Monday, September 22, 2014

Why I chose a 'special' school for my child

By Anchel Krishna
Having a child means making lots of decisions. When you have a child with special needs, you make decisions on top of decisions.
Last year, as my husband and I prepared for our daughter, Syona, to enter junior kindergarten we had a big decision to make: Enrol Syona at our local school or in a specialized three-year program that incorporated the standard curriculum with additional supports and therapies.
The local school meant a connection to our communityto other parents and kids who live close by. The special program meant three extra years to give our daughter a head start with smaller classes and therapists and teachers looking for ways to incorporate therapy into her day-to-day activities vs just setting up supports for her.
We participated in transition meetings, made lists, weighed the pros and cons and decided to enrol Syona in the specialized program.
One of my biggest fears as Syona’s mom is that people will look at her physical disabilities and communication challenges and underestimate her abilities. I’ve seen and heard how quickly and easily that happens in the school system. I figure three years of the specialized program—and the reports from teachers and therapists it'll generate—as well as opportunities for Syona to progress and mature will prepare her to transition well to our neighbourhood school.
Syona’s had a strong start so far in the specialized program. Despite the long commute, she has a great bus driver and has made some strong relationships with the kids on her bus. This is a great way for her to start and end the day. She has a wonderful and warm classroom team who truly care for her.
There have been tears (lots of tears). But that was to be expected. Syona’s an only child who spent the summer with her grandparents and several caregivers. She does a lot of one-on-one therapy. Up until this point, almost every adult in her life has provided her with undivided attention. At school, she’s learning to be a little more independent, play by herself and with her peers and, yes, that sometimes means a few tears. I know Syona will power through them and thrive at school.
When Syona comes home from a long day and asks to go to the park and I have to say nobecause there's only just enough time to have dinner and a bath before bedI wonder if we made the right decision.
But when she comes home and tells me about going swimming, or riding an adapted bike for the first time, I know we’ve done the right thing. As parents we make the best decisions we can at any given moment. I’m looking forward to what the next three years will bring.

Anchel Krishna is manager of communications at the Children's Treatment Network. She recommends these two CTN e-bulletins on Transitions to school and Special needs and the school system. Anchel blogs about special-needs parenting at Today's Parent.


Hi Anchel, I'm so happy that Syona is learning to love school! I am a longtime advocate for inclusion who put her son into special schools a couple of times. I was grateful for a quiet special preschool for Nick because he hated loud noises. Then a little later, we chose an intensive conductive education programme for him. Inclusion worked very well after that for a while, until Nick's medical needs became too complicated and the regular middle school was a disaster. The point is, you may go back and forth, but Syona and your heart will tell what is the best school setting! Thank you for a wonderful post!

Most families I know find it a lot easier to put the children in the special programs. I see a lot of positive experiences that way. What's tough is the transition when and if it's ever made, as the kids in the regular school don't know the newcomer from day one as could be had the child started with them.