A child who is mentally 12-14 months old in a four-year-old's body is normal to us. But it's difficult for others to understand when his disabilities are - at first - invisible. Because he appears to them to be a typical four-year-old boy. I suppose, apart from the occasional what ifs, this is the hardest part. When other people get it, it's truly a real tonic.
When it comes to pass-remarkable comments to do with my parenting, I've tended to let them go in the past (okay, I'll admit I may have fetched my imaginary voodoo doll once or twice...). Let's be honest, pretty much all parents encounter them every so often, be it for giving in to a tantrum "too easily" or co-sleeping on a bad night.
My 20-year-old son has multiple health issues, and learning difficulties. He therefore needs 24/7 care. He lives, term-time, at an outstanding specialist college. He is looked after by a fantastic team of carers, or facilitators, who come from a whole range of different places, including England, South Africa... and, of course, Eastern Europe. Poland is high on that list.
Imagine a scenario where that tiny little human life you created receives an earth shattering diagnosis. The doctors have no information about what it means or how it will affect your little one. Your family is left at the crossroads. You don't know where to go or who to turn to. What help will my child need? How can I get it? Where do I get information? Who can help me and my family? Why me, why us?
I remember when you were born, our first child, our boy, our son. We were filled with hopes and dreams for you, Daddy wanted you to be an Arsenal striker, fighter pilot and doctor all rolled into one (it's OK, he wasn't serious, well maybe not about the fighter pilot bit...). But what we wanted most for you was to be yourself.
Obviously, I don't think that parents of children with special needs are miserable moaners with greasy hair. Well not always. As for the greasy hair, I mean it in the metaphorical sense. In the way that, because of our offspring, we are sometimes viewed to be a bit downtrodden, frumpy, burdened, the underdog, the one (gasp) who is not much fun to be around.
Imagine a world where nearly two thirds of children were leaving school without getting good GCSEs. Parents would rightly be furious that their child hadn't got the right support at school. There would be outrage and a clamour for urgent action. But when it comes to deaf children, this is the reality that we face.
After spending a day at Putteridge High School meeting the students and the committed staff members, I am sure that the Inclusive approach to education really works. Putteridge does have two special needs groups, made up of children of all abilities and impairments, but the goal is for those students to enter the mainstream classes eventually.