Josephine Feeney has written the following about her son Finn and about how an Inclusive Solutions conference made the scales disappear from her eyes…
I went to an Inclusive Solutions conference in Nottingham about twelve years ago. At the time, my son was a very unhappy person at a school in Leicester. He had been diagnosed as having Pervasive Developmental Disorder on the Autistic Spectrum so he had full time support. The conference made me focus on his abilities and his whole personality, with the idea that his difficulties were only one slice of the full Pizza that makes him a full person – rather than on his deficits and disabilities. I was like a born again Christian, trying to show people how the scales had fallen from my
eyes – my son did have abilities, he would be able to cope with school and life.
Unfortunately, the school did not agree with me and after years of fighting, they asked us to take our son away from the school at the end of year nine. It was a particularly unpleasant parting of the ways – they were going to place him in a non-exam teaching group where he would be farmed out to a local college for ‘Life Skills’ whatever they are. We knew that he was able to sit GCSEs and because we asked for the decision to be changed, they gave us an ultimatum, “Accept what we have proposed and stop interfering or find another school for him.”
This isn’t very scholarly language but after hours of crying I thought, “Sod you – we will find somewhere else for Finn.” He had been attending a lovely youth group in a school 20 miles from our home so I rang the Head and Finn started there the following September. (For four years my husband and I drove him there and back every day as the local authority refused to help with transport as they said he should have stayed at his previous school. My husband had to change his job and it cost us £50 a week in petrol – all his DLA money.) Their attitude was so different that Finn really thrived, achieved 5 A-Cs at GCSE and 2 A levels. Six months after leaving school he had a part-time job with the Leicester Tigers Rugby Club and he enrolled with the Open University. In October 2015 he graduated with an Honours degree in History at the Symphony Hall in Birmingham. It was one of the best days of our lives.
That same week, he started agency work at Santander Bank in Enderby, Leicestershire. He was on a temporary six-month contract but after only three
months his job was made permanent. This young man, who was considered ‘totally innumerate’ at school was now helping people to manage their money. Finn has a very rounded life – he plays cricket for a local team, supports Leicester City, goes to the gym and is very active in our local parish. When he finished his OU degree he said that he no longer needed his DLA as he was able to live an independent life. DLA helped us for years but Finn no longer needs it and he is very proud of this.
Inclusive Solutions encouraged us to take the long view and I particularly recall the story that the teacher told about Rio Ferdinand. Rio’s mum had gone to the Nursery to thank his original teacher there for accepting him and creatively letting him play with balls when he was so challenging as a little boy. It had made a massive difference over the long term. I came home from the conference full of hope for the future.