voices header, young people on quad bikes

Complete Strangers

Why won’t my words work?
I talk about his life, my life,
Our family, our friends.
I show our photos.
I tell our stories,
Describing my child, my dreams.
I share our lives with complete strangers,
Unable to alter
The assumptions being made,
Powerless to influence
The judgements to come.

“It’s just a suggestion but
Have you not thought of a special school?
Have you not thought about
Doing it the other way round?
He could go to a special school and, say,
Integrate one day a week.
Then he could have the
Best of both worlds.
It’s just a suggestion but
I think it’s worth thinking about.”

Why won’t my words work?
I want my son to have an ordinary life.
I want him to be welcome.
I want him to belong.
I want his world to make sense to him.
He likes going to school.
I’m asking you please to consider him.
Are my words not good enough?
Am I not explaining things
Properly or clearly enough?

“it’s just a suggestion but
You know it is your son’s needs
We must all think of.
I feel he would be better
In a small group.
These children often are.
I feel he would be better
With experts teaching him, you know,
Teachers who are qualified
To teach such children.
I feel he would be happier
In that kind of situation.
It’s just a suggestion but
I think it’s worth considering?”

But you have never met my son.
How can you know what makes him happy?
You know nothing about my son.
How can you make these suggestions?
He’s not a bunch of labels
To be assessed and categorised
And then to be sent away to be hidden.
And we have never met before.
You know nothing about me.
Why do you presume    
To give me this advice?

“We have many disabled children here.
We’re proud of how successful they are.
But we’re really not sure
About your son.
It’s him we’re thinking of.
We wouldn’t want him to fail.
We don’t think we could
Meet his needs here.
We don’t have the resources.
We don’t have the space.
We don’t have the environment.
We don’t have the support.
What about the curriculum?
What about relationships?
What about…
It’s your son we’re thinking of
We wouldn’t want him to fail.”

Do you have any other reasons
Why he shouldn’t be here?
Can you think
Of anything else?

“It was nice to meet you.
I live very near you.
Perhaps we’ll bump into each other.
I’d like to know how
We’re getting on.”

Why won’t my words work?
I talk about his life, my life,
Our family, our friends.
I show our photos.
I tell our stories,
Describing my child, my dreams.
I share our lives with complete strangers,
Unable to alter
The assumptions being made,
Powerless to influence
The judgements to come.


Jill Penman (2002) in Telling Our Own Stories, Reflections on family life in a disabling world (Parents with Attitude, Sheffield)

Complete Strangers © Jill Penman 2002.

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Page last published by pippa
06/08/2011

"We are all the same. We are all human beings. We all have thoughts and feelings."
Miriam, aged 11