Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Bush Kids

I've had a great week working in schools more than 300km west of here.

Generally, I traveled by road, but one day was fly-in, fly-out, which is a great time-saver. It also brings me into contact with people working for other agencies, which is always interesting.

In education, we work on a developmental model, whilst in health the diagnostic - therapeutic model is the norm. I believe that this is one reason why medicos (with notable exceptions) find dealing with people with disabilities very challenging. They're not - after all - ill.

It's strange, therefore, that the kids I work with are categorized using a medical description of specific disabilities. It's probably time for a change.

Being an aircraft tragic adds another dimension to fly-in, fly-out. This week there was a change of aircraft (from Piper PA-42 Cheyenne Turbo to Beechcraft Super Kingair).

Apparently the Piper was in Melbourne having maintenance when someone taxied it into a lighting stanchion. This did it no good at all.I don't know what it did for the person responsible.

The Kingair was a bit newer, and somewhat roomier, but is apparently not so much of a rocket ship as the Cheyenne. Either represent a big improvement on driving.

But I digress... this is supposed to be about kids, not planes.

Essentially, one of the main reasons I continue to do this work is the fantastic feedback I get from the kids. Bush kids are different. They're usually pragmatic, honest, and will have a go at anything. Two spring to mind...

One is a year five boy with hemiplegia in a very small school.The first time I met him he had a bruise on his face. When I asked him how he got it, he said simply "playing footy".

His teacher told me that he played second row in the school team. He has a wobbly gait, and his left arm is not all that functional. He tucks the ball under this arm, and fends with the other one (the right) which functions very well indeed. His unpredictable gait makes him very hard to tackle. He's a very popular player and has won "Best and fairest".

The other one is a year nine lad also with mild cerebral palsy in a slightly bigger (but quite isolated) school. A few months ago I helped his parents identify a notebook computer small enough for him to carry from class to class, which he links to a roll-up keyboard. This works well, as it boots up quickly, and he can keyboard his work at the same speed as the other kids write. What he produces is also legible.

Unfortunately, he locked himself out of this laptop, and for reasons not well understood, it stubbornly refused to let him log on. The school's IT teacher spent the best part of a day trying to get him in, but finally gave up in frustration.

On the day I turned up, he was getting desperate, as he couldn't access his work. I dug up the handbook, which gave directions on system retrieval. After he phoned his mum to check that it was OK for me to have a go at it, and after I phoned the manufacturer (ASUS) to check the procedure, we took our courage in both hands and ran the retrieval programme.

Fortunately, it worked, and he put in a new password. Now he wasn't going to let this happen again!

He insisted that I write down the password and put it in a sealed envelope which he gave to the support teacher to file safely. He also asked me to write down step-by-step the retrieval procedure in case it was necessary again in the future.

This setting up of a simple failsafe system was, to me, impressive, and an indication that he was demonstrating a sense of independence that is typical of bush kids.

I'm privileged to be able to work with these kids, their schools and parents. It's also great fun.


hosky said...

My kids are so much nicer when they arent exposed to the commercialism and language of Spongebob...hubby has been trying to get me to move to the country...its just a bit hard for me to let go....

Now if I could only arrange the removal of commercial tv AND foxtel - life would be good.

I must share with you a recent experience....James has been having a lot of behavioural problems at school AND home.....started a small Social Skills group (6 week course) and they used a point system to reward the kids.....just happened the teacher also introduced the same system, the same week....

As you can imagine there is now one on the fridge at home - the reward is the pocket money at the end of the week....

Special day for you today???

1735099 said...

Yep Long Tan day! A bloke I went to school with was killed there. He had been in his unit (D Coy 6 RAR) only a matter of hours when the contact started. My unit (B Coy 7 RAR) spent a little bit of time there in 1970 on the way to an operation farther north, and I've been back since (2206 & 2007) with my family. It's an eerie place.

Good news about James. Rewards are always powerful. The trick is to find the ones that work, and be prepared to change them when necessary.

Boy on a bike said...

The Aus ran a story today about how Aboriginal kids are being diagnosed as disabled when they aren't (sorry, no link - I read the paper copy of the paper at breakfast). I think they were referring more to the NT, but do you see it happening out your way as well?

As for your plane hitting something on the ground, try this for size:


1735099 said...

Over-diagnosis is a problem in Qld as well, particularly with kids with Autism. This is because schools get additional resources if there is a diagnosis, and the process is pretty subjective. Out of caution, most pediatricians opt for a positive diagnosis if it's borderline.

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