I recently supported an old friend through some worrying hospital tests for her child. They were similar to ones we’d gone through for my daughter who has a rare and severe form of epilepsy and a learning disability. I found myself offering reassurance; not that everything would be ok with the tests (we did not know that); but that she would cope, whatever the outcome.
In the early days of my daughter’s diagnosis, I remember thinking I would not be able to cope with parenting a disabled child. That was when I was imagining what life may be like and what we may be dealing with. In fact, the day to day reality has probably been even more extreme and challenging than I could have imagined. Perhaps the most surprising thing then, is that we are ok.
Life is good, we are happy.
It can be hard for anyone not in the SEN world to imagine that a life with daily seizures, hospital stays, emergency ambulance trips, cognitive regression, and some seriously challenging behaviours to manage could be a happy one. But our life is happy. Sometimes I find myself looking at other families, families who do not have a disabled child, who on the face of it have the ‘perfect’ set up and still find myself surprised that they seem no less stressed than us, and no happier.
I now know why; it’s hidden in something that those in the non-SEN world will never get to experience
In our world, we get joy, happiness, elation even, from things that others wouldn’t even notice.
. I find myself walking to work with a spring in my step as my daughter has not had a seizure that morning; I call my husband in excitement as she just signed ‘home’ for the first time since losing her speech; one of our fantastic carers arrives and we have a giggle about something. Many things I used to worry about don’t get a second thought now.
I remember reading on a parenting website in the early days, a comment from someone that said having a child with a disability made them no less happy. I thought that was nonsense, although tried to take some comfort from it. I get it now. I feel lucky to be in the same position.
Here’s the bit where I say I wouldn’t change a thing. But I would. I’d kick epilepsy to the kerb and make sure my daughter never had a seizure again. But the rest of it, the rest of the alternative life, my daughter’s incredible energy, happiness and carefree spirit? That I wouldn’t give up so easily. Nor the person it has enabled me to become.