The forecast

The weather forecast is saying it’s clear blue sky and no rain today.

The clouds and the showers would beg to differ.

Another inaccurate weather forecast. It’s clearly the forecasters fault that it’s raining …. It always is. I remember going to a Test Match (Cricket) between England and India. It had been a good weather forecast. But it was chucking it down and play was suspended. With perfect timing the main TV weatherman came onto the pitch to do a weather forecast. I’ve never heard anyone get so many boo’s. It was his fault that it was raining.

To be honest we get many incorrect predictions. Leaders saying a pandemic will just go away. Those pension salespeople saying that you will be able to retire at 50. Being told that Betamax and V2000 would be the best video recording formats. No one would be daft enough to vote for Trump or Boris. My Dad saying Status Quo wouldn’t last as they can’t sing or play. Brexit was easy and could be sorted in days. The Sinclair C5 was the vehicle of the future…..

Basically life is to unpredictable. You just never know what will happen. What’s round the corner.

I know this all too well. One day your talking about the next family trip to Switzerland. Discussing trying for a second child or adopting. Then 3 weeks later I’m leaving the crematorium with my partners ashes. A broken single parent. That wasn’t in the forecast or the plans.

We often learn this lesson far too late. I did. Don’t assume there will be a tomorrow. Remember to hug those you love today. Start ticking off those bucket list items, right now. If something special to you is broken, then try and fix it today. Today, speak to those you care for. Make sure you live today.

Lecture over…. And yes it’s still raining here. I blame it on the weather forecaster.

Moon

A few nights back we had the most glorious full moon. Appearing to be much larger than normal but what took the breath away was the colour. For about 20 minutes it was a free cosmic air show. Almost like a second sun. My poor mobile struggled to capture it but I did my best.

While talking through the show our Son misspoke a common phrase. It’s always a dilemma whether to correct him or not. We’ve had conflicting advice from a number of professionals on the best way to handle communication skills and Aspergers. The approach I’ve taken (certainly not saying it’s the best) is to quietly point it out then immediately reinforce that everyone does these things AND his Dad is as bad as anyone. This is so important with our Son because the slightest thing can effect his confidence. After I pointed this one out he immediately stumbled over his next few words. So the Silly Dad stories got trotted out.

The time I was supposed to say Area and said ARSE.

The time I was delivering a team talk and my stammer crashed back into operation over the word Operational. After seconds of not being able to say Operational I did my normal trick of replacing the word with something easier to pronounce. Unfortunately this time the brain decided to replace it with OCTOPUS.

As a kid I was playing cricket and I got struck in the balls with the very hard ball. Absolute agony. To make things worse I was given detention for saying my balls really hurt, maybe I should count them’. Apparently this was inappropriate language. So later I asked the sports teacher what was an acceptable phrase. He kindly told me that the ‘nether regionswas the phrase I should use. Unfortunately I misheard him and for years I called them ‘my Netherlands‘.

Thankfully this made Son laugh and his little bit of mispronunciation was forgotten. Then it was back to the Moon show.

Challenge The Storm

We survived the storm…… The wind and rain finally eased late last night. The electricity was fully restored late afternoon. But has gone off a few times since. One outside light has been snapped off. Our old wind gauge was destroyed. A few items have gone missing. I guess currently being blown around the Jet Stream. We were very lucky in the end. A number of villages are still under water. Houses are still without power. That’s so tough. Many of the places flooded have only just recovered from the last flooding a few months ago.

Today was still windy, damp and cold. Although we did get a couple of hours of blue skies. The run was restricted to roads and lanes. The fields and tracks are either submerged or mud baths. Even sticking to the roads didn’t save the socks and shoes from getting drenched. Now the skies have darkened. The winds picking up again and it’s periodically chucking it down.

After a quick shower and change it was back to a couple of hours more work. Foolishly I left the radio on. Some folk really get up my nose these days. First was the person who was annoyed that people kept going on about a storm. “Well it was just a bit windy. I was fine. Wish people would stop calling it a storm.” Tell that to the people of Hebden Bridge who where 3 foot underwater.

Then we had the commentator talking about a certain world leader. ‘Look at his baffling and often obnoxious behaviour. Clearly he is very clever. You don’t get a bank account like his without being intelligent. Yet he is without any empathy, does not have a sense of humour and has no social awareness. To me the reason is clear, he has Aspergers. It’s the only explanation.’

F##@##g unbelievable.

I’ve noticed a real worrying trend recently. A growing number of self proclaimed experts who are making spurious associations with Aspergers. Every rouge action, every piece of evil behaviour, every unpleasant and mean individual is blamed on Aspergers.

F##@##g unbelievable.

This discriminatory rubbish is too often based on no evidence. It takes its basis from the narrow minded unfounded views of biased media groups, lazy stereotyping in movies and skewed urban myths. The worry is how many actually buy into this dross. Too many. Let’s not forget that only a couple of months ago Greta Thunberg was attacked by the right wing press for looking, acting and sounding demonic. It just shows how far we have to travel as a society. How hard society makes life for people on the spectrum.

That’s why we have to keep fighting. Why we have to keep telling our real life stories. Some storms you are best just battening down the hatches. But some man made storms need to be met head on and challenged. We owe it to so many.

Onomatopoeia

That jolly yellow thing in the sky is still here. Any longer and it might qualify for the Yorkshire Cricket Team. I understand it’s called The Sun. A simple name yet so confusing for kids like our Son. Is it a Sun or is it a Son.

So on to this weeks spelling test. Ok campers your simple words this week are

Alliteration, Onomatopoeia, Simile, Metaphor, Slang, Rhetorically, Personification, Emotive, Language, Imagery, Verb, Adjective, Adverb.

See I predicted it was only a matter of time before the poor kids had to try and spell complex dinosaur names. The Onomatopoeia was always my favourite flying dinosaur…..

I think school probably thinks that the spellings are getting too easy so they have now added a twist. Previously the teacher would say the actual word to be spelt and the kids tried to write it down. This week the teacher won’t say the word. Instead she will read out a definition and the kids have to decide which word it describes – then spell it. Easy with Onomatopoeia as it will be the only dinosaur….. if only.

So the kids will have to work out which of the above words fits with what the teacher definitions are and then try to spell it. From definitions like these

This is a word that imitates or suggests the source of the sound that it describes

This is when something is said to be something else

A describing word. Sometimes there are three together to make it more effective

A word describing how something is done

This is the repetition of letter sound at the start of a word

What chance has a dyslexic kid got when he struggles to spell and as a result has never really understood the technicalities of the English Language. But what do I know. A simple parent compared to the might and intellectual magnificence of the current government education regime. As our PM’s Dad publicly stated when he stood in for his Son in an interview.

Spelling “Pinocchio? That requires a degree of literacy, which I think the great British public doesn’t necessarily have.”

Its hard being a PM so he only handpicks a few interviews these days. Better to send his Dad. But the message is clear. The great unwashed didn’t go to Eton and Oxford. They are basically illiterate. They need to be force fed things like spelling.

I am one of the great unwashed. An illiterate who went to a poor sinkhole Comprehensive School and only to the clearly unworthy Warwick University. Maybe we are illiterate for a reason. The dreadful state of our crumbling education system. An education system that lets down so many kids. Which discriminates against those who don’t fit the mould. Money allows you to buy a better education. The money which the PMs Dad easily forked out to send his Son to Eton. But in the real world the majority struggle on. Dealing with an education system which has been systematically screwed by those with a view of the world so like that of PM and his Dad.

I might not be able to spell Pinocchio but at least I know my pterodactyls from my Onomatopoeias.

So which view

Looks wonderful yet a couple of yours later stood 30 yards down the path and it’s looking not so hot. Two different views.

School argues that son is doing really well. His behaviour is excellent. He works really hard. His grades are good. Often best in the class. He has plenty of friends thanks to the actions of the teachers. Last year one teacher told us that in her subject he should really be in the top set. No additional help required. Yet when I ask why other kids are moved up but never our son the response is so different. Oh he’s low attainment, the bottom class is right for him. Other kids are better at reading. So which is the real view then.

One minor point. Just sitting son next to random kids doesn’t count as establishing real friends.

I had a chat with our sons doctor last week. We discussed how son was increasingly struggling with social interactions. How he tried to avoid them. His Doctor said that it was important that he wasn’t pushed into doing anything he wasn’t comfortable with. Make progress at his own speed and avoid being put in highly stressful situations. He also stressed that he had written to school asking for dyslexia support for son and also stressed that any support should not take place in the classroom (it needed to be undertaking in private). However. School are insisting that as part of English son has to regularly read out sections of text to the wider school audience. It will be good for his dyslexia and his personal confidence. They also argue that it will help him integrate. So which view is right.

I was reading a blog yesterday which talked about grief and Christmas. It talked about this time being the perfect for renewal and celebrating wonderful memories. It’s a wonderful time. Yet the next blog I looked at talked about the desolation of Christmas for the bereaved. How it was a time for trying to forget and just surviving. So which view is right.

An American Doctor was on the TV talking about Autism. He had been working on a cure. He was confident that in the coming years Autism would be completely treatable. A burden on society, parents and individuals would be removed. But many like our son have a different view. It is who he is. It’s his unique personality. He doesn’t want to be cured all he wants is society to be more understanding. So which view do you trust.

My partner was in coma for the last few days of her life. At her bedside I whispered to her that I would stay faithful to her for the rest of my life. Partners for life. It was the right thing to do. Now a few years down the line what happens if I meet someone else. Say yes or no. Two different views.

Some views can be questioned. Some views can be argued with. Some views can be agreed with. Sometimes there are no right or wrong views. Sometimes seemingly genuinely held views are seen by others as dangerous and downright wrong. I will let you make your own mind up. You probably can guess what I think on some of these. At least one of these I really can’t make my mind up on. Maybe I never will.

Need the full picture

Glorious weather for this morning’s run?

Looks can be deceiving. Looks good with a creative but of zooming. The actual full picture taken seconds after the first photo tells a different story.

Actually it was a cold, dark and damp run. Only seeing part of the picture can make such a difference.

One of the current on going battles with school relates to our sons dyslexia. What support does he need when answering written class questions or when he’s taking tests. At present he receives no help with reading questions or is given no additional time. The schools argues that because his marks are generally really good then he clearly doesn’t need help. Interestingly school seem to think his marks are too good to warrant help and yet he is classed as low attainment. The other reason school argues for not providing any help is that he doesn’t put his hand up and ask for it. Seriously which kid is going to put his hand up in a class of 30 plus pupils and announce that I can’t read this. It’s not going to happen. I don’t think I would put my hand up if I was in that position.

Let’s look at a few of questions our son has got wrong recently.

How many sides and angles does a parallelogram have?

The teacher was surprised he got this easy question wrong. Now let’s look at how our son reads the question. Remember with his dyslexia he can pick up no more than about half the words with the other words he fills in with educated guesses or leaves them blank. So the question he worked with was

How many sides and a……. does a p………………….. have? He correctly guessed the missing a was angle but the p was more of a problem. Is it parallelogram or Pentagon. He guessed Pentagon as he thought parallelogram would be too easy a question. He answered his maths correctly but got the actual question wrong. No marks. So let’s look at another maths question.

In a sale, the price of a notebook is decreased by ten per cent. What is the new price if the old price was one pound twenty pence?

Need my calculator for this one. Now let’s see the question our son read.

In a s…, the price of a n…………. is d…………. by ten per cent. What is the new price if the old price was one p…….. t………. p………? Suddenly this question goes beyond a calculator. He guessed the d was discounted which was ok but the price he used to work out the answer was one pound thirty pence. He used the right calculation method in his head but on the wrong amount. So he got no marks. His mathematics was perfect but he was penalised for his reading skills. Ok let’s look at a science question.

Tissue is a structure made of many cells performing a similar function and different tissues do different jobs. Which tissue carries the fluid containing nutrients, oxygen and waste products?

This question made me think. Now let’s try to answer the question our son could see

T……. is a s……….. made of many cells p………… a s………. function and different t……… do different jobs. Which t……. c……… the fluid c…………….. n……….., oxygen and w…….. products? To me that now becomes almost impossible to answer. He correctly guessed the T was tissue but was not sure as it could be tongue. He guessed the W was water. Unsurprisingly he didn’t answer this question just leaving it blank. Let’s look at one more question.

Refer only to Paragraphs 3 to 9. How is the author trying to build tension. What emotions are the two Detectives experiencing?

I will address the elephant in the room soon but our son read this question as

R….. only to P………………. 3 to 9. How is the author trying to build t………. . What e……… are the two D………………… e…………………….? Son eventually worked out roughly what the question was asking but it took him quite a bit of time. That’s limited exam time used up before he can even start thinking about answering the question. And the elephant in the room. That’s someone with dyslexia expected to read two pages of literature without help…..

This just does not feel like a level playing field. Not a fare chance. I know school argue that he’s doing ok in tests. But how good could he do with support or with straightforward adjustments. We just don’t know at the moment. Maybe this is his level. Maybe his level is higher. What’s the harm in giving him and kids like him a chance. That question is aimed at school and more importantly the Schools Minister. I wonder if they properly see the big picture.

Splendid

Running is such a release for me. It was such a shock when I was advised to stop due to injury. As I’m no spring chicken I feared that was it. But luckily a period of recuperation and a completely changed exercise regime has got me pounding the trails again. Some days you think WHY…..

Drenched, cold and running into a 20mph wind. Unfortunately I’m not what you would call aerodynamic. Today I felt like a tub of lard. An unfit Tub of lard would probably have gone quicker into that wind than me. At least nobody witnessed my struggles. These winter months it feels like I have the place to myself. Splendid isolation it might be but oh for the occasional running partner.

Splendid isolation is a phrase our son likes. I think he’s decided that he would love to have a circle of friends while getting as far away as possible from everyone else. I think most of us probably feel that way these days.

As a parent you desperately want your kids to be happy. Seeing the world through my eyes I often see happiness in terms of him spending time with a range of friends. Yet in reality this doesn’t happen. Over the last 16 months he’s been invited to one birthday party and probably had no more than 5 or 6 meet-ups (if that). The friends he made at his last school have slowly drifted into new friendship circles. The way his new school has put him in a class with none of his old friends has not helped. When I spoke to the school they argued that as he was basically low attainment they didn’t have any option open to them. Read low attainment as being dyslexic and being on the spectrum. And NO school – sitting a random kid next to him in a class does not count as a friend. Last year he did start to make a couple of friends in his class but both kids were moved up into a higher class in the summer. Out of school there are no kids his age in the village. Hardly any kids at all and certainly no communal play facilities for miles. But that’s through my eyes.

Through his eyes it’s Splendid Isolation. He will find the right people to be friends with in his own time and in his own way. Until then he’s more than happy with his Old Pop and doing things on his own. It’s important that we recognise that everyone is different. And difference is a good thing. To me being so isolated is a significant cause of anxiety – but not to our son. To me running is a brilliant releases – but to our son running is monumentally boring and should be restricted to no more than the occasional 5 yard burst. He does have a point.

You don’t look like

Another cold and beautiful morning. Doesn’t look like the expected wet and windy weather forecast.

Robyn on her brilliant blog was taking about someone who played Death Metal music during a gym session and yet looked so UnDeathMetally. I remember a few years back going into a HMV record store and trying to buy a Hardcore German Death Metal CD. The young guy at the counter looked at me then looked at the cd and said “this might be a bit heavy for you”. I managed to stop him before he directed me to either the Country Music or Dire Straits sections. Clearly I didn’t look like a head banger. I should have warn my Motörhead Tour T-shirt.

I remember another time at work when a particularly gruesome Salesman barged into the office and asked to speak to the Chief Accountant. When he was pointed in my direction he walked up to me and announced “you don’t look like a Chief Accountant” and laughed. In an unusually sharp response I came back with “you don’t look like a person with an appointment” and proceeded to ignore him until he sheepishly left.

But apart from these two moments ‘not looking like something’ has not been applied to me much in my life. Well apart from this year. It feels like it’s been open season on me. The following have all been said to my face over the last 12 months

You don’t look like a vegetarian

– You don’t look like someone with depression

– You don’t look like that photo on your driving license

– You don’t look like your passport photo

– You don’t look like a boxer … the physio said this as apparently I had a muscle injury normally associated with boxing

You don’t look like your best pleased

– You don’t look like a single dad … said to me by someone in the village

You don’t look like someone who plays Pokemon Go

– You don’t look like an XL … No but is it a crime to like wearing baggy tops for training

It’s not just me. It’s a team issue this year

Your Son doesn’t look like he has Autism …. said by a teacher

You don’t look like a boy with your hood up you have girls eyelashes … this was immediately preceded by the longest and hardest Paddington Bear Stare by our son.

Your dog doesn’t look like he’s partly Cocker Spaniel

– Your dog doesn’t look like he’s partly German Spitz

– Your dog doesn’t look like he’s calmed down

– Your cat doesn’t look like he gets much exercise

These were all said very innocently and are rather mostly amusing. Some you scratch your head and think what on earth is a single parent supposed to look like. Some are worrying – too many still assume that if someone tells a joke then they couldn’t possibly be depressed. Then there are the ones which are breathtaking. An educational professional demonstrating such staggering ignorance of Autism. It makes you realise what a long way we have to go as a society.