It took me a few days to fully come to terms with my visit but what an amazing place and what incredible work…
The school is in Lichfield and caters for the needs of youngsters between 2 and 19 years of age who have significant disabilities… many highly complex and, to be honest, completely heart rendering.
I’d visited before to meet senior staff but had talked for so long that I ran out of time for a proper look around. So this visit was to do just that and is because I have recently been asked to add children with disabilities to my existing responsibilities for adults as part of the move towards a ’whole life’ approach.
That approach is something we’ve been working towards since coming to office and, in simple terms, it means getting rid of the pigeon-holing through age which is prevalent across public services and very often unhelpful and incredibly disruptive to families and individuals with disabilities.
Back to Saxon Hill School. I’m writing this piece because until you’ve seen the work of the professionals in this field, first hand, and the heartbreaking challenges that such young children have to endure it is impossible to comprehend.
When you’ve seen the love and effort that teachers put in to encourage a 5 year old with extraordinary disabilities to make the tiniest of movements or noise in order to light up a panel of coloured lights twelve inches in front of them it does change something inside you. But when you see the tiny joyous reaction from the child when it happens the feeling is, frankly, indescribable.
I obviously couldn’t take pictures of the students (the one I have used is from the school’s website) but I wanted to include some sense of the place itself so instead captured some of the important rooms and specialist equipment. And I’ll also just mention at this point that despite the immense challenges it feels a joyful place where achievement is measured for some in a scale which is very different to able bodied or less disabled children.
Listening to the immense value, in so many different ways, that children get from the hydrotherapy pool or the rebound room which is fitted with hoists to help the most disabled youngsters have some fun and build some confidence through movement was incredibly moving.
As the title of this post suggests it was an extraordinary experience which was enormously helpful for me in understanding some of the issues faced in making the most of the funding available for this work as well as ensuring the many different health, care and education services which support young people with disabilities work more effectively together.
It certainly underpinned the logic, as youngsters become older, of removing the pigeon holing I mentioned earlier in favour of a more holistic whole of life approach. One last thing… it was tremendous meeting a volunteer at the school who had, herself, been a pupil there for many years and due to the incredible, and highly progressive, support she received is now thriving and on her way to paid employment. A lovely way to finish my latest visit.
They also have some stunning plans for a new facility at the school which is a community cafe where some individuals with disabilities will be able to work, gain confidence and make the most of their lives, hopefully ending up with the chance of normal paid employment and greater personal independence in some instances.
The school’s fundraising campaign will help to achieve their ambitions for the new building and I wholeheartedly encourage support wherever possible. If you think you are able to help out you can find out more by emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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