When I Think About School for My Son With Global Developmental Delays
School is not a subject I find easy to talk about – and my son Brody doesn’t even go yet. He’s 4 and a half years old and should have started this new school year, but we chose to defer him, so he’ll start next year.
For me, school is a significant milestone, and another one of those doses of reality that pop up once in a while to remind you that life isn’t quite straightforward – like birthdays, Christmas and important hospital appointments. I struggle to talk to anyone about it without getting teary-eyed, so with a year of TAC meetings to coordinate his services and a lengthy school application coming up, I need to find my best game face!
When Brody was born, we didn’t know he had disabilities. I imagined us walking to school together and me chatting to the other mums at the gate. I imagined he’d have a best friend and would come home and tell me about what he had learned. Maybe he’d do that thing where they take home the class teddy bear for the weekend and we’d write about their adventures. I had a vision of him starting school with my friends’ children, who had babies at the same time as me. We’d go and watch them in class assemblies and Christmas plays together. I imagined a whole different future.
A year or two ago, I believed this might still be possible. Maybe I pinned too many expectations on nursery school, just like I had initially – maybe naively – thought that speech and language would magically make him talk or occupational therapy would have him blowing out birthday candles.
Brody has progressed by leaps and bounds since starting nursery. They have worked really hard with him — I have a month by month list on my phone of the past two years with his achievements big and small, from stepping up a curb unaided to signing “more”. Nursery has been wonderful and I am truly grateful to them, as I once thought I’d never feel comfortable leaving him with anyone. Best. Nursery. Ever.
However, Brody is still primarily undiagnosed, with severe global developmental delay and other disabilities. So here we are, about to start the school application process and he won’t be able to go to a mainstream school. Although I love him with all my heart and wouldn’t change a single hair on his perfect head, I still feel sad about it. There will be no walk to the local school. Instead there will be a school taxi or bus to another village because our local school can’t accommodate his needs.
Last year, I visited the school he will hopefully attend. It seemed nice. Everyone seemed happy. But it was very quiet. It just wasn’t school as I know it. And that’s just something I need to come to terms with. I listened to the head teacher talk and kept that game face on really well — honestly, I’m quite good at it if no one gives me an empathetic look or asks if I’m OK. Then I got to the parking lot and those annoying hot tears started to flow. You know, the ones that just won’t stop.
Being a mum to a child with disabilities, and having some friends who have children with life-limiting syndromes, I know how fragile life can be. When I take a step back from the “what ifs,” I recognize how lucky I am that Brody is able to go to school. And I am so thankful. I’m sure he will enjoy it too. That is what is important. That is what I need to focus on.
School is a special milestone for every child. Maybe we won’t be walking the same path as everyone else, but we’ll be walking our own unique one. Hopefully we will meet some friends on our journey. It’s always a great tonic meeting others who walk similar paths.
Brody will learn, continue to amaze us and make us proud. Brody will make friends. And Brody will have fun.
So I’m going to take a deep breath. Put that game face on. School application… here we come.
This story originally appeared on and was written for Family Fund.