It’s no secret that I have been dreading Aidan going to school next year. A mother’s natural instinct is to want to protect her child and this is one of the reasons why I have been so against it but something changed yesterday that made me reconsider my own beliefs.
Despite my anxieties, Aidan’s medical condition, his developmental delay and the fact that I can’t find him a uniform that fits, he is legally required to attend primary school starting the end of January. His two days a week at preschool have gone remarkably well but I still feel at ease about him being away from me for so many hours a week. Yet, the main reason I have been so against him starting school is the fear that he will suddenly become aware of his differences. The thing is, at preschool Aidan is in the class with 3-6 year olds and while he has a feeding tube and a drip stand, developmentally he holds his own. Yet in primary school, there’s no hiding behind the younger kids. It breaks my heart to see what other five year olds can do and I worry that for the first time he will really come to understand that he is not just physically different but also delayed. The first few orientation visits with the kindergarten class haven’t helped ease my mind with the kids either staring straight at him when he walks in the room or avoiding contact all together.
Yesterday, however, was Aidan’s first transition day in the special needs classroom, where he will spend most of his schooling day. All but one of the 5 students he met yesterday will be in his class next year which caters for children with a physical disability from Kindergarten to year 2. It’s amazing how just two minutes can completely change your outlook on something. From the moment we walked in the door, all the children introduced themselves and said hello to Aidan. Not because the teacher had primed them to but because they were genuinely interested and wanted to welcome him. I’m told by his teacher that they were all so willing to help during his two hours in the classroom and were bending over backwards to make him feel included.
It suddenly occurred to me that as someone who loved and thrived at school, my fears that Aidan would realise he wasn’t as smart as the other children were exactly that, my fears. My grief that he was going to be in a special class was self-centred and short-sighted. Watching these children embrace him as one of their own proved to me just how much special needs children have to offer. What they lack in physical and intellectual ability, they make up in empathy and kindness. Rather than grieving that Aidan is one of them, I am finally proud that he is part of such a select and special group of children.