Reap what you Sow

Around four years ago now, I suggested to Joshua’s Special School that I set up a monthly Coffee morning for parents. As most of our children are transported to school by taxi or bus, we do not automatically have the opportunity to meet other parents at the school gates,as happens at mainstream schools. So the coffee morning was designed to be an opportunity to be a safe, friendly space where parents of children with special needs could share , or forget, their problems for one morning every month. Over the years many parents have come and gone, but there is now a core of parents who I consider to be friends as we know what is going on in each other’s lives and we are in contact , mainly on social media, in between coffee mornings.

All this time, I thought that I had set up the event to support other parents, to offer them a safe place once a month. I learnt yesterday that I need, and benefit from, that support too. I realised that, despite grieving, I wanted to see my friends and I needed to call upon their support. I wanted to show that I could still function, that I was able to bring homemade short bread, cheese straws, cheesecake and brownies to the table. In exchange, I asked for several hugs, which I received. They took their lead from me, so I had said that I would not wish to talk about Mum , but at one point yesterday we were talking about cremation and sharing ash-scattering stories. I was given the benefit of experience from other parents there who had lost their parents and I just felt surrounded by warmth and concern, which made me smile rather than cry.

As well as our coffee morning, school was welcoming new parents too, those whose children would be joining the school in September. I showed my face at their meeting and was introduced as someone who does ” amazing baking” every month and I donated some samples to their event. I would like to think that those new parents will also in time, benefit from the warmth of the group. I am hoping that this positive support group will continue long after Joshua and I have left the school next summer and if so, that would be a legacy that I would be very proud of. I was asked yesterday if I would come back sometimes when Joshua has left, to tell them about how life is beyond school and I joked that I could be an occasional guest speaker. Joshua is now the oldest pupil in that coffee morning group, so many of those with teenagers, are eager to see how we fare in the big bad world of Adult Services and hopefully they could learn from our mistakes or experiences. I had thought that I would leave them to continue on after next year, as it needs a new leader, but after the support that I received yesterday, I realised that I will want to continue to visit occasionally, as a guest, and rather than feeling awkward as I had feared, I think it will feel like a natural thing to do.

Turning a Negative into a Positive

Yesterday was our Parent First Aid training at school, which came about after Joshua’s seizure in the bath incident in January when we had to call an ambulance. Once we were home from hospital and I began to analyse my response to his accident at home, I was very aware that I had no formal first aid training and so I asked his school to lay it on for other parents like myself. They asked me to make a call to the training company that they use and to find out what they could offer as a half day course, which I did. I reported back to the Assistant Head who is responsible for safeguarding and training at school, and he booked the course all on the same day that I made the request.

I then had to hope that I was not the only parent who recognised their need for First Aid training, and I promoted the opportunity on our parent social media and was overwhelmed by the response that I received, by the level of interest. After February Half term, school sent out a letter offering the training on a first come , first served basis. I was worried that the level of hypothetical interest might dwindle once a real time and day was offered, but I needn’t have worried, as twelve other Mums turned up for the training yesterday afternoon. The trainer began by finding out about our children, our experience of emergencies at home and about the level of first aid knowledge that we had already. I was the only one who had been on a three day First Aid at Work course during the same week, but some had no formal training and others were looking for a refresher on some old training.

The trainer was excellent, she was informative, knowledgeable, but she went at a good pace and encouraged us all to try out the practical techniques of CPR, placing each other in  the recovery position, abdominal thrusts and bandaging. She answered everyone’s questions without making anyone feel silly for asking and she took account of  some of her audience’s blood phobia, fear of their children choking and their reluctance to practice with an audience. We were all shown a defibrillator and how it works which I thought was invaluable, as I had heard that you could not hurt someone by using one but I had not appreciated until this week, how it takes you through the steps and will not shock a patient if it is not necessary or helpful. I , for one, would be less afraid now of reaching for an AED if a situation demanded it.

While there was some duplication with what I had learned earlier in the week, yesterday had more of a child and baby focus, rather than adult colleagues, and she also related her course work to children with special needs, who may be non-verbal or wheelchair-bound too. I found that the three hours went really quickly, due to the balance of listening and practical exercises too. We finished at the end of the school day so that many had to dash off to collect their children and some joked that they wanted a badge or a certificate to prove that they had undertaken this training, as they were pleased with what they had achieved. I have since been thanked by several of the Mums for having the idea and for organising the course. We all, of course, hope never to need these skills, but at least now, if we are faced with an emergency on our own, at home, we will know what to do while we wait for the paramedics to arrive. It is clear that time is of the essence and so we might now be equipped to take some simple steps to make our children, or even a random member of the public, more comfortable or even save their life.