Our daughter Lucie joined the school at 11 months old. She has cerebral palsy (right side hemiplegia) following a stroke at or around birth. We found out about the school from a special needs charity in Essex (SNAP) that we visited from time to time. Whilst we knew very little about conductive education and even less about the school, we did a bit of reading and decided that it was something that could help Lucie and we should give it a try. And so it was that our three and a half year association with the school started.
It’s fair to say that the early days attending the school did raise questions and concerns and had us asking ourselves whether the ‘day out’ and 100 mile round trip each week for the half day session was something that we should continue with longer term. Seeing other children each with their differing development challenges and seeing the equipment and school environment made us very conscious of the development challenges our Lucie would face; something that we had probably been blocking out over the preceding months. As Lucie grew, would her attendance at the school make her more aware of her challenges and would this demotivate? Does the extensive use of music in the sessions really make a difference (we now have ‘come on Lucie walk this way’ ingrained in our minds forever)? And would the repetitive routines aid or inhibit development? These were some of the things running through our minds at the time.
Fortunately, for all our sakes, we decided to stick with it. Slowly and progressively over time Lucie started to acquire new skills and achieve new goals. Whether it were grasping a bell for the first time or standing without holding onto something, each small step was actively encouraged and positively praised. Further, inexplicably Lucie had a habit of choosing her session at school as the time when she would suddenly achieve a major development skill for the first time (examples being rolling over on the mat and moving from floor to standing unaided). The methods that we questioned at the outset obviously work. Lucie really looked forward to her weekly trip to school. She would meet her friends and their mums. She would meet her teachers. In the generality she would have fun, recognising that she would have to try to do things that she found difficult.
We have concentrated on Lucie so far, but the school is not called a ‘school for parents’ for nothing. From participation in the lessons you naturally learn how to contribute to your child’s development. But the school has thankfully provided us with much more than that. We have had the opportunity to share experience, learning and ideas with other parents within class and through wider school or social events. We have gained advice and contacts proactively and in response to us asking. We have had support when dealing with Health and SEN Education. But probably most importantly, we have had a team of people who have been willing to listen to our moans, frustrations, periods of anger, periods of unhappiness and even the odd periods of blabbing into handkerchiefs and to provide us with the support and comfort to deal with these and become stronger, happier and more positive parents.
And so we have reached the time where Lucie leaves the school for parents and moves on to full time school. We leave with a child who is happier and more capable and sociable than we might have believed she would become when we first arrived at the school. And we leave as parents stronger and more capable of supporting Lucie (though not without some trepidation over what may be to come!). Whilst we are moving on in terms of attendance, we hope we will be able to continue to be involved with the school in some ways going forward.
And we could not finish without a big thank you to all the staff at the school. Your patient, positive and unflappable attitude to everything that is thrown at you is admirable.
See for yourself the amazing learning journey Lucie had at the school. She has exceeded all expectations thanks to the input of the school.
Learning how to crawl and learning to go up stairs
Learning how to draw, paint trying to use two hands and use scissors
Learning how to use her right hand through threading
Learning to play music with both hands, stretching with music and the happiness of achievement Learning how to cope with new texture or sensations
Learning life skills such as washing hands, make choices, eating and trying to hold a knife in the right hand
Learning to stand and balance learning to pass obstacles
Passive stretches of the body, arms, hands, fingers, legs, ankles and active stretches
Learning to roll over, pass a toy, learning to hold a hoop and trying to climb etc……….