When Callum turned 4, he started at Kindy. I packed his lunch, labeled all his belongings, and dropped him off after about 15 minutes in the room. He was happy, I was happy, and I knew his needs would be taken care off. If they weren’t, he would soon let me know!
He could walk. He could talk (and did a LOT!). He was toilet-trained. He could feed himself.
She can’t walk without significant support. She really doesn’t talk, but she wants to be heard. She’s in nappies, though she really doesn’t want to be. She tries to feed herself, but makes a huge mess.
It’s different. It’s scary. It’s hard. It’s exhausting.
It’s a totally different experience to the one I shared with Callum in 2012.
In so many ways, we are luckier than any other new kindy family. Claire’s new teachers have been visiting her at her Early Childhood Development Program since Term 2 this year. They have been interested in her arrival and enthusiastic about how they can support her. At the Kindy Open Day, Claire, Matt and I experienced the one on one attention of the Teacher Aide who will work with Claire in 2015. We felt supported, encouraged, and thankful.
But… then came the crunch. Time to talk money. Funding. It’s lacking.
Best case scenario, $6000 is available to support Claire’s inclusion. This is to support aide time, and any additional equipment that can not be hired or adjusted to suit her specific needs. If every cent of this goes to aide time, the most support that Claire could receive would be 3 and a half hours, two days a week. The full program is 6 and a quarter hours, five days a fortnight.
I’m frustrated. I’m not sure I have the energy to go to battle again. But, I know I have to. For Claire, and also for those families who are going to be faced with this journey in the future.
Disability doesn’t discriminate. We aren’t here because we ‘could handle this’. Perhaps we can handle what is thrown our way, and at times I am grateful for the confidence and intelligence that I have that allows me the strength to fight for equality for our daughter. I imagine I have those qualities in more amounts than some others parents who have a child with a disability, and I am thankful for that.
I’m really tired. I am exhausted at the thought of having to write letters and emails and to meet with politicians. I already have the feeding, charades, therapies, and nappy changes to deal with on a daily basis, four years on. On top of all I will need to do to help make Claire’s transition to KIndy a smooth one for her, the Kindy teachers, her peers, her parents, and the parents in the community, it seems unreasonable that I should have to fight for financial support as well.
The Queensland Government have been plugging their “Kindy Counts” campaign since 2009, with the aim being for all children to have access to a quality kindergarten program by 2014. They committed to ‘ensuring all children, no matter where they live or what their circumstances, have access to quality, inclusive early childhood education.’ Claire can not access a kindergarten program in its full capacity without full time support of a teacher aide or another support structure. I also feel strongly that her inclusion in a mainstream program will have significant benefits for the children and families who get to be a part of her story.
Let the battle begin.