Thinking About School When It Isn’t Mainstream

Thinking About School When It Isn’t Mainstream

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 that 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 straight forward – 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 and a lengthy school application coming up, I need to find my best game face and channel some SEND mum PMA!


When Brody was born we didn’t know that he had disabilities. I imagined us walking to school together and me chatting to the other mum’s at the gate. I imagined he’d have a best friend and would come home and tell me about what he had learnt. 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 friend’s children, who had babies at the same time as me. We’d go and watch them in class assemblies and Christmas plays together. I guess I imagined a whole different future. One that was disability free.


A year or two ago, I believed that maybe this might still be possible. Maybe I pinned too much hope on nursery working a miracle. 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 (I hate birthday candles).


The truth is Brody has come on leaps and bounds since starting nursery. They have worked really hard with him and there has been lovely progress. I have a list on my phone month by month of the past 2 years with his achievements big and small (you should do this). 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.


Unfortunately though, Brody is still primarily undiagnosed with severe Global Development Delay (and other disabilities) and nothing will alter that fact. So here we are, about to start the school application process and it is now without a doubt that he won’t be able to go to a mainstream school. And 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.


I visited the school that he will hopefully go to last year. 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 okay). Then I got to the car park 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 truly know how fragile life can be. I think all SEND mums do. And when I take a step back from the what ifs, I recognise 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. This is what is important. And this is what I need to focus on.


School is a special milestone for every child. Maybe we won’t be walking the same typical path as everyone else, but we’ll be walking our own special 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 post originally appeared and was written for Family Fund.


Click on the link to follow me on Facebook – Brody, Me & GDD



  1. Jemma
    September 24, 2016 / 9:22 am

    Please stay positive. I also have son Ollie who is primarily undiagnosed with severe gdd he is 5 and just starting year one at a special needs school. Your story is like something I could have written for Ollie. Apart from the fact that he is a little ahead.

    With him having had his first year at school I can without a doubt say I know this was the best choice for him. You mentioned your nursery being the best ever, well I was distraught when Ollie left his nursery. The staff there became like family and supported us through Ollies initial diagnosis period. I wish he could have stayed with them forever.

    But school has taken over from where nursery left off and he has come on in leaps and bounds and is extremely happy. He even took his first unaided steps which a couple of years ago I never thought I would see.

    You also mention Brody going to school in a taxi/bus. Ollie loves his bus and the other children on it who are all older than him.

    So do it, get that game face on but don’t be afraid of the warm hot tears, they are better than bottling up the feelings you have. Being a SEND mum requires those moments. The one piece of advice I leave you is once you know what school you want fight for it all the way, you are the one who knows better than anyone what is right for your child.

    Big hug and good luck!!!

    • September 24, 2016 / 6:14 pm

      Thanks so much for the lovely comment. I feel that way about nursery. It’ll be a sad day when he leaves.

      Hoping I won’t have to fight for the school we want. But I’m prepared just in case!

      I’m sure him getting on that bus is a whole other blog of emotions but as much as it’ll be hard for me – I bet he enjoys it!

      Glad to hear school is going well for your little one.

      Thanks again x

  2. lisa russell
    September 24, 2016 / 9:29 am

    What a fabulous post. This is my 3 year old daughter down to a ‘T’. Although she has done amazingly well (this time last year she couldn’t even sit up on her own but has just started using a walker) we are thinking about schooling & have more or less decided to defer schooling for a year.
    It is true you have to put on a brave face because what’s the point in breaking down, it won’t solve the situation. However every now & then you have to be human & let your emotions come out. Once you’ve had a wobble, life has to go on, but remember you are entitled to do it as you wouldn’t be a mum if you didn’t allow yourself to snap once in a while. Just because your child is different doesn’t mean you have to have different emotions. xxx

    • September 24, 2016 / 6:11 pm

      Thanks Lisa. I think that’s why I write. Helps to vent!

      Glad to hear your daughter is doing well xxx

  3. Anna
    September 30, 2016 / 10:26 pm

    Exactly how I feel about my daughter going to school next September! She’s 3 1/2 and at an amazingly supportive nurturing mainstream nursery, but is non verbal and unsteady on her feet, and very different to her peers. We think she needs special needs school, but the one we really like is so far away! Good luck with everything, pleased to have found your blog x

    • October 1, 2016 / 6:54 pm

      Thank Anna. Good luck to you too and glad you found me as well ☺️Xxx

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