Reach parent and trustee shares her experiences of her Reach child starting school:
“Joseph was our first son and he was born with his hand missing, a fixed elbow and shortened forearm. We met with the village school and explained to Joseph’s new reception teacher, Mrs Bond, that Joseph had only one hand. She was amazing! She was so energetic about helping him and making him feel welcome in the school. She did not think that his arm was going to stop him from doing things. We had a lot of faith in her. Just talking to her made us realise that this was the school that we wanted Joseph to attend. We haven’t looked back.
Joseph did go through a time when he continually asked us why he had been born with one hand, saying that he wanted to have two hands like his brothers. He used to tell us that he wanted to sellotape his counting arm (his cosmetic arm) to him so that he would look the same, and we found this really difficult to deal with. After talking with a paediatric counsellor, and with Sue Stokes, we realised this was normal and that he was probably finding his feet and was upset to have left all his friends behind in Dorset. Joseph is six now and is doing well at school. He goes to Beavers, plays football on a Saturday and rides his bike wonder- fully without stabilisers. Sometimes things come up that he has a problem with, but it is very rare. When it came to counting on fingers, he used his cosmetic arm and called it his ‘counting arm’. When it was said that he was slow changing his clothes, we practised it at home. When he had difficulties with paper cutting, again, we practised at home. I think you just have to be one step ahead all the time, which is hard sometimes. Joseph hasn’t really had a problem with name-calling or bullying. If someone asks him why he hasn’t got a hand, he usually tells them he was born like it and that was how he was in his Mummy’s tummy, and if he feels mischievous he tells them that a shark ate it!
There was only one occasion when we had a problem with another child, and that was after Joseph had been in the school for quite a while. One of the new children would not go anywhere near Joseph without screaming and telling Joseph to go away. It really upset us because for the first time ever we felt it was out of our control. The staff at the school were deeply saddened at the episodes as this had never happened before at their school. After a while it was sorted out with the help of the child’s parents.
- On the rare occasion that a problem occurs, deal with it promptly and directly with the teacher.
- Remember there is now increased and shared support/responsibility to deal with any issues – it’s not just down to you again!
- Always get the teacher to seek your child’s opinion first – just like you would usually do.
Some other practical steps to consider:
- Let the teacher know if your child needs any extra support, equally, make it clear that they should not assume extra support is necessary.
- Make sure the teacher knows how to refer to your child’s limb and prosthesis.
- Don’t be afraid to be inquisitive about their progress in gym.
In summary, our experiences early on were somewhat mixed, but as time went on, things settled down. The key factor was our relationship with Joseph’s teacher, which grew into a positive and supportive partnership. Our confident independent adult Joseph is a result of this partnership, where his natural personality has been allowed to come through.”