LGBT “lessons”

We recently had a survey sent home with various questions but it was obvious what they really wanted feedback on after some protests were staged at schools around the country. You could send it in anonymously which I didn’t agree with so I signed mine and added a phone number. The question was how we feel about LGBT being taught in school with the kids. This has caused uproar among some communities who don’t want their kids learning about this stuff.

I put lessons in speech marks because some seem to think the kids are going to be taught the nitty gritty. I mean they don’t do lessons on the sexual act as lessons with primary kids so thinking they would do it for any other relationship is just crazy. The kids are taught about relationships and consent and healthy eating and all sorts at a level appropriate to their age group. Popples is in FS2 so they have been doing “what is a friend” where the teacher reads out something then the kids decide if it’s something a friend would do or not. They’ve done stranger danger, healthy food/treat foods, people who help us all at an age appropriate level. They discuss religions and family units too.

My kids go to a Church of England school. So they do a lot on Jesus as you’d expect. They also celebrate everything, Chinese New Year, Eid, Divali etc. There’s a mix of kids and everyone joins in with everything. The kids celebrating Eid tomorrow got greeted with “Eid Mubarak” this morning from staff and some parents. I’m waffling on now, I’m sure you get the picture.

Kids ask questions and I always tell mine the truth. Tempered for age and understanding but I won’t lie to them. We have a mix in our family, my older two have a dad from Pakistan so they are a different colour from my younger two who are part Italian so tan nicely but are white. My boys are asd so we aren’t exactly “normal” as families go. Popples noticed eye colour of her siblings before she noticed the skin colour “mummy why do I have blue eyes like you but Max and Em have brown like daddy?” The kids at school accept Oliver for who he is. They talk to him, partner up (then do all the work) play with him, some are learning Makaton they don’t see him as special needs with a label. They see him as their mate who struggles a lot but he’s been with them for 3 years. He’s just Oliver. They don’t copy his flapping or squealing, they don’t pick on him or leave him out. He’s different but the same as them. Kids accept, assimilate information and just get on with it. Mostly.

Parents are saying that learning about LGBT will confuse children, encourage them to “adopt that lifestyle”(?), corrupt them and they don’t want to ruin their innocence. Some kids come from families of single parents, step families, mum and dad, mum and mum, dad and dad, gran and grandad etc. No two families are exactly the same. What’s so wrong about talking about family set ups? What about kids further along in school who might feel they aren’t like everyone else? Why not talk about normal early on. How can you object to a story about a baby penguin with 2 dads. I mean a baby penguin!! How cute is that. And yes that is the kind of thing people are objecting too. Like I said it’s totally age appropriate.

Our family isn’t like everyone else’s. We love each other. We support each other. I don’t mind if my kids come home with questions, I’ll answer them. I don’t mind them being taught and teaching them that everyone is different but everyone is the same. My sons are autistic, I’ve seen how they’ve been treated for being different. Mainly by adults. I know many have faced challenges for being different, whether that be colour, creed, disability so I think education can only be a good thing.

These lessons will not “turn them gay” as some claim. They will give them an understanding into how people can feel different and how difficult that can be and how we can make it easier. Do we want to go back to the days where people were scared to “come out” or had to live a lie at great mental cost.

Our school is supposed to be all about inclusion. God loves us all. And if we’re all made in his image then how can any of us be wrong?

I think I’ve lost my way a bit here. Babies aren’t born with hate and prejudice. Why would you want to teach that but not love, acceptance and friendship? Isn’t the hope that people find love more important than who they find it with?

Xx

ps I know this is a really clumsy effort but I’ve had enough of seeing crap in the news about cures etc. I hope I’ve not offended anyone from LGBT community and I’m not comparing it with a disability, I’m using the frame of reference of facing prejudice to try to make a point

Birthday party

The little ones birthdays are a week apart. They’ve never had a birthday party with friends as Popples is too shy and never wanted one and Oliver doesn’t have many friends. They’ve both been to some parties and Oliver understands the rules to a degree and she has become less shy. She asked for a party and I talked through with her that people would sing to her, look at her and give her presents and she’d have to talk and say thank you. She said she could do it and she wouldn’t be shy because it was her party.

Ok then. Where’s appropriate for 5 and 7 year olds. We picked a soft play area I used to take them to as babies. When I went to book I asked about exits, as Olly is a runner. The woman was on the ball immediately on my mention of autism:-“do you need to change the menu? The doors are all button release up high. Do you want no music or it just turned down?” Filled with confidence I booked the VIP party with food and party bags provided. We didn’t need the stress of a that not knowing how either of them were going to be.

Invites were handed out. Popples picked her own guest list, Olly’s teacher helped me out with his guest list, cakes ordered and then we prepared them by countdown and talking about what to expect. There were a couple of no shows but there always is.

Olivers friends really know him. He got some very thoughtful gifts, drawings that were framed, pj mask stuff, fiddle scribble pencils and lots of other things. Popples got lots of art stuff, dolls so she was happy. We had said not to bother with gifts, a card would have been enough and the way Ollys friends have treated him and helped him is worth more to us than anything. And we know that people are struggling in these times. We just wanted the kids to have fun. People are very generous.

Party day-up early and out for a party starting at 10 am. She did me proud. Everyone was greeted, she played instead of sticking tonne like she usually does. Oliver’s friends obviously know him so well that they dumped his present then went to find him to say happy birthday. No way was he coming off the climbing equipment. At food time he sat nicely. Popples kept her eyes on the candle at singing time so she couldn’t see the stares, our coping strategy worked. He had a bite of sandwich then ran off to play. All the food was eaten, they played some more, she handed out party bags then it was home time. 2 hours raced by. Everyone seemed happy, Oliver hadn’t slapped his best friend despite being very excited – in fact he gave hugs as they were leaving.

We wrote our thank you cards that afternoon ready to give out on Monday. Then me and dad finally got a coffee and a sit down. We had prepared for every “what if” and were on high alert but it had gone smoothly. Better than we could have wished for. No tears, no clinging, only tiny bits of shyness, no slapping, no fall outs. It was worth every penny to see them so happy and with their friends. I think the joint party was best as Popples didn’t have sole attention on her and Oliver got his friends too. There’s a minimum amount for that type of party so it worked well.

I’m looking at an outdoor climbing and camp fire party for him next year, if we can get the danger element sorted. But that’s next year.

My children had a party. And it was a success.

Xx

Why can’t we talk anymore?

My country is divided. If you didn’t know we held a referendum on leaving the EU or not. It was a close result but basically split the nation. Since then, well just before, we started to become a nation of name callers and shouters instead of talking, listening and moving forward.

I am liberal, left wing and voted remain. Now I’m loony left and a remoaner automatically, despite no one knowing what I actually think. Brexit voters are branded racist and thick. Insults are thrown on both sides and it’s so sad that we can’t just talk. Recently I was on social media discussing Brexit on a thread associated with a tv programme. Amongst all the mud slinging I managed to have a reasonable discussion with someone with the opposing view to me. It was so refreshing I ended up thanking him for his time and for being so polite in our debate.

When did we come to this? When did we become so intolerant of different views? How can you learn with that attitude? I have people in my family who don’t have the same political views as me but we don’t fall out over it. We don’t agree but we have the courtesy to listen. The people of the uk voted marginally to leave the EU, and there’s the problem, it was marginal. Now I don’t know enough about the potential effects on the economy etc (although no one seems to) but I don’t think the result should be ignored. People are obviously not happy and want out. But even those who voted out – well everyone has an opinion on what that should look like. Those that want to stay in- well a lot are calling for another vote. But what then? Best of 3? What if it’s out again? Keep voting?

It’s been dragging on for years, which has made us very uncertain about our future, as well as dealing with the austerity that is not getting better. In my opinion we need some kind of compromise. Respect the result but if we have to keep some ties with Europe then explain why. Try to unite the country instead of helping the divisions grow.

We have people on zero hours contracts, we have working people using food banks, we have people taking their own lives due to the implementation of UC, ESA, PIP etc. We have teachers providing basics for schools and food. We can’t afford to be spending all our time on Brexit. We need to stop the uncertainty and the government needs to look after it’s people instead of themselves.

There is so much hatred being spewed from politicians mouths, it’s no wonder people think they can do the same. You’re safe behind a keyboard and hey! If they’re doing it, it can’t be wrong can it? I look at the world and can’t help but worry, the rise of the far right, the oppression of women’s rights, leaders tweeting the equivalent of “come and have a go”, civil liberties being eroded, liars and cheats getting away with it, people murdered while they pray, the list goes on.

I may be a liberal lefty but I still believe in democracy. Stop the uncertainty and maybe we can heal. Just do something and then we can tackle the other, very real problems in our society.

Is dual placement the way forward?

I didn’t even know it was an option until after last weeks meeting.

The meeting went as expected. I raised my concerns about the plans not being followed and then asked bluntly what they actually thought he was achieving and would he be able to achieve more in a more specialised environment. There was then the silence and mumbling until I asked “Do you see his future at mainstream”. Then the babble started “our job is to make sure….” blah blah blah. “I’m not interested in your goals. I’m interested if my son is getting the education he deserves”. Now I know I sound a bit of a pompous arse but I’m so tired of their goals, their boxes that need ticking and not my sons education and socialisation. He needs help to be whatever he wants to be. He can’t do rote learning in a classroom. He’s not being difficult. He can’t do it.

After the officials left I spoke to our senco. She said she’d check up on the plans in place, find a sign course and then mentioned dual placement. She is great. She ‘gets’ Sen kids but seems to have to drag the older teachers along with her. She wants the best for him too and is trying hard to provide it. She wondered if we’d considered dual placement and when we looked blankly at her decided we hadn’t. It would mean him going part time to school with his friends and teachers he knows and part time somewhere else, in a specialist school or unit. The benefit being we don’t take him away from all he knows in one go and also we can see which provision is going to suit him better. We don’t put all our eggs in one basket. This will be difficult to achieve with council cutbacks but I also know that if you cause enough fuss, and start annoying your councillors and mp regularly, you can get things done.

We have another meeting in a few weeks but I think this will be brought up by us and see how the land lies. If he does need to leave mainstream then at least he will have had time to make new relationships, it won’t be throwing him in at the deep end. We shall see what happens next.

Xx

Fighting the same fight:-it’s like Groundhog Day

I’ve not written anything in an age because I have been exhausted from having to explain again that just because my son is in mainstream school he is not mainstream.

I have had many meetings with school, I have offered to help with basic makaton, I have demonstrated to the teachers how I deal with Olly’s distress before he reaches crisis and I still get phone calls telling me what he’s done now. I see the caller id and my heart sinks.

3 weeks ago I got a call to say he’d had a meltdown and members of staff had been struck. I went into school and arranged four afternoons to come in and show how I work. We put a de-escalation plan in place for all staff members to follow and we’d follow it at home. Three afternoons went ok, I made notes on where it’s falling down and the fourth afternoon he started cycling up. I tried to follow the plan but his play doh and sand were not available and neither was his emotion fan. He uses the play doh and kinetic sand to squeeze and the emotions fan to pinpoint how he’s feeling so we can understand and act accordingly. If he’s angry, move him to somewhere quiet and dark away from his peers, if sad a cuddle and reassurance. You get the picture. So I’m doing this at home, with good results, more speech, more trust, I think he feels more understood. At school we spent an hour putting this in place and when I come to use it it’s not there. Banging head against a bloody brick wall.

So we have a meeting Wednesday where they are going to try to claim that nothing’s working and maybe he’d be better somewhere else. I will counter with it’s not been tried sufficiently or to standard. But I wonder if it’s worth looking elsewhere if they can not follow a five point plan. He has an EHC and an IEP and it’s not being implemented.

We don’t know what to do for the best. They’re happy to take his extra funding money but not do the work. He will be moving into year 3 in September and he won’t cope with the current set up. He’s autistic. Expecting him to just stop being autistic because he’s in mainstream is ridiculous. A few tweaks and he can stay with his friends. I worry that kids like Olly are being failed because mainstream are stuck in mainstream ways and special school places are very limited due to funding cuts. He doesn’t fit the criteria for special school, he isn’t “normal” enough for mainstream. He’s in limbo. Homeschooling him would be more isolating for him.

We will see what happens this week but I don’t see an easy solution to this 🙁

Xx

A perfect Christmas

The run up to Christmas was not particularly good behaviour wise for Oliver. All the changes affected him so we took the pressure off, no homework and talking about the changes and learning Christmas sign. School reported an increase in his running off and concentration but it was nothing unexpected. Even so we decided to learn from lessons past to make it a perfect Christmas for everyone.

We went to carols and crib service on Christmas Eve and we decided to tag team it. Max and Popples love carols by candlelight but Oliver thinks it’s more fun to sit on the bishops chair or run up and down the narthex pointing at the safety notices. So me and dad decided to take it in turns to stay with him, swapping after every carol so it was less stressful and everyone got to take part- in their own way. We also now know every safety sign and exit in the church-bonus!

After church we came home to a drink, chocolate bar and the opening of the eve present, which is new pyjamas. Oliver even joined in by putting them on for ten minutes before changing into his usual pyjamas and Owlette costume. We left sherry and mince pies out for “farmer Christmas” and a carrot for the reindeer then they went to bed. Well, they went upstairs and messed about for two hours whilst we tried to build the playmobil and other things before the big day. It’s surprising how many times a four year old needs a wee in the space of thirty minutes. I think we got to bed about 2.

They were up at 8 the next morning, we had to rouse a grumpy Max but he cheered up when he saw a box of Maltesers sticking out of his stocking. This year Olly opened everything. Within an hour. No three day opening this year, his little fingers scrabbled at the sellotape and his face when he saw he’d got what he asked for was priceless. He asked for an owlette teddy from pj masks, Popples had asked for a fingerling and Max had asked for some very specific videos. Santa delivered. They all seemed really happy – a win for us this year.

Christmas dinner was beef wellington, chicken or festive Bolognese- it’s like normal bolognese but you get to pull a cracker and wear a festive hat. The boys decided that a full family dinner (mum, daughter, son in law and granddaughter) was too much so they ate in front of the tv watching a Christmas film. Then came in for pudding.

They stayed up later than usual, playing nicely and colouring then running around and squealing. Eating what they wanted and they even got a fizzy drink! Eventually went to bed, and to sleep. And I got a “merry Christmas” off everyone at bed time. That was one of the best gifts that day.

This Christmas there were no meltdowns, no fights and no expectations. Not much money either but the kids were happy and relaxed and we were more so too. We adapted so everyone got to do something they wanted at Christmas. We prepared for the worst case scenario and as a result I think we took pressure of ourselves as we had contingency plans and we knew that we were on the same page and what job each of us had in every scenario. We had a perfect family Christmas. Anyone looking in would probably not think so but they don’t count, they’re not us.

Hoping your Christmas was the best it good be

XX

Advent, Autism and a grey hair

It seems that once Halloween and Bonfire night are finished that Christmas starts. When I was little it started at advent, not the first week in November. School routine changed, carols were being practiced, decorations up in the shops along with the Christmas music that I’m now fed up of listening too. Oliver did not cope well. He’s excited but doesn’t know how to channel it so we’ve had some regression and some behaviour issues. Hitting out at me and his TA and even the teacher when he tried to get involved without using the strategies. Sleep disappeared pretty much altogether, no concentration and needing lots of rough and tumble play.

Of course all children get excited around Christmas, Popples behaviour has changed and she’s got very loud. We can mainly channel her or get her to talk but Oliver threw his emotion cards at me and burst into tears. So we’ve been very calm, cut right back on learning and therapy so there’s no pressure on him. He’s used the nurture room and library at school to have some Christmas free space. We put the tree up on the first and he seemed to settle a bit having a focal point. No flashing lights, no tinsel (it itches). He tried to open all his windows in his calendar (no chance, sunshine) we know he knows how it works. He did at one point open my number 24 then pointed to his and said “24. Open. Yes” showing me that as mine was opened it was only fair his was opened too. I shouldn’t have got playmobil calendars.

He’s collected all the interesting tags off presents from under the tree so I suspect that may cause some chaos on Christmas morning. He’s done his list “owlette teddy yes please” which he’s been asking for since mid November. Santa came to school with a reindeer and the little ones went to see him together and had a cute photo done. My boys have never been scared of Santa. Max used to laugh and stroke his beard. Oliver goes straight to his knee and gazes like he’s his hero. Popples has never been keen. Last year she said “I don’t want him in my house. Ask him to knock on the door and give presents to daddy”. Really freaked out at the thought of him coming in. We watched a programme today where someone left Santa some milk. Her comment was “milk! He’s not a baby. Where’s the sherry?” We are not alcoholics, by the way, but we always left sherry for Santa.

Over this advent we’ve had to take turns going to church as Olly just can’t handle it. It’s a shame because it’s always nice in church at advent. I did Christingle service with Popples. Olly has broken things, decorated to ceiling a bit more with various food items, scissors are now hidden, emptied toy boxes, ripped up papers and we lost two baubles. He also found the eggs. We’ve tried hiding them because we know he’s a cracker, but he always seems to find them. Hubby walked into the kitchen and “can you clean the floor whilst I do the wall and door?” He’d done it again. Only 2 this time and helpfully put the shells in the bin. I was kneeling on the floor scooping up egg when I felt a drop on my head. Yep. Egg. He’d thrown it at the ceiling and I should have looked up first. I know better than to go to the floor without checking above! I’m not a rookie. I blame tiredness. So egg mopped up and went to sponge the egg out of my hair until I got five mins to wash it. And I found my first grey hair. I’ve been going redder as I age which happened to my dad too, so thought I’d get away for another few years before the grey. Sadly not. Oliver has succeeded in ageing me. Well played, Olly, well played.

At least with a family like ours there’s no pressure to have a perfect Hollywood Christmas. We’ve tidied, bought the boys favourite foods and made their rooms suitable for quiet times complete with sequin swipe cushions that they love using and actually seem to calm them. Oliver is having Bolognese for his Christmas lunch, Max may have fish and waffles if he doesn’t want chicken, Oliver took 3 days to open gifts last year, Popples will be up and down all night Christmas Eve and me and their dad will smile through it all, play the games, and hopefully watch three children celebrate Christmas their way and be happy. It may not be Hollywood perfect but you know what? We think it’s perfect. It’s a hard time of year and very testing but dad is trying so hard. He’s stayed calm. There’s been no shouting. There’s been lots of guidance given and accepted. Oliver doesn’t automatically turn to me for help or comfort now. He will go to dad. Small steps but they give me hope.

Anyway however you all do Christmas I hope it’s as perfect as ours will be. Have a very blessed Christmas.

Xx