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Simmerville web proudly introduces Lucy Test of Sim Dale neighbourhood, with a series articles about living with a special child. She will share her experience from bringing up Jack, her child who suffers from learning difficulties.
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Life With a Special Child [3]
October 1, 2002 - by Lucy Test, Sim Dale

Lucy Test is sharing experiences from her own life. If you missed the beginning of her true story, please click here. To be continnued next month.

P   a   r   t       t   h   r   e   e   :      

J   a   c   k       S   t   a   r   t   s      S  c   h   o   o   l

There were problems from the start with Jack going to school, Alex and I felt that he should go to the same school as all the other children in Sim Dale, but the local council thought he would get on better at a special needs school.  This is something Alex and I felt very strongly about.  We arranged a meeting with the head of the local school, Mrs Angelo and a representative of the local council, Mr Mann.  Mr Mann expressed his concerns over Jack, feeling that he wouldn’t be able to keep up with the other children.  I know Jack needs special attention, but I’m sure this is something that can be given within a normal classroom environment. We explained that Jack loves being with other children, and Mrs Angelo agreed that Jack could attend the school, with a classroom assistant to help.  Mr Mann was still very opposed to the idea and said the council wouldn’t agree to fund an extra classroom assistant for Jack.  We left the meeting feeling very down heartened, it’s very important to us that Jack is treated the same as any other child.  

The new school term started and Jack had to stay home, as we still had not had a resolution.  Jack used to sit at the window, looking at the school bus picking up other children from the neighbourhood, I was very sad for him, watching him staring at the bus.  Jack is a very bright child and could even read a few words, like cat and dog.  Finally, three weeks into the new term the council agreed that Jack could attend the school if he underwent a needs assessment. Although Alex and I weren’t entirely happy about this, we knew it was a big step forward.

On the day of the assessment, I took Jack to the school, but I had to leave him and collect him later.  I spent the day downtown, window shopping and thinking about my precious little boy.  I hoped that he would be able to start school soon, I was sure it wasn’t good for him to stay home.  When I collected him at the end of the day, Mr Mann said that Jack had failed the assessment tests, and that he needed more support than could be provided in a normal classroom.  Jack was enrolled in Mount Heights, a school for children with special needs.  I left the school crying. I had so wanted Jack to be like any other child.  

Alex and I spoke that evening and Alex said maybe it would be best for Jack, I couldn’t believe he wasn’t taking my side on this, and we had an argument about it. I refused to let Jack go to Mount Heights and we employed a home tutor for Jack, so he could be home schooled.  Miss Pau was very good with Jack and by the end of term he could count to 20 and read the whole of “Spot goes to the Farm” by himself.  I have never been so proud of him. Jack was coming on in leaps and bounds and I went to speak to Mr Mann again, sure I could convince him to give Jack a second chance, but to no avail.  He was as resolute as ever, insisting that Jack must attend Mount Heights. Jack continued to be home schooled by Miss Pau.

At the end of the school year, Jack had just turned six and Adam was due to start at Sim Dale Primary. I again met with Mrs Angelo and Mr Mann, to try and convince them to let Jack start at the school next year.  The meeting turned into a heated debate between Mr Mann and myself, but in the end, I emerged with a small victory, Jack could attend Sim Dale Primary for 3 afternoons a week, and if he did well, it would be reviewed again at the end of term.  So in September Jack and Adam both went to school, with Miss Pau continuing to home school Jack two days a week.  Jack was a lot happier and settled down well, and his school report at the end of term gave him an average of C-.  By the end of the year, Jack was improving greatly picking up a B on his end of year report, but still Mr Mann would not agree to let Jack attend school full time. Natalie also started at the school, making Jack feel even more isolated at home with Mss Pau. Jack started becoming very difficult, reverting to screaming and biting, it broke my heart to see him so distressed. He was as good as gold when he was at school, but at home he was very disruptive, wouldn’t sleep and became very hyperactive.  

Jack was seven when I discovered I was pregnant again and I didn’t have the strength to fight, I agreed to let him have a trial at Mount Heights, He would go to Sim Dale Primary on Mondays and Wednesdays, and Mount Heights on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and spend Fridays at home with Miss Pau.  It was not a situation I was happy with, and much to our dismay; Jack became even more restless and disruptive. He seemed to find it hard to settle anywhere and I knew the constant changing was not good for him, a child like Jack needs stability.  I withdrew him from school completely and Miss Pau once again took over teaching him at home.  Although he was not as happy as he could be, continuity was good for Jack and he settled back into a routine.

In December, two events happened to change everything.  Firstly, our third son, Kurtis was born but also, Mr Mann finally agreed for Jack to attend Sim Dale Primary, full time. And at the start of the January Term, Jack, Adam and Natalie all went on the school bus together.  

Jack has continued to improve and I know I made the right choice for him.  I can only hope that the school’s experiences with Jack have made them more willing to take children with special needs.  Miss Pau has become Jack’s classroom assistant and continues to have a great influence on our son’s education. Jack adores her and I think she has helped him settle and progress more than a stranger would have.

To be continnued.