Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Monday, 29 March 2021

Inspirational People (3)

Not the lad in the story

Quite a few decades ago, I was responsible for a special school in a provincial city. It had an enrolment of about 70, 30% of whom were children with severe autism.

The remainder of the children attending had severe and profound intellectual and physical impairments. The combination of children with severe autism, who were generally mobile, and children with severe physical impairment, who were not, was challenging in terms of management. We got around the problem of keeping children with no mobility and protective behaviours safe, in a population of children with autism, a few who were physically aggressive, by a combination of careful grouping and staff allocation.

Unfortunately, the staff allocation which operated at the time was insufficient to maintain an adequate number of supervision hours to maintain safety, so we used the school budget to fill the gaps. We were what was called a "self-managed" school which meant we had the discretion and ability to do this. We simply purchased extra teacher aide hours out of the school budget and employed people to provide additional supervision.

One lad with autism needed one-on-one aide support the whole time he was at school. Without it, he was always at risk of running away (which was dangerous, but usually manageable) or harming other children (which was also dangerous, but with a fit and agile teacher aide - usually male - also manageable).

The school budget provided this for the first four years of his attendance. At the beginning of the fifth year, after constructing a budget, it was quite obvious that the funds were simply not there any longer, because of a range of reasons which had nothing to do with managing students with severe autism and were based on state Treasury allocation guidelines.

This lad was in the care of his father, as his mother was no longer on the scene for reasons not relevant to this situation. The dad worked full time in a physically demanding occupation, had a carer employed by a charity to fill in the gaps before and after school, and organised his life around the demands of total care for the lad which involved keeping him safe (locked in) at night, feeding him, bathing him, and providing everything necessary. Respite was never available, and I often wondered how he maintained his sanity and usually cheerful demeanor. School provided his best and only respite, and it looked as if this was no longer going to be possible. To make the budget work, we would have needed to restrict his son's enrolment to four days per week, which meant that the dad would have to leave his employment, which was rigidly five days per week. This was not a tenable prospect, but we were stuck for a solution.

I went to talk to one of the management team in our district office about this issue and in the course of the conversation reminded him that I planned to retire at the end of that year. The bloke I was talking to, a person of long and varied experience and a lateral thinker (unusual for someone in his position) went quiet for a minute and then asked me if I had ever worked as an AVT (Advisory Visiting Teacher). I had, many years ago in the mid-seventies, and I reminded him how much I had enjoyed the work.

He had a different problem he was trying to solve, that of finding someone with the requisite skills and experience to work as an AVT in the western end of the region. The job was itinerant and required many overnight absences from home, which was the major reason he was having problems filling it.

I had enjoyed that work in the past, and absences from home were not going to be a problem for my family, as our children were adults, and all but one had left home. In that sense I was a good match - but who would do my job during my absences, which would amount to one full week per term? My suggestion was that I ask for expressions of interest for acting principal from senior teaching staff during my absences, and when the person was selected, take the whole proposition to the school P & C for their approval. If they were OK with it, the entire (AVT's) salary would be allocated to the school budget and used to purchase teacher aide hours to allow full-time attendance for the lad with autism. You can buy a lot of teacher aide hours with a teacher's salary.

To cut a long story short, the P & C were OK with the proposition, we had a number of teachers interested in acting as principal for the time required. One was appointed and I began to work as an AVT for the specified period. The aide time was applied, and the lad in question was able to stay full time at school, and his dad kept his job. In other words, it was a win all around.

The inspirational person I'm writing about was obviously the dad concerned, but the EQ bureaucrat who came up with the innovative proposition was, in the world of educational administration, also pretty inspirational.

As a footnote to this story, after a break at the beginning of retirement in which I wrote my memoir, I returned to the AVT work and continued it until 2017, until age caught up with me.

I actually failed retirement at the first attempt.

Comments closed.


Anonymous said...

"The inspirational person I'm writing about was obviously the dad concerned"
There was someone else in the story other than Bob?
I must have missed it in the avalanche of "I, me, and my".
John Grey

Anonymous said...

Interesting story.
Good to know that a state bureaucracy can sometimes be flexible.

Anonymous said...

Maree, you already knew about the flexibility of state bureaucracy. I imagine you have read up on the history of the Soviet Union and the CCP, haven't you Jeanne?

Anonymous said...

"To cut a long story short"
Funniest line of all in such a long, boring story about Bob.
Qudos to the dad - would have been great to read more about him.
John Grey

Anonymous said...

"after a break at the beginning of retirement in which I wrote my memoir, I returned to the AVT work"
Ah ha, the old retire-then-get-a-consultancy scam.
John Grey.

Anonymous said...

What on earth do the Soviet Union and the CCP have to do with anything?
And who is "Jeanne"?
You are demented.

Anonymous said...

While you are busy pumping up your own tyres Bob, think about this:
"A study has found narcissists are often beset by doubt and that their behaviour might be a way of overcompensating."
It's in the Australian if you want to look into your own motives.
John Grey

Anonymous said...

Maree, Jeanne, ex-Digger, 1735069....all one and the same as an attempt to give validity to some of the posts and comments of 1735069. I have pointed this out before and you are only just becoming aware...well done that man/woman/whatever.
You mentioned flexibility of bureaucracy...I gave you a couple of examples that you probably draw on for impact in your writing.
I fear you have me confused with someone else with the same name.

Anonymous said...

"You are demented"
That's no way to talk about Bob.
John Grey

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