‘Prove’ to me that your daughter is disabled

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Sadly, it seems that this is what the world has come to. A simple day trip spoilt by me needing to justify our need for a little bit of extra help.

I was brave and for the first time attempted a day out with my 3 children  – on my own. This may not sound like a big deal to many, however with a learning disabled child in the mix, as well as a toddler, getting out without help is not easy to do. I did it though and we went to a well known attraction on the coast, which advertised itself as ‘fully disabled accessible’.

The day started well, we left home without too may traumas, we arrived in good time with everyone in good spirits and the morning passed with little to comment on, (excepting the usual activities – GG crawling around the floor during one talk and the high pitched shrieking at the appearance of sun lotion).

The venue turned out to be a maze and with no automatic doors (aahh) I found myself battling against the crowds with GG in her buggy screeching for lunch. Trying to navigate to the restaurant was a nightmare, having discovered that the usual access was up a flight of stairs. A kindly member of staff spotted my dilemma and assisted us to the restaurant – guiding us right back to the start to find the lift. Not a great experience, but we made it.

I had prepared for this bit as I knew lunch would not be do-able on my own. GG is incredibly demanding around food (she takes after her mother!)  and without a doubt, the minute food arrives, someone needs the loo and chaos reigns. My sister was awaiting my text to come and join us to help me manage the most difficult part of the day. However completely unexpectedly (and unreasonably) they wouldn’t let her in….

You can picture the scene, GG has screeched until food arrived being in an unfamiliar place and being unclear on where food would come from. Food arrives and toddler announces he needs a wee – quickly mummy! The toilets are back downstairs and through the shop. At this point, my sister is explaining politely the situation and still being refused entry – despite wanting to buy lunch from the restaurant.

In an impossible position, I dash downstairs, quick trip to the loo and explain frantically to a member of staff that I really need my sister to come in. The manager appears and I cannot convey how furious / upset she left me. In the middle of a mini-crisis with my girls being upstairs without an adult, she asks me to prove that my daughter is disabled….the people in the lengthy shop queue are all staring now. My son is looking at me questioningly.

I have already explained that my daughter uses a specialist buggy  and has a learning disability. I have offered for the manager to come and see, given she is sat just upstairs in the restaurant. However, I am told in no uncertain terms that they cannot allow ‘just anybody’ into the restaurant unless they can prove they are pregnant, disabled or a carer – which my sister clearly was in this situation. I was told I needed to go and get my blue badge from the car as ‘proof’. I was speechless. Her staff were visibly embarrassed.

I ran back upstairs, toddler in tow to my amazing 9 year old who was, as always, doing way more than any 9 year old should. To the gorgeous GG who fortunately was oblivious, tucking into her lunch with gusto. My sister determined to help me out, took a photo of the blue badge through the car windscreen and without hesitation, an apologetic member of staff allowed her in to join us – the manager had disappeared from sight.

It seems to be an increasing trend that disabled people and their carers are thought to be taking advantage of the ‘benefits’ available. Whether it be the dreadful PiP process that demeans disabled people and accuses them of scrounging off the state, or stories of disabled people in the workplace being told that ‘reasonable’ adjustments to enable them to work to the best of their ability are in fact ‘unreasonable’. This was just another example of being treated unfairly and quite frankly, inhumanely.

We went on to enjoy the rest of the day, we even managed half an hour on the beach in the sun, but needless to say, it certainly diminished the pleasure of having ventured out on my own.

Note: I have not named the tourist attraction we visited however I will be sharing this blog with them privately, and offering support with staff training.

Spectrum Sunday

MY LEARNING DISABLED CHILD IS NOT A BURDEN ON SOCIETY

 

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On the contrary, GG contributes significantly to the world we live in and genuinely helps to make it a better place. It would be so easy to launch into stories of inspirational Paralympians, people with Downs Syndrome running their own business, or the building evidence of genius’s and talented artists who were likely on the autism spectrum but it is so much simpler.

GG brings immense joy to our lives and to those around her, she enjoys the simple pleasures in life and reminds us what is important. GG is not encumbered by financial concerns or fears of what is happening in this world but revels in the here and now, something we can all learn from. Being able to giggle at the daft things, she keeps alive the best of toddlerhood lurking inside us all.

GG is also completely non-judgemental – she takes people as they come. Racism, ageism, fat-ism, none of this would even occur to her. GG is the only person I know who honestly has no unconscious bias.

Along with most children with disabilities, GG demonstrates a level of bravery that I could certainly only aspire to. I am ashamed to think back to the levels of complaining when I suffered with back issues on and off through my 20s. It wasn’t nice and the physio was not fun. GG does physio every day. Climbing stairs is always hard for her but she does, all the time. Epilepsy is hideous and whilst I am still recovering from the aftermath of a seizure and my reaction, GG picks herself up and carries on with her day. If the rest of the human race was half as resilient as my daughter, this world would be a much better place.

The other fabulous trait that makes me smile all the time, is a complete disregard for materialistic possessions. Don’t get me wrong, GG has many many toys as we feel compelled as parents to surround our children with gawdy plastic items. The truth however is that GG is completely happy with her baby doll, a pram and an apple. Even the tooth fairy brings chocolate to GG. Yes, she will also be entertained by the iPad but it isn’t an important factor in her life, and TV is for wimps who feel the need to sit down!

If the view of ‘contributing to society’ is obtaining a degree, having a distinguished career or excelling as a football player then no, it is unlikely that GG will do any of these things. However, for the majority of people, the important things in life are not achievement or materialistic based. Caring, sharing joy and valuing other people are what matters and GG exhibits these traits more than most.

Despite the huge progress in attitudes to disability and having come a long way from when disabled people were hidden away, it is a sad position that I, and other parents, find ourselves having this debate. However when I have heard so many challenges as to why public money should fund services to disabled children, it cannot be ignored. Early intervention, good education and enablement therapies ensure that disabled people are empowered to contribute to society so let’s fight to continue to make provision better.

 

IF THIS WERE HAPPENING TO MAINSTREAM KIDS, THERE WOULD BE UPROAR

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Imagine a world where your child does not have their basic needs met at school. You turn up one day and the staff explain, very politely and regrettably, that they cannot do what your child needs today. Would you smile back? Say that’s okay? Leave your child anyway and head off to home / work as normal? This is what the parents of disabled kids are expected to do every day.

Imagine that your child is told to stop communicating. The books are all removed from the library. The next day, there are no pens. You are reassured that the pens will be provided but only once every 6 weeks. The school does not have budget for your child to be able to communicate or learn. Core equipment, an eye gaze which allows children to communicate through eye movements, or an iPad which provides a voice for so many – not funded because there is no money.

Just imagine your child after lunch being told to sit in a corner and not take part in the class. Observe, yes. Take part, no chance. You see, there is only funding for a part time 1-2-1. Even if your child happens to have medical challenges or a lack of safety awareness, well we will take our chances rather than overspend. After all, it’s okay in the morning and that will have to be good enough.

Now, your child’s feet have grown. Clarks is available to you (other shoe shops are available) but not for at least 6 weeks. You have to squeeze your child’s feet into shoes for at least 6 weeks and by the way, you need to attend 3 appointments, all at short notice, in the middle of the day and parking costs £6 a go. Oh and be grateful you don’t have to pay for the shoes.

Imagine that you start work at 8.30am and go to drop your child at breakfast club to be told that it does not exist. Not only that, but there is no childcare at all available around school hours. In the holidays you might be offered 1 day a week – school hours only of course.

Children with different abilities will have (usually after a long fight) either a statement of needs or what is now an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). This outlines the needs of each child and forms a legal requirement for provision. Unfortunately, there are 2 major issues. Firstly, the true needs of a child are rarely properly documented leaving gaps. Secondly, even when the needs are documented, they are not always provided. Parents will fight for the correct provision and as a result are labelled as ‘difficult’ or ‘tiger parents’.

My daughter has an undiagnosed genetic condition – known as a Swan. (Syndromes Without a Name). I have therefore become one of the ‘difficult parents’ who is continuously fighting for the basic needs of my child to be provided. I don’t want to be difficult and neither do others, but we do want to be heard. Britain in 2016 needs to think differently and we need you to help us shout it out.

If you would like to help please feel free to RT to the following people:

@PennyMordauntMP (Minister for the Disabled)

@EHRCChair (Chair of Equalities and Human Rights Commission)

@Sajidjavid (Minister for Local Government and Communities)

@JustineGreening (Minister for Equalities)