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Feeling Unseen

Emily Sutton by Emily Sutton Additional Needs

Emily Sutton

Emily Sutton

I was launched into the world of special needs on New Year's Eve 2012, on the birth of my son, Jenson. He is fabulous, sprightly and loving, and ha...

Feeling Unseen

It was suggested that as a blogger for the disability community I should write an article on the subject of ‘feeling unseen’. I had a think about what this narrative means to me.

Read on, because the results might surprise you!

Last week I took my ten-year-old to the theatre. It was a last-minute decision, one that kept me awake for a lot of the night before, worrying about the multitude of scenarios that would mean disaster, embarrassment, damage and distress.

Nonetheless, I put on my brave face and my best jeans and took a very excited boy to see the show. We arrived with meticulous timing: not too early to invoke fidgeting and boredom, but not too late that we would have to trip over fifteen people’s kneecaps to get to our chairs.

We navigated our way into the building, up the opulent staircase, clumsily manoeuvring round the masses, and found our seats. As I suspected, we were a long way towards the back of the theatre, which filled me with dread due to the chance of him being disengaged with the show, being so far from the stage.

I performed a visual risk assessment of the immediate surroundings, clocking anything that could present a hazardous distraction – that man with a hat on, that child rustling a bag of sweets, the little 50 pence binoculars attached to the seat in front, that staff member with the hand-held torch, and so on, my anxiety building.

I told myself, it was too late to back out now.

I distracted him with pre-amble and settling tactics, and then the show started.

For the first few minutes, there was a period of being a little dysregulated, and he needed reassurance and conversation. However, we must have both become immersed in the wonderful performance, because it seemed like just five minutes later that the curtain dropped for the interval.

We walked around and explored the majestic building, him repeatedly uttering ‘enjoy show’ and ‘again’ (not fully understanding that we still had another half to enjoy!). We returned to our seats and settled for the second half.

Again, a mesmerising performance was bestowed upon us. The drama built up towards the end and the famous songs of Andrew Lloyd Webber climaxed in a megamix-type number, with spectacular theatricals and special effects.

The audience was captivated, and many were whooping and whistling.

At this point, having been uncharacteristically quiet throughout, my son could contain himself no longer and in a bid to contribute to the excitement, he screamed.

Members of the audience turned around to see who had let out the shriek, and I froze in an awkward moment of horror. Realising that he had behaved inappropriately, and pre-empting my next sentence, he then shouted out ‘BE QUIET!’, which received a few more turned heads from audience members.

By now the curtain was about to fall and the audience were on their feet, giving a standing ovation and a cacophony of thundering applause. Feeling entirely uplifted by such a brilliant performance, despite the events of the last few seconds, I allowed myself to find amusement from his final outburst. I grinned and chuckled, to which he flung his arms around me and asked for ‘more music’.

On leaving our seats, I exchanged a warming look and laugh with a couple of nearby families, who had clearly only just registered that a child with additional needs was in their vicinity.

So, by now you will have come to understand why the title of this blog ‘feeling unseen’ is a positive narrative. We *almost* went unseen in a mainstream activity, and what’s more, we both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Having spent ten years feeling unwelcome eyes on our every movement in public, it was a momentous occasion to feel unseen and to just experience being a regular family for a period of time….

…unlike our rather eventful bus trip home, but that’s another story!


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