The journey towards success must be taken one small step at a time.
It was my son’s last day at school yesterday and a lot of tears where shed – not just by me, but others too. I wept at the thought of how sky high my food bills are going to be from now on, but what really moved me, along with many others in the marquee (I think the last time I saw that many grown men cry in one spot was when England were kicked out of the 2014 World Cup) were the uplifting success stories.
My 18-year-old son has Asperger’s and ADHD and for the past seven years he has attended a special school that caters for boys with learning difficulties. When I say this to people, they often assume that my son and his peers are a bit ‘slow’ perhaps ‘stupid’. This couldn’t be further from the truth. My boy is way cleverer than I will ever be and not just because he got at an A* in GCSE maths while I failed it five times.
The talk this year was given by an eminent clinical psychologist who happens, like my son, to be on the autistic spectrum. He explained that mainstream school had failed him. He was siphoned off to classes for those who would never amount to anything. Fortunately, he found a ‘special’ school before it was too late and achieved great success.
He pointed out that ‘special’ people like him, my son and all those other boys, are essential for our society because they think differently to the rest of us. That’s right, they are not disabled, or stupid – they are special because they think differently. They can do things the rest of us can’t. They are the trailblazers, inventors and revolutionary thinkers. They are the Einstein’s, the Warhols and the Mozarts.
Wildlife enthusiast and TV presenter Chris Packham, who also has Asperger’s, had sent the school a video in which he encouraged the pupils to celebrate their differences and to know that while they will always struggle in certain areas, they have special talents to bring to the world. He also encouragingly, revealed that things had grown easier for him as he got older.
I listened as the head boy, who has a language disorder so severe that a speech therapist once pronounced him impossible to treat, gave a heart-rending and brilliant speech about how he had achieved success with the help and support of a whole team of dedicated people at the school.
It was tough going. His mantra was poli poli, which is Swahili for slowly, slowly. He chunked things down, tackled one small thing at a time until there he was, head boy of this wonderful school with a clutch of great qualifications to his name, a bright future ahead and the ability to address hundreds of adults with confidence and aplomb.
Slowly, slowly. That struck a chord with me. As I’ve said many times before on this blog, I’m not a slowly, slowly kind of person. I want it all right NOW. I am terribly impatient with myself and others. It really doesn’t get me anywhere. Slowly, slowly. It should be my mantra too. What’s yours?
Slowly, slowly, catchy, catchy.