When I was growing up, Grange Hill was what a state comprehensive school was all about. That sausage, Zammo and Ro-LAND were my anti-heroes. Now, (a horrific 30 years later) my two strapping mini-men are both at a state Comprehensive School....but this one is different.
I think a lot of it comes down to the support they’ve both had. Obviously, Max needs a huge amount of medical support but it’s the communication help that’s made all the difference. The speech therapists, the OT, the constant encouragement academically and socially. The school even runs a board games club that (without any pressure) helps build turn taking skills and helps Max work on his small talk.
You have to understand where Max came from to get how big this is. Max went from being pretty much non-verbal in yr. 7 to in yr. 11 sitting exams, having a girlfriend, done his bronze DofE, going to college and he’s just been approved to do the NCS over the Summer.
The school has a sibling group too. My youngest found Max’s needs really hard to cope with and he still does if I’m honest. But knowing that other friends at school are in the same boat in having brothers and sisters with special needs was life changing to him. After that first sibling group meeting it was as if he exhaled for the first time in years. In the last year, he’s gradually came out of his shell. He’s become less angry and found that he does like some lessons. He got into sport in a big was and now does squash, tennis, rugby, climbing and fencing. He got his bronze award last night!
I know mums do this annoying bragging stuff on FB all the time but my two have had some extraordinarily tough times. They haven't always done well, been well mentally or physically, fitted in or even been that happy at times. Getting them into the right school might just be the very best thing I've ever done for either of them.
So why am I telling you this? Well, because I’ve made a tonne of mistakes. I kept them both in schools that were not right for them because I was scared to make a fuss. I didn’t ask the questions I should have, I took ‘professionals’ word as gospel even when I knew something was wrong. I was so afraid of not being liked, scared that ‘professional’ would think I was crazy or difficult.
The school they now attend has made an enormous difference to who they could become…I worked for my two so why don’t you suggest your child’s school starts a games club? Or offers the DofE to their SEN student? Or starts up a sibling club?
Become a pain in the arse, get things moving. For what it’s worth, I don’t care what ‘professionals’ think about me anymore. I will be as difficult and crazy as I need to be to make absolutely sure that my two get the best chances they can. Because when I do my best, they seem to fly. They have this strength, a kind of internal generator that pushes them onto bigger and better things. I can't tell them any of this obviously but I don't think I'll ever give up the hugs at the school gate even though they are bigger than me. They are my new heroes and I hope they know it.
If you’re in the same place, you might want to check out these useful links…
Duke of Edinburgh Awards – SEN support
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