I sometimes feel as though people are surprised Alex attends nursery. I don’t know if this is surprise that he could manage it or surprise that the nursery could accommodate him, but, he does and they do.
Back in the bad old days – when Alex’s needs were becoming increasingly apparent and the wheels were slipping off the wagon of life that Gary and I had so carefully planned – our wonderful Health Visitor came by with a suggestion. If we wanted it, there was a pot of money we could access to get Alex to nursery, 6 hours a week. Here was the first of many lifelines. I think, had it not been offered, we would never have tried it. We would have felt too guilty to go out there and do this ourselves, asking someone else to look after our litle boy, so dependent on people for his needs – who could do it as well as us? who would want to? For we all think our children beautiful, wonderful, funny, but we’re aware that not everyone else sees it the same way. So to ask someone to take on Alex with all his additional needs?
The system, in it’s wisdom, has recognised the importance of getting children with additional needs – children like Alex – out into the world. Just because they have additional needs doesn’t mean they should stay home, rocking in a corner. They have much to give – love, laughter, a totally different angle on every single everyday activity – and much that can be gained – being around new people, playing with new toys, meeting and making new friends.
We were wary and worried, but we needn’t have been. It took us a while to find the right one. The nursery that had been so good for Emma just didn’t know how to approach the world of SEN and the second one we looked at was inaccessible, dark, unappealing. But, as with all the best stories, the third one was just right. It was all on one level, perfect for wheeling him around; it was bright and airy and the children looked happy, engaged; they had looked after children with additional needs before, so had experience of working with them and knew how to access support. This has been critical for us in helping us navigate the system, because it’s a complicated one.
Most importantly of all, Alex’s key worker is a woman who loves him, nurtures him and is as proud of his achievements as we are. We’ve been so lucky to have her in our corner.
He has blossomed there. The nursery have worked in tandem with his therapists to make sure everyone is working to the same programme. He has access to messy play, to outside space, to other adults and other children. He has made friends. When I tentatively asked if we should be sending Christmas cards from him last year, I was given a list. When the Christmas play was announced, there he was as a star with all the other nursery children.
He is actively included.
Alex goes to school this year which will be a whole new world – of holidays, shorter hours, new routines – but for now I am purely grateful for the head start nursery has given him. And us.
Look at me standing up!
Loving a bit of messy play. Mummy hates it, so I’m really glad I can do it here!