Around Australia, many children are having to visit respiratory clinics instead of their regular family doctor. They may need to undertake a COVID-19 test. This can be confronting to young children, who may arrive to see large tents full of unfamiliar people with clipboards, wearing face masks and other protective clothing.
After speaking to a mother whose son had found the experience of visiting their local respiratory clinic stressful, Director and Nominated Supervisor of Mudgee Preschool Rosie Gibbs decided that the preschool needed to do something to help.
“I asked our preschool Educational Co-ordinator Kate Brakel to do some research around the testing procedure and to develop a social story that may support children and their families,” says Rosie. “At the same time, I contacted the South Mudgee Surgery who operate the respiratory clinic and explained our thoughts. They were very excited by the idea and keen to contribute.”
Our philosophy says that we recognise the preschool’s potential to strengthen the community by playing a significant role in providing leadership and advocacy for early childhood, so creating a resource for the community, created in conjunction with the community, fits with our purpose.
One of the many concerns that Rosie wanted to help within the social story, was to show that there are real, friendly people behind the masks. Hence, the booklet begins by outlining what the doctors and nurses will be wearing, and why.
The story goes on to describe what will happen after entering the clinic including sanitising and having your temperature checked, followed by an explanation of the COVID swab test.
The book has been beautifully written, clearly outlining each step of the visit. It also addresses the feelings and emotions that may be attached to the visit and how families can work together to manage those emotions.
Once the draft of the book was finished, it was sent to the clinic for review to ensure it was accurate and appropriate.
The clinic funded the printing of a 100 booklets, which are being distributed around the community to early childhood centres, schools, medical centres, community health, the library and other family support agencies, Rosie says that the feedback has been very positive.
“The Mudgee Region has not had any confirmed cases of Covid-19 for over 8 weeks now,” shares Rosie. “However, as a tourist destination, the town has been extremely busy during the school holidays and weekends and locals are expressing concerns over the lack of social distancing in public areas.
“Numbers of people being tested at the respiratory clinic are increasing and I believe the social story will be well used in the months to come. In general, the children seem to have taken the pandemic in their stride and have adapted well to changes such as hand washing and arrival/departure procedures.”
The team at Mudgee Preschool are keeping families informed of their risk management procedures and updates from trusted sources such as the NSW Dept of Health and Dept of Education. They have created a page on their website dedicated to Covid-19 which includes links to appropriate resources and websites. Staff are aware of supporting children’s mental wellbeing as well as their physical health and have used other published stories to engage children in discussions about Covid-19.
Rosie would like to thank local designer, Amber Hooper, who refined the book’s design, took the photos used in the book, and put the booklet into a format for printing and emailing at no expense.
You can download a copy of the booklet here.
About Mudgee Preschool:
Mudgee Preschool is 65 years old and operates from two campuses – Lovejoy Street with 60 children per day, and South Mudgee Campus with 20 children per day. The preschool has 23 staff who educate 160 children per week in total.
Each class of 20 children has a university qualified teacher, an educator and an inclusion support educator in their team. The preschool supports a high number of children with additional needs.
“We are governed by an enthusiastic and skilled board of management, made up of parents and community members,” says Rosie.
Find more information about the preschool here.
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