“Only in it for the parking” read the T-shirt the lady opposite me was wearing.
It had a big disabled sign (you know the one – the picture of a wheelchair) on it just to make sure you got the joke. She looked tired and stressed as she pushed her teenage daughter down the street in a clunky, big standard issue wheelchair. I smiled as I passed her recognising the gallows humour that the disabled community has to share in order to get through the day.
There aren’t many perks to having a disabled child (other than an absolutely wonderful child of course) but the parking is one of them. However, sometimes you come across something that is just so fantastic that it makes your day and makes you smile for all the right reasons.
On Saturday we took my little family riding. Organised by a fantastic local charity, we turned up to the local “handicapped riders’ association” (yes – they still use that awful word handicapped that has been politically corrected out from pretty much everywhere). As we pulled in we saw four horses being led round steadily and surely by a bunch of old dears who had that no-nonsense horsey look about them.
We watched for a little while and soon it was Arun’s turn to have a go. After some fun and games trying to find a helmet small enough for him and then trying to get it on him and do the strap up under his very tickly chin, it was time to mount the horse.
As we brought Arun up to the horse his little eyes grew wide and his lip started quivering. He turned back and tried to hug his mum and disappear into her safe embrace. Unfortunately, his mum, like me was having none of it and he was promptly turned around to face the horse. Gently, but firmly experienced hands (“I’ve been doing this for thirty years,” the volunteer told us) adjusted Arun’s saddle to the smallest possible setting and they were off.
Not quite at a canter, let alone at a gallop but a steady walk and immediately Arun sat up straight in the saddle and a huge smile broke out onto his face. He held the reigns in his hand like John Wayne and relaxed into the steady rocking of the horse as he was led around the paddock.
Clare and I watched spellbound as our very disabled little boy with cerebral palsy, autism and learning difficulties grinned his way around on horseback for the best part of half an hour. Copious photographs and video was taken to share with proud grandparents. The spell was only broken by a little sobbing by my left knee. I looked down to see Arun’s little sister blubbing away next to me.
“What’s wrong darling?” I asked.
“I want to go on the horse too,” she mumbled through gasps of despair.
“I’m not sure that you can my dear, this is a session for children like Arun today. But you can ask,” I said, not wanting to get her hopes up.
Usually the world works against disabled children. They and their parents have to fight for inclusion in the simplest aspects of community life that mainstream kids take for granted. But sometimes, just sometimes you come across someone wonderful, an organisation that goes the extra mile that makes the impossible possible. Although it’s hard, although it’s a grind, those days make it all worthwhile. Especially when the nice lady agreed to let Arun’s tearful sister have a go too.
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