2022

Dad that’s not a bad sky at all”

It’s a grand one Son.

You always say GRAND these days”

It’s just a way of saying something is impressive. It’s a bit like you saying something is sick….

Dad I was thinking about school. What happens if I still can’t go out during next year as well. Maybe I’m not ready to go back until 2022. What happens then?”

Well we just carry on. We’ve coped for most of this year. We just do the same next year then. Although I might have a ZZ Top beard by 2022 .

I so want to see that.”

Make a change for you. Having a Dad who looks cool….

That’s never happening. As you would say Dad. You are a Grand Muppet.”

You never know. One day….

Dad is that your mobile Dad going off.”

Yes it is. A message. Oh look they have rescheduled our Ozzy concert. Was supposed to be next week but they have put it back to October 2022. Time for me to grow a proper beard.

Dad time for me to maybe venture out again…”

Childhood

So many pupils from our son’s year group are isolating. I’m also hearing that other pupils are being asked to isolate in other year groups as well. Many teachers are off. It’s all a bit of a mess really. Many schools are like this in the UK. They don’t feel like environments conducive to learning at present.

These are stressful times for many. I’m not sure the Government understands this. Or chooses to ignore this. Bland statements that ‘schools are the best place for children’ are recited everyday. It might be in terms of the Economy but….

Some children need to be in school. Some need to be at home. They definitely need to have the chance to have a childhood. A good childhood. It’s often too easily forgotten how much stress and anxiety they are under. Unable to see friends. Unable to do some of the stuff they love. Living in a stress filled world with so much confusion. Told to wear masks in buses and shops, yet told not wear them in classrooms. Frequent enforced teacher switches. Many sadly forced to isolate or deal with the actual virus. Living in a small world with few holidays and adventures. Watching never ending grim news reports. How much stress are many of our children under. We have to do something about this. To me that’s more important than the short term needs of the economy.

Our son is racked with anxiety. Too much to allow him to venture through the front gate. A significant part of his precious childhood is being spent in isolation. That’s hard to take as a parent. All I can do is to keep him feeling safe, try to shutout the bad stuff from the world and to try to find ways to help him still enjoy his childhood. He’s had a tough one already. Loss of his mum, coming to terms with Aspergers and now a Pandemic. That’s why I’ve got to work all the more harder. There’s still a childhood to be enjoyed.

Seven months

I was checking my diary. It’s now officially 7 months since our own little family lockdown started. Seven months, that’s a long time. Yes there have been some bleak and lonely periods. But we are still here. Still grinding onwards. That gives me hope.

With our son’s anxieties, with a pandemic showing no signs of ebbing, with increasingly random government – we just have no idea how long this family isolation will go on for. Possibly for many months to come.

Yet we have already survived 7 months. We have made some new memories. Still had fun times. Technology allowed friendships to flourish

We have more than just survived 7 months, did manage to live a bit as well. We can certainly cope with a few more months of this.

3am

Last night I was tired. Unusually tired for me. But it was one of those pesky tired setups. During the evening I could feel myself nodding off. Plenty of those ‘just starting to drift off while sat on the settee – then suddenly woken by those cataclysmic sudden neck snapping forward’ moments. This went on all evening until it was bed time. But then I just wasn’t tired. Pigging fiddlesticks……

Finally sleep came but all too soon…..

DAD, DAAAAAADDDD!

What’s up son.

Dad I’ve forgotten, sorry we’ve forgotten the art assignment.”

Ooh yeh, that one that isn’t due in until the 12th.

That’s the one, But ITS THE 12th.”

Oh big pants. Can you do it as soon as you get up?

No it’s due at the start of the first lesson.”

***********

I could see by the look in his eyes that until it was done, sleep would be impossible. So a few minutes later I was in the kitchen making hot drinks. Years ago a late night session would have had a very different meaning to tonight’s version. 3am and rocking out to Japanese Art.

Basically I sat there looking vacant, occasionally nodding (in a of course I knew that kinda way) and asking Google such questions as ‘what on earth does wabi and sabi mean’. It took an hour before Hawklad had convinced himself that he had done enough. The school panic in his world was over. His completed presentation was significantly more robust than his Dads initial suggestive assignment text

Japanese Art is cool but Godzilla is real cool. Now it’s time for bed….

Hawklad got to bed and immediately fell asleep. I guess at about 4.30am I found some sleep. I woke up a couple of hours later with one overriding thought. How can you write two pages on Japanese Art and not mention Godzilla‘s Atomic Breath just once. What has become of Art.

See what the wind brings.

Sometimes you just have to sit back and see what the wind brings.

Drying clothes outside is proving a bit of a nightmare. Every few minutes the wind brings in another shower. Thankfully the bench cover is just about big enough to quickly chuck over the clothes horse. Given the dirty state of the cover rather defeats the purpose of washing. But needs must.

Sometimes you just have to sit back and see what the wind brings.

Further lockdown measures are set to be announced for northern areas next week. For the last month our part of the north has been an island. Surrounded by areas having significant pandemic outbreaks. Here it’s been reasonably calm. That means that things like shopping and daily life have continued without too much disruption. But is that about to change. Has our area succumbed.

Sons school has had confirmed cases. The local cafe had had to close due to a local outbreak. All public events are being cancelled (that includes Christmas events). Now the local city is reporting a huge growth in cases. 79% rise in 7 days, our rural area has gone up by 60%. Higher than some of the areas already under lockdown. Police are starting to enforce lockdown laws.

It’s the confusion that makes it so much harder for people. One week the PM tells people to grow a backbone and get out. Then suddenly the PM tells us it’s our fault fir getting out. Some places (often government supporting areas) have high infection rates but are excluded from lockdown while other areas with lower rates are forced into lockdown.

Feels like we as an area are about to be forced into a tough, restrictive extended period. All we can do is continue with our own family approach. Try to shield son from as much of the negative, doom loaded news. It’s the last thing he needs to hear. Much better for his (and my well-being) to sit in the back garden and see what the weather brings in.

Uncertain

Over the last few days nature has been providing its very own washing service.

Many people are doing more and more washing over the last six months. Especially hand washing. That’s certainly the case here in our little corner of the world. Since about the age of 6 son has had anxieties relating to touching unclean objects. This would result in fairly frequent hand washing exercises. Thankfully only a few seconds of soap and water was sufficient to calm the fears.

That all changed in 2016 when his mum died at a relatively young age. Suddenly the world was filled with uncertainty and unseen dangers. His hand washing rapidly spiralled out of control. It became more frequent and went on for up to a minute at a time. Thankfully he started working with a wonderful nurse counsellor who over a couple of years brought his hand washing back under control. He was taught to wash like a nurse and get it done in under 20 seconds.

Then a pandemic hit. All the reassurances, all the hard earned confidence was blown out of the water. His fears re-emerged worse than ever. Life is now an ‘avoid touching anything and hand washing’ fest. He will wash his hands several times an hour. When he starts washing, he will wash for anywhere up to 5 minutes. All without trying to touch the tap and only using elbows (usually my elbow).

Any delivery or letter has to be taken into the garage for several days of quarantine before it is opened. After I have touched the item then I need to change my clothes completely and be seen to wash my hands. If I venture out then almost full decontamination procedures have to be followed.

Welcome to 2020.

This time it feels different. More engrained. The health professionals agree. All we can do is try to manage the situation until he sees that the pandemic is under control. A vaccine works and he has had it. But even then there are no guarantees. His fears and anxieties may never truly fade. Maybe they will but only until the next killer bug emerges. The future is uncertain. It is uncertain for many.

Which way

In life you get asked so many questions. But some questions keep repeating themselves. Like the classics ‘Are we there yet?’ and ‘where’s the remote control?’.

Then there are other questions. More vexing questions. One question keeps popping up. I’ve been asked this by family members, other parents, teachers and even once a nurse. It does have a number of variants but it’s basically the same question

Will your son get better?

Will his Aspergers improve?

Will his Aspergers improve as he gets older?

I’m no clinical specialist. Just a bumbling parent. But here’s my take on the question.

Aspergers is a lifelong syndrome. It’s not going to get better. Its not going to be cured. It’s not going to disappear. What might change is that over time the individual and the family may develop strategies to help deal better with some of the situations life will throw at them. Also some of the specific symptoms may fluctuate over time. For example in a number of individuals something like repetitive hand flapping may become less prevalent with age. Also Aspergers often coexists with a number of other conditions – dyspraxia, ADHD, dyslexia…. It is possible that some of these conditions could improve with time. For example our son has with hard work started to overcome some of the issues which his dyspraxia and dyslexia had caused him in his earlier years.

So yes it is possible that improvements may occur. But here’s the thing, it’s not guaranteed. Each individual case is different, unique. Things may stay the same with age. They can also get worse with age.

So we just don’t know.

The Clinical Psychologist who did the full review of our Son was quite clear. The majority of his Aspergers related traits will stay with him over his life. However at around the teenage period changes may start to occur. It could go either way. He could become fully independent or he may regress and may need some form of life long support. She talked through a number of possible scenarios. One scenario was that some improvements would occur potentially in the areas of dyslexia and the diminishing of some of the repetitive behaviours. Another scenario painted a downturn in his existing anxieties and fears. This could occur naturally during his teenage years or could be triggered by a single significant event which effects his view of the world. Tips the balance in his risk assessments of the world. This could lead to significant mental health concerns and potentially social isolation. Where we are sat currently, we are not a million miles away from that scenario. The triggers – the death of his mum, a pandemic, his teenage years…. He is currently physically cut adrift from the world. His fears and anxieties ramped up to the rafters.

Nothing is set in stone. We just have to go with the flow and see what life brings. It could be still be a fully independent life. But it could also entail a lifelong requirement for support. In this country we don’t cater for the latter scenario. Support has to be fought and won for young children. That support is at best is patchy. During the teenage years the support tends to be reduced due to funding cut backs. By early adulthood the support has completely vanished. That’s a sobering thought for parents in this position. It really is.

Revolution

I was asked about if our son was any closer returning to school. This is his fourth week at home since the school returned full time. Well two things from today really paint the picture.

First an email from school advising that the school had now had its second confirmed case. This time a member of staff. Apparently the confirmed cases so far are not considered to be linked. A small number of individuals have been asked to isolate for 14 days and the school remains fully open.

The second was a conversation with our son. His words need no more elaboration.

“Dad I go into meltdown if the bedroom window is open. In fact I can’t even touch the window handle to close it. I just can’t go back. Can’t go back for some time to come.”

And there is our answer in a nutshell. At present government ministers are telling parents to ensure there kids go to school as it’s perfectly safe and is in fact our civic duty. To not do now apparently makes you a bad parent, someone who is not acting responsibly. Must get those words on a T-shirt.

I will continue to act irresponsibly and avoid doing my civic duty. Our son will return to school when he is ready to do so, when it is safe and when he is comfortable doing that. Until then – Viva La Revolution…..

L

Not a perfect fit

If only the view was so good in terms of school.

We are now 4 weeks into the second phase of the school at home project. That’s with no sign of a return to school happening anytime within the next few months. So we are trying to follow the school classroom material but at home AND with no specific teaching support. Some of the subjects are progressing ok. I can see that our son is learning and I’m pretty sure that he’s keeping broadly up with his fellow classmates. But then there are other subjects that he is clearly not learning much in and I have no idea where he is in comparison to the class.

I will pick on one subject – French. The approach is very much read some text and memorise. Then try to form sentences from what you have learned parrot fashion. It feels like it’s the same approach I endured as a kid. It didn’t work for me and it’s not working for our son. He is not learning the language. He’s trying to commit some random words and collections of letters to memory. Random stuff which has no meaning. It’s gets dumped into his short term memory. Within hours it is lost. What is the point.

Subjects like French are one of the reasons that I’m convinced about true homeschooling being the way forward. We set the agenda and the learning methods. Pick stuff which actually works and is enjoyable. But ultimately the decision to leave school is our sons call. A call to be made down the road.

For me the priority is son’s wellbeing. Can we get him to better place, into a happier frame of mind. To feel safe again in this world. School is a secondary consideration to that. At present it suits our circumstances to continue with this hybrid approach. I don’t want to stress son out further with the prospect of making a big decision on the future of his schooling. Let’s see how things play out this side of Christmas. I will just have to bite my bottom lip on subjects like French.

l’école est un pantalon

School, school, school

Captain Chaos is carefully guarding his new great tasting toys.

That Apple Tree needs a serious trim. I had a go today. Managed to fall out of the tree. Bruised shoulder but the fall ended with a fabulous forward role which was perfectly landed. The boy has still got the moves…..

School definitely still has some moves. Sadly not always great ones.

We are in the early stages of a long road trying to manage and help with our son’s serious anxieties. Anxieties about illness, unclean things, viruses and diseases. It’s so easy to tip him further into the realms of excessive hand washing and isolation. Yesterday started off heading a little too close to the rocks. News broke that the small local cafe had to close as two members of staff had tested positive for the pesky pandemic. I’ve managed to keep that from him so far. I can imagine his reaction to the thought that the pandemic was only a couple of miles away.

So while I was managing the news – SCHOOL got to work. Firstly an email was sent to him letting him know that the virus had arrived at the school. Then we got to the Food Technology lesson. All about poisoning, bacteria and viruses associated with food. James was asked to research the main offenders, the symptoms and the associated health risks. So now food has been added to his worry list.

A rather cheesed off email was sent to school…..

And today in Science it was all about diseases. The class being asked to research childhood diseases and viruses. Further they were asked to look at the risk of inherited medical problems.

Thanks that was a big help….

You couldn’t make it up…..