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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

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Compulsory Mediation – Good Idea?

17 Sep

So the draft legislation has been out a few weeks now and one of the biggest changes that has stood out most to me is that of Compulsory Mediation.

As things stand at the moment, A parent can lodge an appeal to the first tier tribunal as soon as the local education authority (LEA) has written to the parent setting out a child’s proposed provision in the form of a draft statement. If the parent doesn’t agree with the provision offered they then have the instant right to appeal. This is done by making an application to the first tier tribunal. In the meantime the parent can request that the LEA meet for Mediation which is conducted by an independent mediator. However, the appeal process is still well underway and most will find that this gives the LEA that much needed kick up the backside.

The draft legislation which has been written to assist the changes in SEN provision in the near future states…

… Mediation: This section applies where a child’s parent or young person intends to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal under section 28 in respect of anything done by a local authority, or the content of an EHC plan maintained by a local authority.
This section does not apply in respect of an appeal concerning only of

(a) the school or other institution named in an EHC plan;

(b) the type of school or other institution specified in an EHC plan;

(c) the fact that an EHC plan does not name a school or other institution.
The childís parent or young person must notify the authority of his or her intention to appeal.

The local authority must then arrange for mediation between it and the parent or young person.

The child’s parent or young person must take part in mediation under this section before making an appeal.

The authority must arrange for the mediation to be conducted by an independent person.

For the purposes of subsection (6), a person is not independent if he or she is employed by a local authority in England.

At the conclusion of the mediation, the mediator must issue a certificate to both the local authority and the parent or young person
(a) setting out what has been agreed by the parties (including any agreed time limits), or

(b) stating that no agreement has been reached.

The parent or young person may make the appeal only if

(a) no agreement has been reached, or
(b) the local authority does not act in accordance with what is set out under subsection (8)(a) before any agreed time limits expire.

Regulations may make provision about mediation under this section, in particular
(a) about giving notice;
(b) imposing time limits;
(c) enabling a local authority to take prescribed steps following the conclusion of the mediation;
(d) about circumstances in which mediation under this section is not necessary;
(e) about the circumstances in which the parties to mediation need not meet face-to-face during the mediation;
(f) about the consequences of failure to take part or properly take part in the mediation;
(g) about who may attend the mediation;
(h) where a childís parent is a party to the mediation, requiring the
mediator to take reasonable steps to ascertain the views of the child;
(i) about the provision of advocacy and other support services for the
parent or young person;
(j) requiring a local authority to pay the other partyís reasonable travel expenses and other expenses of a prescribed description, up to any prescribed limit;
(k) about the training, qualifications and experience of persons who may act as a mediator;
(l) requiring a parent or young person to take prescribed steps when appealing to the First-tier Tribunal under section 28 after mediation;
(m) requiring the First-tier Tribunal not to determine an appeal under section 28 if requirements imposed under this section have not been met.

Appeals which only concern the name of a school, college or other institution specified in the Education, Health and Care Plan or the type of school, college or institution specified in the Plan or the fact that the Plan does not name any school, college or other institution can be made without going to mediation. This is because the parent or young person will already have been able to request a particular school or institution in the further education sector, and had discussions with the local authority about which institution should be named on the Plan. Requiring mediation in these circumstances would involve repeating the same discussions. The clause gives the Secretary of State regulation-making powers concerning mediation as listed in the clause.

So, what does this mean exactly? Basically parents will not only have to agree to mediation but undergo it before lodging an appeal with the tribunal.

This seems somewhat odd to me. There is no mention of tribunal timescales which will need to be adjusted to fit the proposed changes. The only timescales mentioned are those agreed during mediation.

Worryingly, from what I have read this new legislation will only make the appeals process longer than it currently is which in all honest is already far too long! I understand that we need to reduce the number of appeals reaching the tribunal but this should only be due to the fact more children are getting their needs met and therefore no longer require the help of a judicial decision to ensure it happens.

Let’s be honest here! For most parents it’s only the lodging of the appeal that makes the LEA that little bit more active when it comes to communicating with parents! Most parents will request mediation but the majority of LEAs will take forever to respond. I understand that the legislation states the LEA must arrange this but as mentioned there is no mention on just how long they have to do so.

The draft legislation also states that the Mediator must be independent (not work for the LEA)! This is already meant to be the case and most mediators work for independent charities. However, it’s my experience that most parents feel bullied by the LEA even with a mediator present. The majority of SEN case workers come armed with a legal representive for the LEA as well as half the council. Most parents can’t afford to do the same and it’s often the case that only one parent can attend.

It was my understanding that the proposed changes to SEN were being put in place to not only help the child but lower the stresses put on parents. The Government should be confident enough that the proposed changes are enough to reduce the number of cases being brought to tribunal. Compulsory mediation is just another hurdle a parent must overcome before getting their case heard by a tribunal.

Why not state that LEAs and parents must take part in mediation before the case is heard by the tribunal. Stating the parent has to overcome all these hurdles before even lodging an appeal is nothing other than barbaric. It just seems like another way of putting parents off.

I’ve read the entire draft and there are a number of areas that concern me. Nonetheless there is only so much writing I can do tonight!

So, are you a parent of a child with SEN? Have you ever undergone mediation with the LEA? Have you ever take the LEA to the tribunal? What do you think of the proposed legistation in regards to mediation?

Check out the draft legislation here

The stepping stones to independence

8 Sep

As my child takes another huge step in his life’s journey I feel my heart burst with pride.

Little man has come so far in such little time. If you asked me 2 years ago if I thought he would be at the place he is now, my answer would have been, “probably not” considering how bad things were once upon a time, this fact alone should be a comfort for any parent who are now stood in the shoes I once stood in.

We have some incredibly tiresome days, ones filled with rage and anger, others filled with anxiety and disappear.

Yet, one needs to understand that like anything in life, we take the rough with the smooth. Ok, at 4am when his well past that tired stage when his running around pretending to be a wrestler, crashing and banging as he repeatedly throws himself off the backs of the sofas, before gathering up speed and darting from one wall to another, roaring and shouting as he mimics those overgrown kids that consider themselves men on WWE, I do feel a rather sorry for myself, the siblings and even our poor neighbours.

Evenly the smooth part does come through, and although it normally last far shorter than that of the rough… It’s a delightful place to find yourself in.

Despite the issue we’ve been experiencing with Little mans reluctance to eat a packed lunch as opposed to something he can heat in the school microwave (this is no longer allowed) His still coping outstandingly well with all these major changes that have taken place.

I can slowly see the pieces coming together. His growing up and with it his learning the skills of independence needed to go with it. Yes, I worry he will have difficulties in adult life, but then again what mother doesn’t? Finally… I feel progress is being made and It’s this progress that fills me with hope for my little man’s future.

Here’s to another great week, next week…. I’m told positiveness is the key and I hope that this key opens many doors for little man.

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The Transition To Secondary School For A Child With Aspergers Syndrome

6 Sep

So, the time finally came, Little man’s return to school as a secondary pupil.

I noticed that in the run-up to the big day, Little man’s anxiety levels rose and as a result we did have a rather difficult last few weeks of the holidays.

I was dreading the whole “getting him up in the mornings” scenario. He tends to be the ultimate nightmare to wake, given he usually doesn’t go to sleep till the small hours. Unless you experience such sleepless nights paired with early mornings, you can only but imagine the utter tiredness his experiencing. Consequently I do understand… After all someone needs to keep a watchful eye on him over night.

I’ve tried my best to maintain his bedtime routine during the holidays (that’s if you can really call it a routine)! He usually goes to his room and just doesn’t shut down. His like a long life battery. Melatonin isn’t something we rate highly, and even through the slow releasing type sometimes has a small effect every now and then, it’s far from a reliable answer to the problem. On a high note, little man is more wary of the problem and understands that bit more that it’s this situation leaving him feeling crap throughout the day. He now gets rather upset when struggling to fall asleep and by 3am his almost certainly at the point of tears. When it isn’t a school day and his little eyes haven’t closed till 4am, I’m tempted to leave him to sleep throughout the day. However, as one would expect, this is no solution! Things just become a million times harder in the long run.

So, back to my original point… I was dreading getting the Little man up and ready for school. The nasty insults that fly out of his tired mouth are nothing… I’m used to these! It’s just the whole destruction it causes to the morning. He will often refuse to wash for sensory reasons and once he has I’m faced with the struggle of convincing him to dress. The taxi can be sat outside while the escort is stood at the door and he will still be in his pants. Not ideal but something you get used to.

His first day back was in-fact yesterday (5th September 2012) and to my utter surprise, the morning wasn’t as bad as expected. He almost seemed excited about his day. Tuesday I took little man and the tiny tot to Drayton Manor Theme park and zoo. It’s the home of Thomas Land and we were there to review a new Thomas film just released on DVD, and of course the park itself. Little man had an awesome day and didn’t experience a single meltdown while at the park (in the car was a different story but given it’s a 3hr drive each way, he can be forgiven). I think it was a combination of the long car Journey and the whole day spent at the park that resulted in him actually sleeping before midnight.

He woke Wednesday morning with a somewhat positive outlook towards the day ahead and given it was his first day back, this left me astounded. The fact that Little man had spent the last two weeks of the last term before the summer holidays integrating from the primary building into the secondary department, had obviously helped him a great deal. Now he was better prepared mentally! Yes their was lots of anxiety still, but at least he wasn’t just stepping into the unknown. Anxiety seems to be a pretty common trait for those with Aspergers Syndrome and for me It’s one of the hardest issues to tackle. It’s both heartbreaking and worrying seeing your young child so stressed, especially when the cause is beyond your control.

Little man had his new stationary that was kindly given to him by STABILO all packed and ready and his lunch loaded into his lunch bag when the escort knocked at 8.30 am. He was quite literally ready to go as soon as she arrived. I’m guessing this was something of a surprise to his escort… But a pleasant one all the same!

Throughout the morning I received no emails or calls from the school highlighting any concerns. Any parent can tell you, especially those of a child with SEN, this is always a lovely sign that things are going well.

Come afternoon however, I did receive an email from the class teacher! Luckily this wasn’t to report some challenging behaviour or other equally concerning matter! It was just in-order to let me know that as from the next day, little man wouldn’t be allowed to bring in his chicken burger as they will no longer be heating his food in the microwave! Little man’s school has such a small number of pupils that school dinners are not practical, and even if they were, I’m guessing so little children would opt to have them. Little man wouldn’t even entertain the prospect of even trying school dinners during his time spent at his old mainstream primary school. This wasn’t a huge concern as living 2 minutes away, I was able to collect him, feed him, then drop him back.

Little man will not touch a packed lunch regardless of what’s in it. He may eat such items at home but as soon as your packing it, his not touching it. Warm wrapped sandwiches, warm yogurts, and warm apple juice don’t appeal. Putting it in the fridge doesn’t seem to make much difference, the issue that it was put into the box more than an hour ago seems to be a big no-no for him.

It was decided last term that he could bring a chicken burger and heat it up in school. He has no cheese, sauce, or anything else. Just a flame grilled (not breaded) piece of chicken in a bun. He also has lots of fruit and a drink. His concentration levels were therefore reported to be better in the afternoon as he was finally eating, and I was pleased that I was no longer being presented with an untouched lunchbox at 4pm… I couldn’t afford to keep this up!

The new teacher has stated he needs a healthier lunch and I’m lost at what I’m going to do. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the school have their reasons and I’m in no way stating they are in the wrong, I’m just at logger heads at what to do! Today little man arrived home with an untouched lunchbox. I don’t even thing he touched his drink.

20120906-183846.jpgLittle man’s untouched packed lunch.

He was really upset yesterday. Having received the email I had replied stating that I wished the school to inform him of this change, I knew he wouldn’t be happy and I didn’t want him thinking it was my doing. Of course when he arrived home screaming and yelling, I had to support the school in-order to be consistent! He would otherwise struggle more with this decision and a challenging child at school was the last thing I wanted. However he did cry on his return yesterday, he protested that he had done all his work, tried his best and behaved appropriately! He felt as if it was some type of punishment (as always I blame the old school for such a way of thinking)!

We obviously had some difficulties this morning but despite his upset and empty tummy, I’ve received an email from his teacher alerting me to the fact he has had a really good day. His reported to be doing great in secondary and is settling into the routine better than expected. She also informed me that they had a chat about lunch and suggested maybe taking a flask of soup or pasta. We will try this as on his return today his eaten half the contents of the fridge which for me is much more unhealthy than the burger.

So… There it is, an update of little mans first few days as a child with Aspergers attending secondary school at an independent special school. How I’m relived to have gotten him out of the mainstream education sector in time! I’m convinced that this post would have contained content that displayed nothing but heartache if I hadn’t!

A Back To School Special

2 Sep

Oh my goodness can you believe how quickly the holidays passes by. I just cannot believe that they’re going back to school already.

Ok, admittedly there have been certain days, weeks even, when I could be heard asking “When do they go back to school already” But on the whole, the holidays have been relatively good (and thats regardless of them good old meltdowns)!

Yes, I’m pretty nervous about little man’s return to school! Although he went up to the secondary school a few weeks before the breakup, as to allow him some time to get used to the change, I’m guessing there will still be problems. Now, I’m not a pessimist, just a realist, a mother who’s now been parenting a boy with Aspergers for almost 12 years!

These last few weeks of the holidays I’ve been doing certain things to prepare little man.

I’ve got him to wear his new shoes on a daily basis as to wear them in.Then there’s his new uniform that I’ve had him sit around in for 15 minutes each day.This is all in the hope that it helps him to avoid any sensory related difficulties or induced meltdown, on the day that he starts.

My daughter has her uniform all hung up ready for her return to school on Thursday. I admit to getting this really last minute (Saturday, that’s how last minute)! Luckily ‘Matalan’ had fresh stock and saved the day. You can catch our review here tomorrow.

As for stationary… This year I’m over organised, taking no chances whatsoever!

Many will know how little man has poor fine motor skills a trait of his Aspergers Syndrome. As a result he stopped writing for a few years of his life. He would only write using a computer and as a mother who still believes in the benefits of good old fashion writing, this upset me!

He completely lost all his confidence when it came to putting pen to paper but since leaving mainstream and starting at his independent special school where his undergoing weekly OT sessions, this is all history now as his writing and enthusiasm to do so, is improving with each passing day.

My daughter Alice-Sara who like myself, loves to write and is also actually very creative, has her own difficulties. However these are more so with her letter formation, and writing style. She is finally just in the process of being tested for Dyslexia. She is left handed like myself and for many years did mirror writing and at times still does. (This is where letters and numbers are written back to front)!

This is why the right stationary is important to us. For many a pen is nothing other than simply that… “A pen” but it’s important for my children to use pens and pencils that they are comfortable using.

This year the lovely PR for STABILO offered to help us find some stationary that the children could really benefit from.

Here’s a selection of what we tried.

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The Double ended pen is available in sets of 10 and are targeted at children 6 years and above. The pen feature stackable lids to encourage good organisation skills. This double tip pen has a fine tip for writing and sketching and a broad tip for colouring in. What’s more each end has an ergonomic triangular grip zone which helps the child to hold the pen correctly. Perfect for little man a child with poor fine motor skills.

Other great features to the STABILO Trio double ended pen is its washable ink! A must have feature unless you enjoy trying to remove ink from white school shirts? Mmmm… I thought not!

This is a great pen for both my children and Alice-Sara loves how this allows her to switch quickly between writing and colouring. Little man liked it’s fine tip, the fact he could write in colour. He especially liked how it felt against the paper, commenting that it writes really nicely.

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The Cappi Pen is targeted at children aged 6 years and above. I love these pens as the caps can be easily threaded onto a cap ring making them less likely to lose (that’s unless they lose the entire cap ring with all the lids attached or worse the pens them self). Again these are great for both my children as both have issues with organisation skills and are forever misplacing things.

Like before the STABILO Cappi pen features that all important ergonomic grip zone that allows children to hold their pen correctly, giving them a better grip and prevents little fingers from slipping. Another feature is its unusual tube shape that has been designed so the pen doesn`t roll away and can be easily picked-up. Oh and if you do happen to misplace your cap ring when using a pen then don’t panic you have plenty of time to look for it as these won’t dry out for at least 24 hours.

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Alice-Sara, my fellow lefty was lucky to get her hands on the STABILO EASYOriginal pen. I say lucky as this has been a godsend and I can’t see her using anything else again.The pen is targeted at children learning to write as well as school age children over 6 years. There are two kinds of EasyOriginal available! Those designed for left handed children as well as one designed for the right handed child.

Features… A new interpretation of the fountain pen but instead an ergonomically designed rollerball. This is the first rollerball especially designed for left- and right-handers.

The pen has a specially formulated grip zone made from non-slip material which gives children far better control over the pen.

I loved the easy no mess solution it provided when it comes to refilling your pen. Every refill has a new tip which means that children are not exposed to the ink itself avoiding spillages.

Alice-Sara loves the pen and we are going to seek permission for her to be able to take and use the pen at school. She’s currently at Primary school and as standard they can usually be found writing in pencil (unless given pen licenses which means obtaining a standard handwriting pen)! I can’t see why it should be a problem what with the been being praised by teachers, approved by parents and loved by children.

I’ve since brought a right handed STABILO EASYOriginal pen for Little Man as STABILO report how children using an EASYOriginal pen, are given a more relaxed hold whilst writing! This in itself prevents muscle fatigue which is great news for my son.

I’ve even tried my daughters left hand pen and can comment on its ease of use, comfortable handling resulting in my improved neat and tidy handwriting (even when rushing) For me the fact that it doesn’t blot or scratch is a real bonus!

Available with royal-blue erasable ink, document-proof black ink or red ink.
All colour combinations feature a space for a name tag.

The STABILO Trio Scribbi is targeted at artist who want to get to grips with a pen for the first time, as well as children who have difficulties with using pens because of motor skills (like Little man). So… Why is it different? Well, this is a pen that is said to be almost indestructible thanks to its push-resistant thick tip. Its clever triangular design helps children get a secure ergonomic grip. Its great for kids like Little man who tends to get more pen on his hands than on that of the paper as its super-washable for problem-free cleaning of hands and even clothes.

Little man used it but states that he still couldn’t colour correctly with it as he still coloured outside the lines of his drawing. I think his looking for a pen with a Miracle solution to the problem.

The STABLIO Woody 3 in one was for Alice-Sara as its a pencil that has been designed for the child who loves to draw. The pencil has a unique feature that acts as a colored pencil, watercolour and wax crayon all in one.
It has XXL break-proof lead ­that is as thick as 8 standard coloured pencils. It’s designed to be highly pigmented with high opacity and colour intensity, even on dark paper! Better still this is a pencil that writes on smooth surfaces such as glass, metal, leather etc.

This is ideal for Alice-Sara as its unique versatility supports her every expanding creative development.

This awesome 3-in-1 comes in translucent colors (red, green, blue).

But it’s not just stationary we needed to think about. I still had the issue of little man’s hygiene. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that he just don’t want to wash, his just extremely tactile defensive. The way his skin feels once its absorbed water Is something he finds hard to tolerate… “You know that squeaky clean feeling or worse the one where your fingers wrinkle?” It’s so hard as this tactile defensiveness affects many areas such as nail cutting and teeth brushing. Every single day morning and night without fail it remains a battle. This means that getting little man to wash his hands before eating or after using the toilet is just plain handwork that I’m losing the energy for.

Little man is at an age where I should no longer need to follow him around demanding he does these basic acts of hygiene.Then there is the issue of school! I don’t want staff to have to constantly ask him to wash his hands. As a solution I’d just have him keep a small tube of hand cream (though he still found it hard to overcome the anxiety about the initial task). We also tried hand sanitiser, only these created there own problems. Not only did some bring around the exact same problem as before but the smell would make him feel ill. One or two even caused him reactions due to there harsh ingredients.

We were sent a bottle of my pocket buddy on-the-go hand sanitiser to review. Our problem was detected in a tweet and the lovely social media team behind the brand, got in contact and as a result, shipped one of these to the little man pretty quickly.

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Here’s what this pocket buddy claims to do…

“My Pocket Buddy® on-the-go hand sanitiser has been scientifically formulated to kill 99.99% of germs, whilst still being kind to your hands. Our product range includes an 8ml pen spray for children, a 50ml foamer for adults, and a 500ml foaming dispenser, ideal for the home, nursery, or your place of work.

Not only is My Pocket Buddy® alcohol free and made from 100% natural ingredients, it’s effective in seconds, helping reduce germs, bacteria, viruses and fungi on the skin. There are no chemical nasties in any of our products, ensuring safe protection for your hands, and giving you peace of mind that your loved ones are protected too.”

For us the thin pen design is the perfect size for little man to carry around yet big enough for him to find in his pocket without getting stressed (the little man hates losing things and having to look for them)! The fact that it’s also a spray makes it so quick and easy to use.

Most importantly and I say this with a huge smile on my face… He likes it, there is a massive reduction in the uncomfortableness he would normally feel when using water or another alcohol based sanitiser. What’s more it doesn’t smell as potent and his therefore coping well with using it.

The only issue we are left with now is ensuring we have enough and don’t run out as his built up a routine and as Little man will tell you… “Routines were not designed to be broken!”

Those who have similar problems can find out more by visiting the product page online

This is not a sponsored post and no payment has been made by those brands mentioned. I didn’t have to write and review any of the products discussed within this post, as I was not asked to included them here. All words are my own and not influenced from anyone other than myself.

Governments gone crazy for the Olympics

15 Aug

I’ve loved watching the Olympic games, cheering as GB take a number of golds! Yes, it was hard not to get the gold rush and therefore get swept up in the moment! Yet it seems I’m not the only one, there’s one or two who have simply let it go to their heads and therefore got a little dose of Olympic fever.

It seems that one person in particular has got so carried away with the excitement of it all and therefore felt the need to state to the nation how the UK government would be throwing more money in that big education pot so that children are given the chance to flourish when it comes to competitive sports.

Of course that person was David Cameron, so of course I rolled my eyes while mumbling the words “Arse Wipe” beneath my breath.

You see, Cameron has made a hell of a lot of promises since he got his dirty foot in the door. As time has run on his broken each, leaving family’s struggling and at breaking point as his made cuts to services that society rely upon.

My blood boils when I hear him making such statements. Yes, I believe our children should be encouraged to aspire into next generation athletes but I also believe that they also deserve the access to education as a whole! There are many children in this country being home schooled, sadly many are not through choice. This means sports are the last think on their parents overworked and worried minds.

Cameron needs to look at the bigger picture, the whole of the education sector in and throughout britain needs a good clean up and fast, because although it was bad before, since this man took to the house with the black door, it’s been simply diabolical!

Now… as predicted Cameron has actually just gone and shoot himself in the foot as it was revealed that since coming into Government the 2-hours of compulsory physical education that was put in place by our last Government has now actually been scraped and done so on the hush, therefore allowing the PM to collect his pounds, sticking them all back into the Governments big pot of savings, a pot mainly made up from the cut backs to services that are meant to be protecting our most vulnerable!

Now although I believe our children should be actively contributing in competitive sports I also believe that funding needs to be driven into other areas such as Special Educational Needs (SEN) Supportive outreach, training and courses for teachers as well as improvements towards providing education for those children educated other than at school. By this I’m vastly referring to off site education or Home tutoring funded by the LEA on medical grounds. The nations PRU (pupil referral units) are key examples. I’m sick of hearing local authorities claiming that those children in desperate need of support, can’t actually have it as there are little or no funds to delegate! Thankfully my child now enjoys a number of sports despite having Aspergers and past anxiety towards even the thought of one day actively participating in sports, especially that of contact sports. Admittedly this surge of improvement has to be the result of finally having left his former state mainstream primary school and then moving to an independent special school. The move has done well to demonstrated the impressiveness that comes with the reinstalled coincidence. However, you must not mistake my honestness for support of a crappy British PM. Despite my past difficulties with a string of teachers, I still find Mr Cameron’s latest statements to be harsh and unwarranted. He gives it all he has in way of a push and a shove in the direction of the states school teachers as he tries to convince the nation that his decisions to retract compulsory PE have been based around his concerns regarding today’s teachers lack of competitive ethos towards competitive sports as opposed to that of Government cuts. Now, I know what I believe!!

Little man met one or two exceptional teachers when he attended state maintained primary school. But as you know he also encouraged discrimination and bullying (mainly inflicted by teachers as opposed to children). Some may have been blinded by ignorance as a result of little if no SEN & Autism training whatsoever. I believe it’s these never ending difficulties between teachers and children that hold a much stronger case for funding. Most teachers are not in a position to freely campaign… But seriously, by you reducing funding over a period of time surely its obvious that there is little teachers can do to carry on being supportive towards physical education.

Sometimes I wonder what this man has going through his head, it’s as if he has this thing against working class families simply branding teachers in “state schools” as lazy… We’re not talking Mathematics but physical education (PE) most children will develop at their own pace when it comes to sport and those with passion will go far regardless. But it seems the PM thinks otherwise, with his suggestion of teaching kids to be more competitive, by creating a cultural change that replaces the “Everyone’s a winner motto” The PM needs to understand that for some children this just won’t stick! And for those others, well… A combination of the child’s determination, a teachers motivation and a good dose of funding can make it happen.

So… Maybe the PM should consider very carefully what it is his proposing before getting ahead of himself and sharing such plans and unconsidered decisions with the world! Especially when his not shared the changes his already implemented, including the removing of compulsory PE from education.

I mean come on,How stiupid must this man be? He must have considered the possibility that his secret operation would reveal its ugly head.

Cameron really doesn’t seem to understand his mistakes, never confessing that his decisions are just that, “His decisions” Franky, Instead of dealing with the bum error as it stood! the PM just made it a whole lot worse by continuously blaming teachers in regard to their lack of interest in teaching PE as well as encouraging children to get active and live healthy.

The only time I’ll ever give this man a thumbs up is when and only when we see him leaving number 10 closing the door behind him and heading in the direction of the job centre.

Holidays, festivals and Aspergers

14 Aug

As some may have noticed, this blogger has been a tad quiet these past few weeks. This I can only put down to the 6 week holidays.

The children have done well at keeping me on my toes since breaking up from school, there’s been all sorts of crazy family ups and downs (luckily nothing to explosive has happened)!

Little man struggles to get the most out of his holidays, what with the lack of a more structured routine, things can often get on top of him. However, this year his doing pretty well and I’m super impressed at how little man is adjusting himself and as a result his enjoying an easier, less stressful school break.

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Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if family life paints the picture that portrays that perfect family the “Walton’s” or even that of the “Little House on the Prairie”. There has been meltdowns, sibling rivalry, tears and of course a little cursing. But thankfully on the whole, it’s been OK and could have easily been worse!

I don’t think I ever imagined that I’d write something like that of the above, especially not during past school holidays which have seen me wondering around in a zombie induced state or that of a women sitting in a corner with her head in her hands, questioning out loud her ability to be a parent! I’ve now come to learn that its a combination of careful planning, self confidence & consistency that makes holidays relatively pleasurable for the whole family (especially for that of the parent and child on the spectrum)!

Little man may scream & curse when I’m requesting a new rule is followed but these rules actually make his holiday and every other day more predicable. He has a clear message surrounding my expectations towards him.

This is the same when applying new activities to a timetable/schedule, as by doing so he is aware of what we’re doing and where we’re doing it. The only problems with this are that of having to reschedule a planed activity or trip, cancellations are by far the worse! Little man like most children diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, doesn’t really grasp the whole unavoidable circumstances explanation and things can therefore become extremely heated and long winded.

This year we haven’t really been on any huge trips and certainly not holidays. Yes, we’ve done some days out to the zoo, park and that of the beach but not as many as I would have liked! Nonetheless, little man seems happy as he engages himself in his special interests or spreading time in the garden where he jumps on the trampoline for hours at a time.

Yet, like his siblings and any other child for that matter, Little man does get bored. Sadly his one true friend who happens to live next door, is off on his holidays where he’ll spend a long sunny 3 weeks in Florida. It’s apparent how much the Little man is missing the friendship and as a result I’m often finding myself having to contend with a snappy, moody 11year year old.

The above has left me needing to think outside the box. There’s been a need to create fun on a budget in-order to keep the little mans mind healthy and stimulated therefore reducing the chances of him getting over absorbed in his interest or annoyed, over stimulated or bored.

Garden sensory play, board games and back yard camping have all played a huge part of our life these last few weeks.

Other then being a parent to three children there has been other things keeping me busy (thankfully I wouldn’t call these chores)! Their are a few new projects I’ve embarked on and some awesome brands I’ve started working with. Actually if I’m honest, I’ve had some lovely surprises since the kids broke up! Discovering I had been chosen to become one of the new Butlins Ambassadors, was one of those surprises, one that caused big cheesy smiles from fellow members of the household.

Becoming a Butlins Ambassador means I can book a holiday with the children between now and next August, and then share my views on the resort by written review and video.

Most importantly, I can report on the little things that matter to those families who have children on the autism spectrum, those with SEN and other types of disability. A holiday camp such as Butlins, runs scheduled activities & events throughout the day which is most appealing to the child who needs structure and routine to feel safe and comfortable.

As well as the review, I’ll be able to share all the need to know Butlins news which includes anything from fantastic competitions to fabulous savings.

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If the above wasn’t enough for me to get all excited about, I’ve also met with Acer who invited me to check out their latest Tech releases while celebrating the Olympics 2012 games and its worldwide partnership, by sitting down for a spectacular 3 course lunch at the stunning Spencer House in London (blog post & images coming soon).

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Last week was the week I got myself a little ‘Me’ time. I’ve just returned from a the “Wilderness Festival” in Oxfordshire. I spent the entire weekend with a friend discovering what Wilderness had on offer for its second year… and it was bigger and better than its first year ( review coming soon).

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So now I’m home and enjoying being mum. Yes, it gets tough sometimes but there is no place I’d rather be.

Learning through Play

7 Aug

It’s the 6 week holidays, time for the children to have some fun. But just because it’s the holidays this doesn’t mean we should reframe from education, after all education can be fun.

I don’t know about you guys but I like to keep the children’s mind stimulated. This can be difficult for Little mans, his interests are quite obsessive, a trait of his Aspergers Syndrome, I worry he will isolate himself, fallout of routine and have difficulties reintegrating back into school. Alice-Sara is also currently being assessed for dyslexia. She has been placed on the SEN register at school and I sadly wasn’t informed. Thankfully though things are improving with the school, it’s now my aim to involve Alice in lots of fun educational play throughout the summer. Lastly there’s Harley, his 2 with a mind like a sponge and as his mother I hope to help him to learn all there is to know during these early pre-school years.

As a blogger I receive a number of request from brands & PRs and one from RM Education ( a leading provider of technology for learning) has really helped me to undertake the above mission.

RM Education have a mission of their own, “To make learning fun” and as a result they have launched the fabulous online resource “RM At Home’ with the help of presenter Philippa Forrester.

I’m so pleased that I have been introduced to the ‘RM At Home’ website, it’s overflowing with great articles and resources for both parents and teachers.They also cover lots of different topics on different areas of Special Educational Needs (SEN) and have some lovely inspirational ideas for creating a sensory room.

As well as the above resources presenter and mum of three boys, Philippa Forrester, is helping RM At Home raise awareness among parents of the products that are available through ‘RM At Home’ that make learning enjoyable and effective outside school hours. It’s a few of these products that the children have been having fun discovering.

RM At Home have some excellent fun yet educational toys that both parents and child can experience together.

The Cannon Stomp: There is no other word but funky that describes this toy. Aim it then Fire it to see how far your ball can travel. Cannon Stomp is great fun and can easily be played together with others. When your child jumps or stomps on the silicone cannon a foam ball is dispensed with great speed, the harder you stomp the further & faster it travels.You can make it extra fun by making and setting targets for the ball to hit! You may wonder why or how a child can learn anything by playing with The new Cannon Stomp! But they really do as such an activity will better the child’s skills and development in ‘Reaction and agility training’ which is great for a child like Little man who is on an Occupational Therapy programme integrated into his school timetable as a result of his difficulties within this very area.

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This actually has come at a very convenient time. Have you noticed my blogging over the last few weeks has been a bit non existent when my life remains as chaotic? No, it’s not down to the kids being of school but the fact I’ve been unwell with flu and a horrid chest infection. Cannon stomp gave Little man something to enjoy while developing some important skills. Honestly, I’ve been laid up on the sofa and his been keeping himself busy with it in the garden for decent periods of time at a go.

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My tiny tot ‘Harley’ is only 2 but already his loving the Cannon stomp. Admittedly he spent sometime trying to figure out just how to get the ball out from the Cannon. However, when he did finally discover how from his big brother ‘Little man’, his Been non stop bouncing up and down on it trying his hardest to launch the balls… They fly out, he does this seriously adorable giggling and cheers with excitement.

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Little man loves his new sensory friendly toy which is easy to use. All you do is load the ball by pushing one of the two foam balls down the cannon and stamp to shoot. Simple, educational, yet extremely fun too.

I feel the the Cannon Stomp is a really good toy which is particularly great for those on the autism spectrum, children with Gross Motor Skills & coordination difficulties as well as those child who sensory seek.

Another product sent to us for testing was the children’s New Recordable Magnifier which allows a child to record and share a 30 second audio message about what it is they see, therefore introducing essential learning skills in a fun way.

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Where Alice Sara is Dyslexic she struggles with writing and spelling. However, My daughter is very vocal and is able to express herself in the most creative of ways (singing, story telling, vlogging, acting, singing etc) This would therefore be an assets for schools who have pupils registered with SEN and also those without SEN.

This recordable feature is a great way to get your child talking about their observations before they forget them without the pressures of writing. Or you can leave your own messages on the magnifier for a fun treasure hunt or tips on finding creepy crawlies etc.

The Magnifier can be brought as one (ideal for the parent) or in a pack of six (perfect for schools/playgroup etc). The Magnifier is a fantastic size, its bright and chunky yet extremely Lightweight which is perfect for small hands, it can also be attached to a lanyard.

Alice-Sara and my youngest Harley had great fun with this one! Little man however was sticking with his Cannon Stomp (the close ups of those creepy friends in our garden were freaking him out a little)! Alice-Sara spent a good proportion of her day on Sunday becoming amazed at the close ups she obtain of a number of creepy crawlies. I did shoot some awesome pictures but these are unfortunately still on my memory card due to my lack of living I’ve been doing while sick! However, don’t worry! I’ve included one of the RM At Home videos that shows you how the Magnifier works and why it can benefit your child. As for my pictures I’ll be adding these to an up and coming post on ways to education children with SEN at home.

Check out this video on YouTube:

All of RM At Home products have proven educational value – they are used and trusted by schools throughout the country so the quality is extremely high – it has to be to survive in a classroom!”

Commenting for RM Education, Senior Educationalist Kat Howard says: “You can buy fun stuff that’s not educational and you can buy things that are educational but not fun. We are fulfilling a need for learning resources that have proven educational worth while also being enjoyable for children to play with.”

“One product we’re particularly excited about is Easimaths. It’s an online maths tuition software for children aged five to 11 and it’s adaptive, which means as soon as the child masters something, they are immediately moved on to the next level. It’s bright, colourful and games-based and costs just £34.99 a year.”

RM At Home also offers another solution for parents – RM School Finder. There is currently no one place parents can go for information about their local schools – they have to trawl through several sources of data. RM School Finder, which is free to use, takes all available school data and presents it in a user-friendly format so it’s easy to see not just Ofsted reports, but exam results, extra curricular activities, what pupils achieve, plus softer information on the culture of the school direct from the establishment itself.

Why note check out this excellent video to discover a little more about this excellent resource or check them out at any of the links at the very end of this post.

Myself and the Children highly recommend RM Education (RM At Home) to all families of both pre-school and school age children. Its a brillent resource for the teacher/parent of a child with SEN but equally as fab for those who don’t. Visit RM At Home or like them on facebook follow on Twitter

When special interest turn deadly

29 Jul

I like blogging, you like reading!

I’m a bit obsessed with twitter, shopping and art! You really love football and Facebook!

Admittedly some of us over indulge our sense with our interest, we spend a little to much time tweeting or playing a computer game when we could actually be doing something much more practical. However, we are fully aware of this naughty bit of pleasure seeking and therefore find ourselves eventually applying some self discipline. A good example of this would be a person needing to go to work, they may want to stay home engaging in whatever it is they love doing but they understand that this won’t pay the bills (that is unless the work is their interest)!

As some may already know, little man has very intense interests and these are what one would refer to as a “Special Interest” when I write about little mans interest I struggle to find the right words, especially ones powerful enough to create a visual picture in the readers mine. For these reason I often worry that those who have such little understanding of Aspergers Syndrome and special interest, may only ever really compare this to that of the above.

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Today I’m going to try and change this by telling the story of my sons special interest! The intensity and love he holds for such a subject. The high intellectual knowledge which he has gained from self educating himself on every aspect this subject has to offer. The smiles & laughter it has created as well as the comfort and sanctuary it has given him.

Yet as great as the above may seem like everything there is a downside, and like most things associated with Aspergers Syndrome there is no in between!

The Little man happily unrolled the toilet roll around the entire house, he was making tracks for his invisible bus to drive along. Little man was that invisible bus. He could visualise this as long as he had one or two props to create a front and back to his bus. He would use a spoon held in one hand for the front, and a pencil in the other hand to create the back! Let’s not forget the sunglasses he would use to recreate the motion of the doors a long with the continuous beeping sound he would make. He would walk around and around for hours, speaking in a monotone voice as he recreated the destination announcements heard on both trains and buses.

I would feel a degree of anger when people stated a child like mine lacked imagination skills. This needed expanding on so those who had no idea began to gain a better understanding. Yes, little man played the same game over and over again. He was mimicking something based on fact not fiction, yet his creativity was seen when he used imagination to think outside the box. Rather than play with a toy bus, he was the bus! How many children would think to use a spoon, sunglasses and pencil in such a way?

From the age of around 2 Little man started to show an interest in transport. This started with Thomas the tank engine, but having quickly discovered the fiction that surrounds Thomas he turned his attention to the real deal. As he grew he would try to suppress his interest within the school setting making them much more intense once home. His great love for the subject meant it was hard to engage him in anything else. There were many sleepless nights, it’s easy to turn of your child’s computer and demand they go to bed, but I was unable to demand little man switched of his mind. He would go to bed and just lay in the darkness randomly running through bus and train timetables and destinations, often beeping and recreating the motion of the doors with his hands.

Despite the late nights, constant transport chat I embraced little mans interest! When he wasn’t allowed on school trips we had our own at the London transport museum. We took random bus rides around the city and went to toy fairs in search of old rare models. But when things become very bad at mainstream school I noticed Little man becoming completely lost in his world of transport, the only place he felt safe! When excluded from school he would sit studying the various routes of trains, tubes and buses, he would not answer when called totally ignoring request whenever I made them.

Bus trips were no longer fun, he’ll police the bus, demanding passengers picked up any rubbish they dropped or removed their feet from the seat in front of them. On trains he would jump from his seat every time the train came to a stop, pressing the button to open the doors for those passengers getting off and on.

I also noticed that he would continuously slide open and shut his wardrobe door that featured a sliding door. The banging was hard to cope with especially come 3am when siblings were sleeping.

What worried me more, was the more emotionally stressed things became, especially within school, the more he would confine himself to the bedroom where the slamming would commence.

We eventually had an appointment with his paediatrician, we were currently in the middle of a discrimination battle with school. I had now removed Little man from the mainstream setting but was still looking for a special school willing to take him. The stress upon the family was apparent. It was during this appointment that little man discovered that the windows within the paediatricians office were of the sliding type. Of course he couldn’t resist to play with them and for this reason the paediatrician was able to see just how obsessive his interest had become. She wisely informed me that this was not only due to his very intense special interest but also a stress reliever, coping mechanism. We also elstablised that to a certain degree the repetitive sliding motion of doors or hand mimicking was a sensory seeking behaviour too.

It was only on this appointment did we discover how serious this was. A practice fire drill went off, little man is very bad with the high pitched noise one makes. He panics and becomes very unpredictable so when he didnt even look up, just carried on with the window I knew Little mans special interest was now deadly!

A plan was put together and I was given the hardest task of my life, to reduce and limit the amount of time little man spends on his interest. OK, I couldn’t switch of his brain but I would need to limit the other activities, especially the sliding of the doors. It was hard to be consistent! In many ways I felt half to blame. I had encouraged his interest but this is what I was always expected to do, it was always said to be a good thing! I don’t feel guilty anymore. I now understand that it’s important to support and encourage your child’s interest, what happen to little man was not my fault.

As the stress faded, once he found his perfect school, things did start to return to a more acceptable level. Now he likes Lego too and even stranger WWE wrestling has actually become his interest of choice. Yes he still likes transport but WWE is his special interest and in my opinion it’s a welcome change after 10 years.

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An emotional but wonderful sports day

18 Jul

School sports day… We all know them well, or do we?

Little man has never really experienced the real joy of a school sports day. His never truly known how fun these can be! His perception of sports day is one that involves sitting in the sidelines or being told he needs to try harder. Well… That was up in till now.

Little man has experienced many positives since joining his new independent special school, ones I’d never thought he would encounter when things looked so gloomy. These include the joy of school trips and above all involvement!

Yesterday was sports day, an exciting day for all children attending the school. Parents were invited to bring a picnic and join the children for an event which would be a first for many! I feel the parent of your “typical” child may take such a thing as sports day for granted. I don’t mean this in a bad way, why would I? It’s just that many parents of children with SEN long for their children to experience how fun such events and activities can actually be.

Myself and two friends took our picnic and went and joined the school on what seemed to be the first sunny day in ages. God was on our side!

Admittedly I was a little late, not great when your child has Aspergers Syndrome. He was a little anxious and seemed a little upset on my arrival. I had explained to little man that I would be arriving at 11 am as opposed to 10.30 am, I had obviously not made myself as clear as maybe I should have.

Despite the bad start things settled down quickly and we laid down our picnic blanket and watched the games commence. There are only around 16 children in the whole of the school which meant all got the support needed to ensure the day went without a hitch. The staff at my sons school are amazing, each one has a complete understanding of each child’s needs and all worked hard to ensure pupils and parents enjoyed the day.

Luckily I was wearing oversized shades so I couldn’t be seen welling up when little man won the 450m race. It wasn’t the winning it was the participation and the smile on his face that did it! He could have came last and I still would have been as proud. Staff ran with children who struggled to make it to the finishing line, us parents along with staff members supplied plenty of verbal encouragement cheering each child who approached the finish line. The atmosphere was absolutely brilliant.

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On the morning of the sports day little man seemed to be a little anxious about the whole experience, after all it’s always been a negative experience for him when in mainstream school. The picture below shows how much little man enjoyed the day, you can only imagine how it makes me feel as his mother to see him this comfortable.

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I went along convinced that this mum was not participating in any parent centred activities but once there how could I possibly refuse. Saying that I didn’t run in the egg and spoon race… I know what a chicken!

I made a beautiful picnic and it was lovely to sit in the sunshine and eat calmly beside little man (a rare event in our house). I then kicked back and watched little man enjoy the rest of his day.

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Little man gets ready for a tug of war (yes his team win).

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Gearing up for the long jump.

The sports day was organised to last the entire day and at the end a great awards presentation was organised. There made sure that every child received awards just for participating, making each child smile and feel truly appreciated. One little boy even received a cup for trying so hard which I must admit, really made me tearful (the smile on his face was magical).

As for my little man… Well he received 3 awards… Oh and even I got one.

Seriously.. Proud doesn’t seem to cut it!

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Award presentation.

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Little man and his awards.

Massive thank you to everyone at Baston House School for making sports day a magical one.

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