Last year, as I sat and watched DD3 as a donkey seller in her year 1 nativity play, I felt sad.
Our school always has the reception children perform the nativity play, with the same characters, the same words and the same songs every year. It was my 6th year of watching it and it can be a little tedious but it never fails to choke me up just a little. We are not religious, but there is something moving about the story and the look on the faces of the kids concentrating on remembering their lines, moves and lyrics. It always makes me well up a bit, even when none of my children are performing in that part of the show.
But last year, I was a bit teary for another reason.
I knew my days of having a reception child with a speaking part in this school’s Nativity play were over.
DS was going to be starting in reception in September 2013 but has a severe speech disorder and I had been struggling to decide which school I was going to send him to. I listened to the little kids with the speaking parts closely and knew DS wasn’t capable of delivering their lines. The teachers try and spread the speaking parts around, but there are a number of parts for stars and angels for children who wouldn’t cope with speaking in public. DS would doubtless be assigned one of these , and I felt sad because I knew he was capable of so much more. He’s a bright boy, but not being able to communicate was going to hold him back in so many things.
In the end we decided to send him to the round-the-corner mainstream school that his older sisters attend, rather than the one with the language unit that he’d have to take transport to. I spoke to the Head of our local school, then to the SENCO about DS’s special needs and they felt they could accommodate him. He has been schlepping back and forth to that school ever since he was a couple of days old; he knows it well and I think he would have been very, very upset if he hadn’t been allowed to go there too.
It’s been the right decision on so many levels. First of all the language unit in the other, further away school has been hit by the budget cuts and is no more. And the speech therapist they used to have in house has been retained by the Borough and is now DS’s ST. He gets 10 sessions a term with her, and is statemented for 15 hours of 121 help a week. He is having lots of help with his phonics and is doing really well academically, and coming on socially. Having a speech disorder has affected how he interacts with his classmates; he gets frustrated if they don’t understand him first time around and can get a bit shouty, so he does need some help with this.
So yesterday, I found myself in the school hall again, watching my 7th Nativity play. DD3 is in year 2 now, so was at the back in the choir but DS was appearing in the Nativity so I had someone to watch out for. And the best bit was that I had someone to listen out for too, as they gave DS a couple of lines! It would have been perfectly reasonable for the school to stick a star on his head and pop him in the chorus, but no, they actually gave him a speaking part.
I was amazed, although yesterday I was mainly tired as I had lain awake a lot of the night worrying about whether DS would get stage fright or not.
I needn’t have worried, he was so confident and happy. If you want to see him up on stage, click here; he’s the one in the gold helmet. I’m not sure anyone but me and the teachers could understand what he’s saying but it’s wonderful that he got the chance to have a go despite his verbal dyspraxia. I am so grateful to our wonderful school for giving him this opportunity.
Yesterday, as I watched DS perform in his first ever show, I was a very proud mother indeed.