It’s August and that means time to gear up for another year of homeschooling! This year, we’re doing grade 1 and Preschool and I can hardly wait to get started.
Like most things so far, homeschooling is not where we started off. Initially, we had our oldest daughter in public school for Kindergarten. Her days seemed to be going great and her teacher was happy with her progress.
In our area of Canada, public schools do something at the beginning of Kindergarten called an “Early Intervention Program”. They bring in a bunch of professionals in their field – Speech/Language Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Learning Coaches etc. These professionals go into the Kindergarten classrooms and spend the first several weeks evaluating the children and checking for any major issues they could be experiencing. The goal is to make recommendations to the teachers and parents regarding the best path for optimal success and then integrate them fully into a Kindergarten setting for the duration of the year. Kids who do need extra support are allotted funding in a classroom setting or as an alternate, parents are provided with the names of private services that they can pursue. It’s really a great idea and I’m fully supportive of this.
In our case, our daughter received a brief evaluation and the professionals had no identification process for SPD. Essentially, they had no idea what they were evaluating and she was given no in-classroom support to complete Kindergarten.
While all this was going on, my hubby and I were noticing that she seemed to be regressing at home. It was like all her energy was spent after her brief mornings at Kindergarten. She wasn’t coping, lots more meltdowns and inability to focus. She was also being less flexible and in general…life at home was becoming very difficult – for her and for us.
We attended parent/teacher interviews and her teacher was a very kind woman. She guided us through a typical day in Kindergarten and showed us a few pictures and activities that our daughter had completed. Once again, her teacher indicated that she was doing fine…but….she had difficulty sitting, she had difficulty when the bells rang, she would take A LOT of bathroom breaks…”was that normal for her?”, she had difficulty looking at collages and participating in group activities, she did not like the gym, she had trouble with focus, she didn’t like to stop speaking, she had trouble with changing activities, she would intrude on others space, she did not seem to have any friends.
It became apparent to me what was happening.
Often times, SPD kids need someone to help them manage themselves to an optimal level of stimulation. Without intervention and help from an understanding adult with experience with SPD, they are expending more energy than they have. They can be like little sponges, with no “filters”, absorbing absolutely EVERY piece of information seen or unseen and taking it all in. In typically-developing children, useless information is sub-consciously discarded as “irrelevant” to the situation. In SPD kids, EVERY piece of information can seem important. And it can wear them out – physically, mentally and emotionally. This leads to more meltdowns and behavior problems.
This is where a Sensory Diet comes in, sometimes called a Sensory break. Taking Sensory breaks, especially in a busy school setting is so critically important to the success of SPD kids. Without help from adults, teachers and possibly even an occupational therapist within her school setting, our daughter’s chances for success in a classroom environment were already quite minimal.
In the afternoon, she would come home, already melting-down on the walk home, repeating over-and-over “There were too many coats on the coat hangers! Too much noise! Too many kids!” These were things that I knew I needed to listen to. My daughter was trying her best to communicate with me how she was feeling and it’s my job to respond.
I am sorry to say that this was our experience within the public school setting. Funding dollars are tight and it was absolutely NOT the teachers fault. Sometimes it’s just nobody’s fault. It’s just the hand that you’re dealt and you do the best you can with it.
We had to get creative and so that led us to homeschool. For us, it has been the answer that we were looking for. We are very fortunate to have an outstanding homeschooling program, with so may options to choose from. She absolutely loves it! We manage her activity level from home and with the help of home visits from her Occupational Therapist, complete with a Sensory Diet, she is coping phenomenally-well. I’m also happy to report that I have quite the little smarty-pants on my hands. She is very, VERY bright and is learning beyond her age-level. I am a proud, proud Mama!!!
More on homeschooling in posts to come….