Penultimate Prom

Tonight is the 6th form prom at Joshua’s school and so it is a day when a real fuss is made of the 6th formers, particularly those who are leaving the school this year. The whole of the 6th form are invited, not just the leavers, to make it a bigger party. This year is a bit different, this year it will be held in the school itself, rather than a hotel like previous years. Sixth form have been preparing for this for weeks : dancing practice and making decorations for the hall. Yesterday Joshua came home with a list of things he is to bring today ready for his pamper : toiletries, slippers and Pjs so that he can chill while everyone is getting ready, getting their hair done. My main worry with that plan for Joshua as he has been this week, is that once he is in his slippers and pyjamas, they will never get him dressed into his suit again, he will just want to curl up and snooze somewhere!

The sixth-formers stay on after the school day, after parading around the school this afternoon to be admired by the rest of the school in their finery. Then parents are invited to attend from 5 pm onwards to join in the fun. The whole event will draw to a close at 8 pm when we will take our tired 6th formers home again. I really hope that Joshua lasts until the end of the party and that he finds the excitement of the other students infectious and he joins in. Last year he got over heated and so he was not on the best form when we arrived, but he perked up after some Magic Calpol and some fresh air, and soon he was on the dance floor and surprisingly, we were amongst the last to leave last year.

I know that some of the more able, aware pupils are very excited about their Prom night and they have taken an active role in suit shopping and are counting down the days to their big party. It will be a highlight of the year for many and that is really special. But Joshua is oblivious to the build up and to him, it will probably be like a summer term school disco. I am looking forward to seeing those 19 year olds who will be leaving school in a week’s time as i know some of them pretty well as they were in the same seniors class as Joshua. I wish them all well for the future, whatever it brings.

However, their leaving school, makes Joshua in the final class of his school career from September onwards, which is a sobering thought. This will be Joshua this time next year, saying goodbye to all that he knows and loves and stepping out into the mysterious world of daycare. It is a sharp reminder that we must begin to look around the alternative daycare provisions that are available in the local area and start to plan his future, as it will be here sooner than I realise. So tonight could be an emotional event.

Party Animals

It was Joshua’s Farewell party at his children’s respite provision yesterday afternoon, and it could not have gone better. I arrived  with homemade cake to share  and he was sitting on the settee when I arrived but leapt up, grinning, when he saw me in the doorway and I had countless hugs – he alternated between me and his keyworker, he was so excited.

We moved into the dining room , which had been decorated in a Shrek theme in his honour as well as having Good Luck banners on the walls, and  we added my cheese straws to  a generous savoury buffet. One young man was sitting patiently at the table desperate to begin with the party food and another took his pizza into the conservatory to enjoy in peace. But we were surrounded by staff eating with us and chatting, reminiscing about the fun times that they had enjoyed with Joshua and the tricks of his – like hiding the telephone and playing hide and seek – that they would miss.

Joshua might have shied away from the large group, but he loved it and milked all the attention. He joined in and even ate some party food, and he seemed to sense that the party was in his honour somehow. He waved at the staff gathered around the table and would occasionally flash his tummy at them too. It was easy, to feel the love in the room – he adores the staff and they clearly adore him in return and they kept telling me how missed he was going to be and how his weekend would never be the same again.

I was given a card that they had all written lovely good luck messages in as well as a beautiful photo album, full of photographs of their many outings together and the various members of staff that he has been with over the last 4 years. I opened the album and started to read a message, but I had to stop as I felt my eyes prickle with tears. I thanked them but said that I would look at it once we got home.

It was a very emotional party, I am not very good at change or goodbyes, Joshua is much better equipped for both. But the overwhelming emotions that I felt were love, gratitude and pride of our son. I was proud of myself too, for managing to hold in the tears while I was there, but that did take supreme effort and the floodgates opened once I got back in to my car and again later on the telephone when I spoke to his keyworker. It seems hard to believe that he will not be staying there ever again, although I have agreed that we will come and see his keyworker in the future, and that knowledge helped me to say goodbye. I want them to know what a great job they do for our families, they are a lifeline for many of us, but I am confident that I made that clear.

We left Joshua there for his final night and he was treated to a special trip to Donalds,just him and two members of staff, which of course went down very well. I teased the staff and told Joshua to make the most of his final stay and to stay awake all night long. But when I rang to check all was well at 9pm, he was tucked up in bed already, oblivious to the tears that were being shed over him. He has the best idea, love them while you are there but then move on to the next stage without looking back,  he is confident that he will be loved, wherever he goes – and so far, I do not think he has ever been wrong.