I used the f word at a teacher!

It’s not like me. I am quite laid back, take things in my stride, try to stay positive and if something doesn’t work- well a shrug of the shoulders and a new approach thought of. I can fight when I need to for my kids but it’s never at individuals, I’m talking bodies like the DWP or LEA.

After the EHC meeting and realising Oliver didn’t fit the school or the dual school placement we did a lot of talking. The LEA are avoiding me, I realised how big the gap is growing between him and his peers, how isolated he’s becoming and I can’t fix it immediately. Added in lack of sleep, end of year disruption at school, assemblies to attend, paperwork to go through as well as everything else I was feeling really frazzled. Olivers class were putting on a performance and one morning the teacher approached me to discuss his role in the play. “He might not sit through it all so he will be near the door in case he has to leave. We don’t want him running around when bored and not letting the kids shine. They’ve worked so hard”.

I snapped. I’m not proud of it but I snapped. “When does my sons get a chance to shine? Every day is normal day why can’t he have 10 minutes to shine? You’ll all breathe a sigh of relief when he’s gone. You’ll be saying thank god that fecking child is gone” said in a very ranty voice and then I cried. I walked off and I don’t know what he did then. Usually I’d have said “can we discuss this in private please so we can find a solution to keep everyone happy” but I snapped. You see he never got to the carol concert at church, or the Easter service or the Mother’s Day assembly, or the music concert. This felt like another exclusion.

A week later and school sends out a text about the disco. What disco? We didn’t get a letter. I went into school and asked to speak to someone about discrimination. I think I’m making enemies everywhere 🙁. It’s up to him if he wants to go to the disco. If he goes and stays 1 minute then that’s his choice. He can decide some things for himself. I got him a ticket and said I’d stay to support him. He loved it. Stayed til the end and wouldn’t leave til others had started going home- he didn’t want to miss a second. He span round, bought glow sticks, lay on the floor, jumped around and chased the lights. He was so happy.

I’ve spoken to the senco and his teacher about how Oliver is a person with likes and dislikes and can express them in his way. I’ve explained that although his progress might not be giant strides but tiny steps, to him and us they are just as valid and praiseworthy. Don’t make choices for him based on his behaviour from before. He is growing and changing every day, like any other kid. Try him out with things before discounting them. He is autistic, he’s a little boy. He is both at the same time. Don’t put him in a box. Don’t assume he can’t! He might not want to, which is a different story, but if he doesn’t try things then how do we know what he can do. How can he learn what he likes and doesn’t. All he needs is equal opportunity.

They did a dress rehearsal for the rest of the school. Popples said he was amazing, he danced and sang. At the parent performance he played with blu tac and slid off the bench. He sat through it all both times though. He was with his class and he didn’t spoil it, he just did his thing and joined in when he felt he could. Of course I wouldn’t want him to ruin it for the other kids, I made sure I sat somewhere where I could intervene if necessary without causing much intrusion. I’m under no illusion it can be difficult for him in that situation. I think things just built up. It felt like he was being marginalised. If I am expected to think of 30 other kids then why is no one expected to think about the feelings of 1?

I have apologised to the teacher. I shouldn’t have lost it. I shouldn’t have swore (we weren’t in the classroom). Being honest his teacher this year has put so much effort in with Olly. Finding ways he can access the curriculum on his level, doing extra work on the resources he needs, actually spending time teaching him. I think he was clumsy the way he spoke to me but I think I was wrong to rant at him. It’s not like me at all. We have a week left at school and I suspect he will now avoid me. I’ve apologised, I’ve acknowledged the work he puts in, I’ve thanked him for his honesty at the ehc meeting but I suspect I’ve broken our working relationship. Popples has a year til she’s in that class, so he has a year before he has to deal with me again.

At the end of the day I’m only human. And I’m the only one who will fight so hard for my kids- all of my kids. They’re all special to me.

Xx

EHC review and honesty

Oliver has been struggling at school. Really struggling. I have been called in on numerous occasions, the inclusion officer and behaviour team have been in and I’ve been in countless meetings to try to resolve some problems. I got so concerned, especially as he’s moving to year 3 in September where it’s a lot of sitting and learning, which he can’t do, I called for an early EHC review.

It turns out he is spending 85% of his time in a 1 to 1 situation or 1 to 2 depending on his mood as it’s too difficult for one member of staff to be with him. He is spending little time with his peers, his recent behaviour has accounted for 90% whereas education has taken the back seat at 10%. He is not doing well in school. There was recently a sports day and he got ready in his kit but stepped outside the door and was overloaded with noise and the sheer volume of people he went into crisis. I tried to find him on the field and was told he was inside. I got to the office and they immediately buzzed me through without signing in. Once I got through the door I could hear him screaming in the hall (down a corridor and fire proof doors) I ran down and was met with two staff who looked helpless and him screaming and bashing things. There was destruction everywhere. Benches overturned, making boxes emptied but I went straight to him and held him tight. He calmed down in minutes and helped tidy up. Took him back to class and lay with him on his bean bag for an hour until he indicated I could go.

In the meeting I was told he was teacher assessed for his Sats (no surprise) and disapplied from phonics test – he doesn’t read phonetically he learns words. I was told that a classroom environment is not suited to his style of learning. The stress of the classroom contributes to his sensory overload. The gap between him and his peers is widening and he knows it. He won’t attempt things he sees others do easily because he doesn’t want to show he can’t do it. He knows he’s not the same. His sense of worth is diminishing at school. He can’t be like them, he tries but he can’t fit in. It’s too much. Trying to filter the sounds and the crowds and learn is just too much.

I’ve talked about dual placement but I phoned the school that offers it and it’s unsuitable for him. Also keeping him in mainstream even part time is going to be of no benefit to him. He’s not going to get anything more from them.

After the meeting we did a lot of talking at home, gathered more information from his teaching staff and requested a further meeting with the Senco. I told her we have decided that he needs a specialist placement. He needs a special school where they sign, use Pecs, have the facilities to let him learn through play and where his peers are like him. There were a lot of tears at the thought of him leaving, they have supported us so much and he leaves a mark on people, in a positive way but they understand that he needs more than they can offer.

Now the LEA are saying there’s no places for him at special school so we have another fight on our hands but we are ready to do whatever necessary to get him the education he deserves. We don’t expect exams and university, we just want him to feel like he belongs somewhere and his achievements whether big or small are celebrated. He has come so far with his language and understanding and his maths skills are phenomenal. I don’t want him to lose what he has and if he goes no further then that’s fine. He doesn’t fit in mainstream school and it’s not fair to expect him to. The pressure he is under must feel immense to him. We have requested a sensory assessment too and this could be easily implemented in a specialist school setting. I hope we are making the right decision, there isn’t another option except this route. I know at home he had calmed a lot but here he is accepted, loved, accommodated and it’s give and take. He does work for me and I play his games and follow his lead so he feels valued and that his ideas are just as important as mine.

It’s been a long and hard month or so and it’s not going to get easier until we get him in an appropriate school. It’s not the autism that’s the problem, it’s the red tape and budget cuts and trying to get someone to actually speak to me. He deserves as much as any other kid, and I will not let him fall through the cracks.

I’m glad his teacher was honest with us. I’m glad school are supporting us. We have plans in place in the interim to reduce the pressure on him in school. We tried mainstream, and it was ok until the focus changed from learning through play to more formal learning. He learns through play and that’s just his style. It’s not a bad thing it’s just different to the norm- but hey it’s our family – we don’t do normal.

Just have to wait for the draft EHC plan to turn up then reject it. It’s no longer appropriate. He deserves the best not make do or putting sticking plasters on it. Change his environment and his behaviour will change. If he’s happy he won’t need to squeeze a tube of paint all over the classroom, or maybe he will cos that sounds like really good fun! 😂

Xx

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