Peppa Pig World

This year Popples asked if we could go to Peppa pig world at Paultons park. We have been before but she was a baby and therefore it doesn’t count that she’s already been. Found a hotel and 2 day tickets for four of us, including breakfast, for £380 which I didn’t think was bad.

Peppa world is a section of the park. There’s the lost kingdom part with dinosaurs but we didn’t go to that bit as Oliver couldn’t go on the rides with his leg, and other bits too. We drove straight there so we could spend the afternoon then go on to our hotel. I’ve never seen anyone so excited as Popples was when we got to the entrance. “Can we go on the balloon ride?! Look it’s windy castle” and so on. With it being so hot a lot of families had left for the day so we queued and went on some rides. There were new additions to last time which was very exciting.

Oliver could go on everything in Peppa world. They are quite gentle rides but he was too big to be accompanied by an adult on George’s dinosaur ride. We explained the situation to the staff member on the exit gate, about his lack of danger awareness and could he still ride. “Of course” was the reply and they radioed for a staff member to walk alongside him in case he did his leaping thing. He didn’t hold on but he didn’t jump off. The boat ride caused another fuss as he decided to throw his hat into the water. You know because you have to throw something if there’s water 😂. The ladies in the next boat got it out for us and we thanked them.

The next day was even hotter, we bought lots of water and juice for everyone. Popples wanted to meet Peppa and George so we stood in the queue for 20 mins, applying sun cream, until it was her turn. By this point, Olly had had enough and wouldn’t meet them but we got a lovely picture of her with her heroes. He pointed to Miss Rabbits helicopter ride but the queue was 25 minutes long! I had phoned on the Monday to explain about his leg and the helpful woman had advised us to get queue assist. This meant that he’d be able to queue at the exit and not wait as long. Now I don’t really like doing this as learning to queue is important but he had a very sweaty boot on, it was a million degrees and he was building up to a meltdown. So I took him for the queue assist pass and we went on the helicopter ride straight away which sent him back into a good mood. Again as it was hot, a lot of families weren’t staying so we queued for all the other rides (making sure we’d be on next) and he was really good at waiting. We only used the pass once more on a 30 minute queue.

There was a rollercoaster in the mini beasts section that they wanted to go on. They screamed and laughed their way around……3 times. She insisted on the pirate ship then wanted to get off halfway through. They had as much enthusiasm for the little rides as the bigger rides.

There was a section called Africa where they had animals and insects that she liked. Olly wasn’t keen on the dark area. And there was a little picnic area under a tree where we went for rests and drinks and where the ducks hassled us for food. Cheeky ducks! Went mad for the sausage roll crumbs. The big Peppa toy shop obviously couldn’t be missed and she asked daddy for Dr Brown Bears mobile hospital and got it.

The hotel wasn’t great but we managed. The heat swelled Olivers ankle and I cooled it whilst trying to get him to lie still so as not to aggravate it. Poor little man. He has a fair turn of speed on it now though.

All in all it was a good break for us all. Would have been better without the broken ankle but it didn’t impact too greatly as we just avoided the stuff we knew would be a no. The staff at Paultons Park were fantastic. Helpful and friendly and made it all about the kids there. A real family friendly and inclusive place. They even have a list of rides that aren’t accessible on the website so you can plan your day. The pass was a godsend although we only used it twice. It meant that we had the option of using it so took some of the stress off us.

And if you don’t know who Peppa pig is, then where have you been hiding?

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

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

Family at breaking point.

Oliver is 6. He was diagnosed with autism 4 years ago. I struggled at first to accept it- how and why did it happen again, but that couldn’t last because he needed me ready to help him and fight for him and just love him. And I do. Max was diagnosed 20 years ago so maybe it helped that I knew what I was doing this time around. My family is now in the verge of breaking up because after four years, Oliver’s dad will not accept the autism or change his approach.

He’s not a bad man. Olly was his first child and he had such expectations that he thinks now will not come to pass. He doesn’t understand how Oliver sees the world, how he learns, when he’s just being a swine, the difference between meltdown and tantrum etc. Things I’ve had to learn so that I can help him achieve everything he wants to. I’ve modelled the discipline model, I’ve shown the speech therapy techniques, I’ve shown him how to play with children, I’ve talked to him, I’ve offered him counselling and helpline numbers and I don’t know what else I can do. Treating him like his sister will not make him like his sister, but he doesn’t get this.

The last couple of months have been so bad, I feel like I’m alone raising this family. If something happens it’s me having to referee and sort out the fall out. There’s constant arguments with him saying “I’m entitled to be angry” and me saying “you have to see through his eyes. Anger is no good anymore, it’s driving us all away”. Shouting at kids doesn’t work in this house. Loud, sudden noises make a situation escalate so fast. I’ve been saying the same things for 4 years and he’s just not listening.

Oliver shut down last week. I’d never seen it and I do not want to see it again. The playmobil pool was filled with water and Olly went to tip it. Olly and water is always a risky combination. Dad shouted “No” so Olly went to do it again. “I Said NO!” And then the pool got tipped. “NO MEANS NO!” So Olly ran into the living room and I followed as if he gets told off he will throw something or tip something. He was shaking. I tried to talk to him but he lay on the sofa covered his ears and closed his eyes. He shut out everything. I stroked his back and murmured to him. He lay there for a good while and I just let him calm himself until he was ready to let me in. Eventually he sat up and dad came in to see him but he just clung to me. And that was the point I told him to get help or go.

It may seem harsh but it’s been four years. He’s missing out on important things while being angry. I understand the frustration of dealing with our boys at times, the behaviour and lack of sleep is not a good combination. I understand any kid winding up their parents at times, hell, no one is perfect. I’m nowhere near perfect but I try every day to do the best I can, to learn, adapt, make learning fun, picking which battles are worth the fight. He refuses to adapt. I asked him if he thinks acceptance means giving up and he said yes. I disagreed. I think acceptance means you can open up to more ideas, different worlds, different rules. We aren’t like other families so why should we try to fit in with their “normal”? Why can’t we make our own normal? Why can’t we embrace our differences? We can think outside the box of norms to make life fun. If we keep trying to force our kids into a blue print they can’t fit what kind of parent does that make us?

If anyone has any constructive ideas on how he can move on it would be helpful. Coming from me the words are falling on deaf ears. We can’t carry on living in this angry fug. It’s not good for anyone especially the kids. If you do care to leave a comment please know that bashing him won’t help the situation. I can’t help him. He just throws that I’ve had 20 years to deal with this and he’s only had four. When max was diagnosed I was a single parent with no family back up so I didn’t have the luxury of wallowing. The boys don’t need fixing, they’re not broken. I don’t know how to change this mindset. We have to get through Christmas and then I suppose we will sort out the future. Over the last four years we’ve had the chats, discussions and arguments but nothing really changes. I’ve asked him how I can help, what he needs, how I can make it better, tried to support and be understanding but with no movement I can’t continue to do this. I’m not helping at all and I’m so tired of going over and over the same ground. I’m done. 😞

Xx

Butlins Skegness

We decided to have a holiday with the little ones and everyone said Butlins was worth a try as they had got so much out of it. So we booked and paid monthly for a gold apartment and the dining plan. We also paid an extra £15 for a ground floor apartment. Who needs the hassle of stopping another child trying to jump from a balcony (Max tried it in Florida)

I can see the appeal of Butlins. There’s a beach, small fairground, soft play and parks, food, shows and a water park all on site. However, once you get into the centre it’s very busy, there’s pound rides everywhere, lights, noise and an amusement arcade in the main pavilion. Not exactly brilliant for Oliver-total overload. He ran. A lot. We took turns chasing him whilst the other looked after Popples. Meal times were not a family affair. Day two I drove to the supermarket to get food in for breakfast and for Oliver and some Peroni for me and the hubs. I sent him for breakfasts with Popples because it was paid for, he eats more and I’m not too bothered about breakfast. It saved the morning stress of trying to keep Olly occupied whilst we tried to eat.

The activities we did were fun. The beach was a big hit, he was straight into the sea laughing and splashing up to his armpits. I built castles with Popples as she is more wary of water although I did get her in for a paddle. The fairground has a section for under 150cm so they could go on rides by themselves which they loved and it was included in the holiday price.

The water park had a selection of pools and water slides. We went on one of them and the kids actually queued no problem for it. Soft play killed a couple hours. The climbing frames killed another hour. We didn’t get to any shows. We ate in shifts. We hardly slept, a new place with all those things to do hyped them both up. I slept in “the girls room” as it was named by the youngest. Hubs and Olly slept in the double bed. At least we didn’t have to listen to the snoring!

Because Oliver didn’t eat much for two days we decided to go to the Italian on site. Not nice and cost a chunk. The main meals on the dining plan were passable, just, puddings were lovely though. We had taken stickle bricks and dvds for them which settled him a little in our apartment. Bed time was another challenge. She wandered in and out needing the toilet (fifty times an hour 🙄), he tried climbing out of the bedroom window. He wouldn’t go in the shower, couldn’t have bathroom light on as it was an extractor fan and the noise bothered him. Thankfully he couldn’t reach the security chain on the door or that would have been someone on duty all night.

It’s nothing we didn’t expect although I did think they’d be tired from the days exertions and sleep a bit more. We didn’t really see much of each other. We didn’t get any relaxing time. Before we went we talked about it and accepted that it was the kids holiday and to not expect too much and I think it helped keep our stress levels down. Instead of losing it at dinner I took him out for a walk while dad and sister finished tea. The next day he did the same for me.

The kids loved it. We made it about them telling Popples she could do what she wanted, giving her options and telling her that if she didn’t like it she didn’t have to do it. She cried when we went swimming but we had made the plan where if she didn’t like it I’d take her to do something else and we’d meet up later (very scared of big water) and told her that it was up to her to tell me if she didn’t like it. No worries once she got in and saw it only came up to her knees in the baby pool. She went on the big slide with us too. Her confidence grew because she was in charge wherever we could let her.

Butlins has more on offer but not for us. Climbing walls and stuff were not appropriate for us. Golf wasn’t either. So I can see why people love it and go back time and again but I think it’ll be a while if we go back. If we do at all. The request for next year is Peppa Pig World. She was only a baby when we took Oliver so we are considering it.

I think expecting so little and having strategies in place helped us get in the right mind set. We made some amazing memories. I took her on her first grown up fairground ride and got to see her face filled with joy and hear her laughter. I got to see my son laughing and splashing his dad in a very cold sea. I got to eat as many puddings as I wanted. I got to see my children squeeze everything they could out of family time. They loved it. And because they loved it, it was worth the no sleep, no relaxation, running around keeping him safe and every penny we spent.

Because she didn’t get to see a show we are taking her to the theatre tomorrow.

Butlins by the sea – ticks a lot of boxes but for a family like ours doesn’t tick quite enough…… yet.

Xx

“A thorough investigation”

I spoke about Max and losing his placement in “How can people be so mean” and this is the update.  We were invited to a meeting to be given the results of the investigation into the allegations made about staff behaviour.  They claim there was a thorough investigation and there is no case to answer.  “We can’t go into specifics about people but we found it was a disgruntled employee who we have let go and basically a case of revenge/sour grapes.  Max is welcome to come back”

Their timeline of events was different to mine, when I pointed this out they said I had it wrong.  I asked if the main mean person had been let go.  No he hadn’t.  There was no evidence against him except he said/she said and if we sent Max back then he would have no contact with this man.  I asked about the screen shots I received with his mobile number on it and asked if they’d called the number.  “That isn’t evidence, anyone can doctor a screenshot”, well I can’t.  Also if the man was innocent why would Max have to be kept away?  I asked why nothing had been done when his 1-to-1 first mentioned something to the manager and got “it was only after we let her go that concerns were raised”.  We argued the time line, but it was no use, they wouldn’t budge.

We told of how his activity programme had changed and asked why.  We told of his change of behaviour.  “We have new management” so the old manager who was really good with the clients and keeping staff in line was now being blamed because of his lack of office skills, the new managers had to sort all that out and it “may” have affected services.  I told them that the new manager was the same woman who had been with us from the start, so she knew us and it made no sense to change his activity. “Well I’ve known her a long time, she has been trying to deal with a lot as she hasn’t been a manager before”- yes and? She gets a promotion and decides my sons tailored programme is no good without discussing it with me? The programme she helped tailor!

All staff members have been interviewed and been given a leaflet on respect and dignity.  All clients have been interviewed and no one else has a problem.  What about the people like Max with no voice?  The parent was interviewed to see if anything had been “said” at home.  I asked how they were supposed to say anything when they couldn’t talk, what method was used? A sad/happy board? “we can’t go into details”.

I saw a change in behaviour in Max and thankfully his 1-to-1 told me what was going on, so I could intervene.  My gut tells me something went on, you get a feeling about people, and it’s not scientific and sometimes it’s wrong, but not often I don’t think.  For her whistleblowing she has lost her job, been badmouthed all over and when I spoke to her last she had had a social worker visit her as they had received “an anonymous phone call” about her and her kids.  She is seeking legal advice.

I just wonder when I am going to hear about another incident at this place, or will they be more subtle in future.  One thing is for sure, they had their own agenda and have fulfilled it.  No case to answer.  They’ve skewed things so she has no credibility, and I look like an overprotective drama queen mother.  They’ve lost over £18,000 in fees plus other monies they could claim as he is classed as severely disabled.  The man managing the meeting said Max would be welcomed back with open arms, he brings a lot of money with him.

To me, and I know I’m not impartial, it feels like a whitewash.  Max wasn’t happy.  I’ll never know exactly what went on, I only have screen shots of conversations and my gut to go on, but I know something went on.  He won’t be going back.  My social worker is trying to find something else for him, we will see how that goes.  In the meantime, we have time to get him back to his happy self and rebuild his self esteem.

 

xx