I didn’t want to send Harry to a special school. I wanted him in mainstream with his twin brother doing all the things that other siblings were doing together. I wanted him to have loads of friends and memories to treasure forever. I wanted him to know that anything was possible in life. But somewhere along the way, I realised that what I wanted didn’t really matter and what my son needed had to be the priority. Then, I wanted to cry but with a heavy heart, I enrolled him into his first special needs school.
He is in year 9 now and I have just attended the annual review of his progress at school and discussed the options for life after year 11. I expected to leave the meeting a little deflated, having being faced with Harrys struggles and restricted options but I didn’t. I left feeling proud of and excited for him. I left feeling annoyed with myself for ever doubting that the meeting would be anything but positive. I left feeling indebted to the staff who support him daily. I told them I think they are amazing but in the brief meeting, I didn’t have the time or words to say exactly how I felt. So I am doing it now. Here. For all the teachers, teaching assistants and staff who teach, know and love my boy.
I want to say thank you with words that do my gratitude justice. Thank you not just for teaching my boy but for loving him as much as you do. I see it when you share stories about him; the sparkle in your eyes and your wide smile. I hear it when you talk about his progress; how your voice melts a bit. I feel it when you tell me the things you have had to reprimand him for, with a forgiving eye roll and a little chuckle. If I knew nothing else about what my boy does at school, I would know he is loved and that is the most precious thing for a parent when they entrust their special child into the care of someone else.
I also want to thank you for just being you. For the firm boundaries that you impose and the hugs you give, for the high expectations you have and the support you offer, for the challenges you see but the faith you have that he can do and be so much. With you he is settled, happy and flourishing. Yes, I love the fact that he attends the school he does but its not the ‘school’ that makes the difference to his day and life. It’s you. All that you do and all that you give to him. I couldn’t ask for more.
I worry what will happen to him when the time comes for him to move on from you but for now I treasure the days he has with you, I delight in seeing the progress he’s making both academically and socially and I love the fact that he counts down days of the weekend or holidays until he is with you again. For a child so limited verbally, he tells me a lot about his affection for you all.
Rather than thinking of Harry attending a ‘special needs school’ I like to think of him attending a school which meets the very special needs he has because that’s exactly what my boy is. Special.
Special, needs love. Special, needs understanding and acceptance. Special, needs pushing and challenging. Special, needs reassurance and praise. Special, needs humour and social guidance. Special, needs time and space to be themselves. Special, needs patience and belief. Special, needs you.
I might have worried that he would live a life in the wings but I know now that children like Harry live every day as if they are center stage and that’s a huge thanks to you and the team around him.
So thank you for all that you are and all that you do in shaping my very special boy. You make a bigger difference than you could ever understand.
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