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Channel 4 “Born to be Different”

April 28th, 2009

Filmed over seven years, Born to Be Different is a frank and unsentimental portrait of the joy and heartache of life with a disabled child. Six families have allowed exceptionally intimate access to their lives following the birth of a disabled baby. The series charts everything from the initial shock of diagnosis and day-to-day practicalities, to the tough decisions and long-term reality of living with disability.

Over time, the parents’ hope and fears change as they deal with medical problems, operations and the good and bad news about their child’s condition – all the while trying to maintain family life.

Some families face prejudice, while others fall apart under the strain. But there are flashes of humour and the typical pleasures of childhood too. And as the children grow up, and the differences between them and their friends become more apparent, they start to articulate their own feelings.

I watched the programme last night. It told me what the head teacher of a special school told me many years ago, and that is that there are few more caring parents than parents of children with special educational needs, as they fight to do their best for their children.

It also showed how difficult, sad, yet joyful life could be for everyone. The title, of course, underlined the fact that children with special educational needs were ‘different’ and that it was simplistic to a degree to think that that you could treat them all the same way - and as other children.

Life is difficult and challenging enough as it is, without also having to cope with seeing children bullied, and without having to deal with an unsympathetic bureaucracy working to a political agenda.