It had been decided by the great and the good that the only way Bob’s Community College could decide if they could offer him a place was to observe him for a whole day in his natural habitat at school. The day was set for a Tuesday so Mrs. Bob from the College could also observe Max in his weekly after school cookery club.
Mrs. Bob from Bob’s Community College arrived bright and early. Of course I had no idea what was happening in Max’s classroom, just that it was happening. The email from the Transition Officer had clearly stated that,
“…they were not trying to catch anyone out…”
What? Were they?
It hadn’t even occurred to me that might be the case. What were they trying to catch us out with? What was there to figure out? All I knew was that Max was never going to get the math he needed to do cookery at a mainstream college and none of the special needs colleges did cookery. It sounded like we were waiting for the tagline at the end of a joke but it wasn’t at all funny.
Max took his usual place in his own little kitchen in the cookery classroom
He worked through the directions making the pastry, chilling it, peeling the apples. He worked alone of course but I don’t think he noticed he was. I hope he didn’t notice anyway. Most of all I hoped he wasn’t lonely.
I tried not to watch him cook of course, but I was. Mrs. Bob took her seat opposite me surrounded by chairs stacked neatly on top of tables (it was an afterschool club after all). She dismounted one of the blue plastic chairs and got her notepad out with a smile…
”You don’t mind if I sit here do you?”
Actually you frighten me, I thought, but...
“Of course, fab to have the company.”
I shut my laptop, tonnes of work to do too.
So much was riding on this one day...
If Mrs Bob thought Max’s culinary future was simply a hopeful parental dream, then Bob’s Community College would offer him a place without the cookery component. If Mrs Bob felt Max could handle level 2 math, then he could attend the mainstream cookery course at Bob’s Community College too. She kept taking notes and in-between each thought she clicked the top of her biro endlessly, constantly. What could she possibly still be writing about?
She’d been observing Max since 9am...
We chatted. The usual SEN small talk, games of SENdar in playgrounds, ASD eye contact, playing next to not with. It was like SEN dating small talk. An unwritten code of how to talk to SEN types. I kept noticing Max struggling with the right-handed apple peeler…He’s a lefty.
She talked about her family, how her son played golf and tennis right-handed but was in fact left handed. She’d noticed Max struggle with that bloody apple peeler. Then she said it…
”Max is doing all of this by himself isn’t he?”
By George she’s got it! Yup, that’s just how my baby boy rolls lady.
“I haven’t seen him this engaged or independent all day…”
Said Mrs Bob. I know! Seriously what have we been talking about for the last 3 months.
I said, I can’t actually pull off coy, but I tried anyway...
“So what do you you think he’ll do after college?”
An ungainly loaded question I thought.
“Well, I don’t see why he can’t get a job in a kitchen somewhere…”
She would make a terrible poker player, her left eyebrow shot up as she continued to scribble.
“Do you mean some kind of assisted work experience?”
No, an actual job, like a real person you crazy...
“No, just a job. Well if a couple of other people there are trained in the epilepsy stuff and I can get him help to get to and from work then I can’t see why he can’t work…”
“But he can’t do the maths can he? He won’t be able to do any of the measuring?”
What for washing up? Beating the hell out of some bread dough or perhaps even making sandwiches? Really?
“I don’t think all kitchen jobs need maths all the time. That kind of seems like a rather small obstacle to overcome in the big picture don’t you think?”
She smiled and continued to click the top of her pen…click…click…click. Terrible handwriting too. Mrs. Bob finally stopped the constant clicking of that freebie marketing biro and packed up her lined A4 pad into her plastic folder with a satisfying pop.
“I’ll get my report over to Miss Bob by the end of the week.”
Transition officer Miss Bob that is.
And there it was. Almost going unnoticed, a little wry smile...
A tiny ‘woman to woman’ moment. I can’t be sure it even happened and I’ll let you all know if this all works out but I think she got it. I think she could image Max training, him working, him living happily ever after. We’ll see. I won’t exhale just yet.
If you’re in the same place, you might want to check out these useful links…
The Equalities Act 2010 - https://www.gov.uk/guidance/equality-act-2010-guidance