Tag Archives: special educational needs

A Bright Star No Longer Hidden

22 Jun

The annual review, a time for meeting with your child’s teachers and discussing progress, struggles and ideas. A meeting centred around your child’s special educational needs and the statement they hold.

Last week it was that time, the time for the Little man’s second annual review since attending his special independent school specifically for children on the autism spectrum. Lately, Little man’s attendance has been a little off the wall! Despite his love for his new school he continues to struggle to sleep of a night, often getting just a few hours sleep or none whatsoever. As one can imagine, mornings are becoming one huge battle us! For this reason alone I expected to hear how my son was falling dangerously behind that of his peers, what with his last school (mainstream primary school) insisting he had a reading age of 7, reception age writing skills, poor understanding of science and history, plus 2 levels below in maths and more besides. He was 10 at the time and I protested that my son wasn’t this far behind, especially in maths. His bedroom wall looked like some kind of number puzzle where he would cover it in mathematical problem solving and coding to a complex level (one even I struggled to understand)!

You see it was my conclusion that he was much brighter than he let on, but wasn’t showing this due to his unhappiness while attending a school who seriously struggled to meet any of his needs, both educational and developmental. It was during this particular annual review meeting that I realised just how right I was back then.

Here it comes… A seriously proud mummy moment…

Little man is two levels above his expect national curriculum level in maths. He is in year 7 and currently has a level of a child in year 9 on his way to year 10.

His also above in PE, Reading and more besides. He science levels were that of his expected age. English as a whole is also what is expected which just goes to show that my boy and any other child on the spectrum has the ability to shine given they are in the right environment to do so.

He has a great new system in which he can remove himself from the classroom to shake of any problems and excess energy with a run around the playground. He only has the ability to use his “Get Out Of Glass Card” twice for each lesson and teachers have reported that sometimes he finishes class having not used one. This may seem like such a minor thing but to a mum like me its pure music to my ears.

He also has a great reward system and school are working hard to try and discourage his swearing. Despite episodes still happening on a daily basis the improvements are slowly taking place and little man’s learning a little self control.

Proud… Oh yes, seriously proud! When your so used to being told the negative when it comes to your child’s education, you forget what its like to hear anything positive. This was a great example of this, it was the proudest I’d felt for a long time. I just wanted to shout about it from the roof tops.

Was I tempted to take a little walk through them office doors of his once mainstream school, the one in which his younger sister attends? Did I feel to wave his report in the air while shouting “Yer… Get a load of that! Thats my boy they are writing about!” Um maybe I did, just a little…I can’t lie. However, I don’t care what was once said! All that matters is that I have always believed in him even if those others who should have, instead made it their mission to write him off as a lost cause!

Well… Eat My Shorts!

My boys a star, a star that shines bright because his no longer hidden.

So, if you have a bright star that is currently struggling to be seen through the clouds then don’t give up on them! Believing is the key to your child’s educational success and as long as you believe others will follow. Never give up, fight for them to be seen as the star you know them to be.

My Child’s Diagnosis Didn’t Give Me Depression! The SEN System Did That!

7 Apr

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Its funny, Just recently I found myself engaged in conversation With a fellow parent at my daughter’s school. We were discussing depression, a subject I won’t hide from!

This parent reads my blog and is aware that depression has sometimes been a part of my life… More so than not.

So, if I’m ever asked a question I will try to answer it openly and Honestly. I’m not ashamed to say… “Yes I had depression” Why should I be? So, Having engaged in conversation for at least five-minutes with this lady I suddenly came to realise that there was some type of crossed wires on her part in regards to a depressive episode I experienced around 3 years ago! This started me thinking… Does everybody think the same way?

So I wanted to explain something, and do so very clearly! My son’s diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome didn’t bring out any episode of depression within me. My child being on the autism spectrum has never actually left me feeling depressed! However, what has had me running for the antidepressants is that of the things that come with that diagnosis (like it being stuffed in a brown envelope and shoved in your hands). I’m not talking in relation to little man’s autistic traits, his sleepless nights or sudden angry outbursts! I’m talking about the battles to get others to sit up and listen. Basically, It wasn’t my child’s Asperger’s syndrome that depressed me it was the system in which I now found myself battling with.

You think a diagnosis is going to change thinks. The right help and support will come and be handed to you on a plate… Well dream on, it most certainly won’t! I learnt almost instantly, that for some, my sons diagnosis wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.

Over the years I’ve come to realise that being a parent to a child on the autism spectrum makes you a stronger person. It gives you fighting power, the type you never even knew you had! Because when your a mother its not only your job to ensure your child has everything they need to lead a full and happy life but the love you have for them that drives you. Almost any mother can relate to this regardless if their child is autistic.

Battling schools for appropriate educational services, educating society about autism and getting your child’s voice heard is all part of the package but it doesn’t necessarily mean its going to come with instructions, and I guess it was this aspect of his diagnosis that hit me the hardest.

Being told little man had Aspergers Syndrome was hard, I can’t deny it! No matter how prepared you think you are, you never are… Not really! Even when you’re told by specialists that its almost a certainty and you’ve therefore done all your own research and have reached the conclusion that “Yes, they are right… you can see it too!” I guess its because it makes it all the more definite, more final! But what must be remembered is that little man was the same child he had been the day before receiving a final diagnosis and I wasn’t depressed then!

Its all to easy to assume that the giving of a diagnosis is the reason why a mother crumbles and starts suffering such conditions as depression. What one must remember is that its all that comes after… The fight to make others do the right thing by your child, its this that can really drain your energy both physically and emotionally.

So if your about to receive that final slip of paper enclosed within a brown envelope, then brace yourselves… As the battle begins.

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The Children And Families Bill 2013 – Are You Worried?

15 Mar

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Worried about the child and family bill 2013? Well, if your child has SEN or a disability then you should be!

This is a post I’ve needed to write since I first read the published Children and Families Bill 2013 but ended up having so many questions flying around in my own head that I couldn’t find a way to relax enough to put them in to words (well, words that made sense anyway).

I have now been given the opportunity to head up to Westminster on Monday, to meet with the Minster Ed Timpson where I will be able to put those questions and opinions forward! So…I thought it would be a good idea to share them here with you guys first and also see if you had any opinions to add.

If you remember the post I wrote last year relating to the Green Paper you will know that back then I had already developed grave concerns relating to the proposed reforms relating the that of Special educational Needs (SEN). Now reading the Children and Families Bill it is only fair to say that those initial concerns have now been greatly heightened and with good cause too.

1: One of my major concerns surrounded that of the removal of school action/action plus. The green paper offered little indication on what was therefore being implemented to make things easier for those children without Statements/Education Health Care Plans [EHCP] to obtain appropriate support and services. Looking at the bill it seems that as I feared, “Nothing” is actually being put in place that will truly benefit the child who doesn’t fit the criteria for SEN. The Department Of Education (DFE) has stated that these children will have some degree of support through that of the “Local Offer” Though it should be noted that the bill as written states that the Local Authority (LA) are required to make information available relating to the education, health and social care services it “expects” to be available within its local area! This seems to hold no legal duty and therefore leaves these children in a somewhat similar situation than the one they are already in.

2: The Bill states that it has expanded the list of schools parents can request as a preference when naming the school in their child’s EHCP. This maybe so, but the fact the LA can still claim that for the child to attend the parents preferred school would be an inefficient use of resources, therefore meaning they wont name that school, actually means parents are in no way a better position than the one they are currently facing now! Well, I fail to see the difference.

3: At the start of the process the green paper promised a much quicker assessment process, with timescales being greatly reduced and parents not having to battle their way through the SEN System. However, the Bill fails to reflect this and actually fails to make known any sort of timescales for assessments, reassessments or appeals whatsoever.

4: The suggested requirement for parents to meet with LA officials before an application is made to tribunal is just pointless. It was first suggested that Mediation would become compulsory, meaning parents needed to take this route before applications for appeals to the tribunal were omitted. However, it was later agreed that this type of requirement was somewhat unfair, one making little if no sense! But then the the bill has stated the possibility of a meeting to discuss possible mediation etc is to be held before submitting an appeal to the tribunal! Come on… This will again make an already long process longer. If parents thought they could just pop down the LA and sort the whole mess out over a cuppa then don’t you think they would? No mother likes to endure the whole stressful notion of having to battle the LA at the tribunal, don’t you think we’d avoid it if we could. Again the whole lacking of timescales contributes here greatly. Why shouldn’t appeals be submitted at the first instance of it being denied. Its already known that it is only then that most LAs will actually start putting things into action and communicating with parents.

5: Another huge concern for me is the lack of information given on how the integration of the new EHCP will affect those children who currently have statements of SEN? Given a great deal of the law and SEN code will need to be rewritten to fit in with the new sen reforms how is this going to work with the statement! After all, if statements are going to be replaced this cant possibly be done by the time the new laws come into practice! With many of the laws that relate to those statements being written off, where is the legal protection to ensure the provision is still provided to the child who obtains that statements? Will statements be gradually phased out, scrapped and reproduced as EHCP as a result of annual reviews? What about those who have had annual reviews shortly before the legislation is made official? Will they hold a statement that offers no protection for a year? What happens when they are older will they receive the same protection if they remain in education? How will these new changes incorporate the social care side of things? Will those who have SALT on part 3 of their statement find that it then becomes a requirement of the health care system, no longer the duty of the LA to provide? A health care system that has no legal duty to provide it?

Which brings me to my next concern…

6: The lack of duty with the health sector. As it stands most of the areas which the LEA consider to be non educational are tossed over to part 5 of a child’s statement! I don’t think anybody from the health sector currently ever sees that part of little man’s statement or that of any other childs! Why? because they have no duty to provide any advised provisions, thats why! So, I guess I should be excited about the LAs joint commissioning with the health sector. Sadly I’ve already lost faith in this proposal.

The fact is that the LA have a duty to provide educational provision and regardless of joint commissioning it will stay that way! So, them “non” educational support needs will fall in the hands of the health sector right? With the guys at the LA actively communicating with those in the health sector things will now be hunky dory, right? Don’t be fooled! Their will be no legal requirements made of the health sector so basically… Nothing’s changed! Its just like having the non educational aspects of a statement tossed in part 5. The only difference is the health sector will know they are there, but in no way does this mean they will have to provide such services! What with waiting lists for a basic blood test on the rise and government funding cuts that have already had detrimental impacts on the NHS and related services, it looks like even more children will be left without the support they need to succeed. Yes, they made it sound so promising when talking about it all in the green paper, but in reality, it isn’t really that pretty no matter how much you dress it up!

As mentioned Little man receives SALT and OT which the LA tried its best to toss into part 5 of his statement. It took two independent assessments and reports, a pending tribunal case (that luckily didn’t make it to the hearing) for the LEA to throw the towel in. Which brings me to the issue of legal aid, if this ends up restricted then I guess children all over England and Wales are gonna be in huge trouble.

7: My next point to make is that of the funding issue. Again the bill has been very careful not to give many clues on the budgeting side of things. Delegations of school’s budgets for those children just outside the SEN scoop have not been discussed, and very little information on the individual funding of a child’s EHCP has been offered. Ok, so we know about the idea of personal budgets, yet the finer details are still up in the air. However, at this early stage my concerns currently surround the area of passing money to families and letting them go about it themselves. Ok, this way we know what our children are getting and we can hopefully obtain the services needed to cater for our child’s needs, but isn’t this just another way of removing the responsibility and the workload from the LA. I want to know how they are going to monitor the situation to ensure that the provision on the EHCP is being implemented? Will the parents be required to document spending of the budget having to knock up an annual spending report for the LAs records? I don’t know about you guys but I’m to busy being a mother and an advocate for all that!

8: Is this just another way to lower spends? Honestly this is a serious question, one that deeply worries me! How can we as a country struggling against a Recession with cuts already hitting children’s services the hardest, have faith that our children’s needs will be met this way. The bill is missing huge chunks of legalities that although haven’t been great have all the same protected us somewhat, giving us a case to fright for our children. With the bill being very unclear when it comes to appeals, timescales and a duty to provide services who can blame me for thinking that this isn’t a way to slowly help refill the governments penny jar. After all legal expenses are just that expensive so by removing many of the legal rights associated with the statement, less appeals can be lodged and the expenses decrease… Sad but logical!

9: Has anyone else noticed that the idea of a key worker, a single person to point us parents in the right direction, has suddenly been dropped from the bill. I’ve read many of the governments responses to the concerns raised, though I failed to uncover concerns relating to a family key worker! I therefore wonder why it suddenly disappeared without trace, especially considering it was one specific aspect of the green paper most of us parents applauded? Too expensive an idea maybe?

10: The EHCP is for those with SEN between the ages of 0-25 years. However, what most people fail to realise is that this is not exactly true! Its pretty clear from reading the bill that once your child/young person leaves education then the plan will crease. This actually makes sense, after all the only aspect anyone really plans to fulfil is those provisions given in the EHCP is that of the educational part of the plan. As mentioned the area of health and social care will have no legalities attached meaning it won’t be worth the paper its written on. It will be this part that your child will probably need most when leaving education, yet it seems that more assessments from social services to obtain the help needed to help young people with the transition into adult life may well require that of you having to fight for it… Again!

Thanks for reading my thoughts and opinions on the Bill. I actually have some strong views on the sections covering adoption and children in care and have decided to express them in a separate post which I’ll try and publish sometime over the next couple of days.

Now I would love to pick my readers brains a little and ask… “What would be the most important aspects of the bill you would want to raise with the Minster?” Please it would be great to hear your thoughts.

To access the Children and Families Bill and associated documents, click HERE

Ensure Your Child With Asperger’s Syndrome Gets The Education They Are Entitled To!

8 Jan

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Every child In England has a right to a education, one that is fulfilling in all areas, yet enjoyable too. Our children should start school with an array of wonderful learning opportunities ahead of them. They should be offered a variety of experiences both in and outside off their place of learning.

A good education should be one that not only provides a child with good levels of attainment but also helps build confidence, decreases vulnerability to poverty, inequality and social exclusion regardless of race, religion or that of disability and special educational needs. Sadly things are not always so black and white and regardless of laws and codes, schools and local authorities don’t always play by the book.

We as parents don’t often find ourselves worrying about whether our children will receive an education catered to their specific needs, especially before they have even started full time education. We often find ourselves assuming that professionals will teach and respect our children as one would expect them too. This is even more so if we are yet to discover our child has SEN or a diagnosis consisting of Aspergers Syndrome as this can often be picked up much later when things have already become kinda messy at school.

Maybe you are aware of your child’s specific difficulties and professionals won’t listen (sadly this is a common scenario). The situation is one made more difficult if you are still trying to obtain an official diagnosis for your child! I for one understand this, given my own son was diagnosed at the age of 8 years old, obtaining a statement of educational needs at the age of 10 following a somewhat tiresome battle with the local authority.

We all know that early intervention is the key to success. If your child is lucky enough to already have obtained their diagnosis before they have reached the age of compulsory school age, then you already have one hurdle met. This may seem strange to some…. Stating that obtaining any diagnosis of a social communication disorder is in anyway lucky! But it is lucky to have obtained this so early… Those who are still trying to get their child’s official diagnosis as they almost leave for secondary school, will likely agree!

Below I’ve listed some ‘Tips’ and “Need to know” advice, to help you ensure your child on the autism spectrum gets a full and rewarding education… one they not only deserve but more importantly… the one they are entitled to.

1: Remember just because your child has a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome this doesn’t Automatically mean they will be placed on the sen register.

2: You should know that it’s not just that of attainment levels or specific learning difficulties that leads a child to being placed on the sen register. It is also that of their emotional, social and behavioural needs. Some schools often fail to make parents aware of this when they are trying to obtain a better support for their child. Be sure to state your knowledge on the matter and don’t let them try to convince you otherwise.

3: Teachers often have the ability to “Forget” to inform parents of important developments, ones such as placing a child on the sen register. If you know your child is likely to be placed on the register or suspect so, then be sure to ask them in writing. If need be you have the right to request your child’s educational record. The Education Act clearly states parents must be informed that their child is on the register and the reasons why. All developments should be recorded and shared with parents in writing. Parents should also be even the option to contribute to their child’s IEP.

4: Always Talk to teachers ensuring they know your child’s diagnosis and more so… any traits or difficulties that may present themselves during the course of the school day.

5: You often find yourself not wanting to be seen as the overbearing, over protective mother. Nonetheless, its important to make a stand from the start. Working alongside your child’s teaching team is always the most beneficial way forward. However, letting them know you won’t be frobbed off is also OK too.

6: Its OK to ask your child’s teacher or teaching team what experience they have when educating children with additional needs, autism spectrum conditions and SEN. Here in the UK it is usually the SENCO (special educational needs coordinator) who you will want to meet with to discuss any worries or concerns as well as that of your child’s class teacher and if applicable, any teaching assistants.

7: Make an extra effort to record any incidents that occur at school. Whether it is the school that has informed you of these incidents or its something your child has told you, what may seem no big deal at the time may later be of importance, maybe even contributing to any evidence needed in order to get your child a statement of sen (soon to be health and education plan).

8: Make time to help your child at home with not only their homework but also social skills training. Use social stories to teach your child about different situations they may encounter while attending school and beyond.

9: Although it isn’t a pleasant thought you may want to bear in mind that children on the autism spectrum can often find themselves a target for bullying. Its horrible but sadly true that children can be very cruel. If your child’s traits are ones that are very apparent and stand out to other children as somewhat “Odd” I’d advise you to keep your ear close to the ground. Keep in regular contact with school and encourage your child to report any problems to a teacher they feel close to.

10: Remember, your child has the right to an education, one that is the same as that offered to his or her peers. Your child should not be made subject to discriminatory acts. Some examples are that of illegal and legal exclusions, internal exclusions or isolation, removal from certain lessons or not being allowed on school trips etc… without a very good reason. Those parents that are lucky enough to have their child’s diagnosis before they start school will have the opportunity to view schools asking questions on various subjects therefore ensuring their child’s needs can be met.

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11: If your child’s school is not informing you of any incidents especially those that affect your child’s emotional wellbeing, and therefore cause problems when at home as well as school, then request a daily school/home contact book. This means you can record any incidents that take place at home, ones you believe could affect your child during their school day. With this, the “Said” school would therefore be required to do the same. This would not only provide peace of mind but would also provide a written record that could provide useful if applying for a statement or making any claim with the first tier tribunal.

12: Watch out for illegal exclusion. No head teacher or other member of the teaching team should call you and request you collect your child unless they are officially excluding them from school. Parents may be told that their child has had a stressful day, they are tired, had a meltdown or are just being disruptive. The phone call will likely end with the school suggesting it would be better if you could collect your child so they can go home to calm down. Although you yourself may want to just take your child home avoiding them anymore stress, you should remember that the school are meant to officially exclude pupils and this exclusion needs to be put down and recorded on paper. LEAs need to be noted, work provided and letters given to parents. Schools don’t like having to record exclusions as this doesn’t look great on them (and who wants the paperwork). As parents, I guess we instantly don’t want this kind of stuff recorded on our child’s school records, especially when we are disputing the reasons surrounding an exclusion… Or do we? The school illegally excluding your child shows that actually… They cannot met your child’s needs! When trying to obtain a statement (or soon to be health and education plan) we need to show why our child’s needs can’t be met. By just telling an LEA that your child is being sent home regularly for poor behaviour, without anything to back it up, isn’t really going to get you anywhere. You need to provide evidence and this can only be provided by way of official exclusion.

Note… Even if you agree to collect your child, the school is still breaking the law by not making this official.

12: Children with Aspergers and SEN can sometimes have relatively bad attendance. This was specially the case for my little man. This has lead to three court appearances due to the lake of understanding provided by both his old mainstream school and the local authorities ‘Education Welfare Officer’ (EWO). Little man has an incredibly poor sleep pattern and this combined with the discrimination and other difficulties experienced when at school lead to the development of school phobia. It took me a long time to get him into the routine of going, so to have the school send him home at least three times a week was more than frustrating… It was shocking! Thankfully the last judge had little difficulty coming to that same conclusion.

Given this was my third appearance in court for this matter, and the EWO had stated that herself and the LEA felt that a prison sentence, alongside a grade two fine, would be the most suitable form of punishment for me (said by EWO when the judge asked her what outcome the LEA was hoping for) I was more than relieved to have the whole sorry mess come to an end.

13: Always remember to keep in contact with your child’s school if they are not attending. Make a diary and keep notes on conversations and appointments you’ve had. Cover yourself with medical evidence and like me… Request that the education welfare officer collect your child and let them endure the horrible task of trying to get your screaming child dressed and out the door to school. Especially when they are having a huge meltdown, acting violent and smashing up the house… And that’s on a good morning!

It actually took me three whole years of requests for the EWO to finally agree. Lets just say that she was now beginning to realise the stress I was under (not that it changed anything).

If your child is not attending then You should always request that work be sent home from school. Your child maybe school refusing but you don’t want them missing out on valuable education. I found that the school didn’t offer and I had to constantly request this. If you are taken to court and accused of Intentionally failing to ensure your child’s attendance (sec 4441(a) ) you can also show that your child was in fact educated during the period of time they have spent absent from school.

14: Remember the law states that your child must receive a full education at the age of five years old! The law doesn’t state that this has to be in a school environment. Home schooling is always an option and one you may consider best to ensure your child receives an efficient education. Nonetheless, its worth noting that by opting for this you remove the social opportunities a school environment presents (even if your child does struggle with such social settings). Dependent on how your child’s social skills are I’d be sure to ensure that home schooling involves lots of social skills training. When we home schooled little man after finally removing him from his mainstream primary school, I made sure he engaged in other activities alongside other children. He started boxing twice a week as well as a number of other activities. The LEA reports stated how they thought little man would have too many difficulties integrating back into a school environment as he wasn’t only left without a school for a year following mainstream but during most of his time at his mainstream school he was either excluded or hidden away in isolation! Reading such reports can be heartbreaking but in the end they only made me more determined to prove them all wrong. His now been in his independent special school for around 18 months and is popular among both the teachers and his peers.

15: Use visual timetables for both home and school. Highlight any up and coming events or changes well in advance placing them on a visual calendar. Making schedules and routines consistent between the two settings (home & school) could make things more simple for your child, therefore removing any anxiety towards school.

16: If your child has Aspergers or Autism they probably have a special interest in something or another. Little mans obsessive interest really did overtake his life as well as ours as a family. He would speak about nothing else and could quite literally drive you into a state of insanity with the non stop discussions on bus and train models. Having Asperger’s syndrome doesn’t make you stupid and as he started to get that bit older he realised that other children were taking the Micky out of his love of the big red bus. With this he did very well to suppress his interests while in school but this did have its downfalls… Once home he’d just explode. It would all come flying out and he’d normally have a huge meltdown before finally engaging in the activities he’d wanted to engage in all day. This meant little sleep… Very little sleep.

Its not so bad when your child is in an environment where other children don’t see him as particularly “Odd” They all have their very own “Special” interests to occupy their minds to even notice his. But some children ain’t this lucky.

Regardless of where your child is educated its important to try and maintain interests so that they don’t go too OTT (the point when your child can think of nothing other than their interest). Although they have passion, the lack of concentration & appropriate social engagement with others can present huge problems later.

You might want to start monitoring your child’s engagement in their interest to assess how obsessive these may be. If it shows signs of going over board you will need to try and limit the time your child engages in it. You can’t shut down their mind but distraction and routine is key. A child with a really intense special interest will probably know a lot about the subject and present some pretty impressive skills when it comes to their knowledge of the interest. This can be a real strength and as you celebrate this it will therefore help to install your child’s confidence. Just be sure they explore other areas too otherwise school work will not be tolerated if its not centred around the specific interest as they will struggle to concentrate on anything else whatsoever.

The True Magic Of Christmas

13 Dec

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This enchanting, charming, beautiful house is located at 25A Hayes Lane Bromley Kent. The family who live here have been showcasing their ever growing collection of Christmas lights for some 25 years now?

Why?

Well, its all done in the name of charity. The festive home owners have helped a number of charities by putting on a spectacular Christmas light display in the hope of raising funds for those less fortunate, national and local charities and even children with special educational needs.

I first saw the house earlier in the week when I was asked to collect my son from school due to illness. Of course it was the middle of the afternoon so the lights were not yet switched on. With that I decided to take the children back tonight for a closer look and let’s just say we wasn’t disappointed!

The house is absolutely smothered in twinkling fairy lights.You will find an assortment of Santa’s displayed on the roof top, as well as a range of giant snow globes and a Santa loaded hot air balloon.

If that’s not exciting enough, the front garden has been totally transformed into something of a magical winter wonderland that leaves children bedazzled.

The first thing that catches your eye as you approach the house is a beautifully lite mini Ferris wheel with a host of festive faces upon it (Santa and a Snowman included)!

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Nutcrackers and toy Soldiers line the pond area while further along the grass the scene of a nativity really blows you away with festive cheer.

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Everywhere you turn, every inch and every corner, you will find something to amaze you. A beautiful wishing well and a life size moving Santa. Colourful wooden trains, talking elves and more.

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As you walk about exploring your surroundings, traditional Christmas tunes can be heard playing through mini speakers. They even have a special red post box just for posting letters to Santa.

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Here’s a little video I made to try and capture just how lovely the light display really was.

As I stood looking at the amazing display that has brought families from a far to see it, I realised just what a truly amazing thing the family living inside are doing for others. The surrounding communities get the privilege of visiting with their children while many charities are indeed lucky enough to benefit from such a place.

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I noted the television flashing in the window and realised that the family were probably sat indoors doing what you or would be doing… only just outside their window, their home was now something of a tourist attraction. But here they are for their 25th year… Seriously how amazing is that? That means these guys were putting smiles on the faces of children while raising essential funds for charity since I was 5 years old.

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I dunno about you guys but I think whoever is living behind door number 25 must be a pretty amazing family.

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As a mum to a child who benefits from such kindness (as you know little man has Aspergers and special educational needs) I just wanted to spread the festive cheer and if possible get those who are able to visit the house to do so.

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Children will not be disappointed. We drove 3 miles to see the lights and would of driven further if needed.

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Sadly, this is in fact the last year that the family will be transforming their home into a beautiful Christmas winter wonderland. So… Wouldn’t it be amazing to finish this lovely tradition on a high? I would love the family to make a lovely large sum of money in donations for this years chosen charities. I plan to go along again before the end of this jolly festive season, so I can give a little more! I haven’t got much but I know every penny counts.

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So, are you local to Hayes Lane, Bromley? Have you seen the magical wonderland? If yes, I’d love to hear your thoughts! If you haven’t yet visited and are within traveling distance why not pop along and help make this a beautiful end to a magical tradition.

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Playing Bingo To Raise Money For The NAS

2 Oct

Playing bingo is not something I do often especially online. I used to go to our local bingo hall with my mum and as a result won some impressive amounts of money.

I was contacted by the guys at 888 Ladies (an online ladies only bingo site) They asked me if I wanted to play some bingo and win some money for my chosen charity.

How could I pass up the opportunity to raise some funds for the National Autistic Society (NAS). The guys at 888 Ladies loaded my account with £50 funds, (the account was easily set up and this didn’t take long at all). Then I had a month to win my charity some cash.

How it would work: I could play with the £50 funds and had the period of a month to do so. Anything I won could be reused to play more bingo. However every time I won the amount was logged and when the month was over all my prizes would be adding up and the full amount donated to the NAS.

Given I’m not really able to play during the day when I’m guessing its much busier I had no choice but to play quite late at night. I was either able to play the party bingo or the more traditional form of bingo.

I tried both forms of play but defiantly enjoyed the party bingo more. You can purchase anything from 1-90 cards and with each game you had to make a certain pattern to win. Obviously the more players the greater the prize. This also goes for the cost of each card.The greater the cost the greater the prize (dependent on the number of cards in play of course). I played everything from 5p to £1 per game play.

You may wonder how a person can possibly keep up when purchasing more than one card (90 especially). This is because the game is automatic so once you have purchased your cards the system knows when you are left with one number and if its called the game stops and your declared the game winner. The prize money is then automatically added to your account.

Of course there is the chance more than one person needs the same number and therefore you have a case of more than one winner. In such cases prize money is equally spilt between all winners.

For me online bingo isn’t really the same as the real life game. The excitement of it all is somewhat different. I love marking of my numbers with a dabber and even the danger of possibly missing your prize adds to the overall excitement. I quite missed this element of the game but still had fun all the same.

As I could only play at night I found there to be much less activity so I was therefore playing for smaller sums of money. However I did have quite a few wins and just knowing that each one was adding to my overall total for the NAS was really exciting.

The total I won was around £54 in total plus the initial £50 is donated so that’s £104. Yay… I’m glad the NAS will be able to make use of my donation.

Why I chose the NAS: A charity very close to my heart. My son has Aspergers and through some of our hardest battles from diagnosis to education they have been supportive. I’ve also volunteered for their TSS (tribunal support service) to help other parents get their children the special education they deserve. When it comes to advocating and advice the NAS do it best. They also run special schools and other services. Click here to visit their informative website

#Mad blog awards 2012 finalist plea

2 Jun

So, there are just 5 days left till the voting closes for the Mad blog awards. I’m chuffed to have made it to the finals of the Mads 2012 (most inspiring category). This year there’s some fantastic blogs amongst the finalists and it’s worth just popping over to discover some fabulous new reading material.
Mum and Dad Blog Awards 2012

However if you do love what I do then please vote A boy with Aspergers for most inspiring 2012. Voting closes on the 6th June 2012 at 5pm. Just click the button above.

Here’s a video that myself and the little man created to drum up some support and thank those who have supported us so far

Huge thank you to all our readers and supporters and to that of Sally for making the Mad blog awards what it is today…something I’m dead proud to be involved in!

#HAWMC DAY 18 – Inspiration

23 Apr

Stories can be used to establish social routines (using ‘fill in the blank’ procedures) and improve the ability to make social judgements. They may also be useful in helping others better to understand the child’s perception and responses.

 Children With Autism & Aspergers Syndrome: A Guide For Practitioners & Carers (By Patricia Howlin)

 The above statement is one made in one of many books I own that covers topics relating to the autism spectrum.“Children With Autism and Aspergers Syndrome – A Guide For Practitioners & Carers” was one of the very first books I acquired on the subject and I will still often refer to it from time to time. So, naturally when day 18 of the #HAWMC was set with the prompt “Pick a random statement from a book and write about it for 15 minutes” this was my first port of call. 

 There are hundreds upon hundreds of statements made within this particular book, so, why this one?

 I feel it’s important to highlight the above to other care givers, especially those with a newly diagnosed child. Yes, this is a life long condition that cannot be cured. Nonetheless, there are things that you can do to help your child develop better social interaction and communication skills, along with important life skills with the use of some commitment and good old-fashioned creativity.

 When my own son was first diagnosed, I didn’t really get sat down and given all the answers, if the truth be told no one really has them to give. Yes, I was sat on a chair amongst an entire room of professionals and all though I was asked that question… you know the one “Do you have any questions” I just didn’t know where to start, I just remember having plenty. I was therefore sent on my way with a folder of bits and pieces and a very jumbled mind. 

 It wasn’t in-till long after the little guy was diagnosed that I attend something called the “Early Bird Plus” designed for both caregivers and teaching professionals caring for or teaching a newly diagnosed child. Now although “Technically” Little man wasn’t exactly newly diagnosed, I still wanted to attend and have some of those unanswered questions answered! 

 It was during this course that I was first introduced to the simple yet effective idea of visual prompts and clues. With this I didn’t only discover ways to formulate routines, making them visible to Little man so he remained aware of what was happening when and where, but they also still play a big part in Little man’s daily bathroom routine enabling him to better do things in sequence (though sensory sensitivities remain a huge factor we are yet to improve)!

 There are many ways to use these visual aids (kinda like the visual symbols used for PECS). They are also very easy to create or if you don’t fancy that they can be found normally on a string of websites and are mainly free to download. 

 I designed and created a great visual aid for use in the bath room and that of the bedroom. Although he reacted in the way I expected when introducing the aids I soon discovered he was using that of the one in his bedroom to help him formulate his bedtime routine! Ok, he remains an extremely poor sleeper, though he does follow the chart removing the symbol cards that I attached to some Velcro dots, placing them in the pocket I attached to the bottom of the chart. He now uses a written reminder he keeps within on of his many organisers. Nonetheless, the bathroom system remains in place and although his very tactile defensive his got the sequence going and is trying much better than before.  It’s my view that any positive improvements within this area really need to be fused over with lots of praise being given to the child.

 So, how else can we use pictures and words as a visual clue and symbol to teach our children the basics in making the right social judgements as-well as good communication and interaction skills to formulate good friendships?

 Some may have heard of social stories which are a great way of getting a child on the spectrum prepared somewhat for an unfamiliar situation such as a trip to the dentist or even a fun day out at a theme park. 

 You can easily make up a pretty effective social story with no more than an exercise book and some pens! However using photos (if available) of the places that you plan to visit and those people you are visiting (of course with their given permission) can really help a child with autism or aspergers feel more prepared with the situation and therefore calmer on the day! Lets face it, who likes visiting the unknown? Those with autism have difficulty regulating their emotions and that of anxiety can trigger a number of undesirable reactions both during the lead up and that of the day. 

 Little man is growing up, his heading up to secondary school (lucky for us this is one that is attached to his current independent special school). People find it difficult to understand that many of Little Mans sudden outburst are caused by anxiety. I think this is not only because Aspergers is known to be the “hidden disability” but more the fact he can come across (at times) rather street wise, especially more so now. The truth is he is improving with the help of his school, his friend next door and some social modelling from others, but his still more than likely to say the wrong thing, something inappropriate, generally considered social unacceptable. But there are times I do wonder maybe they got it wrong then bang… something happens, a meltdown, over intense conversation on his special interest and the inability to shut off. Then there’s his all nighters and inability to switch off. That’s the thing, your child may have problems with social skills but as they grow they can often act a certain way for a chain of different social situations. I’m not stating Little man is socially correct all of the time but his learning. One thing I do try empathise & encourage is for Little man to be himself as he has at times totally moulded himself in a certain way to fit more comfortably into certain social groups and gatherings. He maybe a success but once home he off loads and he will normally have a hell of a lot of bottled up stress need releasing. It’s important that he knows how to behave for an array of situations but to reframe of hide who you are by either going into oneself coming across as a bit shy or maybe even a loner to avoid running into difficulties or act a way because it gets you liked by others, both something  Little man engaged in during mainstream, I can tell you from a parental perspective that this isn’t anything other than a disaster waiting to happen. 

 As many a parent of a child on the autism spectrum can probably vouch, we as parents are presented with that bit more reason to worry when it comes to our children growing up and therefore having to experience new things as they embark on their journey to adulthood. Something like visuals and good social modelling are of the up-most importance and will in time become a natural way of life and acquired parenting skills that we will find ourselves doing with little if any thought at all.

 You know your child and will learn what works best for them and you as a family. As mentioned earlier within this post, Little man no longer uses visual symbols for within his room but now uses words, just as you or I may write our schedule of order of events in a personal diary or organiser , this works and if even he remains awake till 3am with school set to kick of a few hours later, his still able to do those important steps to prepare for bed from brushing his teeth to putting his clothes in the wash. As for preparation for a new situation, we don’t always get things right (those that read about our Butlins holiday at Christmas will more than agree that it didn’t go smoothly) yet at times things go much better than maybe they would have if the effort to prepare Little man wasn’t made. I did the social stories with pictures, but he sees things very black and white so its important to have visual reminders of “Real life” places, people, etc this helps him to formulate some kind of image and expectation. The only danger of this is to be careful not to overdo it as spotted difference or unexpected changes could make the hard work go to pot!

 Lately, I’ve tried to be more creative with how we do the above. I’m agree he knows he sees thinks differently and thinks and processes information a tad different from his age peers. I’m also aware that as his grown his not welcomed anything that causes him to stand out so I’ve tried to continue with the preparation while making it more fun, age appropriate and fun. Last week why searching the App store on my iPhone 4S for some type of daily planer and social story maker, I found Comic Book. As you do, I had great fun playing around with it and trying different things. I created the picture below of my toddler Harley, and sisters new baby Riley. It has a number of stickers with great phrases, themes, colours, fronts and more. After testing it with the toddlers pics, I felt assured that this would be a great fun addition to my social preparation tool kit and Little man agreed it was pretty cool. Maybe with the doctor’s permission  you could snap a few pics during the next appointment and use this for your comic strip! For me, this is an App that will provide more than just good fun. 

 Other ideas are that of video recordings of places you may visit, memory books of the places you have been to before or even use small visual cards, laminated and hole punched and added to a curly key chain key ring and attach to your child’s belt loop. This is perfect for non-verbal children as they can use the symbols as a way to communicate their basic needs such as using the toilet while at school instead of become frustrated or upset. Again all these are easily made and need not cost a fortune.

 I also mention in another of my recent #HAWMC post about the brilliance of Pinterest, I’ve created a great Autism and Sen board that’s packed full of ideas to help your child in the areas discussed and many more… Yes, total pin head here! 

Below are some ideas on creating and using visual aids. These are taken from the autism & Sen board on my Pinterest and original author also included with these pins

from the blog rockabyebutterfly.blogspot.com

from the blog carrotsareorange.com

from the blog etadventures.blogspot.com.au

 Visuals may not seem appropriate right now, you may feel your child doesn’t need them? Remember at some point in our life we all require the use of prompts and instructions as-well as organisation… a work timetable or organiser. When we experience anxiety concerning an upcoming situation or event we form a mental picture which isn’t always easy for a child like mine! Early intervention is the key so if your child could do with a little prompt or preparation, why no give visuals and social stories a try? 

#HAWMC DAY 17 – Learning the hard way is often the only way

20 Apr

He stood before me, his expression was one of seriousness & confusion…

“Miss xxxxxxx I don’t know what you’re trying to suggest here, but we both know that you made the decision to collect and take your son home, nobody requested you do so!”

Speechless, I felt my whole body tremble. It wasn’t fear but a mix of both anger and shock! This surely wasn’t how it was meant to be! This was… Well, just wrong! 

“Excuse me, but you called me and had me collect him, you know you did!” 

He stared blankly at me as he made a continuous  shaking motion with his head. Suddenly it hit me… If this man could stand before me telling porkers then he could surely do the same when discussing any situation relating to my child. Now, I always believe my child when he tells me something though he does have this unintentional habit of exaggerating a situation a tad so. Now, I’d never again question his words, especially if it had anything to do with his head teacher!

You don’t really ever expect to receive a call from your child’s head teacher requesting you collect your child immediately because they are unable to contain his unpredictable and challenging behaviour, especially when they have always claimed he has no issues at school, implying it’s a “Home Thing!” This is even more surprising given the fact it’s suddenly a recurring event, one that is now being denied! 

This was the kick up the behind I needed to learn everything education related. This included, school’s and LEAs statutory requirements, the SEN code of practice, Education act and anything else related to SEN.

Of course my first discovery was that of “Illegal Exclusions” I therefore quickly got legal advice before putting my findings to the Head teacher and those other professionals attending the current meeting. I half  expected to be thrown a few excuses but to stand and look me in the eye and lie… No, I didn’t expect this!  

Feeling a mixture of sickness and disbelief, I asked myself where we’d go from here. Deep down I knew this was the beginning of a battle… I guess I just never expected it to be so tough!

Yes, this is one of many incidents that happened during Little man’s mainstream schooling, in fact this is a pretty mild example! 

Some of the events that followed were truly horrifying! Exclusions on a weekly basis, especially on days of school trips or special events… He even got hide away while ofsted inspected the joint! He was taught in isolation like some cage animal and the bull shit keep following. 

On one particular occasion when I was collecting Little man from school as a result of yet another exclusion, it was claimed my son had called the head teacher a “Wanker” and I openly agreed. Now… although I did pretty much by this point consider him to be just so, the incident was one that never actually occurred whatsoever, it was all based on lies. Another occasion was in relation to a weekly trip the children made to the local allotment. It was agreed I’ll attend so little man could go! However, on this day I was informed of a staff shortage with the result being a cancelled trip. 

As I sat enjoying the mid-days sun while sipping a lemonade through a straw as I enjoy my last few hours freedom which I happened to be spending with my sister in my mother’s garden that lays directly opposite the allotments. Suddenly, I’m greeted with the most worrying sight. Sitting up I flick my sunnies from my head down to my eyes in order to get a better look! Surely not… No stinking way is that them! But it was, it was all of them, the whole class minus one!

I wasn’t mistaken as a child recognised me and waved… though they were no more than 15ft away the teacher failed to spot me, though I spotted him and god that made me angry! 

I felt my eyes begin to water beneath my oversized sunnies. My sister looked a me, her face a picture of pure horror, she asked… “Claire… what are you going to do?”

“Nothing!” was what I answered!

On collection from school I asked the Little man’s Teaching Assistant what the children did instead of attending the allotment… as expected, I was feed so more bum fluff!

Of course now I was pushed to a limit… With this and a whole host of other sad events I filed a claim of “Disability Discrimination” I had my fighting boots on and I was adamant that I’ll pull them down and show them to be the “True Professionals” they really were!

I’d be lying if I said it was easy! There was tears, lots of tears. Lies… so many I’d lost count months ago. Reading the schools response to my claims I truly saw how corrupt they were as I saw a filed document being used as evidence. This document was a timetable of the allotment programme, it claimed that 2 schools (one being theirs) had agreed to swap days that week, they claim it was this group of children I see! 

A week before the hearing I agreed on a settlement. I  removed my son from the school but I needed to not only have the schools lies revealed as just that… Lies! I also wanted my child to be given a full apologise while it was of great importance that this terrible treatment didn’t continue on in this manner. 

Having rejected a series of written apologies while suggesting alternative wording for the next, we finally got there. The Letter apologised for different incidents as well as stating it would review it’s policies and train its staff in SEN with a certain date attached as a deadline. 

What exactly did I learn the hard way? I learnt that those we often put our trust in are the ones we sometimes should fear most. I learnt how money and funding truly comes before the child when it comes to that of education. Lastly I learnt that I’m stronger than I ever thought I was!

#HAWMC DAY 10 – Dear 16-Year-Old Me

10 Apr

Dear 16-year-old me…

Yes, I know you think it will be easy, move to Spain living the high life with your pals, pals that will actually be long gone by your 17th Birthday! Surprised?

You will be!

Do you think the world owes you little girl? It owes you nothing, in fact you need to brace yourself for the ride of your life, a roller coaster that will leave you clinging, one so fast and furious you’re not know if you’re coming or going!

Life owes us nothing and you’ll soon discover this!

Here’s some valuable advice to start you on your journey.

You’ll face some difficult times, ones that test your inner strength more than you’ll ever know possible.

You’ve already come so far, though metal health will always remain a big part of your life. Stop hiding from it, deal with it, life is far simpler this way.

You’ll continue your battle with OCD but as you grow, you’ll grow stronger and every now and then you’re realise how you’ve grabbed it by the balls.

You’ll become a young mum, but a good one. Your journey through parenthood wont always be an easy one but it will be an awarding one at that.

Your first-born son will be diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome at age 7, you’ll use so much strength obtaining the diagnosis you’ll have little left to digest it!  

Remember, those who are meant to understand probably wont, don’t waste your energy trying to make them… take it one step at a time.

You, have so much to offer, though you don’t know it yet god has a plan, it’s a pretty good one too.

Eating disorders, anxiety and OCD, you’ll thing you’ve faced it all, only life has some surprises, you’ll get through them your strong.

You’ll discover that schools are not what you thought they were when you discover how the child you love is so cruelly discriminated against and at this point you’ll be gearing up for the hardest battle yet.

You’ll learn all there is to learn when it comes to special educational needs, but your determination will see you through it and this determination will then be used in the most powerful of ways.  

You’ll endure the heart breaking pain of losing a pregnancy and never meeting your twins, but you’ll be greeted with the beautiful toddler you have today.

By age 30, you’re the mother of three beautiful children and though life can be hard at times, you know your blessed with the most precious of gifts one could ask for. 

Oh yes, right now you hate to write, actually you loath it! The funny thing is, this will become your love, you’ll write everything, your life becomes an open book, one you hope inspires others… writing is what you now do, you even bag yourself an award for doing it so well.

Yes, little Claire Louise, I see you hold your tummy as you laugh yourself into a frenzy… just you wait and see!

Blog 10/30 in the wego health #HAWMC 

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