Recently, Paris class had the privilege of meeting Paddy and his mum Gemma, who have been visiting St James’, spending time with each class and delivering a workshop called ‘Paddy’s Purpose’. During this workshop, Gemma honestly revealed what it is like to be Paddy’s parent and what life is like in Paddy’s world too. Interestingly, the children were told what happened to Paddy when he was very young, giving them his background story and enabling them to understand why Paddy behaves differently to them. Gemma then went on to explain how Paddy goes about his day to day life in much the same way as the children in our class, just slightly differently. We were shown how Paddy is moved around, how he eats, how he sees the world and how he feels at different times in the day.
Amazingly, the children were then given an opportunity to imagine what it is like to be Paddy. In a round robin of activities, the children were able to experience what it is like to sit in a wheelchair and to move it themselves. They also were able to use Paddy’s hoist, working out how to carefully and safely lift a teddy bear up and down. At another station, Paris class were able to try some of the foods which Paddy is able to eat but the catch was… You cannot move your mouth at all! The children were amazed to find out how long it took to swallow one skip or chocolate button! At the following activity, the children were able to play with Paddy, exploring his toys and encouraging him to play with the toys himself. At another station, the children were given pictures of Paddy, emojis and thought bubbles which they had to match, enabling them to explore Paddy’s thoughts and feelings. Finally, the children were presented with a range of visual impairment goggles for different sight difficulties. They were encouraged to try each pair on and try and complete a simple task whilst wearing them such as, coloring, fastening buttons or completing a puzzle.
To finish the session, Gemma left the children with the powerful message that Paddy is not ‘disabled’ he is ‘differently able’. The children were presented with pictures of Paddy and his friends enjoying many of the activities which they do, just in a slightly different way. When asked if the children enjoyed their workshop, all 30 hands went up. When asked if they had learned something new, all 30 hands went up. When asked if their thinking had changed today, all 30 hands went up again! What an amazing experience for the children which has without a doubt given them food for thought and a different perspective on ‘disability’. And to top it all off, we’ve all made a new friend! Thank you so much, Paddy, and Gemma, for giving us your time to help us understand more about the world, other people and ourselves.