In this month’s blog parent Rebekah Byer shares her thoughts on what to look for in a childcare setting if your child has a disability and the amazing progress her deaf daughter has made since starting at Rushden Kids Club.
“Becoming a parent comes with no manual. No instructions. No guidance on how to deal with the emotions that surround bringing up our children. Often we feel a permanent pressure to defend our choices we make on our journeys and the comparisons become endless.
Since Alivia-Ellen was born I have found myself become a personal negotiator from comparing a ‘normal hearing child’ needs to my ‘profoundly deaf’ child needs. There is so much interest from outside people wanting to know how different parenting really is between them both.
When I explain that Alivia-Ellen’s needs are not much different to her hearing brothers, I expect no less from her just because she cannot hear, I still send her to nursery, the same one her brothers attend. Her disability is no block. And she still needs the same introduction to early years just as much as ever.
The benefits Alivia-Ellen receives from attending nursery from a young age will strongly influence her development and independence from childhood to adulthood.
As much as I wanted to wrap my daughter in cotton wool and smother her in protection and love, she still needs to learn her way in world. Holding her back due to fear of potential diversity and later bullying the maternal guilt will only affect her development and ultimately confidence, self esteem and independency.
I am often asked how Alivia-Ellen fits in at nursery, how does the nursery cope and is Alivia-Ellen treated any differently.
Her first nursery during her baby years was lovely, she was close with her keyworker and was doing just fine development wise. But when she hit two I was beginning to worry, with a nursery with such a huge ratio and a large free flow area within multiple of rooms, I worried Alivia-Ellen wouldn’t have that 1-1 guidance or a 1-1 experience with a key-worker, filled with confidence, patience and a loving nature that would replace me when in the setting.
We was recommended to Rushden Kids Club, and from the get go we had a pleasant warming feeling from the manager Natasha. A feeling where the nursery just isn’t about turning money over, a nursery that truly prides themselves on nurturing, caring for the children, encouraging their individuality and embracing their own ways of development.
Natasha is a women who you warm to instantly, feel comfortable with and confidently enough to turn to if in doubt or in need. Her visualisations on how she wants the nursery to look and endorse is fascinating. She has adopted the ‘textbook rules’ and moulded and catered it into a way that’s exciting for the children to learn and develop accordingly to each child’s needs.
She encourages key workers to work closely with families and build a relationship to ensure the child’s day runs smoothly. If the children have had a unsettled time, you don’t feel judged, you are comforted with reassuring words and also advice, it normalises your experience. And each child’s interest is always at heart. which I have also found to be the most comforting and important aspect to your child’s nursery/pre school experience.
The key advice to other parents with a child of hearing loss is simply looking out for these:
- Does the management and staff come across as friendly, welcoming and disability friendly.
- Do they show a strong interest in their ability to help develop your child’s language and communication skills.
- Do they have a good listening environment. For example Alivia-Ellen, she needs minimal background noise and a quiet place for her to learn, engage and socialise.
- Are they happy to learn skills to develop better understanding and support towards your child. This could be learning BSL/ adapting skills to care for a hearing aid.
- Encouraging a working relationship between parents and key workers.
We instantly felt the above, and not long after Alivia-Ellen joining staff had been encouraged to use supported communication towards Alivia-Ellen by learning makaton, signs which assist speech. They replicated this throughout the setting so not only do adults know how to communicate with Alivia-Ellen, children increase their curiosity around how adults engage with her and they begin to explore their own development and communication skills by doing this, it brings awareness of Alivia-Ellens additional needs of a lack of communication and this facilitates it.
I believe that It is important for children to play in a variety of activities and places in order to stimulate and develop their imaginations, curiosity and creativity for children both hearing, and hard of hearing or any special needs. Majority of the time the first interactions with other children are often at nurseries, or playgroups/meets and it is important to ensure children with varying degrees of deafness to learn how to build relationships with peers by pursuing that they are included in all creative and developmental opportunities.
Rushden Kids Club have a fantastic open free flow layout, but not on a large scale to create huge amount of background noise. In the morning when you drop off you can see all creative stations laid out for their activities, this is incredibly encouraging of reminding us how amazing they are to accommodate all children’s way of learning. Sensory play is a very stimulating way of learning for children with additional needs. But just as stimulating for normal hearing children, by doing this it brings playing together and building those vital relationships.
Also another positive factor is the acceptance and a welcoming manor to all professional involved in Alivia-Ellen’s care. The teacher of the deaf whom visits at home and in the setting, has always reported back that the staff and Alivia’s key worker positively take on board advice and tasks to support Alivia-Ellen and have a close working relationship. We both feel this has had an amazing impact on Alivia’s increasing development.
I have nothing but praises for the two management ladies, Natasha and Gail. Both of these ladies not only support the children but they have invested a lot of time to also help in other areas. The compassion and care shown towards the family unit make this nursery standout from others. The bond between Alivia and her key worker Chloe has an outstanding amount of patience as she can push a lot of boundaries, she needs a lot of reassurance and encouragement.
Through Chloe’s consistency and persistence towards supporting her needs she has excelled in ways I didn’t know would be possible, sending her to nursery I know she can release her inner mountaineer, her inner Van Gogh and her spontaneous personality can be guided and flourish a lot better than what I could achieve alone with three children under four. There is a lot of trust in Chloe. With her standing in my position whilst at nursery I feel very comfortable sending her and have no worries of guilt.
I can guarantee you, when you find the right childcare the staff become an important extension to your family.”
- This blog was first published on https://motheringsilence.com/ by Rebekah Byer, a parent whose child attends Rushden Kids Club. Huge thanks to her for giving us permission to share her family’s story.