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Concession Stand

By Dr Debra Batholomew

In a way, sometimes, I do wish I could purchase my child’s concessions from a stand much like the one at the movies or amusement park, a smorgasbord, as it were, of support that as his parent, I know that he would not only benefit from but that would facilitate the sitting of his exams. The journey towards concession for a parent of any child with disabilities, however, means months of amusement park rides before one can access any ‘goodies’, leaving one emotionally, physically and financially spent. But what is certainly more challenging, is to have done everything right, only to find the stand, empty.

Such was the case when I happened to take my older son, who is on the autistic spectrum, to his second CAPE exam. He’d been granted extra time as many autistics struggle with fine motor coordination and strength and may find that a written exam, much like the three-hour, three-essay one he was about to undertake, a serious challenge. In fact, it was the thought of this that rattled him, and I was glad that my silent prayer to cancel my meeting that morning was answered, such that I could be present to support him.

I stood and watched as all the young men went off to their various exam rooms, my son included. I’d reminded many of them of how amazing they were, sitting these exams during such an unprecedented time. Among us, standing below, his teachers and myself, there was a sense of genuine pride and admiration for these youths. The atmosphere was short-lived however, as it was revealed that one of the young men, visually impaired, did not receive his concession of enlarged print, which would facilitate his writing of the exam.

Concessions for children with disabilities are based on their disability and challenges and help to provide equity with regard to writing exams. Besides levelling the playing field, they also lessen the anxiety and stress many of these children feel. And yet this young man, who’d worked so hard to even be at this movie, was forced to walk away from the concession stand empty-handed.

It was easy to throw up our hands and walk away. Easy to say to him, that he’d have to go hungry this time and hope things would get better. Instead, we all stepped in, to create a new ‘snack’ that he didn’t have before!!! He’d have readers which provided some magnification and, in the future, for the duration of his exams, a page magnifier to facilitate his reading of print. And just like that, the concession stand was open for business again!!!And you should’ve seen how broad those shoulders became.

Many thanks to Ibraheem Mohammed at CVRS and Trinidad Eye Hospital for his expert support and guidance.