Tomorrow, Oscar has his first “settling in” morning at his new nursery. He’s not officially starting until the beginning of September but I have to admit, I am full of mixed emotions. Will he be ok? Will he fit in? Will he be able to cope? Will they be able to cope with him? I’m, of course, really happy with our choice of setting. I had a gut feeling, as soon as I walked through the door that this was the right one for us. But however much I try to remind myself that Oscar adores other children and being around his mainstream peers will mean he’ll thrive and that the staff have been nothing but so lovely and welcoming to Oscar; the closer it gets to him starting, the more I worry.
And I know that EVERY Mummy out there worries. Regardless of whether their child has additional needs or not, but when I first enrolled Oscar I was adamant he should go somewhere that was all about inclusion and treating him just as they’d treat any of the other two year olds, but in hindsight, I think I was kidding myself. And don’t get me wrong, this post isn’t all “woe is me, my child’s not capable”, because he is. He’s doing brilliantly. And I’m not saying he’ll need 1:1 for the full day. He’s fiercely independent and will quite happily play with others or explore on his own. However on reflection, there’s some areas he’s most definitely going to need a bit of help with, and I’m now mindful that he’s going to be seen as a pain, before he’s even started
I know I’ve spoken about this before, and it’s not my meaning to harp on about Oscar being naughty BUT… he kinda is.
Although probably no more so than a lot of two year old boys, I’m sure. Take for example, when I go to a friend or family member’s house lately. I spend the first few minutes doing a risk assessment on it. You’re probably thinking, so he doesn’t hurt himself? Oh no, more so that he doesn’t end up breaking their stuff. I fear for the lives of their lamps, their ornaments… Anything that he’s not supposed to touch, he without doubt will get his hands on. If it’s up high, somehow he’ll find it and get to it. He’s testing the boundaries at the moment and trying his luck. I guess just generally being a monkey. I find myself constantly saying “No”. And even when I do say no, it’s probably only about 5% of the time that he actually listens to me. I think he’s inherited his dad’s selective hearing as to whether he decides to respond or not. (And before you start worrying, that I should get his hearing checked again, when he does decide to look at me, he’ll smile the biggest, most cheekiest grin I’ve ever seen… He TOTALLY knows what he’s doing.)
We had a meeting at his new nursery the other day. It was with Chris and me, the Nursery SENCO (special educational needs coordinator) and Oscar’s new key worker. His “team” were also invited – his portage worker, his physio, a lady from hearing support as well as his early support worker. We all sat around and talked through any concerns we had. I felt like it went well but I still came away feeling a bit sick.
Chris of course, was completely confident.
“Do you think he’ll be ok, Chris?”
“Yeeeeeeeeah of course, Juts.”
“Yeah but do you think his key worker really “understands” Down syndrome?”
“She has a good heart and she loves Oz… He’ll be fine.”
VOICE INSIDE MY HEAD – Ok, HOW is he so relaxed? I’m freaking out here!!!!
My first concern. Take for example, meal times. He’s mastered his self feeding with a spoon but how can I say this politely… he’s not brilliant at it yet. He can hold a yoghurt pot and get most of it out, but when it gets near the end, he gets frustrated he can’t reach the bottom bit and either pushes it away or throws it on the floor. When he pushes it away he’s not finished, it’s just too difficult for him so he gives up. If you spoon feed him the rest, he’ll happily eat it. I know that though. They don’t. Should I be that annoying neurotic mum who lets them know “just one more thing…” or just leave it? Will they know to offer him the last bit or will he go hungry?
VOICE INSIDE MY HEAD – Sarah, he won’t go hungry, just because he can’t get the last bit of the flippin yoghurt out!!!
Drinking. All the other children have their own water bottles that the nursery have provided. Oscar has tried every beaker, sippy cup, bottle that there is and has only just (in the last couple of months) mastered one that he can drink from himself without my help. They have said that it’s fine for him to use his own, but as I watched the other children go over to get their water, I realised Oscar might not register that that’s what they’re doing. He’s not going to ask for a drink or might not even realise that’s what they’re providing. They’re going to need to take it to him and offer it… And like I do, they’re gonna need to persist until he drinks because honestly, he could take it or leave it as he’s far too busy having fun to want a drink.
VOICE INSIDE MY HEAD – See Sarah, they’re gonna find him a hindrance on day one.
I told his key worker (and Chris is right about her, she IS super lovely) that she’s going to need to use short sentences or just key words or phrases with Oscar. It’s important she’s clear and concise so as to not over complicate things. Repetition of words is really working for him at the moment. We talked about using visual aids, which is something he’s done in therapy and with me at home. I have photos of his favourite things (his ball, his shoes, his milk, his toothbrush, his duck etc) and he’s really starting to recognise the correct one when I offer him the choice, for example; Which one’s the duck, Oscar? I had been recommended, that photo visual aids might help him in his new setting, especially at first. I thought perhaps one for lunch time, snack time, water break, circle time, nap time etc. At least then, he’ll start to know what’s required of him.
VOICE INSIDE MY HEAD – Ok forget the kid, HOW annoying is his mother being with all these demands for visual aids?
They asked if there was anything else we were concerned about and I just mentioned that Oscar still has a tendency to cast toys. I explained that although he’s more than capable of putting a toy down after he’s finished with it, occasionally he’ll throw it. It takes far more effort and energy to place it down (using the release motion) than it does to cast it away for our children. I also said though, that sometimes it’s a very deliberate cast and if this is the case, then by all means call him up on it. I think they understood.
INSIDE VOICE – Please God, let them have understood.
Since the meeting, there have been a few other things I thought I should have raised, which I’m sure I will before he officially joins. I’ve talked previously about my fears regarding Oscar going to a mainstream school and the same applies here in the nursery setting. I would hate it if he was struggling with whatever activity the rest of the group were doing, so they just sat him down in a corner with a puzzle and didn’t let him partake in what everyone else’s doing because it was too much effort to involve him. My biggest fear is that he won’t meet his full potential in mainstream because people may baby him or don’t give him the time. Would a special school push him enough though? I know school’s a way off yet but it’s something to think about and applies here.
INSIDE VOICE – Please, don’t leave my Oscar out.
Oh yeah and please let them take him outside if that’s where everyone’s going. Don’t assume that he’ll follow. It’s more than likely that he’ll actually decide he’d much rather empty all the bricks on the floor for no apparent reason, or saunter over to the paints and start wandering around with the brushes in the air, bumping into a doorframe as he goes because he’s too engrossed in what he’s doing to notice everyone’s going out. The thing is, he LOVES being outside but he won’t necessarily realise that’s where you’re all going. So please let them take him because he’ll have the best time out there.
I mean, I’m doing him a disservice. At home, he totally knows when the back door is open… Or any door anywhere, for that matter. He’ll dart out quicker than a flash, so who am I kidding, he’ll figure it out soon enough.
Finally, they asked in this meeting about behaviour… For the most part I believe Oscar to be pretty good. Aside from the initial whirlwind he creates when he enters somewhere new, he’s usually quite happy to play and amuse himself. They asked if he pushes and I said no, he’d only push if someone was in his face and if he did, it’d never be out of malice.
They then asked about biting, which at the time of the meeting he wasn’t but of course since then, just to add to my anxiety levels, he’s started. I’m not sure why… Again I don’t think it’s to intentionally hurt. I’m wondering if it’s a sensory thing? Or teething? (He’s getting his hind teeth) But he’s started and his main target is his baby brother Alfie. Poor little Alf!
While we were in the meeting, Oscar spent some time in the actual nursery but to put us at ease, they had the CCTV on in there so we could watch his every move on the monitor. As it happens, I had my back to the screen so couldn’t see what was going on, but throughout the meeting every once in a while, I’d catch Chris looking up at the screen and smiling. He told me on the way home that Oscar couldn’t have timed things better, when they asked “does he push”… There was me saying, no… then with that, two little boys came over to him and he pushed them both away. When I was talking about my concerns of casting, he threw a toy across the room and the nursery staff member came over to pass it back to him. Finally, when they asked what his general behaviour was like and I was saying pretty good, at that moment Oscar was climbing to get on the table. Of course Chris found all this hilarious, I on the other hand felt a wave of panic rush over me.
I’m torn, you see… On the one hand I worry about leaving my baby, who let’s face it, is going to need to be kept a watchful eye on. To the flipside, worrying that my little monkey will cause havoc.
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Oscar will be ok. He will love it, he’ll thrive and won’t even look back to say goodbye, I’m sure.
I guess love is learning to let go and knowing that in doing so, you’re doing the right thing by them. Someone once told me that, when an ex boyfriend broke up with me and I was crying into my Sauv blanc. If you truly love someone, you set them free if they want to go… And I’m sure Oscar will want to.
I hope that my fears will be squashed in a few weeks time and that Oscar’s transition into the nursery is a success. I hope that the nursery staff have patience and understanding and can appreciate that with a little extra attention, Oscar will do just perfectly. I hope that Oscar himself, proves me wrong and behaves beautifully and doesn’t cause too much trouble. I am confident that regardless of any tables he might climb on, or toys he might throw, he will charm them with that face of his and they will fall in love him like we all have.
I read the other day about a lady who’d worked in a nursery for 15 years. She said in her experience, the cuter they are, the cheekier they are. In which case, I can safely say and with good authority… WE ARE OFFICIALLY DOOMED.
I’ll keep you all posted… :0) x