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Two daily visitors waiting patiently for breakfast. I must clean the gutters….

After yesterday’s unplanned washing of my mobile, I found myself outside in the cold early morning air. Doing a great workout supplied by a very kind friend and listening to music on my super clean phone. Crystal clear sound. In fact it’s never sounded so good. Maybe I should try my body out in a quick machine wash cycle. If only I could fit the car in our old washing machine.

I was a bad parent last night and I’m not talking about letting son watch Deadpool 2 again. School emailed all the parents to say that they had not been picking up all the students who had been submitting inferior work or worse submitting work late. So to rectify that the only thing they could do would be to send out an email each night at 11.30 to warm parents about any issues which may have occurred with their kids online work for that day. I can imagine many parents sending letters of approval in or even asking for a tougher stance from school. I took a slightly different stance on my short reply.

Please don’t bother.

This morning followed up with a much longer reply basically talking about how tough it is for many kids at present and how about school using the resources they were putting into this sanction into doing something positive – something fun for the kids. Maybe even allowing some social interaction with friends. I’m not hopeful but at least it will get me another black mark in the awkward parent log.

Anyway school might not do fun but that doesn’t mean that we can’t. It’s so important we all find ways of still living. So in between online lessons we have squeezed in some activities. Bouncing on the trampoline, Jenga, air hockey and jelly making. Then after the school day had finished we made some cakes. Played football and attempted to build the largest possible Lego tower. Unfortunately due to the wind, curious pets and my eagerness to build higher before a stable base was formed – it didn’t get much higher than 5ft. It clearly had the same design fault as Trumps Mexican Wall. Oops that’s going to bring on my fan mail from Texas again.

Over Easter we will definitely revisit the Lego tower. It might even stand up long enough to take a photo. The point is that actually fun day is not enough. It really is so tough for kids to enjoy their childhood in 2020. So much anxiety and so little space to dream. So fun day is now fun EVERY day. Maybe just like my mobile phone, we can find ways (maybe unusual) to improve things in life. WE can do this.

Time

TIME is a funny thing. Walked past here on Friday and hardly any of the white flowers had emerged. 72 hours later after a yucky cold, dark and damp weekend – any hey presto it’s a sea of white.

I remember someone very clever saying that TIME operates at different rates for different people. Thinking about it – that clever person might have been Dr Who. When I was a kid I loved Dr Who. I so wanted to be a Timelord. As a prize for winning a football tournament school arranged a trip to the last day of a Dr Who exhibition. I was super excited. On the way our bus broke down. It took them hours to fix it. Finally we arrived at the exhibition only to find it had closed 5 minutes earlier. How on earth can you miss an exhibition about a time travellerjust doesn’t seem right.

TIME definitely operates at different rates for some of our son’s school teachers. Quite a few of the online classes require the student to read an article or a section of a text book. The amount of reading has definitely increased over the last few school days. The number of follow up tasks has also increased. Strangely the TIME allowed has stayed the same. Exactly where does this approach leave the dyslexic student. I know teachers are super busy but maybe one of them might have asked son how he is coping with reading the course material. They seem much quicker to spot his spelling mistakes. Much better use of TIME.

TIME is also hard to define. School have now rolled out a national learning app primarily aimed at those students who struggle with English comprehension and grammar. Interestingly an app with a rating of 1 out 5 from users (lucky to get 1 by all accounts). Son has been set a weekly app study time of 50 minutes. The teacher will be checking that each student has achieved the weekly minimum study time. Punishments for underachieving. What they don’t mention is that the app uses a lot of videos and narratives. Unfortunately these do not count against the learning time but need to be completed before you can get to the student work areas. When it crashes (and it crashes more times than me on a diet) all learning time is lost and you need to start at the beginning of the section again. So far son has been on the app for just under 3 hours. He’s watched endless boring videos and robotic narratives. He’s still to learn anything new. AND he’s only clocked 20 minutes actual study time.

Dad what is the point of this. I’m bored out of my mind. As you would say, it’s a pile of pants. It’s a complete waste of my time, your time, the teachers time and a waste of bandwidth.”

I fed this back to school with a few of my own rather barbed comments. The school’s response was well we have sent a teacher to be trained in its use, that’s valuable school TIME so we need to keep using it.

Clearly I was wasting my TIME arguing.

Bed protest

Another cold start. Press ups on the grass are definitely cold on the hands.

Now set into the daily school at home routine. That’s a better way to describe it. It’s not true homeschoolingits schools version of remote learning.

  • 6:30am – start daily exercise (weights, or army fitness, or exercise bike or running round the little garden)
  • 7:30am – try to get as many home cleaning tasks done
  • 8:00am – Son gets up and has breakfast
  • 8:30am – log onto school system and check school messages
  • 8:40am – register for first lesson and complete tasks
  • 9:55am – load completed tasks
  • 10:15am – register for second lesson and complete tasks
  • 11:25am – load completed tasks
  • 11:35am – register for third lesson and complete tasks
  • 12:45pm – load completed tasks
  • 12:50pm – take dog for one walk of the day
  • 1:00pm – outside for talk with son
  • 1:40pm – serve lunch
  • 1:55pm – register for final lesson and complete tasks
  • 3:10pm – load completed tasks and log off
  • 3.20pm – start to breathe and play football

Dad I’m thinking about going Lennon and Yoko tomorrow. Might stay in bed and do the complete school day from there.”

“What are you protesting about then?”

I’m working on that. Maybe the excessive use of red pen at school. Maybe the shortages of baked beans.”

Maybe I can ask one of the important people making daily contact with me. I’ve never had so many Chief Executives and Business Leaders speaking to me. It’s a daily stream of emails wishing me well and informing me of their evolving plans. Our most senior doctors and scientist are giving me helpful advice. Even the PM and the Government are sending me text messages.

It’s suddenly great to be valued and important. I wonder how long this will last. Will it last as long as Son’s bed protest.

Motivation

Not sure it’s the slightly unhinged world but here the daffodils are looking extra special this year. Much needed colour. Much needed motivation to keep believing in our world.

“Come on Dad, your doing the PE lesson with me.”

So 20 minutes later we are doing a fitness workout. I do slag the school off quite a bit but sometimes it does do things well. The online PE lessons was really good. It started with a daily workout from YouTube. The Body Coach TV (PE with Joe Wicks). The person doing it was great and made the session so much fun for kids. Son warmed to him straight away. Which is no mean feat.

My second workout of the day was definitely very different from the first. Standard weights and short burn military fitness exercises at 7am. Pretending to be Spider-Man and bouncing like a bunny rabbit at 11am. The latter was way more fun. So maybe, just maybe tomorrow at 7am you might see a grown man pretending to be a rabbit. That’s my excuse if I get wheeled away in a straight jacket.

But you need balance in life. If you get good then often the not so good arrives to bring life back into order. The Food Technology online lesson was grisly. Son attempted the task which was so tough for him given the difficulties he has with handwriting, spelling and drawing. But he tried and that’s all we can ask. A bit later the response came back. One or two good efforts but some are very poor presentations. Well that’s done his confidence a world of good.

So we have balance. Motivated and demotivated. Looking forward to the next lesson and dreading the next lesson. One has 1.5 Million subscribers (plus two more from our house) and the other has a kid desperate to drop the subject.

I’m sure even this guy was motivated to move just a bit during the fitness workout.

I should really tell this guys story as well. Completely ignored him when I waffled on about his gnome buddy. His name is Gene. Can you work out why? Gene is a relative baby. He’s about 7 years old. He was a Christmas present from my brother. He was supposed to be fireplace ornament. Unfortunately my partner hated it. As did our dear departed psychotic girl cat. So he was banished to the garden to save him from the sledgehammer and the apex predator. On his bottom a sign says – Not for external use. Yet after 7 years of grizzly Yorkshire weather he is still shinny and looking like new. So he clearly likes dancing in the Yorkshire rain.

Take care my friends and try to smile.

Hold off for a week

Looks like Spring. The daffodils are out in force, blue sky and the sun is beating down on the Yorkshire soil. A frozen Yorkshire soil. One problem with this Spring. It’s absolutely freezing and apparently it’s going to get colder. I will hold off getting my shorts out for another week or so.

Yes some things are best left for a week or so.

School is most vexing. Increasing signs that schools version of homeschooling is in fact just the same old, same old. Rebranded but essentially the same teaching approach. It might work for some kids but it’s not working for our son. Yes a couple of subjects have tried to think out of the box, change things up. But the majority have not. It’s such a wasted opportunity.

Most kids are working remotely with no physical contact with their friends. So why not let them use the schools online system for to exchange messages during the homeschool day. No no no. All chats are monitored to ensure they are restricted to school work. Woe betied any kid who is even a minute late to log onto the system at the start of a lesson. Stick to the required task and don’t deviate…..

But let’s give school a week or so to see if the remote teaching programme evolves.

It’s been interesting to notice how much of the online teaching so far has been based on just reading a piece of text then answering questions. No modification for those kids who struggle to read. No additional help for those with dyslexia. Nowt new there then. I asked school for the reading and writing progress he has made over the last 20 months. All school will say on his writing was that no issues had been raised by teachers but they will look at using a computer for his main exams. Will that come with keyboard skills therapy work to help with the problems he has with typing…. apparently not.

On reading they have done some testing. According to the results he is still well behind the expected reading age. Apparently his reading age has improved only marginally in those 20 months. As a result school consider he’s best placed in the bottom set. No one on one help will be provided, if he needs help with reading then he needs to put his hand up and ask the teacher. He just needs to accept that his reading is poor and additional work on improving it is a bit of a waste of time. That’s interesting as over the last six months his reading has drastically improved (no thanks to school). What could be achieved if school did make an effort.

Well let’s give it a week or so. We need to think about the road going forward. What’s the best for our son. Is it schools version of homeschooling (school gates are likely to be shut for months) or will it be our home version. The following weeks will tell us.

Prophecy

Colour slowly returning to the garden. Sadly just in time for the next weather blasting. Just so predictable….

A few years back our son had a wonderful medical expert who did an awful lot for him. Just before retirement I remember the experts prophecy. To paraphrase

Our country’s support for kids like yours is nothing short of a disgrace. Sadly if you think that the support he gets now is patchy and insufficient, well just wait a few years. It’s likely to get very much worse. Maybe when he is 12, most definitely when he is a teenager, the minimal support will dry up. He will get reassessed by clinicians who have no practical experience of your son. They will deem him above the clinical threshold and will turn off the support. Clinical threshold should be renamed budgetary threshold. It’s not a reflection of the clinical position. He will still have severe clinical need for intervention. The support will be removed because as a society we don’t support teenagers and adults on the spectrum. We expect them to fend for themselves. If they don’t fulfil their potential then tough. I’ve seen this happen to virtually every kid I have worked with. If they achieve anything in life it’s just down to themselves and their parents. On top of this the school system just assigns them to the bin. It stinks….

Sadly the prophecy is coming true….

Just before Christmas he was reassessed for one of the support services he receives. The assessment was done by someone who had never met our son. The outcome – the service was withdrawn as he no longer met the clinical requirement.

Today we had a therapy session at the local hospital. It’s a service he has had since he was 7. It’s made some great progress over the years. It’s taken time and many sessions. At the last session his worker agreed on a programme to help with his handwriting, keyboard skills, and areas such as shoelaces/school ties. The programme after that would look at trying to help with coordination specifically aimed at swimming and bike riding. He has significant problems in each of these areas. Well guess what. At today’s session his worker was joined by a senior member of the team. A reassessment was made of his case. After a few practical exercises we were informed that he was now above the support threshold. He was now discharged from the service. They would write to school and give them some suggestions on his future schooling. We were handed a couple of information sheets on handwriting and shoelace tying. We can ask his Paediatrician to review this decision. We are on the waiting list to see a Paediatrician – currently our last appointment was over two years ago.

So we are now down to one service support now. But that is so underfunded. His worker is wonderful but because of workloads she struggles to see him now. Last year we got invites to a couple of group sessions. His last one to one session was back in 2018. Clearly it’s only a matter of time before that last helping hand is removed.

It really feels like that the health service has now dumped our son since he’s a teenager. I guess they argue that it’s an educational problem now. Unfortunately the school system has washed its hands of our son already. Like so many kids the school’s write them off. Label them low attainment. If they get the odd exam certificate in the end then school has achieved its goal. Ticked it’s box on the Government’s school assessment.

So here we are in the brave new world. We are fending for ourselves. Our only support – a few pages of photocopied guidance from a textbook. How can we have got this so wrong. How many thousands and thousands of autistic teenagers and adults are in the position. Some of the statistics on autistic suicide rates, unemployment, depression and poverty are appalling. But society doesn’t care. Our leaders don’t care. That’s a truly sickening thought.

Cake test

This was my attempt at baking son’s birthday cake. It’s amazing what heaps of icing can hide. The cake was a bit over baked with a huge volcano like hole at its centre. I plugged the hole with soft sweets and then covered with thick icing. What was left of the sweet packet was scattered on top. I might be onto something here. The soft sweet centre worked brilliantly. As a result the cake was deemed “not too bad at all” which on our sons review scheme equates to just above two Michelin stars. So now that’s got me thinking what other things can I fill the inevitable cake sunken holes with. I’m going for jelly in the next one. I will report back on my test.

On the subject of tests …. ok troops, time to stand by up your beds. Its spelling test time.

School is slipping as we have had only one spelling test this week. So they better make it a doozy.

Imagery

Alliteration

Rhyming

Couplets

Syllables

Stanza

Rhythm

Sonnet

Simile

Metaphor

Hyperbole

Assonance

Personification

Onomatopoeia

Enjambement

Another cracking list of words that will be of great use in son’s future life. My last conversation with school stressed the point

That spelling tests for dyslexic students are not recommended practice. If they have to be used then they should only focus on the most commonly used words.

Good to see the school are sticking to the common words then. I had to look up Enjambement. I was sadly disappointed to find that it wasn’t a Caribbean Cooking term for combining Jackfruit with Jamba Juice. My favourite flying dinosaur (Onomatopoeia) makes a welcome return. Last time I pulled that joke I had a shedload of abuse from my Texan fan club….. For some reason Son can’t say ASSonance without cracking up. Must get to the bottom of that joke.

The road

The road often seems so long and never ending. Somedays it is, especially when your trying to run along it straight into the teeth of a biting north wind. Absolute purgatory. But then other days the road is short and manageable. Even in my rubbish car it only takes a couple of minutes to drive it. It’s good to remind myself this every so often.

In those dreadful early days of being a widow and a single parent the journey in front of me looked so daunting. So beyond me. A road with seemingly no end. I would shake my head and just think – I can’t do this. Yet I still set off down that road. I didn’t want to but I was faced with no choice. I was a parent to a young kid who has just lost his mum. He’s was also trying to get his head round not being able to read and that new word – Aspergers. I owed it to him to at least try. Nobody else would. It was down to me.

He only gets one childhood and it better be as brilliant as is humanly possible.

So I started down that road. I had no idea where the road led to. I was so confused. As a result I was hoping to find a ready made parenting plan – an easy to navigate road map. As hard as I tried I just couldn’t find a map which I could use. I searched everywhere. So many books and articles were scoured over for that magic road map. But in the end it was a futile search. No one is going to do this for me. No easy shortcuts had been forged by others. It was down to me and I needed to own it.

Fast forward to 2020 and I’m still here. Still a widow. Still a single parent. Still slightly confused. Still travelling that road. Still haven’t come across a map. But there is a difference. That road doesn’t quite feel so daunting. It doesn’t feel quite so long now. That’s progress in my book.

Don’t mess with the Squirrel

Let’s get the rant quickly out of the way. The UK’s School Minister has opened his mouth again. Remember him. The chap who wants to test kids from the age of 4. The chap who described kids taking time off for bereavement as – an extended holiday. The chap who introduced changes to the teaching of English which severely disadvantaged dyslexic kids – against the advice of health professionals and dyslexia groups. The chap who on several interviews refused to answer any of the questions he was expecting kids to answer. Well now he has told schools and parents what to do in terms of the Coronavirus. Even if the school gets a suspected case then parents should send their kids to school as normal. Schools should remain open. This contrasted with the Chief Medical Officer who yesterday was talking about the potential of closing schools for two months if the virus started to spread in the UK. Well the Schools Minister can take a running jump. He is the last person I would trust my child’s wellbeing with. If it comes to this decision then I will make the call not this over promoted pompous twat. Rant over….

I’ve just been bullied by a squirrel…..

I went out to feed the wildlife in the garden. The usual collection of birds and a squirrel waited not so patiently to be fed. I had a couple of uneaten pancakes to add to the usual menu. As I kneeled down to tear the pancakes up into little pieces the squirrel moved in. He grabbed both pancakes out of my grasp. He wasn’t waiting or sharing these goodies. I did try to have words with the bushy tailed one. But clearly somebody wasn’t listening today. At least somebody likes my pancakes.

Unwanted anniversary

The way forward is sometimes difficult under foot.

Another storm is heading our way. Storm Jorge. The world news is grim and unremittingly depressing. Definitely no solace at school. Son scored 14 out of 15 in his Drama spelling test. The one he got wrong was Unferth. Unferth is a warrior who opposes Beowulf. It’s not a word he’s likely to use much in life. I am so pleased with son. I wouldn’t have got 14 and I’m not dyslexic. Yet the teacher told him to try a bit harder as a few of the kids had got all the spellings correct. Deep sigh.

Today has been tough for me. The above factors don’t help but they are not the main cause of my struggles. No it’s a grief thing again. Son’s birthday is fast approaching. Since she left us this is just one of those times. Her organisational skills would go into overdrive as his birthday approached. She would be so excited. Her love would shine through.

Then the world changed. (That was going to be the original name of my blog site but I messed up the setupBereavedDad was a cockup).

So today I was trying to sort out his birthday and I felt so wrong. She should be here enjoying this time as well. I’m not often bitter but today I was. What is making this birthday so raw is that he is turning into a teenager. My partner has missed so much of his childhood and never got the opportunity to see him grow into a teenager. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

But unfortunately feeling sorry for myself isn’t going to help. It’s not going to bring her back. It’s certainly isn’t going to deliver any presents. It’s not going to yield a happy birthday for our son. It’s not going to make him smile AND his smiles are the only currency I should deal in now. So give myself a proverbial massive kick up the butt. Turn the news off. Play some loud music and fully commit to birthday mode. That’s what my partner would do and by jiminy – that’s what I am going to do.

So yes the way forward is sometimes difficult under foot but you still need to follow it.