Many years ago I worked as a hairdresser. One older client always sticks in my mind, not because she was just lovely, but because she was super-lovely. The lady had Parkinson’s you see, and doing her hair was never an easy task. Her limbs used to move quite violently, causing her whole body to jerk about. It wouldn’t have been so bad if she was just having a blow-dry, but she was a shampoo-and-set lady.

The first hurdle to get across was shampooing her hair, even leaning backwards, her body moved so much that her back invariably got soaked. Then there was the fun of getting those rollers in. At least her clothes were reasonably dry by the time she emerged from the dryer.

Let’s ramp it up a wee bit more. Every 3 months she would come in for a perm. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to suggest that perming this lady’s hair was akin to trying to thread a needle whilst on the deck of a trawler in a hurricane! I’m not trying to be funny or flippant, it really was no laughing matter. I used to wonder how she slept at night and whether having your muscles spasm like that made them ache. Sometimes though, we were able to time ourselves well and she would pop a tiny little pill and the hurricane force winds suddenly turned into a gentle breeze. Seeing was truly believing. I’d apologise for making her so wet, she’d apologise for moving so much. Never a terse word was exchanged, especially as I was the one doing the soaking but as I said, she was super-lovely.

Fast forward to about 5 years ago. I was volunteering in a Year 1 class. It was with some trepidation that I went in, since little children aren’t really my thing. I mean, what are you supposed to do with them? Will they understand what I say? I use big words and all that. Anyway, it turns out that they’re pretty much like big kids, only smaller. You kind of forget when they’re all sitting down.

The classroom was an old Victorian one and you couldn’t have shoe-horned another child in. Carpet-time, although a great idea, doesn’t really work when the seams are about to burst. It really was a case of spotting empty chairs to stand on to move around, a bit like a  don’t-stand-on-the-floor-or-you’re-out kind of game. Carpet space was as small as it could be for 30-odd kids to be seated. Could you imagine my client with Parkinson’s working here? What if she were a long-established member of staff? What do you do?

Well, my lady was in that classroom, she sat on the tiny chairs and she sat on the carpet. Her limbs were constantly in motion and was always bumping and nudging the other children, apart from those brief windows when it was time she could take her carefully controlled meds. Her bumps were not hard, more like the bouncy paws of an excitable puppy. Only, it wasn’t my lady, it was someone else’s lad. And he didn’t have Parkinson’s, he had ADHD. But his meds would wear off, just like my client’s, and his limbs would make contact with others’, just like my client’s, and he would apologise, just like my client. Only I wasn’t his hairdresser, not was I his teacher. Unlike me, his teacher didn’t apologise. She made an example of him, she took away his playtimes and his golden time. She told him that he wasn’t trying hard enough, she said she knew he was doing it on purpose. She knew because sometimes sat still, she told him he knew how to. She said he was naughty, that he disrupted the class.

This was tweeted to me yesterday by @remelrose1 It’s only adults who cause confusion, discrimination and hatred. Children have to be taught these.

How true.


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