Major disappointment in this area. The place where I wanted to send my son has already reached maximum capacity in funding allowance for special needs children. This means that if I choose to send him there, he will not have an aide. The other special needs kids will though. In fairness to myself and to my son, the centre has advised me of this, and have (very gently) actually turned down the application. They feel that he is entitled to the same care as the others, so they won't take him on if they can't give it. I am in agreement with them on this point. But very disappointed.
This is a good childcare centre, and we have a rapport that extends right back to when my big girls attended. Both my daughters attended from around 3.5 years old, in the pre-kinder and kinder rooms. The management know and remember us, and have greeted us warmly every time we have gone in. I felt comfortable sending my boy there because of this, and because the place retains a high standard of care for the children. The workers are all very kind, competent, and chosen because they actually want to work with children, not just because they want the money.
I still sent my son in for a trial this morning though. We stayed for about 1 hour. We were welcome to stay much longer, but the time seemed to drag, and it seemed pointless once we found out that funding was not going to happen.
I had originally intended to settle him into the room, then stay in their staff room for 2 or 3 hours, checking on him periodically. But I found myself stuck to the window looking in from the outside. I just couldn't leave him. It wasn't that I didn't trust the carers - they were great - it's just that I wanted to see every little reaction he had to the new environment. To gain knowledge of how he copes with it: what made him anxious, how long it would take for him to settle, what sort of things evoked his interest, and how he reacted to his peers.
When we first went in, he cried and tried to return to the car. I took some time to settle him.... kneeling down and speaking gentle words 'Erik is ok, Erik will be ok, Erik is with mummy, you will be ok'. Then I offered him hugs. He quieted down a little, smiled a small smile, and leaned in for a kiss. Too sweet :) . He was still a little anxious though.
We then went to the room. He didn't want to go in there either. The carers immediately noticed the new face and came to say hello. I had to explain that he was autistic, and told a little more about his abilities, likes and dislikes. The tried so hard to reassure me that they will take good care of him, and insisted that I could stay in the room or leave, or do whatever I felt comfortable doing. I settled him in, and then went outside. I stayed by those windows for the whole hour we were there. I couldn't take my eyes off him. I don't think my heart has ever been so strung up before!
He was very anxious. I could see it on his face. So many times, I had to resist the urge to go in there. Still though, he didn't seem to lose control, which was good. He went around the room, as he tends to do, just getting familiar with the boundaries and environment. The carers tried to interest him in toys, in morning tea, in a drink, but he wouldn't, or couldn't, attend to such things. He was too anxious. After a short time though, something seemed to click and he settled. He went to play on a bead frame, and even sat down to play at one point! After a while, he accepted a drink of water too. One of the carers noted to me how he wasn't flitting from one thing to another, but that his attention span seemed good. This was encouraging for me.
I decided to leave after only 1 hour. As I said before, it just seemed pointless to remain longer knowing that he could not attend here anyway. When I went into the room, he grew very alert, took my hand, and was desperate to get out of there. I tried to chat with the carers a little more about what had gone on, but he was crying pretty loudly and trying to drag me to the door. I said a polite and apologetic goodbye, and took the boy home.
Some good points:
Although he didn't want to be there, he adjusted very well.
He took some time to get to know the room a bit.
He actually sat down to an activity, even if just for a short time.
He played along side other children.
He recognised me and became excited to see me after the short absence.
Some bad points:
He was quite anxious to begin with. I felt like the smallest incident might set him off.
The whole time, it seemed like he didn't really want to be there.
He could not understand the carers, and could not comply with instructions.
Overall, I think there are more benefits than negatives when it comes to childcare. Even now at the very beginning. And I can only see improvements happening, to the point where all the negatives will eventually become null and void.
Now I just need to find a place for him......