Updated: Dec 8, 2019
Back in the bad old days, when communication was limited and meltdowns were frequent, getting to school at all, let alone on time, could be super-tough.
One particular morning, getting out of bed was a bridge too far for my little lad. There was something wrong, horribly wrong and a full-on self-injurious rolling meltdown ensued. Trying to safeguard my son was essential but whilst flailing on the floor, my too-long hair was being grabbed and pulled. Hard. There were no hair bands within reach so I grabbed the only thing that could possibly do - a pair of knickers from a pile of clean laundry which had not yet been put away. Not ideal but good enough to secure my hair behind me.
Time passed and so did the meltdown. I got him dressed into his uniform, in the correct order, and we staggered downstairs for breakfast - correct bowl, correct spoon, correct number of weetabix lined up correctly. Teeth cleaned - ish - then shoes put on in the correct order, coat on and then out into the cold. Correct number of steps to the kerb, crossing in the correct place, correct pace and all the usual things pointed out on the way. Somehow we managed to get into the playground just as the last of the children were filing into their classrooms. Quite why there wasn’t a brass band there to greet me and celebrate the fact that we had, once more, overcome the impossible to get to school, is a mystery that, to date, remains unsolved.
As I watched my lad trundle casually into his classroom, seemingly unruffled by that morning’s episode, his teacher approached me and launched into a tirade about my son’s handwriting. Never mind his motor-planning issues, the Secretary of State for Education was really hot on handwriting and standards must rise. My lad's work was simply not up to scratch and it must be addressed forthwith. It is possible that I may, as I turned to leave, have muttered something about giving the Education Minister my mobile number should he wish to discuss it further. I flounced home, outraged.
Some time later that morning, some of my hair fell down across my face. And then the full horror dawned on me. I had managed to go to and from school, including my indignant exit, with a pair of pants wrapped around my hair.
There is a moral to this story and it isn't to always have a hair band in your pocket. Teachers, please please appreciate what it takes to get a child with additional needs to school every day. A parent of a child with additional challenges that gets their child to class on time clean, dressed and fed should be respected and supported and not battered on arrival with irrelevances that could easily wait for another time. You can only imagine how many routines, rituals and obstacles they have overcome in order to get their child into school every day, even vaguely ready to learn. Take it from me - broaching any subject in the morning is unlikely to lead to co-operation. So next time there is something pressing to say to a parent like me, remember the pants and delay it. And book a flipping brass band for the next morning instead.