Let’s break some rules….

Our school like so many others prides itself on discipline and the behaviour of its pupils. This is achieved with an inflexible set of rules. If a pupil breaks a rule then it’s an automatic negative. Four negatives in one week means detention. Repeated detentions bring the sanction of isolation. A serious negative can lead to an immediate spell of isolation. It’s all a bit Dickensian – was going to say Shawshank Redemption but that’s probably not a good example to use really…

The rules must come in about 7 volumes so too many to list. But let’s give a flavour by quoting some of the negatives which our son has seen issued.

  • Unbuttoned shirt
  • Incorrect positioning of the tie
  • Throwing a snowball – after school and not on school premise
  • Small coloured markings on white sport socks
  • Parent not signing off the weekly planner sheet
  • Forgetting your planner or text book
  • Incorrect colour pen used. Has to be black, unless it’s a correction which has to be green – still haven’t worked out what blue is supposed to be for
  • Forgetting to bring your cooking apron
  • Bringing the wrong measurement of food ingredients
  • School iPad running out of battery
  • Carrying snacks in a rucksack
  • Going to the wrong lesson if you misread the timetable
  • Getting lost in the school – it is a big school area with several separate buildings
  • Bringing the wrong type of calculator
  • Repeatedly asking to go home if you are unwell
  • Pointing out that the teacher had got a fact wrong (son’s only negative so far)

And on and on

Our son came home yesterday to say that he had to complete a series of corrections in his book. Failure to do so would result in two negatives…. When I checked he had one answer correction to make – fine. But he also had to correct spellings. As you can imagine with dyslexia he had many. We had the dreaded red “spelling mistake” label on almost every line. I gave up counting at 30.

The school has another rule which says that for every spelling mistake the pupil has to write out the correct spelling three times.

Call me awkward but he’s got dyslexia. How can this be right. I have spoken to the school on several occasions but I am told it is the rule for all pupils. Well bugger it. I have emailed school to tell them that he is not doing the corrections. We will add the words he has struggled with to our home reading work. But he is definitely not writing out the corrections three times. If he gets a negative for this then I have warned them that I will consider legal action against the school. U.K. organisations need to take reasonable steps to avoid discrimination on the grounds of disability. Under the Equality Act Dyslexia is classed as a disability. OR the school could just give me the detention – that could be really interesting (unbelievably I have never suffered that punishment).

What works

Anxiety, sadness and fear. Three words which unfortunately are too often near the top of our household vocabulary. Along with fart, burnt food, turn the music UP, where’s the remote, sorry I forgot and Dad you Muppet.So what have we found that actually works for both of us. Here are some of the winners.

5,4,3,2,1

We have found that this technique is really good at taking the edge off panic attacks. It doesn’t work on any underlying problems but buys some time. At the first sign of increased anxiety:

Think of 5 things you can currently see,

Think of 4 things you can currently hear,

Think of 3 things you can currently touch,

Think of 2 things you can currently smell,

Now do 1 large breath.

The Sweetie Jar Oracle

If our son is going through a period viewing the world through unhappy filters we start the Sweetie Jar Oracle. Find a large clear jar and a bag of brightly coloured sweets. Not sure about the rest of the world but in the U.K. smarties, fruit pastilles or Skittles work well. Sort out say the red and yellow sweets. Then identify one of the colours as good and the other as bad. Then over a period of a few days, maybe a week start to fill the jar with the appropriate coloured sweet every time a good or bad thing happens. After a few days hopefully you will see more good sweets than bad sweets. This usually convinces our son that although bad things do happen, good stuff happens more frequently. You can then eat the sweets….

Good Memories Store

We have an old small suitcase which we use to store good memories in. It’s full of old photos and handwritten notes. Every time we remember a good memory I write it down and put in in the suitcase. When times are bad we can then dig out the memory store and hopefully receive an instant boost to the soul. Has the added advantage of making sure you don’t forget those all important wonderful moments in time.

YouTube

Just losing himself in a YouTube documentary works somedays. I remember one occasion when he had an awful day at school but after 45 minutes of YouTube watching he was a happy little bunny. Worryingly he had found solace in documentaries about Caligula. What happened to Peppa Pig…

Wheelbarrow Train of Pain

Talked about this in a previous post. It stops my sudden urge to punch the wall with frustration. Basically load up a wheelbarrow with heavy stuff then push it round the garden. The number of circuits depends on the severity of the frustration.

Lego

Found that building a Lego set really helps take our son’s mind off his anxieties. It’s also good for his fine motor skills. It’s often frustrating for me as it just reminds me that I never got round to buying the Star Wars Death Star Lego set. Now it would be cheaper to buy a real Ghostbusters Proton Pack and get Bill Murray to personally deliver it to us.

Trampoline

Almost everyday on his return from school our son heads for his trampoline. 20 minutes later many of the frustrations of the day are put to the back of his mind.

Late night dog walking

Walking the dog never really helped our son. He was often too concerned about bumping into others. We would be having a happy conversation but suddenly someone would appear on his radar and he would be lost to anxious social thoughts. Almost by chance we then found the delights of night time dog walking. At night no one is about in our village. We have the fields and lanes to ourselves. Now it has become an excellent stress reliever. We frequently use the walks to plan out in detail the next days schedule.

Bad things league table

Every so often we run the bad things league table. We both list all the things worrying us. We then work together to rank them in order of how much pain they are causing us. Points are awarded for the severity of the issue, it’s frequency and how difficult it is to solve. It quickly identifies the stuff we need to focus on or prepare for. Because it’s done as a league table our son finds it easy to talk about and work with. For the issue which is the league winner we then spend a few minutes working out a couple of actions which might help knock it off its top spot for the next league table.

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One of the activists 100% guaranteed to raise our spirits will feature in the next post…

Progress?

“Dad how do you spell Transylvania, I am trying to find a picture of Dracula and his castle”

Our son frequently asks how to spell words when he is using his iPad. As he tries to type out the words which I have attempted to spell the hope is that it will help with his Dyslexia. He is trying to move away from just using the iPads speech recognition app. In this vampire case we had an issue with either my spelling (most likely) or our son’s typing.

“Dad that doesn’t look like Dracula or his castle. It’s a man with make up wearing a very short skirt.”

Yes that was an interesting conversation we had about a word sounding a bit like Transylvania.

We have continued to work at home on our son’s dyslexia. It’s his biggest concern and causes him so much stress. However it’s a constant balancing act as he gets so tired at school. I want him to have time to play and relax. But when we do work we have tried a number of techniques. I talked about some of these in an earlier post

https://bereavedsingledad.blog/2018/11/14/home-help/

Maybe, just maybe we are starting to see some progress. He is starting to recognise a wider range of words (although it takes time). Increasingly some of the more common words are starting to be recognised instantly. This is real progress. He is now starting to read Graphic Novels without the help of me or a reading pen. He is using the pictures, the words he can recognise and trying to figure out the words he can’t recognise. He can just about follow the story now. Hound of the Baskervilles is his favourite graphic novel.

As long as he is up for the challenge we will continue to push. Learning to overcome dyslexia does feel like the search for the Holy Grail some days. But at least we now have some leads. Maybe we have started to narrow down the search zone. Let’s hope so.

School Dracula

This is the Hospitium a 14th century listed building in York’s Museum Gardens. These days it’s a venue for conferences, weddings and special events. Many years ago it was a support building for the Abbey.

St Mary’s Abbey was founded in 1088. The surviving ruins date back from about 1270. York is such a good place for kids to actually touch history.

Over Christmas our son spent a few hours here trying to imagine what life was like before it fell into ruin. Recreating the sounds, the people, the buildings, the life. Big scale creative play. I must admit I was lost in the world of dreams to. Mine was a world of ghosts, ghouls and vampires. I had almost forgotten how much fun you can have when you release your imagination.

This was the visit when the first seeds of home schooling started to be scattered. Last term had been grisly. No real sign of development. No evidence of school making any effort to provide an effective and supportive teaching environment. Most importantly a really unhappy and anxious child.

Our son loves subjects like history but not the way school deliver it. He likes the History Teacher, she is really nice. But being in the bottom set and given his encyclopaedic knowledge – he’s not learning anything. Plus regardless of which class you are in the teaching is so traditional. Text book after text book. Very dry and not very dyslexic friendly. Unfortunately it’s the set teaching approach dictated by the government.

Between my thoughts of ghosts and ghouls I also pondered with so much real life history so close to hand, why not bring the classroom here. Bring the lessons alive. That’s when the thought pinged, if school won’t teach here, why don’t I.

We will see.

The trip was completed with the required extra portions of ice cream. That night my imagination had clearly not been put back in its box yet. A dream about Dracula. But not the bloodthirsty vampire. This one was about a reformed Prince of Darkness. He had sold his Transylvanian castle and bought York’s Museum Gardens. He wanted to turn the gardens into the finest history school in the world. All the teachers were ghosts and ghouls. And Dracula was selling the ice creams and he didn’t skimp on the portions. Now that’s a school.

Going Artistic

The sheep are back in the farm at the back of our house. As a result our mad dog has parked himself at the fence, getting very excited and wagging his tail. He’s been doing this for 3 hours and showing no signs of getting bored.

If it keeps him happy…

Meanwhile inside it’s the dreaded artistic adventure.

Dad can you cut my hair”

Trying to convince him that a trip to the hairdressers would result in a much better final product than the usual dad disaster.

No no no. I’m not going to have a stranger cut my hair. I’d rather take a risk on one of your shockers…”

So we started. I could feel my hands shaking. My IBS gripping my insides.

Dad did you know you stick your tongue out when your cutting my hair”.

I do it every time I panic. I also strangely do it when I watch my football team play.

“Dad you didn’t tell me that you had bought a hair trimmer.”

Didn’t have the heart to tell him I was using the Dogs trimmer.

“Are both sides of my hair supposed to match.”

Theoretically yes.

You don’t think you have taken too much off my fringe.”

Now you mention it that was a bit brutal.

Looks like I’ve got one hairstyle on the left and a different one on the right.”

Technically speaking it’s a highly scientific mix of layering and blending… Or just one massive mess up.

Next time do you think I should grow my hair long. Maybe I would be like Hercules, instead of being super strong I might be super intelligent or be able to read.”

I tried to boost his confidence again. I wish I could find some new words of wisdom. The words I use seem tired and ineffective. I also mentioned my experimentation with 80s metal hair. Unfortunately rather than look like a rock god I ended up looking like Cousin It (Adams Family). This made him laugh. That’s about the only thing I seem to be able to do these days.

Eventually the ordeal was over. Out of 10 I was given a 4. Which is 2 higher than the last one and considerably better than the 0 I got last summer. Let’s see what the dog is up to. Still sheep watching.

Dad that sheep has my hair cut”.

Sadly I agree.

Not PC – Sorry

Son was a bit upset today. One of his classes had a surprise test. He didn’t get any reading help, had to try and type the answers using his left hand and didn’t get any extra time. So understandably he didn’t get anywhere near finishing. Angry face. 😡

To try and lift his spirits I thought we would play a little game. Sometimes it’s not a good idea to go with the first thing that pops into your head.

Can we think of which animals famous people look like. Sorry this is not very PC but it was the first thing which crawled into my empty brain. It did immediately catch our son’s imagination. A few minutes later we were both snorting with laughter.

Some of the images we conjured up I won’t share. But a few we probably can get away with.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May we both agreed on this one.

US Vice President Mike Pence while looking at a video of President Trump our son said that the chap stood next to him who said nothing looked like an African Vulture.

I on the other hand could only see one of those petting zoo Lamas. The ones who stand next to someone quietly and just look blankly into the distance.

US President Donald Trump we argued over this one. Son went for

For some reason I just couldn’t get the image of Sid trying to milk the Male Musk Ox in Ice Age. So I’m going for that Ox as my Mr Trump.

In the spirit of balance it’s only fair that we bring the animal likeness thing a little closer to home.

Me after much debate we have agreed that the Sea Cow is my best fit.

I think it’s now officially time for happy face. 😎

Dad sit down

Today was supposed to be a full on work day. But again the Laptop had other ideas. Clearly it was an update day. Luckily my old tablet came to the rescue. A slow rescue but it was a rescue. I did find a use for my laptop. As it updated it got warm and a nice warm thing is too much for a dog to resist. So my laptop is now an expensive comfort blanket to sleep on.

When our son arrived back from school he was smiling. One of those smiles.

“Dad sit down”

No it’s ok

“Dad no I think you should sit down”

Ok I’m sat down, go on hit me with it.

“Well I tried doing the work with my left hand. It was bad. Anyway for the Games Lesson I was sent to a teachers room. I was told that I could do my homework. I told the teacher that I had no homework which needed doing. So she said I should just get a book from the shelf or do something educational on the iPad. I just sat and tried to play Crossy Roads for an hour. I beat your record.”

Well that wasn’t too bad, maybe next time find something rather than a game to do. Certainly don’t beat your dads best score…

That’s not all. During one of the lessons I banged my right hand on the desk. It really hurt. But the teacher just told me to carry on working”

That’s not good. I’m going to speak to the Head about that.

“Not finished yet Dad. They have decided which options all the kids are doing for the next term. I was told that I couldn’t do the option I selected because of my hand so they told me that I have to do another one. They have given me the Book Reading class. Do you think they have forgotten I’m dyslexic.”

The Book Reading Class for a dyslexic. You couldn’t make it up.

Countries gone mad

“Dad if we won the lottery could we buy a deserted island and live there?

It’s kinda sad that an 11 year old thinks that way. But I fully understand why and YES I would jump at the chance. I remember a time when I loved my country. Those days have sadly gone. Like many folk from Yorkshire we would happily declare independence. York becoming a capital city sounds cool. The national dish could be the Yorkshire Pudding. Our national sports would be cricket and being grumpy. The national animal would be the Ferret. Instead of having a nuclear deterrent we could threaten people with our rhubarb sticks.

You might think this is daft but trust me this is off the scale sensibility compared to the stupidity of modern Britain. Nothing sums up the state of the union better than just one single news story. Given all the potentially catastrophic events circulating around us (and there are many) – the attention of the media and a good proportion of the population has been on …… the horror of a bakery introducing a vegan sausage roll across its 900 stores. The likes of Piers Morgan (one of the not funny loonies and self pronounced TV Star) went into meltdown saying things like “Nobody was waiting for a vegan bloody sausage you PC ravaged clowns”. The news story is everywhere, you just can’t get away from it. I use the term news story very loosely.

I waited with anticipation for our son to return. He would cheer me up, bring much needed sensibility to my world. Unfortunately not this time.

“Dad the school want me to either write left handed or type left handed until my right hand gets better, that includes trying to do exams with my weak hand. I told them that I struggle to coordinate my left hand and that’s the reason I can’t tie knots. Told them that the Doctor was trying to help me with it but the teacher said I just had to do it”

“Dad did you complain about the behaviour in our bottom class”

Yes….

Well they did something”

Please let it be something positive

They moved a really well behaved girl up a set because she was struggling with the behaviour in our class and they moved a really naughty boy in to replace her. It was a lot worse today”

Only thing left is to go and buy a lottery ticket. That remote island is calling. Anybody fancy joining us.

York is not the end of the story

It only takes us 30 minutes to drive into our closest city, the beautiful York. We are so fortunate to live so close to such an historic city. Such a rich pedigree.

  • It was founded by the Romans in 71AD,
  • The Emperor Septimus Severus ruled the entire Roman Empire from York for 2 years,
  • Constantine The Great was proclaimed Roman Emperor in York,
  • York was captured by the Vikings and named Jorvik,
  • Guy Fawkes (remember remember the fifth of November) was born in York,
  • York Minster is one of the worlds largest Cathedrals and took 250 years to build. It is the largest Gothic Cathedral in Northern Europe,

  • The Shambles is the best preserved ancient retail street in Europe dating back before 1086,

  • Dick Turpin the famous Highwayman was executed in York,
  • It has 3 miles of ancient City Walls still intact,

  • It is regarded as one of the worlds most haunted cities with over 500 recorded ghosts,
  • It has the worlds largest Railway Museum,
  • While other Northern British Cities built their wealth on coal, steel and textiles – York made it on Chocolate and Sweets. Rowntree’s and Terrys.

That was supposed to be the end of the post. Trust me York is worth a visit. Basically it’s a really cool City. Especially for a young kid with aspergers whose thirst for facts just keeps growing. He just laps up the facts. When I started writing this post I asked our son to supply me with the information. I completely trust his memory and haven’t bothered to double check the facts.

So it’s so upsetting when he came out with the following Statement a couple of hours later:

“I don’t want to be stupid, I would love to be clever one day”

So off we went for another late night dog walk. I try to provide reassurance. Try to build up his confidence and restore his faith in his dreams. But it often feels like a short term fix. Applying a temporary bandage to the wound. A bandage only protects the wound it doesn’t treat it. As Extreme would sing – I need to find more than words. I need to raise my game…..

Learn Icelandic

It’s the morning after last nights anxiety vortex and the calming late night dog walk. Our son slept reasonably well, the dog extremely well. Me – not so good. Head is still spinning about trying to solve the educational conundrum. How to give our son the best opportunity to find his wings and so importantly take his anxiety away.

My thoughts keep coming back to home schooling but ….. So many factors

  • Does this just increase the isolation
  • Friendships
  • How to unlock the potential
  • Keeping open University options
  • Type of education
  • Support services
  • Finances
  • The bureaucracy
  • What happens if something happens to me
  • On and on and on

This morning another option popped into my small brain. I remember a few years back watching a programme about a family living in a remote part of Iceland. May have been on a little Island as I think they were hoping to one day have a Bridge or tunnel built to connect them to the mainland. Post and supplies coming in each day by small boat. Many of the community coming out to welcome the boat as it pulls in each day.

The family had kids about the same age as our son. No schools for miles. They attended a virtual school. Rather than the school bus (or in this case school boat) they logged into a computer. Lessons then took place online with a teacher and a virtual classroom. Webcams allowed the teacher to see all the kids and importantly allowed the kids to see and interact with the other kids. It looked fantastic. Unfortunately our Icelandic is a little patchy!!!! But maybe this exists wider and might be another option to look at. Head starting to spin again so it’s time for another long dog walk. Thank you for reading these confused words. Take care. Góðan daginn

Maybe I might buy a Learn Icelandic book just in case.