Life is all about inclusion. Being made to feel part of life, of society, your community.
That you matter.
This is especially important to children with disabilities… special needs… additional needs… call it what you will, because they are very easy to leave behind. On the whole they don’t make a fuss, or if they do, it’s easy to dismiss them with a ‘they won’t enjoy it’. But we have to try. Because what are we otherwise without trying to give everyone – regardless of ability – the chance to achieve, enjoy, experience.
Alex had his first taster at mainstream school this week. There was a little wrinkle with getting his chair to the school in time (the one that goes from high to low so he can access activities at different levels and no one has to break their back getting him to it) but so many people pulled together, and we got one. He’s had a lovely time. He’s been in a totally different setting and not been bothered by it. He’s had different toys to play with and loved exploring them. I got to meet some new mums and they were beautifully polite and either ignored the elephant in the room or let me introduce the topic. His teachers came and said hello. I was so nervous – would we fit? – but people were welcoming.
I feel incredibly strongly that he has this year with his peers. Otherwise, those ‘different’ children, those ‘other’ children get tucked away in their own ‘special’ school, they are not incorporated, they are not understood, and then where are we? I’m so pleased everyone is making this work for us. Alex’s needs can be a handful, but with planning they are surmountable and the rewards, the benefits, are there for all to see.
Last weekend, we met up with some old friends. 4 and a half hours away friends. Lincolnshire – like Somerset – does not believe in motorways. It was the loveliest weekend. The host family’s children are around the same age – 8 and 6 – and they took Alex under their wing. Despite both hair pulling and shoulder biting (what he’s actually biting is the material – he loves material – but, obviously, flesh is collateral damage along the way) they wanted hugs, they gave him toys… I love that he is included. They wanted to help him join in.
There was a hot tub in the garden which – as you can imagine! – caused great excitement among the kids. And my lovely friend didn’t wait for Gary to get ready, just scooped Alex up and took him in as well. I nearly cried. Because this man, he wasn’t phased by my son, he just saw him as a boy, who would enjoy a splash in the water. And he included him.
And the more this just happens, the more we all think not, ooh, this could be tricky, but OK, how can we make this work, the more everyone – all of us – enjoys life. As much as we possibly can.