College trip to New York

Hayley’s growing up, becoming more independent than ever, and travelling halfway across the world with her friends…

Sunday early evening, at the computer

“OMG it’s soo amazing, we’re having a wicked time! Love you x”

Hayley’s messaging me from across the Atlantic. She’s eating breakfast (pancakes with maple syrup and bacon) and I’ve just cleared up after dinner (ham, egg and chips) at home.

She’s gone off on a five-day trip to New York with her college and I’m scrolling through a stream of photos she’s just posted up on Facebook – iconic cityscapes and landmarks, the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, the Empire State Building, American traffic cops mailboxes, ‘don’t walk’ lights at traffic signals, and of course endless snaps of food they’re about to eat, have just eaten or would like to eat…

Arms raised in the air

When I shelled out for the trip back in September when she started college, I thought it was tied in with her Hospitality and Catering course, was all about the gastronomic delights on offer.

But when Hayley said their itinerary included eating at Planet Hollywood and the Hard Rock Café, I was surprised. It turned out the trip was open to all at the college, whether hairdressing, engineering or floristry students.

I didn’t mind though, because to be honest it marked such a turning point in Hayley’s life.

She was massively keen to go because of course it was billed as the opportunity of a lifetime.

But the other reason she was so hell-bent on going was that her friends had put their names down and she so desperately wanted to go with them.

Regular readers might recall that Hayley has struggled socially throughout her school life from the age of eight when she was diagnosed as deaf. It wasn’t just the obvious things, the hearing aids, the ‘otherness’ of being the only child in school who was deaf.

It was a subtle mix of things to do with deafness that combined and conspired to set her apart. Having to sit in a certain place in the classroom so she could hear the teachers and see their face to lip-read, rather than with a group of friends. Time off for hospital and audiology appointments and surgery to remove the cholesteatomas that grew aggressively in her ears.

Never quite being in on what was required next in class, where to go, what to do, though she watched her classmates eagle-eyed to try to keep in the loop.

Always being one step behind in the conversation, processing slower, not getting the joke or getting it one beat too late, all the struggles of trying to hear and make sense of everything in the noisy, fast moving din of the playground, everyone talking and shouting at once and on the move so that things were lost on her.

Having to be taken out of class for extra sessions to work on phonics and her word retrieval difficulties.

Yet Hayley was always so sociable, never stopped trying, but it so often didn’t go well for her and only got worse at high school. She spent a lot of the time feeling lonely, sad and isolated.

College proved a different story, a clean slate where she made friends, proper friends, with likeminded people who shared the same interests.

And the fact that at the other end of the college year they’re still good mates and experiencing the joys of New York together is testament to that progress.

Please note image is not Hayley

Hayley gets left out of the school trip

Tiger Mother is furious when an upset 14-year-old moderately deaf Hayley, who also has autistic spectrum disorder, reports that the school trip she’d been looking forward to has gone ahead without her…

I’m having a fiercely déjà vu moment. And a fierce moment.

An email from Hayley popped up in my inbox, at midday. “Mum, it’s the school trip TODAY. I’m not on it – they’ve gone!!!”

Oh no. My heart plummeted, I wanted to cry. She’d been really looking forward to this trip to Brighton with one of her subject classes. I knew how upset she’d be, knowing her friends and classmates were off on a jolly that she should’ve been on. And she’d be mortified that she hadn’t remembered to be in the right place at the right time.

What I want to know is how can it happen – again?

The same thing happened to her in year 7 on her first secondary school trip. I was devastated for her then – she was so excited, only to be told her name wasn’t on the list, then left behind.

Back then, it was their payment system that was faulty. My payment wasn’t accepted for some reason, but a phone call home could have saved the day. Two minutes could have made a big difference to a very distraught girl who, instead of thinking of her school as a caring, inclusive one, will always remember that left-out feeling.

“How can they have left her behind?”

This time, there’s no question – she was paid up, booked on, permission forms ticked off. So how can they have left her behind? Couldn’t they have tried to find out why she wasn’t on the coach? She’d gone to morning registration, how hard could it be to go and check?

I think of Hayley missing out and it hurts. I phoned the head of year ready to vent my fury but, met with a voicemail greeting, I ineffectually left an upset message. Probably best there was no one there as my voice sounded suspiciously wobbly as I hung up.

Then I fired off an email, for all the good it’ll do, to the head of year and subject teacher. Could they not think about her deafness, ASD and general lack of ability to know where she should be and when? Wouldn’t it have been worthwhile sending a timely reminder in advance?

Hayley emails again, saying she’s now doing a disability awareness course instead of the trip, along with the rest of her year from other classes. The irony is not lost on me. If the school was more aware of disability, maybe they’d have taken more care to ensure Hayley was included!

“They made the decision to go without her”

P.S. Finally, I got a call from the teacher, apologising. They sent someone to look for Hayley, couldn’t find her and made the decision to go without her. Lucky it was a trip and not a fire…

The teacher said she hadn’t known about Hayley’s problems other than her deafness. What?! Didn’t the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) brief her? Ah yes, she said, she had some notes but she’d only skim-read them as there were so many children with SEN issues in the school. She apologised, promising she’ll make sure it won’t happen again.

Where have I heard that before?