Saturday, 27 October 2012

Political Activist in the making!

Consultations have taken place to store Nuclear waste underground.
I've just got back from a photo shoot with our National Autistic society who are campaigning to improve services within the NHS locally for our  children. It started with a newspaper article in our regional paper. We read the story of an eighteen year old boy with Aspergers syndrome who had comitted suicide. Parents responded immediately to the news. It is common knowledge within the Autistic community that Mental Health services in this area are letting Autistic children and adults down. Many of us have experienced it and our hearts went out to the mother of this poor boy. Comments were posted thick and fast and our local newspaper got in touch as they wanted to do an article to raise awareness.

We are all mothers of autistic children. Many are already battling  for better educational provision, respite , NHS services- no mean feat when you are caring for a child with difficulties. Nevertheless we want the best for our children and felt strongly enough to have our say.
Since starting to home educate I've found myself  slowly becoming more involved with political issues. The government has threatened my right to Home educate, the rights of my son to Disability living allowance, even my right to decide whether my childrens' education would be enhanced by removing them from school during term time to explore our beautiful country. Issues like taking finger prints for lunch cards at school or deciding against vaccinations are queried by the authorities as though we have lost the capacity to think for ourselves.In a way I think we have,our education system actively encourages it. It's far easier when everyone submits.
 Prior to home educating I was lethargic. I did my bit and I voted, but then I left it to the politicians to do their job. The trouble is that my experience home educating showed me that their policies on education in particular were wrong. It exposed them as not knowing what they were doing and I started to query other issues. I do care about how our laws affect my family and community and I've realised that I can have an impact.
 Home educating in an autonomous way leads to research on things that impact on our lives.We researched Biomass plants when plans were unveiled to build a biomass plant near us . We reacted with horror at the news that consultations were taking place about storing  nuclear waste over the estuary less than a mile away We have discussed referendums to change the political system  and voted .Even my son at the age of 12 has expressed the view that too much money is spent on the defence budget.
 Home educated kids have more time to involve themselves in the real world. The government can't  pull the wool over their eyes.They have the time and inclination to ask questions and to campaign about what matters to them and to see that they can have an effect.In fact maybe in the future my son will follow in the footsteps of Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln  or George Washington who were themselves home educated.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Crisis !What Crisis!

Relaxing on the Fells after a busy week
It's been a topsy turvey sort of week. It started off O.K, in fact we were quite relaxed as there was no drum lesson on Monday so far less rushing around in the car. Then on Tuesday we got the news that my husband's uncle had died, He was 80 and had had a good life but my husband had many happy memories of holidays in Scotland as a child with his uncle. We didn't  know at first when the funeral would be but were told it was likely to be on Friday a couple of hours away in Whitehaven.
Then the next day the car broke down on the school run. Fortunately it died on the drive and my husband got it started so we didn't miss the school bus ,but it wasn't really appreciated first thing in the morning!
On Wednesday my mum rang to say that my dad was spending the night in hospital for observation so a sleepless night awaiting news the next morning that he had been sent home and was feeling better.
The children were looking forward to Thursday. My eldest was kayaking on Coniston lake with his COPE class and the weather was fantastic. Meanwhile my daughter and I were taking part in a concert with our community choir and orchestra, she was singing and playing flute in Carnival of the animals  and I was singing with the choir. We had to be at the venue for 5.00pm. I set off to pick the children up from the school bus at 4.00pm and once again the car died. The next two hours were spent frantically arranging for the children to be picked up from the bus stop, ringing the AA, arranging for my daughter to get to her rehearsal with a neighbour and then I followed in hot pursuit when my car was mended.
When we have a bad week it's easy to think that very little is learned . In fact crises can offer some of the best lessons. For my Autistic son, routine is very important and weeks like these show that despite being uncomfortable he can survive the unexpected things that happen in life. For my eldest he experienced the pain of his first funeral and met up with relatives who he rarely sees, He also learned from the AA man the mechanical problems causing my car to break down. Something which he has already encountered  at college on his car mechanics course and which he will now work on with his dad. For me I had to take the bull by the horns and drive our other car. Not a big deal to most people but I always dread it at first. In fact imy fears were unfounded and it was far easier than my current car to drive. And my daughter still got to her concert and had to play like a true professional as though nothing at all had happened! Roll on a better week next week!

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Aspergers and agoraphobia

Making the most of a good Day
When I started to home educate I had a picture in my mind of beach combing, walking in the Autumn woods and visiting museums.
For many that is how it is. Not that long ago we were able to have some fantastic weekends away visiting, London, Manchester, Halifax , Bristol  and  the wonderful countryside on our doorstep has enabled us to sail on Coniston water, climb Gummershow and jump over limestone pavements.
However over the last year, as puberty has hit my twelve year old son who has Asperger Syndrome  I have seen a decline in my son's willingness to go out. It came to a head on Friday when a suggested trip to our local shop resulted him holding a knife to his chest in fear at the thought! It is a terrible thing to see your twelve year old child so anxious about something as little as stepping out the door but to him it is enormous!
High anxiety and fear of the unknown is common in children with Aspergers and we are not alone ,but it is hugely stifling and needs to be addressed. I have learned that I am not the person to fight this battle. As the main educator and person in authority throughout the day my sons physical violence and anger is directed at me if he perceives any criticism. Living with him is like walking on eggshells and I have learned to pick my battles. In contrast my son will immediately do what his father asks of him.
This is not because I am unable to discipline - if I had bad parenting skills then my other two children would misbehave but they don't. This is down to the condition Oppositional defiant disorder. If I chose to discipline my son in the same way as his siblings in the normal day I would spend my life fighting with my son, Something which is draining and exhausting. I have learned to pick my battles and that means when it comes to having a bath, cleaning teeth or going out on non urgent trips I wait for my husband to be present I then know that my request will be carried out (eventually) and that violence will not be directed at either my other children or myself.
 I have struggled with  the fact that he can be disrespectful, swears at me and has the capability to be violent however I have learned that normal strategies are inappropriate. These behaviours result from severe anxiety and stress and my main role is to keep them under control so that Family life can function. Educating-Oppositional-Defiant-Children and The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children have been confirmation to me that my strategies are the right ones. Despite criticism from parents who have 'perfect children' and can't understand how any child could be badly behaved unless the parents lacked the correct parenting skills I have stood my ground. I know my child. Sadly requests for help dealing with anger and violence from our local CAMHS have been to no avail. I have learned that not only is there a lack of ressources but a lack of specialist knowledge in Autism too.Some of the advice I have received would have been downright harmful had I followed it. One locum pschyiatrist criticised my decision to home educate and suggested I put my child straight back into school to learn socialisation skills. Perhaps she is unaware of the terrible bullying that some Autistic children receive at school or that children like my son spend half their lives being excluded because mainstream schools can't cope, or that suitable specialist schools are not available in this area! My son is above average intelligence and our local special school is for severely learning disabled children!
My experience of this system shows that this is not the place to go for help with my sons agraphobia, at least not for now although we have a campaign locally for better services after an eighteen year old with Aspergers comitted suicide lately, having been diagnosed too late (at 15) and having had inadequate and appropriate help.
Instead for now I will be seeking help from parents who have been through this, and adults with Aspergers to see how they handle it. They after all are the experts! I will also be reading as much information as I can to equip myself with strategies to help my son.Hopefully in time our children will get the support and expertise to which they are entitled from our NHS.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

History of the first world war

Autumn walk
We watched War Horse last night. Long time overdue! I wanted to go and see it as soon as it came out as I'm a great Michael Morpurgo fan but sadly my son was against it! At last I got my way as it's out on DVD and my son is allowed a free DVD each week from the library. Yesterday I went on my own and selected it on his behalf  and so we spend a family night in round the television watching the film. As with all the books I've read by Morpurgo so far. it is based on fact. It covered the role of horses in the first world war and gave a glimpse into the conditions tolerated by the soldiers but in a way that most twelve year olds could handle. In fact my son who has Aspergers syndrome has watched far worse in documentaries about the war and can handle it because of a lack of emotional attachment due to his condition. His twin sister on the other hand couldn't. We all agreed that it was a film worth watching and are now looking forward to the release of Private Peaceful, a book which we have already read and which deals with the delicate issues of cowardice and desertion.
When it comes to home education the kindness of others never fails to amaze me. My son was given a bag of BBC wildlife magazines on Friday. They were bought by a couple from church for their Granddaughter but she wasn't interested. I often find that about so called 'educational books'. They are so often in pristine condition when we buy them in charity shops as children don't want to 'do education' after school- they are too tired having been bombarded with facts day by day. My son's encylopedias however are well thumbed. He dips into them as and when he feels like it and is always throwing unusual facts at us! We have been following the travels of a distant relative as they do a grand tour of Australia and an article about Dingos allowed us to add another piece of information to the jigsaw ! My son also received a heavy package yesterday - a book of all life on the planet which I'd swapped on Readitswapit it! A fantastic swap as the RRP was £20 and we got it for the price of a stamp. I will leave it in the car for him to pick up when we go out!

Friday, 5 October 2012

The time for school photos is long gone!

Watching as the bore comes in
Contemplation at Bardsea
My daughter came home with her class photo today. Now I know that my eye sight is getting worse but the fact that I couldn't even see my daughter didn't inspire me to pay the £10.50 requested  to boost school funds.
I've never really been a fan of school photos, in fact I can't see the point. They epitomise everything I don't like about school. There's the school uniform for starters. I could never work in a uniformed institution.  I hate the fact that everyone is made to look the same and feel that uniform stifles their true personalities. Not that I'm into pink hair and nose piercing ,but there is scope for arguing that you can look neat , tidy and respectable without a uniform. In fact my son's school has just reintroduced a shirt and tie , a retrograde step from my point of view, Firstly it involves an iron, and I hate housework, secondly if you have boys then you will understand when your son comes home covered from top to toe in mud having played rugby at break time (as mine did yesterday) that in fact polo shirts and fleeces are a great deal more practical if you need to throw them into the washing machine!
 Then there's the question of why anyone in this day and age would want a photo of their child , posing  for a portrait in their school uniform in front of a blank canvas when instead you can have a natural digital shot of your child with a backdrop of beautiful scenery. engrossed in imaginary games or  collecting shells on in beach and completely free. There is no contest in my book!
The whole palaver just reinforced for me the freedom of home education  gives to just be yourself - not fettered by false expectations to conform to a limited  idea about what 'education'  actually means!
Some things such as school photos are out of date. Schools need to move forward as advances in technology progress otherwise they will never catch up. They need to be creative, think of new money raising ideas and not just repeat the same old things year after year because that is what they have always done!

Monday, 1 October 2012

Bringing Education to Life!

Baking in the kitchen on a wet Sunday afternoon!
As I sit  here writing my blog my eldest son is building a Go cart at Explorer scouts for a competition. He has also been offered a Rover engine to strip down which awaits collection. Both involve important life skills- ingenuity and creativity!
Meanwhile my daughter has spent all evening curled up on the bed reading the second book in the Hunger Games Trilogy- in the last year or so her interest in books has really taken off. Just by offering books which I thought would interest her and not panicking if she didn't want to read them she has not felt under pressure.
We have found two Japanese pen-pals too, one for her and one for me, Neither of us speaks Japanese but my Autistic son`expressed an interest in learning Japanese and I thought if we wrote to someone in Japan we could learn about the culture and language at the same time. So we are having to start from scratch. Luckily the Japanese learn English at school so at least we have some way of communicating! I have found an Usborne book on Readitswapit for starters with 1000 words and am hoping that will help us learn some basic words. Meanwhile I'm corresponding with a Japanese English teacher who lived for a while in England so I'm hoping she can guide me in the right direction!
My daughter has also been baking in the kitchen this weekend. She made Rock cakes whilst I baked a Victoria sponge. It was a horrible rainy day and nice to spend time together 'doing our thing'.
Whilst all of this has happened at home ,school came up trumps and offered the opportunity for her to dance with the Rambert Dance company last week. She is also off on a Geography Field Trip to St Bees on Wednesday. We see these 'perks' as  an extension of our Education at Home.
Meanwhile my Autistic son has been busy on his Minecraft, building a clock and a slot machine.He has discovered Redstone - basic circuitry and is teaching himself how to implement it. This mornings discussions involved Geothermal and solar energy- not bad for a computer game!