KATIE PRICE makes an unlikely nurse. Her inch-long fake nails prise open a packet of tablets from the mountain of medication her son Harvey must take every day.
Bluntly, she tells viewers of her new BBC documentary: “Half are to keep him alive. Half are to control his behaviour.”
When 28st Harvey kicks off about the pills, Katie gently coaxes him into swallowing them, like a young mum persuading a toddler to eat their greens.
This is the heart of Harvey And Me, which follows the pair as Harvey turns 18 and airs on Monday night.
It shows the relentlessness of caring for a young person with physical needs, learning disabilities and challenging behaviour.
But it also captures the shatterproof bond between a mother and son who will always mentally be a child.
Harvey chooses to celebrate his 18th birthday, with just his mother, in an empty railway station waiting for trains they won’t catch.
“I love you, Harve,” says Katie. “I love you too, Mum,” says Harvey.
In normal times other 18-year-olds would be downing tequila in the pub.
My daughter Elvi is in Harvey’s class at school. She too has complex needs.
Like the Prices, we are stepping from the familiarity of children’s hospitals such as Great Ormond Street and a comfortable special needs (SEND) school into the scary world of adult healthcare and residential college.
It is a huge transition that terrifies many parents of young disabled people.
Katie sums it up well. She says: “It’s not about me and Harvey, it’s about Harvey. He deserves to have an independent life.
“He can’t always have Mummy there.”
It is our worst fear: Who will look after our sons and daughters when we’re not there any more?
Katie initially seems surprised her son will be leaving school in September.
But when the penny drops, Pricey swings into action, researching options.
They aren’t great. A list of colleges is red-penned because they are too far away or don’t take teenagers with Harvey’s considerable needs.
He has the sight condition septo-optic dysplasia, autism and Prader-Willi syndrome, which means he can’t regulate his weight.
Provision for disabled young adults is scarce because of their complex needs.
Good colleges can be harder to get into than Oxford University for mainstream teens.
If a place is offered parents can face a battle to secure funding from their local authority.
The programme doesn’t show the endless bureaucracy that surrounds our children or the barriers erected by a care system that is supposed to help them.
Nor does it discuss the devastating impact of the pandemic.
The death rate from Covid on people with a learning disability is six times greater than the general population.
A Disabled Children’s Partnership survey found only four per cent of children were receiving the support to which they were entitled.
It does cover the scandal of ATUs (assessment and training units) where young people with autism are locked up for years.
Katie meets the mother of a young man who was sectioned after becoming anxious in a college that didn’t suit him.
Fighting back tears, she says: “You lose all your rights as a parent, they lose their human rights. He was forcibly injected, restrained, secluded.”
This puts the fear of God into Pricey. She takes Harvey to look at colleges.
One welcomes them warmly but Harvey worries a door is about to bang and his autism is triggered.
He starts smashing the back of his head violently against the door. The tour ends abruptly.
Harvey is happier visiting a college in Gloucestershire, and that is where his mum now wants to send him.
Despite Katie’s fame, sporadic riches and eventful life story, parents of disabled kids love her because she is honest about living with Harvey.
Few people understand or, frankly, care what our lives are like and she shines a megawatt spotlight on the issues.
Like Pricey, we have to be nurses, therapists, life coaches, doctors, teachers and best friends to our children when we just want to be parents to all our kids.
Harvey’s half-sister Bunny is wise beyond her six years.
She explains: “Harvey’s nice but sometimes he kicks. He smashes things on the wall.”
She points to two huge holes where her brother’s fists have hammered through plaster in the family kitchen.
We see the two of them, one tiny, one enormous, watching Peppa Pig together.
One day Bunny will grow out of the kids’ show, Harvey won’t.
The impression you are left with from Harvey And Me is of a loving mum trying her best, largely by herself.
None of the men in her life take part in the documentary — clearly not Harvey’s pathetically negligent father Dwight Yorke.
I am lucky my daughter has a great dad, stepdad and stepmother, we are a team.
I have SEND school-mum friends who have brought me back from the brink through the darkest days of lockdown. We laugh and cry together.
Katie doesn’t seem to have a strong support network.
My fingers are crossed for funny, complicated, polite and potty-mouthed Harvey. He will thrive in the right college.
You get the feeling that, after 18 years, Katie might just need that space too, and no one who has not lived this life should ever judge her for that.
- Katie Price: Harvey And Me airs on BBC1 at 8.30pm on Monday.
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