Burns

It’s hot. That’s Yorkshire hot. Which probably means mild in other parts of the world. My Dad would have called it mafting. It’s that mafting that even the Yorkshire Farm Machinery can’t cope. The photo shows the smouldering wreck of an unfortunate tractor with a badly burnt field. That’s a first on the dog walk.

Our Son does suffer from stress and overpowering fears. When he took one look at the burnt carnage he immediately panicked that our house would soon be engulfed in flames. It’s understandable as the field is less than a mile from us. I tried to calm his fears with words but with no luck. So actions are required. A mad Dad sat down in the blackened field. Look son my bum is getting a little warm but my shorts are not ablaze. Although it did demonstrate a point I should have thought the plan through a bit. Light grey shorts are maybe not that fetching when they have two buttock shaped black marks on the rear.

Although our son’s wild fire fear has been dampened down a little. Sometimes silliness works better than rational argument. It is still there and will be until normal Yorkshire weather returns.

When you have a child who suffers from these inhibiting fears it is vital that you try and keep on top of them. Working in partnership with school and health services is vital. At his last school they were usually on the ball. The teacher would catch me at the end of day or send a quick email to let me know if something had happened. If it was particularly significant school would phone immediately.

Unfortunately at his new school this has completely stopped. I fully understand that it’s a much bigger school and he has different teachers for each subject. But surely they still have a duty of care. I know speaking with the health professionals they say unfortunately most schools in they area are the same now. The close partnership working which was in place a few years ago has dried up. Again and again it comes back to the same reason. Government. As one Doctor said

Under the last Labour Government it was about the patient. Now the patient is a secondary consideration to income generation, competition and profit. Money is now king.

So increasingly it’s just left to parents, families and friends. The days of government for the greater good are over. Its all about self help and what the individual can afford. Must deliver tax cuts. It’s back to Victorian ethics. Days when democracy could be overridden by the powerful and the rich. A time when it was ok to send poor kids up chimneys. When hatred and discrimination was the norm.

Maybe it’s just me and I’m in the minority. Just my irrational fear. But increasingly my country is becoming alien to me. I hate what is becoming. Too many kids do not get the support they badly need. As a generation we have really messed up our priorities. Our leaders happily play fiddles while Rome burns. Or maybe we should now change that to our leaders go to comedy clubs while the Amazon burns.

To be or not to be

A beautiful delicate flower. Unfortunately it has decided to grow directly on the mad dogs preferred route to his watering zone. Given the unruly speed the four legged wrecking ball hurtles down this path it’s not the ideal environment for delicate beauty. Will it survive. Will it be crushed to a pulp. Who knows.

The new school year is looming. Will we start. Will we home educate. With all the emotions swirling around the house currently it’s not the easiest time to focus on crucial matters. But it’s decision time.

As our health service points out – The school system is failing our son. No additional support is provided in terms of his Aspergers. In terms of Dyslexia it’s the bare minimum. The assumption is that he can’t read, never will read and he will be shown how to use a reading pen for the final exams. Set low exam expectations and anything achieved is a bonus. Let’s be clear that’s not all the teachers. Some do see the potential. Unfortunately his biggest supporter has left this summer. It will be illuminating to see if the school move him up to higher sets this year. His effort, his behaviour, his results clearly highlight the correct answer. A number of teachers have also recommended that course of action. But kids with dyslexia are often just bottom classed.

Yet the evidence suggest that the school system is wrong. The Doctors continually state that it is far too early to give up on the reading. The work they do demonstrate much promise. A kid who has been written off now can read the subtitles which appear on movies. He can read text messages. Today he read a 2 line subtitle and only got one word wrong – minority. He’s achieved that progress without school help.

He needs a tailored approach to development. But to be fair the schools hands are tied by government policy and cutbacks. Tailored education does not happen unless you can afford to go private. Private like the entire Government has enjoyed. Home Education currently allows the parent to tailor the approach. You can develop an approach that best suits the individual. Unfortunately the government is keen to stop this as well.

The major obstacle to home education is having one parent. It’s trying to home educate and trying to bring in sufficient income at the same time. I just can’t make the numbers stack up. I just can’t find enough hours in the day (& night).

The bottom line is that I currently just can’t home educate and balance the books. Home education is the right option but it’s also currently an impractical one. So much frustration. If we still had two parents then it would be doable. It just feels like our son is being penalised again for something outside his control. That makes me angry. Very angry. What’s the line – you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry. Hopefully I don’t turn green. That anger fuels the desire to find a way. Our son deserves that. He deserves at the very least a parent who tries.

So in two weeks our son will return to school. Hopefully to a much improved education. But if it continues to fail then we will just have to find a way.

Me Me Me

Blue skies have been a rarity over the last couple of weeks. Strangely this photo is a few weeks old. Can’t remember the last time I had to water the tomato plants. If anything it’s more about trying to stop them drowning in the rain water. The mad dog is currently sat looking out through the back door. Yet when I open it for him he just continues to sit and seems to shrug – if you think I’m going out in that you have another thing coming. Other areas of the county have seen bridges swept away and a Dam almost breached. Wasn’t it only a few weeks ago I was talking about Yorkshire and temperatures in the 90s. Strange old summer.

We have largely been cut off from the outside world this holiday. The occasional and extremely brief trip to the shop but son has stayed in the car. Trip to a castle but at a time (and with the poor weather) that it would be largely empty. We are thinking about a trip to another castle, a zoo and hill walk – but these will be scheduled at the quietest times possible. This is how our son likes it.

But it does have a downside. Next month son will return to school. Small site with over 800 kids and adults. Its just not a natural environment for someone with Aspergers. It doesn’t help that within a few days of school opening it’s the anniversary of his mums death. It not easy for anyone but no kid should have to go through that.

Soon we will need to start the process of getting him as ready as possible for that dreaded return. We will have a few visits to the school. A word with the caretaker will allow a walk round the empty corridors. But that just won’t prepare him for so much noise, so many faces. So we are going to have to visit a few busy places. A couple of trips to a Supermarket. Maybe a visit to a popular museum – York’s Train Museum. It’s a balancing act trying to acclimatise yet not trying to unnecessarily spook him.

The other part to this is ME. It’s about trying to get ME used to people again. It really doesn’t come naturally to ME. Just look at that it’s all ME ME ME with me. I blame it on the rain.

Current mood – Dampish….

Wise

Meet the Wise Old Elf. The undoubted star of Ben and Holly.

It was a show from our sons preschool days. It was never off the TV. That was probably more down to me than him. I could quite easily have spent my life watching this and In the Night Garden.

Now I’m not allowed to watch it that often. Although son finds a game of spotting which voice actors feature in both B&H and Peppa Pig. For example it’s the same voice for Peppa and Daisy.

Anyway as we took our mad dog for a walk we had to cross a field of cows. Our son was petrified of cows – not sure why. He would freeze if he entered a cow field. Dog walks had to avoid crossing them. But now we have managed to conquer that fear. When we see a cow it’s a race to be the first person to shout

Go on Wise Old Elf sit under the cow.

Years ago we watched an episode where it started to rain. The Wise Old Elf decided to seek shelter under a cow. And yes the cow sat on him. Someone almost wet himself watching that. It might not have been our son. Poor Elf. Same voice actor as Grandpa Pig from Peppa.

So thanks to a pompous accident prone cartoon Elf our son cured one of his fears. Sometimes solutions come in the most unexpected ways. That’s why it’s worth just persevering.

Son continues to struggle with his dyslexia. The difference is now the education system has dropped any pretence of trying to find ways to help improve his reading. They have just moved to the next stage – he can’t read, never will so lets lower expectations and any grades will be a bonus. Strange how the one person they have never asked about this is our son. He still wants to try so the fight continues. At home we continue to experiment with

  • Reading pens
  • Reading Apps
  • Shared reading
  • Coordination exercises

But that brings us to unexpected help. YouTube and Computer Games. They really do seem to help. Maybe it’s the visual nature. The themes. The combination of sensory experiences. Whatever the reason we have a kid who still struggles to read books yet he can navigate through games and the iPad without help. He can send texts without any help. Yes with some spelling issues but we all have them. That’s progress. Which makes the education stance so frustrating. We have to be realistic. Although he is improving the reading gap continues to grow with his peers. But that’s no reason to give up. The Wise Old Elf shows that.

Wow he’s got a funny shirt on

Dad are you going out in that T-shirt. I wouldn’t be seen in that.

The look the cow gave me I think indicated a similar interest in my attire. What is so wrong with a bright yellow T-shirt which has a photo of a reasonably well known TV personality on the front.

Don’t see a problem myself…..

On the walk we bumped into a family coming the other way. I had a quick chat with them but quickly realised son had pulled his hood over his head and was basically hiding behind a bush. So we headed off promptly. Social interaction just doesn’t come easily for him. Unplanned encounters just freak him out especially if they involve other kids. He hates the thought that people are looking at him. He hates having to make eye contact. He is never sure how close he should stand. He gets anxious when he has to stand still. He is convinced that only a few people get what he’s talking about.

I could tell this encounter had bothered him. Possibly he was a little embarrassed. He has spoken in the past about being a little ashamed that he could not handle chance meetings more confidently. All you can do is reassure him and tell him to be just himself. Being himself is just perfect. Counselling was having a bit of a positive impact on his confidence but that has dried up now. We work on breathing and anxiety control techniques. Occasionally I try to get him into carefully controlled new situations. The Holy Grail would be a club in one of his interests areas.

Hopefully one day he will realise that most of us are like this somedays. It’s called being human. But it’s now time to get him smiling.

“I hadn’t realised my shirt was so embarrassing that you didn’t want to be seen with me. Clearly it’s not a cool look. Good job they didn’t see my Peppa Pig pants”

Tell me you haven’t.

I think my smile gave the fib away and he started laughing.

Do you think they noticed anything unusual about me.

No too busy thinking what a pillock your Dad looked like. Shall we go home and see if we can find a couple of cider ice lollies.

I suspect we will be on lockdown at home for a while now. That’s cool. It’s what he probably needs at the moment. And anyway who needs the outside world. We have a trampoline, we have a football goal, we have a DVD player, we have a Peppa Pig DVD (maybe scrap that one), we have jelly and we have our imaginations. What more do we need.

Priorities

The U.K. newspaper the Guardian ran an article today on how Special Needs Education is breaking Council budgets. It’s underlying argument is that as special educational needs are growing the Government is simply burying its head in the ground. As our son is one of the 354,000 mentioned in the article it feels very pertinent to what I’ve been waffling on about for months. We live in times when Austerity reigns supreme. Even the Special Education Budget is seen as an increasingly easy target for cuts.

The Government and our soon to be gone PM are very keen to stress that money doesn’t grow on trees. But surely it does. How else can you explain these little facts.

  • When the current government failed to secure a majority in Parliament it needed a new friend. Friends don’t come cheap. The Government found an additional £1Billion in funding for Northern Ireland budgets which was enough to buy the support of the DUP party. Basically money appears if it means keeping the PM in a job.
  • The Government decided that due to Brexit we needed more Ferry capacity. It unbelievably awarded a £14M contract to a company that had no ferries and had never run shipping before. Basically £14M down the pan.
  • £14M wasn’t enough for this Government so they decided to ignore Procurement Rules in the award of the Ferry contract to a company that doesn’t have any ships at all. So they got challenged by another company. To avoid an embarrassing trial the Government paid another £33M out. That’s a lot of money for no Ferries especially when Brexit was delayed so we didn’t need them anyway.
  • Not quite finished yet with Ferries. The Government paid just under £1M to have Private Consultants assess the viability of a Ferry Company that had no have Ferries. You couldn’t make this up.
  • £67M per year spent on the Royal Family.
  • The Government spent £13M on consultants over two months in a failed attempt to get MPs to back the PMs doomed Brexit proposal.
  • Over £2B has been spent on planning for a no deal Brexit.
  • The Government spent £4M on advertising to try and promote its discredited Universal Credits Policy.
  • Every year taxpayers fork out just under £1M for the PM to use the Chequers Country Estate.
  • The previous Government cut the very highest tax rate from 50% to 45%. This has cost over £8.5B.
  • The Government spent £9M on a leaflet promoting the dangers of Brexit. Now essentially the same Government is promoting the benefits of Brexit.
  • Money is tight but the Government found £55Billion to essentially build a vanity high speed train set through some of our countries finest countryside.
  • £14Billion to build another runway at Heathrow. Bugger the environmental costs. A policy so mad that even the king of buffoonery Boris Johnson said “I will lie down in front of those bulldozers and stop the construction of that third runway … Heathrow is just undeliverable, and the sooner we face that the sooner our salvation
  • The previous PM wanted his own Air Force One. So we spent £10M on one. The funny thing is that Cameron only got to fly on his plane once before he resigned.
  • Although money doesn’t grow on trees money was found to put adverts on vans and in newspapers telling potential illegal immigrants to Go Home. They then found another £200000 to pay for a study to show how good the idea was.
  • Every year Taxpayers are paying £3.7M subsidising our MPs and Lords food and drink cost when they are in Parliament. I’m still waiting for my food and drink to be subsidised.

I could go on an on but I hear you cry no more.

So the bottom line is money is available to the few when it’s needed. Sadly that does not apply to the 354,000 kids with recognised special educational needs and the countless thousands who fall through the system.

We live in hope of change. Unfortunately hope or change is not the middle name of the two chaps competing to be the new PM. They live in a different world

  • Jeremy Hunt regularly earned dividend of over £900k per year on top of his Cabinet salary. He later sold a company which earned him £15M.
  • Boris Bozo Johnson said that his cabinet salary of £141,000 was not enough for him to live on….

So no hope here then. But one day a revolution will come. We will start to get our priorities right and our society will start looking after the many and not the few…

That’s probably got me blacklisted on the American Visa system now and will certainly have pissed off several million in my own country…..

School report

I managed to find a kindly Bee who stayed still long enough for my ancient mobile phone to crank its focus into operation. Let’s call the little fella – Stanley. Let’s hope Stanley is safely tucked up in a dry bed. Within an hour of the photo the heavens opened and it’s pouring down. Two days before our kids break up and the weather threatens to go distinctly wet. Every year it seems to be a dry and warm spell for the last few weeks of term and then ….. Perfect timing.

I wonder if Stanley is any good at explaining the year end school report. In my day you got a little report with a hand written note for each subject with a grade from A to E. A meant that you were either the Headteachers illegitimate child or you had discovered a new chemical element. E stood for ‘Dads going to kill you when he reads this’. We only had one teacher but she changed her handwriting for each subject – maybe that was to make the school look like it had so much more teaching resources. The teacher comments had an Orwellian edge to them. Looking back at the reports you can see such classic comments for me as

Like most of the class he could do better.

He is a really good goalkeeper but he has quite small hands.

His attitude in Biology has been excellent only let down by him being sick over the teacher during a taste testing experiment.

He has absolutely no aptitude in French but he is keen.

His Space Rocket painting was so good it was displayed in the local library. But he needs to be much quicker and not just paint rockets.

I never had the heart to tell the teacher that it wasn’t a space rocket – it was a fishing boat. Even my art career was based on a lie…..

One of the most understated teacher comments was for a lad in our class who lived 3 doors down from us. The teacher said of his behaviour – ‘he has largely behaved himself with one or two blips’. Blips – the kid got arrested for burning down the village hall and trying to start a fire under the headteachers desk…

Anyway we move forward many years. Even after several coffees I haven’t the foggiest what our sons report is telling me. No helpful comments for each subject. These have been replaced by an apparently random set of grade letters and numbers – 5B 6A 4C …. No code explanations are provided. Is it just me being thick….. You also get an expected performance level at the end of the Key Stage. Bizarrely the subject he is best at gets the lowest performance level. It does feel like the report is more an instrument for meeting Government Targets rather than helping the child or parents. He also got 4 commendations including one which is not a subject taught in his year (we think Business Studies is probably Science). Must say that his really nice Form Tutor included some lovely comments – such a shame she is leaving.

I’ve given up trying to understand the report. Tomorrow I might phone the school up for help or I might just go and find Stanley. Speaking to Stanley will be far less embarrassing. Good job parents don’t get end of year reports.

Brevity

If I tried to describe these two photographs I suspect I would waffle on for two or three paragraphs. Vibrant colours. summer, natural, wild, rugged, course, memories, wildlife, whistling wind, pastel greens, deep reds, rebirth, life cycle, arcadian , sustainable farming, ruminative, pain of war…..

And when I asked our son his description would be

Flowers in a field”

You get the picture I waffle and he speaks with brevity.

It was an interesting power struggle at school this week. English was all about informal forms of communication. In particular how to write postcards when on holiday in Spain. Clearly the teacher was looking for postcards in the style of Wordsworth, Keats or Shakespeare. Encouraging the use of words like Majestic, Glorious, Wonderments, Shining, Gleaming, Culturally Enrichments, Golden, Redolent, Effulgent.

Son clearly was in a different narrative time zone.

1st Attempt. Hi. In Barcelona, look it up on the internet, Goodbye

2nd Attempt. Hi. In Pretty Barcelona. It’s got a great football team, Goodbye

3rd Attempt. Hi. Still in Barcelona it’s better than Madrid, Goodbye

Final Attempt. Hi. Barcelona is still in Spain and it’s still better than Madrid. Will phone you on my mobile so not sure why I’m sending a postcard. Goodbye

Luckily the teacher could see the funny side. She could also see the impact of Aspergers and Dyslexia here. To him a stunning deeply evocative blood coloured red flower is in fact a Pentas lanceolata. His bottom. line is let’s just get to the point and less words mean less Dyslexia struggles. Can’t argue with that.

Eyes wide open

It’s amazing what you find when you open your eyes.

Another application for additional support. This one was a long shot. Additional funding to provide some specialist support in school for our son. Turned down.

Same line. He already has funding (the maximum available with an Education Health Care Plan) which allows him to take up his place in school. The funding goes into the general support budget which funds the school wide teaching assistant system. Plus he’s doing so well without support.

The fight goes on.

Then speaking with his Doctor. Son is now starting to become too old for many of the health programmes focusing on autism.

The fight goes on.

It feels like the agencies have signed up to support our son while he is in school or college up to the age of 25. The agencies provide virtually no support now. They will continue to provide virtually no support up to the age of 25. Then they can officially provide no support after that….

Ultimately the agencies are just following Government policy and funding decisions. The current government sees austerity and cutbacks as essential for health and education. Yet they are happy to provide funding for tax breaks for the better off and bungs to Northern Ireland Unionists to keep themselves in power.

Nothing is going to change any time soon.

So the fight goes on. But one day the government will change and hopefully we will get one which governs with eyes wide open.

Ricky

Meet Ricky the newest member of the gang. He’s made an appearance before when he started burying his nuts in the lawn over winter. But now he has started coming for his lunch. Happily feasting next to the birds. He (or she) will be a welcome friendly face going forward.

We are just over a week from the start of the summer holidays. Six weeks of immersing myself in our son’s world. It truly is a privilege. A wonderful mind trip. Happy parent.

I bumped into a parent from his current school. They have the holiday mapped out. Immediately they break up they are going to a music festival for the first weekend. Then the kid is going on a football course for the first week. Then they fly out for a two week beach holiday in a popular Spanish resort. They come back and then the kid is off camping with the scouts. A couple of trips to fun parks and family barbecues are then followed by a family week in Paris Disney.

Asperger/Autism summer holidays can be very different to this. Ours is. For a start we are limited by finances. Our summer holidays are long periods of house lockdowns briefly punctuated with carefully selected trips to places without crowds. This means early day trips to places like Zoos – trying to cram as much in as soon the venue opens and leaving as soon as the crowds start to build. For his favourite zoo that means arriving at 9am and probably leaving around 10.30am. Trips to the cinema will be to the 8.30am screenings. Locations will be carefully planned so that he feels comfortable there. Walks will be in very remote and largely unvisited areas.

A trip to Switzerland would have been an option (he is comfortable there and the journey is familiar having done it a few times) but we just can’t afford it. Plus he is more comfortable going during quieter periods – April/October. And we haven’t tried it since his mum left us – will it ever feel the same.

So our summer holidays will be quiet and largely cut off from the outside world. That would worry me in the past. The real danger of becoming increasingly introverted over those weeks and losing any social confidence which I had struggled to build up. This year it doesn’t really bother me. Yes I might become more introverted but its not as if I have a full social diary. Introversion and isolation is the new me. I can focus on our son and see what adventures we can weave – I’m sure Ricky will play some part as well.