All parents, especially mothers, have a few fears when their children start school. Will they be able to make new friends? Will they be able to handle the school work? Will they cope?
All these fears are heightened when you have a child with special needs.
It has been four years since my eldest son, Aaron, first walked through the school room doors.
Actually, it was the second time. The previous year, we had tried to enroll him in kindergarten at private school. But after one half day, they pointed out all his development issues (I was trying to bury my head in the sand at the time, hoping he would just “catch up” once he was around kids his own age) He spent the entire morning in a violent meltdown, which was extreme and common at that time. When I went to pick him up, the teacher told me, quite abruptly, that we needed to see a speech therapist, an occupational therapist and we needed to see our doctor to get a referral to see a pediatrician, and that they could no longer take him in until he was fully toilet trained, which beforehand, they told me wouldn’t be a problem. (We later pulled him from that school completely)
I drove home that day crying my eyes out. That was when I realised how big of an issue we had on our hands. That is when our battles began (but that is another long story)
I was advised that public schooling was the best option for us, as they get more funding for children with special needs than private schools do.
When he started pre-primary, at a new school, we were armed with the Global Development Delay diagnosis, which made him eligible for an aide until he turned seven years old. There was only enough funding for an aide for one full day, and three half days. His aide, to say the least, was an ANGEL who was good at hiding her wings! She basically toilet trained him (which just was NOT happening at home), set up all the tools to help him settle in and learn, and dealt with his frequent and extreme meltdowns with a level head. She was amazing!
But she is not the inspiration behind this post (though she does deserve a gushing one of her own!)
No, this post is dedicated to the other students that were in his class that year. They accepted Aaron for who he was, and the dramas that surrounded him, with open arms. They helped to guide him to make correct decisions in social aspects. They would whisper hints to help him with his school work (which was heavily simplified for him due to his learning ability) They would encourage him to join in their lunch-time games, despite the fact he rarely did.
The best thing they did, was that they accepted, without judgement and ridicule.
I know a lot of this happened because the teachers would tell me about it. Unfortunately, because I had three younger children still at home, was working hard to get our cleaning business off the ground (which, really, is unimportant to this story), plus still living in a “bubble world” in terms of my youngest son’s cystic fibrosis diagnosis…I was unable to volunteer as a parent helper in the classroom to witness this more personally.
But there came a day when I did witness this beautiful wonder of these amazingly accepting and helpful children.
Despite not being able to help out in the class room, I still made it to every “Parent Day” and carnival. This particular day, the children were doing an Obstacle-a-thon, which was three laps around an obstacle course in the pre-primary area. The children fundraised through their laps, to raise money for the pre-primary area funds.
I brought along my daughter, Eva (who was four years old at the time, and we were beginning to realise at that time she also had Global Development Delay) and my youngest son, Cameron, who slept in the pram almost the entire time…(Ethan, my middle son was sick at home with my husband that day.)
My daughter joined in on the fun with the other students. After the laps were completed, there was a picnic lunch for parents and students. As we sat, my children had a packed lunchbox ready to devour.
As I dealt with Cameron, who had awoken and wanted a bottle, I looked over and saw that Eva was struggling to open her yoghurt and other sealed goodies. She was becoming a little upset (a reminder, this was around the age that her food compulsion was at its highest peak.) I was just about to put Cameron down and move over to help her, when one of the boys in Aaron’s class, leant over and opened all the food for her. When one of the other student asked something about (the exact words asked escape me now), this particular child replied “It’s ok! It’s Aaron’s sister, and she is just like Aaron!”
“Oh….ok then!” (continues to eat his own lunch)
There were no stares at her behaviour. No sniggers. No rude comments.
Just kind, helpful natures, and an awareness beyond their years.
These boys…no…ALL the children in this class were accepting and willing to bend over backwards to help a fellow student/child to develop and grow in their own way.
I sat back in shock and amazement. I drove home in tears again…happy ones this time…at how lucky my son was to be around such awesome kids. My fears of my special needs son not ever being able to make friends flew out the window! Later on in life, I hope realises how special these friends are/were.
I wish I could say that the rest of his schooling years have been as smooth and accepting as this. Aaron has had his fair share of bullying since starting primary school (and things went downhill, fast, once the funding ran out for his aid…however, that’s another story for another day) However, he has always had a few of the students from his pre-primary year in his classrooms. These students have continued to protect, encourage and nourish Aaron over the last two and a bit years.
To these students, you will probably never know how much love I have for you for being so amazing to my son. You have helped model him into who he is today, whether he will ever realise it or not, and I don’t think you will ever realise what you did for him.
From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU!! You are truly amazing kids. You will make your parents proud and I am positive you will grow into fine young men and women. Keep up the amazing work!