In my experience, not every ‘normal’ child has been raised to be fully accepting of each other’s differences ;some react in a scared or curious way, as they are not equipped to handle children who are, for whatever reason, different to themselves. This is probably due to their parents’ lack of openness to the idea and also a lack of exposure as they were growing up. So it is so refreshing to encounter families where the children not only accept Joshua, but actually embrace him – in this case, literally.
We had the great pleasure of a visit from a friend yesterday with her charming five children, who we had never met before. Their arrival was like a breath of fresh air into our home with their babbling, excitement and obvious affection for each other. The eldest sat next to Joshua on the settee and Joshua looked him up and down, decided that he was a suitable cushion, and he grabbed his arm and lay his head on his lap. I would hazard a guess that some teenaged boys might object to that from a 14 year old boy with special needs , but if he felt uncomfortable, he did a great job of hiding it! instead he engaged with Joshua when he was awake, in a normal way, he did not seem to be struggling to find things to say to Joshua and allowed him to rest on him when he was not. It made my heart swell to see this interaction and I would welcome this family back anytime.
In a similar way, there is an end of term disco at Joshua’s special school, which we try to attend. I love the fact that some members of staff – though not enough in my opinion – bring their children along to their workplace and encourage them to dance and mix with the pupils of the school. To me, this open mixing of their home and work life sends out a message: that my work is not just a job, but it is a way of life and I am so comfortable with these special needs children, that I am happy for them to mix with my own precious offspring. I think it might even make them better people if they are exposed to some children who are different to those that they encounter at school and they might even have FUN while they are having this experience.
I may have interpreted that signal wrongly, it may simply be that they didn’t have childcare!, but I think it tells me a lot about the outlook of those members of staff and makes me regard them differently in school too.