Well here it is, Merry Christmas, everybody's having fun.... This is a post full of gratitude. It's been a really, really hard year for so many of us. The last few months have underlined the state we're in and the challenges ahead. But it's Christmas, so let's spread some cheer and say thank you.
I'm deliberately not going to talk SEND politics in this bit. I'm going to try to get some clear headspace over Christmas so I'm ready and fresh for 2020. This year, to do our bit to help save the planet, we're not wrapping presents but using a huge felt Santa sack each - a sort of lucky dip as the kids stick their arms in and feel around. There are fabric Christmas stockings too, both of which we can use year after year. You're welcome, mother Earth.
At our house, we're missing my good friend, thriller author Libby Fischer Hellmann, this Christmas, who's back home in Chicago. But we've gained eldest's girlfriend for Christmas Day, as well as our youngest who's arriving home later today, finally. I'm happy to report a successful semester at uni for both my offspring. These are big things to be grateful for.
Next year we're on the move to be closer to youngest, whose uni is in East London, so it's goodbye Farnham in 2020. As well as being better able to advocate for, and feed, our youngest, it'll also save the outrageous £219 a week student residential fees. No, that's not a typo. If you know the area, send me some tips for good neighbourhoods with lines into Stratford.
I want to thank my husband of 22 years, Marco. Without his support, care and long hours earning a crust, I would not be able to keep doing SNJ. His toil financed it for years until, thanks to your donations and some advertising, it became self-sustaining. I am grateful to him for this and for giving me two amazing children (and for putting up with me).
Renata: What I'm grateful for
Most people end up becoming accidental SEND advocates when things aren’t working as they should in the education system for their children. This is what happened to Tania and myself and how Special Needs Jungle came about.
As this year draws to a close after an election that has left many feeling apprehensive about what lies ahead for our children, it can feel hard to find things to be thankful for. I recognise, sadly, that I am one of an ever-dwindling number of parents who find themselves in a position where their children all break up for the Christmas Holidays from schools that they both like and that can meet their various needs.
It is very tempting to file away the last of the paperwork that has brought us to this point and do my best to try to forget about the journey that has, at times, brought me to my knees. But I recognise that I have not got here on my own. There have been so many people that have helped along the way. People who have sometimes stuck around long after they could have left to get on with their lives just to try and help other people.
You don’t have to search hard to find examples of courage, generosity, compassion and wisdom in the SEND community. We are a wonderful, ragtag bunch with skills that can rival the best lawyers, teachers, researchers and advocates. And that, I think, is what I find myself feeling most thankful for at the end of this year.
Here we are facing a government that doesn’t place much importance on our children’s futures, yet rather than feeling sorry for ourselves, in the face of great adversity, the SEND community has started to come together in a way we have never seen before. We are starting to see just how powerful our passion, knowledge, skills and voices are when we combine them and the support for our SEND Community Alliance has been staggering.
We are a community with unique skills-sets and astounding resilience and we are so much stronger together. We need need to remember just how many remarkable and selfless people make up our collective and just how valuable each of us are to the people that come behind us. I cannot wait to see what we can all achieve next year.
Tania & Renata: Further thank-yous & gratitude
Thank you to our close team members: Angela Kelly and Marguerite Haye for all their time, their writing and their social media help and just being pretty fab. Thanks also to Lisa Thomas for your help with moderating our Facebook group we started earlier this year, "Let's Talk about SEND" It's a discussion group, not a support group so if you want to talk SEND, please join. Thank you Angela, Marguerite and Lisa. Please accept our gratitude.
Thank you to the SNJ columnists who have written for us this year. No one is paid for writing for us, they do so out of a desire to improve the lives of disabled children and young people. They include: Matt Keer, Siena Castellon, Catriona Moore, Hayley Mason (thank you also to Hayley for her time presenting our recent webinar), Hannah Moloney, Malcolm Reeve, Bren Prendergast Zoe Thompson, Philip Milburn, Cross & Ginger, Jo Grace, Ambitious About Autism Youth Patrons, Barbara Follows and everyone who has contributed a guest post this year. Thank you, we are grateful to all of you. Who would you like to see write for us next year? Or do you have a story to tell about your experience, or about your great SEND practice? Get in touch.
Thank you to our amazing regular donors and patrons - you mean SO MUCH to us. I won't name you all for your privacy, but we are grateful to each and every one of you. If you'd like to become a squad patron in 2020, find out how here. It costs from just £5 a month. Our patrons get a "thank you" of an exclusive newsletter each month and free access to webinars and other content we're beavering away at.
Thank you also to our advertisers and we look forward to working with you again in 2020. If you'd like to advertise via the website or sponsored posts find out more here.
Thanks to YOU
Thank you most of all to everyone who takes time out of their day to read and maybe even share our posts. The sharing is really important - it's the biggest thing you can do to help, alongside donating. So if donating is not possible, please at least sign up for new post alerts below, and share a post or two on your social media, or with a fellow parent or a SEND practitioner. We are grateful to you for this.
Next year the battle is rejoined and intensified as we work to ensure the new government fixes SEND. So for now, please try to get a bit of a rest over the holiday if your loved ones will let you. At least take a short pause for moment of gratitude. When all seems low, remember that we have love in our lives, both given and received, because you definitely do (even though at times it may not feel like it.)
Merry Christmas to one and all from me and from Renata. Thanks for reading and we'll be back in a week with a look back at 2019.
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