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My Son: My Greatest Teacher

He has shown me what is important in life, I am a better, more open minded person and above all I have come to realise that those hopes and dreams I had before he was born are still the same and, in fact, the same for all of my children.

Many people still don't know what a learning disability is - and it's an education we all need to have. But if you asked me who has taught me the most in life out of all the people I've met, it would have to be my first born son, Sebastian.

When you think about big moments in your life, becoming a parent for the first time is often seen as big as any you'll likely to experience. But for me, it really did change everything, beyond measure.

We knew we were having a boy from 20 weeks onwards and so for the second half of my pregnancy I allowed myself to imagine the strapping, sporty teenager my baby would grow into. Hanging out in our kitchen with his mates, helping themselves to food from the fridge, chatting about their day at school before heading off to a game of football or a concert.

He would be handsome, of course, doing well at school, a nice kid, no trouble and would go off to university before meeting a lovely girl and eventually having a family of his own.

But what I failed to factor into my daydream was that my baby would have Down's syndrome. We were told the news just 24 hours after he was born. It was utterly devastating. Within the delivery of one sentence all my hopes and aspirations for my boy were shattered and I faced a future of unknowns.

The following months consisted of research. I knew nothing about the condition and so set about reading every piece of information I could find. I felt foolish for the daydreams I'd had, I grieved for the strapping lad I thought I was having and I imagined a lifetime of exclusion and "difference", being stared at.

I feared the future and dreaded the day my beautiful baby became a boy, and man. I will happily admit too that the worst part of the diagnosis for me was the "learning disability" part of it.

Learning disability is still something that makes many adults feel awkward. I grew up in a time when people with disabilities were hidden away at their own schools and clubs. I remember all too well the uncomfortable feeling of seeing a group outing at the seaside, not wanting to stare but equally not appearing to be avoiding contact.

It was all too easy to assume this sub-group of people were all the same and to pity them and assume they had no aspirations or quality of life, as well as feel sorry for their parents, who must feel so disappointed.

Thankfully, the hurt (and ignorance) began to lift as I started to fall hopelessly in love with my baby and thought less and less about his diagnosis. He wasn't "Down's syndrome", or a list of characteristics from a website, he was a boy. My boy. And with each year that passes he continues to teach me something new.

He teaches me stuff that no text book or leaflet ever could have, about equality and opportunity and how to look beyond labels. He has shown me what is important in life, I am a better, more open minded person and above all I have come to realise that those hopes and dreams I had before he was born are still the same and, in fact, the same for all of my children.

Seb has a razor sharp wit; he is courteous and gentle, boisterous and loud. He is driven and thrives from succeeding. He can read and write and is one of life's grafters, who never quits. He is popular and very sporty and in just seven years has made me the proudest mum on earth.

I have absolutely no doubt that he will go on to form special relationships and friendships too, that will last a lifetime, and may end in shared living or even marriage.

Whatever his path, we will always support and nurture him, just the same as his siblings. I used to dread Seb growing up. I would cry at the thought of him moving on from the safety and certain predictability of babyhood. I imagined how awkward we would all feel when he was a teenager or an adult. I once focused on his disability, something I don't even see any more. I am so ashamed of those thoughts.

As we evolve together I am really excited about the future and the man Seb is going up to be; something I would never have believed when he was born. I can't wait to see what career path he chooses, meet more of his friends, hear of his travelling and sporting adventures, laugh at his tales and meet his first love.

From the 15th June - 28th June the learning disability charity Mencap are asking people to celebrate Learning Disability Week 2015 with them. Mencap want to reach out to the general public, newly elected politicians and people in a powerful position to tackle the myths and conceptions about learning disability. If you want more information or to get involved in Learning Disability Week 2015, head here.

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