Sitting in the school hall this week, amongst other parents and carers, grandparents and siblings I knew, hands down, without a doubt, that at any minute, I was going to cry…
Quite a lot!
So I got my tissues ready in advance.
It didn’t really help that ‘Proud’ by Heather Small (check it out on You Tube if you’re not sure of the song) was being played in the background and photos of our kids were displayed from a projector with captions unique to each child saying things like “we are proud of Hannah for signing to her friends”.
That finished me off even before the awards ceremony started!
I’m such a klutz sometimes. If Hannah didn’t have the additional needs that she has, she’d probably have noticed me weeping, rolled her eyes in dismay and disowned me there and then!
For those of you who don’t know, Hannah is a pupil at a school for children with special educational needs, but has some contact with mainstream peers who are based in the same building.
As it’s the end of term, Hannah and her classmates were being awarded their record of achievements and it was their graduation ceremony. She even had her photo taken in cap and gown and I’m gutted that I can’t share it with you here, it’s Sooooooo cute!…I’m having great difficulty uploading photos onto the blog and can’t seem to fix the problem! Arghhh!!! So, if there are any bloggers out there who could give me any advice then I’d be very grateful.
Jack, Hannah’s BFF, was there with her. Sadly (for us), Jack is moving to another school which will, I’m sure, be more beneficial to his development. Jack has been Hannah’s friend for quite some time now and, according to his mum, Jack speaks of Hannah pretty much all of the time.
Well, it would be rude not to, wouldn’t it? *wink*.
I’m sure that if Hannah could talk then most of our conversations would include Jack too…and I would have loved to have listened to her regaling tales of the adventures in their day.
Jack is a very special little boy. He cares for Hannah in class. He plays with her, he looks out for her, he helps place her hands correctly when she’s signing, he gets her to do stuff that the teachers and TA’s can’t get her to do.
He’s a superhero!
…and now at the top of my list as a potential ‘suitor’ for the future…that’s all dependent on whether he can charm Hannah’s very protective Daddy!!
For most of the school performance, Hannah was strapped in her Heathfield chair (a piece of specialist equipment, for sitting – obviously). Being the creative, unconventional and free-spirited little soul that she is (that’s my girl!), she somehow managed to swing her legs over the arms of the chair and stare and stare and stare lovingly at Jack whilst chewing on a rubber toy. I’ve never seen her so smitten…with anything. It was beautiful to watch her so besotted.
I couldn’t get the lump out of my throat to shift.
Although, maybe sometime in the years to come, I’ll have to sit her down and give her a talk about considering not chewing a rubber toy whilst attempting to woo a man…it’s perhaps not the best charm offensive!
Hannah’s class performed ‘row, row, row your boat’ and it was rather fitting that Hannah was one of the crocodiles…again, for those of you who don’t know, my daughter is rather partial to biting!
Then Jack was presented with a gift from all the school staff and Hannah gave him a book we’d bought for him all about friendship. Jack then bent down and hugged her.
And, of course, I burst into tears again!!! It was such a simple gesture, but a gesture that, in our world, meant SO much.
As Hannah moves on to Class 1 at the beginning of next term, I’m absolutely convinced that she’ll easily adapt to her new surroundings. She’s rarely phased about anything. She’s a brave, tough kid and I’m overwhelmingly proud of her. I could now kick myself (in fact, I think I shall later) at how stressed I got traipsing around countless different schools – both mainstream and special schools – for weeks on end and trawling the OFSTED website to establish which schools had been awarded an ‘outstanding’ grade and which schools offered specific services tailored to children’s additional needs in the quest to find the perfect one for her.
And I think I found it.
The school that Hannah currently attends was the very last one on my list to visit. To be perfectly honest, it was the one that I was dreading going to see as it was a school for children with profound disabilities. But I needed to see it. I think I was in denial at the time and, for my own selfish need, I think I wanted Hannah to go to a quaint little mainstream (semi-rural) village school in a naïve attempt to ‘normalise’ our situation. What a fool I was. As I walked through the doors of the school and especially after grilling the wonderful executive head teacher for 2 hours – yes, two hours of grilling! I knew in my heart that THIS was THE place where Hannah NEEDED to be…and not where I WANTED her to be.
I felt that she would be nurtured, cared for, stimulated and educated on a level entirely suited to her individual need and the staff would just ‘get her’…I wouldn’t need to have to constantly explain about her little idiosyncrasies – her hand staring, her biting, the fact that she puts everything in her mouth, her repetitive and self-harming behaviours, her difficulties with hearing loss, concentration and mobility and all the other stuff that can affect a child with a rare genetic syndrome, like Hannah. I needed peace of mind that SHE would be happy in school and, as she couldn’t make that choice for herself, it was down to me to make that decision. After all, she would spend a significant amount of time there, without me to watch out for her and I also needed to be assured that she would be safe and protected from harm.
It was time for me to let go a little…and it was scary.
Hannah can’t tell me what her day has been like. But she often comes home tired and a little bit messy and, for us, that’s ok and a pretty good indication that she’s had a good time!
Perhaps, if I’d have picked a mainstream school for her, she wouldn’t have the opportunities she has now – small class size, a somewhat better teacher/TA: pupil ratio (although I would have much preferred her to have one to one support), more access to specialised equipment and so on. The new term will see some changes; a change of building for Hannah, a new class teacher and TA’s, a new exec head (I hope he is as committed and focussed on maintaining the schools outstanding status as much as the previous exec head!) but we shall embrace those changes and I hope (and fully expect) that Hannah will be supported in achieving the best progress that she possibly can whilst being safeguarded from any harm.
I understand that she’ll even get the opportunity to visit a donkey sanctuary fortnightly, learn lots of new things there and even get to ride on the donkeys! Yay!
So, for those of you searching for a school for your child with additional needs (or, in fact, even if your child doesn’t have additional needs this applies), my advice to you is do your homework, visit as many schools as you possibly can, research till your eyes hurt, don’t settle for second best, don’t let someone tell you which school your child will be attending – as my Local Authority mistakenly tried to do! (it’s YOUR choice!) – and do what’s best for your child, not what you think is best for you. Mainstream or Special school; whatever your choice is, you need to be comfortable that the school you choose feels like the right one for your child.
I just wished now that, one day, Hannah could come home to Broccoli HQ and be able to talk to me about the great day in school she’s had…
I, as always, WILL live in hope!
Right lovely people, that’s all for now. I hope you got something from this post. Feel free to leave me a message in the comments box below if you’d like…that would be lovely. Or even consider pressing one of those buttons down there and help me spread the word about this blog (because to be perfectly honest, I’m pretty rubbish at getting the word out that we’re here, floating around in the blogosphere!).
Thanks so much for stopping by.
Until next time,
This post is dedicated to Jack…the little boy who made a BIG difference…have fun in your new school my darling and work hard.
To the 2 Jo’s, Carol, Tracey, Liane and Monique, to Paula and Jordana in nursery and Lisa in reception (who always has a welcoming and friendly smile when we walk through the door) and, of course, to Jane (a wonderful exec head!) – No words could ever really express how very grateful we are to you all. You are VERY special people!!