How does the mind work

I can memorise phone numbers, the stars in constellations, virtually every of the Mr Men books yet every year I can never remember what the tree which overhangs our garden is. Every year I have to look it up……

Dad why do I find some long words easy to remember yet some small words I have to keep relearning every time I see them

It is one of the great frustrations of dyslexia. When you read some words, maybe all words it’s always like your reading them for the first time. Doesn’t matter how many times you see that word it’s always like you have never seen it before. Constantly having to decode and relearn. Speaking with the health professionals there can be hundreds of potential neurological, physical, visual, environmental reasons for this. Often it will be a spiders web of causes. Some get answers, many don’t. With our son we have only just started to scratch the surface. Maybe the best we can hope for is by trial and error we come across stuff which help but we will never fully understand why.

I can sort of understand what our son is going through from my own experiences. I was a reading late starter. I eventually found a way that worked for me. But there are words that I still constantly struggle with. They stop me in my reading track for a few seconds. Thoroughly is one that I have to almost relearn every time I read it. I struggle with spelling. Autocorrect is such a godsend. Then you get words like There, Their, They’re. Every time I use it I have to relearn the rules on which variant to use. It’s as if my brain just blanks the rules as soon as I’ve used it once. It’s not that I don’t understand the rules, I just can’t see them, just see static. Never will understand why.

It’s like trying to fully understand grief. The brain processes it in different ways. Some memories are painful. Some items I can’t touch or look at anymore. Yet other items bring happiness and are almost like a comfort blanket. I drive past the first house we lived in as a couple and I often stop. It brings good memories and smiles. Yet I can’t look at my mums last house. It’s filled with good memories but …. When I go to the Dentist I should drive past the house yet I take a much longer route to avoid the street. I can go by the hospice where my partner died yet I become a shaking wreck if I walk past one of the wards where she was initially assessed.

Some days the brain relishes working on its own. No complications, no alternate views. Isolation is a boon especially when the world seems so alien to me these days. No awkward social moments. Peace and tranquility. Yet other days the brain can’t cope with the isolation. It’s a cold dark prison. The world is living outside yet I feel so adrift here in these four walls. No love for the prisoner, just got to do my time. It’s the same house and same brain yet different outcomes.

How does the mind work – it’s beyond me.

Is Phonics the wrong path

Our much beloved School Minister (and first holder of our Boris Numpty Award), Nick Gibb declared “the debate is over”. He was referring to his decision which meant the all kids in English schools would have to learn reading by phonics. Kids are taught to break words up into parts and then learn individual sound parts. Previously kids were taught with a mix of phonics and the old approach of memorising the whole world.

Interestingly our School Minister who is an expert in all things education has no practical experience of teaching. He is an accountant. Which makes me equally qualified to set school policy….

Yes phonics does work for some kids but not for others. For example many kids with dyslexia or kids on the spectrum struggle to decode words and then struggle to produce the right sounds for each individual part. I’ve tried phonics and I struggle with it. It’s a disaster with son. We could be trying to use phonics for the next 100 years and it will still not help our son to read.

We all must have done this. Set out for a nice walk. In the case of the photos across the stunning North Yorkshire Moors. Then you come to a crossroads. Paths going in all directions. You look vaguely at the map. Try to look like a professional. Fold up the map carefully. Then go Eeny, meeny, miny, moe and randomly guess the right path. In my case it is usually unerringly wrong. After several miles you get that sinking feeling – wrong path.

Actually wrong path is not the best description. It will be the right path for many. It will take them to their desired location. But for some (like me) we could go down this path for years and it will never ever get us to our desired location. So what I need to do is get off this path and find a path which works for me. That is the sensible thing to do. As a I am not that sensible I won’t retrace my steps back to the crossroads. I will try to break trail in a different direction in the hope that I will find the path for me.

Now according to our Schools Minister all kids should go down the same reading path. Unfortunately doing that will guarantee that some kids never do arrive at their destination. Endlessly walking down this path, getting lost, getting disillusioned. That’s what happened to us. We blindly went down the phonics path and basically got no where.

But then we stopped and said stuff you Nick Gibb. And we broke a new trail.

  • We started learning some of the most common words the traditional way. Son would memorise the whole word.
  • We started playing around with various learning to read games on the internet.
  • Using trial and error son would try to use app’s like YouTube, Google Search or games like FIFA by himself.
  • Son would watch TV shows with the subtitles on. Movies like the Avengers were perfect. He knew them virtually off by heart. So he could focus on the subtitles and start to make links.
  • He would relentlessly work on his coordination. He would read a grid of letters while clapping his hands. He would bounce a ball while trying to learn and read words.
  • We would jointly read books. Normally Mr Men books. They were just the right length and fun. He would join in when he wanted to. I would never correct a mistake. He would process that himself.

The new trail has started to work. We haven’t reached our son’s destination but it feels like we are heading in the right direction at last. Enough for son to call himself now – a reader.

So I hope our Schools Minister finds his own path. Preferably takes him a million miles away from this countries classrooms. Then we can get back to trusting parents, teachers and kids to pick the education path which best suits them.

Decibels

Currently the mad dog is being completely bonkers. It’s a kinda let’s bark at everything type of day. Currently the apple tree is getting it. But as the decibels rise my mind wanders to that quiet little pup. What happened…..

Son is not impressed. If you look closely at the photo you will notice that the duvet cover is Peppa Pig themed. It’s a perfectly good cover so is still used today when his Jurassic Park one is being washed. Son doesn’t really see the practical benefits.

You do know Peppa Pig is for little kids. It’s not as if I’m watching it. I know you do when you get the chance, but not me. I was watching about the Black Death last night..”

I do have to admit that a quick bit of Peppa Pig, or the Clangers or In The Night Garden is strangely therapeutic. And yes I can’t remember the Peppa Pig episode which featured the Black Death.

All my parenting waffles are subject to a major caveat. As statisticians would say – it’s based on a very limited sample size. Like one child. One child on the autistic spectrum with dyslexia. So when I see something I can’t be sure if that is just particular to our son or is a common thing. The only other benchmark I can use is my childhood. That seems a long time ago…..

Son has a lot of areas where he is more developed and refined than his Dad. Seemingly way beyond his years. But also in a number of areas he probably still reverts back to the Peppa Pig years. Cuddly toys. Not wanting to leave the safety of the family nest. Mr Men stories. Petting Zoos. Toy cars….

Maybe it’s a fear of growing up.

But I can relate to this. Not wanting to completely forget your early childhood days. Now where is that Peppa Pig dvd….

Speaking about not forgetting things.

It’s the Great Bloggers Bake-Off this Sunday. It’s all about having a bit of fun. Pop over to Mel’s blog – Crushed Caramel (Learner at Love). She has done so much work to set this up.

Our special judge is A Jeanne in the Kitchen.

Let’s go Sunday Spongecake mad.

Please send photos of your creation(s) to crushedcaramel@gmail.com

Bridges

Sunday seems such a long time ago. I just love the quayside area of Newcastle. Yes it’s built up. Some of the architecture is 18th century housing modern wine bars, restaurants, fast food joints and pubs. But it just seems to work and dovetail together.

But the highlight for me are the bridges over the River Tyne. All so different and just stunning.

Too often people look towards the famous Tyne Bridge and forget to look in the other direction.

Son was really brave and made it into the football stadium. He enjoyed the full Mr Men display from his dad. He even got animated with the pompous and bumbling referee (without prompting). For anyone who follows English Football – Mike Dean is infamous. Yes it ended up with my team losing again but that misses the point. It was one of those days where our son ventured into a world which is not his and rather enjoyed it.

Mr Men

This is the best the weather has managed since the strange yellow disk appeared yesterday morning. A brief thinning of the clouds then the darkness descends and it just rains and rains and rain. This is not good for the soul. Another thing which is not good for the soul is football.

I have taken a punt and bought two tickets for my teams next match on Sunday. It’s a bit of a lottery taking our son to a game. He would really enjoy it if it was just the two of us in the crowd. Unfortunately it will be 52000 in the crowd. We turn up at the stadium and see how he feels. If he shakes his head we scrap the football and head towards the river so he can do some Pokemon Go hunting. However sometimes he’s ok to give it a go and when he gets inside the stadium he enjoys the atmosphere. Never been able to pinpoint why we get the different reactions. So fingers crossed for Sunday.

Apart from the atmosphere he loves watching the Mr Men show. That’s not referring to my alleged football team but my reaction to the game. Our son says it’s about getting the popcorn in and then watching his dad go through the characters in the Mr Men show.

Entering Stadium – Dad is going to watch the game MR HAPPY

Trying to find the seats – Dad always gets lost MR FORGETFUL

Start of the match – Dad very nervous MR JELLY

Few minutes into the game – team started ok MR CHEERFUL

Game starting to go downhill – team starting to struggle MR WORRY

Team now losing – team playing badly MR GRUMBLE

Team now getting hammered – Dad getting annoyed MR GRUMPY

Team clearly going to lose again – Dad getting VERY annoyed MR RUDE

Team lost – left stadium Dad needs to eat lots of food to cheer up MR GREEDY