Hot

It’s hot. Yes I’ve said it now. Yes Yorkshire is hot. When I say hot I mean hot for Yorkshire which probably means it’s probably two jumper weather in Arizona.

A grand day for a trip to the zoo.

Clearly the zoo animals had the right idea. Stay in the shade and watch the silly humans walk round in the blazing sun.

Dad can I have a slush.

What a grand idea. Unfortunately the kiosk informed us that they had just switched the slush machine on and if we came back in a couple of hours they should be available. It was a similar story with the ice cream machine. So we purchased from the limited available snack range. Sat in the hot sun with two cider lollies and a bag of just fried hot donuts.

Dad it’s a good job your a professional athlete or you would be getting a Dads Belly.

Clearly a kid with Aspergers don’t have a sense of humour. Come on Hollywood get your facts right.

Dad it’s getting too busy.

And with that we left. But the zoo gave us one last memory. As we were walking out of the main door a delivery driver had arrived and asked a parking supervisor where he was supposed to drop off. He was told “Through those gates. Just unbolt the lock and drive into the compound. Just make sure you lock the gate immediately”. The delivery driver in a slightly alarmed voice asked “Are you sure”.

Visions of Jurassic Park and a driver about to come face to face with a suitably pissed off carnivore came to mind. Clearly the driver had similar thoughts as he made sure he round his van window up before he ventured any further.

To be or not to be

A beautiful delicate flower. Unfortunately it has decided to grow directly on the mad dogs preferred route to his watering zone. Given the unruly speed the four legged wrecking ball hurtles down this path it’s not the ideal environment for delicate beauty. Will it survive. Will it be crushed to a pulp. Who knows.

The new school year is looming. Will we start. Will we home educate. With all the emotions swirling around the house currently it’s not the easiest time to focus on crucial matters. But it’s decision time.

As our health service points out – The school system is failing our son. No additional support is provided in terms of his Aspergers. In terms of Dyslexia it’s the bare minimum. The assumption is that he can’t read, never will read and he will be shown how to use a reading pen for the final exams. Set low exam expectations and anything achieved is a bonus. Let’s be clear that’s not all the teachers. Some do see the potential. Unfortunately his biggest supporter has left this summer. It will be illuminating to see if the school move him up to higher sets this year. His effort, his behaviour, his results clearly highlight the correct answer. A number of teachers have also recommended that course of action. But kids with dyslexia are often just bottom classed.

Yet the evidence suggest that the school system is wrong. The Doctors continually state that it is far too early to give up on the reading. The work they do demonstrate much promise. A kid who has been written off now can read the subtitles which appear on movies. He can read text messages. Today he read a 2 line subtitle and only got one word wrong – minority. He’s achieved that progress without school help.

He needs a tailored approach to development. But to be fair the schools hands are tied by government policy and cutbacks. Tailored education does not happen unless you can afford to go private. Private like the entire Government has enjoyed. Home Education currently allows the parent to tailor the approach. You can develop an approach that best suits the individual. Unfortunately the government is keen to stop this as well.

The major obstacle to home education is having one parent. It’s trying to home educate and trying to bring in sufficient income at the same time. I just can’t make the numbers stack up. I just can’t find enough hours in the day (& night).

The bottom line is that I currently just can’t home educate and balance the books. Home education is the right option but it’s also currently an impractical one. So much frustration. If we still had two parents then it would be doable. It just feels like our son is being penalised again for something outside his control. That makes me angry. Very angry. What’s the line – you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry. Hopefully I don’t turn green. That anger fuels the desire to find a way. Our son deserves that. He deserves at the very least a parent who tries.

So in two weeks our son will return to school. Hopefully to a much improved education. But if it continues to fail then we will just have to find a way.

Kielder Forest

Finally we got a break in the weather. Yes it is feeling very autumnal but it is so much better than the rubbish we have had over the last few weeks. So we seized the opportunity for a trip. Son is trying to visit 12 new places this year. That is such a big commitment for him. Especially as these are completely unplanned and unscripted visits. To avoid undue anxiety or even a meltdown we usually micro manage and completely script every trip.

So we sat in the car at 6.30am with a healthy packup. Crisps, Coke, Cakes, Waffles, Chocolate, Coffee, IronBrew Lollies.

Ok Dad where are we going

Absolutely no idea son. Looking at the road outside our house. Left or Right?

West

Ok clever clogs, left it is then. We did this for 2 hours until we found ourselves North of Newcastle. Beautiful and very remote Northumberland.

Looking at a Road Sign. It’s decision time. Is it Scotland. Is it a bit of Potter at Alnwick Castle or is it Kielder.

The Potter Castle will just be too busy. Scotland needs to be a longer trip. I’ve always fancied a bit of Kielder. Have we got time to do the Forest and the Lake.

We have as long as the Troll doesn’t eat us on the bridge.

An hour later we were walking through Kielder Forest. It is the largest man made woodland in England with 75% of its 250 square miles covered by Forest. It’s a wonderful place. It is definitely Conifer, Spruce and Pine heaven. It’s also one of those places where the car parks are full yet you never see another human. Feels like you have the place to yourself. Which is brilliant for our son.

Son also had time to launch into a tirade at our so called government. He was not happy that they had turned down an application to reintroduce Lynx into this area. Let’s hope the second application is successful. Not had these creatures in the UK for over 1300 years.

The small minded, money driven losers. They sit in their mansions, driving the earth killing sports cars. Behaving like modern day Feudal Lords. I bet if they do reintroduce them they would find a way of hunting them for sport. Well I think we should let the animals hunt Boris and his Sheriffs of Nottingham’s. That would help the planet. Dad last year they told kids to stop protesting and get back to learning. Well why doesn’t the Government get back to running the country.

I would have said the same but with many more bad words included. Good job one of us has good manners.

Going to split this post up into three parts. It’s a proper lads road trip. The second will feature Kielder Water and a bit of aviation. The third part will go very Roman with a bit of Game of Thrones feel.

Me Me Me

Blue skies have been a rarity over the last couple of weeks. Strangely this photo is a few weeks old. Can’t remember the last time I had to water the tomato plants. If anything it’s more about trying to stop them drowning in the rain water. The mad dog is currently sat looking out through the back door. Yet when I open it for him he just continues to sit and seems to shrug – if you think I’m going out in that you have another thing coming. Other areas of the county have seen bridges swept away and a Dam almost breached. Wasn’t it only a few weeks ago I was talking about Yorkshire and temperatures in the 90s. Strange old summer.

We have largely been cut off from the outside world this holiday. The occasional and extremely brief trip to the shop but son has stayed in the car. Trip to a castle but at a time (and with the poor weather) that it would be largely empty. We are thinking about a trip to another castle, a zoo and hill walk – but these will be scheduled at the quietest times possible. This is how our son likes it.

But it does have a downside. Next month son will return to school. Small site with over 800 kids and adults. Its just not a natural environment for someone with Aspergers. It doesn’t help that within a few days of school opening it’s the anniversary of his mums death. It not easy for anyone but no kid should have to go through that.

Soon we will need to start the process of getting him as ready as possible for that dreaded return. We will have a few visits to the school. A word with the caretaker will allow a walk round the empty corridors. But that just won’t prepare him for so much noise, so many faces. So we are going to have to visit a few busy places. A couple of trips to a Supermarket. Maybe a visit to a popular museum – York’s Train Museum. It’s a balancing act trying to acclimatise yet not trying to unnecessarily spook him.

The other part to this is ME. It’s about trying to get ME used to people again. It really doesn’t come naturally to ME. Just look at that it’s all ME ME ME with me. I blame it on the rain.

Current mood – Dampish….

Hill

I don’t know what it is but I love looking at this one field. It just works for me. It also puzzles me – what is on the other side. I have no idea. One day I will check. Is that the best approach?

During the process of getting a diagnosis for our son he had to undertake a number of tests. He would only do them if I did them as well. So by de facto I was assessed as well.

Dad you do know Aspergers can run in the family. Mum’s side probably has. Your side is not so clear except for one person. You.

When I look back at my childhood I was more relaxed when I was on my own. I would often be found apart from the others in my class. I struggled to get my head round bondage language and emotions. Hated physical contact, hated being crammed so close to others. I made friends as I was good at hiding my anxieties. But I never could quite see the world like my friends did. Often seen as the odd but funny one. I was often quiet. I tried to hide a bad stammer which appeared when I felt uncomfortable. My school reports said ‘very shy’ – no I didn’t want people to hear my faulty speech. Initially slow at reading and with appalling spelling. Accident prone and uncoordinated – yet found ways to be good at sport.

All those probably still apply today. Apart from the physical contact phobia – do love a good hug.

So the tests what did they reveal. I remember a therapist telling me

It’s wonderful how you have failed some tests to reassure your son…

Don’t want to disappoint you but I didn’t have to try to fail the tests. It came all too easily for me. Not all the tests but many I did struggle with. I mentioned this to our son’s Clinician. When I told her which tests and how I struggled her take was that it would probably have been enough to trigger a diagnosis. She asked if I wanted to go onto the waiting list for Aspergers Assessment.

But that’s as far as it went. No interest in finding out one way or the other. Waste of valuable NHS resources. Not going to he,p me now. As son would say it’s just who I am. But maybe this is the reason that I have been able to get my head round Aspergers. Partner spotted the Aspergers with our son first but admitted I got my head round it instantly. She struggled. If it allows me to better understand the issues our son faces. That’s good enough for me.

We’ve talked about what’s over the hill. Son think it’s a panoramic view of the Vale. I thinks it the Yorkshire Area 31. A place housing our alien rhubarb technology.

Wise

Meet the Wise Old Elf. The undoubted star of Ben and Holly.

It was a show from our sons preschool days. It was never off the TV. That was probably more down to me than him. I could quite easily have spent my life watching this and In the Night Garden.

Now I’m not allowed to watch it that often. Although son finds a game of spotting which voice actors feature in both B&H and Peppa Pig. For example it’s the same voice for Peppa and Daisy.

Anyway as we took our mad dog for a walk we had to cross a field of cows. Our son was petrified of cows – not sure why. He would freeze if he entered a cow field. Dog walks had to avoid crossing them. But now we have managed to conquer that fear. When we see a cow it’s a race to be the first person to shout

Go on Wise Old Elf sit under the cow.

Years ago we watched an episode where it started to rain. The Wise Old Elf decided to seek shelter under a cow. And yes the cow sat on him. Someone almost wet himself watching that. It might not have been our son. Poor Elf. Same voice actor as Grandpa Pig from Peppa.

So thanks to a pompous accident prone cartoon Elf our son cured one of his fears. Sometimes solutions come in the most unexpected ways. That’s why it’s worth just persevering.

Son continues to struggle with his dyslexia. The difference is now the education system has dropped any pretence of trying to find ways to help improve his reading. They have just moved to the next stage – he can’t read, never will so lets lower expectations and any grades will be a bonus. Strange how the one person they have never asked about this is our son. He still wants to try so the fight continues. At home we continue to experiment with

  • Reading pens
  • Reading Apps
  • Shared reading
  • Coordination exercises

But that brings us to unexpected help. YouTube and Computer Games. They really do seem to help. Maybe it’s the visual nature. The themes. The combination of sensory experiences. Whatever the reason we have a kid who still struggles to read books yet he can navigate through games and the iPad without help. He can send texts without any help. Yes with some spelling issues but we all have them. That’s progress. Which makes the education stance so frustrating. We have to be realistic. Although he is improving the reading gap continues to grow with his peers. But that’s no reason to give up. The Wise Old Elf shows that.

Piggyback

Flowers in the garden. From this one angle our garden looks ok. Any other angle …. not so ok. A few years ago our piggyback obstacle course would start here. That was when we could say we had a little son.

A time creeps up on you when ‘little son or daughter’ does not sound appropriate anymore. I remember his Paediatrician measuring him when he was 8. Looking at our son and saying

Your not going to be a shorty like you Dad. Your in the 97th percentile for height at your age.

Thanks Doc. It’s like when a Football Coach said

If you were only a few inches taller you would be ….

I think the words he was looking for was ‘Thor like’ …. I will let you into a secret he actually said – of more use to me. I would like to point out that I am in fact 1/2cm above average height. In my book I’m tall…. Maybe standing on that book would help.

Over the years since then strangely I have not added much height. Especially if you forget about my brief experimentation with Gene Simmons Platform Boots. However our son continues to grow. I’m hoping to hang onto the tallest in our family title for a while longer. However I suspect our son will outgrow me potentially even before his thirteenth birthday. THIRTEENTH. How tall was our milkman.

Well today was another milestone. He can now use the exercise bike on my seat settings. The days of me having to lower the seat from his settings are just around the corner.

I am looking forward to my well earned piggyback rides. I think I’ve earned those. But today we have a challenge. The old obstacle course has been set. We will try to turn back the sands of time. I’m going to attempt to carry our son piggyback fashion around the garden. Do you think we should pre book an ambulance. Wish me look.

*********************

Update.

The challenge was accepted and Big Son was carried successfully around the course. One last quiz when I completed the task did I shout

  1. I am Thor, I am all powerful
  2. Yes course completed in record time. What a legend.
  3. F***** hell my back….

Wow he’s got a funny shirt on

Dad are you going out in that T-shirt. I wouldn’t be seen in that.

The look the cow gave me I think indicated a similar interest in my attire. What is so wrong with a bright yellow T-shirt which has a photo of a reasonably well known TV personality on the front.

Don’t see a problem myself…..

On the walk we bumped into a family coming the other way. I had a quick chat with them but quickly realised son had pulled his hood over his head and was basically hiding behind a bush. So we headed off promptly. Social interaction just doesn’t come easily for him. Unplanned encounters just freak him out especially if they involve other kids. He hates the thought that people are looking at him. He hates having to make eye contact. He is never sure how close he should stand. He gets anxious when he has to stand still. He is convinced that only a few people get what he’s talking about.

I could tell this encounter had bothered him. Possibly he was a little embarrassed. He has spoken in the past about being a little ashamed that he could not handle chance meetings more confidently. All you can do is reassure him and tell him to be just himself. Being himself is just perfect. Counselling was having a bit of a positive impact on his confidence but that has dried up now. We work on breathing and anxiety control techniques. Occasionally I try to get him into carefully controlled new situations. The Holy Grail would be a club in one of his interests areas.

Hopefully one day he will realise that most of us are like this somedays. It’s called being human. But it’s now time to get him smiling.

“I hadn’t realised my shirt was so embarrassing that you didn’t want to be seen with me. Clearly it’s not a cool look. Good job they didn’t see my Peppa Pig pants”

Tell me you haven’t.

I think my smile gave the fib away and he started laughing.

Do you think they noticed anything unusual about me.

No too busy thinking what a pillock your Dad looked like. Shall we go home and see if we can find a couple of cider ice lollies.

I suspect we will be on lockdown at home for a while now. That’s cool. It’s what he probably needs at the moment. And anyway who needs the outside world. We have a trampoline, we have a football goal, we have a DVD player, we have a Peppa Pig DVD (maybe scrap that one), we have jelly and we have our imaginations. What more do we need.

School report

I managed to find a kindly Bee who stayed still long enough for my ancient mobile phone to crank its focus into operation. Let’s call the little fella – Stanley. Let’s hope Stanley is safely tucked up in a dry bed. Within an hour of the photo the heavens opened and it’s pouring down. Two days before our kids break up and the weather threatens to go distinctly wet. Every year it seems to be a dry and warm spell for the last few weeks of term and then ….. Perfect timing.

I wonder if Stanley is any good at explaining the year end school report. In my day you got a little report with a hand written note for each subject with a grade from A to E. A meant that you were either the Headteachers illegitimate child or you had discovered a new chemical element. E stood for ‘Dads going to kill you when he reads this’. We only had one teacher but she changed her handwriting for each subject – maybe that was to make the school look like it had so much more teaching resources. The teacher comments had an Orwellian edge to them. Looking back at the reports you can see such classic comments for me as

Like most of the class he could do better.

He is a really good goalkeeper but he has quite small hands.

His attitude in Biology has been excellent only let down by him being sick over the teacher during a taste testing experiment.

He has absolutely no aptitude in French but he is keen.

His Space Rocket painting was so good it was displayed in the local library. But he needs to be much quicker and not just paint rockets.

I never had the heart to tell the teacher that it wasn’t a space rocket – it was a fishing boat. Even my art career was based on a lie…..

One of the most understated teacher comments was for a lad in our class who lived 3 doors down from us. The teacher said of his behaviour – ‘he has largely behaved himself with one or two blips’. Blips – the kid got arrested for burning down the village hall and trying to start a fire under the headteachers desk…

Anyway we move forward many years. Even after several coffees I haven’t the foggiest what our sons report is telling me. No helpful comments for each subject. These have been replaced by an apparently random set of grade letters and numbers – 5B 6A 4C …. No code explanations are provided. Is it just me being thick….. You also get an expected performance level at the end of the Key Stage. Bizarrely the subject he is best at gets the lowest performance level. It does feel like the report is more an instrument for meeting Government Targets rather than helping the child or parents. He also got 4 commendations including one which is not a subject taught in his year (we think Business Studies is probably Science). Must say that his really nice Form Tutor included some lovely comments – such a shame she is leaving.

I’ve given up trying to understand the report. Tomorrow I might phone the school up for help or I might just go and find Stanley. Speaking to Stanley will be far less embarrassing. Good job parents don’t get end of year reports.

Eyes wide open

It’s amazing what you find when you open your eyes.

Another application for additional support. This one was a long shot. Additional funding to provide some specialist support in school for our son. Turned down.

Same line. He already has funding (the maximum available with an Education Health Care Plan) which allows him to take up his place in school. The funding goes into the general support budget which funds the school wide teaching assistant system. Plus he’s doing so well without support.

The fight goes on.

Then speaking with his Doctor. Son is now starting to become too old for many of the health programmes focusing on autism.

The fight goes on.

It feels like the agencies have signed up to support our son while he is in school or college up to the age of 25. The agencies provide virtually no support now. They will continue to provide virtually no support up to the age of 25. Then they can officially provide no support after that….

Ultimately the agencies are just following Government policy and funding decisions. The current government sees austerity and cutbacks as essential for health and education. Yet they are happy to provide funding for tax breaks for the better off and bungs to Northern Ireland Unionists to keep themselves in power.

Nothing is going to change any time soon.

So the fight goes on. But one day the government will change and hopefully we will get one which governs with eyes wide open.