Set the bar high

Set the bar high

When I hear stories of children being deliberately excluded, like the one recently in NSW about a Year 10 student who was ‘accidentally’ invited to his school formal before being un-invited, it makes my skin crawl.

Not simply because it’s awful, because it absolutely, undoubtably is that, but also because it brings back a whole host of times when that excluded child was Poss.

Like most parents who have kids who are different, for whatever reason, there’s been times I’ve known about a party or an event, and haven’t had the heart to tell her she wasn’t invited.

Or worse, I’ve had to explain to her why she wasn’t included, when she’s heard about it from her peers.

And what do you say? There are no right words. “Sorry” is usually where I start, before my words falter and I’ve got no where else to go. I tell her that she doesn’t deserve this, that she deserves so much better. But it really doesn’t matter; no words can fix it.

At her old school this happened more often than I care to think about. Beyond the little every day exclusions, there were a few big things too: the school camp, the class sleepover, and in an event that was one of the final straws with that school, a birthday party that included her whole class. Except Poss.

One of the hardest parts of all of this (apart from Poss’ devastation) is that it was generally from people who should know better. Teachers, principals, friends. The people you trust to do the best thing by your child; the people you rely on to be on your child’s team.

The betrayal, because that’s exactly what it feels like, burns. I know she can be all of the things they throw out as excuses. I get it. I’ve seen her at her worst. You don’t need to list her challenges to me.

But I’ve also seen her at her best. When she’s comfortable, supported and encouraged, when she’s given the space to be who she is; I have no doubt that she’s capable of achieving pretty much anything she wants to.

At the new school, they do things differently. While I’m sure there are playdates she’s missed out on, because that’s life and sometimes kids don’t want to play with other kids, there’s not a single school event that Poss hasn’t been included in.

Her communion, school camps, excursions, sports days, swimming. Not only has she been included, she’s been expected to take part and do her best alongside her peers. Expectations are set high, and she gives her all to meet them, even if it’s in a slightly different, uniquely Poss way.

The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.

– Michelangelo

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But she’s is given a chance to try. Just like any other child.

Maybe I’m too simplistic, I probably am, but surely all kids should at least be invited to the formal, and have the supports available to be able to accept the invite.

Of course, there may be times when, for whatever reason, that the goal needs to be adjusted. But that’s a choice that should be made in consultation, not isolation.

If the chance is never given, how will we ever know what can be achieved?

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