“Don’t let education get in the way of learning” – Oscar Wilde
When I started my campaign to secure Jenson a place at Victoria Education Centre to be honest I didn’t know exactly what I was fighting for. I just had a feeling that this was probably going to be the most important fight of my life…..
Well, Jenson started in class Explorers in September this year, and now half a term in, I now know EXACTLY what I was fighting for. And yes, it really was the most important fight of my life!
People would ask me “Why do you want him to go to that school?” and I would babble something along the lines of ‘integrated therapies’, ‘inclusive approach’, individualised learning’. But to be truthful these were just abstract phrases, the meaning and importance of which I had not fully appreciated at that point in time.
Seven weeks into Jenson’s school life at the tender age of three I can wholeheartedly confirm just how crucially important these factors were in choosing a school for Jenson and also in getting him a place at this school at such a young age.
I am staggered and overjoyed with the enormous progress he has made in this short time he has been attending. Equally, none of the improvement Jenson has made comes as a huge surprise to me because from the moment I met Sue, Gill and the team I was absolutely certain that great things were about to happen.
I guess I always just pictured school as a place for learning the conventional things in life, albeit in our case tailored to Jenson’s special requirements. I had pictured him in the Explorers classroom making glittery pictures, bashing a tambourine, learning the names of farmyard animals, maybe even swimming with armbands.
What I had failed to realise was that his ‘learning’ journey was destined to be so much more holistic than that. Jenson’s teachers have developed his behaviour, his patience, his social sills, his choosing and communication. They have taken it upon themselves to get Jenson drinking water and eating a rounded selection of foods, a feat that for anyone who knows the battle we have had with Jenson’s extreme psychological aversion to feeding, is nothing short of incredible.
Every little issue I have thrown at them via the student planner and my incessant emails and phone calls (spot the obsessive mother!), they have taken my requests on board and addressed my questions and concerns. Nothing is too petty or too bothersome for them.
In the mornings we are awoken by Jenson exclaiming ‘ooool!’ through the baby monitor (his version of ‘school’; his speech is improving too, thanks to Nicky!).
The journey to school is filled with anticipatory excitement, and as we pass Tesco and approach the school the excitement mounts; ‘ool, ool!’ When waiting in the entrance hall for his teacher to collect him Jenson cannot contain his excitement and often slips in through the automatic doors, much to Chris’s frustration! Typically half a dozen staff members will pass by and without exception exclaim ‘Good morning Jenson!’ and he will often reciprocate with a cuddle and kiss. At first I would be slightly embarrassed and apologise while peeling Jenson away from his embrace. But the Victoria experience has taught me that our kids are accepted for who they are; diversity is a great thing!
To name a few notable milestones, in the past seven weeks Jenson has learned to feed himself, drink water, swim with armbands, walk confidently with a walker, answer simple questions, and abide by routine and structure. If these can be achieved in half a term at three days per week, I am very excited about the future!
As far as proud-mummy-moments go, they don’t get much better than seeing your child receive a Student Achievement Award, and over the past seven weeks Jenson has accumulated five! These are presented during the lovely Lower School assemblies which have been an honour to attend. Yesterday was the beautifully delivered Harvest Festival. Next month we have the Christmas Fayre. I have joined the Friends of Victoria group and plan to become involved in the Parents’ Participation Group. My calendar has never been so full! I have met some lovely mums and carers, and some amazing children.
Each and every member of staff without exception has made us feel like their sole purpose in life is to advocate for our child, to develop him, protect him and achieve the very best for him.
For the best part of Jenson’s life we have felt like we are on the outside looking in. Now for the first time, Victoria has made us feel like we are part of a family, a community, and that we are protected, accepted and cared for.
I look forward to being able to write again in a few months about more new milestones that Jenson has achieved, and to continue this exciting story.