Monday, January 23, 2012

"Oh my goodness, is he still in nappies?"

Today's meeting was fairly dreadful.I had high hopes of this kindy. I still do, kind of. I guess my son will be starting there, if they give us a place soon. Not because I was impressed and relieved - I wasn't, not in the slightest - but because time is running out and I just don't have the energy to look anywhere else.

The mix-ups started with admissions. The woman who wrote me an email assured me there was an immediate place available, but when I turned up, the teachers assured me that there wasn't. They said there was a waiting list, and he could go on it, and he would be at the top quite soon. Quite soon isn't great. There isn't much time, he starts school in six months and he can't get support if he doesn't get seen by the Ministry Special Education bods before then. And he can't be seen by them until he is in a kindergarten setting. So if the kindergarten can't get their act together soon, he will just have to go to Barnados instead. I guess. It is all very depressing.

I can't tell if they are very nice and just a bit disorganised or just completely, completely rubbish. When I arrived - for our scheduled meeting at one o'clock - the teacher in the playground said to me that she didn't know anything about a meeting. She went inside to ask, and reappeared with someone else, who did apparently know something, yes, she was meant to be meeting me today, was this my son?

My son said "hello" obediently and then trotted off to play in the garden under the supervision of the second teacher, the one who hadn't known of our arrival. Let's call her Daft as a Brush, I'll tell you why in a bit. The first teacher talked about SEN and the admissions process. Well, she talked at me about the admissions process and I kept up bringing SEN. At first she looked funny at being interrupted, and waved aside my explanations of verbal dyspraxia, nappies and tantrums, but then her expression changed and she said "oh, that's important to know," when I explained about the hyposensitivity and lack of awareness of pain. "He won't hurt anyone else, but he might try to hurt himself if he gets upset, you have to watch for headbanging and throwing himself off high objects if he is cross" I said. She nodded doubtfully, and I thought what a paranoid parent I must sound. Son trotted in like a model student, and went over to play with trains. I could hear him telling his little brother to get away, these were his trains. "Oh, he seems to be talking quite well," said the teacher, increasingly sceptical, evidently thinking this verbal dyspraxia stuff was a parental case of Munchausen's. I got up to leave, with that resigned senes of having talked to a brick wall. "Come on," I said to the boys. My middle son shook his head. "No, I play with trains again."
"Bye bye, you can come back soon," said Sceptical teacher, pacifyingly.

Then it happened. My middle son utterly, totally, and completely lost it. The way he usually only does at home. He lay on the floor and howled. I picked him up, ignoring the teacher who was making soothing noises (and, I noticed with satisfaction, showing some real concern and uncertainty at last). He hit me and wriggled and shouted "No walk!" so I got him outside then put him down again.

Daft As A Brush came up. "Oh, he'll be different in preschool, they always are," she said to me. I bit back a rude retort and remembered with irritation that I had just explained to her colleague quite how much the school in the UK had struggled to manage him initially. "Come, come," said Daft As A Brush. My son screamed some more, and lay on the ground. "I'll need some help getting him to the car," I said, so Daft as A Brush took the hand of my youngest whilst I wrestled with the screaming child. He started banging his head against my back. "No, don't bang your head," I said calmly, and noticed with some satisfaction that Sceptical teacher had run forward and was now standing in the classroom door with her mouth open, watching in alarm. Bet she's trying to think of ways to lengthen that waiting list, I thought.

Daft As A Brush waited for me to open the gate, until I explained that I really couldn't manage that what with holding eighteen kilos of screaming biting fury. She opened it for me. What with the screaming biting headbanging rage, I wasn't managing to keep a very good hold, and my son's trousers were slipping down. And then she came out with it.

"But hold on..., oh my goodness, he's still in nappies."

She looked at me in shock, as if I had brought a child in chains.

"He has Special Needs," I hissed with all the disdain that I could muster.

"Oh. Yes. I mean, he's still in nappies though."

Yes. Well, that's what Special Needs mean, it means that the child may have developmental needs that are DIFFERENT from the other children. You daft woman. No, I must not hit you. No, I must not even be rude. We might have to see each other daily for six months. I fought back the temptation to reply "Is he? Good heavens, I hadn't noticed, silly me, I thought I'd potty trained him years ago." She looked at me doubtfully, as if I had suggested bringing a toad into her school.

"I'll have to speak to the other teacher about that."

It could not have been more uninviting if she had hung a sign out of the school gates as I left saying "Not Sure About This Child."

They are contacting me tomorrow to tell me when they have a start date. Frankly, I am dubious. If Daft As A Brush was the manager, I would be out of there. But she was obviously a junior and fairly ill-informed member of staff. Am I dubious enough to tell them to bog off, that we will look elsewhere? I don't know. Am I worrying over nothing, underneath this ghastly exterior is good practice and management?

I have seen good and bad preschools. The only thing that is preventing me walking away right now is that Sceptical teacher did actually seem to have her wits about her, I got the feeling that if she understood my son's needs accurately she could do a decent job with him. She spoke about the local Special Educational Needs assessor using her first name, which I thought was a good sign, suggesting that they had probably at least met. There were glimmers in our conversation where I thought - actually, you ARE informed, you DO understand what I am trying to say to you, and possibly it is a good sign that you are assessing what I say carefully and trying to make up your own mind. She seemed much more educated about SEN than the Barnados co-ordinator. So I might give them a chance. Or I might wake up tomorrow morning and think "No way."

And of course it is a puncturing of the little bubble that we live in, because most children his age AREN'T in nappies, and you kind of forget that, what with the coping with what life has sent you and looking on the bright side and all.


  1. Thank you for this. We are emigrating to Wellington in April with three children 10,8 and 6, our middle son has Aspergers so it is really useful to be forewarned about the possible attitudes to risk and supervision. Obviously my children are older and therefore a little easier to negotiate and reason with - I remember the earlier years well! But we do still have a fairly unpredictable boy who will only comply if he is feeling very secure. He has on several occasions decided to walk out of his school here, so it will be something we need to address with his new school quite early on. Very reassuring to know there are people there who have gone before.... Thank you again, I will watch with interest to see how things work out for you - did you hear back from the nursery?
    Take care. Rebecca

  2. Hi Rebecca - glad it is some use!

    Yes, I have just posted about today - it didn't go well, I am feeling a bit discouraged.