Louise Furlong: is Mum to Eli and runs her own Montessori in her native Ballina for the last 16 years. She has gained invaluable experience raising her son (who has Autism) and working with other children also on the Spectrum. She enjoys helping all parents and has an open understanding attitude. In this post, Louise offers valuable advice to parents of children with Special Needs who are entering Early Years education.
SPECIAL NEEDS & EARLY YEARS EDUCATION
I am always welcoming of questions from parents. When your child is starting in Early Years Education, it can be a daunting time for parent and child, it is compounded further of course if your child has additional needs. You may have questions, worries and concerns. It has always been my attitude that all parents and their children are welcome in my Montessori, it is an open, welcoming and inclusive environment.
I am often asked for advice from parents and often hear the same questions asked time and time again. Here I offer some advice and insight from my dual perspective as a parent of child with Autism and from the perspective of an Early Years Educator.
My most important tip as a parent and working in the Early Years is to keep the lines of communication open, whether your child is verbal or non-verbal.
Using A Communication Journal (essentially: A notebook where you communicate with the Early Years Educator daily and they respond letting you know how your child’s day has gone, what they have eaten, toilet trips and so on) It’s an excellent way to track if they had a bad day, record their accomplishments and it gives both parties a great insight into the full workings of the child’s day.
Even now my son is in 1st class, I have a Communication Journal which I find very helpful because good or bad, he won’t tell me himself. I never hear about what happened in the day, I rely on the teachers input into the Journal to tell me what he can’t or won’t. Collection times can be very chaotic and asking for a progress update at the door might not be the best time. A Communication Journal is a must, from the very start.
Face to Face Meeting: Arrange a time where you can come in and talk about any supports, they are receiving at home such as OT and SLT and how it can be incorporated into their day in preschool. If you have any Reports from Therapists about your child, it is important to give a copy to their Early Years Educator; so, they have a global view of your child, and have a better understanding of how to help your child achieve their fullest potential.
Interests/Hobbies/Obessions/Likes-Dislikes: As an Early Years Educator, I find it very helpful when parents can give me a little insight in the child and build a good repartee, so things can be easily discussed.
We call interests that may lead to new learning- emerging interests and are always observing and documenting every child to see if we can expand on it further.
If you see anything at home your child is interested in, share it with preschool and see if we can learn something new!
I remember with my own son Eli, I was the first to tell them his likes and dislikes to make the transition easier. Leaving your child with strangers in a new place can be as unsettling for parents as it is the child but work with your preschool in how it suits them best to make sure every-one gets the best chance to learn and grow.
I find that by starting off on shorter days really helps and gives a great sense of achievement when it finishes on a good note. I always want all the children I work with to have positive experiences and associate coming to Montessori with fun, learning and positivity. It is important for the child as it helps foster a sense of security and in the long term a better chance for increased learning. We build up the length of time the child can stay in Montessori based on his/her individual needs and ability.
There won’t always be good days, that is true of every child who comes to Montessori whether they have Special Needs or not. As someone who works with children daily, I know that something may have triggered a behaviour or a meltdown. I try to see what happened that may have led to that, was it a bad morning before Montessori, were the noise levels too much, maybe I had moved something, and things seemed different. The Communication Journal proves vital during these times so I would advise that if at home something new has happened or there has been an event it is important to write down your own observations letting me know what is going on so I have a better handle on what the day ahead may be like and also so that I may be able to plan what will be best on that day for your child.
It’s not always clear but I find by stepping back and just watching I gain a lot more than rushing into a situation. If you have had a poor night sleep or a bad morning let the preschool know and see if they can turn a bad day better with that little bit of information, they can adjust the day a bit more to suit your child.
We all want what is best for your child.
Just know that we all have the best interests of your child at heart and everything we do is what we think is best for them at the time, whether it be right or wrong it’s all a learning curve with every child!
But know that little or big, every achievement your child has while in preschool is celebrated because it is a group effort between parents, preschool and your child.
You can find out more about Louise and her inspiring Montessori over on her FACEBOOK page which you can find HERE.
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Thanks so much Collette.x