Feeling Unseen

It was suggested that as a blogger for the disability community I should write an article on the subject of ‘feeling unseen’.  I had a think about what this narrative means to me. 

Read on, because the results might surprise you!

Last week I took my ten-year-old to the theatre.  It was a last-minute decision, one that kept me awake for a lot of the night before, worrying about the multitude of scenarios that would mean disaster, embarrassment, damage and distress. 

Nonetheless, I put on my brave face and my best jeans and took a very excited boy to see the show.  We arrived with meticulous timing: not too early to invoke fidgeting and boredom, but not too late that we would have to trip over fifteen people’s kneecaps to get to our chairs.

We navigated our way into the building, up the opulent staircase, clumsily manoeuvring round the masses, and found our seats.  As I suspected, we were a long way towards the back of the theatre, which filled me with dread due to the chance of him being disengaged with the show, being so far from the stage. 

I performed a visual risk assessment of the immediate surroundings, clocking anything that could present a hazardous distraction – that man with a hat on, that child rustling a bag of sweets, the little 50 pence binoculars attached to the seat in front, that staff member with the hand-held torch, and so on, my anxiety building.

I told myself, it was too late to back out now.

I distracted him with pre-amble and settling tactics, and then the show started.

For the first few minutes, there was a period of being a little dysregulated, and he needed reassurance and conversation.  However, we must have both become immersed in the wonderful performance, because it seemed like just five minutes later that the curtain dropped for the interval.

We walked around and explored the majestic building, him repeatedly uttering ‘enjoy show’ and ‘again’ (not fully understanding that we still had another half to enjoy!).  We returned to our seats and settled for the second half.

Again, a mesmerising performance was bestowed upon us.  The drama built up towards the end and the famous songs of Andrew Lloyd Webber climaxed in a megamix-type number, with spectacular theatricals and special effects. 

The audience was captivated, and many were whooping and whistling.

At this point, having been uncharacteristically quiet throughout, my son could contain himself no longer and in a bid to contribute to the excitement, he screamed.

Members of the audience turned around to see who had let out the shriek, and I froze in an awkward moment of horror.  Realising that he had behaved inappropriately, and pre-empting my next sentence, he then shouted out ‘BE QUIET!’, which received a few more turned heads from audience members.

By now the curtain was about to fall and the audience were on their feet, giving a standing ovation and a cacophony of thundering applause.  Feeling entirely uplifted by such a brilliant performance, despite the events of the last few seconds, I allowed myself to find amusement from his final outburst.  I grinned and chuckled, to which he flung his arms around me and asked for ‘more music’. 

On leaving our seats, I exchanged a warming look and laugh with a couple of nearby families, who had clearly only just registered that a child with additional needs was in their vicinity.

So, by now you will have come to understand why the title of this blog ‘feeling unseen’ is a positive narrative.  We *almost* went unseen in a mainstream activity, and what’s more, we both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. 

Having spent ten years feeling unwelcome eyes on our every movement in public, it was a momentous occasion to feel unseen and to just experience being a regular family for a period of time….

…unlike our rather eventful bus trip home, but that’s another story!

Sporting Opportunities for Children with Disabilities

I have two boys, both of whom love sport. My seven-year-old is a competitive tennis player and academy football player, who trains and competes on most weekdays and weekends.

My ten-year-old loves all and any physical activities on land and water, loves learning new skills, and loves being around people. He also has disabilities.

The opportunities for my younger son are boundless. Sadly, the opportunities for my older son are less forthcoming.

I know this is a common theme for children with disabilities, and I understand why. I believe there are a few key factors that contribute to the lack of sports clubs or sessions for people with additional needs, and I have been considering what they are, and what could be done to improve the situation, so that more young people with disabilities can experience the fun and benefits that their siblings enjoy.

Cost plays a major part.

Because of the needs of the individuals involved, to facilitate activities it requires either a lower number of participants (less revenue for the club) or a higher number of staff (more expenses on wages). Either way, without an abundance of experienced and reliable volunteers, the activity is likely to be less financially viable.

Willingness is critical! To make for a successful activity, it requires staff and volunteers who have a passion for teaching children who are different, who are not going to be the next sporting star, but who are going to enjoy it in their own special way. Unfortunately, sports leaders can more often be geared towards developing talent, rather than facilitating opportunity, while the currency of sporting venues is often that of profit rather than fun.

Equipment can be costly too! Specialist equipment is sometimes needed for people with additional needs, which is not readily available. Everything from swimming pool hoists to specialist wheelchairs for tennis/basketball etc, and all the little purchases and adaptions in between.

Training and experience can be a barrier.

Staff may need additional training to deliver sport sessions for people with disabilities, or may feel they lack competency in understanding how to interact with children with conditions such as autism, learning disabilities, hearing or sight impairments, for example.

But what are sporting bodies doing to combat the distinct lack of provision at grassroots level for children with disabilities? Some national schemes are in place, such as some funding initiatives across the Football Association, and grants available to sporting groups via Sport England. However, I don’t personally see this translating to any infrastructural increase in provision that is readily accessible in our area.

As a parent at the forefront of seeking out disability sports for young people, and as a member of a community where I know many others in the same situation, it appears that there remains a noticeable void in opportunities. But here’s the positive bit. Personally, for my family, we have directly benefitted from some amazing goodwill incentives and individuals who have gone above and beyond to fill the void.

Here are some good news stories!

My tennis-crazy son’s Head Coach picked up on how wonderful it would be for both brothers to be able to enjoy tennis at the same setting, and he crafted a new inclusive weekly tennis session for a small group of children with learning and other disabilities to attend. The children play tennis-themed games, undertake drills and skills, and have a lovely and relaxed tennis session with one of the inclusive coaches. I suspect that the club makes a loss on this session, due to the low number of participants, but despite this they appear committed to the cause and all families involved are truly grateful. A PE teacher from my son’s specialist school gives up his Sunday mornings to run a British Athletics-affiliated disability athletics session.

They have fundraised vast amounts of money for the costly equipment needed for physically disabled athletes to race on the track.

This wonderful group has afforded many children the opportunity to access adaptive racing and running who would never otherwise have had this chance, and have even taken some children to competition level.

Up until 2022 my husband ran a disability football group which was conceived through the lack of such opportunities in our area for disabled children to play football alongside their siblings.  In our area there was provision for disability football through our local football club, but we noticed that there was limited provision for children with learning difficulties, neurodivergence, or indeed for children to play football alongside their siblings.  The group was hugely popular, and my husband is hoping to re-start a similar group again sometime soon. 

I would love to see more done to address the scarcity of sporting opportunities for young people who cannot access mainstream sports clubs and sessions.  I’d love to hear some good news stories about individuals and clubs that have gone above and beyond to facilitate opportunities!

A story of bikes, benevolence, and breaking through barriers

When Jenson was born, it was all about what he couldn’t do.  Doubt was placed on whether he would even walk, and therefore we didn’t allow ourselves to consider the idea of him riding a bike. 

We could tell from an early age that Jenson was an energetic and active boy who loved anything with wheels, especially if he was riding in or on it.  As the first few months and years went on, we spent a crazy amount of money on ‘ride-on’ vehicles, trying to find ones that worked for his unique needs. 

We would be known to push them along with a broom handle because Jenson was unable to propel them with his feet.  We had friends even make padded cushions so that he could reach the floor comfortably rather than have his gangly legs all squashed up, because the vehicles were designed for infants much smaller and younger than him.

The day that Jenson first mobilised himself (backwards!) in his Granny’s kitchen on a Mickey Mouse truck will stay with me forever; I think he was about two-and-a-half.

When Daddy randomly came home with an Early Rider balance bike instead of a pint of milk one day when Jenson was about four, I was both bemused and cross. 

I had subconsciously programmed myself to have low expectations for key milestones for Jenson, probably to avoid any inevitable disappointment, so the concept of a two-wheeled upright vehicle was unfathomable to me. 

Fast forward about six weeks, and Jenson was riding said balance bike, admittedly in a very unstable fashion, but it was a monumental point in time for all of us.

Early Rider, who had been following Jenson’s unorthodox progress on their wonderfully engineered instruments, amazingly gifted Jenson a bespoke, one-of-a-kind balance bike, on his sixth birthday.  This meant that he could continue his love of ‘riding’, having out-grown all shop-bought balance bikes due to his age and height.

This act of kindness was one in a series of similar events to unfold in the next few years…..

Two years’ later, Jenson had reconditioned our mindsets that he CAN and WILL achieve what he sets his heart on, and we dared to allow ourselves to believe that Jenson MAY be able to attempt pedals!  It blew us away that once again, Early Rider gifted Jenson another customised bike, this one with pedals!

(Single rear disc brake, single-geared belt-chain, crank-set removed, upright handlebars – for those who know bike lingo). Jenson took ownership of that bike on Christmas Day 2020, and took his first solo pedals that same day.

It was an incredible moment for us. 

Jenson’s brother, Coby, was four at the time, and starting to develop his own love of riding bikes, in particular BMX biking.  He had joined his local BMX club and was learning to ride the track.  Jenson delighted in watching his brother tackle the huge jumps and navigate the tight corners.  We have made some lovely friends in the BMX community and unbelievably, at the age of ten, Jenson is now riding the whole track independently, much to my horror!

We made friends with a particularly wonderful family through Coby’s BMX career.  Sisters Esme and Charlotte are keen and talented BMX riders and perform at a high level at club and regional division.  When we have met up outside of BMX, both girls have showed such beautiful kindness, patience and warmth towards Jenson. 

Older sister Esme, at age 11, after a brilliant year of competing around the country, had recently been selected to represent the UK in the BMX World Championships in Glasgow.  Hearing that Jenson had now outgrown his Early Rider BMX-style bike, Esme approached her mum and dad with absolutely no prompting whatsoever, and suggested that she would like to gift her BMX bike to Jenson.  She was certain that it was what she wanted to do and was keen to ‘present’ it to Jenson!

As a bike connoisseur, Esme was well-placed to know that her bike would make a perfect fit for Jenson’s dimensions and needs.

So it came to be, that we all met up again, and Esme and Charlotte surprised Jenson with a new bike! We were all delighted that it was a perfect fit, and Jenson took to his new bike wonderfully.  This selfless act has meant that Jenson can continue his love of independent and safe bike riding, while we can continue to enjoy family bike rides together.

Yesterday, our family sat and watched Esme on the TV in the most important day of her life, competing at the World Championships in Glasgow.  We were overcome with joy and emotion as we watched her formidable performances in the heats, qualifying for the semi-finals! She made us, her family, and the UK proud as she finished in the top 16 in the world.  What a champion!

We are so humbled to be a small part of this fabulous young lady’s journey.  To have been gifted a bike by a World BMX rider is incredible but to be able to call this true hero a friend, is even more amazing.

Well done Esme, you are a star.  And thank you Early Rider once again for your incredible kindness.

Singing Hands – Family, Fun and Friendship

On Sunday we delighted in the annual Singing Hands Summer Show which is always an absolute highlight of our family’s year. I have written blogs in the past about the benefits of Makaton and other communication aids for Jenson and for other children who have communication and learning difficulties.

But Singing Hands embraces so much more than just signing and singing. When you attend a Singing Hands concert, you are swept up into a bubble of wonder, magic and warmth. The feelings of belonging, acceptance, and mutual joy in a room full of similar families, is simply mesmerising.

Suzanne and Tracy are the founders and performers of Singing Hands, and over the past 23 years have been tirelessly delivering a platform for families of children with additional needs to come together through music.

They sound and look as fabulous as they did two decades ago, and their passion shows no sign of waning.

The ladies’ beautiful harmonious tones are just a small part of what makes this pair exceptional individuals. Through their own first-hand experiences of having young children with additional needs, they identified an opportunity to develop a platform of bringing music and signing to other families who may be experiencing a similar journey.

Suzanne and Tracy have remained at the epicentre of Singing Hands throughout its long lifespan, tirelessly developing live shows and workshops, CDs, DVDs, books and educational resources. They are now the icons of thousands of households across the UK and beyond; their smiling faces and melodic tones appear throughout homes, televisions, YouTube and Spotify daily!

At a Singing Hands show, you can expect familiar and engaging songs, bright costumes and props, surprise guests, playful characterisation, sensory accessories, immersive and interactive touches like bubbles and snow, and most importantly, the opportunity to express yourself to your heart’s desire. You can meet and chat to the crew, and have your photo taken with the iconic ladies, who impressively remember and recall your names!

What a total breath of fresh air it is to be welcomed into a fold of acceptance and mutual understanding, where our children can exhibit their inner emotions with no fear of judgement.

Knowing that those around you will encourage and embrace you and your child.

Singing Hands has not only given us a host of wonderful family occasions to enjoy, but also a platform to meet up with our cherished Chromosome 18 family on a regular basis. Spread across the country, we rarely get together with our small community, but we have developed a tradition to meet up each summer and Christmas. The appeal of Singing Hands has facilitated this for us, and no doubt for many other groups of families across the country.

And let’s not forget the siblings!

You might expect Coby to prefer to be out on the football pitch or doing a similar six-year old’s chosen activity, but he was equally rapturous throughout yesterday’s show as his big brother. Joyously jumping around to the music and signing along, he was engaged in the production and was over the moon to be reunited with his buddy Charlie, another young sibling.

Like so many families, we struggle to find events that the four of us can attend that works for everyone. While we do try to visit the theatre, panto and family shows, the societal expectation of how children should behave is something that is omnipresent in any mainstream setting.

There is an expectation to remain silent, and laugh/clap/interact at prescribed moments only, that can cause parents huge anxiety, and sometimes embarrassment. Even just the act of queuing, access and toilets, or overwhelming crowds or noise, can be too much to cope with in a mainstream environment. Singing Hands goes above and beyond to address and eliminate such issues.

Tracy and Suzanne with all their humility, probably have no idea how much of a colossal effect they have made on so many people. Thank you, Singing Hands, we cannot wait until the Christmas show!

A Letter to my Dad

Dear Dad

I try to remember to tell you that I love you every day, but on Father’s Day, I didn’t just want to tell you, I wanted to tell the whole world.

I think I ditched ‘Daddy’ and started calling you Dad about two years’ ago; Mum says this is quite symbolic of how I’ve grown up quicker than most six-year-olds.

Being you is a hard job but you make it look easy.  I know that you love me the same as you love my big brother, but you have to give him more of you.  I know you wish this was different and I know you feel the daily pangs of guilt for wishing this so. 

I understand that for every football match, tennis lesson and play date you take me to, you suffer the worry and pain of leaving my brother with mummy who has to find exciting things to do with him alone. 

I’m sorry that sometimes I get frustrated about how my brother isn’t like other ten-year-olds.

I try not to care when other kids ask questions or say mean things.  You have taught me to be strong, brave and proud.  I know we are the lucky ones to have such an awesome dude in the family.

I see those looks of despair and upset that you and mum give each other, at the times when my brother is not agreeing with the world around him.  I understand that sometimes we have to change our plans and cancel things I was really looking forward to, and I try not to show my sadness. 

I try my best to be good at those times when you really need to focus on him, and keep him safe and happy.

Sometimes I get hurt by a flying toy or a scratchy finger, but I don’t mind, wounds heal. 

Sometimes I don’t get heard, because there is a louder and more important noise for you to deal with, but that’s ok because I know you’ll sit with me later, when the house is quiet, and listen to everything I want to talk about. 

Every meal-time I have to watch the same episodes of the same programmes because it’s what helps my brother focus on eating; this used to annoy me but now we join in and sing along, it’s fun!

I see the wonderful joy you give my bro at every opportunity, and how you’re always looking for new, fun ways to make him smile and laugh.  I know Mum isn’t happy with all the trains, cars and buses you buy him, but I know you just want him to have the same fun as other kids. 

You are constantly seeking and creating new ways of bringing the world to him in a way that makes him happy.

I know my life in this family is very different to my friends’ lives.  Although I sometimes get a little bit sad about things, I would not change you, or my brother, for anything.

Every day you give me another piece of the puzzle that is helping me to build a picture of the world around me.  And every day you give me another reason to love you even more.  You are giving me all the ingredients to becoming a good person, and one day hopefully, I’ll be a wonderful dad, like you.

Love from Coby, age 6.

Sensory Circuits – Therapy and Fun Combined!

Are you familiar with the term ‘Sensory Circuits’? I wasn’t, until Jenson returned to school post-Covid lockdown, and his school introduced the ‘Recovery Curriculum’.

The key principle of sensory circuits is to facilitate children’s readiness to learn and engage, by stimulating and focusing their bodies and minds.  The concept is particularly effective for young people with sensory processing issues and neurodiversity, as it can build skills in self-regulation, while also developing the vestibular (balance and spatial awareness) and proprioceptive (body awareness) systems, which are often out-of-sync in neurodivergent individuals.

Every day since September 2021, Jenson has visited the school sports hall every morning for 15-20 minutes, where he participates in sensory circuits, lead by the Occupational Therapy team.

At first, I was told, Jenson was not too compliant. 

He would run to his favourite stations, crash and play, and then be done!  But as time went on, he steadily progressed his ability to engage in each of the stages, and within weeks he was apparently showing younger children how to do it! 

As one of the school’s livelier and more energetic students, the therapy team have been astonished by the difference in focus, engagement, and calm that Jenson has demonstrated through participating in this daily.  Similarly, his teacher has been astounded by his resultant improvement in attentiveness to learning tasks in the classroom.

Sensory Circuits is comprised of three sections: Alerting, Organising and Calming. 

In the alerting stage, children engage their gross motor skills to release energy, anxiety or stress, with activities include bouncing, crashing, skipping and jumping.  Next comes the organising stage, where children will channel their energy towards more finely tuned activities such as balancing, target throwing and coordinating. 

Finally, in the calming stage, children are encouraged to centre themselves into a composed state, through activities such as rolling on a peanut ball, deep pressure under a weighted blanket, or lying inside a lycra wrap.  Music at this stage can also be added to calm and connect.

The transformation in the classroom for Jenson within weeks was incredible. 

Having recently been diagnosed with ADHD (to accompany his other primary diagnoses), he has always struggled with the ability to attend to activities and follow instructions through.  However, his teacher reported a notable shift in his focus and attention in the classroom, which we believe to be a direct result of the daily sensory circuits regime.

What’s more, it is so easy to create a sensory circuit at home!  Cushions on the floor, throwing socks at plastic cups, drinks coasters and tape-measures for balancing, spinning on the office chair, it’s pretty easy to be creative. 

I’ve found that during school holidays, it has been easy to recreate a sensory circuit at home, so that the school routine can be continued.  I have been so excited to watch Jenson’s younger brother enjoy them too, and he has enjoyed playing a part in helping his older brother to engage and participate alongside him.

I am so pleased that Jenson’s school initiated this activity and hope that they carry it on as a long-term morning activity, because the benefits have been fantastic.

Dear Eating Disorder

I write with good news! We have won the battle and defeated you!

Ten years ago you appeared in our lives, uninvited.  I didn’t know your name then, but I knew I didn’t like you. 

But how times flies! Because today, Eating Disorder, I’m ready to tell you, we are over you.  No longer can you overpower us, or ruin our lives.  Yes, you’ll always be there, in the background, a mild menace, but we no longer fear you.

Every single day for ten years, we have been fighting you.  You’ve made life more difficult than everything else difficult in our lives added together.  We know you are not a conscious decision; you are not an infantile phase. 

You are real and you are deadly. You are misunderstood and stigmatised. You’re a malevolent being and your invasion into people’s lives is damaging and destructive. 

Those early months and years were the worst. 

We tried everything they told us to, and more.  Mashing, blending, playing, messing, adding, eliminating, smelling, touching.  We were told you were a ‘phase’; we were told you were ‘picky eating’, and we were told you’d be gone before long.  They were wrong.  You were going nowhere and getting more powerful.

You introduced us to your friends: dysphagia, oral-motor, gag-reflex, aspiration, neophobia, and sensory processing disorder, and we disliked them equally.  You made us social zombies, and nervous wrecks.

We cried, shouted, pleaded.  We read, researched, challenged.  We contested, campaigned, self-funded.  We travelled hundreds of miles, made new friends and advocates.

And as time went on, we forged a way forward.  Your presence was waning!  We found strategies, we unwound hardwiring, and we developed new neural pathways.   We found trusted foods, and worked with trusted people only.

Slowly, slowly, we progressed, and we didn’t look back. 

We took tiny steps, guided by our instincts and our tiny army of specialists, and empowered by our progress. 

Days no longer revolve around you; we have become braver and more adaptable.  We now no longer fear mealtimes, and sometimes we even celebrate them!

You’ve given us our very worst days, and our very best days.

Today, we eat together, the four of us, and you no longer have a seat at the table. 

Goodbye, Eating Disorder.  It was not very nice knowing you.

From Jenson, age 10.

Some very important people to credit for helping us in this journey:

Rebecca Blinkhorn

Gemma Zarifeh

Clarissa Martin @ Midlands Psychology CIC

Anna Willis @ Active Play Therapies

What Did You Just Say?

From the rude to the ridiculous, from the insulting to the insane.  Stupendous and shocking, ignorant and inflammatory.  Here is a selection of the ‘best of the worst’ things that have been said to parents of children with disabilities. 

Which ones can you relate to? Which ones make you most mad?

Let’s start with the old favourite: “He doesn’t look autistic”.

Where do we even begin with this one!  Similar in intent to “But he looks so normal”, there is just no response that can do justice to the stigma and stereotype that this is perpetuating.   

What exactly should a person with autism or a disability look like? Such a comment can be attributed to basic ignorance, naivety, or living under a rock for the past fifty years.

Then there’s those who show envy:

I wish I got a new car every three years”, “I wish my child got free transport to school”, and so on.

Actually, I would rather he could WALK!  I would rather he could take himself safely and independently to school, like other children his age, skipping along the playground to his class while I chat to other mums at the school gate.  

I’d rather not be driving this cumbersome, oversized van past four schools before arriving at ours, seven miles away in the next town.  Every day struggling for a parking space large and long enough to extend the wheelchair ramp.

To the downright dangerous:

She’ll eat/drink if she’s hungry enough”.  One of the most ill-informed statements ever known to man.  And to make this one worse, it has even been known to be uttered by health professionals! 

Feeding/drinking/oral-motor issues are one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented phenomena in the world of children’s health, and yet one that most people have an opinion on!

The knowledge-by-association comments can be incredibly enraging:

My friend’s sister’s nephew is autistic, so I understand”, along with “my cousin has a chromosome disorder, I think it’s the same one”, and other similarly absurd sentences.  Such people are often trying to find common ground, but are entirely medically illiterate. 

However, when they proceed to deliver chapter-and-verse about the experiences of these tenuously-linked people, and depart golden nuggets of advice, it becomes extremely tempting to accidentally stamp on their foot.

Following on from the above, one thing that becomes apparent to a parent of a child with a disability, is how many amateur medical experts there are out there! I bet every one of us has been offered a plethora of well-meaning, but quite frankly, totally useless advice.

 Ranging from the mildly frustrating: “Have you tried….” [mashed banana/parenting courses/being stricter/alternative therapy] to the highly irritating: “She’ll grow out of it”, “He’s just a slow learner”, “She’ll catch up” and even “They’ll find a cure for that” (my personal favourite).

This one has a particular sting in its tail, and saddens me greatly:

Weren’t you worried about having another one?” or even “Were you offered a termination?

How does any parent begin to know how to respond to this? I can remember one time being asked this in a playground, when heavily pregnant with my second child, I pointed to my 3-year-old and said “Would it be so awful to bring another one of those into the world?” Sadly, I know I am not alone in having had anti-natal professionals offering highly loaded ‘advice’ about terminations, anti-natal testing, and ‘risk factors’.

We can’t conclude without mentioning the question that trumps all others:

What’s wrong with him?

Vocabulary is everything.  The word ‘wrong’ implies damage, harm, impairment, and promotes the construct of segregation and exclusion.  While it is not a vile word in itself, it naturally invokes an inflammatory reaction because we as parents see our children for all of their wonderful qualities and attributes, despite their difficulties. 

Let’s just finish off with a quick-fire of some more shortlisted favourites:

You must be so tired, make sure you have time for yourself

But at least she’s happy

But everyone is somewhere on the spectrum

When will he die?”

Special children are only given to special parents

There are so many more questions and comments that have been omitted from this article and I would love to hear of others that I have missed, and more importantly, how you have responded!

Let’s finish by acknowledging that the majority of people are mindful and thoughtful of what they say, and the above examples are luckily, few and far-between. 

It is also important to recognise that children should be encouraged to ask questions and show curiosity, and that a child’s unfiltered vocabulary may not always be appropriate but should not be chastised in the same way. 

Celebrate the Uncelebrated

May we celebrate the children who see the things that we don’t see.  Who hear the sounds that are silent to us.  Who touch the things that we will not.  Who speak the words that we dare not. 

Follow the child that explores the world without legs.  Watch the world through the eyes of the child who cannot see.  Talk to the child who has no voice.  Learn from the child who cannot be taught.

Let us follow the children who seek out the rain and the gales, the storms and showers.  Who find joy in the crunch of icy grass and in the clamour of hailstones on rooftops. 

Let us not feel self-conscious of our children who prefer the park gate to the swing or slide.  Who favour wildlife over humans. Who choose to run but won’t walk, who will bounce but won’t sit. 

Encourage the ones that care not for toys, but who make their own play

Who delight in tipping cereals onto the floor but won’t eat them from a bowl. 

Let those children show us how to discover the world through their own eyes and not through the filters we wear. Let them teach us that beauty is found in the fire in our eyes, not in the make-up that surrounds them.

Embrace the child that wears wellies in the summer and flip-flops in the snow.  Who listens to Christmas songs in July and still believes in the magic of Santa at the age of 14.

Let us acknowledge that teacher who measures a child’s success by their smiles, and measures their strength by their spirit.  Let that teacher teach us all.

Let us not recoil from the child whose grasp is too firm, whose kiss is too wet, whose voice is too loud.

Congratulate the children who sing but may never talk; who swim but may never walk.

May we take the weird out of weird. Make the alien into acceptable. Change the odd into enigmatic.  Take those children and hail them. Share them with the children of today who will become the adults of tomorrow.

Celebrate the uncelebrated.