To the parents of the boys in the changing room...
Updated: Apr 6, 2019
I won’t have the chance to say this to your face so I am going to say it here. This is my platform, the place that I use to explain clearly and dispassionately, what it is to live our lives, in the hope that people reflect and empathise with others who might be treading a similar path. Sadly, the people who read this will most likely be the people who guard against this kind of thing already, who have brought up their children to accept difference and embrace it.
Probably not you.
Your children are terrorising my son. Their actions may, to them, seem innocuous but I must tell you that they are causing my son such distress that he is now frightened of changing for PE and is considering all possible means of escape. They turn off the lights and creep up on him, poking him in the dark and invading his space. What fun they are having, what an excellent target who, without fail, will amuse with his reaction. They laugh at him and steal his shoes, pretending to the teachers that it is an honest mistake. The school staff are dealing with it but I am afraid it is too late. The damage has been done. Every evening he talks about his fears and every evening I convince him that the staff will make it stop. They are trying. Are you? Do you even know?
My lad is making such a success of his new school. Every week I get a postcard home or an email from a teacher who wants to congratulate him on his diligence and attitude for learning. He turns up on time, does his homework and moves around the school genuinely excited about what he is going to learn next. Can you say the same?
He has had a lot to deal with in the few weeks since he started. The school is three times the size of his last one and, with the help of a map, he is finding his way around. The canteen bully who took the piss out of him and tried to make him stand up and sing, has been dealt with. The girl who tried to get him to talk publicly about sex, has moved on. My boy is now allowed to eat his lunch in a peaceful, protected place. He has learned the names of every teacher, despite struggling to recognise faces or recognise known people in unexpected places around school. He is beginning to identify children who might eventually become friends and the ladies in student services, who he had to visit daily at the beginning, told me that he is the most polite and respectful child they have ever dealt with.
Having spent 8 years in an all-girls boarding school, there is not much you can tell me about the cruelty of children. I also accept that all of them can be vile at some time or other and that it is not always a reflection of their true character. Let’s hope that this is the case with your kids, eh?
So, futile though this is, I am sending it out into the ether in the hope that it will reach someone whose child may be acting in the same way. It won’t reach you, of course, but maybe, just maybe, it might reach someone who will talk to their children and ensure that they don’t do the same thing.
Talk to your children. Please.
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.