I swapped school experiences yesterday as a friend asked me to collect her son from his independent school at the end of his school day, as she was working away. So for the first time in a long time, I got to wait in the car park at 3.45 with all of the other Mums, Dads and grandparents. There was lots of socialising that went on between different groups and I saw first hand what we miss out on when our children are transported to and from a special school: I eavesdropped conversations about planned holidays, traumas about clothes shopping and various ways in which parents of children of a similar age were all sharing with each other.
At Joshua’s school, we have tried to re-create that same environment, somewhat artificially, through the monthly coffee mornings. That is an opportunity for carers to air their views and concerns amongst a receptive audience, who they know will understand and will support them, offering advice and often, simply agreeing that their life is challenging. At those events, there is no need to explain about what it feels like to have a child with special needs , despite the differences in every child’s disabilities, we learn that it is a struggle for us all. Joshua does not have the behaviour difficulties that many parents live with daily, regularly having their homes destroyed or feeling under the threat of violence from their own offspring, but his main challenges of epilepsy, sleep issues mobility problems are also demanding, but in a different way. Some of the young people will be able to go on to live independent lives once they are adult, but sadly Joshua will not be one of those.
In the same way as the independent school, Joshua’s special school is giving him the best opportunities for learning and it tries to develop his life skills for the future.Joshua will not have the musical or sporting opportunities that are clearly fostered at the private school, but his more fundemental needs are being met on a daily basis. He receives encouragement to meet his potential everyday and real efforts are made to find alternative ways to engage him. So both schools, with their very different pupil-bases, are both striving for the same goal – to prepare their pupils for the best future that they can have and to make them feel good about themselves, by celebrating successes, no matter how small.