Friday, March 13, 2009

Disability Awareness (Are We There Yet?): Part 1.

One of the many things I worry about when it comes to Max is how he is treated by others. Scott and I will only leave Max with family, therapists, and close friends that are very familiar with Max and have proven to us that they love him, can handle his challenging behaviours in a calm manner, and that they truly believe he is a wonderful, funny, delightful little boy with a tonne to offer the world. While we can control his environment at home, we don't have much control over the rest of the world, even more so as Max gets older.

First, a little bit of background:

Max is currently in a wonderful daycare that has been terrific about providing an integrated program for him. He has been attending this daycare since December 2007 (this was daycare #3 within 7 months). We had to pull Max out of his previous daycare (Little Kids Daycare Center in Oakville, Ontario) after one of his daycare teachers swore at him and then locked him in a closet for getting in her way while she was trying to wash the floor. The other teachers witnessed this and did not report it until over two weeks had passed. The teacher was fired, Children's Aid was called in - it was all horrible, heartbreaking and messy. Adding insult to injury, the daycare owner told us that it had all happened so quickly, Max hadn't even known what had happened. The woman from Children's Aid who investigated told me that what had actually happened was that Max wasn't sleeping during nap time, and he was running around while this teacher was washing the floor. She said "this f**king kid is always getting in my f**king way" and then picked him up, put him in the closet and slammed the door. The other teachers heard the door slam, and looked around, realizing that she had put Max in the closet. When they opened the door he was cowering in the corner, holding his head in his hands, sobbing. He was only 18 months old. The pictures in this post were taken the day before the incident.I couldn't bring myself to keep Max at this daycare. We had been on the waiting list at Max's current daycare, and I called them to find out where he was on their list. I told them about what had happened, and god bless them, they found a way to make a spot for Max immediately. Scott and I were candid with the staff about Max's challenges and what we had been through. At the time, we suspected that he was on the Autistic Spectrum, but we really had no idea how his development would progress. He had to wear a helmet when they took him outside to play because he would get so upset he would throw himself on the ground. He had major issues with transitions, couldn't sit for circle time, made very little eye contact, and spent long periods of time banging his head on the walls. Through all of these challenging behaviours, Max's teachers treated him with respect, cared for him, worked with him, and took great joy on reporting back to us when he showed progress.

Max will be turning 3 years old in April. The Toddler room he is in at daycare is supposed to top out at 30 months old. Because of Max's recent diagnosis of Autism, and the army of therapists he sees on a weekly basis, we decided not to implement any more changes in his life until things settle down. The Toddler room has 2 teachers, 10 kids, and the room itself is fairly small. The Intermediate room has 3 teachers, 24 kids, and is huge, with a lot of stimulation. As each month passes, more of the toddlers move down to the "big" room. I see these children, Max's "peers", outside, in the cloak room, and running around the big Intermediate room, and my heart aches for Max. He should be with these kids, not with kids half his age. But is that what is right for him, or is that me being selfish?

After much discussion with Max's daycare teachers, and the Resource Consultant and Occupational Therapist from Halton that work with Max, we decided to work towards preparing Max to transition into the Intermediate room. While most kids would have a couple of visits to their new room and then move permanently, with Max it will take months of planning. His Resource Consultant, Occupational Therapist and Toddler Room teacher all take Max down for each of his visits. We want to make sure that Max has a positive experience each and every time he visits. Visits have been cancelled when Max was having a "bad" day. His Toddler Room teacher is there to help him participate in activities like circle time, crafts, and free play. His Occupational Therapist is there to observe Max and anticipate any new sensory issues he may have in this room. His Resource Consultant also observes him, and works with his teachers to find strategies to help them integrate Max into their programming. This little boy has the support of so many professionals, I know that when we finally make the move, he will be successful.

Preparing Max for "the big move" is only half of the work. The other half is preparing the children, and just as important, their parents, for Max's integration into the Intermediate room. In Part Two of this post I'll write about our strategies for talking with Max's new friends about Max so that they can better understand his behaviour, and hopefully still make an effort to include him in their play and activities.

CVS Caremark - All Kids Can


  1. Anonymous3:51 p.m.

    The closet incident is wrenching to recall. However this passage is such a story of courage, love and determination on the part of Max's parents. The photos speak a thousand words, not only of this beautiful child but of your love for him. You have all come some far. God bless you.


  2. Anonymous8:45 p.m.

    OMG, that story about Max's first daycare brought tears to my eyes. How terribly cruel.

    Our little guy is still cared for at home, but we know that soon we need to find a good centre. Our Early Interventionist recomended a place and we're on the waitlist.

    Your new daycare centre gives me hope that there are caring individuals that can be trsted with our children .It sounds like Max is doing so much better at his new centre and that you have surrounded him with a team of dedicated professionals. Best of luck with the "big move". Transitions are hard for most children, but with the right supports and your dedication, I'm sure things will go well. Max will have so much to offer and teach his new friends and he in turn will learn so much. Looking forward to your update...