My Greatest Teacher

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

Barely a week, or even day, goes by when we are not somehow reminded how our lives are so much richer for having Seb in it. Something I could never have anticipated before he was born, or even when we were first told of his diagnosis.

Today, Christmas Day, was no exception.

I have often thought how changing attitudes towards those with a disability is very much the same as changing society’s attitudes towards old people. As a whole, we tend to clump all people over a certain age as one species of “old people”. We are often guilty of failing to see beyond that label and recognising that “old people” are multi dimensional, with likes and dislikes and rich and interesting histories. Pasts, presents and futures.

As always, my grandmother, Seb’s great grandmother, came for Christmas dinner at my parents today. An impressive 98 years on planet earth, she has one of the richest and most fascinating histories – from emigrating alone (somewhat blindly) to London from Wellington, New Zealand, during the second world war to be with my grandfather, to surviving on her own once he passed away at a relatively young age thirty years ago.

But it is, sadly, very easy to forget this depth in the fleeting moments of everyday life. It is all too easy to just see a 98 year old shell, one that is confused and disorientated. One that needs help physically and mentally to function. An “old person”.

When (great) grandma arrived, Seb was the first to bounce up to her, hug her, kiss her and say hello to her. He chatted away with her in his own little way, and she answered back in hers. The children don’t see her very often and so her “label” is, perhaps, even bigger to them and the other children didn’t take an awful lot of notice of her. But Seb really did. To Seb, she was, without question, an equal, with as much to add as anyone else…..and so was he.

When it was time to leave, my Dad and my brother helped my grandma to her feet. In a split second Seb appeared, he held tightly onto her hand and gently guided her towards the door. “Me help great grandma” he said, looking intently at her with the most sincere depth of concern.

And once she was safely in the car, Seb quickly ran indoors to fetch her handbag. It was a truly heartwarming moment that could teach so much to so many, me included. Once again, Seb proves to be my greatest teacher.

Merry Christmas xx

DECEMBER 2014

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