hol6

Day 5 – Education – #Blogtober17

Here we are on Day 5 of #Blogtober17 and todays prompt is Education. If you’d like to catch up with my other posts so far you can here.

education, autism, special needs

Back in the day… I was a bit of a rebel and didn’t really like school. My rubbish GCSE results reflected that. I really regret not knuckling down now.

When my son got a diagnosis of Autism I wanted to know everything there was to know about it. I bought books and googled lots but I wanted more. So I signed up with the open university and took part in a course called Understanding the Autism Spectrum. I loved it. It was so in-depth it confused the hell out of me at times, especially the part about how the brain works. I hasten to add I passed with flying colours! For the first time in many many years I was incredibly proud of myself!

A few years down the line I came across another course, this time a Diploma on Autism Awareness. That was a fairly quick course but still incredibly informative and interesting. I passed that too! 🙂

I really love learning now. Especially as I get to pick the things I learn about which is a big thing I think. At school (other than when you take your options) you don’t get to choose what you learn. A curriculum needs to be followed. I found most of it boring. I was an idiot!

Once Fraser is a bit bigger and I get a bit more time to myself I am going to learn more. I don’t know what subject yet but I want to learn more. I did set out to get an Open Degree with the open university but our finances just wouldn’t stretch to it. Plus I barely get time to scratch my backside these days so finding time to study would be impossible.

I might not have wanted to know when I was 15 years old but now I am eager to get those brain cells working again! I’m hurtling towards 40 years old and want to better my knowledge.

 

Did you further your Education after school or take part in any learning in adulthood?

 

blogtober17

 

hol6

Heading into GCSE Territory

So our beautiful eldest and only daughter, almost 15 years old,  is heading into GCSE territory… about to start back in Year 10! Where the real hard work begins. Options are chosen and the next 2 years will probably be quite stressful at times. She’s panicking already!

“Mum!! We have to learn and remember 15 different poems!”

Wow! I don’t envy her at all. I was rubbish at learning! I was rubbish at school. My GCSE results reflected that, I wasn’t interested in school and I fully regret not paying more attention and knuckling down. I have since studied a few courses and really enjoyed them but I suppose the difference being as an adult student I have chosen what subjects I want to learn about. She has chosen her three options for GCSE and they are Art, P.E and French. She is feeling the pressure already and they aren’t even back to school yet! I think there is a lot of pressure on the kids these days but as I have said to Izzy, as long as she does her best then I will be proud of her as you can’t do any better than that.

 

I’ve recently found out about Education Quizzes! This is a site with quizzes for ALL children of all ages. The quizzes are aimed at all key stages including GCSE and can aid revision too which I think is a fantastic idea! The quizzes are actually written by teachers and the main objective is to help children to be successful at school. I will be sharing this with Izabel as she is petrified of revision and being able to remember everything she needs to. I will help her as much as I can as will her Dad, but anything that can make the process fun in anyway has to be a bonus. I wish they had these kinds of things around when I took my exams 20+ years ago! Gosh that makes me feel so old!!

 

She has just under 2 years until the main GCSEs take place but will have mock exams before that. I just want her to have confidence in herself and her abilities as she is incredibly bright and talented and I know that she will do well and will go very far in whatever direction she chooses to take!

 

Art work credit to Izzy Aiston.

hol6

Primary School Finished!!

So I officially now have two children who are of Secondary School age! WOW!

 

I can’t believe Xavier has finished Primary Education! Here he is on his very first day!

Well when this day came we had no idea of the challenges we would face further down the line. We had no idea of the stress and heart ache. We knew absolutely nothing about Autism.

I think it was only a matter of weeks into Xaviers school life before I started getting called in to see the teachers after school because of his “behaviour”. It wasn’t so much naughty, it was “we’ve noticed this, we’ve noticed that” and they were growing increasingly concerned. They suggested a meeting with the schools SENCO. Someone had suggested there may be something wrong with him! My boy?? Theres nothing wrong with my son! I remember he had a few “odd” ways but just thought thats just him, I didn’t think anything more of it. We went to see the SENCO and was told she thought our son was showing lots of traits of having Aspergers Syndrome. She told us the school nurse would be in touch with details of a possible referral to our local child development centre. Again, we knew nothing about it. I went home and googled Aspergers. Well he ticked every box!

Lets cut a very long story short. We got a referral, he was assessed, we went back again 6 months later and he was diagnosed with Autism. By this time he was in Year 1. Very lucky to be diagnosed so quickly as I know of a few who have waited and are still waiting to be diagnosed YEARS down the line!

Looking back now I am very grateful to the Reception class teachers for picking up on this…and one TA who was with him in Year 1 on and off,  but thats as far as my thanks goes unfortunately. Xavier should have had LOTS of help put into place, instead I was told he was lazy and he couldn’t be bothered, he was shoved into a corner of the classroom with a screen around him so he couldn’t be distracted from doing his work, he missed playtimes because his work wasn’t done. He wasn’t refusing to do the work, he couldn’t do it…. he needed help and guidance. He was bullied and it wasn’t dealt with. The SENCO told me that now he had this diagnosis there are loads of jobs he won’t be able to do when he is older. Those words will stay with me for my whole life. How is that helpful? How is that productive? She also told me that they wouldn’t dream of applying for a Statement for him until he was in Year 6 and ready to go to secondary school.

It was time to pull him out of there. He left in the the December of Year 2.

I had such high hopes when he moved to the 2nd Mainstream school! I was so excited when a week in to him starting there they called me in and told me that they could see that Xavier has clearly very complex needs and they recognise that he needs help and they would start the Statement ball rolling ASAP! I actually cried!! I was so happy! FINALLY he will get the help he needs and the education he is entitled to! Yes!!!

No! It just didn’t happen! I was spun a web of lies for 2 years!! For 15 months I was told The statement process was underway, they just needed this evidence and that evidence and this report and that report before they could send it all off! It was the most frustrating time of my life. In the mean time Xavier was again, multiple times targeted by bullies, his mental health was impacted in a huge way, he kept threatening to kill himself, he was violent, he was aggressive and he was very very unhappy which was not in his nature at all. He wasn’t learning, he was just being left to his own devices in the classroom, he was given a different support staff every single day that he couldn’t deal with. Autistic children like routine and continuity. He couldn’t handle the amount of children in his class or the level of noise they make, he couldn’t handle the smell of lunchtime in the hall so ate lunch on his own in the office. The list is endless.

Then I was made aware of being able to apply for the statement myself! My god I wish I had known this earlier! I applied for him to be assessed with a 10 page report I had written myself and the assessment was agreed! That 1st process took 2 weeks! Fast forward 9 months and after weeks and weeks of stalking the postman, checking emails, making phone calls and generally annoying the life out of lots of professionals MY SON HAD A STATEMENT!!! I actually cried!! LOTS! I was very nearly broken from this ordeal!

Next hurdle was to get him into a Special Needs School as his ability to cope in a Mainstream setting was non existent.

The named school on the statement is the one the county council are saying he will continue his education in… the named school was the one he was currently in! No!! No way! I couldn’t let him carry on where he was! I had to appeal!

So I started the appeal process and contacted the Special Needs school we had visited previously. This was before he had a statement and they told us they would be able to help Xavier but they wouldn’t be able to take him on without a Statement. They said they’d have him happily but its whether the county would agree. The wait for that decision was a killer! ……. but I did it!! I won my appeal! Ecstatic doesn’t even come close! The phonetical I made to his then current school to tell them I would be removing him from the school, relieved so much stress and upset.

 

Xavier started his current school in April 2015, after the Easter holidays. The school and staff are INCREDIBLE! They care so much, they have taken my boy under their wings and the effects have changed our lives!! All of our lives! He is like a different boy! He is learning, thriving, flourishing, having fun, producing work, trying new things without hesitation, he has friends, he gets party invitations, he gets support, he is learning to swim, he has narrated the school Christmas play infant of a hall full of people! Just WOW! He’s so calm, he’s happy, he laughs all the time, we have no meltdowns, no violence …. nothing. None of the bad stuff! Its amazing and the staff are the ones I have to thank for that! This last year he has had a different teacher. They’ve had a great year, had lots of fun, I’ve been to parents evening and LOVED hearing how well he is doing and how he is progressing. He loves to help out at school. Its just so so great to hear all these positives after such a negative start to his education! He actually won the Year 6 prize for the whole academic year for his efforts! I am so incredibly proud of him! Here he is with his teacher receiving his award! What an amazing end to his Primary journey! He will be upstairs after the summer holidays to begin his Secondary journey!! I can’t wait to see whats in store for him!

Thank you so much for nurturing my boy. He has come so far and couldn’t have done it without you!

 

 

Spectrum Sunday
hol6

An Open Letter to my sons Teacher

This will probably be a long one and I am already emotional as I type this first line!

From the bottom of my heart I cannot thank you enough for what you have done for Xavier in the last 15 months since he joined this wonderful school. We had such an awful fight to get him there but it honestly is the best school EVER. Even as I walk through the front doors into the main corridor the feeling of calm and happiness washes over me like a huge wave. It is incredible!

I remember my sister was with me when we brought Xavier in for his first settling in session. At this point he was quite upset with me that I was moving him to another school again but was very intrigued. We pulled up outside and he was quite blown away just by the building! We came into the classroom and the other children were just on their way in from playtime. The first one into the classroom was James. His little eyes lit up and he had the biggest smile when he saw Xavier. Both my sister and I were fighting back tears at this point. The children obviously knew Xavier was coming in but he received the most wonderful welcome.

I can hand on heart say that with the love compassion and understanding that you show, it has changed Xaviers life. He has never had that before. He has been branded as lazy or naughty before. You have been so easy to approach with worries or concerns and you have gone out of your way to make sure all of Xaviers needs are met AND more! He is such a happy child now. He is full of confidence, he has friends, he is eager to try new things, there is next to no meltdowns at home now, you don’t even know he is there. Before he joined this wonderful school we had explosive meltdowns and violence due to frustration almost on a daily basis. You’ve not just changed his life but ours too. I honestly cannot thank you enough.

He comes home from school excited!! That in itself was an alien thing before now! He tells me he has been to a cafe and shared a pot of tea with his friend Marlon. He tells me you’ve all had olympic week at school and he has come home with the “Spirit Of The Games” Award! He was over the moon with his trophy. He tells me how far he is getting with swimming lessons!

At Parents evenings we actually have LOTS of work to look at! We used to have literally a few sheets of paper before! His work is incredible! His imagination is just WOW! His school report blew me away! He is for the first time in his school life doing amazingly well! He is learning, progressing and growing! I am so so very proud of him.

He has been on a 3 day residential trip and LOVED it! I never thought I would see the day that he would stay away from home! He had the most amazing time and as you told me when I came to collect him…. He didn’t want to come home!

He honestly is a different child, he is eating more foods and trying new foods, where we struggled to get Xavier in the bath, we now can’t get him out of it! Xavier narrating the school Christmas performance was very emotional and a huge mile stone. He refused to be involved at his previous schools! He is now interested in starting acting classes in September which he has never had the confidence for before!

So Tom, Thank you! For everything. For believing in my son, for understanding him and how he works, for taking him under your wing, for helping him flourish and grow and showing him that school IS fun. For showing me that I was right to fight for him. We will miss you next year as Xavier will have a new Teacher. Its nice to know that Xavier will still see you around the school though. In Xaviers eyes the next teacher has HUGE boots to fill!

Have an amazing Summer!!

THANK YOU!

 

hol6

Miles Kelly Book Review – Project Body


When we were asked to review a couple of books from Miles Kelly I absolutely jumped at the chance! We LOVE books in this house! Especially the kids! Xavier gets engrossed in books, particularly factual ones.

We received Project Body and straight away Xaviers face was buried in it! Just in the first 10 minutes of him having a look through I was asked “Mum, did you know………?” numerous times about various things. Actually some of the things he asked I had no idea about so I learnt things too!

Every single page is rammed with lots of information and facts about the body, bones, skin, wees and poos, hair, organs, blood….. the list really is endless. The are flaps to lift on every page too with even more pics or facts hidden underneath.

The book is full of amazing pictures and diagrams, cartoon characters, fun fonts which is guaranteed to keep kids engaged. There is so much to look at. It is so interesting for me too, as an adult to read. Xavier loves this book. He has read it cover to cover now a fair few times and randomly spouts out facts that he has learnt.

We as a family Would definitely recommend this book from Miles Kelly

We were sent a copy of this book to review. All thoughts and opinions are our own.

hol6

Starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel!

Yesterday, with no warning at all, saw me called into school to meet with the Educational Psychologist. This is another good step in the right direction in getting Xavier a Statement. The meeting lasted 90 minutes. I was asked what my concerns were. Well my biggest concern was the fact that I have been told by school that my son isn’t really learning anything. Now school are trying to deny they ever said that and said Xavier is unable to work independently, he needs adult assistance at all time otherwise he becomes incredibly anxious, frustrated and unable to cope. When supervised though he is actually producing little bits of work. These bits of work are not on a par with his peers and apparently the school has completely adapted the national curriculum so much to fit his work in, so much so that it is barely on the curriculum. So all this time I have been given the impression that next to nothing is being produced, then yesterday the SENco had FOUR work books full of work on her desk! Most of it is scribed by his 1-1 worker. His handwriting is very behind and the EP was basically (if you’ll pardon the pun) writing off his handwriting and saying computers are the way forward for him and she is completely dumbfounded by the level of computer skills Xavier has.

She asked about his behaviour at home! So I filled her in with the good and bad stuff. Generally at weekends and holidays he is the calmest person you’ll meet. After school and on Sunday nights he is the most uptight, anxious, angry, aggressive and violent person you’ll meet! Which says to me that school bothers him! He is being picked on at least once a week by nasty kids.

The Educational Psychologist was also trying her best to persuade me to NOT send him to a Special Needs School and to keep him in Mainstream. Her reasons being he is too clever and it will bring him down and he will pick up behaviours from other Autistic children and it could become a problem! REALLY? Well firstly I know my son is clever… shame the staff who work with him are not fully trained to bring out the best in him and help him reach his full potential. Secondly I have had a number a talks with the Head of the Special Needs school I would like him to go to and I’m sure he would be telling me that Xavier is “too clever” for his school rather than telling me that he looks forward to taking Xavier under his wing and helping him progress! Thirdly, I wouldn’t want him picking up some of the behaviour of the kids in his Mainstream school if I am brutally honest!

Then there was a little knock on the office door… I looked round and there was Xavier with his big wide chocolate brown eyes grinning and waving at me. I do love this boy so very very much. I called him in and we had such a huge cuddle! I asked him how his day was going. He said “Yeah, it’s ok Mum! Can I stay with you in here?” when I explained that we needed to finish talking then the EP lady will be talking to him afterwards and that they were going to play a game, he got all upset and was stuck to me like a limpet! I dried his tears and told him he only had 1 hour left and I would be coming to collect him. He reluctantly accepted it and we finished off the meeting.

I asked the EP what she thought Xaviers chances were for getting this Statement and she said that in her opinion it is very likely seeing as the process has come this far. Normally they turn people away right at the beginning if they don’t feel there is a strong enough case. I actually had to hold it together at that point and wanted to cry (with joy!) but I really don’t want to get excited until I have that piece of paper in my hand.

We are again another step closer… I am so very exhausted but I know that this HUGE almost 3 year long in total, battle is going to be worth it.