I have 3 boys, Tom is 7, Bobby is 5 and Frank is 2. Tom & Bobby went to preschool at Challengers in Farnham and Frank will be starting preschool in September, we are very excited!
I wanted something different, I didn’t want normal, I wanted them to get something extra. So I was looking for a Montessori preschool and I found one. I went and looked around, and then someone mentioned Challengers. Initially I thought it was only for disabled children but they said that non-disabled children could go to, so I went along and had a look, and as much as I loved the Montessori Method – the atmosphere, the space and everything about the Challengers preschool was incredible – it blew me away. Tom felt comfortable there straight away, so we chose Challengers. I have found out since that a lot of people there use the Montessori Method anyway! They teach them how to be independent, how to pour their own drink – which is a blessing and a curse! Also how to talk to each other respectfully – it has been a godsend to my boys.
When the boys first went we didn’t know that they had any disabilities, as far as I was concerned they were mainstream boys and I liked the idea that they would get to know children that had struggled and that they would learn that’s normal and they won’t stare at people in the street. They learned so many things socially that in a mainstream school they wouldn’t come across, things like at an early age they notice when someone is about to get really really upset and either learn how to help that person calm down or how to get away. It is a tool that they use now at school and something that they have taught their younger brother already.
Since then they have had their own diagnosis and Challengers has helped me and them to understand that just because they have a learning disability it does not mean that they are not normal. As a family we are incredibly positive about their conditions, we explain it is just their brains are wired differently – we can use examples of people they went to preschool with who they absolutely love, and in fact they think it is pretty cool.
When I first dropped Tom at Challengers, although I was very happy with the people that worked there and the surroundings, I was still a mum who was dropping her child off with a bunch of strangers. We had settling in days, the first one, where I stayed he barely spoke to me, he was just running around doing everything and checking everything out. The second day the leader said Tom is settling in really well, if you want, go home, have a chill out, relax that is fine. I was like I can’t possibly do that – I can’t leave him! She said, why don’t you go and ask Tom, so I did – absolutely certain that he would be like mummy don’t go. So I said to Tom – shall I stay here with you or shall I go home to Bobby – and he said “yep OK bi!” I couldn’t believe it! This is from a boy who didn’t fit in anywhere and didn’t like to be anywhere new. I of course cried the 20 minutes home the next hour I was at home and then the 20 minutes back to preschool and he was all about what he had been doing, the toys they had and the people that he had met. Once he started properly I felt absolutely comfortable, knowing that I could go back and get on with whatever I needed to do and he was going to be happy.
The staff at Challengers are amazing and they all have something in common and I can’t put my finger on what it is – we call it the Challengers effect. They all make people feel like they are incredibly special, which they all are but that is over looked in other settings and even sometimes at home.
I cannot imagine life without Challengers, it is absolutely invaluable – just the thought of not having it is upsetting! If we bump in to somebody and Challengers is mentioned or if their child goes to Challengers, there is an instant connection to that person, there is like a belonging – like an extended family. The boys get a lot from it and because they get a lot from it, I get a lot from it.