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Hi, can I ask all you parents of children with SN a question on behalf of my dd?

(31 Posts)
Maryz Tue 19-Jul-11 21:50:46

My daughter is now 15, and has been volunteering with a camp run for children with SN. She started last year at the age of 14 and spent a week of her summer holidays helping at a football camp, where she looked after a 4 year old who used a wheelchair. This year she helped at the same camp, but looking after an older child who sounds (to me) as though he is autistic.

The group she is volunteering for runs a weekly club night and organise family activities during the summer holidays. So as well as the football camp at the beginning of July, she has spent the last two weeks helping out at various family activities (swimming, fishing, arts and crafts, days out), essentially looking after the children with SN so that their parents (who come along as well) have a bit more time with their siblings.

She is really enjoying it, and wants to become a teacher and/or work with children with SN.

But she is a little concerned about how much she can ask. She is interested in finding out a little more about their SN, and is trying to summon up the courage to ask their parents. She is, however, afraid that she will upset people by asking "what is wrong with him/her", but she feels she can help a lot more if she knows what they can/can't do. For example, some have obvious intellectual difficulties - e.g. Down's Syndrome, or Autism (which she knows a bit about), others have more physical difficults, like CP and are wheelchair bound.

So her question is: how to parents feel about other children who volunteer like this? Are they glad of the help, or do they feel that an unqualified 15 year old has no business "helping" with their children. And how can she ask (politely) what their children's specific difficulties are, without appearing rude, or nosy?

Maryz Tue 19-Jul-11 21:51:15

Oh sorry blush, that was long. I could have left out most of the detail, sorry.

Goblinchild Tue 19-Jul-11 21:57:26

She could ask from the starting point of what can she do to make things easier or more enjoyable for the child. What do they like or dislike, and is there anything in particular that they'd like her to be aware of.
I would agree that asking 'What's wrong with her?' would not be a good approach. smile
If people think that she wants to make things better for their child, they will be less wary of her curiosity.
For many parents of a child with additional needs, beginning with the idea that you actually like spending time with their child and find them interesting in a positive way can be a revelation.

Sidge Tue 19-Jul-11 21:59:15

Your daughter sounds lovely smile

Personally I don't have a problem with people asking what's wrong with my DD2, especially where it's said with respect, and in context.

My DD2 has a genetic disorder which means she has quite complex needs, so it's actually important for us that people working with her, in any capacity, understand why we need things done the way we do, or why she can't do x y or z. It would be vital for us that your DD for example knew a bit about DD2s condition so that she could help and support her in the most appropriate way.

I guess it's how it's worded - "what's wrong with her" is quite negative and could sound rude, whereas "could you tell me a bit more about XXXX and her needs and how I can best help her?" would, IMO, be more diplomatic!

Maryz Tue 19-Jul-11 21:59:27

Well she is certainly doing that Goblinchild. She is really enjoying it. She finds some of the children easier than others, of course (she spent most of today running after a "runner" grin, which is keeping her fit).

Her biggest problem is the children who have poor speech - she is upset that she can't understand them, when their parents can.

Because of ds1 (who has AS), she knows a lot about ASD.

looneytoons Tue 19-Jul-11 22:04:28

I think she is doing a good thing and wouldnt mind her working with my ds who has Autism. I also wouldnt mind her asking questions as then she would be able to provide better care if she knew a bit about his needs. Hands on work is a really good way to find out about different disabilities.

Goblinchild Tue 19-Jul-11 22:06:03

Do any of the children with poor speech use makaton?
That's quite easy and fun to learn. She could ask about communicating effectively, with a bit of admiration in her approach. smile

zzzzz Tue 19-Jul-11 22:07:52

I have children both with sn and without and I feel exactly the same as you did when you went to a party and someones older child played and entertained your daughter. If that person asked if your daughter could ride a bike, or used a knife or fork because she wanted to do that at the party you would answer without thinking, as would I if someone asked about something relevant to the day/experience with my sn children about their abilities.

If you are asking would the parents like to give her the run down on their own child's disabilities, how it effects them and what their life experiences are, I would say it depends on how I am feeling. Sometimes I don't want to educate the world on what it is like to live differently. Sometimes I think my children deserve privacy and it is frankly inappropriate. Lots of those times would be when I am trying to have some quality time with their siblings or some time to stare into space.

I hope that helps. There will be lots of people on here who have different takes on this as we are the normal cross section of humanity and have our grumps and our free wheelers. grin I would be quite proud if my daughter wanted to do voluntary work in the holidays. She sounds like she's going in the right direction.

Maryz Tue 19-Jul-11 22:15:23

She has signed on grin for a sign language course in school next year, but I don't think it is Makaton, more "deaf" sign language iyswim. I'll get her to have a look.

She really doesn't want to ask questions, but discovered today that a child she thought was "a badly behaved sibling" was autistic (he has a brother in a wheelchair), and was a bit upset that she had been unfair to him. I suggested she talk to the parents a bit more, but she really doesn't want to seem nosy (like all teenagers I suppose).

Sidge, it sounds as though a few of the children (there are about 40 altogether, and she has only got to know about 10 so far) do have genetic disorders of various types, as they "look" different. Whereas she is used to ds1 who looks NT (until he does something bizarre).

zzzz, I don't think she really wants a full explanation hmm - she is at present working out which child needs physical help, which child needs lots of attention, which child just needs to be stopped from falling in the lake, iyswim. I think she should probably ask for more guidance from the person running the group, but (again like teenagers) doesn't want to seem stupid either.

And yes, she is a great kid. The children all seem to love her.

Goblinchild Tue 19-Jul-11 22:26:57

She sounds a highly intelligent and sensitive young woman in the making.
How lovely. grin

anonandlikeit Tue 19-Jul-11 22:29:24

can she just bevery honest and say (to a friendly looking parent) that she'd like to have a career with children with SN, so wants to understand a little more, would they mind telling her a little more about their child.
I would have no problem with her lookign after my child (does she want a holiday job) but the group leader should be giving more gidance anyway about each childs needs.

Claw3 Tue 19-Jul-11 22:35:38

Is your dd supervised by an adult?

Well done to your dd for helping out and wanting to understand.

zzzzz Tue 19-Jul-11 23:40:46

I see so she doesn't want to know "what's wrong with them?", what she actually wants to know is "what help do they need".....If some one asked me what help dd3 or ds1 needed when they were playing with them, I wouldn't have any problem explaining about limited language or behaviours. In fact I would think that was a great thing to ask.

Sometimes my other children do get upset at things like this though so it might be a good idea to try and do it in a quiet moment. I think teasing and bullying often start with "what's wrong with your brother?" type questions so they tend to get a bit worried by it all.

"So her question is: how to parents feel about other children who volunteer like this? Are they glad of the help, or do they feel that an unqualified 15 year old has no business "helping" with their children."...

..I personally would love a 15 year old girl with a genuine interest in education to play with my children. I do think she is very young if they are expecting her to take on a supervisory role [eg the not falling in the lake stuff], and that it might be best to point out that not asking your supervisor for clarification of the kids needs is probably far far sillier than just asking for what is really quite necessary information. Perhaps it would help the whole scheme if there was a better exchange of information, or perhaps the parents have decided to disclose as and when they want to and so the supervisor can't tell her any more anyway.

skintoff Wed 20-Jul-11 01:14:33

My ds attends playschemes which rely on volunteers to assist the paid workers.
His care is provided via social services for children who are unable to access inclusive settings.
Each child has a care plan which every volunteer would have access to.
I am thinking perhaps because the children go with their parents that things are not so formal but agree with zzzz that general information should be more easily available to help the volunteers.
We have had years and years of ds attending these playschemes and I am in awe at the young people who freely give up their time to help.
I would certainly have no problems in answering questions but not "what's wrong with him" more what can I do, is there anything in particular that upsets him / likes/ dislikes etc.
I do hope your daughter goes on to have a very sucessful career, she sounds like a fantastic young lady smile

unpa1dcar3r Wed 20-Jul-11 08:30:54

Oh Mary I wish there was more of your daughter to go around, bless her, she sounds lovely.
I would not be offended at all if she asked. In fact I'd welcome it as most treat my kids like autism when in fact that have fragile x syndrome (plus autism)
In fact I would wonder why the people who run these groups are not telling her what each child has and how it manifests! Perhaps she should address that (or you on her behalf if she's too shy to ask them) because I'd be very upset if a group leader put someone in charge of my boys without giving them some info on their condition, like what makes them tick, how things affect them etc...

To sum up, it's not those who ask questions about our childrens conditions which upset us, it's those who whisper and snigger behind their hands who really upset us!!!

unpa1dcar3r Wed 20-Jul-11 08:33:44

Maybe you could show your lovely daughter the responses on here, all seem positive what I've read so far. The course she will be doing would be BSL I imagine (British Sign Language) I did stage 1 and two of these years ago (forgot most of it now sadly!) but it's a very useful tool to have even just the basics. smile

Maryz Wed 20-Jul-11 09:34:57

Thank you all for your responses - I will show them to her; they have some suggestions for a more appropriate way of asking questions smile.

I think that because she is currently involved with the "summer activities" things are a bit different at the moment. All the children have their parents and/or full time carers with them, the volunteers are just there as extra hands. So, yes, she is supervised, and is never on her own, or solely responsible for any child. I think the idea of having the volunteers is to give the children a chance to interact away from their parents/carers, and to give the parents time with other siblings, iyswim. I know from experience with my own children (when ds1 was going through a difficult-to-manage time) that it was lovely to be out where ds1 was occupied with something, and I could have a bit of time with dd and ds2.

When she starts the weekly activities in September I think she may be given more information on individual children, especially if their parents don't attend those meetings.

She is young, yes, but she is very sensible and is happy to take direction and instructions from the adults around her (and she recognises her own limitations). The two adults who run the group (with, I think, Health Board help) are also young (early 20's I think), and both started as volunteers at the age of 14. I was worried at first that parents would think she was to young and be a bit hmm about her, but it seems from this thread that is not the case smile. So thanks, everyone.

unpa1dcar3r Wed 20-Jul-11 11:06:24

One of the boys best support workers who is now in her mid 20's started at age 12 as a volunteer. Of course nowadays they're not allowed ot do it unless 16 (here anyway) which is a great shame as there are some great kids out there (like your daughter) who have so much to offer.
I know my 14 yr old would love a 'mate' who is about the same age to help him. As it is all the SW's are 18 plus, most mid 20's which is fine but it would be nice if he had a 'dude' the same age as him, wouldn't feel so...I don't know what the word is but he's aware now people look at him weirdly etc...
i think the word would be included.

unpa1dcar3r Wed 20-Jul-11 11:07:11

I mean he may feel more 'included' in 'normal' life if you know what I mean!

maddiemostmerry Wed 20-Jul-11 12:05:12

Hi Maryz.

My older boys both help at sn youth clubs. I'm surprised that the staff don't share appropriate information with her. At our club they do, although our club is to give parents a break so they don't attend. Hence it is vital to know each child and their needs. Our club also arranges training sessions (I am also a volunteer).

Maybe she should contact the local branch of various disabilities charities and see if there are any information days she could attend.

My children also have sn and attend a variety of sn youth clubs, they love having teens around. They give the groups balance and provide the children with a peer group.

My eldest son wants to be a primary teacher and has asked if he can work in a sen provision as his next placement.

As soon as she is in the sixth form she needs to get as much school work experience as possible under her belt as this will show how committed she is.

Well done to hersmile

Maryz Wed 20-Jul-11 12:10:27

I agree with that unpa1dcar3r (oooh, the pedant in me doesn't like typing that grin). dd began last year when she was 14 as she was a guide, and they made exceptions for them to complete their Gold Award. She is now 15, and technically she shouldn't volunteer until she is 16, but because she did it last year they have taken her. She can do some volunteering after September because her school does the GAISCE award (the equivalent of your Prince of something or other scheme hmm), so is insured through the school.

But ds2 who is 13 would love to help out now, and he is an enthusiastic teenager who loves younger children. He is good at sports, plays the guitar and has a lot of empathy for children who might struggle a bit. He will, however, have to wait 3 years, by which stage he will probably be into girls and drink and partying and may not want to sad. Once dd is 16 (so next summer) they have said he can go along as her sibling grin and help that way (which I will be pushing encouraging).

dd says most of the helpers are middle-aged women (paid carers), which is a shame particularly for the older boys, I think. I know myself that I'm too old to be of interest to the older children. They don't want another mum (they already have one).

hannahsmummsy Wed 20-Jul-11 12:18:17

I wish you daughter lived localy my DD is 15 and has no friends , It would be great for to have a mature girl like yours to hang out with , go cinema bowling etc xx

coppertop Wed 20-Jul-11 12:21:33

Your dd sounds lovely, Maryz smile

Personally I would be fine with sharing any relevant info.

With my two children with SN the best approach would probably be something like "Would ds be okay to join in with <activity>?"

zzzzz Wed 20-Jul-11 13:27:32

Just a thought, but it might give your kids some extra experience and help your daughter in future applications/jobs if they started a buddy scheme at school. I know that the sn Mums would probably fall at their feet if perhaps they could stay for one after school club with a sn younger kid or perhaps start a friendship club/social group in one playtime a week. It is SO hard for our kids in school and they need more interaction with sensible children rather than just being with their TA's or dinner ladies.......

unpa1dcar3r Wed 20-Jul-11 13:43:39

Hi Mary
All this will be very good for her CV especially if she wanted to later teach SN children, to do the PGCE after university. I think it's a particular course for SEN teaching.
Someone suggested her contacting various organisations regarding getting info sent on different disabilites so here's my 2 pennorth worth;
The fragile X society! They would be only too glad for anyone like your daughter asking for info and being as it's the most common cause of inherited learning disability it is very relevent and becoming more diagnosed everyday (1/129 women and 1/300 men are carriers) and it is often misdiagnosed as autism alone.
All the best to your lovely girl, you should be one very proud Mama to have raised such a caring insightful daughter!

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