A teacher was asking me how to persuade some parents that their child has a problem? This is not a rare occurrence. Understandably, parents want to feel that their child is perfect – or, if not perfect, has only a bit of a difficulty. And, from the teacher or psychologist standpoint, we feel we are just trying to organize the best possible life for the child. That is: the one that offers probably the greatest happiness. We spent some time discussing this child. She comes from a culture where a disabled child reflects badly on the family. The parent who might be inclined to accept a problem is an immigrant and the other parent’s family is clear that there is no difficulty. We talked of a range of things to do, but I’m not convinced it will do much good.

I remembered a family from maybe twenty years ago. The younger son suffered from a fairly rare syndrome. This made him sound very different when he cried, almost from birth, but also meant he would have significant learning difficulties. The parents acknowledged the syndrome and took him regularly to see a specialist, but denied the rest of the difficulties. So this boy entered his Reception class some way behind the other children and fell increasingly further behind. The teacher spoke to the parents about his problems – they said there wasn’t a problem. She spoke to me and I observed him struggling with everything. I spoke with the parents who told me I was wrong.

This happened the following year and the year after that. The boy fell further and further behind academically, but was increasingly shunned by the others in the class who found him a nuisance in group work. And no fun in the playground.

Finally, we used a work experience boy to film the little boy in the playground as he mooched around alone. It broke my heart to see him so isolated. But none of this was significant enough for the parents. They were resolutely determined that he would stay in mainstream education. In Special School he could have made friends and learned appropriate skills – instead he just became more and more lonely. I lost track at transfer to Secondary, when they were insisting that he went up with the others.

So yesterday I gave the teacher as much advice as I could and talked through all the ideas I had ever tried or come across.. But it may not be enough. It’s sad when the parents fail to see how to prioritise their child.

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