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  • Writer's picture1marthasmith

Ten. Purple. Hippo. Part 2.

Updated: Oct 8, 2021

For Part 1, please press here.

After a year of disrupted education, Grown-Up Lad returned to school and decided to put himself forward for the post of Tutor Captain of his class. He did not feel confident that he would win but he was keen to apply and felt certain that the additional responsibilities would not detract from his school work. He laboured long and hard over his manifesto and presented it to the class without expectation. He won. That afternoon he walked home approximately ten feet tall.

One of the reasons for his lack of confidence was the absence of close friends. At his previous school he had been part of a kind little group of children who had carried him along with him. They understood him and he felt accepted. However, the influence of one nefarious person damaged his confidence catastrophically, to the extent that when he moved schools he actively avoided friendship. Despite having had several friends who genuinely cared about him, he knew that he did not have the skills to discern whether or not someone who said they were his friend truly was, so he felt it was better to be alone. For two years he remained thus. He went to school, worked hard and came home. He was lonely.

Friendship skills, if unused, quickly rust. He lost the ability to start or maintain a conversation with another child. He was always the odd one out when classes were divided into groups and it broke his heart. He felt isolated and rejected.

School recognised his struggle and stepped in with a course of one-to-one lessons, over several months, on how to categorise friendships, recognise people who might make good or bad candidates and initiate contact. Grown-up Lad found the course difficult but stuck with it, wishing that another child would do the first bit for him and just make him their friend. Once in, he knew he would be a good and loyal companion.

Within a few weeks of the end of the course he started to suspect that he might have made a friend by accident. He guarded his secret for several more months, not even saying his name, in case he found that he was mistaken and the whole thing vanished before his eyes. On the last day of the summer term he named his friend to his mother who tried hard to act casual.

The courage it took Grown-Up Lad to apply to be Tutor Captain, knowing that he would need votes, cannot be underestimated. Nor can the impact of his election. He attended meetings about the running of the school, silently at first and then actively. He found them thrilling and listened to the views of others, gradually forming and then expressing his views and representing those of his tutor group. By the end of the year he applied to be a Prefect. Again, he worked hard on his application form and was selected as one of fifteen pupils from a year group numbering over two hundred and fifty students.

The belief shown in him by his teachers and his SENDCo (Special Educational Needs and Disabilites Co-ordinator) have fortified him. He knew he had the right skills for the job and he went for it. Grown-Up Lad was not the only autistic child to apply, nor was he the only autistic child to become a Prefect.

My son is finding his voice. A letter that he wrote to his teachers which explains, in his words, exactly what support he needs to fully access education has, this week, been published in a SENDCo training manual. The Author of the book dedicated it to him and he understands the importance of using his platform to help people understand and make positive change for children with additional needs.

I now know that the occasions on which I will need to advocate for my son are numbered and this makes me deeply proud and immensely grateful to the army of people who have helped him realise his potential. He is in charge of his own destiny. Next week we find out whether his further campaign to become Head Prefect or Deputy Head Prefect has garnered enough student and staff votes to win. I will keep you posted.

With the right support, there truly are no limits.


Update: Friday 8th October. He has been voted Head Prefect.

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