Wednesday, 10 September 2014

So, Why Homeschooling?

In January 2013, Gabriel started attending a Toddlers Group at a wonderful Montessori school.  He was 2½ years old at that stage.  His awesome teacher at the time, started reporting back concerning behaviours - hand flapping, escape behaviour (wanting to be outside when the other kids got noisy) and the occasional head banging.  

G-Dad and I have always loved the Montessori method of teaching and really wanted things to work out.  We promptly started seeing a speech therapist and an occupational therapist, after which we started, slowly but surely, searching for a paediatric neurologist.  After the first term, Gabriel seemed to settle down nicely into his environment, while still displaying the above behaviours, albeit a lot less intense.

Fast forward to January 2014.  Gabriel had graduated into the pre-schoolers group which required him to move to the main, bigger, school in the heart of the majestic Cape wine lands (the view is to die for!).  The behaviour issues returned, with a vengeance.  We had now received Gabriel's official diagnosis from his paediatric neurologist and started looking at ways to ensure he could remain in the school. We started exploring avenues of having a facilitator accompany him to school, so that he could have more one-on-one assistance.

During this time, we stared seeing a fantastic psychologist, recommended by Gabriel's paediatric neurologist, to do a lengthy assessment to confirm her diagnosis.   
Unfortunately, trained facilitators are very expensive and medical aids do not cover their fees.  So we tried sending Gabriel's nanny to assist.  When this didn't work out, we approached a wonderful woman who had started teaching Gabriel how to swim (after two swimming schools turned him down, but that's a whole other blog!).  Gabriel's psychologist said all we needed was someone with a great heart and lots of patience.  And G-Dad and myself kept thinking of her, immediately.  We approached her, she agreed (thank goodness!) and she started attending the school, with Gabriel, for a few hours a week.

Although he responded to this very nicely, Gabriel still displayed behavioural issues.  I then asked Gabriel's psychologist to do an observational visit at the school and report back.  And did we receive disheartening news!

Gabriel was spending his entire time at school trying to self-soothe - to calm himself down.  This was preventing him from learning.  Children on the Spectrum tend to have sensory processing issues, so children playing nearby might come across as incredibly loud, for example.  So loud, that it is physically painful to be near them.  Throw in bright lights, strong smells and you have a recipe for disaster.

The psychologist's recommendation?  Take Gabriel out of school immediately and have him schooled at home where he feels the safest, calmest and happiest, using an ABA-based program.  I remember thinking that this man had better be right, as we were placing all of our faith in him.  

It is the best decision we have ever made.  Within a month we had removed Gabriel from his school (which we do miss), cleared out the spare bedroom and converted it into his own learning/fun space.

Gabriel's facilitator/tutor (same awesome lady as mentioned above) - from hereon out now known as G-Mary Poppins, comes to our home, 4 days a week, two hours each day.  He receives one-on-one tutoring and is flourishing.  He is so much calmer, is able to focus, is mimicking words and imitating.  He is showing imaginative play and having fun!

So yes, Gabriel's psychologist was right ;).