In my admittedly limited experience, Annual Reviews are not a particularly happy experience. No matter how positive, supportive and inspiring the teachers and professionals involved are, the bottom line is that you are sitting in a room formalising all the things your little girl could do a year ago but can’t do now. You can dress it up however you like, it’s never going to be fun.
Hannah’s Annual Review was last week and, since it revolved not only around the skills she has lost but also the resulting need to transition to a new school (I may have mentioned it once or twice before?), it was likely to surpass previous reviews in its not-fun-ness. Prior to the meeting I had spent two evenings picking through her previous Statement like some kind of OCD, control-freak English teacher (!), striking red lines through everything which no longer applies and adding things which are now crucial to Hannah’s educational setting and provision. Crossing out lines of text, such as ‘Hannah really enjoys turning through the pages of books’ and adding ‘can no longer do this’ is not the kind of marking I ever wanted to do.
The meeting itself, whilst positive and typically celebratory (her teachers love and value Hannah in a way that is truly remarkable) was always going to be painful. But this, despite appearances, is not a blog about the continuing heartache of this situation. It is about the tiny gem of information I gleaned from this meeting, which, for the past week, has been making life just a tiny bit easier.
Mr Chapman. The tiny gem of information, the little light in a rather gloomy meeting room, was Mr Chapman. He wasn’t in the room, I have never met him, I have no imminent prospect of meeting him, I have never even spoken to him. But, in the process of discussing low-tech (don’t get me started on this one) eye gaze trials and the choices with which Hannah has been presented, it emerged that Mr C is my daughter’s preferred choice. And that, apparently, is even when Mr Tumble is a contender!
So it turns out that Mr Chapman is a Year 10 PE teacher with whom Hannah has minimal contact: passing in the corridor, around in the playground, on duty in the lunch hall, that kind of stuff. And yet, as is typical of Hannah, she knows who she likes intuitively and she shows it unreservedly. Mr Chapman, it seems, gets all Hannah’s best smiles, giggles, attention-seeking shouts and big-brown-eyed gazes. To anyone reading who knows a girl with Rett Syndrome, this flirtation will come as no surprise, it seems to be one of the ways our girls express their immense mischief and love of people (men?)
What I love about this, though, is that it shows how much Hannah is aware of what and who is around her, and that she has an instinct about people which, in my experience, is rarely wrong. As I said, I haven’t met Mr Chapman yet, but I’m willing to bet he’s a pretty good guy. If he’s alright by Hannah, he’s almost certainly alright by me.
For the last week, since this little gem of information came to light, I’ve been asking Hannah if she saw Mr Chapman at school today, or if she said hi to Mr Chapman this morning, to which I have unfailingly (even in the midst of tears or a meltdown) received a huge beam and a bashful giggle. Thanks Mr C, I think you’re better than Mr T too.