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SPECIAL FREE SCHOOLS – ARE THEY WORTH IT?

30 Jun

I recently attended the “New Schools Forum” to gain some information about the setting up of Special Free Schools and to write what I had learnt into a report for the blog “Special Needs Jungle

Below you can find out just what I learnt from the forum!

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Is it worth the hassle (a 100+ page bid and one hell of a load of work) that comes with starting a Special Free School!

Well, there are many factors needing careful consideration as well as a number of different circumstances each need applying to. For example, Is the School already up and running, therefore requiring just “Free School” Status? This could apply to any school (independent & non-maintained) this excludes that of state schools who can instead apply to become Academies.
Maybe you are considering starting up a Special Free School from scratch. It may only exisit on paper or an idea in your head. Maybe its because there is a gap in SEN provision that needs filling, therefore an idea of a Special Free school makes sense.

So, as not to confuse anybody (as we all know these things can be mind boggling) I’ll therefore take this one step at a time and will try to be as clear as possible.

Firstly, What is a Special Free School?

A Special Free School is one that is funded by the Government yet run independently. So, you may ask how these are any different from independent schools? Independent schools are not reliant on the government for funding, instead these schools are funded by a combination of tuition fees, gifts, fundraising or in some cases income investments (for profit organisations). Non-maintained schools are normally ran by Not for profit charities approved by the secretary of state to take children with statements of SEN.

SO, What must a Special Free School Provide & how must it be run?

Provide education for children assessed as needing statements of SEN between the ages of 5-19 years of age.

Provide education to a minimum of 5 children

Only teach children with SEN or those being assessed as having SEN

Have Regard to the SEN Code of practice

Provide a curriculum that is one tailored to an individuals needs

Ran by an acedemy trust (Charitable trust/not for profit)

Admissions to Special Free Schools will continue to be made via the LEA who retain responsibility for assessing a childs SEN

Important factors…

Applications must only be made by those schools that are new (meaning ones not already funded by the state as already mentioned above)!

So… Who can set up a Special Free School?

Well, I should really rephrase the above question to, “Who can apply to set up a Special Free School?” Because the answer is just about anybody can, but this doesn’t mean to say your application will be approved!

This isn’t just a case of knowing that their is a gap in SEN provision (though it helps) groups of parents, charity groups ect… will struggle unless they have a member of their group who has strong knowledge of the education system (basically how to run a school on a senior level)! Head teachers and board of governors make a good starting block. From what I have heard, many parent groups have formed wanting to start Special Free Schools but due to their lack of knowledge on the running of a school (including costs) they have therefore fell at the first hurdle. This isn’t just a case of coming together, forming a group and filling in an application… No, it’s a lot more long winded than that.

Parents/groups/charity groups looking to apply to open Special Free Schools need to do there homework and should realise this isn’t the only option (setting up fully independent schools may be a better, if not slightly easier process). If wanting to apply to set up a Special Free School, groups should appoint a director(s) and as mentioned, preferably someone who has some inside senior knowledge on the running of a school and importantly the likely cost that come with it.

Writing the bid is also a far from easy task, this normally exceeds a 100 pages and no stone should be left unturned! Only then is there a chance you will make it to the “Interview Stage” The Governement has set up the New Schools Network which is there to help groups throughout the process and should really be your first port of call.
Understandably, given the state of the SEN system at present (the fact that there just isn’t enough special schools in most areas and the gaps in provision is huge) many groups, especially those consisting of parents of children diagnosed with SEN, will be looking into Special Free Schools. However, I feel that when looking more closely, they may well discover things are much more complicated then identifying the need for a school, finding a site and opening one! I’m not stating that people assume its easy, just it seems much harder than I first thought, plus it may not be all its cracked up to be (just read on to see where I’m going with this)!

So, what about that of already set up independent schools? Is it beneficial for those groups of applicants? It sounds so considering these will continue to be ran independently yet receive state funding to do so! What’s the catch? Of course like everything there is one!

Firstly I should start by stating that special schools that are already setup and established will not be provided with the “Start up funding” However, it should be noted that there are some exceptions, these being special circumstances such as expanding there pupil capacity but there is still no guarantees.

The next big factor is that of admissions. Once Special Free School status is granted to those independent schools, the LEA will have the right to make them take children with varying needs, ones the school claims not to cater for. Therefore this technically means that independent schools that for example only provide education for children on the autism spectrum, will maybe be made to take children with other needs, social emotional, more complexed SEN or varying disabilities. Actually for me this is a massive issue, one that would make me consider such a change much more carefully if I was making such a decision about an independent school.

My son is in an independent special school just for children with autism and aspergers. Its a school who teach in small groups and have quite high pupil to teacher ratios. I would honestly worry if it was to convert to that of Special Free School status. I’m not being selfish, I just feel that by admitting children outside this status of SEN may result in all children not having their needs met, not mentioning the school becoming over capacitated.
I also slightly worry that dependent on how many independent schools within my postcode convert to Special Free School Status, the local LEA may try to move my child in order to save money (his at an independent out of borough school).

So… with the bad points out of the way, is there any good ones! The only ones I can actually think of is that of the reduction in tribunal cases. It’s quite simple really… Independent special schools convert to Special free school then the number of parents bringing cases to the SEN tribunal will fall. LEA’s will be much more willing to now send a child to the school as it wont be charging the independent fees it once did. This would also mean that more children would possibly be educated within their borough. For me, neither outweigh the issue of admissions (this for me just creates worry).

Whoever you are, if a Special free school is something you are seriously considering their are important issues to consider. One of the biggest is that of the pending Green paper. I ask you, with SEN provision still up in the air, is now the right time to be making such huge decisions? The Green Paper will mean a complete SEN overhaul. This includes the scraping of the SEN Statement with the “Education, Health and social care plan” taking its place. Other factors include everything from the way a child with SEN is assessed, the funding a school will receive and the possibility of a personal budget. We don’t even know what the new education heath and social care plan will even look like and if the social care part will hold any legal and statutory duty whatsoever.

Can’t this government do one thing at a time, it makes no sense to me to open Special Free schools when the way such children are provided for remains so unclear.

OK… So heres the nitty gritty on the issue of Special Free School funding
Now, there is no set capital (not that anybodies letting on) this is therefore allocated on a project for project basis. The secretary of state must take into account the estimated or “potential” costs of each individual groups bid. As already stated there is no start up funding for existing schools, only new schools (special circumstances will be given consideration)!

Do your homework, this is a government funded scheme which will mean that they want to see low costs and good value for money!
Remember, the government is still consulting on long term funding for special schools. As it stands the interim funding arrangements put in place is to receive base funding level funding of 10k per place (note there may be additional funding from some LEAs dependent on an individual’s needs (SEN statement)! Well, lets be honest, 10k isn’t much, especially for a child with complex needs who requires a number of provisions put in place like SALT and OT given on a high level.

Lastly, special free schools like other free schools should receive a bog standard grant to compensate for services that state maintained schools recive from the LA.

If considering a Special Free School, remember these only cater for children aged 5-19. This is regardless of the pending education, health and social care plan which covers children aged 0-25! This therefore gives a clear indication that before the age of 5 and after the age of 19, it may well only be the social care side which applys (here’s hoping that has some type of statutory duty attached or otherwise what’s actually different)?

So, there you have it! I hope I didn’t confuse you!

Thanks to Tania (special needs jungle) for asking me to attend the New Schools Network forum which enabled me to write this report
Please visit the New Schools Network for detailed information and advice on Special Free Schools and Free Schools

The Kleenex man

10 Jun

I sit staring at the large white clock to the point some may think I’m fixated. It reminds me of the type of clock I used to have at school. I would stare at that clock for hours longing for time to lapse around me.

“Miss Parkinson… Miss Parkinson, can you hear me”

Shut up I thought, of course I can hear you, it doesn’t mean I want to!

But it was I who had came here, no one had asked me to, I wasn’t forced, dragged kicking and screaming.

It was I who had picked up the phone, dialled the number, made an appointment.

Now I didn’t know what to say…I didn’t… well no, I did know why I had come. But now I was confused so fucking confused.

“Miss Parkinson, have you got to be somewhere”

Bloody hell, now I felt as if I was in school! Seriously is he joking?

Sarcasm within therapy whatever next!

“No” I said

“Ok let’s get started, but at your own pace…OK?”

I nodded, I wanted to speak, really I did. I had a lot to say but now I was here my head it was all muddled like a jigsaw with pieces missing.

I had been here before, I trusted him, the man who wore the nonjudgemental face, the man who always had a box of Kleenex at the ready.

That’s why I chose here you see, I needed to see the Kleenex man!

I’m still staring at the clock, its tick and its tock can be heard through the bitter silence.

He coughs…. I look round

He smiles as he passes me those tissues.

Taking one I hold it tightly in the palm of my hand, if I don’t I know I’ll fiddle with it… likely pick it to tiny little pieces.

I take a deep breath in closing my eyes I excel opening them once more.

“Nobody believes me” I said.

I can feel it, the warm water leaving the corner of my eye. Please don’t ask me, I think. But then he speaks

“Who… Who doesn’t believe you, and what is he they don’t believe” he asks inquisitively.

Once more the room is filled with silence and I can hear the ticking and the tocking of the clock. I look down and there scattered around my feet are tiny pieces of tissue.

“Who…?” he asks once more.

As I go to open my mouth I taste the salt form my tears, like a child I catch my breath…

“The school… The school” I whimper.

Silence once more… Tick… Tock… Tick… Tock…

Then before he can ask…

“My son’s school, they don’t believe what is happening, they think it’s me… They think it’s all my fault!”

“They won’t help me… No one will, why, why won’t they help” I plead.

You see, I was close to the edge of crazy, so fucking close. The situation was costing me my health, what kind of mother would that make me? On That very day and at that very time I wasn’t aware of what I’m aware of now! The very beginning of a Journey one I never planned on taking, I don’t have a choice, no one asked me if it was okay, god didn’t ask me. I hate it when people say that god does everything for a reason, he chose me because I’m strong. Sat here writing this I remember that day with my therapist so clearly, and on that particular day I felt anything but strong! I felt desperate, I felt as if I was standing on a mountain screaming and nobody looked up… Nobody! Your little boy is hitting you, his so angry and he charges at you like some crazed bull, but his not a bull his a 6 year old child who tells you “mummy I hate you” as he rages with sheer frustration! But why is he frustrated? It’s just that, my lack of knowing… He wants me to, he needs my to understand what his feeling! I miss the trigger I then spend a lifetime discovering it. No one can teach me, I need to learn myself! But this doesn’t mean we don’t need answers… Everybody needs answers!

Ashamed I said nothing, for a while anyway. But i’m no super mum and soon I broke… Started crumbling into a heap of madness, but when I reached out, there was no one there to catch me. I didn’t say I needed parenting tips, I didn’t need some false caring stranger visiting my home and judging my parenting… Especially when I had asked my sons school for help. I felt judged, bullied… I felt disregarded! They failed to notice the bigger picture, they almost cost my child his diagnosis of Aspergers syndrome, they almost cost me my sanity!

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Special School – Don’t write it off!

12 Mar

As a parent of a child diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome and special educational needs, I’ve been through the whole tiresome, wearisome battle to obtain a statement of Special educational needs (SEN) that states ALL of my child’s needs, as-well as providing the appropriate resources needed to meet such needs.

I’ve faced the whole mind-boggling experience associated with searching for an appropriate education setting, somewhere with the right resources to cope with what has been described as my child’s “Complex Needs”

I’ve embarked on the deliberating decision, when it comes down to the choice between Mainstream or Special School.

After many battles for, assessments, a statement, an amended statement & the almighty fight to obtain the right school placement, we finally found ourselves here!

Though it was far from easy, Little man now attends an independent day special school, especially for those children on the autism spectrum, catering for children through their primary and secondary education!

There is no words I can use to describe, how having your child’s needs finally met changes life for that of yourself, child and immediate family! When you finally secure that placement, having engaged in many years of consistent fighting for what only seems a child’s most basic right!

Three years ago, you would have likely heard me stating, “Mainstream schooling was the only form of schooling my child would be attending!” Admittedly, like most parents of children with autism or SEN, today, I was ill-informed, completely clueless if you like, to how special school’s actually operated! Well, why would I be any the wiser, I’d never even seen inside the doors of a special school, in all honesty, I guess I kind of collaborated the little I did know (well, what I thought I knew) to that of what I’d been told, the not so great opinions of others! This of course did nothing other than help produce an image within ones mind, resembling something far from accurate!

My opinion was my own, through it was sadly built upon that of ignorance! I’d naively thought that by attending a mainstream school, my child would learn the rules of socially acceptable behaviour, his “typical” peers would somehow be his social skill trainers, without even knowing the importance of their job, they would actively model how society expects one to perform in life.

Surly special schools could only pull my child under, corrupt his delicate evolving mind, somehow lowering his own expectations of what he could possibly do if truly desired! Those around him would swamp him, drowned him in their world, lower functioning children would draw out his more noticeable “autistic traits” he would somehow feed from them, becoming more and more aloof with each passing day.

Would he become more autistic than he possibly was, mimicking the social behaviour of peers? Would this actually lead my child to become a child who required little if no encouragement, staff assuming he was a lost course? Would it just be expected of him to achieve lower marks than he was typically capable of? Would he therefore never be pushed to display his full potential? Then there was the consistency the overly well organised routines, would this make my child more rigid, therefore more demandingly challenging with a total lack of flexibility within the home?

Right then, at that time, the possibilities, even if conceived from ignorance and lack of informed information, made special school not an option! My ill-informed mind was made up!

Nonetheless, 3 years ago, I wouldn’t have been given the option, regardless of whether he needed it or not! You see, this isn’t how it works, though within time, I came to understand this!

It wasn’t at least till 2-years ago,that mainstream school finally admitted that there were indeed problems (and lots of them)! Little man had gone from the active school refuser,the aloof quite child, to one who could not follow the simplest of tasks. He became far more challenging what with sensory triggers and a string of misconceptions. He was no longer able to contain his evolving desire for peer interaction, though he regrettably fell at every hurdle in his quest to achieve it.

Those that did befriend him, did so as to lead him into troubled waters, always getting him to play the clown while laughing uncontrollably when he got into trouble.

Misconceptions and mixed messages lead to constant exclusions, removal of life’s simple pleasures, privileges such as trips and playtimes.He found himself being taught in isolation, removed from what he knew, despite not being able to fully understand it anyway!

When Little man began stating he wanted to be normal, while bashing his head senseless against a wall, choice no longer had a degree of influence within this heartbreaking situation! Basically I needed him out! Unable to let this situation continue, I removed him from the school!

We filed a claim for discrimination on the grounds he was being treated differently as a result of his Aspergers Syndrome as-well as the fact no reasonable adjustments were being made! The school finally held it’s hands up, just days before the tribunal hearing I had been dreading.

By this point in time, an absolute turn around had occurred! The LEA no longer ignorantly refused to carry out a salutatory assessment of little man’s special educational needs! By this point I’d started training, learning the English Education Act, including those very important sections addressing special educational needs. What’s more I’d also obtain a solicitor (it was one thing helping others to get their child’s needs met, yet my own child’s education was in such a state, the solicitor could only but help)! The addition of letters devised by a solicitor did help to move things along, yes, I’m sure of this! Plus thanks to the appointed solicitor, Little man had now undergone independent OT, SALT and EP assessments, all of which greatly differed from those findings given by the LEA. This was all well and good, yet the discovery of the extent of his OT needs and possible additional conditions discovered by his EP, did cause me to draw one or two tears, before jumping back up into fighting mode!

Little man was no longer being home schooled and I’d managed to get the LEA to provide 5 hours a day of 1-2-1 tuition by a tutor at the local library! This was something that continued for almost 8 months!

A statement was finally produced, though it was better suited to a no frills range at the local supermarket. Parts 2 and 3 failed to include little if any real needs or any resources needed to meet such needs. The LEA were now frantically searching for a stat special school, non in which were even willing to meet him (with the exception of one)! I received daily letters through my letterbox from numerous school’s all stating the same, ” Sorry, we feel that we do not have the resources to meet ******** complex needs”

I’d come around to the prospect of a special school, gone were the days of ignorance, I’d now learnt that there were schools for both MLD and SLD as well as specialist schools catering for children with Autism spectrum conditions. I embraced the prospect of a school that had small classroom numbers, teachers who understood my child’s needs, such great things began to excite me. Given the last few years of hell, that mainstream school had brought us, my views had changed more than a little!

I could now be found saying

“My child will never attend a mainstream school again, not over my dead body!”

Now, this remark was not based on ill-informed opinions, underlying ignorance, but one made from experience, and not a good one at that!

With the discovery of Baston House, Independent Special School for those children holding a diagnosis of autism or aspergers syndrome, which was founded by the lovely Anna Kennedy (activist and a mother of two boys on the spectrum) I had to investigate and check the place out!

The school caters for both primary and secondary children, when visiting there was a handful of pupils but just meeting them along with the staff it become very clear that this was the place Little man needed to be!

I wasn’t under the illusion that it was an easy process, after all this was an independent school. However, with the LEA struggling to find a state school by the tribunal date, they gave up, no longer opposing any of my requested amendments.

This meant that not only did they now amend the statement to include all the recommendations of the independent assessors, making this the largest statement I’ve seen, I received some much sought after news.

Of course these amendments included part 4 of the statement! Baston house school was finally named, and I felt something I’d never felt possible, the up most relief and excitement that my child would now spend his school days in his new SPECIAL SCHOOL!

It’s been around 9 or more months now and we are currently approaching his annual review meeting! He will also move up to the secondary department which is within the same school, making this a less stressful transition.

Life now is a lot different! There are less phone calls from upset angry teachers, not one exclusion *madly touches wood* Amazingly little man has also risen 7 (YES, 7) sub levels in reading (in little over a few terms)! Ok, he still doesn’t sleep much and can’t help to have a supermarket meltdown, but his happier, that much, I’m sure off.

So, has special school caused him to regress? No, it’s actually the best decision I’ve ever made for my son, making the hardest and most emotional grating fight of my life, all now seem worth it! Seriously I wouldn’t change a thing!

So, if like me, you rejected the prospect of a special school, then remember this post! Do what you think is right! My advice… follow your heart, it will show you where to go, there is a school for every child, whether it’s mainstream, special or even at home, you’ve just got to find it!

The comment from a child with autism

6 Nov

Have you ever logged onto your blog to be presented with a comment that brings tears to your eyes within a second of reading it? I have!

Writing the blog, ‘A boy with Aspergers’ has not only helped me express myself, giving me a platform to put down my thoughts, share our trails and tribulations, celebrate our achievements as a family, a place to off load both the good and not so good, but it’s so helped me to connect with other families like my own. I have always hoped that other families draw comfort from my words, somehow relate and feel they are not alone! There are many parents of children on the autism spectrum, that have commented one my blog and when they state how the blog or facebook page has helped them somehow, I feel inspired to write more.

But what if its not a parent, teacher, carer or other that comments on your blog, what if its a child, one who is on the autism spectrum, a young teenage girl who within a few simple words manages to share her likes & dislikes, express her lack of happiness with the world she lives in, as well as the things she longs for most as a teenager? She didn’t want the latest mobile phone or a tenner to go see a movie with a friend, no! She wanted something that most of us take for granted, either that or something we don’t fully appreciate. Below you can read the words that I read when opening my blog today, the words of one teenage girl on the autism spectrum…

I am a girl who got Autism. Who can’t really make new friends too hard me make really upset.
I am a girl who really like to handwriting a lot, liking to make the teacher laugh!
I am a girl who like to dance, listen to music, go on a computer or on a laptop.
I am a girl who sometimes repeat her self.
I am a girl who gets wind up all the time.
I am a girl who gets into trouble a lot.
I am a girl who get pick on a lot.
I am a girl who need to make a new friends who i really trust.
I am a girl who is feeling really alone.
I am a girl who always staying in at play times sometimes.
I am a girl who really need to gets help.
I am a girl who really talk anyone.
I am a girl who feels like getting push out of stuff.
I am a girl who always put same things!
I am a girl who really need a new friends who can keep secrets and who I really trust of a best friend.
I am a girl who feels really alone.

Note these words have not been edited in any shape or form & the original comment can be found over on the page “Autism love list” located under the header above.

Little man quite possibly the next Jamie Oliver?

19 Oct

What an interesting year this is turning out to be! Not only am I now an award winner for doing something I adore, I also have a son attending a school that he doesn’t shudder at the thought of going each morning but one that has also converted him into something of a little ‘Jamie Oliver’.

Little man is really getting to grips and enjoying the cooking lessons his being given in food tech.

So far, the Little Man has brought home, yummy cookies, fairy cakes, pizza and last week it was Rock cakes.

I now sit eagerly awaiting my son’s return from school in the hope he brings with him some yummy threats… “So not good for the waistline let me tell yer!”

The Rock cakes he made, free from all traces of dried fruit (his not a lover of the raisin you know) were amazingly good and seriously lead me to suspect that his taking after his father when it comes to being in the kitchen.

I love that his expressing his interest in a more positive light while expanding on the things his good at why discovering new interests and abilities along the way. This is something we all deserve to experience through both our child and adulthood.

I always knew Little man was keen to get his little size threes in the kitchen door, lets not forget I found him trying to cook bacon in the early hours of the morning as a four-year old tot! I even found him last week heating the oven in preparation for his tea (anyone would thing I didn’t feed him).

I like to encourage all my children to pursue their interest! So… when the little guy offered to make us a pizza I thought,

“Why not, what’s the worse that can happen?”

Spending a fortune at our local supermarket that’s what can & certainly did happened!

I swear it was triple the price of your standard boxed pizza!

Why?

This would be his taste for the finer things in life!

Chinese chicken, (two types, not one) organic tomatoes, Italian Milano salami and a generous amount of parmesan cheese was what he requested for his masterpiece in waiting.

Once home with a bag of ingredients and a somewhat lighter purse, there was no stopping him getting started. The results, Yes… They were pleasant but the mess, well I guess you can’t be good at everything, especially tidying up after yourself.

Cooking isn’t the only skill the little man has acquired, his learnt other valuable lessons since attending his new school, some extremely important ones too!

In the past, little man would hit out in school and do so on a regular basis. He didn’t think about the other children stood in his way when he trashed a classroom in an angry rage. He often reacted to any upset by either absconding or hitting out at everyone, no matter how big or small the opponent. Little Man would often find himself excluded from school and any associated activities, he was a child with little if not any confidence.

Now, there have been one or two incidents in the school that Once upon a time, would have caused Little man to display the same challenges as those mentioned above. For instance, one child was angry and trashed the class, accidentally destroying little mans work in the process. Little man was terribly upset by the incident, but with lots of support and encouragement he reframed from engaging in a way that would have only see him land himself in trouble.

Little Man often finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. This was the case on Monday when his limits were truly put to the test when he was hit on the nose resulting in some bleeding. No, I don’t blame the child he was merely doing what my own child has done all to many times when upset, angry or stressed. Little man set chase and was ready to do something about it but again he was discouraged and instead allowed to come to the office and give me a call to talk through how he was feeling.

You see, I don’t want him to be a target for bullies, yet, I don’t believe these kids are! These are children like little man who have difficulty with self regulating their emotions in a controlled and socially excepted manner. I think to some extent Little man understood this too. As when we talked about the incident this evening, he explained how he wasn’t in an argument with the child he was just too close when the child got angry. What was actually quite surprising, was how he seemed to understand the situation so well! Later on that evening (much later) I was sat on my bed at gone 3 am when it finally hit me, “Why wouldn’t he understand? After all, he of all people can relate to that feeling of un-containable explosiveness that I’m sure his class peer had felt at that very moment Little man got hurt.

On the upside, I am overwhelmed by the changes being made and just how quickly such changes have progressed. I was speechless when the teacher phone me and told me what happen. As soon as I heard the words, “We thought you should know” & “Your child was involved in an incident” I felt that all to familiar churning in the pit of my stomach, the type I felt so many times before but thankfully haven’t for sometime!

I instantly thought that my child had hurt someone, and although I waited for them words expecting them to come, they never did!

Of course I did feel a certain amount of upset, purely for the fact my child had been hurt but almost instantly I felt at ease as I was reassured he was fine by both himself and the teacher who called me.

Now, yes… of course I was a proud mother when discovering my child was now learning methods to control his anger and when putting such methods into practice, he was succeeding. Little Man, was also a very happy Little man on discovery my plans to get him his much sought after Lego that he has overly requested I get him since he spotted it at our local supermarket a month or so ago.

Sat at home I felt somewhat troubled like something nasty was waiting to come along and wreak it all. It’s hard not to think in this way when it’s all you know and everything your used to! especially.

I need to discover a way to get that same reaction at home. His sister only has to look at him the wrong way and his throwing punches in hers or even my direction. This isn’t delightful for my daughter of course, and every-time he hurts her in some form her reaction is more intense then the last. I’m left feeling like I’ve failed them both, especially when my daughter loses her temper to such an extent she shouts things she is later left to sit and regret, beating herself up about it. I also release that something needs to be done more now, than ever before. Little man has said “I want to control my anger” through a stream of tears after many blow ups at home. I try to be consistent in dishing out a punishment (maybe a cut in pocket-money, or the removal of his computer) it just doesn’t work

Well, if any of you lot have some advice, I’m pretty open to suggestions, so please go ahead and leave a comment.

Still, regardless of anything else I’ve decided that this post should and will end on the high, it started on!

Other things that happened last week!

Here’s a positive, Last Tuesday I was again featured in the local paper (The South London Press) regarding the award I won (Mad blog awards most inspiring) I was also in the Newshopper on the Thursday of last week. Both articles were pretty good and apart from my horrid picture in the South London press I felt honoured to have gained the interest of both papers who also wrote about me a good few months before in relation to being a finalist.

Another bonus that added to last weeks positives, was the arrival of an email that brought with it great news on a project I’m hoping to pull together with the help of some great parents and their children. Although I’m more than a little excited about the whole thing, its best I don’t officially announce this exciting venture till a little more organisation and planing has commenced.

Here’s what I will state (well, more like request)

I’m looking for parents that have children on the autism spectrum either boys or girls between the ages of 2-17 who live in or around London who will be able to commit to a number of trips over to the South London area.

We are in the planing stages, but the whole thing is on track and set to be a hit.

Note: the project is likely to generate a little press interest so you must be happy with this aspect of the programme.

Lastly we are also happy for the child’s siblings to be put forward and therefore possibly become involved in the project.

Please if you have a daughter on the spectrum then please don’t hesitate to contact us so that you can be sent some further info (It’s all boys who have been put forward at present).

Full press release will be available on the blog for download in next few days.

So, there you have it! Everything is steadily coming together in our little house of madness. We hope your having an awesome week two.

The day my boy got his smile back.

12 Oct

I sat in the school hall watching the school nativity all the children in each year combine to create one marvellous Christmas spectacle! So, why was I sat with a tear in my eye? My daughter looked so beautiful up there, and god I was proud, off course I was! Though this wasn’t a tear of joy, something was still missing and that something was my son! As I watched his sister and the rest of the schools over excited children take part in a glowing performance,my eldest child, ‘Little man’ was sat at home, restricted from all participation! Why? Well, he hadn’t injured himself, he wasn’t hit by a sudden dose of stage fright, he was told No! Why? Because his school thought of him as a liability not a child, not a child with feelings, not a child at all!

There were lots of why’s! Some coming from myself directed at a head teacher and a SENCO who quite honestly didn’t give a shit! The why’s from Little man directed at myself, a mother without the heart to be truthful! Yet deep down he knew, I know he did!

You may have the word why running through your mind right now as you read this! You maybe asking, “Why I’m even writing this?”

Yes, the above situation wasn’t yesterday, it was just one of many crawl blows thrown at my child at the end of last year. The example above took place in December 2010.

Now, I know I shouldn’t dwell on the past, and I’m not (well, not really). It’s hard to forget and I doubt we ever will, though the reason it was actually brought to the front of my mind was for reasons of happiness and excitement, not sadness.

Yes, now in 2011 and finally in a school that understands him, I finally got to see my little man take part in a whole school activity.

This time as I entered my son’s school there was no stares or whispers. I spoke with fellow parents unworried about their response when they would discover who my child was. This is a feeling I’ve waited and waited for, now I finally have it!

It was the celebration of the harvest festival and parents were invited into school for a special assembly. Gosh I was excited, despite the fact I had literally had not a wink of sleep. With this in mind I headed off upstairs to chill for a bit. Little H was with his father so that left me a bit of mummy time. Running the hot water into the bath tube the air was filled with the scent of Radox relaxing bath salts, “This is the life” I thought as I slowly lowered a leg in the tub!

Ring… ring… ring… “Bloody typical” I shouted to myself aloud as I almost slipped and broke my neck as I frantically dashed for my mobile located on my bedside table.

“Hello” I spouted in a somewhat breathless tone (which couldn’t of sounded great) especially on discovering it was in-fact Little mans school who thankfully put me at ease instantly by stated “Don’t worry, there is nothing to worry about” Turns out the Little man has actually left his lunch at home, well, that or in his transport (the taxi he takes to school of a morning) His school don’t currently serve school dinners. This is mainly due to how new the school is and the fact there really is little point employing staff and serving food for under 20 kids (not like the little man will agree to eat it any how).

This only meant one thing! Mum would have to deliver that lunch asap! First I had to unearth it, I couldn’t actually recall seeing it since he left at 8.30 am that morning. I searched the house like a mad woman and at 11.50 and the school being some distance away (one train and a bus kind of distance) I began to worry when I still couldn’t find it! It wasn’t a case of just throw together another one, believe it or not I buy the stuff fresh each morning in some kind of hope he will eat it, so in-order to do so I’d need a shop!

As I darted out the door, on the mission for lunch something caught my eye! Surely not? Hang on…. No,… It only bloody is! There sat his Chelsea FC lunch box on top of the wheely bin. Well, I agree it’s not the most pleasant place to keep your lunch but with the clock ticking, I came to the conclusion, “It wasn’t actually in the bin! Would he actually need to know?” I guess not!

I finally made it to the school, red-faced and paranoid that I didn’t smell like the aroma of Radox bath salts, and more like a sweating scum-bag but given the fact no one smiled and moved away, I came to the conclusion it was my lack of sleep making me think this way (after all, it’s not like I hadn’t washed or something)!

The assembly wouldn’t start till 1.30 and it was half past midday and without a car and feeling like I was in the middle off nowhere I went outside sat on what was quite a pleasant little bench, indulged in my nasty but pleasurable habit of puffing a cigarette while scrolling trough my twitter timeline, engaging in far to many conversations to remain sane before going back inside to find my little man waiting for me in the reception-area.

“Mum, I’m not having a great day” he told me! Apparently no one was! The teacher described it as one of those days where the children all seem to be experiencing some kind of upset. Let’s not forget these children all have an autism spectrum condition, all face a range of difficulties and the smallest things can cause problems. Chatting with my little man it would seem he was excited yet a little nervous about his piece that he had offered to read in the assembly. My little man wanted to do the reading and was adamant. We read it together and he read it perfect! Confidence was the issue here something that had become smashed over the years.

As Little man went off to get ready I got to say hello to the very lovely Anna Kennedy. For those of you who don’t know who Ann is, I’ll enlighten you!

Anna isn’t only the founder of little mans independent special school for children with autism and aspergers, she’s also a parent of two children on the spectrum who felt her only option left to get her boys into a school was to open one herself. This wasn’t little man’s current school but another called ‘Hillingdon Manor’ in Middlesex and this all happened back in the nineties. Baston house (Little man’s school) is a school that Anna has open more recently. Anna has since established a bit of a name for herself as an inspirational advocate for autism and is also now a very successful business woman. I for one agree that Anna is inspirational, actually she’s a breath of fresh air to the autism community and I couldn’t be happier to have my child in a school that has been made possible by this very woman. My guess is many parents feel this gratefulness that I am currently feeling as I write this down.

Having spoken to Anna for some time (way before little man started school) on networks such as twitter and facebook (Little man also appeared on a news report on bullying that Anna organised) it was lovely to finally meet her in person.

As I sat In the hall waiting for the children’s performance I felt proud that my son was a part of it all. He ran around and his anxiety was a tad increased, plus the fact I was there meant he become a little bit of a terror, but so did a few of the children. What was magical was the fact no one made an issue about it, if the children ran from their chairs or dashed off behind the stage curtains they were encouraged to come back to their seats in a clam and unthreatening manner. Not one teacher raised their voice, not one!

The vicar from the local church came to speak about the occassion in which the children were celebrating. The table was covered in food that the children had donated. I had to laugh when the vicar stated, “Look at all this lovely food you all brought” only for one young man to shout out, “Actually, I brought in most of it” What a classic!

The vicar told a story to symbolise what the true meaning was of the Harvest festival and the children did shout out some pretty random things (little man more than anyone else, I think) Any other school he would have been reprimanded for such behaviour! They all put up their hands but just could not retain the urge to state what it was they wanted to say, this however was fine!

When it came to the reading Little man and a few others gathered at the stage. All giggled and in turn each took the microphone and read aloud (beautifully I must add)! Little man was last and as he took the mic he said one word and then froze. He turned to his TA and stated “I can’t do it, please do it” I knew he could read it, after all I heard him not half an hour before when we practised. My son hadn’t ever been given such a chance till now and his confidence just wasn’t there! Then something beautiful happened! Two of the staff, including his teaching assistant (who he is most keen on) and the other boys who had previously read came together with little man and read the poem with him. There was no laughing at him, no nasty remarks and no huff from the teacher, just pure encouragement!

I didn’t only write this post to express my delight at the situation we are now in, and although I wanted to share such delight with you all, I have another more important reason!

“When life seems like it cannot get much worse and you’re in the height of your long fought out battle to get your child what they did! When you think there really is no light at the end of that very long tunnel, please don’t give up, just remember this post!”

Those of you that take your child to school everyday and collect them without a hiccup, you should never take such straightforwardness for granted… You really don’t know how lucky you are!

Thank you to everyone at Baston house for giving me hope and giving my child back his smile, the greatest gift of all.

Related articles

Do your homework!

20 Aug

As a parent I’ve read many articles floating about the net, all written with the aim of assisting parents who have children returning to school this September. I find that many do not offer any information to assist those parents of the “non typical” children, the child with autism or aspergers.

 In some respects I kind of think, “Well, why would they” but when I  think about the high numbers of children being diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, I ask myself, “Well, why the hell haven’t they!” I’m no expert, “Far from it” but as a parent of an almost 11 year old  boy with a diagnosis of Aspergers syndrome who has been through both mainstream and special school (where he thankfully now resides) a child who was an active school refuser, who had been excluded more times than I care to remember, I have needed to tried one or two techniques aimed to ease the whole returning to school situation! It’s these few little techniques that I am willing to share with you here today! Sadly there are no quick fixes, believe me I know!

  I Hate this uniform

 Uniform, a total nightmare for the child with autism, especially the one who is tactile defensive! We all like to buy new school uniforms at the beginning of  the new school year (we often don’t have a choice what with the rate they grow)! However, if that uniform still fits, don’t change it! Of course there are those times it unavoidable, change of school, the start of secondary school is one great example that a new uniform will need to be brought! When little man was at his mainstream school, they suddenly introduced a new school uniform policy. Uniform posed a massive problem for little man causing all sorts of issues (even exclusion). He went from no uniform to full uniform, a huge change for any child! So, Here’s some tips on ways to make wearing uniform that little bit easier for your child on the autism spectrum!

 Get it washed

That’s right, wash new uniform in your usual detergent, not once but a good few times prior to your child returning to school. Use a fabric softener and if possible dry in the tumble-dryer as opposed to the washing-line, where clothing tends to become stiff. The tumble-drying of uniform will help to create maximum softness of garments.

 Test run

Get your child wearing the uniform for a few minutes each day increasing the time as you go. This enables your child time to get used to uniform rather then expecting them to wear it for the first time when returning to school. Think of it as wearing in a new pair of  shoes to ensure they don’t hurt your feet when you wear them on your big night out for the first time.

Let’s not go Shopping

 Most children with autism hate the prospect of shopping, even those that enjoy it fail to cope with it well. If you are lucky enough to be in the position of leaving your child with a loved one when doing your, “back to school shop” then do so. If something don’t fit you can always return it! Shopping online is another good idea. Try to buy from those you have brought from before. This way you will have an idea of the ranges they stock and the service you will receive (fast delivery, good  returns policy , etc.) Your child will also be familiar with the texture, material of the clothing, important for those who are sensitive to certain tactile input. If you do find you have to take your child shopping then go at a quieter time/day. Have the aim of buying everything in the one shop (if  possible). You can also check stock before hand if stock is in! Some stores will be helpful enough to check and then hold the items back (especially if  you explain your situation) This means you can pretty much do an in & out job which could save your child from experiencing a sensory related meltdown!

 Advanced preparation

 Most schools will introduce all children to a new teacher or learning environment (classroom) before the last day of term. This is fine for the typical child but those on the spectrum may require that bit extra!  If your child is in a special school then it’s my guess lots will be done to prepare your child for even the smallest transition.  Mainstream schools also have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for the child on the autism spectrum and this would be considered one of  those adjustments! Speak to your child’s teacher or school senco to see if the child  could maybe spend extra time with the new teacher in the run up to the end of term (school year). Maybe arrangements can be made for your child to spend a  few hours per week in the new classroom starting a few months before hand ( though there are times that schools will not be aware of the child’s new learning arrangements till the last few weeks of term, nonetheless, careful preparations need to be made). All the above and more should be done for a child making the transition from pre-school to reception and those off to secondary , etc.

 Social stories

 A great idea would be to create a social story for your child. This could be done with the help of your child’s teaching team. A picture of the new classroom  in-which your child will learn and even a photo of the new teacher could  prove a massive help. You can spend time going through your child’s social story with your child during the school holidays. If this is something you haven’t done already, don’t panic! You can create a social story with the focus of change and returning to school with cut-outs from magazines, newspapers or from visuals downloaded from the net, it’s never to late!

 Visual aids

It’s important to use visual timetables at home if used in school, this helps to create some level of consistency. Many children require images & picture symbols where others do just fine with words. Visual timetables can be expensive but you can get creative and make your own (maybe I will show you how in a post one day). Be sure to highlight during the holidays how many days are let till the return to school (Children on the spectrum like to know what’s coming next). We had this highlighted at the side of  little mans home made magnetic timetable. We just used the symbol for school with the correct number next to it as to indicate how many days remained till he returns to school. This is also a great way to avoid school refusal.

Consistency 

Another good thing to do is remain consistent throughout the school holidays. I mean keeping the bedtime routine the same. Sadly little man has trouble maintaining bedtime routines at the best of times which  technically puts me in no position to advise on the matter! Still, the concept is a good one, which is basically to keep things the same! Who knows it could work for you.

 Well, that’s it, I have an arm arch from the typing, so I’m done! I hope my little tips assist you in some way, even if it just makes one thing less trying that’s got to be something?

 Little man has just two and a bit weeks left. Here’s hoping we have a  good return to school.

A fresh start

24 Jun

It’s 3-Am the early hours of Thursday morning, Little man is running around the house like some headless loud chicken on pro-plus and redbull. 

“Come on, you really have to settle down now! You know you start your new school tomorrow, don’t you think you should get some rest”? This was me, trying to unsuccessfully reason with my ten-year old little man! He seems more lively than ever despite the 8 mg of Melatonin he had an hour before! 

It’s the night before the big event! This is quite possibly the biggest event in little man’s life to date, for the morning will bring with it a new beginning, a chance to start a fresh! Don’t all children deserve this? 

Over the course of a few months I watched my child lose every last stripe of his self-esteem. I watched him being gradually excluded from everything he had learnt to love, socially isolated from the friends it had taken far to long for him to make! I battled a system that took every last inch of my strength to break, the endless meetings, the tears from both myself and my child. I listened to the professionals each one slowly giving up on him, the constant calls to collect him as he was said to have been a danger to himself and others, maybe he didn’t fit in with the daily activities planed for the day. I went to court where I found myself prosecuted for my child’s school refusal, not once but twice. I watched him cry, hit his head and ask god why? When my child stated, “I just want to be normal” I cried and continued to cry for nights, days, weeks even months after. I was scared for my sons future, for what lay ahead. I felt lost, wanting to remove my child from the school I felt was truly damaging him, the school that taught him in isolation like some mass murder. I battled for a statement, I got one, then battled for the appropriate amendments to be made! I got brave filing a claim for discrimination and getting the result we wanted although knowing this already tough relationship would now get tougher. Finally I removed my child from the educational setting that was so, so wrong for him, and watched the slow improvements as he was taught 1-1 for five hours a day at the local library by a great tutor supplied by the LEA. I found a school, an independent special school, solely for children with autism! Yet the Lea were not about to hand it to me on a plate and only after every single state maintained special school failed to offer him a place did they finally give in, agreeing to his placement at my preferred school. Little Man had spent the last six months out off school, prior to this, for the period of a year or more Little man was either home on exclusion, educated at school for the period of just three hours per day given in an isolated environment, spending the afternoons at home where he was home schooled. Now he would take the steps needed to make a slow transition to his new learning environment with the help of his tutor, his now best friend! 

This was a big deal for him, I understood that! It’s a big deal for me too! His excitement was electrifying, yet his anxiety was closely hovering by! Little man is wide-eyed at 3-Am almost every night, So this night wasn’t any different! However his this degree of hyperactivity was at a high and risky level, one I hadn’t seen in a while.  

It was something past 4-Am before little man finally gave in, surrendering to his bodies cry for sleep. I tried hard to stay awake, the fear I would somehow sleep through the alarm having fallen asleep so late was within me! Though I gave it all I had but was defeated, just as Little man was an hour before. 

What seemed like five minutes later (God I hate that) I was rudely but thankfully awoken by the horrid buzz of the alarm clock. Rubbing my eyes and seriously struggling to see a thing I faintly made out the numbers on the alarm establishing that it was 7-Am. I could have so easily closed my eyes, reasoning with myself that five minutes extra would do no harm, that I somehow would be able to remain in touch with my head that would remind me that I needed to get outta bed. But I didn’t… Though I have in the past, I made myself get out of that bed and get on with it. 

Waking the little man was like waking an angry dinosaur that or an over hormonal teenager (at ten, this isn’t great… meaning I would preferably go with the dinosaur right now) He angrily gave me an unwelcome gesture of his middle finger then so kindly asked me to @%** Off! I persisted in-till I had movement. Up he got with an awful load of abuse in toll . This little guy had only been a sleep a total of three hours and of course he was filled with both the fear and excitement about the new school . I tried not to escalate the situation and let him dress at his own slow pace. Eventually I was greeted with a somewhat more pleasant child, who sat next to me and said, “Mum, I’m terrified”  Holding on to his hand, I told him it was gonna be Ok! But if the truth be told… I was terrified too!

I would not be joining him for his first morning, It was decided that he should instead start the transition process with the help and support of his tutor. He would only go till 12 p.m. slowly working his way up to full-time. His tutor would go with him for the first two days to settle him before his contract to teach Little man would reach an end. (This was going to be hard) The taxi came and the escort came to the door. Little man walked out to greet her, I shouted that I loved him, to relax, enjoy it, to have some fun. His reply, “I love you too mum” His eyes were so tired and filled with fear, yet I knew he was also excited. I was incredibly proud at that moment… I could have exploded with pride, for after all his been through he was now taking this giant step into the unknown. The morning dragged I sat by the phone on tender hooks, ten, then eleven o’clock no call. I just wasn’t used to this! 12.30 I heard the knock, I ran down the stairs like sonic the hedgehog and flange open the door. There he was, my little man and his tutor. 

Indoors, feed and settled, (this has to be done before probing begins) I asked… “Well, what was it like?” To which he replied. “It was the best mum. I even made a friend! Oh guess what? He has aspergers just like me”  It was then I realised that the tears & the battles had finally amounted to something. I’m not stating they were all worth it, just that for once they lead to something positive. This time I cried the tears of happiness! 

 It’s early days yet, but for once I’m opting out of my usual pessimist attitude and holding on to the hope that this is really it…

A fresh start!

On top of the world

19 Jan

So this morning little man leaped from the comfort of his bed, washed without my pleas and got his clothes on super fast, “Ok most items were back to front or inside out” but when I told him so, there was no swearing or exaggerated body movements just a little boy who giggled and started over again. You see mornings like these have been far and few between… In actural fact they have been absent for some time. Yesterday morning little man was filled with excitement with a scoop of anxiety for he was about to embank on a journey, a new routine that no longer involved the mainstream primary school he had attended since he was five, the place he had grown to trust only to have it all fall apart and his spirit crushed. He had started to believe that he was so different from others that he would never be accepted. He started to state he wasn’t “normal” and created this image in his head of what he considered to be “normal” sadly in his eyes he didn’t fit into this image.

This hasn’t changed, I think it will take sometime before he excepts who he is (my fantastic little man) but on day two of his home tuition his already making progress. It’s very early days but I already see a child who wants to learn, a child who packs his school bag the night before and looks forward to the following days learning. So… Many parents take that for granted Not me and though I know this can change as quick as it started I hold onto these days with both hands and remind myself of them whenever things get bad.

Well, Friday was the day we first met his tutor (as not to disclose his indentity we will refer to the tutor as James)
We met at my home around 5pm. Little man sat looking at the tv he had refused to Switch off. He made little eye contact with James and instead of acting silly or rude like he often tends to when his anxious or just in a new situation, he was instead quite not saying much at all. We spoke for a while, discussed little mans needs and how mainstream school dealt with those needs. We talked about the effects isolation had on him and work we had been doing at home. I like to think of myself as a good judge of character… as I had a good feeling about James, I didn’t feel as if he was sat judging me or little man. James had already read the proposed statement (that is in need of amendments) and also read the appendices which included my ten pages of parental advice. He has experience of working with children on the autism spectrum and didn’t seem worried about teaching little man a job many would refer to as a “challenge” towards the end of the meeting James asked Little man if there was anything he would like to ask. Little man rolled his eyes and pulled his thinking face. Having thought for a few seconds replied, “fancy educating someone like me in a library!” He turned to me and said, “mother I will do my best to be quite” bless him… Though he was making a some what valid point as he is naturally a loud speaker, tending to shout as opposed to talk. Jame’s response was great… He made no big deal and said that all will be cool.

During the weekend little man seemed less anxious about Mondays leap back into education and getting him to sleep Sunday night wasn’t as hard as first expected. He had again been awake all Saturday night not sleeping till the early hours of Sunday morning… I didn’t let him sleep the whole of Sunday daytime and though it was hard work and resulted in a crying moaning monster throughout the day I managed to keep him awake. So after a few melatonin and a warm drink and bath, he slept on Sunday night (Ok it wasn’t till 1am and was my bed he slept in not his own… But this was good enough for me!)

It was pouring with rain on Monday morning, I mean pelting it down bucket loads, For this reason I changed the clothing I had already laid out for little man as I knew the jeans would get wet and rub on his skin causing a sensory related meltdown. I waved my daughter off at 8:30 am and set about the morning challenge one I hadn’t had to do for weeks (near on a month) waking little guy up for school. To my surprise little man rose to the challenge and with plenty of reassurance got ready for his big day. We got a lift with the promise of taking public transport the following day (which put a smile on his face) As I waved him off it felt totally strange… I was leaving my little man with a complete stranger, who I was trusting to take good care of my child, to have patience and understanding when it came to his “odd” or “challenging” ways… I felt that same sickening feeling in the pitt of my stomach on his first day of school I wanted to cry then and wanted to cry now.

Most of the day I was on edge… Everytime the phone rang I held my breath, “please don’t be James” I would think! But the call never came and to my relief on collection from the library little man was smiling. We took the train home and little man didn’t stop, “James showed me this, James told me that, James said this, James laughed at that” he was the happiest I’d seen him in ages. The only downside side to his day was the headache he had brought back home with him. He mentioned the lighting was some what strong and flickered at times. He also told me all the lights were different… Some brighter then others. With this and the fact he had engaged in work throughout the day his head was paying the price. However he still spoke about James all the way home and once back indoors… That was in till he sat on my bed only to fall fast asleep. This was at 4 pm and he wouldn’t even wake for dinner!

So yes the next day was just as postive if not better. His father took him on the train and I got a lay in:-) well that was in till a certain cheeky one year old woke me with a slap in the face!
His home book stated that the day was perfect with little man having had engaged in plenty of work. Once home he had continued in learning mode and was on the PC creating a presentation on bullying.

I really do hope that things continue to go as well. I am worried that little man will have problems reintergrating back into a school environment and the effects his mainstream school has had on his confidence and social skills… But for now I’m just going to enjoy seeing my little guy smile.

Positive Statements made by little man these past few days…

“I can’t wait till tomorrow”

“I think James likes me because his kind to me”

“Mum did you know James never shouts”

“James understands me”

“We went tescos together and we even got a trolly”

“He trust me and don’t mind being out in public with me” (effects of never going on school trips)

“His my friend and my teacher”

“I like being with James he treats me like a normal boy”
(breaks my heart knowing he often feels so different)

Positives I’ve noted in two short days…

Lots more smiles

Keen to learn

Less tears

Positive feed back in his home book… Day one stated how well they got along and little man even tried hard and completed some work. Day two even better… He engaged in all his work and was a joy to work with.

Comments like these were sure to make me cry. I couldn’t help it! I had waited for what felt like forever for some positive feed back on little man. I’m so proud of him and very thankful to his new friend james.

My little man is on top of the world and it’s been a long time coming!!

The day I came close to breaking point

9 Sep

I would be telling lies if I said everyday was a good day in our house! Yes, we have had many bad days…Little man can often go weeks at a time without having a major paddy. However with my hand on my heart, Little man has never been as highly challenging as he was Yesterday (Tuesday, 08, September)

Things were pretty much “normal” when I collected him from school. He done a fair bit of moaning, not surprising given the times in which he finally goes  off to sleep of a night. I knew he must have been feeling pretty crappy, so didn’t pay too much attention to his name calling and stroppy ways. I had not prepared my self for what was to come that evening! My gosh it wasn’t pleasant

Tuesday 08 September 2010 would be a date I would remember for time to come, as I’m almost certain that this was the day I very near hit breaking point.

My nine (Very soon to become ten-year old) had gain total control over me! His mother. He seemed totally uncaring, selfish and extremely hateful towards me. Let me explain my meaning for TOTAL CONTROL! I had become so tired and sick of the situation we were now in. My son had me crying in public, I then went on to have a panic attack in the supermarket. Can you imagine the scene.. Mother with two of her children and her nephew stood on the food aisle in Sainsburys crying as her nine-year old throw himself around the store. Yes, his had the classic supermarket meltdowns but this was oh the DADDY of them all. He abused me with hurtful remarks, Throw items, refused to move, bashed his 7-year-old sister across the supermarket with a trolley, cried, jumped up and down screaming “Please, I said I was sorry”  as I contemplated leaving the shop. I considered running way, or better still screaming, nothing precise, Just screaming to let some frustration out! Instead I just ended up with a crying daughter, a migraine, and one hell of a panic attack. God only knows why it’s called a panic attack as I was far from panicking! I was just utterly exhausted, drained mentally, and shocked at the extent of the behaviour and worse the inability to care about mine and anybodies upset.

Not knowing if I was coming or going I realised that we were fast becoming a tourist attraction. I’m used to stares, unwelcome comments from snort nosed strangers. I don’t normally rise to such ignorance. However When some couple stopped to have a nose, like we were caged animals at the zoo I had no choice. Was the situation that bloody interesting? Well, this couple seem to think so and unlike other fellow shoppers peeking as they passed on by, These guys were grabbing their popcorn and were in the front row! Needless to say, they got their show! One which concluded with me asking if they had nothing better to do in their lives then stand watching us and somehow find our abominable display entertaining. Yes, they said nothing just scattered of shaking their heads. Our the trip came to an end with me having this panic attack and members of staff asking if I was Ok. I felt so silly! A panic attack over my child.. I kept thinking they would think I couldn’t cope! It’s ironic really, as stood there I felt like I couldn’t, and felt so for a good few minutes. Then I remember, the challenges we have faced together and I allow myself to have that breakdown, after all do they contend with things like this on a daily basis. Just like little man slowly filling up in till he explodes and it comes gushing out, I needed to do that too and at home laid in bed next to my daughter who was so tired and unable to cope with him constantly storming into her room name calling. I found myself crying again. Listening to him going up and down the hallway acting out the same bus routine he does every single day and night I wondered if he really did have feelings as today would suggest he didn’t!

I know my son does have feeling, if anything he can be over emotional. It just seems at times that he considers himself to be the only person in the world. ..I know that it was just a really bad day, ones I bound to see again, It just sometimes we get through them better then others.

.. Well, my children have been back in school for five days but have only attend three of them days. I emailed the AWO (attendance and welfare officer) who works for the LEA explaining why my children were not in school. How could they go to school that morning following the kind of day we had the day before ? My daughter didn’t sleep till the early hours and I managed a few hours only once I heard the announcements of random bus stops being shouted out, I knew it was safe to. This must have been at least 5am. I’m surprised the baby, my nine month old son got some sleep given the extent of the noise throughout the night.

I decided to go to the school to speak to little mans class teacher. Turns out that the teacher was away from class and told the children before leaving to behave or they may not attend the trip he was planning. Little man freaked when his friend started to misbehave and was now convinced there was no trip. Such a small thing can seem so big to Little man. Since I’ve told him that the trip is still on, his settled a lot more. Today was like yesterday never existed, and he was polite and well behaved. So Tuesday wasn’t a great school day. It was a worrying, anxious school day, which resulted in him coming home to take it out on mum. 😦 We have had worse things happen, worse days but never with this degree of challenging behaviour. It just goes to show, that our children on the spectrum can become bubbling volcanos within a second, No warning no sign. The smallest and most simplest thing to us, is the most huge to them. Challenging behaviour can be triggered by al sorts… You’ve been warned!!

Oh one last thing! I started smoking again after a year and a half. Yes, I was disappointed with myself, and it’s a stupid thing to do… But my god it felt so good! Stress & cigarets are a match made in heaven.

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