So all children have to attend school where the rules are the same for all and more often than not they wear a uniform to promote equality and prevent students from being singled out. Schools up and down the country will say they promote equality and equal opportunities and many do try very hard to achieve this. There are any number of initiatives aimed at providing support for students who are disadvantaged to help level the playing field and give every student the opportunity to reach their potential.
I do not doubt the intentions or the hard work of anyone in the education system, I believe they work in an under resourced provision that is struggling to survive and which places excessive amounts of pressure on teaching staff, students and often parents. There are inequalities in society that are well known and if not effectively resolved at least acknowledged. The leading ones being poverty and disability.
There is however in my experience a significant factor to inequality that is not often talked about or addressed. Before getting to this I do understand that the question of what is my experience is a valid one. Am I speaking from the perspective of a discruntled and marginalised parent, an employee that has been worn down or repeated criticised or a pupil who has gone through the system? At times I have been all of these. I am a late diagnosed autistic parent of an autistic child who was subject to special education in the 1980’s, who has worked with children who have special educational needs for the last 18 years. I am a manger in a highly regarded special school and have dealings with multiple local authorities and parents and careers.
One of the biggest indicators for how much support your child receives and how they are viewed and treated is not the area in which they live, it is not their teachers or their school, although all of these do have a significant impact. No the biggest indicator is you there parent. The sad reality is that if you are an educated, engaged and knowledgeable advocate for your child you are more likely to get the service for your child that they need. You are not easily dismissed, you cannot be passed of as unreliable or unknowledgeable and you have the capacity to make use of systems that are put in place to protect your child’s rights and ensure their needs are met. It shouldn’t be this way children and parents who most need support to ensure they are heard and listened to should get it independently of the school, but if you want advocacy you have to seek it for yourself, something that is also much harder if you have difficulties of your own.
All this is against you, to which you can then add the fear of being judged of being thought of as not able to look after your child if you seek to much help. The system is geared to make access to services, support and equal treatment easier for those who are educated, confident and vocal in an appropriate way. This is in no way a condemnation of those teaching staff who work so hard to help all of the children in their care. It is however an indictment of the system that orders the voices that fight for services based on noise and risk of negative impact on the school.
Please remember you do not have to be the lone voice for your child, you can have an advocate support you in any dealings with professionals. They can speak with you or for you or be there just for moral support. They do not have to be related to you or your child or have a legal connection to them. In fact they can be completely separate entities from an advocacy charity.
Your child has rights and so do you, don’t get left feeling stuck and frustrated unable to help your child, seek help share your struggles and find your voice through someone else if necessary. Lastly if your complaining about access and the way your child is being supported or treated and you don’t feel listened to write to the school or ask someone to do so on your behalf outlining any issues and send a copy to (OFSTED) letting the school know you have done so.
We have a right to reach our potential and be treated equally, not the same.
Aspie and Proud