Friday, 28 June 2013

Look and Learn - Autistic strategies

It's a while since I found myself stalking my son as he stomped across the car park. I'd taken him to the cafe with his brother for a treat - a drink and cake (he told me later he wasn't expecting it) then I found myself in the cafe- him banging his head on the table and me trying to avoid the disappointment that yet again he was 'spoiling' our outing.

I know it's not intentional and I cope better now - it's not so embarassing although I do admit to feeling on edge at what might happen next. My eldest son and I moved to a quiter table in the corner but my youngest son refused to move rocking backwards and forwards, head in hands.

I watched him from a distance, explained the problem to the waitresses and asked her to leave him alone - she was lovely.Even the people in the cafe didn't outwardly stare at what was obviously a child in distress or make sarcastic comments in my hearing.

Anyway he stood up and walked out the cafe into the rain. I left him to it but my heart pounded as I imagined what might happen. Our drinks hadn't arrived and with the benefit of older son in attendance I left him at the table whilst I walked out into the rain in my short sleeved T shirt. My son was sitting in a puddle next to the car so I went over and unlocked the car and invited him to get in. He just got up and walked further away and as I followed he got faster. He ended up behind the recycling skips in a bramble patch!

Heart in my mouth I turned tail and walked back into the cafe as I watched him walk towards the entrance to the car park.Back at the cafe my eldest son told me to ignore him (which is easier said than done) A crafty look through the window showed that he had turned round and was making his way back. He came back to the cafe and sat down, rocking backwards and forwards with head in hands. totally overwhelmed by the atmosphere. I gobbled down my tiffin, slurped half a cup of coffee and left my eldest to finish his hot chocolate and rocky road.

I told my Autistic son I was going back to the car and walked out ,not first without grabbing his cola (thank fully in a bottle) and chocolate muffin. He slowly got up and followed me to the car, climbed in and wrapped himself up in his sleeping bag , which he takes every where with him. We sat quietly and waited for his brother who was obviously frustrated and annoyed that we couldn't just enjoy our treats like 'normal' people.

My son sat in the car, cola in hand and muffin on lap and ,as his stress began to decrease I noticed that he began to nibble on the muffin and drink his coke.

"Where are we going now" he asked?

"Home son", I answered.

He was calm now and as we drove home a little voice behind me said 'sorry mummy'.

'Don't be sorry, you're not in trouble, what went wrong?'

'The cafe was noisy and I didn't know I was going' he said

'Oh well, we're learning together then , you learned how to walk away without knocking over tables and getting violent and I learned not to surprise you even though I thought I was treating you. Oh and next time ,if you walk away I won't follow you, you'll just have to come back when you are ready and I'll stay and drink my coffee. Agreed?'

'Sounds like a plan',he smiled.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Out with the old and in with the new!

Tis the season of honeysuckle and dog roses. I noticed as I was walking down the lane with the dogs in the sunshine this morning. I smelt the all invasive scent of the honeysuckle before I saw it- one of my favourite flowers. The foxgloves are  out too- gone are the pastel shades of spring and we are now into the richer purples and cerise and the stronger aromas of pollinating flowers.

Today was a day for decluttering. I'm a terrible hoarder but I was taking delivery of a new (or rather recycled) pine unit for the Kitchen and needed to make some space. I have always loved old furniture but in our small cottage there is a danger of overcrowding so I need to choose carefully.

It breaks my heart to think of the rosewood inlaid bed I have stored in the garden shed because it was unsuitable for the boys room.When they flee the nest it will be reinstated!

Out went the dog crate I've been tip toeing around for the past year, the church pew was moved into the porch and the cob webs which abound were swept away!

The furniture men arrived and commented how heavy the side board was as they struggled down the back stairs to the kitchen. Once in place I embellished it with my own sign.

and added a vase of ox eye daisies from the garden.....

And what about the dog? Well we bought him a new little bed of his own, oh  and a bone!

I think he was quite happy with the trade in now that he's a big boy.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Moving on - Autistic developments!

I've some-what neglected my Autistic son recently, not physically you understand, but in my  blogging. After all that's what this blog is really about. There's only so much you can  write about our activities in an interesting way when his routine happens to be the same  every day .That's what makes him safe and comfortable. I've noticed however that things have changed  over the last few weeks, very subtly but they HAVE changed.

The sun has been out and I'm sure that has made a difference, my eldest has been around more too as he's on study leave. My autistic son likes that (even that is a change from three years ago when they hated one another)

It has been some time since my son ventured out into the garden- a real shame when you have  1 1/2 acres of field to play and run around in and watch the wildlife. Recently however I've noticed him popping out to the trampoline.This has been one of the best purchases we have ever made (in fact we are now on our second it has been so well used) My son has always loved the trampoline. He started when our National Autistic society organised some sessions with a wonderful teacher called Vicky. My son was 8 or 9 and demanded on his first day to do a somersault. I explained that was a bit advanced for a first timer but under Vicky's supervision he did it anyway and has never looked back! It's a great way for him to deal with his own stress and get some exercise.

Going out has been less of an issue too. He is old enough at almost thirteen now to stay at home.That has made life much easier as I am not stressed trying to go out while he resists all attempts to leave the house. Instead I will ask if he wants to come. If he starts to waiver I will say it's up to him and that I'll sit in the car for five minutes and if he doesn't arrive I will go and assume he isn't coming. It has worked (TWICE). As I've sat on the drive I've heard a little click on the back door and noticed an apparition in ear defenders climb the back steps ready to go. In fact over the last two weeks my son has been getting 'bored' with being at home and asking what he can do. I've learned not to suggest umpteen ideas as it never works- he doesn't really want me to suggest things he is just frustrated. He gets two suggestions and if they are turned down I walk away and leave him. It works wonders. All too often in the past I ended up with a headache suggesting ideas which he just continually turned down,becoming more and more frustrated. He wanted my attention.It doesn't work now as I walk away. Instead I found him in the garden cuddling the dogs yesterday after having 'nothing to do' and he quickly finds something when left with no options.
He has also asked to come with me to Grandmas when I visit on a Friday nights and has chatted happily away ( about his 'specialist subjects' naturally) and watched the films that she lovingly tapes with him in mind. (She really has 'got him')

Even food issues have abated somewhat.O.K so Gran has ended up with a bulk buy of Quavers which he has suddenly ''gone off" (A bit like my stock pile of those horrible hot dogs you get in tins which he took  a shine to at one point). Current favourites are now Chicken chow mein (so noodles are on the menu), curries (which have always been a favourite) bagels, white chocolate milkshake (in fact anything that begins with the word chocolate),roast dinners (but not pork because it isn't beef)- so he's not going to starve!

Oh and the sleep issues seem to be improving too - sleeping at 12.00am rather than 4.00am - we are obviously on to a roll (pretty sure it's all linked to anxiety)

As for bathing and teeth cleaning - well we are still working on that although I did do a double take the other day when he disappeared and I thought he'd gone to hide when in fact he was in the bathroom having a bath just as I'd asked him too.I'm just hoping he gets the hang of teeth cleaning before they drop out- we have got as far as chewing gum so far and the occasional mouth wash. But hey ho I'm doing my best- What more can a mother do?

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Put those school books in the bin!

Enjoy the sunshine-life is for living!
I opened the kitchen bin the other morning to find it full of school text books. GCSE's are not even over yet and my son has symbolically made his bid for freedom.

At his leaving assembly I cringed as one of his teachers warned the children that their whole future depended upon their GCSE results- what sort of stress I thought does that put on the children?

I have been surprised at just how calm and happy our household has been throughout my son's exams. Whilst I as a mother would have preferred him to do more revision, it is not my life and he has made the right decisions so far.

He is lucky because as Student of the Year he has secured his place at college for next year so the pressure is off .but it was he who had the wisdom and sense to 'hedge his bets' and cover all bases. Only he could put in the time and commitment to become Student of the Year - no one forced him. In fact one day when the teachers were on strike and school was closed he was furious because it was his college day and he thought it was jeopardised. He asked whether I would by.pass the system and drive him there in the absence of a school bus!

In contrast to the paucity of revision my son was sitting at the computer the other day submitting apprenticeship applications. Whilst there is no need for him to secure an apprenticeship for the course he wants to undertake it will give him options if he is offered one. At the very least it is giving him experience filling in applications and possibly being interviewed.

So don't despair- life goes on no matter what results you get. Life may take a different turn from the one you expect but that's what makes life a challenge and it's how you learn - which after all is what Education is all about ISN'T IT?

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Following Wordsworth!

As well as being a great antidote for the stresses and strains of raising an autistic child, I find that walking is a great way to learn all sorts of subjects such as history and literature. It saddens me that my son feels unable to come with me on my walks although he's not so different from many 'normal ' teenagers who don't particularly want to spend time with their mothers. Instead I share my photographs with him and we discuss the subjects as they come up.

Take today for instance.I found myself in Hawkshead on a beautifully sunny day with five hours to spare. I had with me a walking book describing a circular walk from Hawkshead to Latterbarrow. It was only 4 miles and I reckoned I had time to do the walk before popping in to one of the village cafes for a coffee and cake.

I parked at the school and walked the short distance to Colthouse where I came across this Victorian post box. It's quite something to think of all the history that box will have seen over the hundred years plus it has been in the house wall.Even something as little as this can lead to a project on the history of the postal service in Britain or a collection of photos of British Post boxes.

Hidden away down a side lane there was also a little Quaker meeting house so I took a detour and opened the latched gate ,walking into the grounds to find this.

The burial ground further along the road was walled and was approached via a wooden gate in the wall. Beyond the gate I found a tranquil  garden with views towards Hawkshead village and, as I sat and took it all in,  a blue tit  flew backwards and forwards to its nesting box where it obviously had fledglings. A horse chestnut tree  covered in white candles overhung the burial ground , providing shade in a corner of the plot.

As I left the burial ground and walked back through the village I came across this resident who was obviously enjoying the sunshine,

What a great craft project a scarecrow would make!

My walk took me up a gradual slope through deciduous woodland where bluebells were still in evidence . I stopped to pass the time of day with an elderly lady who was taking her dog for a walk but other than that the only other local I came across was 

a herdwick sheep...

The track continued up hill, past Fishpond on my right and through larch coppices

From the highest point  there were views of The Fairfield horse shoe

I dropped down through a clearing which had been cleared for replanting  and the path took me through a forest  to a gate where the land opened up and above me I could see a Cairn. At first glance I was inclined to by-pass it as it was like Blackpool up there, however as I descended through the woods, I passed twenty or so walkers with their guide and I realized much to my relief that it was them that I had spotted on the summit.

In fact when I reached the top there were three of us, each sitting on our own stone in mutual silence taking in the views over Windmere which were spectacular. I could see Ambleside, Wray Castle and Brockhole and one of the Lake side steamers was wending it's way down the lake to Lakeside,

On the other side of the hill in the opposite direction I could see Hawkshead and Coniston Old Man,

I descended through woodland down to the bottom of the hill where there was a National Trust sign for Latterbarrow,

 I turned  into a quiet country lane and came across these trees before turning left and along a footpath signposted toHawkshead,

Hawkshead square was busy with tourists but there were still places where you could sit peacefully.

I climbed up to the Church which sits on a hill overlooking the village and sat up there watching the tourists below. William  Wordsworth would have worshipped here as  he was a pupil at the Grammar school next door which is now a museum.

A thoroughly lovely day!


Friday, 7 June 2013

Our Country is a Garden

Late spring is my very favourite time of year in the village. The grass verges are full of wild flowers, the hay hasn't yet been cut and the fields are covered with the yellow sheen of buttercups or spotted white with daisies and the cherry blossom and chestnut candles adorn the village trees.

What a contrast from the winter when we had drifts six feet high. I watched a wren this morning as it flicked it's tail jerkily up and down before flying away. The magpies are stil chack chack chacking in the village and tonight I stopped to watch this little chap (well chapess really) who flew into the hedge to be followed shortly by her black mate.

The Valerian is coming into bloom. It grows like a weed in our village as it likes the sea air but it sprouts out of walls, out of cracks in the path and a bit like buddleia it can take over if you don;t keep it under control.

I find that no matter how many times I walk round the village I always see something different. Tonight it was this plant growing out the dry stone wall.

I haven't a clue what it is but I've been introduced by a wonderful fellow home educator to a Facebook page called The Nature Table where people can  post their photographs and ask for help in identifying plants and animals and I'm hoping someone can help.

It's rhododendron time too....

We have several in our garden

but this is my definite favourite...

To finish I'll leave you with a few photos of our grass verges with their blue bells

frothy cow parsley

speedwell and Red campion. Beauty on our doorstep.We surely have a lot to be thankful for.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Providing evidence of Education at Home

It's that time of year again when I write my educational report. This one will be my fourth and I always have to psyche myself up to prepare it.

The local authority has a duty to ensure that children are educated in accordance with age and ability and evidence can be offered in the form of a visit by them, a report or some other type of evidence such as photos or copies of the childs work.

For us the option of a home visit has never been realistic. Our home is a place of security for my son, a safe haven away from the horrors and stress he associated with school and we didn't want to break the trust he has placed in us. Having aspergers we knew that he was likely to go mute in the presence of a stranger and that they would learn very little from him about his educational experience. We also feared that yet again we might find that our home education officer had very little experience of autism and would judge our parenting skills based on the perceived behaviour of our son, who in the presence of someone unknown may  swear and lash out if severely stressed.

Deep down I know that my son learns so much more at home than he ever did at school- nevertheless it is always traumatic waiting for the report to be approved. I have always kept a diary of what we do at home - it has proved invaluable when I look back over the year. I also take photos which serve as a visual reminder of where my son has been and what we've done,

When I looked back at last years report I was amazed to see what my son had covered just from watching the news and observing every day life.

Today for example my son was sitting in the car eating his KFC which has become part of his weekly routine now. For a change we had gone  down to the beach to eat it because the sun was shining and his big brother was on study leave from school. My son said something in a foreign language which, it transpired was japanese. He then went on to say several sentences , all of which he had learned from his Shogun Total war game, he also commented on a news article he'd seen about a chinese baby who'd been flushed down the toilet- he told me about the one child rule in China and that the rule was more relaxed in rural communities. He also mentioned a string of islands in Indonesia which I'd never heard of and told me that Hong Kong had got independence from Britain and wasn't under Chinese rule.

Every time something like that happens I am taken aback although I should be used to it by now.We haven't 'discussed' any of these topics as part of his education but some how he is teaching himself and his range of general knowledge is amazing.

So, as I sit down to write my report, I would say he's doing pretty well thank you very much. Certainly far better than he did when he was at school so put that in your pipe and smoke it Mr Cameron as it's certainly not thanks to you or your government or the labour government before you. who continue to let so many autistic children down. Home education rocks.

P.S. As I write this I see that my blog has now exceeded 5000 views today and I would just like to thank all my followers and readers for their kind comments and support which encourage me to write  about our experiences,

Sunday, 2 June 2013

The Wrong Turn

It's  been a funny week. It's half term so all the children have been at home. We have  decorating and my daughter and her friend helped emulsion a bedroom. There was more paint on them than the walls. but they seemed to have had a great time if the giggles were anything to go by.It's so important when home educating that the children are involved in our family projects. This week my daughter has learned how to rub down and prepare skirting boards for glossing and has become a dab hand at pulling up carpet tacks with a claw hammer. At various different times all the children have been involved in one way or another. My autistic son knocked plaster off the wall and designed the kitchen and my eldest helped his dad with the heavy lifting and trips to the tip. 

Anyway this afternoon was a time for chilling. I set off to  Grizebeck in the car and parked at the pub. I intended to walk up the track past the old village school but it quickly became apparent  that I wasn't welcome when I came to a cattle grid with a sign PRIVATE CATTLE GRID USE IT AT YOUR OWN RISK.

I retraced my steps back to the main road and back to a sign which said Woodland 2 miles. Just off was a public footpath sign up through the woods so I decided to investigate. I wasn't disappointed.

The woodland was carpeted with wild garlic and bluebells and as I walked I followed the route of the beck which flows through Grizebeck village. I later learned that it means 'Stream of Pigs'. The road was metaled all the way up the hill and above me on the right I could just see the road up to Gawthwaite beneath the shadow of Burlington Slate.

Suddenly I came across two gate posts,either side of the road. Totally out of character with the area and bearing the name Ashlack Hall. I carried on up the road and came across this wonderful house hidden in the valley and now used for holiday accomodation. In fact I stumbled across a wedding and tip toed silently away in my T shirt and rucksack as I looked rather out of place in the circumstances, but not before I had the chance to pass the time of day with a guest in his wedding suit and walking boots!

Apparently Ashlack Hall in a 16th century manor house which was owned by the Royalist Kirkby family. Another piece of local history to add to my collection.

I was extremely jealous of its very own walled vegetable garden.

I didn't have time to continue on my walk up the fells so decided to return when I have a few hours to spare. Instead I turned on my heel and walked back down the road ,with views towards Black Combe , and took some more photos of the beautiful woodland with its Oak trees. The bluebells are over only too quickly!

We rounded off a perfect day with a barbecue.

I even managed to get a photo (well sort of!) of my autistic son who doesn't like his picture being taken! In fact it was just lovely that he actually wanted to come outside in the garden and join us. The sun shine makes a difference as he has been on the trampoline a few times recently.

Daddy was in charge of the North African sausages ( a lesson in foreign food) and the Cumberland sausages (a lesson in Cumbrian cuisine)

And my eldest, who has been revising for his GCSE's this week, just chilled and enjoyed his time with the family!

The Walk (Directions) - and beyond