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Friday, February 3, 2012

Harri's First Day.

Harri attended his first day of three year old kindy this week. He's been keen since his orientation day late last year to start, and I used this excitement to gain some leverage with toilet training (which is still a work in progress but boy it helped, as did lollies). Myself and Harri's two service providers have also been looking forward to this event as it now allows us to observe him in a social setting with typically developing peers in order to identify the areas we can start working on from a social interaction perspective.

While the kindy has a fairly strict drop and leave policy for parents, due to Harri's autism I am able to stay for the entire session and observe, assist when necessary, and provide feedback and advice for the two very capable teachers on how best to help him. This allowed me a birds eye view of his first NT social group encounter, which was as insightful as it was difficult.

Overall he handled the transitions from mat time to play time, to craft time and back to mat for a story very well. I did have to sit with and at times restrain him during story time as he attempted to make his way back to the play dough. I was most impressed during the craft session that he tried the play dough, painting and glueing. He enjoyed the sandpit outside, engaging in some apparent parallel play. And took turns to drive the imaginary bus. He appeared to be one of the more physically adventurous children, climbing up planks and ambling over play equipment. An untrained eye would have struggled to note he was a child any different from the others.

Of course my eye is trained to note the autism, and so at times it was challenging to watch his peers effortlessly communicate with the teachers, follow instructions, answer questions, focus on and understand the craft tasks. And of course Harri was the only child who wanted to discuss the exhaust fan in the toilet and asked where the remote for the air conditioner was, and could he turn it on. Which I have to say I found delightfully funny. I'm not sure the teachers were expecting his verbal skills to be quite so good, and were a little taken aback when the first words he spoke to them was to enquire about their cooling system.

So overall I'd say it was a success. Yes there were moments when my sons differences were clear to me. In relation to his observation of the fans and air conditioner  I have to say I think that's pretty cool (pun intended).  Watching him lag behind the other children in terms of communication, following instructions and apparent awareness of others was at times difficult as it bought some of his challenges into sharp focus. And as he gets older those social and communication deficits become more pronounced. However seeing how effortless some of these things were for the other children increased my sense of pride and awe in Harri, that he has come so far already despite how difficult this process is for him.

Starting kindergarten now is clearly essential. But most importantly he enjoys it. He didn't want to leave on Thursday and is keen to go back on Monday. That's the best possible outcome, all other benefits will flow from that.