Tuesday 5 July 2011

The meeting with the man in the suit

On days like this fury sparks from my fingertips and turns my stomach to ground glass and lacerates my tongue. On days like this fury makes me clench my teeth until my head hurts. On days like this I want to grab Grace by the hand and run until everything is far and we are somewhere else.

Today I sat in a room with a man in a suit, a teacher and a father and tried to accomplish the impossible task of rendering Grace in simple words, of reaching through the subjective and objective to present her flawed perfection so that they would see her and understand her and help her.

But it doesn't work like that.

First of all, the man in the suit had already decided, in the face of incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, that Grace is fine as she is and advancing well in her school work and social setting. This is so that he doesn't have to summon extra money for teaching that is tailored to her needs and for playground support to help her interact. In his picture the sun always shines, the classroom is a warm friendly place and all are working together to make progress. Thus he has turned down our request for a 'statement of educational needs'. He tilts his head earnestly as he speaks and distributes a 17-point criteria list, all while assuring us that he abhors 'box-ticking mentality'.

Also in the room is the teacher, who in order to change his mind and secure necessary extra help (and funds), has compiled a picture of Grace and her needs that is heart-breaking and hair-raising. In this picture Grace is a growling, pacing misanthrope. Violence is never far from the surface, schoolwork is all but irrelevant and tears and chaos reign. The teacher smiles sympathetically and twists her hands.

Watching and occasionally asking questions is the father. His account is different again. His Grace is intense but loving, bright and talented, prone to occasional eccentricities but largely misunderstood and mostly normal. He sees a lot of himself in her and it is this image as much as the rest that he protects. His eyes flash with impatient scorn as he follows the proceedings.

And me? I dance among them, hopping and cajoling and mediating. I wonder who is right. I wonder why my version of her tallies with none of the above. I wonder how much of it is my fault and whether I am doing enough to fix it. I wonder what to do for the best. I wonder if I'm doing things wrong.

And I wonder why no-one is really talking about Grace and what on earth I can do about it.

So I nurse my rage and I think. And I run.


  1. Hey Sophie,

    This is really moving and I really feel for you and Grace. Well done on the blog and the running - I hope they both prove to be effective outlets for your frustration and rage, as well as an inspiration to others.

    Katherine xx

  2. Hi Sophie. Have been reading your blog - I have two boys with AS. Was also a journo for ten years, now an author & PR.
    Maybe my website can help with SEN: www.specialneedsjungle.co.uk. Good luck. Feel free to get in touch for help.

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