Rory Gardiner's Webpage

04, Feb, 2010

Thursday 4th February 2010


It was back to primary school yesterday for Rory and Sam.  They have been away from 'normal' school for so long both were reluctant, anxious and uncertain about returning.  Rory asked me several times on the drive whether the bell had gone.  Last week when we decided to return north Sean and I also had to decide where to send the boys to school.  Grannie and Grandad's home at Whakapara is zoned for small out of the way country schools.  To get the boys into a primary school in Whangarei we would have had to apply by ballot.  A big issue for us was whether to start the boys in a new school given our stay in the north is temporary.  Instability, change and foreign surroundings have been a huge part of Sam and Rory's life over the past year.  We thought it was unfair to start them at a new school given they would have to transfer to a different school in Taranaki, and begin again, at some stage during 2010.  It made sense to us to take them back to Dargaville Primary where they are familiar with the school and its teachers, and they have good friends.  The down side is the drive (and the cost of this).  It takes an hour to travel from Whakapara to school.  It feels strange to be driving west to Dargaville every day given I used to drive east to my job at Council when we lived at Waihue.  A lot of people thought it an unwise decision to commute to school every day due to the loss of time, fuel cost, and fatigue, but being with the boys yesterday at school affirmed the choice we made.  Both boys were happy.  Sam fitted back in to Room 6 with Mrs Vallance like he had never been away.  I watched him play soccer enthusiastically with his Year 6 mates at lunchtime.  Rory and Kody are in the same class, Room 7 with Miss Hallett.  By early morning their desks were together.  Initially they were a little standoffish but they thawed as the day went on, heading off together at morning tea, and eating and chattering at lunch.  Later they were joined by Korie.  I was concerned about Rory's ability to socialise with his peers.  Battling cancer has changed him in many ways.  He is quieter and more serious than he used to be, and under pressure/stress he withdraws into himself, taking himself off to the side where he becomes an observer of life.  It is something I watch out for, and discourage

When we arrived at school yesterday it was a hive of activity, bustling teachers, parents, and children.  Whaea Danielle showed the boys to their classrooms with me in tow.  Both boys are in newly refurbished classrooms which are clean and bright.  Rory's class is currently in Room 7 and will return to their proper class, Room 3, once it has been upgraded.  After settling in to their new classrooms the children went to full school assembly which started with a waiata and karakia.  It was lovely to hear their voices, led by song bird Whaea Danielle on her guitar.  Rory's return was not mentioned in assembly, or in class.  He was just one many returning to school in 2010.  Several of the teachers and children said hello, and I heard a few comments about his hearing aids.  We had kept quiet about Rory and Sam's return to DPS.  It made me laugh to see the surprised pleased faces of the boys closest friends when they spotted them.  When it was Rory's turn to tell a story about his holiday he spoke about his visit to the thermal spa in Taranaki and how the water came from the mountain.  I observed Rory closely all day and taken notes about the issues I observed, and possible ways to overcome them.  I was glad I was there with him.  He couldn't have possibly gone alone.  Swimming was a disaster.  It was difficult for him to get changed in a crowded changing shed with lots of other boys.  He was cold waiting on the side in his togs and the water was cold.  I had to help him out after two widths, and get him changed in the toilet.  I spoke with Whaea Danielle who said the special needs children have a session at the heated town pool three afternoons a week and Rory was welcome to join them.  I discussed this with Rory and we are going to give it a try.  When his class is swimming at the school pool he will use the time to catch up on class work or use the computer. 

Rory is sitting in a group with Kody and Year 3's Ben and Haywyn.  They have called themselves the Golden Knights.  During the day they completed worksheets about themselves, drew a snap shot of a moment in time during their holiday, and decorated a cake for the wall with their birthday on it.  In the afternoon the class attended a middle syndicate meeting.  Rory managed to eat a little at morning tea and lunch but I need to monitor his lunchbox to make sure he is getting enough fuel as he tired as the day progressed.  Many of the issues I observed with Rory were physical; opening self-closing doors, negotiating steps, walking around the school with his class, carrying gear, changing activities and tasks which required two hands.  He is a lot slower than his peers and when forced to keep up his deficits are magnified.  He is at significant risk of an accident or emotional break down.  He is finding the confines and level of activity of a lot of children around him a pressure.  It is difficult for him to manoeuvre, concentrate, and take his time to get something done.  The intellectual deficits and his learning needs are going to take longer to surface, as work is completed and assessment done.  The Neuropsych evaluation is a start and will help with his emotional well being. 

It was a busy day at school yesterday and the paper work continued to flow after dinner; stationary orders, school camp forms, daily diary, Starship appointments, emails.  The first day back at school showed us we needed to get better organised to fit everything in to the day.  So this morning when Rory got up I did his ND Therapy with him while Sean was on lunch and breakfast duty.  Rory's therapy didn't get done yesterday and it is as important to his recovery as school.  It makes sense to do it in the morning when he is fresh.  This morning the class went swimming and Rory and I helped Miss Hallett with some laminating.  Rory had two assessments in a row, spelling and maths (on the computer).  He struggled with the maths.  He took a long time to come up with an answer, and seemed to lack the tools to work it and relying on memory.  He was then given two worksheets to complete based on the Thinking Hats.  He completed the first but was fatigued and hungry and blocked at the second.  It has highlighted another issue how long he can concentrate for, how he should be assessed, and when assessment should be done.