I had been wondering what to do with my boys this holidays. There's the zoo, but that's a bit pricey. Then I got a flyer through the post about a local organisation that that does a drama class for disabled children. Hooray, I thought. We'll fit right in and it's free. So I felt quite bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as I unloaded my tribe from the car. A drama class, carers present, siblings welcome. How hard could that be?
We went into the room. Other children arrived, and I felt a little nervous: they were all much more visibly disabled than my brood (in the area of learning difficulties, not physically). I feel out of place, slightly a charlatan. We all get into a circle to start. I realise that quite a few of the other kids have no language. They are almost all enrolled in the Special School where this course is taking place. The other parents all seem to know each other and are chatting away. I start to worry that they are whispering "What does SHE think she has to worry about?" Oh no, I think, I am going to spend two hours feeling guilty for wasting a precious resource on my not-very-disabled-at-all children. I wonder whether to kick my eldest in the hip so he limps a bit.
The class started: and I noticed with mild concern that my eldest didn't want to stand still. No, he REALLY didn't want to stand still: he was hopping and chattering and spinning and interrupting, totally unable to follow simple instructions and join in the warm-up exercise. Unlike all the other children, who had evidently serious learning difficulties. Hmm, this is a bit embarrassing. I hadn't realised quite how hyper he looks next to other chldren. The teacher is also concerned, because he keeps spinning away and she keeps having to ask him to come back and join in. But I couldn't worry about it for long, because then the group leader asked my middle son what he liked doing best, and he responded to this outrageously insulting and personally threatening question by leaving the circle, running over to me and refusing to take part in anything for the rest of the session. Never mind, I thought, at least the little one is doing fine. Oh, except that now he wants to take everything out of the drawers in the attached kitchen, and he's not stopping, even when I tell him off, redirect and do all the other stuff that is supposed to work with toddlers. I have to lock the door, whilst also holding my my middle son who is in an advanced state of sensory overload, rubbing his head into me and demanding we leave. But I can't give the young ones my whole attention because every now and again I have to shout at my eldest to stop telling the teacher what to do and stop talking over her so that she can run the class. Meanwhile, all the other children do exactly what they are told, calmly and to the best of their ability.
At the end, the other mums gather up their children and leave, giving me sympathetic smiles. The teacher says goodbye to the other children's parents and then says to me "You must be totally exhausted at the end of each day." I nod, faintly, and walk out with a feeling of shame, irrational though it is, that of all the parents present, she singled me out for her sympathy. I should be doing better, I think. Of course, I didn't feel judged. Everyone was lovely, as you would expect in a disabled children's group. But my boys stuck out like a sore thumb, and not in the Oh-Do-They-Really-Have-Any-Issues way. They just couldn't cope with the class format, all in their different ways displaying their stress in difficult behaviours. Everyone else then walks back to their cars calmly, children trotting peaceably beside them. I, by contrast, have to enlist one of the organisers to help me because both my youngest and my middle son are refusing to move, and I can only carry one of them at once. I reel home in a state of shock, trying to deal with the uncomfortable recognition that my bright, high-functioning children are currently the most disruptive kids in a disabled drama class.
So where do I take them so that they will fit in and not cause trouble? Maybe I should go back to Plan A. Stand by for my next post: "Chimpanzees complain about my boys' lack of decorum at the zoo..."