A perspective on the world of disability from a mother and an educator. Follow my blog!

Monday, 20 January 2014

Let the school year begin!

Oh how I adore working with people who understand the balance between: parent and teacher, intervention and learning through play, inclusion and acceptance.

I also love my swanky new office! An upgrade from the nearly 100 year old building I was in last year. :)

Sunday, 19 January 2014


A few friends and I are doing the #365gratitude project this year. It's a way to actively find the positive things in life and to not dwell on the negative which leads to stress and anxiety. For me it's about recognising the amazing blessing that is my family and being grateful for the little things. Bad things will continue to rear their ugly heads, but they can't compete with the joy.

Outside my little family I am grateful today for the people who read my blog. As an audience you are now 8 times bigger than you were in December 2012. December 2013 was a PB and we've already broken that record halfway through January 2014! Thank you for sharing on Facebook, for +1ing on Google and for posting on your forums.

Thank you so much for the affirmation. I am truly grateful.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

2014 in one word.....

The holidays are nearly over. I have enjoyed pretending to be a stay at home mum for weeks now and it has been bliss, pure bliss. Going back to a classroom and office is inevitable and approaching quickly. The spills on the carpet, the toilet training, trips to specialists, the occasional sibling bickering, the nagging, none of it outweighs the morning snuggles in our bed, the constant giggles and seeing our 3 amazing girls growing up TOGETHER. 

We have had so many projects on the go these holidays: new driveway, revamping the cottage garden out the front, trips away, and dinners with new friends and old. Despite all this keeping us busy, it has been a deliberate ‘go slow’ holiday for our family. We have taken a deep breath for 6 weeks now. We have lived in the moment. I think this practice of mindfulness has been something we all needed.  Perhaps we're spending some time in Holland…. together.

Our big girl introduced us to a world where ‘extra’ is the normal.  From the start there were extra doctors, extra therapy, extra worries…. Just extra. Personally I don’t know of any other way of parenting. In saying this though, we’ve never pushed her. We didn’t spend hours with the colour and shape flash cards, we don’t now spend every moment doing home readers. Even though we are both teachers, we don’t spend our home time with intensive intervention. 

I know other families who do and I understand why. Our kids do need extra. Their path is harder and they have to put so much more effort in just to achieve the same as others.  These parents work so hard for their kids. Every moment spent doing ‘extra’ when they are young will help minimize the ‘extra’ that is needed when they are adults. I have no intention whatsoever to criticize those parents who do work intensively TOGETHER when at home. I get it. I applaud them. In fact, we’ve been accused of it; despite the fact we know we are the opposite. I can’t judge those families as I am not a fly on their wall, I don’t know their context. I don’t know what brought them to make their decisions.

Thanks to the Graves our big girl tires so easily and everything in her body slows down. Everything becomes so much harder and more and more effort is required. While I know that she needs and deserves all the ‘extra’ we can give her and I know how this will impact on our life in 15-20 years time, giving her the space to be herself and to be a child first is part of the extra we are giving her. We want grow TOGETHER with our kids. To us it is more important that she loves and is loved by her sisters, that she gets the chance to find out who she is. That fits our staunch approach to the PC semantics of ‘child with’ rather than ‘disabled child’. It isn’t a motto, it’s a belief, a way of life. CHILD FIRST. DIAGNOSIS SECOND.

I'm sure we were judged as 'pushy' parents because those doing the judging didn't know us beyond a single context. They weren't together with us on this journey. This blog will never be able to encompass  all my beliefs or way of life. It won’t demonstrate how I am learning every day to be a better: wife, mother, and teacher. If all your beliefs can fit into an online post then you need to think harder. No one will ever ‘know’ me or my family because they read my ramblings. But, my ramblings help me to stop and think about having more empathy for how others act and react and maybe it will do the same for those who do read it.

If together is to be the single word that sums up our family and support network for 2014, then I will be delighted. I will put everything I have into living with my girls and my Bear rather than working hard for them. A small distinction, but an important one.

Friday, 10 January 2014

2014 Australian SWD Funding Changes

It is so very hard to think about work when holidays have been a great break from everything. Lots of projects undertaken and completed, some just started, time spent with family and friends, and getting our middle girl ready to start school. It’s been wonderful.

In saying that, I promised to write about the funding changes for this year, so here it is.

Background: In the not-so-olden days we had Ascertainment which ranked students 1-6 based on their needs. It came down to percentiles and numbers and quite often teachers/educators would refer to students as ‘he’s a level 6’. I still hear the language of ascertainment bandied about. Reducing students to numbers based on funding is tantamount to the way penal colonies would remove prisoners’ names and assign them a number. Even in death they were sometimes nameless.

After Ascertainment came the current Education Adjustment Profile (EAP).  Initially it seemed like this was merely a change of name, but working with this system you could see that it wasn’t about what a student couldn’t do. When applying for the funding we had to focus on the frequency and intensity of changes that were being made by the teacher. The emphasis was really about the teaching. Personally I like this model because it’s all about the student’s abilities, not the disability. It’s about only providing teachers and schools with extra funding if they are going the extra mile for a student.  I have had students with a diagnosis who we didn’t need to make any changes for – thus we didn’t apply for funding (it wasn’t justifiable). I’ve had so many other students where so many adjustments were being made that we could easily justify the application, but needed to get a diagnosis to confirm the need.

The EAP model broke funding into 4 levels. Level 1 is your ‘regular’ student and attracts no funding. Level 2 is for students who have a few changes made occasionally. Level 3 is for students who need a lot of changes frequently. Level 4 is for students with complex case management.

Funding is broken into two parts. State funding and Federal funding. They both fund according to the levels but at different rates.

Ok, so 2014. Why change a system that seemed to be working in practise and had a good ideological underpinning?  Short answer is time will tell.

As of this year the Federal funding is no longer based on the EAP levels. State funding still is. The Federal funding is going to be based on the ‘per student’ funding that the school already receives. Each school receives an amount per student enrolled and that amount is determined by their geographic location and the socio-economic status of the families enrolled (ever wondered why you have to answer those questions on enrolment forms? All the information goes up on the My School website too).  Not all schools receive the same amount per student.

Here is where the changes start happening, SWDs will now get 186% of the per student payment their school is entitled to. The 100% is what they have always received as a student enrolled, it is what every student at the school gets. The additional 86% is their SWD funding. In order to get this they need to be verified through the EAP system, but they will all receive the same 86% loading. There will be no EAP levels in the Federal funding so is the 86% based on Level 2 funding, Level 3 or Level 4?

Given that disability doesn’t discriminate based on geographic location or socio-economic status (heck disability doesn’t discriminate full stop!) I’m not sure why the funding is grounded in that rather than the needs of the student. Does this mean parents will need to shop around for a school with a higher per student payment to increase the 86% their SWD would receive? I don’t know. Again, time will tell.

This is of course just the lead in to bigger changes in 2015, but I’ll fill you in on that next week. This is enough ‘work’ for today. I’m off to continue my holiday in my garden! The driveway starts today!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year!

In years gone by I have tried to do New Years resolutions. One year I printed off a checklist of things to do, laminated it and stuck it to the fridge. Hubby and I each had our own list though many of the things were similar: read x number of new books, eat at x number of new restaurants, visit these places etc... As you can tell that list was pre-children, pre-disability lense.

2013 was not a good year for me in so many ways. I don't intend to share it all here as I don't believe in sharing every gory detail of my life, and I'm not denying the gore. I started this blog 12 months ago because I wanted to express my ideas and explore my context/construct of disability which is through the lens of a mother and an educator. I'm extremely happy with how I've done that.

2014 will not start with a checklist of resolutions for good reason. Hubby retold a joke he saw on Facebook at our New Years Eve party.

"This gym will change its operating hours to 24 hours, 7 days a week for the first two weeks of January. Thereafter it shall revert back to being a pub".  Resolutions based on a change in date never last long.

I couldn't agree with that sentiment more. Resolutions have never worked for me. They don't seem to be all encompassing. They are not a change in attitude or lifestyle. That's why it is so hard to keep them. Long term goals are similar in that you can easily loose sight of them. IEPs are written so that the goals are only ever short term and the focus is on the everyday difficulties and adjustments. This is my way of life for now. The everyday. In a way I'm writing my own metaphoric IEP.

During our New Years Eve party, while the kids were distracted with glow sticks and sparklers, the adults gathered around the table got talking about our own personal struggles. Anxiety, depression and panic attacks were hot topics. I suggested a beautiful app called Smiling Mind that was recommended to me. It focuses on living in the moment and has been a wonderful addition, not just to my life, but my girls' and my friends' lives as well. Mindfulness is a great therapy tool for anyone. I would highly recommend the app, especially as it's free, works for all ages and not time consuming. I want to set my girls up with the strategies to deal with whatever life has to offer/throw at them.

When my big girl was just a baby and receiving intensive early intervention, I learnt to revel in all the little things she mastered like grasping, rolling over after a month of teaching her how, identifying a triangle and then being able to say it as well. How many parents remember the first time their child uses an adverb and celebrates it? I mean really rejoices in that one little word? The experiences of a parent of a child with a disability shape the way you view and experience the world. You can choose to be helpless and let the grief engulf you or you can be empowered and find joy in every little thing.

I love my stationery and one of my little things to enjoy is coloured pens. I never mark school work in red. I remember the joy in marking in a rainbow gel pen. Hubby bought me the most adorable diary for 2014. Writing in it in beautiful colours brings joy. Playing Lego with my girls over the holidays and finding those tiny little shining pieces right down the bottom of the barrel brings joy. Listening to my big girl make up a song on the spot that includes all our guests at our party brings joy. Having my chickens come up and peck at my toes because they think the new polishes hubby bought me are lettuce or corn brings joy. Finding joy is a choice. Disability/life doesn't need to be debilitating. 

My intention for today is to live in today, for today. I'm not even going to say that's my intention for 2014, I'm not planning that far ahead. If I do the best for my girls today, tomorrow will worry about itself. One breath at a time, not looking back, not peering forward. I've no intention of missing the now.