Yesterday there was a ‘rant’ from a mother in the online hemiplegia support group that I belong to, that her daughter’s school was clamping down on school uniform and she was upset that her daughter was made to feel awkward because she wore leggings and boots to hide her splint on her leg, under her school skirt. The comments that I read managed to illicit that it was not a personal criticism of her daughter’s dress code, but it was a general note to all parents about uniform standards slipping and she had taken exception to it.
I have been guilty in the past of assuming, like this mother, that a school letter can be pointed at Joshua rather than being school-wide. Her daughter clearly went to mainstream school and her young teenager was concerned about fitting in with her peers and accessing the PE curriculum, by being able to get assistance to get changed and re-dressed in a timely manner, so that she was not holding up the whole class. She was clearly more self-conscious than my Joshua is.
I support the wearing of school uniform at Joshua’s school as I always think it helps him to realise the difference between school and play days. But it is not rigidly enforced at his special school and although preferred, not every pupil in the school wears uniform.While Joshua had a cast on his arm, after his botox, it was a struggle to get his sweatshirt on without hurting him, and so I sent him to school in a blue cardigan instead, which was much easier to get on and off without pulling on his arm too much. Even his resting splint now has a massive hand, which is not easy to get out of his anorak without fiddling about for ages, at the weekend he has mostly been wearing his gilet which, being sleeveless, is much easier to get on and off.
As far as I can tell, Joshua does not appear to be too concerned about fitting in with his peers or about requiring assistance to get changed for swimming – in fact he loves the attention from school staff that it attracts. So that is one less complication that we have to deal with, as our lives would be much more challenging if Joshua was concerned by what he wore – I make all his clothes choices – and if he was upset by looking different to others. He simply accepts that he is on the right track, as he was born this way. At school Joshua has to wear a helmet as protection against falls during seizures and these are not fashion items. He does not like it going on his head but I am certain that is about comfort and freedom , rather than a rejection of its style. Each time we get new splints made for his legs, they force us to look at the various colours and patterns that the plastic can be made in and I explain that Joshua is not interested in such frivolity. I used to ask them to select the pattern, but the orthotist never liked to do that and so now I humour them by making a choice with Joshua, as I understand that they want to make these appliances look as attractive as possible.
We believe that it is what is on the inside that really counts and as such, I hope that Joshuais confident that he is loved for his differences, rather than in spite of them.