I have a lot to thank my parents for, they have been wonderfully supportive of most aspects of my life over the years and done so much to help me achieve what I have in life. Looking back one of the things I am most grateful for is that they did not wrap me up in cotton wool and try to shield me from the harsh realities of the real world or treat me as precious object that would break if I was left alone to do my own thing. They never once tried to dumb things down for me and treat me as stupid. When I was diagnosed as disabled aged seven my parents rightly saw it as a physical thing and knew it did not affect my mind or my ability to learn. Then some years later when we found out I am high functioning autistic and OCD they still did not treat me any differently. It was also clear I had some learning difficulties, mostly with maths and logic, but they could see that I was not stupid at everything and it did not mean I had to give up trying and still could learn things.
I am sad to say that this is not always the case. I spent three years in a special needs school for disabled children, but this was not my parents first choice for me, it was the only school left that would take me at the time. I met some lovely people, but it was often very frustrating how they were treated. If you talked to some of my class mates they could come across as very bright people, but some of them could not do much for themselves. Part of the reason for this I think is that they were wrapped up in cotton wool. Firstly some parents seem to get scared when they learn their child has a disability or is sick in some way and then are afraid to let their child do anything for themselves just in case they hurt themselves or get more sick. I am sure it is very hard for parents when they learn their child has a problem, but that is no reason to start treating the child radically differently from how you may otherwise have done. Some parents may not even realise they are doing it, but there has to be a point when they think they are doing more for the child than they normally would surely?
Then there was how the kids were treated in school, in some classes it felt like I had not moved up a year, but gone backwards. I was doing things I had done already in my previous school, but was supposed to be in a higher year class. I realise that some children got behind somewhat having been off sick or in hospital, but some of my class were clearly smarter than they were being given credit for. We took Entry Level Certificates for most subjects, which is basically a useless qualification in terms of getting on to a decent college course or jobs wise. As an Entry Level Certificate is worth fourteen school attainment points at its highest level, which is less than the lowest grade at GCSE which at grade G gets you sixteen points. I would have liked the choice to do more GCSEs in certain subjects and am sure some of the others in my class could have done them too. I admit in some subjects I think Entry Level was about right, but we were given no say in the matter. I think children, even special needs ones need a say in their own life in some way, especially at the age of fourteen and fifteen. To be fair some teachers were good and saw that some of us had more potential and gave us slightly more challenging work. I always enjoyed those classes more when I felt I was learning something.
For someone with special needs learning may take a little longer. For me this includes practical tasks such as learning to tie my shoe laces which I took me till I was about nine or ten or learning to tell the time which I never fully mastered till I was about eleven. However my parents, especially my mum, never gave up on me and refused to let me give up either. If you do not have patience with special needs children and give them the extra time they need to learn things, they will end up very dependent for the rest of their lives. All children need help and support, but they also need to learn independence and the skills that will help them achieve that. I realise that not all special needs children can grow up to be independent, but if given the chance when young to learn I feel a lot more could. Special needs people are not always as vulnerable and incapable as some people may think.