As I sit here happily, typing while listening to some Mary J. Blige, I think back to a time when things weren’t so pretty!
This time last year I saw myself battling and fighting for my sons rights. I was at the start of a discrimination claim against my Sons old mainstream primary school and was still, like thousands of others desperately trying to obtain a statement of special educational needs so my son would get the support needed in a school better suited to his complex needs. These two battles pushed me to the core, not only was I becoming stressed both physically and mentally, so was my son. I knew I couldn’t give up, not when my son was being treated like an outsider and even faced the prospect of permanent exclusion. He was never allowed on trips or was hidden away during inspections or when the parents of prospective pupils toured the school. He was highly misunderstood and it was slowly killing me! I was never quit prepared for what it would take to get myself through them hard and deliberating days. I had heard some talk about the battles fought to obtain these statements, get children into schools that catered to their needs, yet you never quite realise the true extent of what it takes out of you till your neck high in it! Honestly, I cannot begin to put this into words, those parents of children with SEN (special educational needs) will know what I mean when I say, “It could have quite possibly caused me to experience a full on mental break down! There were tears, shit… far to many tears, appointments, meetings, exclusions and phone calls, over and over again. Some days I was close so very, very close to giving up! Yes, I would often vacillate between giving up or pushing on! I remember all those voices, the ones that told me, “Don’t give up Claire, Its worth it in the end.” Yet it made no difference to me then! That light at the end of the tunnel was nowhere in sight.
It’s one year later and my children have just broken up from school! Unlike last year, I don’t dread the day my son returns, not now he will be returning to a better place. Yes, as many know already, Little man is in an Independent special school for children who have autism/aspergers as their primary need.
Little man spent so long isolated in mainstream, then home schooled before finally getting a great tutor. However he was still without a peer group! I really did think that it would take so much longer to settle in this new school than he actually has. He is already up one sub-level in his reading and earned himself a fantastic school report. His school have told me his a, “Great lad and a lovely boy!” For me this is amazing and almost brought me to tears. Silly… I think not! If you have ever watched your child’s education and self confidence fade away, then you will understand this feeling of joy I’m now feeling inside.
I know there are still hundreds of thousands of parents still fighting that same battle and by god do I empathise! The experience affected me in such a way that in November last year I started a voluntary role advising parents on their children’s educational rights and helping them through the tribunal process. I also started a Facebook page a few years back that now has over four thousand members, parents like me and young people on the spectrum comment daily about the lack of support received from the system. I hear our own story repeated over and over, so similar in so many ways it’s scary. I try and encourage them parents not to give up and remain strong for themselves and their child, yet I know that like me they must think, “It’s no use!” But those who have read my story over the past three years would have read some of my most testing moments, from pre diagnosis to full diagnosis, court cases brought against myself for non school attendance and the battle to bring Little mans discrimination at school to a final end. You will remember the posts that I wrote through tears at the inability to get my child what he needed, ”A Statement” and the tears I cried for once I had succeed it was hardly worth having. Then there’s the fight for an amended statement and a long search for a place in a special needs school. Gosh the sheer pain I felt discovering that every school the LEA approached just refused him, stating his needs could not be met, No one would give him a chance! The LEA would not agree to my parental choice of an independent special school, so… I fought and fought and with all my strength giving all I had, we made it… we finally made it here!
Achievement slips and certificates replace the dreaded exclusion letters. Phone calls are made and emails are sent containing words of prise! Although his had some difficulty days, those around him understand why, they remain consistent, they just get it! This was something I found difficult to vision a year ago. I never dreamed I would be displaying a picture of a smiling Little man at his new school, Yes that special school I fought for! I never imagined that I would proudly post a picture of all his rewards. This wasn’t because a lack of faith in my child, but a lack of faith in a system that had continually let us down.
I’m not stating we will never face a difficult moment again, and will always now remain overcautious. I’m sure we will have our ups and downs, but for once, for the first time in a long time, I feel we have achieved something amazing. My son is writing, literally putting pen to paper, something he had refused to do for a whole year! Things like these are the little things a parent of a child that has no difficulties could easily take for granted. For us these are reasons to celebrate.
Do you know how long it is since my son did a parenting and actually enjoyed it… To long! When he brought this painting home today I was incredible proud, so much so I could have burst.
I have a few reasons why I decided to bring you this post today. I of course had a desire as a mother to shout from the roof tops, “Check it out my sons star of the week at school” (the worlds of the proud mother). My second reason was to post in the hope that all my readers, the ones who are in that dark place I was in a year back, take some inspiration from it, they remember my story and think, “If she can do it, so can we!” and lastly because today is Special Saturday
I wish every single one of you the best of luck, stay strong, I’m always here to listen.