When diplomacy fails.

A largely stress free week for our son. It’s strange how these always coincide with times away from school. How can we have got education so badly wrong for so many kids. So many great teachers yet so many unhappy and unfulfilled children.

Our son likes lists. It reflects how is mind works. They are honest, raw and unfiltered.

Dad I have a top ten list of what I am looking forward to and not looking forward to with this school term

  • Being treated like I’m not allowed to understand stuff. I’m low attainment so I am supposed to act like it. Kids who get lower marks than me, who don’t answer as many questions are in classes above me.
  • Having to put my hand up for help. I have an invisible disability which school doesn’t want to see. So I don’t get any help. No help at all.
  • Never getting a chance to shine.
  • Having to do tests which are made to make me fail.
  • Completely pointless homework. It’s just testing your handwriting.
  • Too much noise. Too many people.
  • Being in a class with so many kids who don’t want to be there so they are naughty. Because I’m in the bottom class I’m supposed to be naughty.
  • Having to wear a uniform which is so uncomfortable and feels awful.
  • It’s never fun. Just rules and avoiding being given negatives.
  • At least it’s not an 8, 9 or 10 week school term.

So in a few hours it starts again. I will repeatedly bang my head on an unmoving brick wall as school and the local council won’t shift. They make me sound like that annoying parent who just will not see the clear logic of the situation. How dare I question the system.

All I can do is keep being there for our son. But maybe there is something else. Let’s really be that annoying pushy parent. Clearly working WITH school and the authorities doesn’t work. What has it produced. A kid stuck in bottom class getting absolutely no extra help at all.

Autism – nothing

Dyspraxia – nothing

Even the little bit of help he received with Dyslexia has been removed

Diplomacy has failed. Working with the authorities has failed. Maybe it’s time to fight them.

Silverback

Must cut my grass…..

One of those days where you line up a full day of work and then son wakes up with a temperature…. One too many coughs and he’s off sick. One too many sneezes and he’s contaminated me. Deep joy.

Still a day off from school will delay yet another bust up with the teachers. Maybe get my stress levels down to just below meltdown level.

In one subject last year he had a great teacher who seemed to get dyslexia. At the Parent Evenings she would tell us that in her opinion our son was as good as anyone in the subject in the school. She would say ok he struggles to write the knowledge down on paper – but we can find ways round that to suit him. It was refreshing to hear a teacher say that the key thing is the actual subject matter not the written English – that’s got its own subject anyway.

Unfortunately that teacher left. The replacement teacher seems to follow the school line. Neat handwriting and spelling come first, subject matter second. So now son is seen as low attainment in the subject. This terms homework project requires many pages of handwritten essay work. Points will be given for the quality of the presentation and points lost for things like spelling mistakes. So kids with dyslexia who struggle to write are being set up to fail. The school must know what a huge disadvantage this places on some kids. Oh I forgot – those kids are low attainment so it just proves the point. That’s modern education in England.

So once again I go through the finances to see if I can find a way to homeschool. Once again I fail. It’s at times like this that I feel so frustrated as a parent. It’s like constantly wading through treacle. Every step forward is such an effort. I’m so knackered – lord only knows what our son feels like. Everything seems to be stacked up against us. But sadly I bet if you asked virtually every parent and child dealing with a learning disability then they will say the same thing. It’s a never ending slog. And like all these wonderful parents and kids – we fight on. We love a quote which is maybe from Einstein, but if it isn’t, then it’s still a belter.

“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree, it will live it’s whole life believing that it is stupid”

Or the other belter which comes from Spongebob.

“Patrick, you’re a genius!”

“Yeah, I get called that a lot.”

“What? A genius?”

“No, Patrick.”

Talking about genius. Then there is our sons Dad. I’ve been struggling with a Rhomboid injury. I had the bright idea of strapping it up with kinesiology tape. First of all – what a stupid place to put a muscle group. When you don’t have a partner – how in all that is holly am I supposed to get my hands back there… Then having dislocated my shoulders just enough to get my hands next to the Rhomboid I somehow need to attach this super sticky tape neatly across my shoulder blades. With a physio it’s a piece of cake. In my case think disaster. So several strips went on in the wrong place, creased or just badly twisted. But here’s the final insult. Now these useless attempts need to come off. Where in the instructions does it say in big letters – whatever you do if you have a back as hairy as a Silverback Gorilla on no account buy this tape. And if you are stupid enough to apply it to hair then change your name to Mr Stupid from Stupidville.

That’s me and my postal address.

Autism and football

The Blueberry Plant is anything other than blue now.

That looks too like a Liverpool and Manchester United shirt for my liking. But it’s still better than that black and white barcode which your team wears. Watching barcodes run about a pitch must give you headaches.

That Football team of mine just gives me headaches period.

Son has set his heart on playing football for a team. Over the last few months we’ve tried to kick as many footballs around as the weather has permitted. It hasn’t been easy for him. Difficulties with coordination makes playing any ball sport a tough ask. That’s the issues facing many kids with Autism and Dyspraxia.

But there is hope. For a start dyslexia is not a barrier to sport. So many positive examples.

  • Kenny Logan – 70 Caps for Scotland (Rugby Union)
  • Scott Quinell – multiple caps for Wales in both Rugby Union and League
  • Lewis Hamilton – 5 time F1 World Champion
  • Magic Johnson
  • The great Mohammad Ali

In terms of autism it allows you to see the world in different and imaginative ways. This can be such an advantage in sport. Psychologists believe that some of the greatest sporting talents may be on the spectrum. They can see opportunities that other teammates just can’t pick out. It’s speculated that one of the greatest footballers on the planet (maybe the best) is on the spectrum.

Our son is tall for his age and very slim. He seemed the perfect shape for a modern style goalkeeper. So that’s what we started with. This also made it easier as we could just focus on his hand to eye coordination. For years he couldn’t catch a ball. But for ages now he has been bouncing a bouncy ball on our pavement. With hard work he now has really good catching skills. Then he started trying to catch a tennis ball while bouncing on his trampoline. Again after a lot of hard work he now is great at diving and catching one handed. So the next stage was to change the bouncy ball and tennis ball for a football. Quite quickly he managed to start catching two handed.

A small goal was bought for the garden and I started hitting some soft shots at

him. With hard work he can now dive and make some great saves. He’s now better than I was at his age.

But now he wants to see if he can play as a midfielder.

That would be cool dad.

This is a harder challenge for him as he still struggles coordinating his feet to kick a ball properly. But let’s see what we can do about that. Any skills he learns with his feet will be useful if he goes back to goalkeeping as these days they need to be comfortable passing and dribbling.

This year he has started going to the football club at school. It’s a steep learning curve. Suddenly it’s not just his dad, the dog and the ball. It’s lots of moving bodies, so unpredictable and loads of shouting. The shouting really disoriented him on his first session. He played one short game in midfield.

Dad I didn’t touch the ball but wow did I look good…. (said with a smile)

He went in goal and made some good saves but

I took a goal kick but the defender didn’t see me pass to him and the striker got the ball and scored. The teacher shouted that it was my fault.

Unfortunately too much shouting and blame goes with kids football in our country. Kids should be encouraged to try things, make mistakes and learn from them. Unfortunately too many are scared of making errors. You don’t make dreams come true by shouting at kids. At least son could see the wider picture.

Typical the other team scores and everyone blames the keeper even when it’s not his fault. What did you do when they blamed you for letting a goal in. I bet you let too many goals in.

Oh I just smiled, clapped my hands and immediately forgot about the goal. You move on and think about the next shot. (That’s not the whole story. I was a bit of a hot head back then and I would threaten to stick the ball up the backside of anyone who blamed me. But I won’t tell him that.)

So fingers crossed for the next club session.

Coordination

Beauty in the sky masked evil intentions. Twenty seconds later a successful bombing run covered my car bonnet. Not so beautiful. The one hand giveth; the other hand taketh away.

Basically I have knackered my body up. Medical advice was to rest the right side for a couple of months. No running. If you play football in the garden – don’t use your right foot to kick. That’s a bit of a problem. During my sporting career the left leg has been a bit of a spectator. It is used for standing on and just getting in the way. Nothing else. So since a toddler I have been completely right footed.

So this garden football season was approached with trepidation. The first attempts confirmed the fears. Absolutely useless. Even the frequent cow audience clearly most unimpressed with my attempted kicks.

But a couple of months later and….

With one hand giveth.

The left leg is like a magicians wand. Better than the right foot ever was. Complete ball control, pinpoint passes, power, curling shots into the top corner of our small net. It just shows that with practice what you can achieve.

But with the other hand taketh.

Now the right side is a little less painful I’ve started using it again and just maybe I could be a natural two footed footballer. Guess what. The right foot is now completely useless. Can’t use it. All my hard work has basically switched me from being completely right footed to completely left footed.

Maybe my brain can only cope with one usable leg.

Son struggles to tie shoe laces. He also can’t use a knife and fork at the same time. He just can’t coordinate two limbs simultaneously. It’s a bit like riding a bike. Son can peddle but not at the same time as steering or braking. If he turns a corner he can’t peddle. He did manage to learn to swim but it doesn’t come naturally. It’s either using his legs or using his arms – not both at the same time.

He has been diagnosed with Dyspraxia which often goes hand in hand with Autism. The bottom line is coordination does not come naturally. We have been doing some exercises to work on this. Jumping on a trampoline and catching at the same time has been our single most fun exercise. We have seen some improvements for example he has developed good catching skills. But things like shoe laces are probably going to be life long issues. We realise this. The main reason we do coordination exercises is to help with his Dyslexia, other improvements are bonuses.

Maybe you just have to accept and work with how your body is setup uniquely for you. Make the best of it. We all can’t be brilliantly coordinated like birds. To fly, aim and poo at the same time. That’s beyond me.

Roses

The rose I bought for my partner just before she left us has sprung into life. Wish she was here to see it.

I finally shamed myself into sorting out the garden jungle. Maybe not immaculate but certainly almost passable. Suddenly we have flowers and roses. I had forgotten how many roses we bought before the world changed.

I remember the day we finally got our son’s medical diagnosis signed off. It was a bit of a journey to the Hospital so we stopped off at a garden centre for something to eat. They had an offer on roses and I bought one – think it was the deep red one.

We didn’t know for sure that we would get things signed off. Had so many false dawns. The diagnosis journey had been a nightmare and beyond frustrating. Finally we were lucky and came across a really good Consultant.

He added to our son’s medical record official confirmation of Aspergers, ADHD and DCD. When I asked what the hell DCD was the Consultant smiled and said something like this

“Its the new fad abbreviation and current hip term for Dyspraxia. If it’s OK I’ve used Aspergers rather than Autistic Spectrum. We are supposed to stop using the term Aspergers but not on my watch. I suspect it will always stay as Aspergers on his medical record. If it does change it really won’t have any impact. It’s just Semantics. He is also Dyslexic. In the old days I would have added that to his medical record today but I am not allowed to now. The diagnosis has to come from Education now. Unfortunately that is like getting blood from a stone. It’s a disgrace”

He explained that you can get Dyspraxia on its own but normally it normally coexists with other conditions. Frequently with Aspergers and Dyslexia.

Today he is sometimes listed as having Aspergers and sometimes Autism. Sometimes he has DCD sometimes he has Dyspraxia. At least we have agreement on the wording for ADHD. Whatever the terminology the various strands interlink and makeup who our son is.

Six years later and we are still fighting Education on the Dyslexia diagnosis. That is the one strand which we see as a limiting factor. It holds him back. The good Consultant has retired and our fight goes on.

Let’s fly

We took the dog for a walk a few days ago. We came across these wonderful berries. We watched for a few minutes while various birds came and picked at them. After a while our son said

“In the future I wish I would have had the chance to learn to fly. Sometimes being different hurts”.

I was immediately reminded of a little story the Paediatrician had told me.

The Paediatrician worked with someone who was diagnosed with Aspergers, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia. That person wanted to become a pilot but was told that they couldn’t. One by one the obstacles were overcome. With a lot of dedication and plenty of desire to learn from the setbacks, flying lessons were eventually started. One of the biggest obstacles was the prescribed medication they were taking. The Paediatrician eventually found a medication programme that complied with flying rules. After training and much patience that person got the pilot licence and can now fly.

After I had told our son this story he just smiled and said

“Sometimes it’s good to dream”.