Updated: Apr 6, 2019
Oh dear. You were doing so well. You’d come to help, to intervene at a time of madness and you seemed to be being constructive. I am always grateful to people who will help. Perhaps over-grateful. I’d been asking for ages for a referral, which, shamefully, hadn’t been made until it was too late, but at least you were here. My child was in crisis and I was on my knees.
You described the situation, as you saw it. And OF COURSE, being the experienced practitioner that you are, your objective view was the right one. Your recommendations, whilst terrifying, disruptive and desperately sad, should be considered. After all, everyone had been doing their best, hadn’t they?
With one little phrase you blew it, you lost me, you prevented me from taking anything more that you said seriously. While you were describing the situation, little did you know that you had set off an explosion of expletives and every fibre of my being was caught up in trying to prevent any of them from leaking out.
So, my friend, allow me to tell you where you went wrong. ‘Feedback is a gift’, I was recently told, so allow me to gift you a wonderful present that you will, no doubt, be grateful for. (Almost as grateful as I was for your recommendations).
You called me a ‘Lioness’; a lioness that is protecting her cub. With that one phrase you told me that you not only saw our situation as something run-of-the-mill, deserving a stock response, but that I was simply battling out of instinct, without much thought. Because that’s what we all do, don’t we, we ‘SEND parents’. We just fight for the heck of it. We are all the same, aren’t we, and how lucky for you because it must make your professional life so much easier.
You appear to be a decent person but I think you have lost touch with the people you serve. Allow me to remind you that every case that you take on is actually different. It is different because the people in it are different. The parents and the children. The fact that our children have differences does not mean that we are all part of some exclusive club, behaving in the same way and therefore deserving a standard response. But I will tell you some of the similarities that I believe we do share. We were once young and silly, long before our lives changed in ways that we were not expecting. We handle things as well as we can but sometimes, and certainly more often than we would like, we have to get practitioners in to move things on. We spend our lives filling out forms, checking to see if we meet ‘criteria’, telling the same old story and vomiting up our secrets while navigating our way through situations that none of us were ever trained to handle. And we get tired, dog tired, which means that absolutely the last thing we are looking for is a fight. A fight for the sake of it, a fight to try to get something extra. What we want is for our children to be happy and in order for that to happen we need those who can help facilitate it, to step in. You have to look at the child first, make their needs the central plank of your recommendations and then meet that need; simply choosing from a list of what you usually offer is of no use to us or our children whatsoever.
And one more thing, it is a mistake to patronise us – we can smell it a mile off.
I received many recommendations during that period, some of which were helpful, some of which were not. Looking back from a better place I can say, with some certainty, that yours were about as far off the mark as it was possible to be. You got it wrong, my old chum. So next time you want to call someone a name, I ask you to think twice. I’d be the last person to patronise you or start batting phrases around like ‘self-important’ or ‘patronising’. Imagine how offensive that would be…
Martha Smith Parent Advocate is a supportive blog focusing on the challenges and wins of parenting children with additional needs. Based in Hampshire Martha runs workshops for schools and other education providers in Surrey, London & Hampshire on how to encourage children with additional needs to thrive in education.