Last night for the first time in almost a year, I had a dreamless sleep. Not one where I wake up several times a night fretting about the future, the decisions to be made and what else there is I need to do. A proper sleep, right through the night, not waking up once.
This only happened because earlier this week, we finally found out that Anna has been awarded a place at the special school we so desperately wanted. It was a call that I had convinced myself would never come. It feels like I’ve been battling forever, never stopping, never coming up for air, and if I do surface, never gaining my breath before plunging back under and resuming the heavy fight.
So here I am, it’s a beautiful evening and I have a cold glass of prosecco in hand and for the first time in over a year, a wonderful feeling of relief has flooded over me and a sense of calm and peace has settled in, like when you’ve been on the beach all day and the temperature starts to drop and you need to pull a towel over you and it feels comforting. That feeling. One I don’t want to let go.
I felt quite shocked when the call came through, and needless to say I cried. A lot. I couldn’t get my words out other than to mutter a gasping thank you. (I’m still not sure that the call would have come this week at all if I hadn’t made an official complaint about our experience with our local authority). I then spent the next couple of days in a daze, the news hadn’t sunk in and because I’ve spent months gearing up for a ruthless fight to the very end in order to secure what Anna actually needs, rather than being fobbed off with stuff she doesn’t need, I have found it hard to switch off. I’ve been in a permanent state of battle, carrying round more paperwork than you can possibly begin to imagine (which could also be known as my ammunition), just in case I need to make a call, or receive a call, and in which case, I need every single piece of paper concerning our journey so far to hand. I’ve been forgetful, I haven’t been able to concentrate on anything, and I haven’t been able to watch any television or do any writing at all.
Later on, on the same day, the day that we had such good news, I had to dash to the Supermarket and it occurred to me driving along that the colours seemed brighter, the air seemed fresher and suddenly the bubble of tense anticipation that I have been living in all these months has finally popped and maybe, just maybe, normal service can resume.
Our journey has felt a little like the service experienced on Southern Rail for commuters; just when you think negotiations have improved the outcome, a spanner is thrown in the works and so a period of frosty stand offs starts all over again.
And all this time, all these weeks and months, it’s been about one thing and one thing only; the fight to secure the absolute best education we possibly can for Anna. I’m not worried about exams and qualifications, I want Anna to be happy, be comfortable in her own skin and be the very best version of herself and I know, unequivocally, that we can’t achieve that for Anna in mainstream as things stand at the moment.
I’ve wondered for a long time how I’d feel when we finally heard whether Anna had a place or not; would I have some emotional attachment to the fact that Anna isn’t going to a mainstream school or would I feel content that we had made the right choice? I can say now, definitively, that I feel elated that Anna has a place at a specialist school and the thought of her going to mainstream absolutely terrifies me.
I accompanied Elsa’s class trip to the woods this week, chaperoning 30 children on a boiling hot day is certainly an experience, they’re a lovely bunch of children and we all had great fun. But 30 children in a class . . . 30! In a fairly small space too. I often think of Elsa at school, never getting 2 seconds to think without someone being in her space and I know she feels it, because she likes her own space. Who doesn’t quite frankly! You see, despite what the powers that be say, when the school cuts actually start to physically happen, I know for sure that they will probably affect Anna and children like Anna first of all. Teaching assistants will be stretched further to save money and resources will be scarcer than they already are. It’s just another reason to add to my list of all the reasons that mainstream school just wouldn’t be the right fit for Anna right now. I’m not saying mainstream won’t suit Anna in the future, I don’t know at this stage, but I know it wouldn’t work at the moment. I hope that Anna likes her new school, and is as happy there as she is at her current wonderful nursery.
One of Anna’s nursery teachers told me that Anna is like a little bud, just coming in to blossom and I really couldn’t agree with that more (you can only imagine the tears that rolled down my face when the lovely lady said that). Anna has made huge progress over the last year, and I’ll tell you all about that in time, but it’s quite astonishing really. To watch her grow and develop really is fascinating and it feels such a privilege to be sharing it all with Anna, picking up on every slight change in her development as her awareness of the world around her seemingly grows day by day.
We have to construct the strong and deep foundations for her to stand on so she can build on her progress year on year, in her own time, whilst feeling confident and in the knowledge that we will always be next to her, lending a hand whenever she needs one or catching her if she should stumble.
And do you know the really weird thing about this week, which has only just occurred to me? Somewhere out there, there is a parent anxiously worried that their child hasn’t got a place at Elsa’s school, and they will probably be feeling just how I have done these last few months. So it gave me great pleasure today to give up our allotted place in mainstream and know just how happy that parent will be when they get the news of the offer of a place at Elsa’s wonderful school.
So now I feel fortunate enough to be able to look forward to buying Anna her new school uniform and looking forward to all the fun that she’ll have a school.
I’m not naïve to think that all our worries are over, or that we won’t have to fight again to access the right resources for Anna in the future, because of course I know that we will. Time and time again. But I now know that I can do it, I can stand my ground, dot all the i’s cross all the t’s and make sure that I haven’t left any stone unturned in the quest to secure what’s best for Anna. But for now, I shall enjoy the sunshine and copious amounts of chilled Prosecco.