Tomorrow is results day for GCSEs and my social media and local newspapers will be flooded with congratulation messages to young people on partaking and achieving their GCSE grades. Local councils will parade pictures of high attaining individuals results and celebrate local schools achievements in children meeting or exceeding their expected academic goals. However this is not the case for every young person, like my son, who is visually not too dissimilar to any other 16 year old. He just happens to have a learning disability.
The difference is that unlike his peers he doesn’t have GCSE results to collect tomorrow or anything else for that matter and I think that’s a massive shame. His journey through education has not been atypical or easy as he attended 5 different schools over his time, each 1 building on his resilience and skills along the way for which he is deserving of reward and recognition from each and every one. It just isn’t a GCSE certificate! His educational pathway for the past 2 years has been delivered at an academic level most suitable for him and he, like all other teenagers would have worked very hard during this time. Yet, there is no recognition for him tomorrow and he will not attend school to collect a ‘reward’.
The saddest thing, I suppose, is that there is no end game for him unlike his peers and that fills me with feelings of such loss! I knew that this time of his life may be difficult for me as his mum, as feelings of loss remain close by however much I advocate for him that it’s okay to be neuro developmentally different. I hope to empower him to believe that anything is possible in life, not matter how big or small. Despite this, he just wants to be like the others that he was educated alongside in an ‘inclusive’ educational environment, but he’s not going to get that chance and I’m the 1 who has to explain to him why. It doesn’t sound ‘inclusive’ to me.
I believe our one size fits all education system could essentially devalue our young people with learning differences, when the feeling of the “world is your oyster” should be the outcome for every 16 year old. We need to spend more time working on and celebrating individuals ‘capabilities’ and strengths.
I feel privileged as a learning disability nursing student to have worked alongside passionate, devoted and empowering professionals on my placement within the child and adolescent learning disability team that have demonstrated strengths based practice that seeks to understand the crucial variables contributing to individual resilience with individual goals that are client driven and relationship focussed. A strengths based approach as a practice draws one away from an emphasis on procedures, techniques and knowledge as the keys to change.
My key message to you is that, every person holds the key to their own transformation and meaningful change process. If we are willing to fully embrace this way of working with individuals with learning differences, then the change must start with us, not those we serve.
Joshua & his mum
Joanne (mum) is a student learning disability nurse at University of South Wales
You can train to become a Learning Disability Nurse at University of South Wales, you can find more information on the USW website: https://www.southwales.ac.uk/courses/bachelor-of-nursing-honslearning-disabilities/
You can also contact Rachel Morgan - Specialist Lead for Learning Disability Nursing via email:
Joshua and his mum