Burns

It’s hot. That’s Yorkshire hot. Which probably means mild in other parts of the world. My Dad would have called it mafting. It’s that mafting that even the Yorkshire Farm Machinery can’t cope. The photo shows the smouldering wreck of an unfortunate tractor with a badly burnt field. That’s a first on the dog walk.

Our Son does suffer from stress and overpowering fears. When he took one look at the burnt carnage he immediately panicked that our house would soon be engulfed in flames. It’s understandable as the field is less than a mile from us. I tried to calm his fears with words but with no luck. So actions are required. A mad Dad sat down in the blackened field. Look son my bum is getting a little warm but my shorts are not ablaze. Although it did demonstrate a point I should have thought the plan through a bit. Light grey shorts are maybe not that fetching when they have two buttock shaped black marks on the rear.

Although our son’s wild fire fear has been dampened down a little. Sometimes silliness works better than rational argument. It is still there and will be until normal Yorkshire weather returns.

When you have a child who suffers from these inhibiting fears it is vital that you try and keep on top of them. Working in partnership with school and health services is vital. At his last school they were usually on the ball. The teacher would catch me at the end of day or send a quick email to let me know if something had happened. If it was particularly significant school would phone immediately.

Unfortunately at his new school this has completely stopped. I fully understand that it’s a much bigger school and he has different teachers for each subject. But surely they still have a duty of care. I know speaking with the health professionals they say unfortunately most schools in they area are the same now. The close partnership working which was in place a few years ago has dried up. Again and again it comes back to the same reason. Government. As one Doctor said

Under the last Labour Government it was about the patient. Now the patient is a secondary consideration to income generation, competition and profit. Money is now king.

So increasingly it’s just left to parents, families and friends. The days of government for the greater good are over. Its all about self help and what the individual can afford. Must deliver tax cuts. It’s back to Victorian ethics. Days when democracy could be overridden by the powerful and the rich. A time when it was ok to send poor kids up chimneys. When hatred and discrimination was the norm.

Maybe it’s just me and I’m in the minority. Just my irrational fear. But increasingly my country is becoming alien to me. I hate what is becoming. Too many kids do not get the support they badly need. As a generation we have really messed up our priorities. Our leaders happily play fiddles while Rome burns. Or maybe we should now change that to our leaders go to comedy clubs while the Amazon burns.

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.

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….

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.

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.

Brevity

If I tried to describe these two photographs I suspect I would waffle on for two or three paragraphs. Vibrant colours. summer, natural, wild, rugged, course, memories, wildlife, whistling wind, pastel greens, deep reds, rebirth, life cycle, arcadian , sustainable farming, ruminative, pain of war…..

And when I asked our son his description would be

Flowers in a field”

You get the picture I waffle and he speaks with brevity.

It was an interesting power struggle at school this week. English was all about informal forms of communication. In particular how to write postcards when on holiday in Spain. Clearly the teacher was looking for postcards in the style of Wordsworth, Keats or Shakespeare. Encouraging the use of words like Majestic, Glorious, Wonderments, Shining, Gleaming, Culturally Enrichments, Golden, Redolent, Effulgent.

Son clearly was in a different narrative time zone.

1st Attempt. Hi. In Barcelona, look it up on the internet, Goodbye

2nd Attempt. Hi. In Pretty Barcelona. It’s got a great football team, Goodbye

3rd Attempt. Hi. Still in Barcelona it’s better than Madrid, Goodbye

Final Attempt. Hi. Barcelona is still in Spain and it’s still better than Madrid. Will phone you on my mobile so not sure why I’m sending a postcard. Goodbye

Luckily the teacher could see the funny side. She could also see the impact of Aspergers and Dyslexia here. To him a stunning deeply evocative blood coloured red flower is in fact a Pentas lanceolata. His bottom. line is let’s just get to the point and less words mean less Dyslexia struggles. Can’t argue with that.

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.

Oh come on…

Stood watching the sunset. Two thoughts crossed my mind.

One… what a stunning sunset. Developed without warning and only lasted a few minutes. It’s the sort of sunset that would have made my partner so happy.

Two… bloody hell my fingers hurt.

You get towards the end of the school year with the once extensive school uniform reserves drained to drought levels. Down to one of each item and they have seen much better days. Sizing is probably about two sizes to small and really they are just a collections of holes held together by a few resilient fibres. Just got to make them last two more weeks. That reminds me – I had better start saving for next terms uniform replenishment. Bet that’s cheap!!!

It maybe only two weeks but you can almost see what’s left of the clothes disintegrating in the air. It’s time for drastic action. It’s time for emergency patching. Unfortunately sewing comes as naturally to me as veganism comes to Donald Trump. I am useless. Always have been, always will be. Up to two years ago that wasn’t a problem. My partner loved darning and out would come the sewing box with such glee. My mum was also an expert in the dark sewing arts. Those days have gone now.

So now it’s down to me. Houston we have a problem. So out came my partners sewing box. A result a couple of useable patches ready to go. How hard can this really be. So a fine looking needle was selected. Several different types of thread to go for. Helpfully each has a number 60, 70, 75, 80 – what the hell does that mean – is it size, age, weight, tensile strength. Let’s go for 60 as it’s black. We then start to put the thread through the needle eye. T***, f***, s***, b******, buggerations. I might as well of been trying to give a cheesed off Honey Badger a haircut. One hour it took me, one hour of my life wasted on that instrument of torture.

Then I started to attach the patch to the trouser knee hole. The sodding thread falls out of the needle. So we start again. Two coffees later we have a needle and thread ready to go again. Now the needle won’t go through the patch. What is it made of – bullet proof armour. Eventually I punch through but with so much force that the needle eye has embedded into my finger. Blood everywhere. After a plaster has been applied I continue. Not once, not twice maybe six times the needle struggles to get through the patch but once through it passes through my finger skin with such ease. In the end my fingers resembles Spongebob Squarepants’s backside. Holes everywhere.

But finally the job is done. The patch is secured and doesn’t look too bad. Quite pleased with that. THEN. Oh for f*** sake, oh come on!!!!

In hindsight it might not have been a great idea to push the needle not only through the front of the trousers but then through the back of the trousers as well. Great work. Now the left trouser leg is completely sewn tight at the knee. What’s the kid supposed to do – hop to school, pirate style.

Don’t think badly of me. After I unpicked the stitching I decided to stick the patch on with superglue. Let’s hope it doesn’t rain.

So yes it’s a wonderful sunset but my fingers are so much more redder…

It’s a fight

Life is a permanent fight for survival. That applies to plants. It applies to humans. It applies to me. It probably applies to you.

For me it’s a fight on many fronts

  • Depression
  • Grief
  • Isolation
  • School
  • Government
  • Health Providers
  • Finances
  • Stereotyping
  • Body
  • Tiredness
  • Workload
  • With myself

It’s never ending. As much as you try you can never apparently win. Often your best hope is to just keep in the game. Survive another day.

But the key is to try and talk. Sometimes that is easier said that done. It is so easy for someone to get lost. Cut adrift from society. Friends drop off the radar. Those you love and depend upon are taken from you. That’s when talking becomes a rarity. A quick chat with the postman the closest you get to outside world discourse. It just isn’t enough.

But thankfully we have another weapon available to us. Blogging…. It opens up a new way to talk. To listen. To seek solace. To meet new friends. To feel connected again. To weep. To get angry. To think. Maybe even to laugh.

It’s not for everyone. You sometimes hear the criticism. You may get the occasional critical email.

So to those who accuse some of us of just being attention seekers. Wallowing in our own self importance. Inflating our egos. Maybe you are right, maybe your wrong. But frankly I don’t give a fig. I have more important fights to pursue and for me blogging is now a vital part of my defence system. It helps to prevent me veering towards some very dark places.

Yes it’s a fight but a fight better shared.

Parent worries

Something has been nagging at me all day. Just can’t get it out of my head. Even the two cows couldn’t shake the feeling.

I picked son up early yesterday from school. We had a doctors appointment before we set off for Manchester Arena. As we walked out of school we passed his class walking in the other direction. Half of the class completely blanked our son even though he said ‘Hi’ a few times to them. But that might have just been me my presence – that’s what I am trying to convince myself.

The bigger worry is that a few of the kids did speak to him. One kid asked if he was going home. When our son said yes the kid replied with a really sarky comment. Then as we walked on I heard a couple of other rather unpleasant comments directed at our son from some of the other kids. These were also greeted with much laughter. I really hope our son never picked up on these. Luckily I think he did miss the meaning.

I realise school is a bear pit some days. But…

I had hoped he was slowly starting to fit in. Maybe I was deluding myself. That thought feels like a dagger to the heart. Yes it could just be just normal playground antics which have been going on for years. I remember as a kid getting the ‘specky four eyes’ comments. Many of the other kids got far worse. But it is a worry. Pointless speaking to school as they say he is fitting in well with a number of friends. The school does seem to count friends as anyone who sits next to our son in a lesson – regardless of whether a teacher has instructed that child to sit next to him or not.

Just going to have to try and make this weekend even more fun for him.