Rosie wrote an article last week for Jump! Mag, telling us about her life on a farm. What you did not know when you read that piece, is that Rosie has special needs. Her mother explains how it is to live with a child with special needs.
I believe that you know immediately after giving birth that your child is different somehow.
As they grow, you notice that some milestones are different from the ones that your other children had and you silently chide yourself for comparing them.
Slower with walking, not speaking, unusual behaviour, unusual reactions to noise or red food.
You live with it every day and it becomes normal behaviour to you and your family, you adapt to the child’s needs and try to help them make sense of all that their jumbled up senses bring them.
Primary school was a slightly nightmarish experience for my daughter especially as she became older. Other children could be very cruel, excluding her from birthday parties, discos, play days or merely ignoring her in the playground.
She did not understand some of the names she was called but repeated them to me when she came home. I understood them and made the decision to home educate her for a while until we fought the council for the proper education and care she needed.
After a long battle and court case, we won the right to send her to a school which catered for the children with special needs.
My daughter was delighted to discover there were children ‘just the same as her’, and for the first time in her life she had best friends. Her new friends said they had been excluded at primary school as well so they all knew what exclusion felt like.
Some of the children have difficulty understanding how to ‘read’ people. They miss the nuances of language, they understand people literally so humour can sometimes be misunderstood as insult.
Some of the children can show unpredictable behaviour out of sheer frustration. They know what they are trying to say but they cannot find the words to say it or the information is not being understood by the recipient.
The children are intelligent and smart, they can create objects of beauty, projects of great complexity, nurture plants and animals with rare intuition yet they often cannot interact with humans with ease.
I worry about how vulnerable these children are and as my daughter grows into a beautiful young woman, I worry about her future.
She will never be able to drive, never be able to go on a bus on her own as she has no concept of money, nor can she understand that not every adult is good. Some are not very nice at all.
I think about her future, how do you strike a balance between protecting her and encouraging freedom and independence?
How will she meet a decent partner, how will she cope with children, how will she manage shopping?
All the things that we take in our stride; they are interpreted differently by children with special needs.
“See the ability, not the disability” was an old saying.
I always wanted to add “Love, protect and respect them’ to that saying.
(Picture courtesy of Flickr)