Tag Archives: EDUCATION

The Challenges That Come With Independence

12 Oct

So, its been a while since I blogged, all reasons beyond my control.
Well, Little man is officially a teenager now. On the 1st October he turned 13.
As a result his special school felt that he was ready to make a huge step forward into the world of independence.
Instead of of being collected by the school bus every morning he would walk to the train station through the park, take the 20 minute train ride followed by short 5 minute walk to school. Was I hesitant? Of course I was, what mother wouldn’t be? You see, little man had an intense ‘Special’ interest in trains that lasted many years. He was therefore very excited about this big new step he would be taking! Me I was worried sick that firstly we may find him over obsessing about transport once more. It may seem harmless to most but when a child with Aspergers is obsessive nothing else in the world matters.

This however was not my only concern! Little man is a child that struggles to sleep of a night time and if he had experienced one of he’s ‘All Nighters’ then how could I possibly let him ride the train to school? He could fall asleep and spend hours going back and forth to Hayes and Central London… What if he woke up in central london? At least if he was getting collected our morning battle would come to an end once I’d physically removed him from his bed and got him on the transport. But he hated everything about the new transport system, the one he had been placed on this September with little warning of any changes! Little man was used to taking a taxi with two other children and an escort which is provided for by the councils SEN team. This September no more than one day before the return to school he discovers that his escort has gone and will be replaced by another. He also discovers that there is no longer a taxi but a mini bus with a new driver and a heap more kids too. The battles to get him onto the bus were anything but easy! The last week before his independence training started someone from the SEN travel coordination team called me to say that little man was on his last warning! Apparently the new escort couldn’t handle the children, especially little man. I hear a fight broke out between my son and another boy. As a result the escort was pushed (not by little man but another child who as a result had been taken of the bus for good).

So, with this and little man’s pleas I decided that the transport plan drawn up by the school would probably be best at this current time.

To cut a long story short, since little mans been taking the train his had more days off than I care to remember! The first few days were fine. He loved the feeling of independence traveling to school gave him (he still does) however, his sleep pattern has once more gone up the wall and getting him out the door has been a fight that I’m losing. Even when he has left for school his been leaving late. With this and the constant warnings, Little man is on his very last chance and this time its with me!

I’ve made the decision to reintroduce the melatonin despite how its effects make him more drowsy during the school day. What else can I do? It gets to 4 am and I’m seriously at my wits end! Just the other night (well, I say ‘night’ but really mean early morning) I found myself screaming at him… “Why can’t you just go to sleep?” Only for him to look and me and reply “I want to but I can’t… I just cant.” its frustrating… Its frustrating for him, for me… And for the school, especially when they can see his a bright young boy with heaps of potential.

I find myself becoming so angry at life, for we go through these battles, get over them only for them to resurface months later. Its one hell of a rollercoaster, one I have no choice in riding.

Little man doesn’t tend to talk about thinks that may have upset or confused him during the school day, which sadly can lead to all sorts of difficulties, leaving me playing the private eye game. Switching of isn’t easy for most, especially when we have worries and troubles laying heavily on our minds. This for little man, a boy who has difficulties expressing them worries, a boy who already lacks precious sleeping hours, is a struggle on a level most would fail to reach. Its stuff as such as this that makes those morning and night battles that little more difficult than it currently is.

I do sometimes wonder how many other parents there are out there… Going through the same nightly and morning battles that we do. I know there are plenty but at times its a real lonely place.

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A Bright Star No Longer Hidden

22 Jun

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

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

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

Here it comes… A seriously proud mummy moment…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well… Eat My Shorts!

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

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

The Do’s And Don’ts When Parenting A Child With Aspergers Syndrome

15 May

Its not easy being a parent to a child on the autism spectrum! Actually… It isn’t that easy being a parent full stop!

Below are some dos and don’t, all based around the stuff I’ve learnt while parenting my little man. Remember, I’m just another parent like you! No, I’m not doctor or child psychologist and what works for us may totally not work for you. But why not have a read anyway… If anything you won’t feel do alone. Please, feel free to add anything within the comments sections:)

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So… Here it goes…

Don’t feel guilty if you failed to spot the signs at an early age.

Do remember that this is common for children diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome with many of them not gaining an actual official diagnosis, till their teenage years.

Don’t be to proud to ask for help!

Do fight for it, if those who are meant to provide it, withhold it!

Don’t force your child to be someone they are not!

Do show them you are proud of them for being the person they are.

Don’t assume its easy!

Do remember that parenting any child can at times be challenging.

Don’t feel you have to explain your child’s behaviour, every single time they do something that makes others stop and stare.

But do educate those who are willing to listen! The important issue here is, not to get stressed when out and about. this only makes things more difficult for both yourself and your child. Remember its ignorance and sadly many are guilty of displaying it!

Don’t restrict the activities you do as a family.

Do prepare your child for such occasions with the help of visual resources and schedules to avoid unwanted challenges on the day.

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Don’t forget you have a life too.

Do take time out for you, whenever the opportunity arises.

Don’t assume that any two children diagnosed with Aspergers will experience the exact same traits.

But do make yourself aware of such traits, preparing yourself for what may lay ahead.

Don’t assume a diagnosis is your child’s ticket to the support and services they may need.

Do be prepared to battle for them, services! Yes, you’ll be expected to provide evidence showing why it is the help is needed.

Don’t just expect others to instantly understand your child’s diagnosis

Do be prepared for ignorance & denial. Sadly many find that its friends & family who display the worst reactions to the news of a child’s diagnosis. As for strangers…. I not don’t even notice the states as my son displays a screaming match at the local train station. Ok its never easy, but you adjust and get used to it.

Don’t freak out if your child develops an interest in something considered to be strange or unusual.

Do embrace and encourage all that your child loves regardless of its wackiness.

Don’t assume your child will have learning difficulties.

Do celebrate the subjects they excel in, and offer help and support to improve in those they are not.

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Don’t base decisions on what you want for your child!

Do base decisions on what is best for them.

Don’t beat yourself up if you lose it! Meltdowns that go on for hours are likely to make you crumble.

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Do remember that your human and your child still loves you ( regardless of what they may say).

Don’t be surprised if your child announces to the lady sat on the bus, that she’s old, wrinkled and looks close to death.

Do play games and work on activities designed to help your child avoid social mishaps like that of the above.

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Don’t waste money buying your child the top branded toys, especially if they have failed to express any interest.

Do make them happy on Christmas morning if padlocks, staples and rulers were on their Christmas list.

Don’t be too disheartened if your child shows no interest in making friends.

Do have hope that one day that will change!

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Don’t force your child to play with other children…

… But do teach them the social skills required to do so! Most children on the autism spectrum will eventually show a desire to interact and play with others.

Don’t waste your time looking for cures

But do look into therapies that have been designed to help your child better develop the skills required to succeed in both child and adulthood.

Don’t assume that just because your child doesn’t display certain traits during childhood they won’t during adulthood.

But Do remember maybes are not certainties.

Don’t try to make your child fit into society!

But do mould them as you would any child so society fits with them.

Don’t use complex language (metaphors and sarcasm) when talking with your child

But do try and teach them that others will to avoid miscommunications.

Don’t force your child to wear certain clothing, eat certain foods or attend certain activities.

Do be sure to research sensory processing disorders as their refusal to do any of the above could be and likely is related.

Don’t assume that your child with Aspergers will have the abilities to cope in a mainstream school (not all can)!

Do make sure you are open minded… Sometimes special schools are all your child needs to succeed within education.

Don’t use your child’s diagnosis as an excuse for unwanted behaviour.

Do remember that all children can be challenging and all are not autistic… You will learn the difference, I have!

Don’t forget to be mum to everyone

Do remember that siblings of children with Asperger’s syndrome may display unwanted behaviour or mimic their siblings traits as a way to gain the attention they crave.

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Don’t assume your child will be bullied.

But do look out for the signs as statistics have shown that it is children like yours and mine who become targets.

Don’t force your child to believe in the mystical world of make believe.

Do remember that many child with Asperger’s syndrome like things based upon facts, the type backed up by evidence. If you can’t prove how santa gets round the world in one single night then chances are he will never believe. Just make sure he doesn’t share his findings with his siblings… Like little man has tried.

Don’t ask your child if you look good in a new dress unless you want blatant sharp honesty…

Do be prepared to be shown your love handles and chubby knees if you do.

Don’t believe everything the books tell you.

Do remember that every child has the capability to at least try and lie… Well, at least the desire to try and do so, is usually there! Its just that children with Aspergers are not all that hot at it! Little man usually cracks within minutes.

Don’t be so serious…

Do crack a smile, your child with Aspergers is more than capable of making you proud… Mine does.

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Don’t just assume your child will tell you if something is wrong! Aspergers is a communication disorder after all!

Do be ready to put on your investigation cap, as you try to discover just what has upset your child… Remember they will expect you to just know.

Don’t feel that everything has to become a mission in life because of your child’s condition.

Do be prepared to be pleasantly surprised when your child shows you that something you thought would be impossible for them… is actually totally possibly.

Don’t waste time asking yourself “What If?”

Do remember that we have one life, Our own unique and special story. All children deserve to be brought up happy with stacks of love and great memories to support it. Our children will eventually grow up and fly the nest… Yes even those with Aspergers Syndrome! My point? Just enjoy your kids, never taking a single day for granted… Even those not so good ones!

Little Man Gets Busy In The Kitchen

19 Apr

If you read the blog you will know that since little man has been attending his new special school, we have discovered his got rather good skills in the kitchen.

That’s right, his becoming a bit of a master chef and whats more he enjoys the activity of cooking and baking.

A few weeks back we were contacted by someone involved in the cooking with kids campaign creates by ‘The great british chefs‘ in conjunction with Tesco. The campaign is all about encouraging parents to cook with their children as a way of encouraging not only healthy eating but also food education. It provides the perfect bonding activity (unless you’re child’s like little man, not allowing you a single look in)!

There is a whole web page of child friendly recipes to create from yummy dinners to delightful desserts and cakes.

I suggested to the Little guy that we give it a go and as expected he was up for challenge.

Only instead of selecting a recipe requiring lots of ingredients, we opted for one of the more simplistic options available… so much so there was no cooking or even baking involved whatsoever! It wasn’t because we just wanted to speedily put together something simple… the recipe we chose was one that not only looked delicious within the imaging displayed on the Great British Chefs website, but something we hadn’t ever thought about trying before.

This was a recipe for strawberry sundaes, only slightly different from the norm, as these were created with yogurt and oats (Granola) instead of that of ice cream which we would always normally use when pulling together a sundae.

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The sundae recipe has been created by Gavin Brothers especially for the campaign which is running in conjunction with Tescos. The recipe introduction reads, “This strawberry sundae recipe is a fantastic breakfast treat, as instead of ice cream, there’s yoghurt and granola. Quick to prepare, even for little hands, they make a nice, healthy mid-day snack for children. Feel free to experiment with other seasonal berries and fruits”

So here’s the few ingredients needed to create this relatively healthy alternative to the traditional strawberry ice cream sundae…

160g of granola
250g of low fat strawberry yoghurt
150g of strawberries
20g of icing sugar

This is said to feed a family of 4 (sundaes served in a tall glass)

We however used our sundae glasses which look much taller than the ones used for this recipe, so we had to increase our ingredients slightly.

Here’s what you do …

Remove the tops from the strawberries and place in a bowl with the icing sugar

LIGHTEN IT UP
Feel free to reduce the sugar used in this step

2. Use a fork to lightly crush the strawberries

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3. Place some granola in the bottom of each glass, followed by some strawberry yoghurt. Top with the crushed fresh strawberries and serve

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We also sprinkled a little icing sugar on top of our finished sundaes for decoration purposes.

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Little man seriously took over (I swear he would make a great head chef… His bossy and likes to take charge). Although this recipe was really simple, he really enjoyed putting the sundaes together.

As for the taste, we all loved them! Just check out the toddler getting stuck in!

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The kids have now suggested having the yogurt sundaes more often. Alice even had one for breakfast this morning.

There are loads of recipes on the campaign page. But be warned… You may suddenly find that you feel the need to munch following browsing.

So why not select a recipe and get cooking with the kids!

You can access the Cooking With Kids Campaign page on the Great British Chefs Website by Clicking Here

Disclaimer: Please Note This is not a sponsored post! I Wasn’t paid to write this and didn’t receive anything for doing so. We joined in because we wanted to. Its a campaign we believe in and a great way to teach children skills in preparation for independence (especially those on the autism spectrum like little man).

A Case Of Miscommunication

15 Apr

So, my mum says to little man while his having a “moment”

“You can’t just go around hitting anyone you fancy”

He had just lost his temper and hit out at his sister!

Little man replies, and with a temper I must add!

“Nanny your disgusting are you suggesting I fancy my own sister?”

It was one of those moments and mum couldn’t help but to laugh. However laughing was not on little man’s agenda!

“Don’t laugh at me nan” he screamed as he kicked the wall and throw himself on the floor.

You see, when talking to little man we have always tried to remember to put things in a way that is easy for him to grip a hold off and fully understand. Using metaphors and words that have two meanings can get confusing for little man, but over time he has learnt certain metaphors and their meanings (though this is mainly as a result of a past miscommunication).

Even though I am careful in how I speak to little man I’m also aware that I can’t be there all of the time and in actual fact, to some degree he needs these miscommunications In order to learn from them and go on to be successful in whatever it is he chooses to do in life.

Every time little man hears a certain metaphor we try our best to explain its true meaning to him! This doesn’t necessarily mean he understands it, or should I say… “Agrees” with it! His response will normally be something along the lines off… ‘Whats the point in that mum?’ or “Thats just stupid because why would anyone even have Skeletons in their closet?” Though, regardless of what he thinks about it, he will usually store the term along with its correct meaning for his own future reference.

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My point is, and its an important one! That our children on the autism spectrum will find themselves in situations like this. If we forever try to wrap them up in cotton wool, insisting that those who speak to them do so in a totally unambiguous manner all of the time, then what happens ten, twenty years down the line when your child is at work in the office, and having been a little moody to a fellow colleague that colleague, jokingly tells them ‘Ok, Ok … Don’t get your knickers in a twist’ Things could be taken completely out of context. I can Imagine Little man’s reaction to such a term ,having no idea that it was in fact a turn of phase, he’d be inclined to tell him that he doesn’t wear knickers and if anything doesn’t much like wearing underpants either.

I’m not saying that when our children go of to school in the morning, the teachers looking after them, should greet them with some low life wise crack comment. Teachers should do their best not to confuse the child with their language but like us, their parents, teachers should be their to explain such metaphors when and if our children encounter them. Given we all use these silly little sayings so often, one or two are bound to slip out now and then from someone, somewhere along the line. But then isn’t better they hear them now rather when they are 25?

Don’t forget this month is Autism Awareness month and despite the need to raise awareness everyday, why not start with today and share something with your family and friends directing them to this post.

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

7 Apr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Children’s Picture Book That Children With Aspergers Can Relate To

28 Mar

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I was lucky enough to be sent a review copy of a fabulous new children’s picture book from Flashlight press, all the way in the US.

And how gratefully received this was! Its a picture book like non I’ve read before! One that highlights one of the common autism traits I know all to well… The ability to be that little bit too honest!

I actually found myself laughing out loud as I read the book “Being Frank” as there was one particular part that reminded me of an incident at little man’s school! Actually it was almost the exact same scenario. In the book Frank is a little too honest (as the title suggests) and on one occasion he tells the teacher that her breath smells funny and is therefore sent to the principal as a result of his honesty. Ok, little man didn’t inform the teacher of her funny smelling breath, he instead told the head teacher that his breath smelt like his grandmas dogs.

Anyone who parents a child on the autism spectrum can easily spot the trait in Franks honest manner. Franks motto is that “Honesty is the best policy” He tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth! Only he soon begins to realise that its not always appreciated, especially by adults. Frank is only being honest when he tells his mother she has lots of wrinkles as a result of her glaring at him, and even worse, when his mother is stopped by the police for speeding and frank informs the policeman that his mother was aware she was speeding as he had already told her so.

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Frank learns with the help of his grandpa that yes it is important to be honest but its all about being tactful when you do.

Its all about a “Little more sugar and a bit less pepper!”

This is a real enjoyable and funny story with some lovely but all the same , hilarious illustrations. I think children with Aspergers in particular, will really be able to relate to frank. The book could well be used as a great social skills training tool and resource. Its one I’ll be recommending to families of children on the autism spectrum for sure.

Being Frank
Is written by Donna Earnhardt, and illustrated by Andrea Castellani

Being Frank was a runner up in the About.com readers choice awards

Sadly its not widely available here in the UK but its really worth getting one shipped over.

Check it out over at Flashlight Press

ITS TIME THAT OFSTED PUT A STOP TO ILLEGAL EXCLUSIONS AGAINST CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS

20 Feb

Yesterday was a rather productive day.

Its a day that two years ago, I longed to see.

Yesterday was all about reaching out, creating awareness and getting heard.

It was those important factors above, and a few more besides that encouraged me on the given tasks I had been set. Tasks I thought would never happen but was now about to suddenly surface.

The task was that of sharing our story with the world.

Two years ago I felt as if no one would listen. I was able to successfully bring every aspect of our story to light and people would take notice… Every aspect but this one! Now I’d been given an opportunity to change this.

It all began when the charity “Contact A Family” sent me an email with an attached survey surrounding the topic of “Illegal exclusions from school” Of course I had a lot to say on the given subject. I hoped that others affected would have too. The results could finally prove the extent of the problem and finally a campaign set in motion.

Thankfully this is what happened! The results have lead to the charity “Contact A Family” launching a national campaign highlighting the results of the survey entitled “Falling Through The Net”…

The charity’s Falling Through The Net survey, collected the opinions off over 400 families of children with disabilities or additional needs.

The results indicated that more than half (53%) of families have been asked to collect their child during the school day because there are not enough staff available to support them.

• More than half (56%) of families have• been told by the school that their child can’t take part in a class activity or trips because it is unsuitable for them.

• Almost a quarter (22%) are illegally excluded every week and 15% every day.

• More than half (53%) of affected disabled children are falling behind with school work and 43% feel depressed because of illegal exclusions.

• Half of parents (50%) are unable to work due to being called to school frequently.

The charity is making the following recommendations to improve the situation:

• Where exclusion is necessary, schools must follow statutory procedure to ensure decisions are lawful, reasonable and fair.

• The most frequently illegally excluded pupils with a disability or additional needs are those who have conditions which affect behaviour. Schools should take early action to tackle the underlying cause, and to put in support before a crisis occurs.

• Schools and teachers should work closely with parents to understand a child’s condition or disability and their extra support needs and ensure the child gets the help they need.

• Ofsted has an important role in identifying unlawful practice in the course of an inspection. School should be offered additional support to help them improve their practice. A grading of “inadequate” should be considered if schools continue to illegally exclude children with a disability, SEN or additional need.

Looking back through some of my blog post that I had written back when Little man was being regularly excluded from school (both officially and unofficially) I am reminded of the sheer frustration and anger this situation was causing for both myself and my child.

I’m reminded of them painful days full of tears and disbelief as we struggled to get of a never ending rollercoster of emotional terror.

My post remind me that I am in fact a much stronger person than I myself give credit too. Despite the forming of depression and a certain degree of hopelessness, I never once give up… even though I often found myself close to the edge I remained there by a thread… A very thin one.

It wasn’t just our family feeling the pressure, although at that specific moment in time I felt like the only one and that felling was a somewhat lonely one! There was many more like me and it was during those months that followed that I discovered many others like myself living in fear of the daily phone calls from their child’s school demanding they collect their child for whatever reason.

The Boy With Aspergers Facebook page which is an addition to this very blog has some 5,800 + members, many looking for the same answers, huge numbers struggling to work together with their child’s school in a productive manner. Instead these parents found themselves on our page asking the same question… “Are they allowed to continually request I collect my child from school and bring him home?”

Yes, they are…. But only if the statutory procedures are carried out by the school. Its when they fail to put these procedures into action to ensure such decisions are lawful, that they then become unlawful.

What happens to the schools who chose the latter? In most cases if not all… Nothing!

You see the Education Act states that it is a parents responsibility to ensure their child is educated once they have reached compulsory school age. If parents fail to ensure regular attendances AWOs (Attendance and Welfare Officers) likely step in and local authorities proceed to take parents to court if they fail to fulfil this parental requirement (for whatever reason). This can leave parents with a hefty fine to pay or even in some cases a prison sentence to serve. The thing is parents can be found guilty of an offence under section 441 or 441(a) regardless of the reasons behind the absences. Its simple if you are (a) the parent of the child and (b) they never attended school everyday regardless of the reasons, then that parent is automatically found guilty of 441 (the lesser charge of failing to secure school attendance) and will end up with a fine or find themselves on some type of parenting order. Its the law, plain and simple!

My point?

Your child’s school phones you up, sometimes on a daily basis and requests you collect your child as they are unable to contend with their challenging behaviour. You take your child home as the school requests you do, only the official routes are not put into motion… There is no exclusion letter setting out the reasons for your child’s exclusion. This therefore means that the local authority have not been notified and your child’s school have broken the law. Maybe you don’t know this at the time but when you eventually discover this to be the case you take action. Written complaints to governing bodies, LEA officials and ofsted! Yet nothing at all happens… Instead the school seem completely disregard it all and continue to operate in such a manner! How is this allowed to continue? If parents are taken to court and hit with hefty fines then why ain’t schools? After all laws are laws.

When I was called at the ridiculous hour of 8.30pm and asked that I keep my child away from school on the same day as a planned Ofsted visit I had finally been pushed enough. I took myself and child to the school and as he throw himself around the reception area in sheer anger and frustration I just stood demanding I speak with the visiting ofsted officer.

Next thing I knew she was stood behind me, placing her arm around my shoulder as she lead me to an empty class room for a chat. I remember it all becoming to much and I sat telling her through sobs and tears, the extent of the schools treatment towards myself and my child, paying particular attention to the ongoing illegal exclusions (including the one he was currently meant to be serving). I passed her evidence I’d collected, diary notes and some written thoughts from the little man himself. She agreed that the schools activity was illegal and promised to investigated. I tried making contact with the officer as the weeks turned to months but never had any luck. I was horrors with the schools final report and grade of a “Good” school. There was absolutely no mention on the subject. It even stated the schools understanding of children with SEN and certain disabilities. To say I was horrified is an understatement! I then lost every bit of faith I had left in a failing system.

Yesterday morning I gave a live radio interview to Paul Ross on the BBC LONDON 94.9 Breakfast show.

That same afternoon I found myself agreeing to a LIVE TV interview with SKY NEWS. Now I’ve done TV interviews before and have appeared on the news as well as sharing stories in national and local newspapers, but a LIVE interview was something new to me and admittedly as I stood waiting to enter the news room my stomach did an array of huge summersaults making me feel a tad sick!

I had to constantly remind myself of the pain we suffered… How awful life was for little man during those dark days attending mainstream school. I then collaborated a huge mass of messages in my mind, all surrounding the questions parents of excluded children would leave on our Facebook page messages I’d read on the Facebook page all searching for answers and support.

I just had to remember that by doing this I could help contribute somehow to making a difference for children like my little man and their family’s too! This combined with the great encouragement given to me from some great supportive people across social networks such as twitter and Facebook, was the virtual kick in the butt I needed to get in that news room and go for it.

Thankfully I was joined by Srabani Sen, Chief Executive of Contact a Family and the whole thing went pretty well.

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So… Here’s hoping together we can bring much needed changes to the way schools deal with the challenging behaviour of children with additional needs.

Would be interested in hearing from others who like myself and many others have had fight this battle. If your interested in featuring in a post I’m planing on this subject please email me via the address on my contact page.

Links to media articles on this subject…

An article on the guardian blog from a teacher who says illegal exclusion needs to stop! Click Here

An Article in the guardian newspaper (I myself contributed too under a different name) plus it features the wonderful Mama Owl (aka Juile Sheppard) and her beautiful boy Logan. Click Here

Enable – The official Contact A Family Report featuring mine and little mans experiences Click Here

Contact A Family Article on their findings Click Here

I’m afraid I haven’t been given the permission to broadcast the Sky News Clip as yet. It was showed at 1:50pm on the 19th Feb 2013 live on Sky news (Sky and freeview). If you are a Sky account holder You maybe able to view this on Sky Go today if you would like to see it. I will share on the blog as soon as I have permission to realise the clip.

#Win 1 Of 4 Copies Of Alphablocks Phonics First Steps on DVD

16 Feb

Here on ‘A boy with Aspergers’ we are firm believers in education from an early age. That’s why we love the Alphablocks.

Gone are the days when children’s programmes lacked in educational value! Now children’s TV is full of exciting yet educational programmes allowing your pre-schoolers a good head start ahead of school.

One of those shows is that of Alphablocks, the successful show first brought to our screens by CBeebies.

But wait! As of the 25th February 2013 Volume 1 – Alphablocks Phonics First Steps will be available to purchase on DVD.

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Has you’re little one(s) not yet had the opportunity to see the Alphablocks? Well, here’s a little more about them…

Alphablocks open the door to a magical world of reading. How? Well
These 26 living letters who fall out of the sky discover that if they hold hands together they can make a word, which then magically comes to life!

The Alphablocks are Based on best-practice phonics, your child will laugh and learn with the little letter people and their adventures, songs and all
kinds of fun and games.

Volume 1: Phonics First Steps, also comes with a FREE Alphablocks, Alphabet poster for your little one to enjoy. The DVD introduces the first letters and sounds that children are taught at school and starts them off making simple words. With repeat viewing, children can build key phonics skills and boost their reading confidence – while having lots and lots of fun.

Features 18 episodes, to find out more visit http://www.alphablocks.tv

I’ve kindly been offered 4 copies to give away to our lovely readers. So… Who wants to win one?

Compulsory Action
Simply tell me in a comment the fun ways in which you make reading fun!

You can also gain additional entries by doing any of the below. Enter as many as you like but do leave an additional comment for each action you take. Note you can only gain additional entries once you have completed the compulsory entry above.

Tweet: “I want to win the Alphablocks Phonics First Steps volume 1 DVD with @Clairelouise82 & @AbbeyKids”

Pin the competition on Pinterest (leave the link to the pin in your comment)

Follow @AbbeyKids on twitter (comment with your twitter handle)

Follow @Clairelouise82 on twitter (comment with your twitter handle)

Subscribe to the blog via feed burner (comment with the email you subscribe with)

Subscribe to the A boy with aspergers (ABWAblog) on youtube

Competition will close at 11:59 on the 10th March 2013.

Also keep an eye out for our review of the DVD coming after the release date of the 25th.

Winners will be drawn at random from all valid entries submitted. Competition open to all those in the UK only. Winners must leave either an email address or twitter handle with their comments so that I can easily contact them in the event that they win. Winners have 72 hours to respond to the winning notification or another winner will be drawn in their place.

ThePrizeFinder – UK Competitions

No… My Son Hasn’t Become Addicted To Gambling Because He Won A Raffle

25 Jan

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If you read the blog regularly then you will already know that little man won an iPad mini just before Christmas with Vivo miles (his school reward system). If you didn’t read my blog post about the win, you can find it Here!

So… Recently, well a few weeks back in fact, I came across an article (well more than one actually) regarding the online raffle that my son won. The article told how a parent had reported Vivo Miles to the Gambling Commission after the parent accused the popular school reward scheme of encouraging gambling when they allowed pupils to take part in a raffle for high-tech gadgets.

Pupils were able to purchase raffle tickets from the points they had been awarded by their teaching staff. These tickets are paid with by points but worked out to the Equivalent of around 5p each in money.

It is said that the parent complained having discovered her son had taken part in the raffle without her permission. She was concerned about this and complained that her child had been allowed to gamble, spending his well earned points on an online lottery!

Now, before I go any further, I wish to make a few things known and noted…

Firstly… Yes… Little man did win an IPad mini on this very raffle, and No… this has no inference on my current thoughts and opinions on the subject. I have read the articles, given it some thought and done some research.

So, the articles are not that positive, the papers and online sites did well to highlight the less then positive factors within this story! As always things could have been better explained and other important factors included… But hay, where’s the juice in that?

Now… I understand the parents concerns, especially if she had no indication of her sons entry into the online raffle, but what everyone is forgetting to ask themselves is why didn’t she know?

As mentioned within the articles, shools pay to join the Vivo Miles reward programme. What it fails to mention is that each school receives a programme tailored to its specific needs and more importantly… budgets. The schools independently select items to be placed on the they’re schools profile. Pupils can then make selections from the school’s rewards and exchange these items for their points. Every item is pre-selected by members of staff within the school, So, this therefore includes the inclusion of the raffle itself.

The staff in charge of managing their online profile are the ones who have a duty to inform parents of the raffle… Not Vivo Miles. Vivo deal directly with the schools, even the rewards are sent directly to the schools as opposed to pupils home addresses.

I wish to add that Little mans school informed us, the parents! About the online raffle as soon as it went live. My daughters school (Mainstream Primary) don’t use Vivo miles but do always ran a school Christmas raffle! Here’s the difference….

My son’s school informed us by letter. They explained ticket prices and how the raffles would be run.

My daughters school also sent out letters stating the school office had raffle tickets for sale. The note states the price and suggestion that we give our children money to buy tickets when at school!

In many ways I struggle to see the differences! Only that little man would act more independently when deciding how many of his points to spend on tickets. I actually think this teaches some independent and decision making skills to the child.

Yes… The prize was nice! But also educational! For a child like little man on the autism spectrum, an iPad mini is a great tool, one that many schools are actually giving to pupils to use at school (costing them large amounts from its budget).

My daughters school also had great prizes on offer, some more expensive than others.

I also checked out some other school raffles by doing a google search and discovered that some schools were offering really elaborate prizes, such as hotel stays, bottles of champagne and games consoles. Again most of these schools wrote that children could come into school with the money to buy tickets. The only difference here is that parents know what they are sending the money in for, but its still an exchange of money and if anything a more realistic form of gambling due to the visual aspects of it! I was fully informed about the Vivo raffle and could have therefore stopped little man joining in anytime, just as I could have chosen for my daughter to opt out by not supplying her with the funds for the ticket (regardless of if its her pocket money).

The biggest issue I see is the schools mistake of not informing this parent of the Vivo Miles raffle (as it seems they didn’t).

I wonder if the parents who did have an issue with the online raffle feel the same when it comes to school tombolas. Kids can spend their pocket money on 3 tombola tickets for a pound. They can do this without a parents consent. Children open the tickets in the hope their raffle ticket ends in a 0 or a 9 to have their pick of prizes from the table. There is no limitation on the number of tickets kids can buy and although the prize is not an ipad its a relevant, its taking a gamble all the same! I my opinion its worse as the temptation is laid out before their very eyes.

For me the term lottery is a strong one!
As far as I’m concerned proceeds from the raffles that were in its 3rd month of trails were donated to charity.

Vivo also encourage children to donate points to their chosen charity & our kids are free to do so if they wish.

Now, I did hear that during the trails there was some sort of mix up. It has been stated that Vivo Miles insisted the raffles were only open to pupils in the 500 secondary schools subscribing to the scheme, but admitted that two primaries had also “inadvertently” been included.

What can I say… This is a careless mistake but one that both Vivo and the schools in question need hold accounting for.

It is rumoured that the parent who made the complaint is a parent to a primary school child aged 7 years. It is also noted that she was surprised when her child had told her he had participated in the raffle. All I want to know is why no one felt the need to monitor this child’s Internet usage. A child at 7 could run into allsorts of trouble, what with inappropriate website and child grooming! I for one would be monitoring my 7 year olds internet usage. Was this mother not regularly checking the sites her child visited and did she not feel the need to view her child’s Vivo profile at all. I have even seen a thread on a forum where it is said that primary aged children were making comments on the Vivo Facebook page, yet Facebook is a social networking site for children age 13+. In one sense these parents are rightfully complaining about their child taking part in an online raffle but in another sense happy for them to have free run of the net and chat on Facebook? Its our job as parents, along with those teaching our children, to protect them and teach safe Internet usage.

There is yet more rumours, one being that Vivo miles didn’t plan on giving all the money to charity. I was told in writing that the money would go to charitable courses when I was informed about the raffle. As of yet I haven’t had any reason to suspect otherwise.

Lastly… As noted, my opinion have no bearing on Little mans win. I spent a long time in a relationship with someone addicted to gambling and it tore apart my life for sometime. If I believed I was allowing my child into that world then I wouldn’t have allowed him to participate.

Since his win, my son has not become some over compulsive gambler. He doesn’t cling to me, dragging from my legs kicking and screaming begging me to buy him a scratch card or anything! His iPad has become a great communication tool, a place he can store a visual schedule that’s totally mobile and personalised to his needs, somewhere to store notes to remember important information, a learning and resource device, and of course a place to play Mindcraft… (Com on his got to let of steam somehow).

I’m confident in stating that little man has become much more independent since using Vivo miles. Having attended schools who’s past reward systems failed (let’s not forget this little boy with aspergers was left with no school as not one mainstream school said they could meet his needs) he has now been lucky enough to have discovered a programme that works for him.

Since attending special school his never again been excluded and considering this was a weekly occurrence, it would seem evident that Vivo mile, along with good teaching has given my son the opportunity of educational success.

Little man actually brought all the family small Christmas gifts with his points before buying any raffle tickets (see… he was budgeting). If Vivo miles were able to have continued the raffles would he have entered anymore? Maybe, maybe not! He hasn’t mentioned wanting to and if he wants something he knows how to bleb on about it. Why am i so confident that Vivo Miles haven’t created a gambling monster? Given he entered just the one raffle out the 3 or 4 that were run and the fact his not searching for more makes me confident. His plan has always been to save his points for next years Christmas shop… Now does this look like the ideas of a newly formed gambler?

No… It doesn’t!

He won a raffle, lots of kids do and will continue to do so for years to come!

We won’t apologise for that and I won’t admit to allowing my 12 year old child with Aspergers gamble… Because that is simply not the case!

Reference: Related Mumsnet forum thread

Also another blogger from across the pond has some interesting points on this story: Chellie’s World

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