I was asked during one of my recent press interviews why I had stepped in and taught my own child, why I seemed to have a problem with the provided education. I didn’t have a snappy answer at the time, but walking in the forest this morning, contemplating this question, my head was filled with memories, and all my reasons were shimmering right there, on the tip of my tongue.
Seventeen years ago, when our eldest son, Rory, was three years old, we sent him to a pre-school. My bright, weird, other-worldly, wildly creative child.
The future shone with the brilliance of potential yet to be realised. He was a special kid with a mind like no other. Education was bound to bring out the very best in him and open doors to new thoughts and ideas. Surely they would see this potential in him. I had such hopes…
Oh, silly me.
At the end of his first term, Rory came home with a school report which proudly announced one single thing –
“Rory will now eat his crusts.”
Did you gasp? I know I did.
This was a classic example of an educator who had lost sight of the child in their personal quest for something which they considered important.
I realised then that I had a problem with education, and with some of the people who provided it, and it brought to the surface something I had already suspected: that Rory was a round peg being squashed into a small square hole.
And what happens if you force a round peg into a small square hole? You shave off all those curves. That creative roundedness. That precious individuality.
You end up with less.
Education should make you more, shouldn’t it?
That was why we ended up choosing a different type of school for Rory, one which followed the teachings of Rudolph Steiner. A school where his unique individuality was not only accepted, it was nurtured. Where his rampant creativity brought joy, not censure. Where he was a round peg in a sea of round pegs, making up a beautiful, complex whole.
Of course, not everyone has access to this type of education, and to be honest maybe it isn’t for everybody anyway, but for our son, at that time, it was exactly what he needed.
Is it any wonder, then, when I found opportunities lacking for our Ian, when I realised that the people who were there to educate him had lost sight of the child behind the diagnosis, couldn’t see what he ought to be learning for the prescribed syllabus dancing in front of their eyes, that I stepped in and blazed a trail?
The parents of autistic children have to deal with the pain and frustration of this every single day. It is this which underpins the writing of my book.
I believe that, for any child, creative teaching is desirable.
But for teaching an autistic child, it is essential.