Fieldtrips are a part of school life
Most schools have them, and international schools are no exception. I just went with my nonverbal special needs child on two. They were very different from each other.
One was a no-brainer and the other could have been if I had been prepared more.
Let’s start with the “no-brainer”.
It was to the zoo, a place that we have frequently gone to as a family; a place that I’m very familiar with. I know where all the bathrooms are and which ones have handicap stalls. I know where the eating places are – the ones that sell Chinese noodles and the ones that sell corndogs. I know this place without using the map, though the map is in a language I can’t read. Been there. Done that.
The trip was exactly what my other two children would say, “Easy peezy lemon squeezy.”
A high-stress fieldtrip
The other fieldtrip was to a small village known for DIY (Do-It-Yourself) pottery.
I knew the moment that I saw the agenda that it was going to be somewhat of a challenge. The combo of paint and my daughter alone equates a mess, but adding fragile pottery to the mixture? That day I was afraid that the shop owner was in for a new décor – Mosaic by Jie Jie.
Though staying home would have been easier, new experiences are good for her development – no matter how hard they may be for me. So, I took a deep breath, said a prayer and entered the pottery shop.
It was not a lemon squeezy easy type of trip and my stress levels were high that day, but it wasn’t a failure either. She did paint a plate – with some help – and I learned some valuable lessons I’d like to pass onto you as a parent, or even to a teacher planning for the next fieldtrip with special needs children.
- Research the facility: Find out about the place. What is the food like, what is the bathroom situation? Handicap stalls? Toilet paper? I have a rule: Just carry tissue with you always, because you can never count on it being available.
- Pre-run fieldtrip: If there is time and opportunity, take your child there once before. If you can’t take your child, then try to go by yourself. So wish I would have done this. All my anxiety of not knowing what to expect would have been lower.
- Stay fluid: Allow for change when it is necessary; don’t be rigid to “the plan.” Kids attitudes and limits change, the activity may have to change, really anything on a fieldtrip could change and not go as planned. As a parent be ready to your child the best way that you can, even if that means taking them home early.
- Mark the calendar: My daughter was very excited about the zoo, annoyingly excited. She asked three to four times daily if we were going, so I wrote it on the calendar and we counted every day. It was good for practicing counting and days of the week.
- Communicate with the teacher: I actually work at the school, so I see her teacher regularly and know what they are working on and goals we have set for her. I wonder sometimes if parents and teachers, both, forget that they are on the same team. We have to work together and communication is a key to that.
- Language: I know that most of our fieldtrips are not in English – it’s a given since we live in Asia. If there is not a translator available, ask and see if anyone in the group can help out – sometimes a student can translate at least part of what is said.
Fieldtrips and special needs children may sound like a horrible combination, especially in a foreign country, but it doesn’t have to be. Plan, prepare, and stay fluid.
And if all else fails, afterwards go get a tea and massage. Tomorrow will be a new day.
Guest post from MaDonna Maurer