Mark Arnold by Mark Arnold Additional Needs

Mark Arnold

Mark Arnold

Mark heads up Urban Saints pioneering additional needs ministry programme and is co-founder of the ‘Additional Needs Alliance’, a learning and supp...

That you’ve got to shoulder the weight on your own, because if you don’t, it just won’t happen?

Or maybe you feel that you’re the only one with the right blend of skills, knowledge and understanding to be able to do it all?

All of this can be especially true for those of us that parent a child or young person with additional needs…

I know I’ve felt like that on many occasions and I’m sure you have too… but sometimes, like today, I’m reminded that we are designed to work better as a team, and that when we work collaboratively together we can achieve much more than we ever can on our own.

Our son James, who has Autism and associated learning difficulties, has been going through a difficult time with transitions lately; particularly the one from home to school.

He enjoys school, especially any activity involving food (as you’ll see) but he has been struggling with the morning transition from home to the school transport.

Ever since he started school, James has been picked up from home by the school mini-bus and has always enjoyed the ride… until recently…

After the Easter holidays, he started refusing to go in on the mini-bus and most days since then has needed to be taken to school by car (a logistical work nightmare, but that’s for another day!)

It’s during this time that I have been reminded of the value of teamwork…

Without teamwork it was becoming a real struggle to get James into school and to his desk, he would drop to the floor at the first opportunity and refuse to budge, but with teamwork we’re getting him to his school desk every day and he’s staying there… an achievement in itself!

Let’s take today as a good example… ‘Operation: Get James To His Class’:

1) Having refused the mini-bus (again), I let James settle for a while and then get him ready to go to school in the car.

Once in the car I phone the school to let them know we are 10 minutes away so that ‘Operation: Get James To His Class’ can commence…

2) As we pull up outside the main doors of the school (marked ‘For mini-buses only’, oh the irony!) and I get James out of the car, a member of the school reception team is already there holding the main entrance door open for us. We’re in school… yay!!

3) Through reception, a Teaching Assistant from James’ class is waiting to hold the next door open and to quickly go ahead of us, rapidly swiping us through doors and up stairs until we reach James’ class, removing any barriers that might slow us down or cause James to change his mind and drop to the floor.

4) Entering James’ class, just one member of staff says “Hello” to James so as to welcome him, but not overwhelm him, as he reaches his desk.

5) We congratulate James for successfully making it to his desk, then the previous TA escorts me back out to the car again! Phew!

In a seamless, well drilled routine that we’ve developed over the past few weeks, James makes it into school to his class and to his desk with the minimum of fuss or upset… Teamwork!

While all these simple practical steps are being worked through, there is another part of the team out there playing their part.

We have people praying for James, and for us, that he will be able to make the transition into school happily and well, and we believe that the work of James’ prayer team is just as important in getting him successfully to school as anyone else.

Some people who want to help in this way but who don’t have a faith think positive thoughts about James, and even knowing that people are thinking of him in this way is a real help.

It’s much better than trying to do it all on our own, thinking that it’s all down to us, that no-one else is going to help…  To struggle on determined to carry all of this ourselves.

The reality we’ve found is that while there will always be people who can’t or won’t help, the world is surprisingly full of people who will pitch in and make a positive contribution when we need them and when we ask them; just as we would do for them.

Their willingness to help might be practical, like holding a door open so there isn’t a physical barrier to slow our progress down, or it may be just encouraging us with kind thoughts or prayers… it’s all very welcome!

So, let’s not be afraid to ask for help and to offer it, to seek support and to provide it, to work together as a team for the benefit of our child or children and ourselves…

Life can be so much better when we live it and work at it together!


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