Splendid

Running is such a release for me. It was such a shock when I was advised to stop due to injury. As I’m no spring chicken I feared that was it. But luckily a period of recuperation and a completely changed exercise regime has got me pounding the trails again. Some days you think WHY…..

Drenched, cold and running into a 20mph wind. Unfortunately I’m not what you would call aerodynamic. Today I felt like a tub of lard. An unfit Tub of lard would probably have gone quicker into that wind than me. At least nobody witnessed my struggles. These winter months it feels like I have the place to myself. Splendid isolation it might be but oh for the occasional running partner.

Splendid isolation is a phrase our son likes. I think he’s decided that he would love to have a circle of friends while getting as far away as possible from everyone else. I think most of us probably feel that way these days.

As a parent you desperately want your kids to be happy. Seeing the world through my eyes I often see happiness in terms of him spending time with a range of friends. Yet in reality this doesn’t happen. Over the last 16 months he’s been invited to one birthday party and probably had no more than 5 or 6 meet-ups (if that). The friends he made at his last school have slowly drifted into new friendship circles. The way his new school has put him in a class with none of his old friends has not helped. When I spoke to the school they argued that as he was basically low attainment they didn’t have any option open to them. Read low attainment as being dyslexic and being on the spectrum. And NO school – sitting a random kid next to him in a class does not count as a friend. Last year he did start to make a couple of friends in his class but both kids were moved up into a higher class in the summer. Out of school there are no kids his age in the village. Hardly any kids at all and certainly no communal play facilities for miles. But that’s through my eyes.

Through his eyes it’s Splendid Isolation. He will find the right people to be friends with in his own time and in his own way. Until then he’s more than happy with his Old Pop and doing things on his own. It’s important that we recognise that everyone is different. And difference is a good thing. To me being so isolated is a significant cause of anxiety – but not to our son. To me running is a brilliant releases – but to our son running is monumentally boring and should be restricted to no more than the occasional 5 yard burst. He does have a point.

Time for punishment

After weeks of rain the clouds finally parted and reassuringly the sky is still blue. The sky is blue and the ground is still muddy.

Since it’s a day with a name that ends with DAY – it must be a day for another school moan. Don’t worry it will be the Christmas holidays soon and you will get a break from the rants – hopefully.

Next week our dyslexic son has to sit TWO spelling tests. One for English and one for DRAMA. That’s DRAMA. So to develop any Performing Arts talents he has to learn to spell words like

Melodrama, Exaggeration, Facial Expressions, Placards, Stock Character….

I guess when he wins his first Oscar in his acceptance speech he can thank these Spellings…..

Then we have the English Spelling Test. The weekly spelling test. This week he has 15 words to learn. Including such beauties as

Advertisement, Similarity, Persuade, Exaggeration, Testimonial, Alliteration….

All the class (regardless of individual spelling ability, regardless of dyslexia) have to spell the same words. The expectation is that you will get 100%. All it takes is a bit of effort. Hang on we need to raise the stakes just a bit higher. Anyone not getting at least 10 out of 15 exactly right will get a Negative. Four Negatives get you detention and much shame. It also rules you out of the end of year trip to the Fun Park/Zoo.

For F*#@ Sake.

This new penalty rule was introduced minutes before today’s test. One unfortunate student received his punishment. Our son managed 11 so survived. As he says he had to guess the ending of most words and was largely lucky today. But he’s a nervous wreck. Having seen this weeks words he’s convinced he has no chance. How can this be part of modern teaching. Oh I forgot our Government wants to return to Victorian values. Well they can all bugger off back to Victorian Times and leave us in peace.

On a side not I see our Prime Minister is avoiding being asked difficult questions so he has started sending his Dad to do some of his interviews. I’m not making this up. Well today a member of the public phoned in and basically said Johnson was like Pinocchio. His Dad then said mockingly “the British Public couldn’t even spell Pinocchio if they tried”. Well let’s try – Pinocchio.***** up yours you posh snob.

So what do we do. We have the weekend to think about it. I’ve offered son the day off if school insist on him sitting the test. At the moment he is saying that he will have to sit the test. He doesn’t want to be picked out as different. But that’s the problem with the current approach to handling dyslexia in the classroom. It’s the same as with Aspergers and the classroom. The approach is so fundamentally wrong.

Assume the child is low attainment.

Resist providing proactive support

Deliver one standard teaching programme for all kids – no variations

Put the onus on the child to put a hand up and ask for help – in front of all the other kids

Child doesn’t put the hand up so assume everything is fine

Watch child struggle in tests and class work

Confirm assessment that child is low attainment

One final thought. It’s ok to penalise the kids but what about those leading us. Our School Minister – Remember him he’s the lovely chap who thought kids having time off for bereavement was like “an extended holiday” – was asked a grammar question he was expecting school kids to get right. Guess what the numpty got it wrong. So maybe he should get a negative and be barred with running our schools. That is one punishment I can agree to.

Spark an Interest

York Minster is one of Europe’s finest Cathedrals.

The central tower is 235ft (72m) tall. It’s Northern Europe’s biggest Gothic Cathedral.

The first religious building was built on this site in 637AD. Work started on the current Gothic structure in 1230 and was completed in 1472. The Minster has 128 stained glass windows which apparently have 2000000 individual glass pieces. It’s a busy place of worship with over 1600 services each year.

Thankfully York has not succumbed to the plague of high rise buildings. So The Minster still dominates the city view from all directions. I remember having a chat with an American work colleague who on visiting the city for the first time told me

“That’s a lovely church but it would have been better if they had built it on a hill”

Unfortunately the nearest hill is about 15 miles away. Strangely our little bungalow is on that very hill. We struggle to fill our little church so I’m pretty sure a Cathedral would be bit of over kill.

It’s absolutely stunning inside but we never make it that far. Son loves to walk round it and think. Then he looks to the skies for a glimpse of the nesting Peregrine Falcons. Finally we always end at a statue of a Roman Emperor. In 306AD Constantious died in York. The soldiers in York immediately proclaimed Constantine the Emperor. So for a brief moment in time York was the centre of the Roman Empire. Son loves to drink up this history.

Surely when you have such history on your doorstep why not use. York has the largest Train Museum in the World showcasing engineering and invention at its finest. What better way to spark an interest. To learn. To grow. But apparently this is not the case. It would seem writing out spelling mistakes 3 times is the way to go. Regardless of the subject – Science, History, Maths, Design Technology, Drama – let’s just get the spelling right. I bet that will spark an interest!!!!

Let’s spell out Monday

An entire weekend without seeing any evidence of other humans. No post. No phone calls. No dog walkers. Villagers hidden away in warm dry houses. On the walks not even one passing car or stray rambler. Helps when many of the roads are closed with overrunning roadworks or floods. Great fun in the pouring rain trying to play tennis on the pavement. Very cramped in an area probably not big enough for table tennis.

Sadly the relaxing weekend goes to quickly and dreaded school looms. A temporary change in school bus routes means more strange faces and much larger buses are running. No guarantee when the bus turns up. An absolute nightmare for a kid with Autism. If only that was the only thing.

Another heated discussion with school and the authorities. Both reassuring us that measures have been put in place which ensure compliance with government requirements and allows all kids a fair chance of performing well. Yeh right. Keep the Government happy – Sod the kids in effect…. Clearly certain parties need to lookup the definitions of all and fair. So this weekend our son’s homework basically is all about writing out three times all his spelling mistakes and unclear handwriting attempts. That’s going to expand his mind and boost his confidence!!

Then to cap it off he has to revise for an English Test. The test is an old school Spelling one. Learn 20 words.

Language

Presented

Sherlock

Through

Evidence

It’s the same spelling test for all in the class. No extra time or help for any child. Again maybe it just me and my cabin fever. If it is please just delete this post. But how is this fair. On what planet is this supposed to have any positive impact on any child with dyslexia and autism. Designed to fail AGAIN. For all the required words our son can give definitions for and provide alternative examples of how to use the word correctly in spoken English. But this is not important apparently. Not what school and the government wants. The focus is on getting all kids to just spell by learning parrot fashion a list of predefined words. If you can’t do this then you are low attainment. A failure. A faulty item.

Education is filled with really good, dedicated and caring teachers. Yet they are increasingly told how to teach and to focus on a narrowing range of objectives. Objectives not about the interests of the child. It’s all about Satisfying the Government. The agenda is that money should go to fund tax cuts for the rich rather than on unimportant things like school budgets. To make sure this happens Schools need to follow the tried and tested factory model. Increasingly large production runs which help drive down costs. Eliminate natural variations and reduce choice. Children just seen in terms of inputs and outputs. Push them through the system. Those who don’t fit are labelled a problem and discarded as surplus to requirements.

I will tell you where the staggering stupidity and the real problem lies. It’s in those leaders pushing this dogmatic crap and equally on those who choose to vote for them. Shame on you.

So we move on into another uncertain week filled with too much anxiety for someone so young. Let’s hope a few Muppet and Spider-Man movies can briefly lift the mood. Even a bit of no space tennis might help. But surely the countless thousands of children who suffer deserve so much more than this. The really do.

Accidents happen

I bet if I leaned on that hay bale it would end up rolling down the hill and smashing into my car like a guided missile.

During my life one of the truths I have leant repeatedly is – accidents happen. I am accident prone. Always have been. Always will be. Big ones. Small ones. Ones that hurt. Ones that make you laugh. Ones that get you into trouble. Ones that make you embarrassed. Ones that make you cry. Just too many to mention. Some notable ones include

  • Breaking my arm balancing on a stool. Then breaking my other arm within 3 hours of having the pot removed. Same Doctor had to put the new pot on who had taken just taken the old one off.
  • Dropping a toilet roll just bought from the shop and watching it unravel as it rolls down the High Street. The High Street was on a hill and I dropped it at its highest point.
  • Falling out of a window while trying to paint it.
  • The door on a temporary toilet jammed at a festival and it took an hour for me to be released.
  • Trying to hammer a hanging basket onto next doors fence and accidentally pushing most of the fence over.
  • Breaking my finger trying to put up a deck chair.
  • Using a staple gun and stapling my thumb to a piece of wood
  • Breaking my little toe when I accidentally kicked the toilet.
  • As a kid playing cricket on the back field and managing to hit the best stroke (shot) of my life straight through our toilet window. A wonder shot of 100 yards. Unfortunately Dad was on the toilet at the time. Thankfully my ‘a big boy did it and ran away’ excuse worked.
  • Managed to get a pea stuck up my nose. Staggeringly our son did the same thing many years later.
  • Split my leggings a third of the way up a 4 hour cliff climb. The climbers below are still in counselling after all those years.
  • I saved up for a new watch. Within 5 minutes of buying it I had tripped over and smashed the face.
  • I was trying to pull my trousers up after using the cramped toilet on a speeding French TGV. Unfortunately I lost balance and exploded out through the toilet door and into the crowded carriage. Busting my head open as my hands were still desperately trying to pull the trousers up past my knees. The international shame.

So accidents happen. All you can do is try to smile and learn from them. Mostly no ones fault. They just happen.

Our Son asked if he could borrow my Tablet to play the chess app. After a few minutes the mad dog jumped on him and started licking him. In the confusion our Son forgot about the Tablet and must have rolled on it. A few minutes later we had a very bent piece of tech. Quite a bit of the touch screen is knackered and beyond repair. The poor kid was mortified. I’m so pleased I didn’t shout or be in any way angry. I know accidents happen. Thankfully he cheered up eventually. Re-telling the French Train Toilet incident helped. It shows that I didn’t intend to bare my buttocks but all I had done was not anticipate a particularly bumpy track section and a crap door. It’s life and things are sent to test us.

So I will make the best of a broken tablet until I can save up for a new one (or a refurbished one). Sorry in advance if you get some strange spellings on my posts of from my comments – the on screen keyboard is now possessed and rather random. Very apt that it’s Halloween. When the new one comes I will make sure that before either of us use it that it’s enclosed in a protective case. Because accidents can and will happen.

Halloween 3

This Halloween has to make our son happy. Failure is not an option. Best way to achieve that simple goal was to let him choose what spooky activities we will fill our time with. At the start of the week he came up with his list.

  1. Make a Pumpkin Head. But this year Dad let’s try not to make the poor soul look like Donald Trump. That’s just not fair on any fruit. *** I thought it was a vegetable. Every day is a school day.
  2. Halloween Costume. Dad I think we should try and go for a Freddie look. We don’t buy a costume we see what we can rustle up. I guess the mad dog will want his party hat on again.
  3. Watching as many Scooby Doo DVDs as we can find. Finish off with his three favourites. Boo Brothers, Kiss and Witches Ghost.
  4. Watch a Hammer Horror movie. These are atmospheric but relatively tame these days.
  5. Have a Lego building competition. This year it’s who can make the best haunted castle.
  6. Make a spooky music playlist.
  7. Make up a Halloween story. Dad this year I think it’s a couple of kids stuck in a scary computer game.
  8. Play our two Top Trump Monster packs.
  9. Any TV has to be spooky related like Ghostbusters.
  10. Monster knockout competition to decide the greatest ever horror character.
  11. Apple Bobbing
  12. Late night reading in the garden of Hound of the Baskervilles.
  13. All dog walks have to be after dark.
  14. Build a garden monster out of what we can find lying around. Then leave it for nature (or the dog) to dispose.
  15. Halloween treasure hunt in the garden to find hidden objects like chocolate bars.
  16. See what spooky food and drinks we can invent.
  17. Eat the cookie/biscuit game. Put a cookie on your forehead and then without using your hands try to somehow get the cookie into your mouth and it’s the first person to eat the cookie wins.
  18. Jelly Bean roulette. We have stocked up on some new flavours. Cat food, Snail, Earthworm, Earwax, Squid.
  19. Make Pumpkin Chilli Soup. Even I can manage that.

Have we missed anything. Any more cool ideas?

Come on it’s Friday

So like the weather we crash into the weekend. This photo was taken minutes before the heavy rain rushed in. It’s time to batten down the hatches for 24 hours.

For 10 brief minutes a delightful dry run in sublime autumnal colours. What followed was a long and protracted slog through a mud bath and driving rain. One step forward and two back. Seriously doubting if I could make the climbs which had been done countless times before. Soul destroying. No fun anymore just hard labour. Frigid isolation in this hostile environment. Doubting my sanity. What am I doing here.

It’s been a perfect microcosm of this week.

A week which has rapidly gone downhill. A long hard slog giving my soul a good kicking. Leaving my mojo and my confidence in tatters. Almost complete social isolation. Never ending pain from dental work. Failure to find solutions to home, school and work problems. Error strewn days. The house is filled with echoes of the past. Even blogging has been harder than usual. The words seem to be failing me. Three draft posts on Aspergers and one on Dyslexia deleted. Just not good enough. Not sure I trust myself enough to venture there. But then life interrupts my meltdown.

We have crashed into Friday. It’s also the start of the half term week holidays. It’s Halloween week. Remember the number one priority. The only one that matters in the end.

Give son the best childhood possible.

So it’s time to put my game face on. Work can wait until son has gone to bed. Halloween gives endless scope for creative fun. My problems will be pushed into the background by boundless youthful energy released by the school gates closing. I’m sure they will be back but just not this week. That’s not allowed.

Only one possible song to leave you with. Mr Alice Cooper and Schools Out.

Schools Out – Live

The Forgotten – Part 1

We were sat watching some YouTube videos of TV shows Rory (A Guy Called Bloke) had listed under Sitcoms suddenly morphed into another excuse to watch my favourite programmes.

Dad you do know most of the stuff you like on TV will mean nothing to most people. They will just look blankly at you. The worry is that I have part of your DNA. Thanks….

So it’s time to enlighten the world. Well a really small part of it…

The Indestructible Captain Scarlet trying to defeat his nemesis Captain Black and the Evil Mysterons. My favourite show ever. With strings or the much later expensive version. WE NEED A CAPTAIN SCARLET MOVIE.

Hectors House. The grumpy dog with a hunting gun.

With the earth under attack from aliens we need to respond with the coolest defenders ever. It’s got to be UFO.

Think Star Wars without the special effects or the humour. Think Star Wars without a budget. I give you Blake 7.

Bearded puppets with attitude means Michael Bentine’s Potty Time.

Magicians shouting ‘Size of an Elephant’, a scary letter box and a show dripping of awesomeness. It’s The Banana Splits.

Monty Python meets the stories of our dreams (or nightmares). One of the funniest TV shows ever. It’s Ripping Yarns.

Art

Dad I hate art at school. It’s so strict. I always thought art would be fun.

Art is not like that very often. It should be about just letting your imagination roam wild. It should be great fun.

Dad did you enjoy art at school then.

No hated it. We had a strict art teacher. But to be fair to her our school was a war zone. A 2B pencil or fine tip paint brush would be seen as a legitimate weapon by most of the idiots in my class.

My class is ok. It’s got some very nice kids in. Even the ones who cause all the trouble mainly get into trouble for really petty things. Like last week half the kids in the drama lesson got a negative because they forgot to bring a black T-shirt. The teacher said we needed one in the first lesson but didn’t talk about other lessons.

That’s too harsh. In my day you had to do something properly bad to get something like that.

Tell me about your mad class again.

We had someone who burnt the church hall down. Another boy was appalled when he found out someone else had been put on report for something he had done. He went off to sort it out. We assumed he was going to own up. That must have been plan B as he was caught trying to set fire to the headteachers desk. We ended up with two boys who went to borstal for robbery. Another boy who went to prison for attempted murder.

Are the two robbers those muppets.

Yep. While one of them broke into an off licence the other went to get a getaway vehicle. Unfortunately all he could find was an electric milk float. So a few minutes later they were trying to escape with the float engine burning up at 10mph with police cars in very slow pursuit. One of the muppets was on the back of the float throwing milk at the police. They didn’t get very far.

Shall I draw a picture about those two for Art. I still need to do my homework. Don’t won’t to get a negative.

No why don’t you pick something else. Something more arty. Why not a drawing of the farm. Or a flower. Something nice.

Ok, something nice it is then.

**So he disappeared in his room for an hour to do his nice masterpiece**

Dad I’ve finished. Nice. Is a bit of Tim Burton ok.

Autism and football

The Blueberry Plant is anything other than blue now.

That looks too like a Liverpool and Manchester United shirt for my liking. But it’s still better than that black and white barcode which your team wears. Watching barcodes run about a pitch must give you headaches.

That Football team of mine just gives me headaches period.

Son has set his heart on playing football for a team. Over the last few months we’ve tried to kick as many footballs around as the weather has permitted. It hasn’t been easy for him. Difficulties with coordination makes playing any ball sport a tough ask. That’s the issues facing many kids with Autism and Dyspraxia.

But there is hope. For a start dyslexia is not a barrier to sport. So many positive examples.

  • Kenny Logan – 70 Caps for Scotland (Rugby Union)
  • Scott Quinell – multiple caps for Wales in both Rugby Union and League
  • Lewis Hamilton – 5 time F1 World Champion
  • Magic Johnson
  • The great Mohammad Ali

In terms of autism it allows you to see the world in different and imaginative ways. This can be such an advantage in sport. Psychologists believe that some of the greatest sporting talents may be on the spectrum. They can see opportunities that other teammates just can’t pick out. It’s speculated that one of the greatest footballers on the planet (maybe the best) is on the spectrum.

Our son is tall for his age and very slim. He seemed the perfect shape for a modern style goalkeeper. So that’s what we started with. This also made it easier as we could just focus on his hand to eye coordination. For years he couldn’t catch a ball. But for ages now he has been bouncing a bouncy ball on our pavement. With hard work he now has really good catching skills. Then he started trying to catch a tennis ball while bouncing on his trampoline. Again after a lot of hard work he now is great at diving and catching one handed. So the next stage was to change the bouncy ball and tennis ball for a football. Quite quickly he managed to start catching two handed.

A small goal was bought for the garden and I started hitting some soft shots at

him. With hard work he can now dive and make some great saves. He’s now better than I was at his age.

But now he wants to see if he can play as a midfielder.

That would be cool dad.

This is a harder challenge for him as he still struggles coordinating his feet to kick a ball properly. But let’s see what we can do about that. Any skills he learns with his feet will be useful if he goes back to goalkeeping as these days they need to be comfortable passing and dribbling.

This year he has started going to the football club at school. It’s a steep learning curve. Suddenly it’s not just his dad, the dog and the ball. It’s lots of moving bodies, so unpredictable and loads of shouting. The shouting really disoriented him on his first session. He played one short game in midfield.

Dad I didn’t touch the ball but wow did I look good…. (said with a smile)

He went in goal and made some good saves but

I took a goal kick but the defender didn’t see me pass to him and the striker got the ball and scored. The teacher shouted that it was my fault.

Unfortunately too much shouting and blame goes with kids football in our country. Kids should be encouraged to try things, make mistakes and learn from them. Unfortunately too many are scared of making errors. You don’t make dreams come true by shouting at kids. At least son could see the wider picture.

Typical the other team scores and everyone blames the keeper even when it’s not his fault. What did you do when they blamed you for letting a goal in. I bet you let too many goals in.

Oh I just smiled, clapped my hands and immediately forgot about the goal. You move on and think about the next shot. (That’s not the whole story. I was a bit of a hot head back then and I would threaten to stick the ball up the backside of anyone who blamed me. But I won’t tell him that.)

So fingers crossed for the next club session.