Last updateMon, 28 Jan 2013 9pm

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Think of school like a swimming pool


In this section we will be looking specifically at Education. School is a big issue for not only many jelibeans but for teachers aswell. Here we try and offer some explanation and help in case you get into difficulties. But whatever difficulties you are in, please, parents try and remember that teachers aren't trained in Autism Spectrum and many have limited knowlege in how to care for jelibeans! And for you teachers, please remember parents aren't either! Often we hit the ground running too.  Let's see how we can make it easier for everyone to stay safe and happy! We will be focusing on mainstream schooling here.

Here’s an analogy that just might help you and your jelibeans to understand some of the secrets of getting through the SYSTEM called School. Time to gather up your cossies, towels and flip flops, we’re going swimming, and if you can’t swim, don’t worry there are plenty of lifeguards around to help you. No excuse.

School is like a Swimming Pool, a big proper one with diving board, but daunting, busy, noisy, smelly and BIG and dangerous. The idea is to LEARN to swim gently. Jelibeans do take longer to do some things but once its learnt, we get a bit cocky and think that we can swim the channel on our own. Whoops wrong, but its only when we’re sinking fast, waving our arms everywhere trying to alert help that we realise we've bitten off more than we chew. Sometimes the Lifeguards don’t notice.

'Its a big scary place,school. Jelibeans are very sensitive to new environments and it's so busy,so where do I start? There are new rules, new people, sound and noise. Help! I'm starting to drown already and I haven’t taken my flip flops off yet. I need to learn a SYSTEM!’ shouts your little jelibean.

Don’t forget that the deeper the water the more crowded it becomes. There is far more help in shallow water, much more structure. Tell him or her to try to gain stability in the shallow end first. Don’t be tempted to take off the aids too soon, and be prepared to put them back on if required. Play it day by day and be flexible. They are LEARNING, they want to make you proud but they need your help.

You see even though a lot of jelibeans are quite noisy, they actually hate noise, they can't hear their own noise just other people’s. So it’s ‘SENSORY OVERLOAD’. Prepare for a Tsunami or, worse, still drowning.

There are a lot of fish in this pool, here are some and if you like you TIPs make up your own. There’s a lot of splashing, and freak waves as well.

  • SHARKS – Bad jelibeans and marshmallows UNSAFE
  • DOLPHINS – Good jelibeans and marshmallows SAFE
  • SEA HORSES – Wise, kind jelibeans and marshmallows SAFE
  • PIRANHAS – Dangerous jelibeans and marshmallows UNSAFE

I hope by now you’re seeing what a frightening but colourful place this can seem for a bouncy jelibean. It is so important that we try to achieve two things in this section.

  1. You, as a, Parent can relax and feel confident in the SYSTEM
  2. Your jelibean feels safe

OK, read this bit carefully because I want you to go back and identify your child's docking stations - their peers first. These are Dolphins and Sea Horses. Name them together. Point out the Piranhas and the Sharks. Of course there are Lifeguards around as well, but they can't possibly watch everyone all of the time, there are too many.Lifeguards are the teachers.

Lifeguards are specially trained and have lots of buoyancy aids, rings, floats, arm bands, long narrow foamy things and of course they're very strong swimmers themselves.They are teaching everyone to stay safe. The trouble is that the Lifeguards don’t always see what goes on under the water. Sharks and Dolphins look similar, they're very difficult to spot. Its only the fin that makes a difference really, isn’t it?

Is it any wonder that us jelibean and marshmallow parents are anxious as to the fate of our little jelibeans. My eldest son at tender age of five was a mini Houdini and as artful as a bag full of monkeys, how on earth was he going to cope without me? Who would understand his outbursts, the way he asks for a drink? Who then is going to feel comfortable putting a new born baby into the deep end without any aids at all? No one is asking you to, but they're not telepathic and they haven’t lived in your house with your kids. They don't know you, but I am sure they soon will.

Check out YOUR own docking station/Lifeguard. Hand your child over temporarily to a Lifeguard or two whom you trust. There are some that have slightly more suitable lifesaving skills that may suit your child better. Find out and go and talk to someone that will understand.

Just because your jelibean is in Year 6 and technically should be swimming without buoyancy aids doesn’t mean they are. Jelibeans shouldn’t be compared with marshmallow swimmers. Here are some of the differences.

Marshmallows enjoy swimming and learning is fun. Steady progress. There is no splashing. Jelibeans enjoy swimming sometimes, but not when the water is cold. Jelibeans splash when they get scared or excited.

Marshmallows mainly swim above the water. Jelibeans like swimming under the water only coming to the surface to surprise someone or scare them. Or to grab air.

Marshmallows help each other and know when to ask for armbands. Jelibeans choose to stay on their own and forget to ask for armbands.

Marshmallows use goggles and can see what's around them. Jelibeans forget, lose or break their goggles and their little jelibean eyes are sore with the chlorine. They can't see much at all, let alone a shark.

So you see its easy for a jelibean Dolphin to swim with the wrong crowd, get themselves into mischief and not know which Lifeguard to turn to.

If your jelibean is at Secondary School and is drowning, because he actually thinks he can swim, because all the others are swimming, and he can't, act now. Its not too late, the lifelines are there. You just need to know where to find them. Find a Lifeguard. Point out your jelibean and ask for help.

Obviously the sooner you identify just what the situation is at school the better. It’s vital you have a good relationship. If you’re all snarling as you read this as there is nothing that you’d rather do than strangle Miss Know-It-All, then FIND another Lifeguard. Go on, your child needs help, your help. Throw them a lifeline. Remember what it was like for you. But please don’t shout at the Lifeguards, even if you think they’re not doing their job properly. The Lifeguard may not know that your jelibean is in trouble, they may think that s/he just has an interesting swimming style, and hasn’t realised that this thrashing about is just his or her effort to stay afloat, and that his or her leg is being pulled into the depths of the water by a Big Red Shark.

A Dolphin or Sea Horse in trouble is genuinely in trouble, they may have had their toe nibbled by a Shark, but no one saw so when your jelibean screamed in agony and got told off, actually it wasn’t their fault. Be prepared to jump in with them if necessary. Just make sure you swim confidently and calmly towards them with the correct aid and without making waves. Remember the water gets deeper and deeper and eventually past the diving boards, the gates previously shut, suddenly swing open and your little jelibeans are swept out into the big Sea of Life. Then it really does get very scary indeed.

Ensure your jelibean has as much preparation as possible, Reassure them that they will be safe. You will feel safe too. When you collect them, have a lovely warm fluffy towel and a big hug.

TIPS helps us understand that we have some wonderful strengths and some scary (for us) weaknesses and that we can learn new skills to help us survive happily. Wow!