a list of ‘Handy Hints’ to give to people before they come and visit us! They need to have some idea of how they can blend in with the kids, how they can interact with them and also be aware of some of our objectives.
So here goes.....
When you say hi to one of the kids, get down to their level and give your greeting ~ and then please wait (and you may have to wait a while!). Usually you will get a wave or “hi” back, however, if you don’t get a response don’t worry about it! Remember, they don’t know you!
Cut back on the amount of verbal language that you use. We feel that it is important to give each child time to process what is being said. They need the time to hear the information, process the information and then respond. Should you jump in too quickly with further questions/instructions our kids will either ‘switch off’ or go into fight or flight mode! Give the child at least 45 seconds to respond, although also bear in mind it may take longer than that!
We are also very keen on the power of suggestive/experience sharing language. Our main objective is to encourage dynamic thinking and all that we do at Kids First is geared towards giving the kids the opportunity to think for themselves with as little prompting as possible! It is very easy to barrage the kids with questions to which they may give an answer, however, giving a quick answer doesn’t require a whole lot of thinking…. and it certainly isn’t experience sharing! We try to use mainly declarative statements rather then direct questions and comments.
Our kids are quite capable of referencing facial expressions and body language for information, therefore, you do not need to request that they should look at you. Give them time, perhaps pause in the middle of what you are doing and then wait for them to look to you before continuing again! The power of the pause is amazing! J
We don’t promote instant reward/gratification for a job well done. For sure, we may give a big smile, clap hands here and there. We may laugh or make a declarative comment, however, it is all low key!
You will see from our daily routine that we run a structured program, however, if you stay for more than a day you will also see how that program is changed frequently, how we throw in curveballs, how we are flexible in our approach with the children (out of interest, my son now copes exceptionally well with change ~ there was a time when everything had to be the same, including the people in his environment!).
You will also see that, although we do many different types of activities and spend time on educational concepts, we do place a lot of importance on the interaction between the child and adult. It is very important to us that everything is meaningful and not totally task driven!
This is getting a bit long and I have so much more to say........ ..but it will have to wait for another time!!
Please don't hesitate to ask me any questions ~ you can also find me on facebook, just look for 'The Bright Side of Life'!
Well done Australia for winning the rugby today!