I have a seven year old son who is described as having Special Educational Needs.
Special Educational Needs (SEN) – It implies there’s something wrong with your child, doesn’t it? They’re somehow different from what’s ‘normal’
I don’t view it as a Special Educational Need. It’s just an individual need. We are all individuals aren’t we? I’m not the same as you and your child is not the same as mine. So why do some people think all children should be the same in a classroom environment, why do some people think all children will achieve the same things at the same age and then should be tested on these things to be compared with their peers. Why should one child be the same as another? It doesn’t make sense to me.
Our son, who we adopted, has all the letters after his name, He has An ECHP and ADHD, ODD, SPD, and he maybe on the ASD spectrum; you know – the letters that are given to someone ‘special’. I understand in the UK we have to have a “diagnosis” in order to access services but It’s a shame we need to collect and acquire these letters to get people to understand he is an individual and one size doesn’t necessarily fit all.
I consider us lucky. He is currently flexi-schooled, a combination of traditional schooling mixed with Forest School and a day of home school too. His head teacher has given special permission for this as she sees that it helps him cope with the pressures that he faces. Not something all head teachers will allow. The school community, his Learning Support Assistant and the SENCO have all been amazing and we work as a team in providing support and allowing him to be individual. He is a popular little boy amongst his peers.
We have found Forest School helps him to explore his needs in his own time and when he has been ready to do so. He developed self esteem and confidence in his abilities to try and do new things. He was no longer scared or anxious about failing, loosing or not succeeding. He is now proud of himself when he achieves and he no longer feels worried to be so. He wasn’t trapped in a classroom anymore. He wasn’t ‘special’ in the forest, he was a just another child allowed to be a child and was able to climb, jump, build, create, run, discover, explore, and most importantly grow; at his pace . It impacted his life so much and made such a positive difference to him. It was the reason I wanted to become a Forest School Leader myself, I had to find out and do more about it.
He still attends, its a long term process, it’s a is a way of life for him, it’s the thing he looks most forward to on a weekly basis. Recently, he told me they made a fire, which he was allowed to help light. He even drank nettle tea, which he foraged for and made. Not something he’d get up to in an everyday classroom.
There is of course a place for formal education, but aren’t there different ways of teaching it? This is exactly what Forest School does. The child is in charge of learning and the staff are led by and nurture that child on his or her journey. I feel that this type of learning is perfect for our children, especially those with lots of letters after their name!
Don’t misunderstand me, our child is, of course, special. Special as a son, as a human, as an individual and special because he is different and that should be cherished and celebrated, which it is, by all at Forest School.