Tag Archives: Schoolwork

School – the hospital way

One of my favourite memories of our pre-admission waiting time is when I asked M to tell my Mum what was going to happen once he was in hospital.  I had, of course, expected him to explain, in depth, all he knew about the NG-tube and the pellet study, but roared with laughter when he said, in a small voice lacking in any great enthusiasm, “…hospital school…”

indexThe first few days of our stay were dominated by the administration of  the huge amounts of powerful laxatives and M felt so unwell that he refused to move from his bed.  By the end of that first Sunday, however, the tedium of not being allowed off hospital premises had taken its toll and he was keen to head off to school on Monday morning.  The hospital school accepts that the children may not be able to attend a “full” day there and is happy for any child to be there for as long as they are able to manage.  Each day is split into 2 sessions:  10am to 12.30pm and 2pm to 3.30pm.  They cover the basics of maths, literacy and science, but also throw in other subjects such as IT, art and even PE.

indexI discussed with the teacher there all of M’s needs concerning his dyspraxia and dyslexia and we talked about all he’d been learning so far at his home school.  He was one of just 4 children in the Key Stage 2 group during his admission and was able to have a huge amount of one-to-one teaching as there were 4 teachers able to work with the group.  They tackled his lack of enthusiasm for literacy by signing him on to the “Bug Club“, an on-line learning resource which tested his reading comprehension skills.  Each time he was able to read a new passage and answer the questions correctly about what he had read, he received a virtual sticker and was moved on to the next text.  He was set up with his own username and password to monitor the development he was making in class and what’s even better is that they have given us all the details needed for continuing with it at home.

M's amazing chocolate Christmas creation

M’s amazing chocolate Christmas creation

Every morning, M was keen to get up, get ready and get down to the classroom for the start of the school day.  I have never seen him so keen to arrive at school and start working! He had a busy week there and he enjoyed every single moment of it.  From History with the Victoria and Albert Museum to Cookery with the Executive Head Chef of the Hilton Hotel, it was a school week unlike any other.  He even took part in the school’s carol concert in the GOSH chapel, where he read part of the Christmas story.  It proved to be a great distraction from everything else that was going on medically and an amazing opportunity for those children who have to stay in hospital.

Dyspraxia support

Courtesy of shoreline-pt.com

Courtesy of shoreline-pt.com

As well as going back to school, we’ve also had M’s referral appointment for Occupational Therapy to support him with his dyslexia and dyspraxia.  We had been warned that we might have to wait up to 9 months for the referral to be made, so you can imagine my delight to be offered an appointment just 3 months into the process.  The therapist, D was fantastic and a lot of the health professionals we’ve seen along the way could learn a great deal from her approach to helping M.

Unsurprisingly, she had not come across EGID before, so had spent some time researching the condition and understanding how this might impact on M before we got to the appointment.  She had read thoroughly the reports completed by the Dyslexia Centre, school and us, but then spent more time clarifying points with me, taking into consideration the change of schools and asking what we were hoping to achieve through OT.  As we chatted, D observed M as he played with the various activities she had set out in the room, including a bat and ball, foam football and low-level balance beam.  Her conclusion was that he most needs the support in improving his fine motor skills, which will directly impact his academic prowess and that working on those will then lead to an improvement in his gross motor skills and balance.

She then switched to assess his writing, cutting and cutlery-holding skills, all of which I had mentioned as areas that I felt needed some work.  M showed his reluctance to write by insisting on discussing each task she set him, obviously in the hope that he could browbeat her into leaving them untouched, but he had met his match.  D listened to his comments, acknowledged them and then prompted him to get on with what she had asked.  He may have grumbled each and every step of the way, but he did them all and enabled D to assess as she needed.

Creating and then dismantling paper-clip chains

Creating and then dismantling paper-clip chains

D suggested a number of games using everyday items – clothes pegs, marbles and paperclips – and explained how these would help build his finger strength.  She set him challenges and played the games with him, so that he could understand what was required and she could check that he was doing them correctly.  What impressed me the most was that D gauged accurately how many games to introduce and how long to play each one such that she didn’t overwhelm him with suggestions.  Playing these games at home several times a week will bring about improvement and I foresee a number of family challenges to see who can perform the best.

A paper plate sun with peg rays to attach every morning

A paper plate sun with peg rays to attach every morning

D also agreed that using a writing slope at school will make a massive difference to his writing ability.  As it is highly unlikely the school will have one lying around, the OT department will arrange to lend one to the school for 3 weeks, which will allow the teachers to assess the difference it makes to his work. This will be followed up by a written recommendation and a school visit, where D will be able to observe M in the classroom setting and see what else might be done to support M and help him achieve, before meeting with the SENCo and suggesting how some funding from their SEN budget will help.

This school visit will then be followed up by a return appointment with M himself, whereby she can see if the daily activities she has suggested have helped and whether school have followed her recommendations and funded the special equipment he needs.  I have already invested in a set of “caring cutlery” to help him at meal-times:

Courtesy of completecareshop.co.uk

Courtesy of completecareshop.co.uk

Whilst we continue to struggle with his gastro health, it is a huge encouragement that there is something useful that we can actively do to improve M’s school-work and performance. He is a bright and articulate child and it will be both fascinating and exciting to see how things develop over the coming months.