Money is clearly everything.

Our local council is North Yorkshire County Council.

Over a year ago our Local Council agreed to make savings of £2m to its service budget. Unbelievably our Council decided to end free home to school transport for disabled and special needs pupils aged 16 to 18 years old.

This is the same council who does not provide any specialist support to kids with dyslexia.

This is the same council who has been cutting the size of Educational Health Care Plan grants to disabled and special needs kids who somehow manage to get through the tough pre qualification assessment. Penalising the very kids who need the highest level of support.

Today our Conservative Council – that’s the same party our Prime Minister heads, thats the Prime Minister who recently said ‘I’m on your side” – announced that the first year of the cut has resulted in a £800k saving. The Council reviewed itself on this issue and concluded that “the implementation of the policy has not had a detrimental impact on the ability of young people accessing their education”

Well that’s well earned pat on the back for the Council then. Is it just me who gets beyond severely pissed off with this – please tell me if I’m missing the point with this because I will happily crawl back into my little hole if it is just me.

Maybe some of our esteemed councillors should venture out of their plush council chambers, get into their Jaguar, BMW or Mercedes cars and actually see what the real world is like for a change.

Hermione

On the other side of this Bush is a stunning view yet it’s blocked by plant beauty.

Our Son loves history. You often see him watching very in-depth documentaries about a vast range of historical subjects

  • Romans
  • Viking
  • Pharaohs
  • Greeks
  • Persians
  • Incas
  • American Presidents
  • British Kings and Queens
  • Battles and Wars
  • and on and on

Unfortunately he doesn’t get the chance to extend this knowledge at school (yet).

It’s probably due to being put in the bottom set due to his dyslexia but the teaching is at such a low level. Son says he will keep watching historical videos as it’s the only way he learns anything new. He smiles when he calls himself the Hermione Granger of the History class. If the teacher asks a question he is always the first hand up but is never selected to answer.

I think one incident really sums up the problem.

In a test the class were asked to name facts about King John. Our Son then provided an in-depth answer which talked about

  • When King Richard the Lionheart was captured on the third crusade John (his brother) negotiated with the captors to keep him imprisoned
  • He lost most of his fathers empire
  • After he was forced to retreat from France he alienated himself from the many of the barons and a rebellion started
  • Eventually the two factions started negotiating after months of conflict. The end result was the Magna Carta which limited the power of the crown.
  • He then got the Pope to declare the Magna Carta invalid sparking more civil conflict which spilled into the reign of the next king – his son Henry III
  • He may well have killed his nephew (Arthur of Brittany) a potential rival
  • John was excommunicated when he refused to let the Pope have a say in the selection of a new Archbishop of Canterbury
  • He probably died of dysentery

That is my son speaking not me. My knowledge of John ends with the Magna Carta being signed under his rule and the stuff in Ivanhoe.

His teacher spoke to our son and basically told him that he provided too much information. That he was in Year 7 and he shouldn’t know this stuff until Year 10. That’s a way of inspiring his love of the subject. To be fair to the teacher her approach to learning is what the government wants. Sadly the government understands as much about education (and actually most other areas) as does that Bush in the photograph.

Pepper

Today was a trip to the Zoo. Cold and a bit damp but so worth it. Helps take son’s thoughts away from school. Animals never fail to deliver. Need to make him smile.

We bought a heavily discounted season pass last year. Unbeknown to a certain Dad the pass expired last night. So the trip was significantly more expensive than expected. As we go every couple of months the pass is worth it. Not often can you say that about the stuff you end up forking out for.

Son challenged me to the usual ‘who can spot the Painted Dog first competition’. As ever Dad lost. So what was the forfeit. In the cafe I was to buy a coffee. I could enjoy half the cup THEN….

It was seasoned with pepper. Plenty of pepper.

Strangely the Peppered Coffee was not the worst thing I’ve tasted this year. I can think of a few horrible tasting Jelly Beans which take that particular award. However I suspect Peppered Coffee isn’t going to feature too heavily on the Starbucks menu.

It certainly cleared my blocked nose.

Tonight we had a lovely dog walk. Enjoying an other world type sunset – all with an underlying peppery undertone.

Lost in the woods

Can’t see the woods for the trees.

That seems to sum up my thinking recently. So many things going on. So many things to sort out. Feeling tired. Feeling like a bout of depression might be heading my way. But not really sure the route cause. So it feels like I am aimlessly wandering around the wood of life, attending lots of trees but ultimately getting lost.

Maybe we need a break. We haven’t had a holiday or extended break since 2015. In fact we haven’t had a night away in those 4 years. We are certainly not unique. Many have gone longer than that without a break.

It is not so easy. Holidays are expensive, especially when you take them during school recesses. It’s not easy for our son as he struggles with crowds and new environments. Causes him so much anxiety. I also worry (and Son does) about something happening to me while on holiday – no backup so son could be alone, stranded miles from family.

As a result I suspect 2019 will continue the holiday free trend.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want it to sound like Home is a Prison. It really isn’t. Son almost sees it as our castle. A place of safety which can keep out the alien world. Plus Staycations can be really fun and very cheap. So how to fashion a break while Staying at Home. Maybe plenty of day trips to quiet locations. Lots of games and fun things.

I really need to think about this. Probably need to get out of the wood first though.

Spelling….

Some roads are straight and easy to navigate. Other roads are not….

A few years ago the U.K. Government changed the way children were taught and tested. To ensure that ‘children are better equipped for jobs a greater emphasis should be placed on spelling, grammar and punctuation’. As a result marks are now specifically set aside for these factor in exams. Labelled SPaG marking. It was argued that the previous inclusive educational approach was wrong.

The Government approach is to focus on a limited number of correctly spelt words. Let’s produce kids who can spell one word perfectly rather than have kids who can use an extended comprehension.

Where does this leave kids with dyslexia.?

Teaching Groups, Charities, Dyslexia Associations, Parenting Associations and Health Bodies objected. But what do they know….

Dyslexic Kids can apply for extra time in exams. They can apply for a scribe. They can apply to use a reading pen. They can apply to use a keyboard rather than pen. BUT.

They have to demonstrate a level of independence to gain access to the spelling, the grammar or the punctuation marks. If they can’t then the marks are not available to them.

Looking at our son’s case it probably means that when he takes his final exams if he opts for reasonable levels of assistance (as required under Equality Legislation) he will at best be able to access only 33% of the total SPaG marks available.

In my eyes this is wrong. But this is modern U.K. education policy.

Sadly it doesn’t stop there.

The Government decided to change the course content for Computing. Computing underpins everything now. The range of potential computing skills are endless. So many of our kids have passions and untapped skills here. The opportunities are boundless. Let kids tap into this. NO. The Government decided that the course should now focus on coding and structured programming.

Not often can I talk about a subject with anything other than guesswork, but computing I can get to amateur level. This is way beyond the dogmatic ideological buffoonery that underpins Government thinking. Why in God’s name have they picked the most uninspiring and regimented area to focus on. The approach seems to be let’s push out kids who can code rather than develop kids who can utilise the potential computers offer. Yes let kids have a basic grasp of coding then allow those who want to take it further the option to do so. I remember training in 3 programming languages – all becoming obsolete within 5 years.

AND yet again the Government – The Government which is on our side – have penalised kids with dyslexia. Coding and programming is built around specific commands and symbol patterns. Dyslexics struggle with this. So our son is stuck in a weekly computing lesson which focuses on programming. He flounders as he can’t spell the commands. His confidence gets battered. His struggles with spelling are cruelly exposed. His love for computing is fading. The school knows this but cannot change because it’s the set teaching method. Madness.

Sadly I could go on about other subjects and more Government interference. But the point has been made.

Education is so vital that it should not be left in the hands of our self absorbed and incompetent politicians. How about the politicians just focusing on screwing up Brexit and leaving education to the teachers, the parents, the area experts, the kids. In today’s language that probably gets me labelled as a dangerous socialist. A Traitor. Frankly I don’t care. What I care about is the kids going through our educational system. Clearly that’s something our leaders clearly can’t comprehend.

Hands in your pocket

The school review meeting wasn’t a load of fun. Polite but very serious. But one thing did make me smile. The night before our son had a bit of an anxiety attack. The source of the anxiety was school rules. Son had seen two kids given punishments for walking around with hands in their trouser pockets. It’s something he can do absentmindedly.

“Dad somedays I wish I was a tree with no hands and no pockets..”

Surely this can’t be the case.

So while I was waiting for the teacher to pick me up from school reception I asked the school administrator about the rule. She confirmed that it was an automatic negative for this heinous crime.

So for the next 10 minutes I watched the constant stream of humanity walk passed reception. I observed 4 rule breakers – hands clearly in pockets. Not a care in the world. All 4 being Teachers. One rule for all I suspect not……

Trees

What a stunning tree.

We took Captain Chaos for a walk this morning. Still trying to process yesterday’s school review meeting. Maybe it’s because I am tired but I just can’t get my head fully round it’s implications. It’s times like this when being a single parent sucks… No one to talk things through with. No voice of reason. So the ideas and words just keep swirling around.

I turned up carrying my 300 pages of notes (sorry Trees…). When I opened the paper pile a must do House DIY list dropped out. Sadly nothing can be ticked off the list from the last meeting. Where does all the time go.

The meeting lasted two hours. So many discussions. So many disagreements. So much frustration.

I suspect the best way to summarise is to see a never ending circle.

I ask for something. School confirm it’s not happened. Health Service says the need is real and should be met. School says they don’t have the resources to do this. School asks the Council for funds. Council says it’s not an education issue, it’s a health issue. Health Service says they don’t have the money and it’s an education issue. And on and on. If we give money to health to provide additional support then that has to come from the school and they then can’t even meet his minimum care standards. So Son has real unmet needs – everyone agrees on that but no one is prepared to provide the funds. Everybody at the meeting clearly cared about our son. Let’s be honest Health and Education have been hammered by our current Government. You can only cut things so far before things start falling apart.

Let’s quote our Prime Minister again

“I’m on your side….”

Just sod off. You are not on OUR SIDE. You are just looking after yourself. You don’t give a damm about kids like our son. Get back to looking at your, your husband and your friends off shore investments….

So the bottom line is Health are going to write to the Council and request additional funding. Council are going to write to the Health Managers and ask for additional funds. While our PM sits in Chequers and tries to find more desperate ways of staying in power. Go on May why don’t you bribe the DUP with billions of pounds of public funds again – while lecturing the rest of us that ‘money doesn’t grow on trees’. Madness.

More positively school are going to try some minor adjustments to see if that helps our son. They are also going to formally request exceptional one-off funding to pay for an in-depth dyslexia assessment. The funding probably won’t come but at least school now recognise the impact dyslexia is having on our son’s educational performance.

So hopefully at the next meeting we will have seen some progress and at the very least confirming that

  • Son has started getting some more tailored support,
  • I have started doing some of the DIY projects which are badly needed,
  • I will have gone paperless so more beautiful trees will be saved AND
  • our incompetent and distinctly unpleasant PM is consigned to historical ignominy…..

Decibels

Currently the mad dog is being completely bonkers. It’s a kinda let’s bark at everything type of day. Currently the apple tree is getting it. But as the decibels rise my mind wanders to that quiet little pup. What happened…..

Son is not impressed. If you look closely at the photo you will notice that the duvet cover is Peppa Pig themed. It’s a perfectly good cover so is still used today when his Jurassic Park one is being washed. Son doesn’t really see the practical benefits.

You do know Peppa Pig is for little kids. It’s not as if I’m watching it. I know you do when you get the chance, but not me. I was watching about the Black Death last night..”

I do have to admit that a quick bit of Peppa Pig, or the Clangers or In The Night Garden is strangely therapeutic. And yes I can’t remember the Peppa Pig episode which featured the Black Death.

All my parenting waffles are subject to a major caveat. As statisticians would say – it’s based on a very limited sample size. Like one child. One child on the autistic spectrum with dyslexia. So when I see something I can’t be sure if that is just particular to our son or is a common thing. The only other benchmark I can use is my childhood. That seems a long time ago…..

Son has a lot of areas where he is more developed and refined than his Dad. Seemingly way beyond his years. But also in a number of areas he probably still reverts back to the Peppa Pig years. Cuddly toys. Not wanting to leave the safety of the family nest. Mr Men stories. Petting Zoos. Toy cars….

Maybe it’s a fear of growing up.

But I can relate to this. Not wanting to completely forget your early childhood days. Now where is that Peppa Pig dvd….

Speaking about not forgetting things.

It’s the Great Bloggers Bake-Off this Sunday. It’s all about having a bit of fun. Pop over to Mel’s blog – Crushed Caramel (Learner at Love). She has done so much work to set this up.

Our special judge is A Jeanne in the Kitchen.

Let’s go Sunday Spongecake mad.

Please send photos of your creation(s) to crushedcaramel@gmail.com

Martians just made the list…

Sometimes you just have to get up close to flowers. Neighbours must think I am stark raving mad….

Sometimes you have those days. Days were you get up close to flowers and also end up pulling out what’s left of your hair.

School has been verbally told (many times) and been provided with extensive case notes for our son. Just in case school didn’t fancy reading War and Peace I helpfully provided a two page bullet point summary. Bullet Point 6 said

Can have poor judgement in relation to risk.

Bullet Point 7 adds

Has a diagnosis of Dyspraxia. Has very poor fine motor skills. Struggles to use pens. One to one Care and supervision needed when using sharp objects.

Under the section relating to specific school subjects

Design & Technology. One to one supervision required when using cutting tools, drilling tools and impact tools.

Additionally school has been given a verbal and written update on his current broken hand. Although the bone has heeled he is undertaking physio to try and get his hand working properly again. So he in effect still just using his weaker left hand.

Today was his first Design and Technology lesson. So it was also a fingers crossed type day. Funnily enough it was also a plaster type day……

He came back home. His thumb and two fingers covered in large plasters.

“Dad I had a bit of an accident. I was trying to saw using my left hand. The teacher shouted out an instruction to the class. I got distracted and I started sawing my hand rather than the wood…”

Apparently he wasn’t given any one on one supervision. He was allowed to use a normal saw with his wrong hand, with no additional safety measures in place. – Maybe I’m just being an over protective parent. It’s a natural thing to do.

Dad funny thing is the lesson was about safety in the workplace. Guess I’ve already failed…”

So that’s something else we will be discussing at his school review meeting on Friday. Could be a long meeting because it’s one sizeable issues list….

But let’s try to finish on a brighter note. We sat on the grass next to the daffodil patch with ice lollies in hand.

Dad up close Daffodils take on a completely different perspective. If your a bug looking up at those yellow giants, it must be terrifying. Do you think HG Wells got his idea for the mechanical Martians from Daffodils”

As I pondered that the mad dog ran up and before we could stop him, he cocked his leg on the Daffodils. Poor bugs scared to death by Yellow Martian Giants and now doused in Acid Rain. I wonder if an overprotective parent bug may have just added an item to a miniature and a tad damp issue lists. We can wonder.

The Black Hole…

I could look at these flowers all day. Stunning yellows with one sneaky violet crashing the daffodil party.

The school bus was late. Very late. Our son went into meltdown. Panic attacks over detentions, expulsions and all the associated ever increasing butterfly effects. All today’s carefully constructed plans are in tatters. It’s part and parcel of being a child with autism. We now have a plan for this type of eventuality. A hand written plan we keep safely by the front door. When I say plan it’s actually an old food shopping list. The plan Z list was pulled from the wall.

Tell me 5 things you can see.

Tell me 4 things you can hear.

Tell me 3 things you can touch.

Tell me 2 things you can smell.

Smile once and breathe.

Plan now says Dad get the car keys and drives you to school.

Thankfully today Plan Z worked. Distraction and switching to another orderly plan. It’s funny as a shopping list it was poor (I remember it missed off non essential stuff like bread, milk, pet food…. but as a go to plan in times of crisis – it has been a winner. It’s so flexible the actual words on the paper are irrelevant. It adds credibility to any plan I come up with in an emergency. Because that plan must be good as it’s the plan on that piece of paper – it’s Plan Z. As we reached the school gates order was starting to be restored in his soul. He made me smile with some of his responses.

“I can see bird poo on your car. I think it must have been a big bird.”

“I can see a couple of blue flowers in the Daffodil patch. Maybe they are mutations. Definitely beautiful mutations. Flowers are very welcoming.”

“Dad I can still see that cake you made yesterday. It was so funny how you got it to collapse in the middle. After all these years and still it messes up. The cake was so like a black hole. It was both a thing of wonder and a piece of terror. It’s a special talent Dad.”

As the great Terry Pratchett once said “Wisdom comes from experience. Experience is often a result of lack of wisdom“.

So yes my sneaky practice run for this Sunday’s GREAT BLOGGERS BAKE-OFF didn’t go so well.

Hopefully you will join in the fun on the 24th.