It’s wet

It’s definitely wet today. Pouring down and very cold. All rather depressing so let’s take the time to look at a bit of nature’s colour.

Do you ever have those conversations. Those conversations where the words seem to head in one direction but actual the conversation clearly ends up in a totally different place. Ever so frustrating.

I’ve spoken to school about Hawklads enforced school at home project. I thought I had explained to school that although it’s kind of working it was far from ideal. In particular

  • He is getting absolutely zero feedback. He is submitting work but getting nothing back. The other kids are clearly getting marks and comments back. That’s clear from some of the teacher comments on the set work tasks. But those comments are always aimed at other pupils. If he doesn’t get feedback then what is the point.
  • Have the teachers forgotten that he is dyslexic. Comments like ‘if I don’t get round to sending you tasks for the lesson then just read a book on the subject’ don’t really help….
  • Have the teachers forgotten that he has difficulty in hand drawing. He struggles with fine motor skills. I can’t believe the number of times the set task is to hand draw something – unbelievably that is currently not Art.
  • Some of the subject teachers are still completely forgetting about Hawklad. No subject material at all has been made available.

Anyway the school seemed very supportive, so surely job done. Clearly not as the school responded with an email basically saying that they were happy that things where going so well. They will keep going with the current approach and they hoped that we would keep in touch…..

Sounds like it’s time for me to most definitely stay in touch with them right now.

Bit of orange

It’s been a good year for roses here but so not for other flowers. But occasionally the colour shines out. Just as summer is closing we get a couple of late visitors. They are must welcome.

Hawklad is due another home counselling visit this week. Every two weeks is the plan. Part of a long term care strategy to see if they can help him with his anxieties and fears. An attempt to help him feel sufficiently ok to venture back into the wider world. He needs that professional support. Some things are just a bit outside of my parenting skill set.

Even with that help it’s going to be a long process. We need a fair and supportive wind to help the process along.

Like in many parts of the world pandemic numbers are rising. Unlike some parts of the world, the UK is trying to navigate these stormy waters with no effective government. They have a natural talent to make things worse, to add oil onto the fire. So it’s all a tab chaotic and shambolic. The PM sticking to his whack a mole strategy. His words not mine.

I was contacted by Hawklads care team to let me know that they will have to keep assessing if the service will be able to continue in the short term. They are receiving contradictory instructions from the top. It is likely that the home visits will have stop at some point. Probably very shortly. When they do stop then they will look into things like video appointments. Better than nothing I guess but far from ideal. Hawklad really struggles with that type of thing. The worry is that if the visits are forced to stop then they will not probably restart until after winter.

It’s just one of those things. Outside my control. Outside the care providers control. We just have to make the best of it. But it does add to the feeling that a return to school is a very long way off, if at all. It kind of feels like that our castle drawbridge is being raised again. Time to start manning the battlements. That’s a bleak thought. AND that’s why seeing a couple of small orange flowers in the garden is such a big thing for me.

Odd sandwiches

The one thing that you get used to as an Aspergers parent is routine. Lots of routine. That’s tough for parents like me as I am not really a routine person. I’m a bit more impromptu. Bit more going with the flow, see what happens person. Maybe some would call it winging it. Which is most odd. On most of the old Aspergers tests I would score very highly yet on one I was way down. Routine.

On this Hawklad is completely different to me. He needs his routine, his order, his plans. He needs to have that safety net and he needs to follow them. It’s reflected in so many things. If we are driving somewhere then we need to follow the usual route, even if that means a much longer journey. He likes to wear the same types of clothing – if he grows out of them then we need to replace with almost exact copies. He has a TV and movie schedule which he sets way in advance. We will often watch the same movie over and over again. School lessons have to follow the timetable without variation. We need to buy the same types of pens and pencils. He likes to go out in the garden and talk at the same times. He doesn’t like me to do things like change my hairstyle or try new clothes. It’s funny I’ve been wanting to shave my hair off for years but that’s just not allowed.

Break the routine and he is immediately hit with waves of self doubt and fear. Over the years we have tried to work on this. Slowly trying to introduce change. Occasionally trying to introduce unplanned but definitely fun routine changes. But it’s never really worked. Routine is just a key part of who Hawklad is.

Another area of much needed repetition is food. He has the same seven day food menu. The same foods on the same days, year after year. Trying new foods is just not something he does really. Normally ends in failure.

Dad what on Earth is that.”

It’s a sandwich.

Yes I can see the bread but it’s what is between that which is the worry.”

That will be cheese and onion crisps. It’s going to be one of the great gourmet experiences. A crisp butty. A crisp sandwich.

Really. That is just wrong on so many levels.”

It’s fantastic. Go on try it. It’s a family tradition. Your Little Nan would always be treating herself with one. But her crisp butty would be made with Ready Salted crisps.

Just No Dad.”

Ok. But if it’s not a crisp butty then what about a chip butty. A sandwich made from fried chips (fries) with heaps of tomato ketchup. Another true taste sensation.

Erm NO. You can keep that as well.”

Ok Hawklad what about a fish finger sandwich. Fantastic.

Not happening. That’s a tradition which is not passing down the gene line anymore. It ends with you.”

Another week.

So that’s the first week of the next instalment of our school at home project. The first was when the whole school was doing online education. This time most of the school is back but our son is still trying to home school via online education.

So how has it gone?

I think the best word to use is Patchy. Actually two words – Very Patchy.

A few teachers are making sure that Hawklad is keeping up. They try to share as many class notes as possible. Provide structured work and will mark it. Then you get some teachers who send a few summary notes, not much but at least it gives us a feel for what our son should be looking at. Then some teachers are just dumping the whole terms class assignments across (without instructions). So for one subject that was a single 70 page document filled with questions. No idea how much and when the work is submitted. No idea the format. Poor Hawklad is convinced that he needs to complete all the booklet right now. So much stress for him. Then you get some subjects where we get absolutely nothing. And I mean nothing. In terms of pastoral care again it is nothing.

So definitely very patchy. Speaking to school I suspect that will be the case going forward. Fingers crossed that those teachers trying to support Hawklad will continue to do so. It’s good to have a few subjects where Hawklad feels like he is on top of things. Keeping up with his classmates.

At present we are working on getting through to the end of October and have another think about things. It’s a milestone to work to but it is highly likely that it won’t represent the end of the project. Hawklad is just starting on a very long road of help and counselling. Any progress is likely to be hard fought and slow. The School at a Home project will be a long one, well past the next 7 weeks.

Much patience is required and never losing sight that his wellbeing always comes first. Schooling comes behind that.

Another sign

Another sign. Another sign that autumn is fast approaching.

Signs are always useful. Like signs from school. Signs telling us what on Earth are we supposed to be doing.

School did say that the individual subject teachers would be hopefully in touch to let Hawklad know what he is supposed to be doing while he is doing the enforced ‘school at home’ project. Teachers are really busy. We are not expecting one to one help or lots of telephone calls. But I was hoping for maybe just one email for each subject just summarising the work requirement for the lesson or the week. Maybe another email to check if he is doing ok.

So far only one teacher has emailed once setting out what is expected of Hawklad for that subject. Luckily one of the new Teaching Assistants is really trying to help as well. She is attempting to contact the teachers and remind them about Hawklad. She has sometimes obtained some more information that she has passed onto us. But she is struggling as well. Plus she has her existing class responsibilities which she can’t just drop.

So in a nutshell we are really none the wiser about what is going on in most of the classes. We don’t even know what topics are being looked at. So the school day consists maybe of one 90 minute block when Hawklad can do a reasonably full lesson. The rest of the day is filled with looking at blank screens and empty school email boxes. All we can do is wait and randomly pick some educational videos to watch. It’s all so very frustrating.

So definite signs of Autumn arriving, signs of meaningful school help would be most welcome.

Morning has broken

The scene after I had just finished my early morning exercise session. I might be tired but it’s so nice exercising outside, in the sun, and yes when it’s almost warm. Not so much fun in a few months time when it’s freezing, dark and chucking it down with rain.

Well finally school has broken into some action.

  • A confirmed timetable
  • A list of teachers
  • Some class materials starting to appear on the system
  • Some work assigned
  • A method of submitting work kind of established.

Took some negotiating but at least we have a start. Something to work with.

Ok Dad it’s your favourite subject, ART. What do you know about Japanese Art? And don’t mention Manga…”

Errrmmmmmmm. Let me think for a few minutes. Manga!

Useless Dad. Ok apart from Manga what do you know about Japanese Art?

Errrmmmmmmm. Godzilla.

That’s not much help. Apart from Magna and Godzilla, what do you know about Japanese Art?”

Errrmmmmmmm. Mothra and Ghidorah

Still not much help DAD. So apart from Godzilla monsters do you know anything about Japanese Art?”

What about Rodan.

Dad no more Godzilla monsters. Your basically going to be not much help as usual.”

Yes Hawklad, sadly no help at all unless Art becomes a Godzilla Fight Scene.

Useless. Mum would have been a great help. She was great with Art and Culture. I’m stuck with comic boy…”

Yes but your mum would be no use when King Ghidorah attacked. It’s all about priorities. And your mum liked comics. I once bought her the complete TinTin comic compendium.”

Don’t you think mum would have preferred some flowers.”

Probably……

But in my defence the previous Christmas your mum had bought me a ‘Dance Hits of the 80s’ cd. She knew a metal head like me would really appreciate that type of music. So you don’t always get what you want.

Bit like me and wanting a parent who might know just a little bit about Japanese Art…”

Cobwebs

Sorry this post is a day late. Think MONDAY….

Someone has been very busy. Boris is happily sat admiring all the hard work. Poor Boris the spider. Having a name which is now associated with our so called leader. Boris is a part timer, a serial liar, heartless, out of his depth, out of step with the world, a relic of a bygone era, addicted to his privileged lifestyle, not interested in the future of the species, has been repeatedly sacked, likes to hear his own voice and is basically a reptile at heart. Qualities not found thankfully in our little garden Boris.

So the start of the next phase of the school at home project got off to a predictable start. Looking at a blank screen. Waiting for something from school to allow Hawklad to try and do some work. Two hours of a blank screen. As we don’t even know what subjects are being taught today, there is nothing we can do. So all we can do is – I will send another email into school and Hawklad can play on Minecraft. You never know that game maybe part of the curriculum.

Cobwebs is an apt description for today. The first school day. An early start for Hawklad and even earlier start for me. Back to the delights of early morning workouts. Those early mornings when I just can’t seem to shake those cobwebs from my brain. It’s times like this that I really miss caffeine.

A few times this morning I found myself just repeating the same exercise. Over and over again for several minutes. The brain stuck in a tired loop or maybe it had just switched off and I was in autopilot mode.

Stuck in autopilot mode is probably a good description of the school system. Repeatedly doing the same thing over and over again, no variation, almost forgetting what you are trying to achieve. At least our garden Boris doesn’t do that. He is definitely a most able teacher about life.

The third sequel

The third sequel already. The Trilogy done in one day. Eat your heart out Peter Jackson.

So this is the third instalment in the ‘what has changed over the 6 months of pandemic isolation’ saga. This time it’s what has changed for me. I guess this one is called The Return of the Kermit the Frog King. So what has changed then for me.

  • With Hawklads increasingly pronounced Social and Health related anxieties the last six months have seen a ramping up of the parenting pressures. Fewer breaks, more challenges and yes less support. In the UK small amount of support that has survived the Conservative Funding Cutbacks largely stops when kids hit the teenage years.
  • Have become a home educator. A school facilitator. A Classroom Supplies specialist. Much smirking…. After 6 months I’m still winging it.
  • I’m sleeping less. Much less. Just can’t seem to reset the insomnia cycle.
  • Certainly more isolated in terms of actually meeting people outside our little bubble. In 6 months I’ve seen family members twice, one work colleague (and good friend) maybe three times, neighbours a handful of times, the local shop workers maybe a couple of times a month, the dentist once, one visit from the boilerman, a few health workers and doctors. That’s about it. Oh actually forgot one person. The Postman, the only person I see regularly. I count his fairly frequent waves as my most regular physical contact. Luckily I have lovely online friends.
  • With not meeting too many people I’ve started noticing human life more. I notice dog walkers in the fields, cyclists, passing cars, voices from the street, even planes in the sky. A reminder that a bigger world still exists out there.
  • My conversation skills have never come easy to me. I have to work on and practice them. That’s just not happened for months. Even on most phone calls I can feel myself becoming increasingly wooden.
  • My largely unseen dress sense is becoming increasingly avant-garde.
  • I have lost 6lbs but you wouldn’t notice it. Having to resort to consuming far too much Soya (Soy) which isn’t great for my tummy. No I’m not pregnant.
  • I’ve stopped running and walking and road cycling. Must admit it’s not doing my old contact sport injuries any good. Bits are starting to seize up. So I’m trying to find my inner Yoga. Or as I call it Controlled Falling Over.
  • Work has dried up. This was supposed to be a really busy year. Lots of new jobs and major events. In practice that all was cancelled. Remains cancelled. Some plans have been put in place but really I’m not going to get much work until 2021.
  • I’m more able to fill my day without leaving our little household world. No need to visit shops daily, coffee shops, cinema, visit family or friends. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but it comes easier to me now.
  • I do tend to overthink things now. Can have days when I do sober too much time internalising stuff. With me that’s not necessarily a good thing. It’s such a short stroll to self doubt and negativity.

Yes things have changed for me. They will continue to change as our personal lockdown is not going to end anytime soon. Potentially months more, maybe much longer. With us being an Aspergers Family that was kind of in place before the pandemic. Maybe many of these changes were already happening before the March lockdown. They have just become more pronounced. Maybe these are longer term changes. Maybe it’s much more than a three episode trilogy. Maybe it’s a permanent feature.

Where did that go – The Sequel

The quickest sequel ever. Only a few hours ago I wrote about where did the summer holidays go! Where did the first 6 months of lockdown go. It’s ending for many but not for some. Not for us. That got me thinking, which is dangerous🤪🧐

What has changed for Hawklad and me over those 6 months.

So for Hawklad the following have been the big changes…

  • His fears about health and illness have gone through the roof. Just exploded. He is wracked with anxieties and the need to wash is never more than a few minutes away.
  • His social anxieties have become more prominent. He is more inward looking, and less likely to interact with others. As a result he had become more isolated.
  • He is more aware of the world.
  • He is more aware of Aspergers.
  • He is more aware of the incompatibilities between the outdated world and those who are on the spectrum.
  • His reading has really come on. In his words – ‘more of a part time dyslexic now’. The irony that happened without direct school teaching.
  • His available world has shrunk. The days of school, trips to the beach, a hill walk, an outing to a historic site, a visit to a friends house – they all seem a distant memory. Most days he can’t even get to his own front gate.
  • He has shot up. Now taller than his Dad.
  • He has become thinner. Need to watch that.
  • He became a teenager. Almost instantaneously he suddenly found movies like Dumb and Dumber, Bill and Ted and anything by Will Farrell hysterical.
  • He has a truly shocking hairstyle. Dad is great at doing them and he has so much hair to mess up.
  • He can now talk about his mum without so much sadness. Much more about being proud of her.
  • He sleeps much less now.
  • He is becoming more clingy. Needing more reassurance that I’m in the house somewhere.
  • Many of his personal traits, those that are often identified as being Aspergers, have become more pronounced. More marked.

So many things have changed for our son. Changes in circumstances, physical changes, changes in personality. Some of these changes could be down to the lockdown but it could also be a natural development. It’s a difficult time for him, to be a teenager. But add in Aspergers and it can be such a disorientating period. Trying to find a fit between the complex world and the need to find personal identity. Finding that sadly Aspergers is still not widely seen as being socially acceptable. What to do? Try to confirm or be himself. All this at a time when he may become more inwardly looking and less likely to talk to about his emotions. Potentially troubling times ahead. Maybe that’s the next theme for our journey. We shall see.

Soon I will try to do a similar list for me. What’s changed for this Kermit the Frog.

Where did that go

Where did that go? Where did the summer holidays go. For so many families, where did that lockdown go? That’s 7 weeks of summer and exactly 6 months of lockdown.

We leave the summer holidays like we found them. Grey.

Many leave the lockdown as we found it. Well actually that’s sadly not strictly true here in the UK. The daily rise in pandemic and the rate of spread (R number) is actually higher now than when it forced us all into lockdown. I guess the confusion is the same. Some times it’s safe to meet in groups then at other times it’s considered most unsafe. Sometimes masks are required, sometimes they are not. Get tested but please don’t get tested. It’s safe to meet work colleagues but most unsafe to meet friends and family. There are those in high risk groups but you don’t need to worry about that. You must observe 2m social distancing but it’s ok if you don’t especially in pubs and at Horse Racing events. Don’t worry about the details it will be fine.

But for some families and households, the lockdown is most certainly not over. The Government seems to be demonising those in that position. We are being unpatriotic. Not doing our civic duty. Letting others down. As a result support is being pulled, threats made, blamed for the problems of the country and fines starting to be issued. I can assure the so called Government that it’s not out of choice. We are dealing with the reality of life. And that life is messy, complicated, unpredictable and frustrating. We have to deal with the details.

That part of life has not changed during the summer holidays and lockdown.