Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Big Stink - Aspergers and hygiene

"Is there any bath water" asked my son a minute ago. I nearly fell off my seat. For anyone who follows my blog regularly knows, getting my son to water is like asking a Dodo to fly- it just doesn't happen.

However over the past two weeks I have noticed a change. It began one day when my son asked his older brother if he could use the computer.

"Not until you've had a bath" said my eldest "You stink"

The youngest, who is now 13 (and has Aspergers) acknowledged that he is now beginning to get sweaty but was worried that bathtime was 8.30pm and it was only 11.00 o'clock in the morning,

I grasped my chance. "Well you could wait till 8.30pm", I acknowledged "but that's a long time to wait to go on the computer", "If you changed your routine today you could be on the computer in 10 minutes"

That seemed to settle it, in no time at all he was in the bath and clean without so much of a condescending look, a grimace or a swear word.

And so things have continued. He doesn't bath every night you understand, but anything is better than nothing at all. He has meekly gone for a bath three out of five times this week without so much as a murmur and tonight tops the lot!

I'm finding that the less I push. the more my son seems to mature. It's always a couple of years behind his peers when it comes to the social aspects of life but it does happen,when HE is ready!

So perhaps tomorrow he will clean his teeth? But I won't hold my breath.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Calculating the Cost of Aspergers- a lesson in Maths

At my son's request I bought him a scientific calculator yesterday. For a boy with whom I've done no more than basic maths I'm not quite sure why, but I am happy to wait and see.

School did a lot of damage when it came to maths.My son used to pull out the plugs of the school computers when the maths lessons came around because he dreaded it so much. Then he sat under the computer desks and hid.

It was years before he recognised that he wasn't a dunce or stupid, he just couldn't understand the point of doing something that had no relevance to him. Why do twenty questions on the same subject when you have got the first five right?

At first we tried work books and sheets but the opposition was immense and the effort required by me to ensure he carried out the task was draining.

I soon learned to let go and stop controlling. When we were in supermarkets we would discuss whether 50% extra free was better or the same as BOGOF. We would check the tiny labels you find on the shelves giving the price per gram or unit so that we could establish whether  a Box of Washing powder with 84 washes was a better or worse buy than the same make smaller box. The results were sometimes unexpected. A certain brand of yoghurt was cheaper when you bought 10 separate units than if you bought a pack of six. This was the sort of maths my son could understand and his fear began to lessen.

I introduced pocket money of £5 per week and he quickly learned to count up in fives. I paid him to help with the decorating and paid the minimum wage and he used his calculator to work out what I owed him.

He calculated the cost of the components required to build a computer. He learned angles on his skateboard or whilst playing pool and by using a compass and coordinates by reading maps.

He saw graphs and statistics whilst watching the news and reading books and taught himself to decipher the information presented.

Grams and kilograms were learned whilst cooking and shopping. Miles and kilometres whilst travelling along the motorway and, he finally cracked the time when I realised that, whilst he struggled with analogue, he could read digital clocks.

It was trial and error.We started comparing prices online, getting free delivery, buying in sales and charity shops and my son learned the value of money.

He played online maths games too for a while, particularly the Woodland school website. I began to notice him figuring out problems for himself. I didn't always know how he had reached his answer but he was often right and even if he wasn't he would often self correct when he realised there was something wrong with his answer.

He learned the order of the months when he wanted to find out when a favourite X box game was due for release. The list went on and on. The common element was that when it was relevant to my son he learned it.Furthermore, once learned he didn't forget.He was like a little computer and as he added each fact to the mix, his brain processed it and filed it in the right compartment.

He is no longer frightened by maths.It's not his favourite subject but he knows he can find out what he needs to know and he is comfortable with that and as for me I'll be interested to see what he comes up with next!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Mind blowing Education - Does our education system impose a Strait jacket?

Today I am really excited. I couldn't wait to post this article which was shared with me today.It isn't my normal blog post but it says all I passionately believe about home education and self led learning.

Most of all it gives hope to all of us out there who worry that our children are not learning enough, will not be able to go to university or get a job or be successful.Every child has potential- we just need to nurture it.

The part about maths hit me the most. as I have recently taken a free  online Maths course with  Stanford University .The professor is Jo Boaler who wrote The Elephant in the Classroom .The fundamental message was that if you want to make maths fun you have to create problems and allow the children to work things out for themselves without instruction (as that narrows their minds and hampers the flexibility of thinking.)

Yesterday my son was watching an instructional video on You Tube about sniping. I asked him what three columns of numbers meant.The first was distance. the second was height  and the third was ...................He explained that the further away you were from a target, the higher  you positioned the Scope'. I said I couldn't really see a pattern in the numbers other than the height numbers went up the further away the target.

That he explained was because as the bullet got further away it got slower and started to descend so it was important to point the rifle over the target in order to get an accurate shot. His explanation was a lucid and a simple explanation of both the physics and maths. No one had taught him but he was comfortable with the concept and has found in computers a learning medium which suits his learning style!

I am just delighted we found out what it is before it was too late!

I hope you enjoy and are as excited by this article as much as I am!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Living in a Cardboard Box

How many friends do you have who live in a cardboard box? That's what will happen to you apparently if you fail your English GCSE! It astounds me the pressure that teachers place upon their pupils in Years 10 and 11 and the worst thing is that they seem to believe it themselves.

I want to say to them "but what about Richard Branson, or Winston Churchill and Thomas Edison", but no matter how much I have tried to explain that I don't think good GCSE's necessarily make for a successful life (well not my idea of success anyway) it falls on deaf ears.

The frustrating thing is that actually these teachers represent a 'system' which has had an effect on them as much as on the pupils they teach.In a way they are right.If you are expecting to work for someone, get the Job centre to find you a job and want to earn pots of money then you will have to prove how good you are and if your potential boss has been through the state education system and succeeded academically then he is likely to look at your grades. 

Recently my son was looking through a list of apprenticeships. BMW were seeking apprentices and had strict conditions regarding the grades they required.I had no particular problem with that,in fact , I'm sure they have more than enough applicants from which to choose. What I did have a problem with was that the application form had nowhere to enter hobbies, interests and outside achievements.These I think are more revealing of the type of character you are interviewing than any test grade. I was left with the impression that the company must be very narrow minded.

Only the other day my sixteen year old son went to a garage with his dad and was talking to the company director during a test drive. He explained that he was about to start an apprenticeship in vehicle maintenance and repair. The company director said he was seeking an apprentice as he had already unsuccessfully employed three from the local college with no motivation or interest in cars.If my son found that his apprenticeship didn't work out then the garage owner was interested in employing him.That was purely on the basis of meeting my son a chatting to him about his interests.

The company director explained that in interviewing his employees he was looking for a) an interest in cars b) motivation and c) a qualification in motor vehicle maintenance, C was by far his lowest priority.

My son's new employer said the same at interview. They now employ a private firm to train their apprentices as they have found that the students from the local colleges often haven't the necessary practical skills they need.

So whilst I was very proud of my son when he accepted his GCSE certificates and educational vocational award on Thursday I am far prouder of his maturity and wisdom well beyond his 16 years and his determination to do his own thing rather than follow the crowd!

I will let you know Mr Teacher if my son  is living in a cardboard box as you predict at the end of the next academic year! I suspect that he will not although I wonder whether your perception of educational success will have changed. I do hope for the sake of all your future students that it has!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Ugly Duckling or Beautiful Swan?

According to my son (Aspergers with Oppositional Defiant disorder) I have OCD. All because I tried to interest him in some stamps which I bought at a car boot sale the other day in an effort to motivate him.

In fact they were fascinating. As I sorted them into groups I found a set on the American Presidents which links in with the jigsaw, books and films about American history which I have stealthily introduced over the last few months.There were stamps of film stars, flying pioneers, landscapes. animals and plants and several people I have never heard of. A  great conversation starter for the price of  a pound!

Apparently stamps are 'boring' and 'old fashioned'. Or at least they were until my son learned that his Grandad used to buy mint sets of stamps which may be quite valuable now. Ah then his ears pricked up!

I wonder ,with the privatisation of the Post office whether stamp collections will become a thing of the past?We will have to see.Certainly they will be antiques  I found a stamp in my British collection franked 1932 bearing the head of King George. There is so much to be gained from studying stamps- history, science , biology, geography, even art.

I have not given up. I have painstakenly put my stamps in order in my stamp album and will wait and see what happens.

It is interesting to observe how my son learns when he is ready. He has been building a Japanese building on Minecraft and, a book which he rejected several days ago about buildings from around the world suddenly came into it's own when designing an original piece of architecture. He read an extract out loud too. Not a simple children's book but a non fictional adult account of Japan with extensive specialist terms and vocabulary.

 You just never know when he will be inspired- it's just a question of continually providing new resources and watching what happens. I refuse to give up or be down hearted or to worry about the fact 'that we are not doing enough'.If my son was at school I am acutely aware that the teachers would spend most of the time 'managing' his behaviour, which would be exaggerated due to his sensory difficulties with noise and lights.

 Sensory problems are such a huge part of autism and often not recognised.If my son withdraws into himself or suffers a melt down and explodes he will not learn.He will be excluded from school, as with so many other autistic pupils or put in isolation- exactly the thing that he most craves so that he no longer has to deal with the over stimulation of senses which he has to deal with at school. The noise and smells in the dining room, the bright lights in the classroom with their continuous buzzing, the school bell and the fire alarms.It is all a terrifying prospect.Oh and course there are the teachers who don't understand autism. Those that bully, or shout or punish children for not being organised- all of which could have been avoided if knowledge and understanding of the individual child had been there.

At home my son is settled and  happy.He joins in family conversations, comments on documentaries, films and the news. In fact he has valid views on most things . He is not stupid or dumb. In fact far from it. He is far above average intelligence and often makes us take a step back with the things that he knows. He will turn into an individual with his own opinions and ideas,untainted by the views of others, having reached his own point of view through research and reasoning. I am happy to watch him grow and to nurture his individuality.He will not end up 'a failure of the system' but as a success who overcame it.