Thursday, 20 June 2013
A new perspective
So Elin has been at her SEN school for almost 2.5 years. I can't believe it! Yes it's a cliche, but where does the time actually go? I remember when she started like it was yesterday. Anyway, since Elin started school we have often commented how great it would be for Caitlin (Elin's sister) to get to see her at school. She spends so much time with her at home, but to see her at school is to understand her world entirely. For Caitlin, who is 15, school means something very different than the experience Elin has each day, for obvious reasons. However it's not just the curriculum variation that we wanted her to appreciate. Seeing Elin in school I think, can be a little light-bulb moment. It's not just about fully grasping the potential Elin has and the full range of activities which she takes part in each and every day in order to help her reach this potential. It's about seeing the other children too, and feeling the atmosphere in the classes and the tangible love and caring that passes back and forth between the staff and the children. It's not really something that you can explain, or take a photograph of. It's just in the air. And it's Elin's world. After all, technically during the week she almost spends more awake-time in school than she does with us! Given all this, it's mad that we had not managed to get Caitlin there sooner. However, Sports Day at Caitlin's school provided an opportunity for us to take her out for an afternoon without worrying about her missing too much. So, this afternoon she came with me to Elin's school. Needless to say she loved it as I knew she would (you can't not, really). I loved it too, not because I haven't been there a million times but because I was seeing everything with fresh eyes, through Caitlin's perspective. A sensory story in the dark room (or is it the light room? I'm never sure) about the Billy Goat's Gruff involving lots of textures, sounds visual stimulation and did I mention FUN? Then texture rhythms where the children listened to some music (Caitlin massively impressed with Beyonce and Will.I.Am featuring on the soundtrack to this activity!) and have different object and textures to feel/ stroked over them. Elin LOVED this and so did we. It was actually quite moving for Caitlin (and me of course but I cry at the drop of a hat!) to see how much Elin is adored by people outside of the family unit. I think it made her glad, as it makes me glad, that she has a place and people like this in her little life, who care so deeply about making her day fantastic, every day of every week, of every month. Lucky, lucky us. Finally Elin took part in a parachute music song which was very exciting for her and her friends and again, more sensory stimulation. To end our visit we got shown around the rest of the school, meeting the amazing kids and the fab hydrotherapy pool and soft play area. Caitlin at this point wishing she wasn't in mainstream school anymore I think!! It was a lovely afternoon and what strikes me is the school didn't have to agree to it (can you imagine that happening in mainstream? I teach there and believe me it probably wouldn't) but in typically accommodating fashion school understood and encourage close relationships between home and school- in particular with siblings-and allowed Caitlin this glimpse into her sister's world when she is away from us (this unchartered territory, this mythical place 'Elin's school' which is now a reality for Caitlin and a frame of reference for her during conversations and news from Elins school day in the future), and we are made up that they did. Such a little thing. Yet such a big thing for a teenager who loves her little sister more than anything and vice versa. I will leave you with a text I just got from Caitlin " Thank you again for giving me the opportunity to go to Elle's school! It was lush, honestly, I LOVED it xx" Says it all, really :-)
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