Something I have been worried about for a while is whether Harry will be teased at school, and will he make friends and generally enjoy his childhood. I have brought this up with parents of older kids with special needs and have received differing responses. Some say that young kids are very caring and loving, little girls especially, and often will take a child with special needs under their wing and become quite protective of them. Other parents have said that their special needs child was teased on a daily basis, and that kids can be horrid to each other.
A couple of weeks ago, my fears were somewhat realised, and then put to rest. A five year old boy was playing with Harry while I was chatting to his mum. Within a few minutes, the little boy started saying “Mummy, what’s wrong with him? What’s wrong with him, why can’t he talk? What’s wrong with him??”. I felt like someone had slapped me. I was dumbfounded, upset, had absolutely no idea what to say, and was struggling to keep my composure. The boy’s mother was wonderful, and simply said “it’s okay, he’s still learning to talk”, and with that the little boy seemed to understand two things – first, that his assumption that Harry was unable to speak was correct, and second, that it was no big deal. The two boys played together, and for the next half hour there was non-stop giggling from both of them, Harry in particular.
Such a simple response hadn’t occurred to me. I felt like all of my worst fears for Harry’s school years had been proven to be real – other kids would notice he was different, and they would be very verbal about it. However, at the same time I saw that there was a good chance that Harry will make friends and have fun, and not be teased or ridiculed.
One piece of advice I have been given by the mother of a teenage boy with cerebral palsy: if you can, try to join local groups with similar aged kids who are likely to attend the same school. This way by the time the child with difficulties gets to school, they already have friendships formed. I haven’t yet managed to infiltrate any groups such as this, but I know they exist and when I find the time, I will be contacting them. In the meantime I will continue to heed the advice of those more experienced than myself, and urge people to post any thoughts or advice they have that might be of value to myself or others.