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additional needs, down syndrome, down's syndrome, equality, family, inclusion, pregnancy, special needs

This morning at school drop off something happened that made my heart swell and almost burst out of my chest with pride. It was a really small thing, something that most people would have barely noticed, but for me it was a BIG deal. I love the drop off at school and now that I am on maternity leave and not rushing off to work I have a little more time to soak up and savour the moments. I can practically see Seb’s metaphoric tail wagging as he sees his friends, so desperate to be ‘in’ with them. He really looks up to two of the taller boys and I often worry that he is a bit of a nuisance, constantly calling out their names and running after them. They don’t seem to bat an eyelid and on Monday I saw one of them place his arm on Seb’s shoulder in a very manly manner and just ‘hang out’ with him and it was a truly beautiful moment (sorry, cheesy!). At 20 weeks pregnant with Seb I knew we were having a boy. I imagined our lives together, becoming parents and all sorts of milestones. I remember a vision of my son as a teenager – a strapping sporty boy hanging out in our kitchen with his school friends (all super handsome and cool of course).I wondered whether he would be an academic or a successful sportsman or a musician. I even imagined what it would feel like seeing your child growing up and opening their exam results. Even more ridiculous, I researched local schools and league tables. So when Seb was born and we were told he had a learning disability it was like a huge punch in the face – actually it wasn’t like that, it was like being run over by a train. All of the hopes and dreams I had visualised in tatters. Me left feeling a total fool. I remember Seb’s wise godfather saying to me “does it really matter what qualifications he gets? Surely it matters that he is happy, leads a full and rewarding life, is polite, and above all is a nice person”. Even though these words are so perfect, it still smarted. I knew he was right, but I just couldn’t feel it. I felt cheated. At the drop off this morning we saw Seb’s Teaching Assistant from last year on playground duty. Seb, as usual, was buzzing around the playground high fiving his buddies like a little whirlwind of energy, chasing scooters and beaming from ear to ear. A new little boy was looking a bit bewildered. Seb’s Teaching Assistant called Seb over and asked him if he would like to show the new little boy ‘sign duty’. For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, ‘sign duty’ is when two children are choden to walk around the playground with a sign that indicates to the Infants that it is time to stop playing and make their way to their classrooms. Seb’s face lit up, ‘yes please!’ he exclaimed and off he marched, out of sight. He was gone a while and I asked if he was ok. His TA explained that he had to walk all the way through the school to the staff room to knock for the sign. So we waited. Me of little faith imagined him galloping through the hall, chasing up and down the stairs, in and out of open doors, in fact anything but walk to the staff room. Never in a million years did I expect him to come marching back proudly holding the sign to find his new little friend. And off they trotted side by side round the playground, Seb proudly shouting ‘SIGN! SIGN!’ (which I am told is over and above required duties!). Slowly he rounded up all the little children, just like sheep, and off they went into their classrooms, until there was just Seb and his friend left. Seb, still grinning from ear to ear, kissed me goodbye and took the sign back to the staff room. I was so proud of him I nearly exploded into a million pieces. It seems a long time ago since Seb was born. In real terms only 5 and a half years ago but it feels like a lifetime ago. I was a different person then. One I don’t recognise or even like much these days. I wholeheartedly agree with everything Seb’s godfather said to me now and I am so lucky to have been taught the important things in life by my son, without him even realising. It has set a new perspective for all of my children and I know I will support whichever direction they decide upon in life, academic or otherwise. Dominic Lawson, who has a child with Down’s syndrome himself, sums things up perfectly with one of my favourite quotes ever …. “some parents confuse parental ambition with parental love”

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