This morning I went into Tink’s nursery to spend some time with her eating breakfast. Parents/carers were invited in as part of their ‘healthy eating’ topic this month: ‘Why Can’t I Have Chocolate For Breakfast?’ (This tickled me; Tink does have chocolate (cereal) for breakfast, usually followed by a chocolate coin and sometimes a chocolate biscuit. She’d have it for lunch and dinner too if she can. Shoot me – you try saying no to her!)
We went through the usual morning routine of depositing bags and coats and Tink sitting down in the circle for Family Time, and then I threw her completely when she said “bye, Mom!” and I didn’t go! Even though I’d explained to her that I was coming to nursery to eat breakfast with her, she just didn’t have any concept of it.
So, I sat down with the few other parents there while the children did their Family Time, and that’s when it hit me how much Tink struggles and how different she is from the other children, despite all the support and strategies put in place by her teachers.
The children sit in a semi-circle and yes, there’s a bit of bum shuffling and wriggling, but they mostly stay put. Tink sits in her spot, next to her TA. Today she lay her head on her TA’s leg and did not engage at all with what was happening, other than to reel off numbers when she heard it was time to count the children, whilst staring vacantly at the window. She wriggled around quite a lot – she finds it hard to sit still unless she’s engrossed in what she’s doing.
Then we moved through to where the breakfast was set up.
Tink had her own place at the table, signified by her ‘work mat’. I guess they use this for any focus activity they want her to do. The idea was that the children would, with help, self-serve some cereal from a choice of four, add the milk and choose a drink too. Tink wasn’t interested, and protested. If there had been chocolate hoops, I bet she’d have been there like a shot!
However, there was toast. Hurrah! She quite happily took some, and sat back down. I helped put some butter on her knife and she had a really good go at spreading it herself – “I did it!” She demolished the first piece and asked for some more, which she managed to spread with almost no help from me. No jam or honey though, definitely not! She was offered a piece of brown-bread toast; not something she has at home, but she tried it and didn’t declare it ‘disgusting!’, but didn’t eat much either. I was so happy she tried it though!
She was given a drink of water in an open cup. She can drink from cups, but we don’t really use them at home as she has her non-spill bottle instead. So, she had a little drink… then tipped the rest onto the left over brown toast on her plate. Sigh. That’s why we use a non-spill bottle…
I was taking sneaky peeks at the other children, chatting to each other and to their parents or carers about what was happening. Having anything like a conversation with Tink is still virtually impossible. Especially if she’s focussed on another task (and if that task is eating you’ve no chance!)
And then it was all over. The children got their coats on to go outside – Tink can do this now, and even managed to do the zip a couple of days ago! While it was nice to go in to school and do this with her, it’s also quite difficult seeing children who are a school year younger than her doing things that she isn’t able to or struggles with. And the sympathetic or curious looks from the parents, who don’t know us, can be hard to deflect. On the other hand, it was good to see her really trying with the butter-spreading and following instructions – well done Tink!