Monday, 22 February 2010

Is the grass really greener on the other side? Part 1


I used to think that I was a sort of fly by the seat of your pants (or breeks) kind of woman. I suppose I held this opinion because in sharp contrast to the OH who is infinitely more cautious, I seem like a bit of a rogue. My "Come on! Let's do this" in reference to another plan I had hatched or activity to be taken up or place to be explored, would then be met with a tipping of the eyebrows and a "Hmmmmm..." Always keen to listen to reason, the OH would eventually be convinced that the idea (my idea) was a good idea and we would embark on our endeavour with varying degrees of success/failure/enjoyment. We always enjoy it, whether it's a food festival in the pouring rain, a drive in the country without a map or toilet roll, wandering in a fashionable part of the city only to find that we've acquired a parking ticket. I exaggerate, of course, and highlight for you possibly the only near disasters we've ever had. Everything works out in the end in a slightly slapstick fashion and we have a laugh which I'm sure the OH would agree is one of our main priorities in life. Our house is always full of laughter. I am starting to panic though, at the thought of our next big adventure and I'm worrying that I've corrupted the OH with my impetuousness...

When we decided to have another baby we knew that everything would change (for the better, of course) and the logistics of adding another bod into our house would mean that we would have to rethink things a bit. Our house is fab, I spent a fortune and a serious amount of time decorating it and it is sufficient for our needs now and for the future but the layout has always bugged me. It has two good sized bedrooms and while the living space isn't cramped in the slightest, a bit of architectural manipulation (I suspect to make the living space bigger) means that the central axis of the house is a very very narrow hallway. So narrow, that despite the size of the rooms, one can quite comfortably sit in the living room and have a conversation with someone in the bathroom or in the master bedroom. If you open up the cupboard door in the hall it touches the furthest away wall (Get the picture?). So we knew that we would have to move sooner or later.

We knew that everything was changing around us. Pregnant with B, A seemed to be getting awfully big and going through another testosterone charged growth spurt as we embarked on the usual frenzied back to school expedition for the appropriate equipment. When the assistant in Russell and Bromley informed me that my ten year old son's feet were now bigger than mine, I felt slightly queasy. While we were noting that A was growing and growing like the Grandma from George's Marvellous Medicine, we had to pop into his school to discuss the coming school year. To explain the significance of the meeting, A started out Primary school in a special class for Autistic children which was an absolute god send. While he was at nursery we were living in Edinburgh and at that time there was no provision for him in Edinburgh so we had to move out into Midlothian where a brand new class was being set up to cater for the needs of children with Autism better than a main school could provide. Living in Midlothian would guarantee us the place for A and if we didn't he wouldn't get it. We moved out into the county and he started school. From the beginning of his schooling he progressed steadily and performed better than his peers in the support class. The school then started an inclusion programme for him to work his way into the mainstream class. Unfortunately, it took a little time to do this so A was a bit behind his peer group in terms of reading and maths and was at the lower ability of the year below him but he was enjoying it and wasn't having too many problems. The jist of all of this (to cut a very long story short) is that he did so well that this year he is in a class with his peer group  and now has no connection with the support class, just one to one support as he needs it. Go Alfie!

Because of his placement at the school we go along at the start of the year and discuss his IEP (Individual Learning Programme) which included A's own personal and academic targets for the next term. Everything was going swimmingly until the teacher mentioned high school. What? That was a whole two years away and he's just a baby (distressed mothering moment ensues). Alright, he's ten but we really didn't expect to have to deal with this so soon. What the conversation boiled down into was that the Education Division at Midlothian Council would be meeting soon to decide whether A would be able to attend a mainstream high school with support or would have to go to a specialist high school if they deemed his needs too severe for mainstream. As it was very unlikely that he would be put into anything other than mainstream, this then sparked a whole load of questions and possibilities we hadn't accounted for yet. One of the drawbacks of having a disabled child (drawback? is that the correct word? more like conditions, really) is that you can't plan for the future either that or you don't dare plan for the future. Everything is so uncertain that you take each day as it comes and deal with whatever gets thrown at you next. Here was someone talking about an event two years away in the future! It kind of throws you a bit. If we didn't have to live in Midlothian, would our next move be within the county or out with? If I actually had a choice of where to send A for his high school education, would I send him to a local high school? In short, the answer would be no. I went to two of the high schools in the area, I know some of the teachers who currently work in these schools. Given that high school will always be hard for A both socially and academically, would I want to send him to one that wasn't great in the first place. If the kids in these schools who don't have additional needs fail to achieve their potential what hope would such a place hold for A?

I like the village, I don't love it and I don't hate it. I grew up here so I consider myself suitably equipped to pass opinions on the state of the place and the people in it. But I also left the place as soon as I could when I was a teenager. Village life has never suited me, I don't drink in the local pubs, shop in the local shops (or lack thereof now), I don't stand around the school gates and gossip, I don't have pets, I don't particularly like wide open spaces and/or fields. You get out of a community what you put into it and we've invested nothing here at all as we haven't really had the time. All of our friends live in Edinburgh, we both study and work in Edinburgh and at the weekends we spend all of our time in Edinburgh engaged in some activity or other or simply wandering about the place.  A isn't the outdoorsy type and prefers the city (well, eating in it at least, he's visited more eateries than Jay Rayner). What we've essentially created over the last six years is a microcosm within the four walls of our house.with the occasional venture to the local shop for a pint of milk. The only saving grace of being in the village is that it is near my parents (2 minute drive, 10 minute walk). Our abode might be situated within the village but we certainly don't *live* here...

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