Broken

A long and winding road if you can find it.

You kind of assume that your country is geared up to support its young people. That they matter. Well they should matter and countries should be geared up. But this is Britain, where support and mental health services have been under funded and in recent times cut back. Britain which has a Government that wants to return to ‘good old Victorian values’. Britain where children are only seen in terms of future economic value. In Britain where support is frowned upon by those in charge. In Britain where children taking time off in the immediate aftermath of a significant bereavement is described by the Government as ‘extended holidays’.

In 2016 Hawklad lost his granny and mum within 6 weeks of each other. A traumatic experience for anyone but for an 8 year old with Aspergers, it’s an emotional maelstrom. But here’s the thing. Sadly he won’t be the only child in this position. But where’s the support. Schools are not set up to cope. In Hawklads case the school cared but where clueless. The specialised education services in the area had been effectively closed down to meet savings targets. I approached his Doctor who just referred to child mental health services. He warned that they had a backlog of cases. That was all the Doctor did. Hawklad was already on the waiting list for Aspergers support.

That was it for over a year. No support. Left up to me, someone who was struggling already. How do you start to help someone when you are broken.

Finally we got to see the Child Mental Health Team. They worked on anxiety issues but no bereavement counselling, no Aspergers support. Luckily his dedicated worker was wonderful and she did try but it was not her area of expertise.

Fast forward to 2021 and Hawklad still has not had any bereavement counselling. Taking a wider view. He had some help with a physiotherapist but that was cut. He started speech therapy but that service was cut. He has had a few months of Aspergers related support but the specialist retired and was not replaced. He has had no dyslexia support. He does get some support for anxiety but that is patchy.

AND he is one of the lucky ones in Britain….

It has to be better than this for all our children. THEY ARE NOT JUST ECONOMIC RESOURCES. It won’t change here under this Government, it will only get worse. BRITAIN is BROKEN when it can’t care for its children.

Childhood

Do you remember when school holidays meant time off for our kids….

Hawklad and I received emails from school this morning. The emails set out the times of the upcoming year exams. Straight after the half term week holiday. The emails listed all the areas which each pupil are expected to cover in revision. The revision also includes mandatory online tasks that won’t be marked but will be monitored by teachers. All tasks are expected to be completed. The email stressed that they are expecting pupils to undertake significant work levels over the week off…..

To be fair to school they are only following Government guidelines and instructions. The Government has repeatedly spoken of its desire to increase the length of the school day and reduce the number of school holidays. It believes children have too much time off. They have it too easy…..

Parents will have differing views on this. I think you might be able to guess my take on this. I think it’s all BS…… Making pupils work harder and longer is just a smokescreen for covering up the failings of our current school system. Too many trumped up experts getting jobs as politicians, thinking they know best. It shouldn’t be about the quantity of teaching, it should be about the QUALITY of the education.

Ban politicians from education. Let teachers teach… Let Headmaster run the school. Involve the pupils and parents fully. Reverse the trend to test at every level just to populate government performance league tables. We are even testing 5 year olds for pity sake. If the politicians want to do something useful then they should concentrate on finding the resources to help specialists deal with the growing mental health crisis amongst our children.

And above all. Let children enjoy their childhood.

Call

The mobile phone is leading a charmed life. Yesterday it found its way into the garden refuse bin. Today as I weeded suddenly the little bucket next to me I was filling with weeds started playing music. Never been so thankful for one of those nuisance marketing call.

With the mobile safely back in my pocket. I got back on with the job of weeding.

Then another call. A work call. 60 minutes worth of …… what’s the word I’m looking for. I can think of a few, some I can even safely write down…

Boring

Dragging

Tiring

Fruitless

Frustrating

Dull

Monotonous

Wearisome

Mind-numbing

Soul-destroying

Insipid

Stupefying

After 60 minutes I was so tempted to switch the mobile off and voluntarily drop it back in the garden waste bin. I’m old enough to remember a time before mobile technology AND today I vote for going back to then….

Blue sky or not blue sky

Sunshine, blue sky, dark cloud, storm clouds, dry, rain, snow, bright, dark.

That Yorkshire sky really sums up perfectly my mood levels since lockdown started. It’s a bit of everything really. Swinging from smiles to tear. Feeling full of the joys of spring to darkest winter coldness. Optimistic then pessimistic. Feeling contented then feeling boxed in. Calm then anxious. At ease with the world then frustrated.

Emotional never ending tides.

Yesterday I was fighting the tears. Life seemed bleak and so restrictive. Definitely feeling cut adrift, isolated and alone.

Yet today I can’t stop smiling. Ok life feels constrained but it also feels good. Filled with HOPE and WONDERFUL thoughts. Most definitely not feeling alone rather feeling part of a BEAUTIFUL world.

Ask me yesterday and I would say what am I doing. Today it’s WE can do this.

I’m the same person, I’ve not moved, I’ve not won the money lottery. No person or no asset has entered my world. So why the swing in mood. Could it be that we are permanently riding those emotional waves. Swings in outlook are to be expected. Good moments, bad moments. Maybe the secret is to look at each day. What are the things that weigh me down and try to do something about those. Then most importantly work out what are the things that lift me up so much. If you can identify those things (maybe it’s just one important thing) then keep trying to move towards those wonderful things in life.

Yes WE can do this.

Toe

Some things in life are naturally beautiful and guaranteed to make you smile.

One of those days. Not enough sleep. School at home was a pain in the buttocks. WordPress continued to act like an incompetent evil overlord. An upcoming concert I was really looking forward to (which had already been rescheduled from last year) was cancelled. Smashed some cups (unintentionally). THEN Hawklad decided to walk into wooden table and clearly has broken his little toe. At least I can see evidence that some of my genes have passed down the family line. Nothing we can do except get him to rest up for a few days.

So in need of distraction I decided to strike one item off the growing DIY list. Let’s put the external mail box back on the wall. Much drilling, much banging, much muttering, much screwing. The mail box was up. Not a bad job at all. Level and well secured. Shame it was upside down…… Not sure what the Postman would think of a letter slot at the bottom. Not the first time my DIY has taken a walk to the a Southern Hemisphere. Summed up the day…..

On days like this those things that make you smile are even more important. Even more treasured.

Let’s set the record straight

It’s amazing how dealing with just a couple of work emails can send me heading towards the chocolate jar and thinking fondly of getting marooned on a tropical island with absolutely ZERO internet connectivity.

I needed to relax.

What better way than dig out a bit of vinyl and listen to music. I love music BUT not enough to carefully categorise and sort the LPs into any meaningful order. Preferring the random, hotchpotch approach. So this afternoon I opened one of the storage cases and grabbed 3 records. Let’s see what musical treats came my way.

First off a definite blast from my long hair, rocker past. I think most teenage rocking males of my generation would claim to have at least one Pat Benatar album somewhere in the bedroom.

Then an odd LP. Sometimes you buy because you love the band. Sometimes you buy because of the music. Then other times you buy because it’s a cool looking picture disc.

Then finally arguably my most random records. When I was 12 I jumped on a plane for the first time. Headed for my only trip so far to the Southern Hemisphere. To visit my big sister who had emigrated to South Africa. A month in Pretoria and Johannesburg. A staggeringly beautiful yet scary and incomprehensible Apartheid dominated land. My sister lived in an area which was still to have a functioning television service. So they listened to the radio, played records and at weekends either went to the cinema drive-in or hired a movie reel and played it on the noisy home super 8 projector.

My sister always seemed to play one record back then. IPI TOMBI. A show featuring traditional indigenous South African music. Fast forward many years and I was at a car boot sale in deepest Yorkshire. Guess what I found. Brings back so many memories.

Weather

It’s horrid weather today so let’s go back a few weeks. That’s better.

I heard someone from the Government brush off a parent talking about her daughters genuine fears and phobias about returning to school. Her daughter doesn’t think her classroom and school is safe enough. From the sound of it her daughter is in a similar place to Hawklad. Really struggling. The interviewer cut off the parent saying that she was in the minority and the vast majority would see things much more positively. The message from the Government followed instantly. People and kids who had concerns and fears needed to listen to the majority. Schools are completely safe, just get on with it. Parents have an obligation to send their children into schools when they open.

Meanwhile back here the NHS Psychologist is just at the early stages of a treatment programme to try and help with Hawklad’s deep seated anxieties. No guarantee that the programme will ever work. This week’s task is for Hawklad to try and stand in the front garden for 1 minute. The message is don’t worry if you can’t do that. Even a few seconds will be a massive leap of faith. And if he can’t do it at all then we can try another week. Pushing people with significant fears and ingrained anxieties can do so much harm to their long term mental health.

The Government and the ‘Majority’ are not trained mental health practitioners. They have absolutely no idea what some people are going through. On this issue they can stand out in the rain and whistle for all I care.

Worry about it

The thaw has set in. No more snowy sun roses this week, maybe not until next winter.

I wrote a few hours ago about how I was missing the snow when it’s gone. You only really miss those things that are special to you.

There’s a difference between missing something and worrying about something. The disappearing snow is also worrying me a little. During the national lockdown the snow helped create an impression of a really small available world. What we can see and touch is all that is available. We are not missing out on much.

But is the thawing snow a symbol of change?

Some Governments are keen to reopen and relax restrictions. Is that way too soon. Who knows. But the message that it will be soon open for everyone misses the point. It’s not going to be open for everyone. Anxieties and Fears don’t get fixed overnight. The vaccinations won’t have reached many people including the kids. Many will only have had one shot. We have rapidly changing mutations. Some will continue to wear masks others will ditch them.

The works will open for some.

For us the lockdown will continue. In a few months I will have had one of the two vaccine shots. So I will be partly covered but that’s not the point. Hawklad’s fears are actually rising. He knows that I and other vaccinated people can still pass the virus onto him. He knows that he won’t be getting and vaccine protection. He can see that children can get covid and the more severe long covid. He is fully aware of the associated serious disease that is affecting some children. He can knows that some people will drop their guard. Basically his fears are not going away. So our lockdown will continue.

So the disappearing snow kind of symbolises something else. A world is out there. It is opening again but not for us. It’s not a small available world anymore. It’s a big world again but one that we are locked out of. Beyond our reach. That worries me and makes me sad.

Sad to see the snow go.

But then another thought. A better thought. Other people, other families can hopefully start to enjoy these places again. To have adventures. Other young ones can have holidays again. Have more fun. Can be safe doing that. Memories can be born.

Maybe the snow going is a good thing.

Who do I listen to

Another day and another pompous government minister telling the kids what best for them. Not listening. Not accepting differences. Not accepting that some will be ready to jump back into life, others will not. Not accepting that his form of education is really about serving his needs and the economy. Not prepared to listen and work with what individual children and families need. Wanting schools to go backwards towards Victorian values. Totally against the notion of moving schools forward and turning them into wonderful places of learning and personal growth. To make them enjoyable and yes FUN. But what do we know, he clearly knows best. Just do what we are told.

So this middle aged pompous bloke will shut up and tell you exactly how Hawklad sees where he is. This is what he told me last night when I LISTENED to him.

  • I love to go back to school. But not because of the teaching. To meet up with my friends again.
  • Most of the teaching is so not me. Doesn’t suit me.
  • I hate being told what to learn and how to learn it. Getting no choice. Being told what to think and how to remember it
  • Hate always worrying about breaking the rules. Worrying about getting negatives.
  • Hate having to put my hand up in a lesson and ask for help. It’s so hard in front of all the other classmates admitting I can’t read something.
  • Being told it’s perfectly safe to go to school when I know I can catch covid. Being crammed in a class with someone who might have it and not know it. Having to share equipment without them being cleaned. Then being told that I won’t get the vaccine as I’m low risk. Reading about mutations that no one seems to understand. To me school is not safe at all. Just can’t go back for a long time. Until it’s really under control. Until I’ve been vaccinated with something that really works. Until I get some space in school.

That says it all to this middle aged pompous chap. Tells me where he is. That’s who I will listen to. Not some pompous government minister living his closeted life who doesn’t care and doesn’t listen.

Visibility

It was a dreadful few hours weather wise. Just so cold and wet. Really grey. Well this is Yorkshire. Really poor visibility.

Next week it’s a big schooling week. Hawklad has to pick his subject options for the final two years of secondary school. He has to do Mathematics, English and Science. But then he has to pick 4 further subject options. Two of those are really easy. History and Geography are definite selections. I think he would spend all his time on just those two if he could. But what about the other two?

Now here the problems start.

First off – will he actually return to mainstream classroom teaching? I’m not betting that he will.

Then

Our pandemic lockdown has resulted in basically zero direct teacher input on Hawklad. Apart from the occasional test result, the teachers have no grasp on things like his current state of writing and reading. What help and support he needs. What he needs for the exams. They haven’t seen him directly work since February last year. A lot will have changed in that time. Equally we have little idea what the teachers actually think of Hawklad’s position. One page summary reports issued three times a year basically tell you nowt.

So we are selecting options feeling like we are doing this in the blind. Because of the pandemic we haven’t had an Education and Health Care Plan Review meeting since May 2019. In that time virtually everyone one of the multi disciplinary team has left…. These are big decisions being made with so little visibility. The school are offering video chats with teachers but these are strictly limited to 4 minute per child. That’s 4 minutes to discuss performance, concerns, issues AND future options. It just feels a mess. It’s a mess for teachers, for parents and most importantly for the children. It’s another area that the Pandemic has found a way of undermining. No point looking for help from the Government, the PM can’t even manage to comb his hair never mind support real people. So like most things these strange times it feels like we are winging it. Winging it with so little visibility.