Katie Price: Harvey and Me: Katie Price Says Raising A Disabled Child Feels Like You're 'Always Being Judged'
Whatever your thoughts on Katie Price, one thing that can't be disputed is the respect she deserves for raising her disabled son, Harvey, single-handedly for most of his life.
It was clear early on that Harvey was different from other babies. Months after he was born in 2002, he was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder known as septo-optic dysplasia, which brought with it partial blindness, autism; Prader-Willi syndrome (causing constant hunger and weight gain) and learning and behavioural difficulties.
"It's been such a long journey for me and Harvey," Katie tells Tyla ahead of a new documentary about the challenges she has faced raising her eldest son. "I wasn't instantly told [that he was disabled], it was one thing, then another, then another.
"You kind of get used to it - its like a journey - and now he's 18, we understand what's wrong with him and we know how to treat it."
Katie says the one thing that got her through Harvey's early years was remaining "optimistic". She was told initially that Harvey would never be able to see, and that he'd struggle to integrate into the world around him, but again and again he's managed to defy the odds.
Now, Harvey is a bubbly and eccentric teenage boy, with a love for art, trains and - most importantly - frogs. "He's a gentle giant," she says, but people rarely talk about that side of him.
Instead, the Price family has been inundated with cruel tabloid stories about him, and trolls poking fun at clips of him swearing on daytime TV.
"When your child is like that, you feel like you're being judged, and you feel like you have to explain things," she says.
"Like, 'Oh, they're not like that really.' It's difficult".
Katie adds that it's hard for anybody to understand what it's like raising a disabled child until they're doing it themselves.
While she is fiercely protective of her son - even successfully campaigning for Harvey's Law when he was being trolled, which will soon make online abuse legally publishable - she explains that she thinks his high profile is also an important tool in the fight to end stigma around disabilities.
"I get a lot of criticism, like, 'Why do you put Harvey in the limelight?' I'm like, 'Why shouldn't I?,' she says.
"I wanna make parents proud, and not scared to go to a shop, or scared of people looking and poking fun."
It's for this reason that Katie has decided to give people a rare insight into her life raising Harvey, in a one-off BBC documentary entitled Katie Price: Harvey and Me.
The show will highlight the ups and downs of raising a child with severe disabilities, and the steps that come next when they cross over into adulthood - from moving hospitals and leaving behind healthcare professionals they know and trust, to finding a residential college, where he can stay and be independent whenever he chooses.
The mum-of-five explains: "Now he is 18, I have to start making vital decisions that will impact Harvey's future that are different for most other parents.
"Harvey isn't about to go to uni, travel the world on a gap year, or take his driving test. Harvey's never even had a beer!
"Harvey is now an adult, and this is the most important time of his life, making the vital decisions, safeguarding his future and ensuring he has the tools for life that will give him the equal rights to live his life to the fullest."
On her journey, Katie is honest about the fact that, if she had a choice, her son would stay with her forever. But she concedes that things reached "crisis point" as Harvey grew older, and started "kicking off" and punching holes in the walls when he didn't want to leave her.
These outbursts meant Harvey was regularly missing school, she explains, which is why she opted to send him to a residential school in 2019, for five days of the week, FaceTiming and visiting him in the evenings instead of bringing him home every night.
Now he's 18, the next step is a residential college, where Harvey will stay until he is 25 - but the issue for Katie is that there aren't any facilities appropriate for his needs near where she lives.
"I still hate the fact the collages he's going to are a few hours away, and I can't get my head around that yet," she says. "[But] I'm just being selfish for me. I've got to do it for Harvey".
To help her accept this decision, the documentary will show an initially reserved Katie visiting various facilities with Harvey, to learn what they can do for him.
She also meets other mothers who have sons with disabilities, and learns of some of the struggles they've faced as their children have got older.
One story that shocked her was that of of Matthew Garnett, who has the same doctor as Harvey, and was sectioned aged just 15 under the Mental Health Act after attacking his father - a move his mother claims stemmed from a lack of understanding about his condition.
In Matthew's case, his family had to launch a nationwide campaign to get him out of a psychiatric ward, where he had been held for six months, after his ability to do basic things like wash and dress himself deteriorated, and he even started ripping his own hair out due to anxiety.
"It's so distressing and disgusting, some of the stories," she says. "There's so much to say when it comes to sectioning. It affects the family. It affects the person that it's happening to...
"What some of these people have gone through... I would not like to be in their situation.
"I couldn't imagine Harvey being sectioned and put in a room with no stimulation and no one who understands. In a room, crying...and they'd probably be sedating him because he's kicking off, when really he's just trying to say he wants his mum."
In the documentary, she seems to concede Matthew's case, and others like it, had impacted her decision to send Harvey to a residential college, accepting that a similar fate would be truly a "terrifying" experience for him to go through.
"I won't let that happen to Harv," she defiantly adds.
As well as the access to trained experts 24/7, who understood Harvey's condition, other factors include Harvey's health - doctors say he needs to lose weight urgently to survive as an adult, and a live-in school with all the right facilities offers the best chance of this.
Plus, Katie wants her son to develop as an adult and find a voice without relying on her.
"Its more about him being independent, being an adult and having that social life," she says.
While Katie has not yet heard whether Harvey has got a place at Ullenwood's National Star - his favourite facility - she is hopeful that wherever he goes he will have an opportunity to develop and thrive, despite his disabilities.
"Harvey is so innocent, but it's what you see is what you get, and he deserves a chance like everyone else," she says.
"I hope he becomes an ambassador for disabilities, and hopefully I can encourage people, and try and educate them on things that I've learned".
Katie Price: Harvey and Me, airs on BBC One on Monday 25 January.
Featured Image Credit: BBC/ Instagram/ Katie Price
Topics: TV News
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