Foreseeable

Looking back from the edge of the micro world. Our little village increasingly isolated. Sadly we can’t take this walk now. Son started to freak out about having to touch so many farm gates – just in case. So we are restricted to hands stay firmly in our pockets walks for the foreseeable future. How long is foreseeable these strange days….

After yesterday’s accident mayhem we approached April 1st with some trepidation. What enhanced carnage would April Fools Day bring. As life is clearly so foreseeable the answer was rather surprisingly – NOTHING. No accidents. No backfiring pranks. Zip all went wrong. My family tradition was that April Fools Day ends at midday. No accidents by lunch to distract from today’s aim.

We decided to make today a fun day. No talk of the bad stuff happening in the world. No depressing talk. No news. A day of respite amongst the mayhem. I keep saying this but if it’s bloody tough for grizzly old farts like me, what the hell is it it like for our kids. The adults are not that good at living like this, kids most certainly are not designed to live like this. So that’s why today was going to be a rebalancing day. That was the plan but not everything is foreseeable…

Today’s first lesson was Religious Studies. Given the current stress and anxieties kids are facing why don’t we pick a fun or light topic. Well the teacher picked a belter.

Look at four different countries and see what their approach is to DEATH. What are the funerals like….

Well that’s a real laugh a minute project. What next, how about History looking at the Black Death, Geography looking at the spread of pandemics, Science taking a closer look at the Ebola mortality rates.

So we have postponed the fun day for the foreseeable future. As that is clearly not very long we shall be having it tomorrow. Once we rearranged the fun day and put April Fools Day to bed for another year we could get back to normality for the rest of the day – household madness.

Have you ever pressed the start button on the washing machine and as soon as it starts spinning you notice something going round which does not look like an item of clothing. As the machine slowly turned and a rouge object kept appearing, my mind whirled – what is it. Then the penny dropped. It’s my mobile. Oh bugger. An hour later it emerged looking sparkly clean but a little soggy. In a further moment of madness I decided to put it in the pocket of one of the washed jeans and tumble dry it. Maybe that will dry it out. Please children – don’t try this at home. Only really tired parents are allowed to do such stupid things. Unbelievably the super clean phone came out dry. And it still works although I may wait a day or so before I try to charge it up.

So in our foreseeable world tomorrow is fun day and today has been ‘wow my ancient iPhone is sparkly clean day’. Who needs April Fools Day for the foreseeable future.

Swan

It was good to see the swan observing social distancing at the local lake today. If only some of the humans could get their head round the concept. Our village thankfully has. Apart from the postman, the occasional food delivery driver and a handful of dog walkers – that’s it. All the cars are parked up and are not being used. Virtually no through traffic. We don’t have a shop, cafe or pub. The village hall and church are temporarily closed. Basically it’s like a ghost town. It seems to oscillate between beautifully peaceful and slightly unnerving.

It’s the new normal.

Work is definitely shutdown until at least mid June now. No sign of schools reopening anytime before September. The countrywide lockdown isn’t being relaxed any time soon. No long runs. Apart from the very occasional trip to a shop for essentials, that’s it for physical social interaction. Maybe for months. It’s not happened yet but I can see this ramping up a grief attack soon. Especially as my partners birthday is looming. But it is what it is. Another thing for my constantly racing two cell brain to deal with.

We were watching Toy Story 2 last night when a thought popped into my head. Apart from the obvious one – oh man I look increasingly like Mr Potato Head. Wouldn’t it be great if toys did come alive. How much fun would that be. Suddenly a whole new self contained social circle. And yes we have a Buzz Lightyear so maybe he could teach us to fly.

I feel bad now Dad. Not played with a number of my toys in years. They have been shelved. Woody was mortified when he was shelved. Maybe we should dedicate the online Drama lesson to playing with old toys.”

He’s been so turned off from the subject that playing with old toys would certainly have more learning value.

Dad Ive been thinking about Toy Stories meaning. Basically it’s that you need to keep old toys come what may. Yes always play with them, even when your old. But never, ever give them away – even to a needy cause. It’s a bit of a grim message really.”

And with that he was off to find his old In The Night Garden Toys. But unusually for him, he did not fully think this through. His Dad fell in love with that old BBC kids show. His Dad can still answer any question thrown at him about Igglegpigle, Makka Pakka and the gang. And rather than looking for the shelved toys in the old toy baskets he just needs to look at his Dads bedroom table. No shelved toy sadness here. The In The Night Garden gang are very happy each night. Much loved by someone who really should know better.

Photo from the BBC.

Time

TIME is a funny thing. Walked past here on Friday and hardly any of the white flowers had emerged. 72 hours later after a yucky cold, dark and damp weekend – any hey presto it’s a sea of white.

I remember someone very clever saying that TIME operates at different rates for different people. Thinking about it – that clever person might have been Dr Who. When I was a kid I loved Dr Who. I so wanted to be a Timelord. As a prize for winning a football tournament school arranged a trip to the last day of a Dr Who exhibition. I was super excited. On the way our bus broke down. It took them hours to fix it. Finally we arrived at the exhibition only to find it had closed 5 minutes earlier. How on earth can you miss an exhibition about a time travellerjust doesn’t seem right.

TIME definitely operates at different rates for some of our son’s school teachers. Quite a few of the online classes require the student to read an article or a section of a text book. The amount of reading has definitely increased over the last few school days. The number of follow up tasks has also increased. Strangely the TIME allowed has stayed the same. Exactly where does this approach leave the dyslexic student. I know teachers are super busy but maybe one of them might have asked son how he is coping with reading the course material. They seem much quicker to spot his spelling mistakes. Much better use of TIME.

TIME is also hard to define. School have now rolled out a national learning app primarily aimed at those students who struggle with English comprehension and grammar. Interestingly an app with a rating of 1 out 5 from users (lucky to get 1 by all accounts). Son has been set a weekly app study time of 50 minutes. The teacher will be checking that each student has achieved the weekly minimum study time. Punishments for underachieving. What they don’t mention is that the app uses a lot of videos and narratives. Unfortunately these do not count against the learning time but need to be completed before you can get to the student work areas. When it crashes (and it crashes more times than me on a diet) all learning time is lost and you need to start at the beginning of the section again. So far son has been on the app for just under 3 hours. He’s watched endless boring videos and robotic narratives. He’s still to learn anything new. AND he’s only clocked 20 minutes actual study time.

Dad what is the point of this. I’m bored out of my mind. As you would say, it’s a pile of pants. It’s a complete waste of my time, your time, the teachers time and a waste of bandwidth.”

I fed this back to school with a few of my own rather barbed comments. The school’s response was well we have sent a teacher to be trained in its use, that’s valuable school TIME so we need to keep using it.

Clearly I was wasting my TIME arguing.

Toy Story

Lovely midday weather here in Yorkshire.

It’s funny how you can overthink even the simplest of tasks. We try to make Saturday evening the official movie night of the week. A regular thing for son to look forward to. Popcorn, cola and a great movie. We save up new movies for the full Saturday experience. If we don’t have a new movie then the next best thing is a blockbuster. For days I had been working on a list of potential movies for this Saturday. Scores of candidates slowly whittled down to three favourites.

The Martian

Terminator – Dark Fate

Rocketman

So Saturday night arrived. I proudly gave son the list of three movies.

Ok Dad, let’s watch Toy Story.”

And with that it was Woody and co. A top top movie. Perfect escapism for today’s anxious world. But how much energy did I waste on picking an unused movie list. But I guess the point is that it successfully distracted me for a few days. While watching the movie I played my usual game of trying to pick which character I was most like. Toy Story was easy, clearly I am Rex. Although this morning I am a bit more Mr Potato Head.

We often forget how stressful the current situation is for kids. Confined to base, seeing parents stressed, unremittingly bad news on social media, kept apart from friends. In our sons case the confined to base and kept apart from friends is not really an issue. But his Aspergers requires routine and controllability. These have gone out of the window over the last few weeks. Adjusting to different daily routines. Food on the set weekly schedule (which has been in place for years) becoming unavailable. A completely unpredictable world. The fear of illness and worse ramped up by a spreading pandemic. He’s so young, had to deal with so much already and he’s facing this.

He asked what my best guess was for when things might begin to settle down a bit. Sadly I couldn’t say anytime soon. When he asked about schools opening and I couldn’t see anything happening and sticking before September.

“Dad is that September 2020 or September 2021”

I wouldn’t like to bet my shirt on that. We just don’t know who long the current restrictions will be in place for. When they do come off, how long before they need to be reintroduced. But we just have to deal with that. I’ve got to focus on the one overriding aim. Give son the best childhood possible. So we make the best of the new normal. Strengthen the new routines. AND above all try to have as much fun as possible. So Toy Story is perfect. It’s fun. Thank you Woody and co.

Bed protest

Another cold start. Press ups on the grass are definitely cold on the hands.

Now set into the daily school at home routine. That’s a better way to describe it. It’s not true homeschoolingits schools version of remote learning.

  • 6:30am – start daily exercise (weights, or army fitness, or exercise bike or running round the little garden)
  • 7:30am – try to get as many home cleaning tasks done
  • 8:00am – Son gets up and has breakfast
  • 8:30am – log onto school system and check school messages
  • 8:40am – register for first lesson and complete tasks
  • 9:55am – load completed tasks
  • 10:15am – register for second lesson and complete tasks
  • 11:25am – load completed tasks
  • 11:35am – register for third lesson and complete tasks
  • 12:45pm – load completed tasks
  • 12:50pm – take dog for one walk of the day
  • 1:00pm – outside for talk with son
  • 1:40pm – serve lunch
  • 1:55pm – register for final lesson and complete tasks
  • 3:10pm – load completed tasks and log off
  • 3.20pm – start to breathe and play football

Dad I’m thinking about going Lennon and Yoko tomorrow. Might stay in bed and do the complete school day from there.”

“What are you protesting about then?”

I’m working on that. Maybe the excessive use of red pen at school. Maybe the shortages of baked beans.”

Maybe I can ask one of the important people making daily contact with me. I’ve never had so many Chief Executives and Business Leaders speaking to me. It’s a daily stream of emails wishing me well and informing me of their evolving plans. Our most senior doctors and scientist are giving me helpful advice. Even the PM and the Government are sending me text messages.

It’s suddenly great to be valued and important. I wonder how long this will last. Will it last as long as Son’s bed protest.

Hold off for a week

Looks like Spring. The daffodils are out in force, blue sky and the sun is beating down on the Yorkshire soil. A frozen Yorkshire soil. One problem with this Spring. It’s absolutely freezing and apparently it’s going to get colder. I will hold off getting my shorts out for another week or so.

Yes some things are best left for a week or so.

School is most vexing. Increasing signs that schools version of homeschooling is in fact just the same old, same old. Rebranded but essentially the same teaching approach. It might work for some kids but it’s not working for our son. Yes a couple of subjects have tried to think out of the box, change things up. But the majority have not. It’s such a wasted opportunity.

Most kids are working remotely with no physical contact with their friends. So why not let them use the schools online system for to exchange messages during the homeschool day. No no no. All chats are monitored to ensure they are restricted to school work. Woe betied any kid who is even a minute late to log onto the system at the start of a lesson. Stick to the required task and don’t deviate…..

But let’s give school a week or so to see if the remote teaching programme evolves.

It’s been interesting to notice how much of the online teaching so far has been based on just reading a piece of text then answering questions. No modification for those kids who struggle to read. No additional help for those with dyslexia. Nowt new there then. I asked school for the reading and writing progress he has made over the last 20 months. All school will say on his writing was that no issues had been raised by teachers but they will look at using a computer for his main exams. Will that come with keyboard skills therapy work to help with the problems he has with typing…. apparently not.

On reading they have done some testing. According to the results he is still well behind the expected reading age. Apparently his reading age has improved only marginally in those 20 months. As a result school consider he’s best placed in the bottom set. No one on one help will be provided, if he needs help with reading then he needs to put his hand up and ask the teacher. He just needs to accept that his reading is poor and additional work on improving it is a bit of a waste of time. That’s interesting as over the last six months his reading has drastically improved (no thanks to school). What could be achieved if school did make an effort.

Well let’s give it a week or so. We need to think about the road going forward. What’s the best for our son. Is it schools version of homeschooling (school gates are likely to be shut for months) or will it be our home version. The following weeks will tell us.

Home schooled breadq

Today was the Day 1 of the countries homeschooling project for many. Son’s school is trying to run a full days lessons online. At the usual start time of the lesson he needs to log into the school system. He records his attendance by a simple text message. Then he follows the instructions the teacher has provided. Any work completed is then loaded onto the school system for the teacher to review.

  • Geography was to research and answer a series of questions on Russia for 90 minutes. He quite enjoyed that,
  • Maths was to use an online teaching system. Complete one module. Unfortunately due to the numbers of kids nationwide trying to use the system – it broke,
  • French was to read a handout then try to write a few paragraphs in the remaining time. Didn’t really work for him.
  • Art was to try and replicate 4 photos in various styles. So he tried a few sketches then photographed them and sent that to the teacher.

It kinda worked. It did provide structure but I’m not sure some of the teaching methods really suit our son. But that’s modern teaching in this country. Let’s see what the next few days turn out like. I’m puzzled how some of the subjects will be run. Online PE and Drama could be interesting. Surely they will squeeze in a few of our favourite spelling tests. Food Technology mentioned cooking at home. Maybe even learning from your mum or dad.

“Say that again. Learn cooking and baking from your dad.”

He gave me a withering look.

Sorry dad I’m going to have to say a bad word. Oh CRAP.”

He knows me far too well. A couple of hours later.

Dad, I thought you had planned to put seeds on top of the bread”

“I thought I had put seeds on but clearly I accidentally put grated cheese on instead. It’s now cheesy bread.”

Its vegan cheese isn’t it.”

“Yes I believe it is as that’s the only grated stuff in the fridge.”

Well it’s grated cardboard topped bread then. I do learn from you. How not to cook…”

Breathe

And breathe…. count to 10 and breathe again.

More and more countries go into lockdown. We are surrounded by lands where schools have been closed. Meanwhile here in England our leaders give interviews only to carefully selected media supporters. Even the Chief Medical Officer gives an interview to a right wing newspaper. On the off chance you just might want to find out what our top medical person has to say on the crisis then you have to pay for it. Apparently we might force anyone over seventy into isolation in a few weeks. We might close bars and cinemas down – maybe in a few weeks. We will definitely keep schools open – if teachers go off sick then we will just cram more kids into the available classes. Sticking to the strategy of trying to get as many of the fit and young infected so they develop immunity. All sounds a bit X-Files to me. Seems to be based on the assumptions that infection has no long term side effects and any acquired immunity will be for the long term. Both assumptions are scientifically unproven as yet. Increasing numbers of experts appear to not share the same opinion as our key experts advising the government. Plus this is our Government we are talking about – they couldn’t run a piss up in a brewery. Has anyone seen Boris Johnson over the last few days? I really hope he’s as stressed out as my kid is over the virus….. If it’s sending many of the adults into panic what is it doing to our children.

It’s an odd feeling. Do I trust our countries leaders and it’s experts OR do I rather trust other countries approaches. That excludes the overall US approach – I’m not sure waiting for it to one day just disappear really cuts the mustard as an approach.

So I am wrestling with one decision. Do I let son go to school. I have a duty of care to look after him. Do I think he is safe, secure and well cared for in the educational environment. I’m still wrestling with that one. I think many parents round here are facing the same call. Yes full on school closures have a knock on effect on childcare and staffing in our essential services. Especially as our Government has deliberately cut those services to the bone. We now only have a quarter of the critical care beds that Germany has. But on the other hand how many kids and teachers have underlying medical conditions. Are we not placing them at risk. So it’s not an easy decision. But I need to focus on my son. What’s in his best interest. We also need to keep moving forward.

I need to go shopping tomorrow for a few things. Should be an interesting experience. One of the things I need is a Chocolate Almond Drink. It’s about the only nice dairy substitute drink I have found. It’s expensive but it is always on offer for 3 for £3. Well last week it was caught up in the panic buy restrictions. Now I can only buy 2 in one shop. Suddenly it’s become expensive. What’s bizarre is no bugger else buys it. I strongly suspected that for a while as they don’t put many of these drinks out and often they looked like they hadn’t been touched since I was last there. Being a sad person I have for the last three weeks put a little pencil mark on the next available drink – it’s still been there on my next visit. So clearly they are worried that as the only buyer of that item I may panic buy and deprive myself of buying it next time. It’s all a bit bizarre. But that’s 2020 for you.

With that I will now try to focus on other things on this blog. Yes I may have to mention the pesky virus but I will try not to that much. Over the next few weeks blogging is probably going to become more important for many. A rare connection in our dislocated world. Maybe trying to create a bit of normality in this maelstrom is what is currently needed. What is certainly needed is that we show how much we love our family and those we care most for. That we try just that little harder to be considerate and look out for others in our community. Trying extra hard to be nice and kind. And yes don’t forget to find the time to care for ourselves as well. Finding that time to smile and breathe. We might not be able to agree on what the best approach is to dealing with the virus but being just a little kinder will certainly make us all feel just that bit better about our world. Thats not going to happen fighting over that last pack of 50 toilet rolls.

Take care my friends. x

Prophecy

Colour slowly returning to the garden. Sadly just in time for the next weather blasting. Just so predictable….

A few years back our son had a wonderful medical expert who did an awful lot for him. Just before retirement I remember the experts prophecy. To paraphrase

Our country’s support for kids like yours is nothing short of a disgrace. Sadly if you think that the support he gets now is patchy and insufficient, well just wait a few years. It’s likely to get very much worse. Maybe when he is 12, most definitely when he is a teenager, the minimal support will dry up. He will get reassessed by clinicians who have no practical experience of your son. They will deem him above the clinical threshold and will turn off the support. Clinical threshold should be renamed budgetary threshold. It’s not a reflection of the clinical position. He will still have severe clinical need for intervention. The support will be removed because as a society we don’t support teenagers and adults on the spectrum. We expect them to fend for themselves. If they don’t fulfil their potential then tough. I’ve seen this happen to virtually every kid I have worked with. If they achieve anything in life it’s just down to themselves and their parents. On top of this the school system just assigns them to the bin. It stinks….

Sadly the prophecy is coming true….

Just before Christmas he was reassessed for one of the support services he receives. The assessment was done by someone who had never met our son. The outcome – the service was withdrawn as he no longer met the clinical requirement.

Today we had a therapy session at the local hospital. It’s a service he has had since he was 7. It’s made some great progress over the years. It’s taken time and many sessions. At the last session his worker agreed on a programme to help with his handwriting, keyboard skills, and areas such as shoelaces/school ties. The programme after that would look at trying to help with coordination specifically aimed at swimming and bike riding. He has significant problems in each of these areas. Well guess what. At today’s session his worker was joined by a senior member of the team. A reassessment was made of his case. After a few practical exercises we were informed that he was now above the support threshold. He was now discharged from the service. They would write to school and give them some suggestions on his future schooling. We were handed a couple of information sheets on handwriting and shoelace tying. We can ask his Paediatrician to review this decision. We are on the waiting list to see a Paediatrician – currently our last appointment was over two years ago.

So we are now down to one service support now. But that is so underfunded. His worker is wonderful but because of workloads she struggles to see him now. Last year we got invites to a couple of group sessions. His last one to one session was back in 2018. Clearly it’s only a matter of time before that last helping hand is removed.

It really feels like that the health service has now dumped our son since he’s a teenager. I guess they argue that it’s an educational problem now. Unfortunately the school system has washed its hands of our son already. Like so many kids the school’s write them off. Label them low attainment. If they get the odd exam certificate in the end then school has achieved its goal. Ticked it’s box on the Government’s school assessment.

So here we are in the brave new world. We are fending for ourselves. Our only support – a few pages of photocopied guidance from a textbook. How can we have got this so wrong. How many thousands and thousands of autistic teenagers and adults are in the position. Some of the statistics on autistic suicide rates, unemployment, depression and poverty are appalling. But society doesn’t care. Our leaders don’t care. That’s a truly sickening thought.

Cake test

This was my attempt at baking son’s birthday cake. It’s amazing what heaps of icing can hide. The cake was a bit over baked with a huge volcano like hole at its centre. I plugged the hole with soft sweets and then covered with thick icing. What was left of the sweet packet was scattered on top. I might be onto something here. The soft sweet centre worked brilliantly. As a result the cake was deemed “not too bad at all” which on our sons review scheme equates to just above two Michelin stars. So now that’s got me thinking what other things can I fill the inevitable cake sunken holes with. I’m going for jelly in the next one. I will report back on my test.

On the subject of tests …. ok troops, time to stand by up your beds. Its spelling test time.

School is slipping as we have had only one spelling test this week. So they better make it a doozy.

Imagery

Alliteration

Rhyming

Couplets

Syllables

Stanza

Rhythm

Sonnet

Simile

Metaphor

Hyperbole

Assonance

Personification

Onomatopoeia

Enjambement

Another cracking list of words that will be of great use in son’s future life. My last conversation with school stressed the point

That spelling tests for dyslexic students are not recommended practice. If they have to be used then they should only focus on the most commonly used words.

Good to see the school are sticking to the common words then. I had to look up Enjambement. I was sadly disappointed to find that it wasn’t a Caribbean Cooking term for combining Jackfruit with Jamba Juice. My favourite flying dinosaur (Onomatopoeia) makes a welcome return. Last time I pulled that joke I had a shedload of abuse from my Texan fan club….. For some reason Son can’t say ASSonance without cracking up. Must get to the bottom of that joke.