Two quotes

“I AM DIFFERENT NOT LESS” – Dr Temple Grandin

Another week we dust ourselves down and go again. Although the route is still shrouded in mist and we face countless dead ends – we must keep going. If not for me but for our son.

A session with a new health professional. Always a good sign when she does not ask me what I want, she asks our son. The health professional is going to contact school to see what work they have undertaken to help with our son’s handwriting. Assuming school has done nothing and has no plans to do so (which we believe is the position) then the health service will start a programme to help with his writing. This will be the first time in three years work that son will have had specific help with his writing. Let’s see what progress can be made, what writing aids help. If progress cannot be made then that might be the time we start to move away from pen and paper to keyboard and voice recognition.

So we start down another path.

These are the specific areas son asked for help with

  • Handwriting
  • Shoelaces and Ties
  • Holding objects like handles which require two hands.

Interestingly he sees Aspergers as who he is – his personality. Aspergers is not a label just him. However he now sees himself as not dyslexic.

The fact that I can now read some of the words and can mostly guess the rest means I’m not dyslexic. Now I’m just not very good at reading.

I think this recent view of dyslexia is down to school. Firstly school sees anyone with dyslexia as low attainment. Son hates being branded as below average. As a result Son sees dyslexia as an unwelcome label. Secondly the label dyslexic brings him no additional help from school. Whats the point of referring to yourself as dyslexic if it brings no support benefits and only results in being automatically branded below other kids in the class.

The bottom line is the school system has failed him. It has failed too many kids. That’s one of the reasons you read so many cases of great individuals who have decided to hide their dyslexia. Kenny Logan is a Scotland Rugby legend playing 70 times for his country. He choose to keep his dyslexia secret. From his team mates. Even from his wife. Only at the age of 34 did he finally seek help. On what planet can this be allowed to happen. So much wasted talent and opportunities. So much stress and suffering. This is nothing short of a disgrace.

I started with a quote and I will finish with one. One from our son

When someone has a disability your not allowed to discriminate against them. If your in a wheelchair you shouldn’t have to put your hand up for help. So why is it that when someone has an invisible disability you can be ignored and that you have to say ‘Please will you help me’ and when they ignore you it’s not discrimination.

Strange Yellow Thing

Such a change 24 hours. Yes still very very very wet and muddy. But that strange yellow thing in the sky has returned. It does make such a difference.

Son did you get time to look at the strange yellow thing in the sky today”

What strange yellow thing.

“That big yellow thing we don’t often get in Yorkshire”

Dad was it a large Canary or Yellow Parrot.

No it was Big Bird from Sesame Street”

Your pulling my leg aren’t you Dad. And Big Bird can’t fly.

Son it was the Sun. Did you see the Sun today”

Dad your not supposed to look at the Sun directly. It could damage your eyes.

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But life is good as the strange yellow thing is here.

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It’s Wednesday so it must be time for this weeks spelling test. Not the easiest thing for a kid with dyslexia. Ok Gang your words for this week which you need to learn or makeup fiction with are

Overreact, Hero, Claudio, Beatrice, Benedick, Character, Scene, Subservient, Discipline, Accused, Blessing, Suspicion, Breadwinner, Complicated, Stereotypical.

*******

But life is good as the strange yellow thing is here.

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A letter came home with Son today. In two weeks his year group will sit exams for all subjects. They will be organised in the same way as final exams to better prepare students. Exams will last 75 minutes with time for reading provided. Results are important as they will largely form this years assessment. This determines which set you are placed in.

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But life is good as the strange yellow thing is here.

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So beginneth the first true school test of 2020. A test for school not pupils. What support will school put in place for our son. For kids like our son. I have already let school know very clearly what we expect. Additional Time. A Reader & Scribe. Separate room. If these are not viable in any particular exam then significant marking adjustments or removing son from exams where adjustments can’t be made. Over to school now.

*******

But life is good as the strange yellow thing is here.

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Today at work I found out that the office unit might be relocating. A local Car Garage is looking for a trustworthy organisation to share a unit with. Oh what fun. It’s closer. More modern office. And best of all maybe I get some company. No more Billy no mates.

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But life is good as the strange yellow thing is here.

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On further investigation I do get some company just not quite what I was expecting. The garage will be using it’s part of the unit to store car parts and tyres. So my new buddies are called Mr Dunlop, Miss Bridgestone, Mr Goodyear, Mrs Pirelli and Mr Continental. Will have to tread carefully with these guys…..

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But life is good as the strange yellow thing is here.

Sad Playlist

It’s been yet another wet, muddy and stormy day. This photo was taken during one of the slightly drier spells.

Grim dog walk.

Exceedingly grim run.

I wasn’t planning on running today but I just needed to get out of the house. I felt the house walls closing in on me. For times like this I often find a run is the most reliable way of clearing my head. It certainly worked. Not sure it worked for the skin. Came back looking like a Prune.

When I say running works I should add And listening to music on my MP3 player as well. I have a playlist for this type run. The music is either quite deep or somber. I blame my mum for this. If she was feeling down she would always listen to music. Always sad songs. As soon as you went through the front door you could tell if mum was trying to cheer herself up. Johnny Cash, Leonard Cohen, Runrig, Sinatra, Roger Whittaker or Andy Williams would be blasting out. She always said that sad songs cheered her up. I always thought it was very bizarre yet all these years later and I’m doing the same. So here goes. Here are some of the songs which have made the list. And no Roger Whittaker and Durham Town is not included.

Alter Bridge – Godspeed

Disturbed – Sound of Silence

Shinedown – Get Up

Five Finger Death Punch – Gone Away

Runrig – Somewhere

Avenged Sevenfold – So far away

Johnny Cash – Hurt

Anathema – One Last Goodbye

Leonard Cohen – You want it darker

Queen – Who wants to live forever

Neal Morse – He died at home

Pink Floyd – Coming Back to Life

Just in case Mum is expecting it, here’s one just for mum. This is certainly not on the playlist.

Roger Whittaker – Durham Town

And here’s one for my partner. This could make the playlist.

Madness – It must be love

Grief and muddy puddles

A brief respite before the next storm arrives. Grey, cold and very muddy. Soon to be grey, cold, very muddy, very wet and stormy. It’s been one of those winters. Constantly just trying to avoid deep muddy puddles. Today I failed. My old running shoes have hardly any tread left on them. As I tried to sidestep a large puddle my foot slipped and I ended up standing in 4 inches of dirty water. Lovely. I really should buy a good pair of trail shoes but money is a little tight. Expenditure is prioritised. They will have to wait their turn.

If you we’re like me then you tried not to think about death and grief. I knew it would strike at some stage (that’s life) but best not think about it too much. I could understand the emotions as I had experienced losing my Dad when I was quite young. But I was shielded from much of the fallout. I really didn’t have the faintest idea about the practicalities. Years passed and I avoided thinking about death again. Then my mum died. This time no shield. Suddenly I was grieving again but this time I was also dealing with practicalities. So when my partner then died 6 weeks later. I was doubling up on the emotions and doubling up on the practicalities.

That is what’s tough about losing someone so close to you. At your lowest emotional point you are saddled with practicalities. You can’t think but you are trying to organise

  • Registering the death
  • Informing people
  • Organising a funeral
  • Sorting out your job
  • Sorting out your partners job. Returning work assets and documents.
  • Trying to work out finances
  • Trying to find the will and wade your way through probate
  • Dealing with Government Departments, Banks, Utility Companies
  • Trying to change the deeds to the house
  • Going through personal items and enduring countless trips to charity shops
  • Trying to change car ownership so I can sell her car
  • Sorting out what to do with the ashes

Your not even warned that the ashes come back in a glorified giant sweet jar. I wasn’t expecting an Egyptian Sarcophagus but I certainly wasn’t expecting a sweet jar shaped thing.

Like grief the practicalities tend to stick with you. As we were not married probate was brutal and took 15 months to finally bottom out. I didn’t expect that. I never considered that my career would have to be ditched quickly as it became incompatible with the now number one priority – single parenting. Suddenly two steady incomes dropped to one zero based hours contract income. Where did that practicality come from. I should have realised really. The sudden loss of someone your intrinsically linked with is going to send seismic waves through the very foundations of your life. Stuff will fall down. Things will change. Seismic waves – guess whose been trying to help son with Wave Theory for school.

So here we are in 2020 and I’m still dealing with grief. Still dealing with practicalities. I have managed to kinda stabilise the new post death financial world. But things are tight. Very tight. Again something I would never have immediately associated with losing someone close to you. But it is what it is. You prioritise the essential stuff. Unfortunately brand shiny mud loving trail shoes are not essential. So I guess it won’t be the last muddy puddle I end up standing in.

I guess I can forgive myself for not seeing that particular connection. Grief and muddy puddles.

Lakeside

New Years Eve. A walk to a local lake. For our Son a good walk as apart from a couple of anglers we had the place to ourselves.

This might have been the first place we walked to when we moved to the village. A time before parenthood. But parenting was at the forefront of our thoughts. It was the main reason we left the city. It looked a good safe place to raise a family. A perfect fit.

Fast forward far too many years and again I’m walking around this lake. This time as a parent. Still thinking about parenthood. Realising with hindsight what an excellent location choice we made. It’s perfect for our son. A landscape which can inspire dreams. Quiet. Isolated.

Yet even here sometimes it’s not isolated enough. Two anglers fishing at the far corner of the lake. A hundred yards away. Yet son still pulled his hood over his head and talked quietly. Just in case. It’s so difficult for him to interact with our society. Imagine how difficult it would be for him if we lived in a busy city. How difficult it is for him trying to learn in a school with 800 pupils.

Looking back to my life I can understand his anxieties. I can understand the effect those two anglers can have. I’ve always struggled in social settings. People thought I was outgoing and confident. They didn’t see the nervous kid with a stammer. The child only truly at ease when he was playing by himself. Only happy to laugh and joke when in small groups of trusted friends. Or within a trusted sports team where I would allow myself to take down some the self erected defensive walls. Yet throw in a stranger and I clammed up. I remember the teacher telling the class that the next day would be different. Kids from another school would be visiting us. The thought of strangers spooked me. The next day I bunked off school. As I walked towards the school gates I panicked. I spent the rainy day crouched under a bush. As an adult again I was often seen as the outgoing confident joker. Oh so wrong. Often my social skills needed to be fuelled with alcohol. Those antics masked my anxieties. I kept to a small circle of close friends. Avoided strangers. Constantly battling with my insecurities and nervous stammer.

These years later I’m still wracked with social anxieties. Now no alcohol to fuel the alter ego. So yes I can understand what our Son is going through. I’m no expert but what he has to deal with makes my struggles look like a cakewalk. So everyday I ponder on ways I can find to help him with his anxieties. Yet apart from Sport, Alcohol and hiding under bushes I’ve not been able to help myself. Maybe we could add – walking around completely deserted lakes to the list.

Green and pleasant land.

Welcome to Britain. A green and pleasant land.

A country where this man has just won a massive majority. A man who continues to cover up his repeated cockups which has led to a British Citizen bring help in Iran since 2016. Now his focus is on trade deals and turning the country into a trumped up lap dog. Sadly the poor British Citizen can’t offer a trade deal so she is stuffed.

Where this man from our Government claims that he has more common sense than those who died in the Grenfell Tower Disaster. He has made millions from his hedge fund company on the back of Brexit.

Where this man has been our Schools Minister since 2014. The man responsible for the current state of our schools. The man responsible for the introduction of testing for 4 year old kids. And the man who said kids taking time of for bereavement was like an extended holiday.

And a country where this man has just been awarded a knighthood. A man who introduced sweeping and brutal benefit reforms which has led to unprecedented levels of misery and is probably responsible for the deaths of hundreds who lost benefits.

Britain a green and pleasant land.

*** the photos of these lovely human beings are from The Guardian, Inside Croydon, Yorkshire Post, Change.org

Red School Sky

Red sky at night ready for the school fight.

So the dreaded hour is fast approaching. School opening its gates again. Feel so sorry, sad and angry for the kids like our Son having to face up to the nightmare which is modern schooling. I use the term modern in its loosest sense.

Increasingly my thoughts are turning to homeschooling. When to flick the switch. How to make it happen. Trying to stress tests the plans which are swirling around in my pea soup of a brain. Which options are best. What fits best with our circumstances. The aim being to have a workable plan in place by the end of February. As ever Son is the voice of reason. In fact as it’s his future he is driving the process. It has to be that way. He really isn’t happy but he’s giving the new term a go.

Dad going to give it a real go. Want to either see me moved up in the subjects I’m good at or want to be helped in the ones I struggle a bit in. Just one subject move would be cool.

“It’s not the subjects you struggle in. It’s the way the teachers judge you in those subjects. It’s never about the stuff you know. You have never had one comment about that. Remember what that teacher said last year – Don’t let anyone tell you your not clever. You are. The problems are not yours. It’s ours. We need to find better ways of getting the stuff in your head out into the wider world.

Ok Dad. Well let’s see what happens. What’s the plan if it goes pear shape this week at school?

Send you up chimneys to earn some money to pay for my rock and roll lifestyle”

Are you joking?

“Sorry, yes son I am pulling your leg. At least you can fit up a chimney.”

Your bottom would me a fine chimney sweeping tool. Not much would get past that.

“Let’s hope that school goes really well and your super happy. Let’s cross the over bridges if they happen. Most bridges are good ones.”

Which bridges. If I remember correctly we drive over 5 on the way to school.

And the voice of reason brings his Dad back into the real world again. So many options to consider.

  • Online tutor v Local tutor.
    How much will I teach. I can certainly do Computing, Mathematics, Science.
    Subjects like Geography and History maybe we just let him run with it. As last years Class Teacher said ‘you probably know the subject better than me already“. Just concentrate on how to access his ideas. Find the best way to express them.
    How to tailor some of the tuition around times that I need to go into the work base.
    Restructuring work to fit round the new world. Luckily I can probably do this. Just maybe will have to put off buying that sports car for say the next 100 years.
    When we move into the 15 and 16 age range how to handle examinations. Some of the colleges have courses for qualifications he could opt for. Would that work for him. Or do we go the tutor or online tuition routes.
    Languages – how far do we go down the online packages route such as Rosetta.
    Ways to ensure that he can socialise when he wants and needs to.
    And on and on

So much to consider. Maybe just maybe school might step up to the plate and this is never needed. That is probably a pipe dream so it’s time to sort this out. It will be a reassuring feeling when a plan is in place. When we have an idea what his education week and plan will look like. To our Son that level of practicality is an essential part of the transition process. It will help him at school knowing that he has a Plan b.

If anyone reading this has ever homeschooled then it would be great to hear from you. Either as a comment or email. What did your ‘learning week’ look like. What approach did you take. I’m sure this wont be the last you hear of this. I think the more we can talk about homeschooling the better. In many places it’s still frowned upon or it’s seen as a bit of a dark art. Maybe people should frown upon the mainstream school system instead.

I will leave you with one final thought.

Dad Santa can get down chimneys so there is always hope for you. There is always hope.

Flick the switch

Ans so the transition begins.

A transition from a happy and relaxed boy to one wracked with doubt and anxiety.

School starts to flick the switch again. How many kids are going through this experience. Far Too Many.

Here the school prison gates open on Monday. Son’s words not mine.

So on this glorious winters day he tries to wade through the homework which was dished out before Christmas. He spent an hour trying to sketch a mirror image of a Scream like skull photo. The fear of picking up a negative for not putting enough effort into the drawing driving him on. Sadly I fear it’s also driving any love he might have for art well and truly out of his system as well.

Once the skull torture was finished. He started work for two upcoming spelling tests. Then time spent on Science, Mathematics and French work. Finally he needed to work hard to complete a writing piece neatly. His teachers words. Whats the point, going to get told that it’s not good enough, I haven’t tried enough and it needs to be done again. Son’s words.

This really can’t go on. Son deserve so much more than this. So many kids deserve better than this. Is it so difficult to make education just a little less daunting and just a little bit more inclusive. What’s the word I’m looking for. Welcoming. Another word. Enriching. Another word. Fun.

Who am I kidding. It will be the same school that he was so pleased to escape from before Christmas. But 2020 feels different this time. This time the prospect of a positive change has dimmed significantly. Our Government is now in place until son will have left secondary school. It is committed to extending the current education philosophy which has already created this hell hole. We are now facing a real risk of son being failed for the entirety of his school life. That’s a sobering thought.

2020 will start with yet another push to deliver any positive change at all. Again school and teachers will be told exactly what actions and support son needs to be put in place to make his schooling work better for him. The dialogue will be constant – certainly from my side. But deep down I know what the likely outcome is. So this year the question is probably more about what it will take for us to flick the switch and turn off this failed schooling nightmare. If we were still a two parent family then the switch would have already been flicked. Homeschooling. With Single Parenting it’s more fraught with logistical and financial issues. So many issues to address. BUT son only gets one childhood. One go at his formative years. Flicking the switch is increasingly looking inevitable.

Pesky New Year

A late evening walk. Not easy for our son. Full of anxieties. But he only had 36 hours to meet his goal for the year. Twelve new places visited in 2019. We had two more to tick off. Too many crowds at the places we ventured to over the last few weeks. So a walk in a desolate dark wood became the next best option.

New Years Eve brought a walk down a little used path. A path that took us to a couple fishing lakes. Thankfully few anglers today so we could have our space. Son counted this as his 12th new place visited. His goal achieved. Not an easy goal for him because of his social anxieties.

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Dad I’m going to set a target of 15 new places for 2020. Surely we can find 15 deserted areas. Maybe one or two places will be allowed to have a few people there. Are you going for any New Year goals?

Just my usual trying to end up looking like George Clooney.

Who is George Clooney? Is he cool?

He was Batman.

That’s cool enough. Don’t expect any help from me getting you into the Bat Suit.

No I suspect I would need scaffolding and a construction team for that.

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2020 goals……

The only thing I’m specifically aiming for apart from looking like a George came from a blog I was reading this week. It mentioned changing things up. So I’m going to do some writing which takes me out of my comfort zone. Not sure what yet. Maybe I will write a professional looking post. That will be a first. Any volunteers for the ghostwriter for that one.

2020 goals……

Apart from that writing one I can’t think of any new ones that will stick. This year it feels like just dusting myself down and going again. I do tend to struggle with Day 365 of the year.

New Years Eve. I hate it. I’m sorry I just can’t buy into the fondly saying goodbye to the current year. Let’s look at all the highlights. Then welcome in the new year. It’s a new beginning. Is it really. You wake up January 1st to find that your slate has not been wiped clean. Sorry that’s just me. I’m so pleased for the people who can see the New Year so positively. I just can’t.

This year we add the end of the decade. Pictures of people ten years ago and now. For us it would be a family of 3 and now a family of 2. Not going down that road tonight.

So for those who enjoy New Year then I wish you a really happy time. Hope it’s great for you. For anyone who feels like me – I send you all my hugs and we will hopefully reconvene on the other side of this pesky midnight.

Waiting

Every morning we get a scene from Hitchcock’s Birds. Hordes of feathered friends waiting for the me to get my act together. Come on it’s about time we got breakfast. Just remember what happened in The Birds. No cute Angry Birds here….

We watched Angry Birds 2 a few nights back. It’s very funny. Red and Big Terrence are my new role models. The Birds in the Hitchcock movie are just a bit too Deadpool for my liking.

Everyday the garden birds wait and every day it’s worth it. Free, easy and safe food within feet of their nests. So sometimes waiting is worth it.

We finally managed to get our sons Education and Health Care Plan approved a few months after WE lost his mum. I remember a few parents saying well that’s the job done, your quids in now, it’s top class education for your son now. You could feel the sarcasm dripping off the words. Many parents buy into the idea spread by the media that kids with learning disabilities are taking money off their kids education. Schools are short of money because of these privileged kids. And anyway what’s the point – they are just low attainment. So undeserving. Just give the money to the normal kids…..

Welcome to modern, inclusive, caring Britain…..

Thankfully I didn’t assume it was job done. Now the real battle had begun. Trying to get any meaningful support from our factory farming education system. In practice the small level of funding nominally provided to our son effectively bought him a place in a secondary school. Nothing else. The money is put into the school budget for general classroom Teaching Assistants. These Teaching Assistants then are a resource for ALL kids in the class. The Teaching Assistants are not trained in learning disabilities. The school does have one who has experience in the area yet she has never spent anytime with our son. The school does not provide any additional help to kids like our son. It so much easier to label the kids low attainment and do nothing. So we get into a never ending cycle. The media vilify kids with learning disabilities. The government never contradicts these miss truths and the schools continue to do provide any support. The kids fall further behind. The parents pull their hair out.

So we are still waiting. Still waiting for progress. Still fighting battles. Still listening to the campaign of hate promoted by the media. Trying to get any help which might give our kids a chance. Not asking for special treatment. Just an opportunity for a decent education. So many kids are suffering in silence.

Still waiting. But there is now a sobering thought. A thought to take into 2020. Many of the current failings with the school system can be traced directly back to government policy and educational dogma. Ten years of taking schools back to traditional teaching practices. Back to Victorian values. Back to a time of unmitigated suffering for any child not fitting the expected mould. NOW we have 5 more years of this Government. A government proposing an even more stringent traditional approach. But here’s the rub. In 5 years son will be leaving secondary education.

We wait. So we probably will be still waiting in 5 years.

So as we move into 2020 the conclusion is that the school system will will not help kids like our son for many years. It will never help our son. It has and will continue to fail him until he leaves. I’m still trying to get my head round this. We will keep fighting but with little chance of any progress. So we are now in Plan B zone. What is Plan B? I’m not sure yet.

Sometimes waiting is not worth it.