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Joining in - Autism Chapter 13

Thursday, 13 October 2016  | 

Joining In

On Thursday Child Number One was in an Athletics competition; twenty children from her school and almost as many parents accompanied two teachers to their local high school. Itís events like this that show me both how far she has gone and how far she still has to go. And if Iím honest itís always with a certain amount of trepidation that I go.

It seems only a moment ago that she was finishing nursery and shuffling herself on the stage so that her back was facing to the audience. Every part of her screamed ĎDonít look at meí that day and clearly she thought that if she couldnít see the audience they couldnít see her. She was blessed that day with a head teacher who herself had a daughter on the spectrum; she made no fuss, just quietly walked up to her and handed her the certificate she had earned. For that I will be forever grateful. Just sitting on that stage was as much as she could handle that day.

Iím all too aware how big a deal it is that she is chosen to represent her school as often as she is, that her teachers take the risk to involve her, even though they know it could end in her having a meltdown. So many of my students werenít given those chances at primary school. And that, the feeling of belonging, being part of something bigger than yourself is important. It matters. It matters to all of us, but possibly even more so to children who in some way are different to their peers.

My daughter is one of the lucky ones. She is lucky to have teachers who truly believe in inclusion. She is lucky to have peers who are totally supportive of each other. She is lucky to have friends who think no less of her even when she gets upset.

As I stood there and watched these children compete I was so very proud. Proud of them as they ran and jumped their hearts out, but even prouder of the team spirit they showed. They cheered and shouted and screamed their hearts out on the side. They screamed no louder for the winners than they did for their peers that came last. They were indiscriminate in their support. And my daughter was one of them. Cheering and shouting and caring about her friends. Appreciating the effort each one made. Sure they cared about winning, but more than that they cared.

And as I stood there, I realised not for the first time, how lucky we are. We are lucky that she now (mostly) enjoys such events. Yes there were tears (twice) but for the most part there was excitement, fun and laughter. But more than that we are lucky that she is part of something bigger. That she truly belongs. We cannot ask for more.

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