Eighteen months ago, Asperger's Son1 signed up for the trip of a lifetime.
His special(ist) school had joined up with World Challenge to organise a month-long expedition to Tanzania in Southern Africa. Participants would carry out project work in their twin school, Shia school, go on safari but most importantly, climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro.
The school, More House, in Frensham, educates boys from 6-18 who have a variety of learning difficulties. They are bright boys, but may have dyslexia, Asperger's, dyscalculia, dyspraxia and other similar disabilities and have a different learning style to that in mainstream. The school has a growing Learning Development Centre with an expert OT department.
So, a trip up a 5,895 meter mountain, the highest in Africa, is not going to appeal to every year 10-12 student. Especially the part where they had to raise the £4k plus cost themselves.
But Son1, whose difficulties are social and communication rather than physical (apart from a lifelong tendency to fall over nothing and break stuff just by looking at it) was up for it. He took part in the training and the fundraising and learned valuable skills along the way.
And it hasn't been only him who has had to learn skills - I have tried (and often failed) at not transferring my own anxiety to him. Anxiety is one of his major difficulties but he has learned to hide it to fit in and so it comes out in other ways, often aimed at us. We have learned to understand this and to breathe deeply and not shout back.
And so, today, 18 months later, the day of departure has arrived.
Top Dad, a former Royal Marine Reserve, has had endless fun "helping" (okay doing) the kit prep. He confessed that for weeks he's thought it was him going up the mountain and is now devastated to realise he won't be going himself.
So, checklist: Good luck amber angel and laminated angel prayer from (loopy) mum? Check. Immunisations? Check. Epipens for allergies? Check. Passport, visas, paperwork, four season sleeping bag (it's freezing at the top), walking poles? Check, check, checkety check check.
Tension has been high for the last 24 hours with Son1 answering every parental enquiry with a snappy, tetchy response. Anxiety hovered uneasily over Tirraoro Towers.
He said farewell to Youngest, who is at home again, having decided school activity week is boring and not for him, thank you. He is an elegant school refuser. No shouting, no tears, just a polite decline.
Anxiety joined us in the car on the way to school. I got a half hug when we got there, Top Dad was refused one. And then he was gone.
Will I see my amber angel again? Will we see Son1 again? Stay tuned. For those of you who have a spiritual side, here is my Angel prayer for my precious boy.
I call on you, Archangel Metatron
And as many angels as needed
To protect my son, Luca on his travels
To surround him with protective angelic arms
And keep him from harm
And return him to me safe, healthy and happy
Guide him to get the most from his journey
And to gain in wisdom, compassion and spirituality
Help him to think ahead before he acts
And to keep going when he wants to give up
But most of all to enjoy his time
And know that we are all thinking of him
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Wow – out of his comfort zone and then some! I believe in angels, as it happens, so pray that one will be watching over your son and bring him back safe and sound, and having had an amazing time.
Thanks, me too!
I have a lump in my throat and goosebumps. I feel so proud for you, and to know you. What an adventure! What an achievement just to get this far. Keep us posted x
What a wonderful thing to say. The feeling is mutual, Hayley. We’ve heard that they’ve arrived safely in Dar Es Salaam. What a relief!
My son 1 is also with yours and I am so proud of all they have achieved. For these boys with significant social and organisational disorders to go so far away from safety is a huge accomplishment. Knowing that our boys actually overcame their difficulties to stand on the roof of the world, having summitted Mt Kilimanjaro is beyond words. Their angels have kept them safe and sound, and I hope & pray they will continue to as the boys travel home.
I agree, Collette. Every time I think of it I start to well up again! You really made my evening with your update last night!