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Because family life matters

Additional needs support – normal or exceptional?

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Here’s a phrase I’ve been hearing rather a lot recently:

‘I can’t wait to get back to normal!’

But what does normal really mean?

Well, the dictionary definition of ‘normal’ is ‘the usual, typical, or expected state or condition.’ You could replace the word normal with standard, typical, average, predictable.

So what exactly can’t they wait to get back to?

Perhaps their normal is very different from ours?

Normally I feel harried and harassed. Too many things to do in too short a time. Normally I have so many balls to juggle that at any given time I am bound to have dropped several. This results in feelings of guilt and inadequacy. Normally I feel totally exhausted, completely depleted and I am running out of ways to put a positive spin on that. Normally the teacher comes out to chat to me at the end of the day which adds shame to my ‘normal’ cocktail of uncomfortable emotions.

Typically the mornings are filled with frantic activity. Too many people wanting to get in the bathroom, apart from the one who needs it most but refuses to go anywhere near it! Breakfast, we must have breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day. It must always look the same.  Someone can’t find a shoe, someone has lost their reading book. You are not dressed yet. You don’t like the feel of your school uniform on your skin. The hum of the fridge is causing you distress. You are beginning to get anxious about leaving home.  It’s only 7.00am and typically the tension in the home is palpable. I wonder, will you make it to school today?

Usually, I wake up tired following a night filled with anxiety. I’d like to stay in bed and pull the duvet up over my head and hide. My limbs ache and my head is throbbing but it is years since I enjoyed a glass of wine. I am never off duty. At any point of the day or night I may be needed to change a tube, give a feed, administer medication, reset an alarm, clear an airway or call an ambulance. Usually I find something to be thankful for and manage to put a smile on my face.

Our ‘normal’, our ‘expected state or condition’ would seem exceptional to others, which is ironic really as the dictionary offers ‘exceptional’ as the opposite to normal.

Honestly, I’m not that keen on normal or even a new normal.

You see we are not normal, i.e. conventional or healthy as the informal application of the word suggests.

We are exceptional.

There is nothing standard or predictable about us and the only thing we’ll go back to is the future! You see our future hasn’t been written yet. No one’s has. So what we’re getting back to is neither normal nor good. Our future is going to be an exceptional one.

It is unhelpful to compare ourselves, our lives, our children with others. In doing so we may end up feeling inadequate, discouraged and frankly, ‘abnormal’.  A wise friend of mine, a grandma to a child with autism, had this to say on the matter: “Back to normal? I don’t like the word normal! When the time comes, be reassured that where you are is where you are, and that is OK. There is no blue print.”

Now go and be extraordinarily exceptional!

Nicola Watson

About the author

Nicola Watson Is our Additional Needs Support Coordinator.  She has three grown up children, the youngest of whom has additional needs.  Nicola is a trainer, assessor and has taught childcare and parenting skills for many years. Nicola enjoys singing and writing.

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