Oliver’s Christmas

December 8 2023

A year at Livability Victoria School means a joyful Christmas for Oliver and his family Oliver is turning six this month and he’s pretty excited about it, and about Christmas. His parents, Amyn and Alba, and his classmates at Livability Victoria School, are ready to party with Oliver.

This year has seen Oliver make a huge leap forward in his enjoyment of school and his ability to learn. As a non-verbal, autistic child, Oliver has learned new communication skills, which reduce his frustration about not being heard and open doors to learning. This has enabled him to engage with what’s going on in the classroom. Oliver’s class has been getting Christmas-ready since early December, with musical activities proving particularly popular with Oliver.

‘Today we joined the whole school in the sports hall to listen to a choir singing Christmas songs,’ says Oliver’s teacher Claire Wilding. ‘Oliver had a wonderful time dancing along to the music alongside a member of staff. Last year, he found it difficult to stay in the hall for extended periods of time, but today he danced along for 40 minutes, which is fantastic!’

Arts and crafts

Oliver’s concentration has noticeably grown, says Claire: ‘We are making Christmas cards and ornaments for students to take home. Last year, Oliver engaged in art and craft activities for a few seconds at a time and this year he will participate for two or three minutes with adult support, which is a big difference for him. Most importantly, he also shows much more enjoyment from these activities and shows some pride in his finished product.’

We can’t all join in the fun at Oliver’s class, but if you’re looking for activities that children and adults of all abilities can enjoy, take a look at our 12 days of Christmas campaign. We’ve got a big Christmas bunch of things to do, which you can download free, and which have proved popular with people with disabilities who use Livability’s services. And because we know that budgets are stretched this Christmas, you’ll be able to find most of the materials needed around the house. If crafts aren’t your thing, you’ll also find easy recipes and a festive joke to share.

School life

For Oliver and his parents, Christmas sees the end of a school year which has been transformative for the whole family. Alba explains how things were when Oliver started at Livability Victoria School: ‘We hoped that the school would be good for him, but they’ve exceeded our expectations in so many ways. The first day we dropped him off, I remember saying to the staff “I’m really sorry if he tries to scratch you or bite, you know, if he’s overwhelmed”. And they were just like “Go and have a nice day, we’ve got it.” And I thought, well, I’m not sure. Because you don’t know Oliver. But actually they haven’t called us once in a year. In a whole year.’

‘Oliver has had a year where everything came on in leaps and bounds,’ says Amyn. ‘He’s still not speaking, but he understands so much more. He’s in a better place to learn, like establishing connections with signing. Before, we would try 1,000 times to teach him a sign that he wouldn’t really do with any reliability. Now we can show him something twice and then the third time he’ll do it himself and he knows exactly what it means.’

Amyn and Alba are thrilled by Oliver’s progress: ‘He’s making new sounds. It’s like the penny has dropped – he feels “I can communicate if I try, communication helps me” and that’s the major thing. We’ve always felt that he’s intelligent, he’s so quick. But seeing the joy that he gets from, for example, being able to join in songs, is I would say the biggest change that has come. Instead of communication being something that we try to sort of lead him to, he wants to communicate. We’re very interested to see how he reacts to Christmas this year. Last year, he definitely paid more attention than he did the year before.’

Oliver’s December birthday means double bubble celebrations for him. ‘At school we will be singing happy birthday to Oliver as a whole class, with his picture on a screen so all students are supported to understand that it is Oliver’s birthday,’ says Claire. He’ll be celebrating with a birthday cake, blowing out the candles and a party in class with his peers.’

 

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