It is a lonely life as a family that contains a child with special needs, as you are on the edge of so many experiences that others take for granted. While there are many advantages of attending a special school, the main disadvantage that I can see is the loss of the ‘school gate/school run’ experience. When Joshua attended the local mainstream primary school, I enjoyed meeting him from school: I could chat and compare notes with the other parents and could even ask the teacher or teaching assistant what he had got up to, had he slept, did he eat all his lunch?
But then we moved to a Special School and he was collected from home in a minibus, taken to school and brought home again at the end of the day. Suddenly I had no contact with other parents or the school staff and this felt really unsettling. I was constantly asking questions in the home/school diary and was frequently told that the teacher coUld not spare the teaching time to write a detailed report in every diary.
I was overwhelmed at the first class-mates party that Joshua attended, as other parents made a bee-line for me, the new girl, to unburden themselves of their problems and to share. I must have given off ‘good listener’ vibes as I was inundated at first. so much so that I recognised a real need for parents to meet and share. At his previous school, I organised a ‘teddy bears picnic’ one Saturday for families of pupils, which was a success. We changed schools and I set about meeting some new parents. I organised a pamper evening for parents to visit stalls and have a manicure or a head and neck massage. It was a good idea but it was very poorly attended which was very disappointing. We sought feedback as to why people had not participated and many simply struggled to get away from their domestic responsibilities during the evening. I have not attempted to organise anything else since then.
So us mothers of special needs children. at special schools ,occupy a strange world where we cannot share the school gates experience with mainstream mums but we do not have a way of reaching out to fellow parents of children at special schools, leaving us in limbo. I went to a meeting this Thursday after school to discuss the details of a residential trip that Joshua will be going on in 2 weeks. After the meeting, when I went to put my things in the car, I met the mum of a boy, Gareth, who is in Joshua;s class. I smiled but she stopped me and we ended up talking for 10 minutes, I heard about her changing respite needs, which quickly descended into her concerns for her son’s well being when her nad her husband died, as none of their family would take Gareth in. I had only just met Gareth’s mum yet she was sharing her prime worries with me. I sometimes feel as though I have an invisible sticker across my forehead which says ‘Come & talk to me, I am a good listener’.