The Gift of (Special) Education

So most of B’s school uniform arrived this week, the idea of reception class is now less of an idea and much more of a reality. Now that I have got my head around her placement and am happy with it I am really excited to see how she progresses and develops with actual professionals who do this day in day out.
I never really feel weird about the fact she is going to a special school until someone else does. I often get “the pause” the “Oh crap I shouldn’t have asked that” pause when a parent or Facebook friend asks what school she is going to. I am casual about it but for people outside of the Special Needs bubble, you can see them panic slightly when I reply. Do special schools still have a stigma? I don’t even know, since B’s diagnosis and after seeing her communication and socialisation slip way below her peers, mainstream hasn’t even been a consideration. Because of that, and knowing so many adults with children in SEN settings and also adults who have come out the other side to me there is no stigma…now. There was, the idea of the “special bus” “window-lickers” and “special shoes” etc were taunts casually thrown around when I was younger and I hate myself for my utter ignorance. Not only that but I grew up having a severely impaired second cousin with Downs Syndrome but to me he was an adult so all those insults didn’t even register. I do remember flipping out at someone using the word “mong” so it’s strange how you can categorise right and wrong in your brain.
Now when I think about special schools I think of them as being a blessing, a miracle and something we should cherish. For some more severely disabled children the work they do is less visible to outside world (I gave up caring about the outside world a long time ago) but to a parent it is a lifeline. Their children get therapies as standard, their tiny improvements are enormous to their families and their families get to be themselves and not carers for a few hours. For children like B it is make or break, going to a special school will decide how independently she can live as an adult (I know I’m rushing ahead at 4 but they years pass quickly) they will help her to communicate in a way I alone could never do. For children higher up the spectrum or with a disability less debilitating they are given the confidence and the skills to equip them in the real world, these are the children who would be bullied, lost, expelled in the mainstream and special education gives them a chance to flourish.
Go back 50 years and many of these children would be written off, sent to institutions and treated no better than animals. Our children now get amazing opportunities and are treated as individuals, they have small class sizes, often with outstanding OFSTED reports with great facilities….I think I feel sorry for the mainstream.


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