Steve Palmer's blog about his son Stanley - who has Down's Syndrome - & the extended family. All about Down Syndrome and learning disability.

Wednesday, 15 February 2006

Teacher knows best

This was originally on the BBC Ouch! Website

This time, I hand over to Stan's support worker at school nursery, Tanit.

As Stanley’s learning support assistant, working 1:1 on a daily basis with four year old Stan, I thought I would aid Steve in with his blog by describing my experience of working in the nursery with Stan and his integration into mainstream school as this situation has been a learning curve for both Stan and myself.I have been working with Stan since September 2005 and I could not have wished for a more loving and special child to work with. When I first learnt about Stanley and his previous medical battle with his severe heart condition I must admit, I wasn’t sure of what to expect. However, when I first met Stan I was presented with an extemely confident, vibrant young child full of energy and love. It was magical and from that moment onwards I was so looking forwards to this new challenge and learning experience.

Everyday spent in the nursery with Stanley is just so rewarding and its amazing how this little child who professionals predicted would do so very little has the ability to walk into a room and light up the lives of others. Stan has the ability to melt anybody’s heart with the glint of cheekiness that he carries in his eyes and the way he guiltily smiles at you and cuddles you when you are trying to teach him right from wrong. He makes it almost an impossible task!There are many things Stan finds difficult on a day to day basis in the nursery but he is such a determined young boy that he perseveres with everything no matter how hard the challenge. Due to his poor muscle tone, trying to ride a bicycle and trying to produce some of the many signs he uses are just two examples of some of the daily activities Stan struggles with. Stan’s Down’s makes some daily tasks quite difficult for him but nothing stops him and he attempts everything irrelevant of whether he succeeds or not.

A lot of people have many preconceptions about children with down syndrome, the main one being that these children aren’t capable of much and that all they do is cuddle everyone all the time. However, the reality is very different. Yes, Stan is definately a very affectionate child who will give all members of staff in the nursery hugs and kisses throughout the day but he is just like any other four year old we have in the nursery. Stan likes to do what he likes to do, he will through toys around the nursery and will throw a temper tantrum when he doesn’t get his own way just like any of the other children.

If you were to ask me if I think Stanley attending a mainstream school has been beneficial to him I’d say yes. Stanley attending a mainstream school means that he accesses the national curriculum in the same way the other children do and that his disability does not preclude him from being just like any other four year old. He gets to paint with his friends, sing with his friends, play with the water and the sand and even though Stan’s day can sometimes be slightly different eg. by attending speech therapy, he is treated with the same respect and in the same manner as every other child that attends the nursery. Stan has no inhibitions whatsoever, he lives for the moment and lives everyday to the maximum.In contrast? Again, if you were to ask me if I think Stanley attending a mainstream school has been beneficial to the school I’d say yes everytime. Stanley joining our nursery has meant that we have all had to receive training on Down Syndrome and the methods for teaching children such as Stan. In addition to this we have all had to undertake training in makaton as Stan is so skilled with his signing for a child so young he would put most professionals in the education system to shame. I feel that all of the staff and the children that will progress with Stan through the school will have the ability to learn a lot.In summary to this blog I would just like to second Steve’s invitation to all of the medical professionals who predicted the very least for Stan to come and visit him in school and see how much this very special child has achieved.

We have all only been working with Stan since September and yet there is already clear evidence of the huge progress he has made in this short space of time. I am so looking forwards to continuing working with Stan and thanks to his extremely supportive family and the fantastic team that work with him in his nursery and the future staff members that will work with him I know Stan is destined to achieve a lot.

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