About to do something unusual

I’m going to do something very unusual for me. A first probably here.

It’s time to praise school……

Yes I give it a hard time most days – probably very justifiably. But here goes with some praise.

It’s been very sunny and warm over the last few days. Doesn’t happen much in Yorkshire. Anyway one of the really great teachers (sadly one who happens to be leaving soon…) decided the kids in her class needed some fresh air rather than stuffy text books – so she sent them outside to enjoy the sun. Only bringing them in for a few minutes at the end to quickly run through a couple of learning points. Son said it made the rest of the school day so much less tiring and the behaviour in the class was improved. Big thumbs up from me on that one,

The school has a compulsory extra hour of school every week. This is to allow work on additional non-curriculum teaching. For the last few months our son was in the Book Reading Club. A tremendous idea for a dyslexic. But now for the rest of the school year the subject has changed. Now it is Archeology. How cool is that. I really wanted it to be taught by someone like Indiana Jones with a sexy hat and whip

Sorry Dad nothing like him. Looks like a teacher who doesn’t get out much.”

Socks

After my dogs failed attempt at love making we walked further down the path. Unusually for Yorkshire it was sunny and warm. So I donned my baseball cap. I must admit I’ve never really liked wearing a hat. Just doesn’t feel right – but needs must. As soon as the sun goes in the hat comes off. I would hate the prospect of wearing it all day every day.

One of the most pronounced aspects of our son’s Aspergers is his sensory hypersensitivity. He just hates the feel of certain objects and materials. For example he hates the feel of wool on his skin. He hates the feel of a scarf round his neck. He even hates the feel of the wind on his legs so he has not worn a pair of shorts since he was a toddler. He calls it an awful, almost painful sensation.

It is a common experience for many people on the spectrum. In particular the feeling can be worse when it’s centred on the hands and feet. It can materialise in different ways. Some find socks a blessing as they hate the feeling of the floor on their feet. The science talks about the brain have difficulty integrating the information from the five basic senses. Sensory Integration Disorder. Often we find the science interesting but of little practical help.

With our son he has no sensitivity related to his hands but his feet are another matter. He has always hated the feel of socks. He calls it the ‘worst feel ever’. You can see his body shaking when he has to put a sock on. At home it’s not a problem. In the garden it’s not a problem. He is always barefoot. When we go out he will often have shoes on with no socks. Even if this means getting blisters as that sensation is nowhere near the agony of socks. It helps that in the normal run of things he has such a high pain tolerance.

But for school he has to wear socks. We have tried ones specifically designed for autistic people but these did little to address the problem. Now we buy seamless ones which are as short as we can get away with. But they are still an unpleasant feeling for him. We have tried putting pressure on the feet (squeezing with your hands) or brushing the feet with a surgical brush prior to putting socks on (trying to desensitise the skin) – no help. Imagine trying to concentrate for 8 hours with that feeling gnawing at your soul. As soon as he returns home the socks are rapidly discarded. Son is happy and the flying socks makes the dog particularly happy as well.

Break time

Why had Captain Chaos adopted his ‘please don’t’ position. Not being threatened with a walk. Not been shouted out. No need for a bath. Bizarre.

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An item on the news caught my attention. Strangely it was not the ongoing brexit cockup. It wasn’t the story about some TV celebrity going out with somebody else I had never heard of. It wasn’t the recurring piece on the UK is about to have the best summer in 50 years – more chance of my football team winning something. Don’t start me on that one – 1969 for the last European trophy and 1955 for a domestic one.

No it was the story which got the least news time. ‘ School break times are becoming a thing of the past’. If you listened hard enough you could hear a few quickly presented facts.

  • 11 to 16 year olds now get 65 minutes per week less break time than they did 25 years ago
  • Just 1% of secondary schools now have an afternoon break time
  • 82% of secondary schools now have less than 55 minutes for lunch
  • 25% of schools have lunch breaks of less than 35 minutes
  • One in eight school children have a reported mental health problem (I suspect this only scratches the surface)
  • 22000 pupils in Year 6 are classed as severely obese but apparently this has nothing to do with the reduction in break times. Even though the Chief Medical Officer is calling for at least 60 minutes of moderate exercise per day – unlikely to happen when you are sat at a desk

A helpful person from the Government said it was nothing to do with them as it was up to schools to sort out the school day. Strangely he didn’t mention the strict targets his Government had placed on schools.

When our son returned from school today I found his uneaten lunch and unopened bottle of water. Apparently he didn’t get time to have them today. So no food or drink in 8 hours – that is clearly conducive to educational excellence.

His average school day seems to be a 10 to 15 minute morning break which is just enough time to get to the next class. A lunchtime of queuing to get into the canteen, then grabbing some food and making your way to the next lesson. Again in the afternoon a break just long enough to allow kids to get to the next lesson.

How can this be right. I can hear the howls about ‘kids are there to learn so that they can get good jobs’. But sorry kids do need to have fun. If they are enjoying school they will learn better. School is not just about feeding our warped society, it’s about preparing kids for life. It’s ups and downs. It’s work time and its leisure time.

Modern day schooling has become sadly dysfunctional.

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Food in the kitchen finally moved the dog. All is revealed. It wasn’t his ‘please don’t’ position. It was in fact the ‘all the socks from the washing basket looked too tempting so I pinched them and needed somewhere quick to hide them and lying on them is the best I can think of’ position.

Blood Red Sky

“Dad its a long time since we had a properly red sunset. I can only remember seeing 3 blood red ones.”

He’s right. We are lucky here. It’s a daft thing to say but we have a big sky here. Not much blocking it out. Well apart from Yorkshire Clag – that’s thick low cloud. When we get a clear sunset they are often stunning but very rarely blood red.

But very occasionally we get one.

I know that a red sky at night is a fisherman’s delight but I think it might be an omen. At the very least I would hope Dracula or the Hammer Horror movies were born from a blood red night. Just think what a nightmare it would have been if the Dracula or Hound of the Baskerville authors had come up with the idea looking at a sunset but finding that they were dyslexic. The stories may have been lost. How many great ideas have been messed up by not being able to write”

Think of all the great stories that have been made by people with Dyslexia. You just have to find different ways of getting things done. Plus what happened if the Dracula author took one look at the red sky and said ‘That reminds me of a cricket ball I’m going to write about a famous cricketer.”

After a puzzled look. What about if Stoker. You do know Stoker wrote Dracula. If Stoker had said that reminds me of a blood sucking chipmunk called Alvin. The first book would have been called Alvin Prince of Annoying Singing. That’s when you would have wished Stoker was dyslexic.”

Can’t argue with that. Another thing I can’t complain about it he is now starting to find some humour in some of his greatest fears. That’s a step in the right direction. Now what’s the odds on a blood red sky tonight being serenaded by a signing rodent…

Public Apology.

Unfortunately the last few posts have been a tad unfair to a great performer. Picked on him a bit. I do like him a bit really. No not talking about Bono and U2 – not even scratched the surface with them yet. I’m talking about Alvin. I would like to apologise to him and all his brethren. Singing Rodents are welcome here. Not you Bono – you can bugger off…

Football

You try and show off your Messi like ball skills (in my dreams)… Then something gets in the way. The dog loves football. He’s very keen however he still is struggling to pick up even the most rudimentary basic game rules.

“Dad now its the end of the season it’s time to check our team predictions.” Each of us tries to guess where each team will finish in the English Premier League. That’s 20 teams.

Ok I’ll go and find the lists we wrote down.

No need Dad I can remember where we put each team”. That’s two lists we did back in August. When I later checked – he remembered both lists perfectly. I can’t even remember our telephone number..

Guess who lost….

Dad you said Fulham would finish 7th. They got relegated.”

“You said Huddersfield would be mid table and they all got 16pts coming last”

“Funniest one is you said Newcastle (my club) would finish bottom. They somehow got to to 13th”.

He didn’t even have to check the final league table. This was memorised perfectly as well.

As you came second I need to decide your forfeit. You have to listen to YouTube Alvin and The Chipmunks song videos for three hours solid.”

Deep joy. Still could be worse. Could have been U2….

Restricted View

Since the world changed things have become financially very tight. Two wages became one. That one wage was a full time steady one but it quickly became a part time zero hours contract. We have two financial positions. Close to the edge or veering towards the edge. The hope is that we can keep going until son has left school, is independent and I can return to a proper income. But the bottom line is our son will always come first the bankers come second.

We don’t have many indulgences. Just can’t afford them.

Our son has had it so tough. Aspergers, Dyslexia, ADHD, Dyspraxia, losing his mum, losing all his grandparents. The only thing that drives me is that I want to do everything possible to give him the best childhood.

So yes we do have some indulgences.

We pay for an annual pass to a Zoo. If you time it right you can get it heavily discounted.

We pay for a couple of rock concerts a year. We always sit at the back and pay for the cheapest seats available.

Twice a year he goes to see the WWE wrestling when they come to the UK. Again we opt for the tickets right at the back. It’s not great as the wrestlers appear that small it might as well be Lego Figure fighting. But not this time. We went to see it at the weekend. This time when I booked it I came across a couple of seats closer to the ring which had been heavily discounted due to a restricted view.

Really that’s some restricted view. Great night for our son and at last close enough to actually see the wrestlers faces…

So job done today got a happy boy.

One extra bonus. On the way back to the car we watched a massive city fireworks display. Far too much for my knackered phone.

The view

Looking out into the distance.

Dad that’s a top View. Unbeatable.”

It is. Completely fogged out. Can’t see more than 5 yards in front of us. See kids with Aspergers can do irony.

The garden could be beautifully cut and looking like a football pitch before a major cup final. Wonderfully straight stripes.”

Now he is in full irony mode. It’s more like a cow field at present.

Since we don’t have a view to look at we have license to make our own one up. I’m seeing Whitby Habour on a stormy day.

Dad I’m seeing one image. Do you remember that day when I stood on top of the world. I loved that.”

I so do. He was about 5 and we ventured onto his first mountain. A beautiful Swiss one. Glorious blue skies. Fresh alpine air. Surrounded by dream like peaks. The two of us having a crazy snowball fight. My partner and her mum happily sat in the mountain top restaurant having hot chocolate.

A beautiful moment.

This can be such a wonderful life if we only just give it a chance.

A touch of yellow

The Oilseed Crops are stunning at this time of year.

Just a carpet of yellow.

As we walk along the path I ponder the chances of being ambushed by a group of barbarians in giant banana costumes. Son wonders if this would be the perfect location for Pikachu to hide.

As we walk along son suddenly asks

Why do I have dyslexia?”

Son already knows the answer but it’s vagueness, it’s lack of clarity doesn’t sit well with his way of thinking. You can’t give him a definite answer. All you can do is reassure him that Dyslexia has absolutely nothing to do with intelligence. Having Dyslexia does not mean your stupid. It just means you learn in different ways. You tell him all the wonderful people who are dyslexics. The wonderful careers, the unbelievable achievements. Dyslexia doesn’t stop you dreaming.

  • Albert Einstein
  • Stephen Hawking
  • At least 3 US Presidents
  • Walt Disney
  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • Muhammad Ali
  • Keira Knightley, Tom Cruise, Orlando Bloom, Jim Carrey
  • Ozzy
  • Whoopi Goldberg
  • Steven Spielberg, Guy Richie
  • Richard Branson

I suddenly start signing the Beetles song ‘Yellow Submarine’.

And John Lennon.

We go back to silence and yellow.

Parallel Universe

I set my decrepit laptop off on a relatively simple task. But again it went on a go slow. So I foolishly turned on the tv while I waited. A quick bit of channel hopping ended up with me in a parallel small screen universe.

The programme I stumbled on appeared to be about parents talking about modern day life. It’s certainly a different life to mine:

  • One Dad complained that he had been forced to cut back on his golf due to his kids. He now only played golf Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Really. I haven’t played golf in 7 years.
    A couple talked about having to make economies as the second child was just starting private school. They had been forced to cut the number of overseas holidays down to 4 per year. How many holidays did they have before they cut back.
    Another couple talked about parenting being a lot easier than they expected. They did then mention a small fact. They paid for a full time, live-in nanny.
    Another couple admitted that they had accidentally left their new born baby alone three times in various pubs and restaurants – only realising when they got home. They said it was just like accidentally leaving a bag on a bus. Unbelievably our last Prime Minister did this once – and we trusted him with the nuclear codes….
    One mum argued that parents should stop moaning about lifestyle choices. Apparently parents should just pay for babysitting. She would often have 3 or 4 nights out a week as babysitters were so cheap. That’s good to know.
    Another couple complained that they had been forced to buy a new family car – the families third car on the drive. Apparently baby seats or a pushchair would not fit into either of their two sports cars. Not sure 3 cars would fit on my drive….
    Then a Dad talked about how he had stopped his son from playing football and rugby because it was getting his new car muddy. Thank god that Dad has never been in our house. We don’t have much money but my goodness we got inside mud a plenty to show him.

Thankfully for my sanity my laptop found a couple more horse power and completed its task. So I quickly turned the TV off. I must admit that I did not particularly enjoy that brief visit to the parallel parenting universe. Maybe it’s just me. Anyway I’m off to buy a massive Hummer vehicle as I can’t fit all our son’s old Peppa Pig videos in our one car.

Our slope

Finally it stopped raining. Still cold but at least it’s dry. Maybe Spring is finally going to get going. Even with it being cold it’s hard to believe that this photo was taken from our winter ski slope. With our lack of snow this year the slope has remained firmly shut. It’s not steep. It’s not particularly scary. It’s not the longest run. But it’s ours. It’s the very much smaller cousin to the famous Lauberhorn Ski Run. We have it to ourselves. Never seen any evidence to disprove this. I bet even Trump doesn’t have his own ski slope.

It’s one of the advantages of living in the sticks. Not often do you encounter crowds. In fact most days you don’t encounter any human life. That is a relief as if he could see another soul anywhere within 500 yards he would stop dead in his tracks and whisper.

Come on Sherpa pick up the sled we are going home”

But thankfully that has not happened here. It’s happened when we have tried other snow places out. But not here. So now when it snows we stick to our slope.

Two minute walk to the ski run. An hours sledging. Then a two minute walk back to the inevitable hot chocolate and fire. This isolation is so important to our son. He feels safe. He also feels accepted.

You can’t be different when I’m the only one here.”

When he was at his last school some of the kids went sledging at the back of the school. Initially it was just our son and a really lovely girl. For a few minutes they played in the snow really happily. Then the other kids arrived and son stopped playing. He stood at the side and watched for a while. Then he asked if he could go home.

I suspect strongly that I am not alone as a parent in having observed this type of thing. Initially I would try to encourage him to join in. But now I realise the best thing is to revert to my Sherpa role. Pick up his stuff and get him home.

But no risk of snow now. It’s Spring you know…..

During the summer months the field plays home to sheep and cows. That provides a little bit of danger to skiing season. I remember a particularly enjoyable time when I came off the sled and landed in a clearly defrosted cow pat. Not sure what would be worse – concussion from a frozen pat or the feel of cow poo over your body and on your face. Probably not Concussion….

But today the rain has passed, no snow so you can stand at the top of the ski run and admire the view.