Every year I ponder whether it is necessary to “explain” Missy to her new class. It hasn’t seem so the last few years sticking with much the same bunch of kids at her mainstream school. This year she is in a composite class. So half the class don’t know her very well.
When she was in kindergarten the teacher and I ran a small group making stress balls from balloons and rice. It was a great opportunity to discuss muscles and how the brain makes them work. Young kids are masters of the straight up question so it was a lively, effective session even with such young-uns . I also sent home a letter to all of the other parents with a brief introduction and welcomed them to approach me if they wished which worked well…as far as I could tell. There were no sudden silences as we rolled into a room and at least one mum mentioned a lovely bed time chat she had with her child about friends with similarities and differences. Nice.
Once at primary school, the principals idea was to simply let her be part of her class rather than point out her differences. I went along with that for a while but this year has brought a new teacher, new aide, a bunch of different classmates, a desire to focus on communication with her peers and a girl old enough to decide for herself. Today at school she told her own story. I typed her ideas…and edited under instruction (may I say she’s quite the critic!). She delivered her story via her voice output communication device to a captive audience. And this is how it went…
Hi. I think you all know my name but I wanted to tell you a bit more about myself. As you can see I need wheels to get around and I don’t talk the same way as you. That’s because I have something called Cerebral Palsy. My brain was injured before or when I was born. My brain still works well for thinking but it doesn’t tell my muscles what to do very well. So I do things differently and need a little extra help. I enjoy doing the same kinds of things as you. I like to read books, watch TV, bake cakes, swing and do craft. When you talk to me I will answer in the way you might if you have a sore throat. I nod for yes and shake my head to say no. I take a little while to make my body do what I want so you may have to wait a sec. When I want to say more I use my book. I look at the section of the page then the colour of the square I want. I’m really quick so you may need to ask me to slow down. Do you have any questions?
After school I asked her if it went well. She beamed and nodded in a proud “I nailed it” kind of way. Awe-some. I am in some serious awe of this clever young lady. Apparently she finished to the sound of applause and an enthusiastic hug from one little friend. What? No one threw flowers. Maybe next time. It is a proud mumma day.