Monday 2 September 2013

Fur cuffs and swords

It was a lovely kind sort of school.  They were really good to Sam, and helpful when it came to getting him a statement of special needs.  I had no idea there was any need for this as he seemed so fantastic after his heart operation. But no.

One day his teacher came out and found me after school.   "Sam can't skip", she confided.  I looked at her blankly.  "He can't hop either" she said, "Or turn a roly poly, or run."
"Should he be able to?" I asked surprised, (I thought that walking to school was pretty amazing).
"Come to PE tomorrow" she said, giving me a look which I can only describe as pitying.

Well I was never so shocked!  The other kids were like little rockets zooming around, falling over and then getting up and carrying on running, etc etc  "Everybody hop like a bunny", called the teacher.  They all hopped like a bunny.  Sam flapped his arms up and down and put his top teeth out.  "Now skip like little lambs"  she instructed.  The children dutifully skipped like little lambs.  Sam wobbled vaguely, looking at the others sorrowfully, then, with some trouble he got onto his hands and knees and pretended to eat grass.  "Everyone sit down quietly and when Miss Busby plays the music, all grow up like flowers" said the teacher.  Sam sat down OK, but when the flower bit came he had to be helped to his feet.  I knew he couldn't get up off the floor easily, but I hadn't really focused on it being a problem.  Being a flower was not going to be something he could excel at.

It turned out that not only did he have a dicky ticker, but also fairly severe dyspraxia.  He was given a statement of special educational needs in double quick time, and acquired a lovely lady who looked after him at school in work and play time to make sure he was warm enough, could access the lessons and did his exercises with the others, but at a less intense pace.

Statements of special educational needs such as Sam's are designed to make sure that children all get the same chances to thrive in school, even if they have some kind of physical or mental difficulty.  I have known many children with statements, for things as varied as blindness, ADHD, dyslexia, Autistic Spectrum Disorders the list goes on.  Once the team of child psychologists, doctors etc have assessed the child they recommend  what kind of help they need and the local authority provides the funds to the school to do it.  They used to be pretty common, but they are getting more and more difficult to get as the money gets tighter.

Sam was lucky.  His statement lasted through school until he left and went to college at 16.  It gave him extra time in exams because of his slow handwriting, and some in class support all through school.  I have no idea how he would have managed without it.  As it is he is a geologist with a masters degree from a good university.  I am so proud of him.

"George, don't do that" was a thing Joyce Grenfell used to say in one of her hilarious school monologues.

My George preferred puzzles to hitting the others so I was grateful for that.

I recognise the coat I am wearing.  It is my first ever coat with sleeves that were long enough.  I got it in Long Tall Sally.  I am not specially tall these days, still 5'10" but at that time I seemed to tower above everyone, and if the fashion industry were to be believed, I had the arms of an orang utang with knuckles which were barely clearing the floor.  Sleeves rarely came to my mid forearm.  I loved the coat because my mum had not had to add fur cuffs to make it fit.  Mums have a hard life. If they are not fashioning fur cuffs, they are  having to walk home carrying a sword and pushing an empty pushchair.  I expect I would be arrested if I carried even a plastic sword in public now.  Maybe it is one of those things for my list of "things to do before I die".

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