…you wouldn’t know it to look at him. He can walk, he can talk, he can tie his shoes, he can cook a mean spaghetti bolognese and can tell you facts about cacti and space and all kinds of things. But he is nonetheless disabled. He can’t read to any meaningful level, He can’t formulate a simple sentence using conjunctions like ‘and’ or ‘because’. He can’t cope with changes to his routines. He can’t sleep at night or eat because his anxiety levels are permanently sky high. He has perhaps 1 or 2 friends because – in his own words – ‘I don’t know how to talk to people!’. He has right sided muscular weakness which causes him pain. in the last 6 months we’ve been to paediatricians, SLTs, Dieticians, Educational Psychologists, podiatrists, physiotherapists…the list goes on.
My child will probably never go to university. My child will likely never do A levels. He’s going to struggle to get any GCSE’s even. Not because he doesn’t have things to offer to this world, but because he has learning disabilities that disadvantage him against his peers before he even starts. He was already behind academically by the time he was 5. now at 12 that gap is massive and widening by the day. I’ve spent 7 years fighting with schools and doctors and the LEA to get him the support he needs to unlock the ability he has in his brain, that is fighting to get out. But budget cuts mean he can’t have an LSA in class to himself. His ‘one-to-one’ at primary was shared with 3 other children. He got an hour a day with an LSA alone, but its a drop in the ocean for a child like him.
And, believe it or not, hes one of the lucky ones. He has parents who will fight for him. He has skills that he can hopefully hone to enable him to get a job when he leaves school, and people around him willing to work with him. Some children don’t have that, or their parents just aren’t knowledgeable enough to fight, or their disabilities are such that they will never be able to find employment in this world where even the best and brightest can’t get jobs.
‘But If you just work hard enough, you will succeed’ is just not true for so many people, but its never LESS true than when you apply it to disabled people. It’s no coincidence that so many of the ‘lazy’ people who ‘never work a day in their lives’ are also people with learning disabilities. with undiagnosed mental health problems. with dyslexia and dyspraxia that wasn’t picked up or given a shit about during their education.
So, this is why this election day I’m voting Labour. I’m not necessarily a labour supporter at heart, my friend semi-affectionately calls me a commie bastard, and its true, at heart the idea of true communism appeals to my sense of fairness, but in this election, at this time, I feel like they are the only party who will fight for my child. and for all the other children like him.