Joshua was more subdued than usual when I dropped him off at his respite provision yesterday afternoon; he was not unhappy but instead of being excited, he smiled quietly and rather than greeting each of the staff with a hug as he has done in the past, he sat on the settee and let them come to him, so he played it rather cool.
So I was relieved to hear, when I called them up at 10pm, that he had been making them laugh with his smiles, hi 5’s and giggling. He had eaten two main courses for his evening meal and he had enjoyed a walk out to the park too. That news allowed me to go to my bed smiling, knowing that he felt at home there and was having fun as these ‘short breaks’, as they are now called rather than respite, are about all of us enjoying out time apart: not just us as his parents having some time away from Joshua, but also, Joshua enjoying some time independently from us. Time when he perhaps does activities that we have not considered for him, when he mixes with his own age group rather than just adults and when he experiences a different bedroom and eats alternative meals. It is all valuable experience and it is clear to me that the staff at his respite provision are already very fond of him, which matters a great deal to me : I like to think of him being in environments where he is popular, as he responds well to that warmth.
Working with children and young people with special needs is a challenging role and I am not sure that everyone is equipped to do it with the passion that it requires. It is so refreshing to witness carers and teachers who clearly adore their work , so much so that they make it look easy. The best ones appear to have an additional sense and to have eyes in the back of their head. I have learnt over the years as Joshua’s mother to predict his moods, behaviour and even when a seizure is brewing. But I have had 15 years practice with just one child, which is very different to the comings and goings of several young people in a classroom or at respite, when they can run rings around the staff They have to be alert to the interaction between the various personalities and be aware of potential clashes , in addition to the needs of the individuals, so that is a specialised juggling act and we are very fortunate that Joshua is in the care of such skilled professionals.