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Reflections Magazine : Reflections Issue 59 Winter 2015
15 REFLECTIONS • GOWRIE AUSTRALIA • WINTER 2015 - ISSUE 59 Story by Josette and David Agius 'Inclusion' in the childcare setting, from our perspective, is very important and vital to a child's growth. For us, this is especially true, as our son Elijah, who is two-and-half years old, was born blind. Elijah started his attendance at Gowrie when he was one year old, and like many children, it took time for him to settle in and become comfortable with the idea of parting with Mummy and Daddy while they went to work. Introducing Elijah to his new surroundings, carers, children, parents, objects and sounds, was a lot for him to absorb. It's been a long transition, and taken a while for Elijah to adapt to the idea of coming to Gowrie. From the early days of his attendance, we spent many drop-offs with tears, tantrums, and unease. However, staff took extra steps to make the transition more fun by including a trampoline or a walker into the room for Elijah to play with. This was a positive thing because Elijah had these things at home and it created a sense of familiarity for him. I even recall Sarah, the room leader, wearing the same perfume on the days that Elijah was there to ensure he had the same sense of smell, or a necklace for him to feel which created that feeling of familiarity and consistency. He adapted really well to this and it assisted in the drop offs and settling him. The decision to send him to Gowrie has been a very positive move for us. Seeing Elijah grow, learn, interact and partake in activities with all his friends and carers in his room has been beneficial for him and very rewarding for us as parents. To us, inclusion in the childcare setting means involvement, togetherness and, equally, opportunities to participate. Elijah's way of learning differs to that of sighted children, however this does not mean he is excluded from activities done by other children at the centre. Perhaps some things are altered to address his special needs, but he is included in the same setting, has the same opportunity to participate and be involved. We, as parents, have a role to play in giving opportunities to our children. This is where Gowrie is also assisting with our process, with giving him the opportunities to feel part of a team, whether it's from helping collect lunch from the kitchen, going out on excursions into the community, or having his Feelix books* read with his friends. He too, is learning many values being with his peers, and certainly learning additional things to what we could teach him at home. Being a part of the room and team, he is included and encouraged to make choices in his daily activities, whilst learning and playing in a safe, loving environment. Going on excursions, playing and singing with his friends, having routine meal times with others -- these activities give him social skills that he'll be able to use throughout his life. We believe that presenting opportunity allows him to be the best person he can be. Gowrie plays an integral role in Elijah's life. The two days he is there, he knows that there is routine, which includes process, but also choices. From getting dressed, having breakfast, driving into the city on the freeway, to arriving in the lifts and saying hello to Stacey at the desk, to placing his own bag and cane in his space and then saying hello to his friends -- he is being included at every step of the way and I find he is much more responsive when he is given the opportunity to make a choice, then follow through with action on that choice. The centre also acknowledges who is present in Elijah's life. For example, Vision Australia who is a major part of our life are involved with making suggestions on how we can improve Elijah's experience at home or even at Gowrie and the enthusiasm that is adopted within the room is encouraging. Gowrie's way of understanding the importance of this has assisted our journey as parents too in an enormous way, especially when we are working together towards a milestone in Elijah's development. It's great that Gowrie also encourages and welcomes extended members of the family to participate. We are very lucky to have the support of Elijah's grandparents, who occasionally assist with drop offs and pickups. Our main decision to send Elijah to Gowrie was because we saw this as an opportunity for him to learn, interact, socialise and give him the feeling of being included in the community. We think that the earlier he adapts to this, the better his journey is going to be, and we feel this will give him the confidence to explore whatever he wishes to. With this attitude, we believe our little boy will be able to achieve anything, despite his blindness. It brings us so much joy as parents, especially with a special needs child, to hear that our son has partaken in an activity with his friends at Gowrie. All parents want their kids to excel and find their way in life, for us, knowing our son is blind, the worry of him being alone haunts us. But knowing that Elijah attends a place, other than his home, where he is nurtured and treated equally makes me smile, especially on days where he talks about his friends at Gowrie and how "At Gowrie we sang" and "At Gowrie I jumped". We have a very quick drop off with a hug, kiss and a "Bye Mummy, Bye Daddy" and we, as parents, are much more relaxed and confident, knowing we are walking out of the door and he is happy. Sources: http://education.gov.au/inclusion-and-professional-support-program http://www.inclusionnow.org.au/ https://ici.umn.edu/products/impact/221/2.html * The 'Feelix Library' for children is Vision Australia's response to the need for very young children who are blind or have low vision, to have access to stories like their sighted peers. Well-known picture books are annotated with Braille so that parents, carers, siblings and the child's peers can learn about Braille and share wonderful stories together.
Reflections Issue 58 Autumn 2015
Reflections Issue 60 Spring 2015