First of all, a little about me, my name is Mark Wild and I am a 44 year old fire fighter based in Sheffield, I am not a health professional or an education professional. I am the father of two boys aged 10 and 12….and that is it.
I am probably just like you, probably share all of your anxieties, fears and aspirations that you hold for your children. I am also like you in that I feel alone sometimes, I feel as though the whole system and society is stacked against my child. He is 12 years old and attends a secondary school with an Integrated Resource that specialises in Autism. He is on the Autistic Spectrum, he has also been diagnosed with ADHD and suffers with OCD.
Many of you, who read this and have no experience of any of the conditions I have listed, will roll your eyes and sigh, possibly thinking “another one after a free ride” or “it’s not ADHD, it’s just a naughty child…..all children are naughty…let them be children” and I probably held similar cynical views in the past when I knew no better and was quite ignorant of the issues that surround them.
Ask anyone who has to live with it. Ask the person who suffers from it. It is a life sentence of stress, anxiety, feeling a failure, confusion, low self-esteem, fear, worry……..I could sit and write for the whole day but you get the gist. I hope others will contribute to this blog and tell you more.
Now imagine you are that person and society doesn’t understand you, the system that exists needs to be forced to accept you, and only just. Imagine with all of the problems you face that you then have to fight ten times as hard for everything, ten times as hard to ‘fail’ in society’s eyes. The A grade that your peers attain is a well-earned grade, and rightly so…they have worked hard for it. But you worked ten times as hard to get a G grade, or to never even qualify for a grade? How would that make you feel? Would it compel you to try again but harder? Even though you have given EVERYTHING already? Or would it make you feel like giving up?
We as a society celebrate success, and why not? Success can breed confidence, and a comfortable, happy life. I would never deny anyone success when they have worked so hard for it and gained it fairly, but why do we not recognise that success is not attainable for everyone at the same level? Especially for those with learning difficulties or mental health problems, society has a long way to go to fully understand and embrace what it means to have these very complex problems that are in essence, invisible.
For example (in my very simplistic logic), if a GCSE exam was a ‘timed, stair climbing test’ and one person out of the ten about to take the test was in a wheelchair, you would say that they were at a disadvantage, wouldn’t you? They can tell you HOW to climb the stairs, they could draw pictures and diagrams, but when it came to the test their disability would stop them from doing it. So, you would try to adapt the test, or enable them to take a different test that celebrates what they are good at, feel more comfortable with, and can actually complete with a chance of some success. But we do not do that often enough with our children who have learning difficulties and Special Educational Needs, we expect them to push through the disability and “do their best”, because it may be better for the school when it comes to the end result.
What then is the effect on the child? What does that child have to go through to learn, revise and sit that exam that they may fail through no fault of their own? They may get a grade of G or F, and that may be seen as a success to the school and those around the child, but it could, and often does, have a massive negative effect on the child and do nothing for them when it comes to walking out of those school gates when adult life starts.
I have embarked upon a campaign to try to get Government, Local Government, Schools, OFSTED, employers and further education establishments to recognise alternative qualifications. Qualifications that are worth something to both them and the child when going through the process and when using them to further themselves in their wish to becoming a useful and valued member of society. Not to be left on the scrap heap and live a life of depression and claiming benefits because they could not physically conform to a system that leaves them at a disadvantage from the outset.
I would like to point out that this is NOT a campaign against one school or Local Authority, and the testimonies that are in this blog are from many schools, not just in the Sheffield area. Ideally I would like any teachers and Head teachers to support me for a better future for our SEN children, and not see this as a personal campaign against them.
To this end I would urge any person in a position of authority not to try to stifle the campaign, or make it any harder than it already is. You can assist parents to make change that would improve your schools, and improve the lives of the children that attend them.
Schools should not be run like businesses, or 'target chasing' organisations that put the children under undue stress.
Please subscribe to this blog and help me get this issue ‘out there’ to all of the many influential people who can make these changes happen.
Use this blog to tell YOUR story, to tell us all what you think, what you are doing and what are prepared to do. The current political horizon does not look good at all for children, but more so children with disabilities, and the only people who can fight for them is you as a parent or guardian. Parent power can achieve many things, but it needs many of us shouting and making a noise, not to sit and let others do it.
It is scary, and it will take some hard, uncomfortable work but it has got to be nothing in comparison to what our children face every day and what is coming?
Help me DO SOMETHING…please.