11 December 2010


My oh My! It has been a while since I blogged. Two months in fact! I have never before been so silent, and this is not like me… In truth it has been a mixture of over-busyness (most of the time) and lapses into deep laziness (temporary but so rejuvenating). It is not that there is nothing to report. It is more that too many fingers into too many pies don’t do much for Reflection.

The main event, the one that I have wanted to post about for a while but did not get around to, started a few weeks ago. In itself, it is one of those “little things” we take for granted. One of these steps that occurs as part of life with a young child, that parents (and grand-parents) celebrate but don’t make that much of a big fuss about, because it is expected, it is the norm. In Cathal’s case, of course, it is much more.

When Cathal’s Mammy was very small, she liked playing on her own in the house, but came to a stage when it became obvious she needed more. Also her little brother was on the way, and I needed more time for me. So at age 2 ½ she went to playschool. She was the youngest there, and started as a shy but observant little girl, not saying nor doing much for the first few weeks, just watching thoughtfully. Until one morning the teacher asked, in Irish, what colour was the object she was holding… perfect silence around the circle of children. And then Cathal’s Mammy timidly puts up her hand. You see, from birth her dad spoke Irish to her, and her mum spoke French to her, and she heard English all around… so colours in Irish were no problem to her, even at 2 ½! From that day on, there was no stopping her.

When her brother reached the grand old age of 2 years minus 1 week, something had to be done: he could not understand why his big sister was going to school and he was not. He would go around the house feeling sorry for himself, sighing, and generally looking so bored it broke my heart: I could recognise myself in him, having grown up as an only child until I was twelve, and having hated so much the loneliness and boredom due to lack of siblings around me. So the week of his 2nd birthday, he was farmed out to playschool a couple of mornings a week, and he loved it!

My children may have gone to playschool a little earlier than most, at least by Irish standards at the time, but it was inevitable that they would go, it was expected, it was part of the curriculum every child goes through.

Cathal took his turn to starting playschool a few weeks ago. In itself, nothing major about it. Except that it is a Montessori school. Not special needs. Not Early Intervention. Not Skip. Just good old-fashion, run-of-the-mill, ordinary Montessori school. And THAT is major for Cathal.

Finding such a school was not that easy. The fact that Cathal does not walk, and that he is still in nappies, meant a few “no’s” were expressed in what would have been his parents’ first choices. And then this one came on the radar. It is also a crèche, and the Montessori sessions (e.g. the school part of it) are also available to all the children in the crèche from 12 months of age. So bum-shuffling nappy-wearing little ones are not an issue there. Cathal was more than welcome.

The first time, he was there for just one hour. His Mammy reported that he was happy to see her, but not over enthusiastic at going home. The second time, he was there for two hours, and almost ignored her when she came back. Since then he does not want to come home, and is now staying a full three hours once a week. After Christmas, he will go twice a week, giving his Mammy a well-deserved break and quality me-time (especially before the new baby arrives!) Most importantly, Cathal gets right in the middle of things, follows the other children, gets involved in all the activities, has his 11 o’clock break like anyone else. The other children do not know any different. He does not know any different.

In short, total integration. More than anything else he has experienced in his life so far, that is the first true step towards independence. No matter what kind of education system he follows later on, mainstream or special, this little school is contributing to giving him his own space in society.

I am very proud of him for willingly accepting this new challenge, and very proud of his parents for ensuring he is given this chance. I am also very thankful to the playschool for saying “yes, no problem”. And I am wishing all educational places that come along his path in the future will have the same attitude towards him.


Grace App said...

That is fantastic news Nan, I'm delighted for you and Cathal too - but most especially for Mammy and Daddy. xxoo

ps. notice I am not commenting on the total integration? because I think it is a right, an entitlement and not a privledge.

Nan P. said...

Hammie, I totally agree, education is a fundamental right. Integration in main stream education is an entitlement...

But the reality is no so black and white. Though I do not want to project, I can see some battles ahead.... On the plus side, Cathal has very strong champions to fight for him...

Jeffrey Goble said...

The line on our battleground we fight is called "least restrictive" - I'm very pleased that there seem to be none for Cathal.

jazzygal said...

That is fabulous news Nan. How wonderful for Cathal. he will come on in leaps and bounds...I have no doubt about it. He is surrounded by a wonderfully supportive team :-)

he'll go far!

So good to see you back blogging!

xx Jazzy

Unknown said...

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How to Start Play School