what’s the point

Proper Yorkshire weather. Two waterproofs, two jumpers, extra thick thermals required. No umbrella in the world will last 5 seconds in this.

Definitely had the country lanes to ourselves. In fact even too bad for animal or bird. The only exceptions, two intrepid swans on the lake but even those probably had wooly hats on.

As we hunkered even further down inside our waterproof Ironman suits we talked about life, school and Aspergers.

“Dad, now that I can read, can I get dyslexia taken off my medical record. I never got any help with it anyway..”

The conversation went on until….

“How do I get Aspergers taken off my medical record.”

Here’s why. To summarise this was Hawklad’s thoughts.

“I know I’m not cured. You can’t cure Aspergers. It is just who I am. It’s just that too many people don’t understand. They don’t bother to see, they just hear the word Aspergers and they just assume, assume wrong. Plus I don’t get any extra help for being listed as Aspergers from school and only a little bit from the Doctors. It isn’t doing me any good”.

What do you say to that. Especially when he’s right about too many people, the complete lack of adjustments from teachers and that the little bit of health support he does get is being phased out. Any support which had to be fought for is removed as the teenage years are reached. Adults are expected to fend for themselves. The Aspergers label helped explain some things initially, it probably helped the parents more but as Hawklad concluded

‘What is the point’…….

New year

Guess what. More mist…..

So Hawklad’s School Production Line Report arrived today. His best subjects ranked by school as his worst subjects, possible fails. His weakest subjects ranked better. Lots of random grades and targets. No pattern.

Then a pattern.

The few subjects where the teacher has looked at his work. Made suggestions. Actually tracked his work while he has been away from the classroom, tried to be proactive, these are his highest ranking subjects on the report. The subjects that are no more than borderline fails are the subjects where the teacher effectively has not been there for Hawklad during his homeschooling days. The subjects featuring no marking, no feedback, at best just minimal work sent out.

Does this show the inaccuracies of a metrics based report without any context.

Does it just show that because of the excessive teacher workloads, those pupils away from the classroom just suffer educationally.

Does it show that some teachers still fall back on assumptions. Pupils with unique educational needs are just shoehorned into the bottom set, labelled low attainment. Much more productive to spend teaching time on other pupils

Does it show a school system ravaged by a pandemic.

Does it show the way forward for Hawklad.

I’m not sure yet. I’m kind of too tired to process all this yet. But it’s clear as we move into the new year, to me Hawklad is making massive strides forward especially given the challenges he is having to deal with. It’s also yet another year which starts with the a school system which for whatever the reason, apparently isn’t delivering for Hawklad. Another year of battles with school.

HAPPY NEW YEAR, let’s all dust ourselves down and go again. We can do this.

Recharge

Another day, another one of those days……

Absolutely no sign of the sun. Unremittingly damp, cold and bleak. Our poor outdoor solar festive lights have now officially gone on strike. Switch them on and there is just about enough power generated to muster a dim flicker and then nothing.

I can’t begin to tell you just how wet and muddy I got on today’s walk. but it was still good to be outside. There is always things to see.

That is a seriously impressive Hay Snake.

Yesterday I talked about the fantastic reading progress Hawklad has made. Reading history textbooks is a real statement. But things are never straightforward. He still really struggles with writing. Getting his ideas out on paper. Here his dyslexia still dominates. His handwriting just won’t develop. His typing is laboured and inaccurate. His ideas don’t reach the paper.

He feels so much frustration when he can’t make much progress in this area. And he does feel real frustration. He can now read. He has an amazing mind and can visualise things that are way beyond me. Ask him something like to list all the British Monarchs in order, and it’s a breeze for him. Ask him who where the defendants at Nuremberg and he can name them, including the verdicts. Ask him to work out a complex sum in his head and he can do it effortlessly. Yet ask him to add to simple decimals together and he is lost. Ask him to tell the time and as hard as he tries, he just can’t. Ask him to list the alphabet and he just can’t get the order right after D.

It’s tough seeing your son get so down on himself. I feel his frustration intensely. As a parent you feel like you have run out of ideas. It’s impossible to not get down on yourself as well. But that’s not helping anyone. When tomorrow comes and Hawklad is again trying his heart out, and he will. He hasn’t given up. He won’t give up. I’m the one who needs to get going again. So that’s why those walks in nature are so important. Even in bad weather and unlike those solar lights, I do recharge. So we can try again tomorrow.

Morning

A brief bit of blue between the rain.

A time to pause.

This is version 2 of this post. The first was I guess similar in tone to many of my recents posts. I can summarise it in one line

Well if you don’t look at his submitted work then what is the point…..

But maybe I’m missing something. What happens if I look at the issue from a different angle.

Years ago I worked with a guy who was a right pain in the backside. He avoided work, blocked initiatives, sucked the life out of the organisation. But I got to know him. He wasn’t always like that. He was once keen, dedicated, wanted to make a difference. But years of rejection, failures, dead ends and broken promises took their toll. Eventually it changed him, drained him.

I have been hard on some of the teachers at school, as I am frustrated that Hawklad isn’t getting the support that he needs. But here’s the thing. In my country Teachers are undervalued and underpaid. They have become the whipping boys for the Government and the Media. Teachers are not allowed the freedom to teach. They are told by the Government what to teach, how to teach it and what learning sources to use. The syllabus is rammed full. They have to teach often in out dated classrooms with insufficient resources and support. Class sizes are too large often with teachers trying to teach something like 30 pupils. Teacher performance is measured purely on narrow measures set by the Government. With all this, is it any surprise that Hawklad isn’t getting the support I think he needs. Teachers are like pupils, just cogs in the system that is about the needs of the economy. It’s not about the needs and dreams of individual pupils.

No wonder that those kids who need support, don’t get it. That’s modern education in Britain.

Fractions

A deep blue sky in Yorkshire, WOW….

Today was a tough MATHS day. Hawklad is number dyslexic. Some numbers become inverted when he sees them. It’s a family trait. When I get tired my mind inverts 4’s and sometimes 7’s. But Hawklad has found a way and he can work round this. He can do some phenomenally complicated arithmetic in his head. Often the problem is trying to put that down on paper but he is getting there.

But one area really does struggle with is decimals and fractions. Put a decimal in a calculation and he just can’t process the solution. Even quite straightforward sums become impossible with a decimal added. Fractions, oh fractions. As hard as he tries fractions will just not sink in.

So today was the perfect Maths Lesson storm. Fractions and decimals. He tried, he really tried but it was just not happening. But he isn’t giving up. In his words, he ‘got the better of word dyslexia, this will be next’.

He is so right. Anything is possible. Two years ago he needed almost one to one help to read. Now he is sat reading Lord of the Rings. Anything is possible when you put your mind to it.

Deadline

The one thing we have been careful about is not putting deadlines on the way forward. Somethings can’t be rushed. They have to happen in their own time frames especially as there are so many roadblocks out there. Especially when you get days where it’s one step forward and two back. That applies to my life just as much as it applies to Hawklad’s.

But it feels like a deadline is forming. The start of September. That sees the beginning of the new school year. But it’s different this year. His subject options have been picked. He is starting the final 21 month push towards his main exams. Fall behind now and it’s tough to catch up. This school year is hard enough even without anxieties and fears. Hard enough without having to worry about if it’s homeschooling or the classroom. Delaying a decision to return to the class adds so many complications. Hawklad would face the stress of returning to classes midway through the year. New classes. Different from the ones he left. Different faces. Established relationships and dynamics. That’s a real challenge for anyone but to someone with social anxieties, a nightmare.

Ideally September brings certainty. This is the start of how the learning and schooling goes until the exams. There shouldn’t be any sudden changes of approach. That’s why September feels like a deadline. A really tight deadline. Too tight. So many hurdles still to climb, so many bridges still to be rebuilt. Walking quiet country lanes although great progress is a million miles away from sitting without anxieties in overcrowded classrooms. Just under 8 weeks to do all that.

It’s also not much time to organise a full homeschooling approach leading to something meaningful for him.

Yes it feels like a deadline approaching fast.

Tickets

Homeschooling and intermittent power cuts don’t really dovetail together, ever…. It’s always a good sign that you reach the official school closing time meanwhile in homeschooling land Hawklad has only just finished the first lesson.

So after well over two years an annual health and education review is being organised. An online review and actually a rather intimate review. I remember back to when Hawklad was 8. These reviews were ticket only events. Hawklad, The Head Teacher, his Teacher, a Teacher from his future school, a representative from the local education authority, the Lead Physio, a Speech Therapy expert, a Child Psychologist, an Opthalmologist, a Paediatrician, a Specialist from the local school outreach team and me…..

Fast forward to 2021. The review is pay at the gate. It’s the Head of Inclusion from the school, a representative from the local authority and me. Even Hawklad is refusing to attend 😂. His one support service left, his one last support person is on leave. All the other services have been cut although the need is still there. Yes changed but still there.

This sums up a lot of the support to children on the spectrum in this country. Children are lucky to get any support in the first place. If this eventually arrives then the support drifts away as the teenage years approach. Older teenagers and adults get NOWT.

It shouldn’t be like this.

No Surprise

It’s just rained again. No surprise there then….

I’m picking up the courage. The courage to go outside and do some gardening. I have pile of seeds that need planting. I’ve kept putting that off for weeks now. To wet, not enough sun, frosts at night. Problem is that April has gone. Now May is almost left us as well. Our short growing season is getting very short. I did plant some stuff at the start of April but even that has struggled. Plants appeared then stopped growing.

The only exception is one solitary potato plant in a bucket. That one is getting on with growing in this cold weather. I have high hopes for that plant. That plant feels like a winner.

It’s just about making the most of things I guess.

Next week is the school half term week off. Then it’s the school’s year exams. At present we just don’t know how they will work for us. With Hawklad currently being unable to get into school, it makes sitting exams problematic. We have no idea what the plan is. Do school send the papers to us. Does he do them online. At the same time as the other pupils. Or does he do them at a later stage. Does he even sit them. From what I can gather some of the subjects have been sitting practice exams over the last couple of weeks. Hawklad hasn’t…..

For Hawklad it’s just about making the most of things. Getting through to the summer and then it’s decision time. Can he return to school. If he can then is it best for him to learn in the school system or go it alone. Getting on with things regardless of the weather.

Nothing to see here

I was reading a news article about home schooling during the lockdown. A government politician was quoted as saying basically that all children needed to be in the classroom. No exceptions. Pupils discipline and grades had deteriorated during lockdown. Homeschooling could never work properly.

Ok so the last year must have a write off for Hawklad

Well let’s think about that…… Over the last year his grades have gone UP. So well that he was moved up sets. Look at his best subject. A year ago he could talk for days about British medieval history. He could name and describe every English monarch. He could talk well about Roman history. A year later he can still do that but now listen to him confidently talk American, European and Chinese history. Listen to him talk about recent world history, Classical Greek times…. you get the picture.

He’s expanded his knowledge on the animal kingdom.

He’s getting great marks now in English Literature. Macbeth, Animal Farm are well within his grasp.

A year ago we were fighting to get him support for his dyslexia. He needed assistance to read even the simplest text. A year at home and he hardly ever needs to ask for help with reading. He can do it himself. Yes he has to skip some words but now he can read articles on line. He can read books now. Slowly yes, but read definitely. 7 years of classroom teaching and he’s made the leap forward at HOME.

I’m no superman. No Yoda. No expert in teaching. Watch me look blankly in most subjects. I’m a bang average parent. Homeschooling has just suited Hawklad. He’s more relaxed. Can pace around. Can jump around subjects. Take breaks. Look at things he wants to. No pressure asking questions, no anxiety putting his have up in front of an overcrowded classroom. It just works for him.

Here’s the thing, the traditional classroom will suit some children. But not everyone. So why do THEY force all kids through the same hoops. Through the same moulds. Through the same exam routes. If the last 12 months has taught us anything it’s that we need to cater for all children. One path just isn’t enough.

Cracks

How easy is it to slip through the cracks.

It took too many years to get any support and help for Hawklad. A lot of important time during his key development years were missed. He was labelled with the following tags and descriptions…

A loner

Below average attainment

Having issues

Poor concentration

Under performer

Some discipline issues

Can’t sit still

Clumsy

Accident prone

Messy eater

Untidy

Behind national targets

Easily distracted

Needs to work on the basics

Does he need better discipline at home

Then it all changed when a group of Doctors and education experts finally issued a medical letter confirming

Aspergers

ADHD

Dyslexia

Dyspraxia

To get there was a nightmare. Yes it felt like a never ending slog. An ordeal. Constantly fighting the system. You end up doubting yourself. Are we just being pushy parents. Should we just fall back into line.

In the end our son was one of the lucky ones. Too many great kids don’t get the chance to shine. Wrote off. Misunderstood. They never get the support they need because they fell through the cracks in the system. A system which still has such poor levels of awareness, too many stereotypes, too few resources in specialised services.

It shouldn’t be like this.