A Child’s Hopes are Dashed
Imagine being a 7-year-old boy and you’re super excited about your school’s sports day. You’ve practiced your heart out and are ready to rival your hero, Lightning McQueen. For one boy, all he could think about was his school’s sports day event. Unfortunately, his dad delivered some bad news that left him completely heartbroken.
Sports Day Excitement
Mark Birchall wanted nothing more than for his son, Jacob, to have a wonderful experience at his school’s sports day event. He doted on his son right and left and would do anything for him. Sadly, in the summer of 2017, he had to deliver news to his son that would completely crush him.
Waiting with Anticipation
Young Jacob attended Banks Road Primary School–the school is located in Garston, a port district. He had been looking forward to his school’s sports day event for months. An annual tradition, Jacob waited patiently for July 28th to roll around so he could participate.
Practicing Every Day
According to his father, Jacob had been practicing at his school and wanted to be like his hero from the movie Cars, Lightning McQueen. When Jacob put his mind to something, he made sure he would be successful.
Uninvited from the Event
Sadly, the day before the event, Mark was pulled aside by one of the school’s staff who suggested that Jacob not participate in the day’s activities. According to the worker, they didn’t want Jacob to cause a scene if he didn’t win.
Social Media Sound Off
Saddened and frustrated, Mark turned to Facebook for perspective on the ordeal. He wrote in a post, “A few days ago one of the ‘special needs’ teachers approached me and said it’s sports day on the July 18th, in the morning, and if I’d like I could keep Jacob off school until the afternoon.”
Why Did Jacob Get Singled Out?
Mark continued in his post that the worker felt that his son might not like other children winning the races and, since parents were going to be present, he didn’t want the parents complaining. Why do you think Jacob was being singled out? It seems odd don’t you think?
Suffering with a Disability
Jacob’s father continued to explain on Facebook that his son suffered from Asperger Syndrome and tended to suffer in social settings and learning to play with friends. Therefore, the school staff wanted to avoid a potential scene if the sporting events didn’t work out the way Jacob had planned.
The Facts about Aspergers
One thing you should know about Asperger Syndrome is that it is a form of autism. People who struggle with the disorder struggle with communication, as well as reading the physical cues of others. They have problems understanding facial expressions, voice tone, and body language. This can lead to irrational behavior in certain circumstances.
A Heartbroken Boy
Image: Hurricanes Basketball
Of course, Jacob didn’t take the news of being excluded well. According to his father, he cried his eyes out when he was told he couldn’t attend. It seems like such an unfair situation if you ask us.
Image: She Knows
Mark’s frustrations with the situation stem from Jacob being asked to sit out from the day entirely. While he understood that his son’s disorder could potentially cause problems, due to his issues with connecting with others, a different role in the event could have proven beneficial.
Exclusion Not Inclusion
“I feel they were embarrassed by him, rather than just thinking about his needs,” Mark explained to the local news. “It was disgusting to single him out. It is excluding him, which is exactly what you are not supposed to do with children with special needs.”
A Different Role
Mark believes that the event should have been about inclusion. If his son couldn’t participate in the activities, having him hand out medals or be a referee could have been an option. Instead, the school cut him out, something he believes was a way for the school to save face.
Special Day for Jacob
Despite Jacob not taking the news well, his father wanted him to have a fun day and not be a victim of discrimination. Therefore, his dad decided to create a day for Jacob that would be one to remember.
Father of the Year
Even though Jacob’s school refused to put his needs first, his father made sure that the day was all about Jacob. Taking off from work, he planned his very own sports day for his son.
Social Media Reacts
Mark’s social media post had over 700 reactions and was shared across Facebook. According to one commenter, the school shouldn’t be able to have special needs children if they aren’t willing to be inclusive in their activities. No child should be forced to sit out a fun activity day because the school doesn’t want to risk a scene or its reputation.
Support from Strangers
There were many more supportive comments as well. One person said, “Discrimination needs reporting to the authorities. I have three sons, two with Asperger’s and one with autism. They are grown up now but I would never let anyone get away with something like this.”
The Ticked Off Teacher
One person from the school who completely disagreed with the decision was head teacher Linda Gibson. According to her, the situation was handled completely inappropriately and that none of the teachers were consulted or made aware of the decision until after the event. According to school policy, all students take part in sports day, and she plans to make sure this can never happen in the future.
In fact, the entire city of Liverpool is working towards special needs people feeling included. There have been many public measures to offer assistance to those living with special needs and ensuring all of the city’s workers are properly trained
Inclusion for All in the Future
Jacob’s father believes that his son was singled out because his disability isn’t physically manifested. Since autism isn’t a disability that’s obvious, people who live with it aren’t accepted like others with special needs. Hopefully, now, more awareness will be made and Jacob can participate in his future school activities.