Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Day twenty three - books, baking, a fire and some songs

Today has been a good day, well lived in spite of colds.

We started with book work - their idea, not mine! 

J did a bit of everything - Maths (area / perimeter) Science - human organs and anatomy, Reading - My Dad's got an alligator, Hand writing practise and English - using powerful words.

Then A did a lot of everything Maths - adding and subtracting, totalling 20, counting up in 3 4 or 5, counting down in 3 4 or 5.  Science - human body, food chains, nutrition.  English - Capitals and full stops, complete the words and then she read another book.

M was reluctant to move from his youtube videos, but didn't like the idea of not doing anything, o eventually he did Maths - ordering decimals and fractions, English - root words, Science - conductors and insulators, hand writing practise and reading.

L worked happily on approximating, rounding, significant figures and limits.  This is another fairly big thing for him.  Maths does not come particularly naturally to L, and he tells me he finds any sums as easy or hard as any other, so the idea of approximating first to get a ball park figure is alien to him - as he says, why not just do the maths right the first time?  We have encountered this A LOT over the years, and finally he seems happy to do it, regardless of his almost philosophical objection to the idea.  Then he looked at persuasive texts (or manipulation and propaganda as he called it!) and ICT.

Later the kids each cooked a savoury pastry for their dinner - here are the obligatory pictures :

After that, we ate them :)

Then the younger three went to their scouting activities - A and I to a campfire, J and M to the school for more "normal" evenings.

Ready for bed and story now - we're reading "My friend Walter" by Mr Morpurgo - gluttons for punishment!

Monday, 29 September 2014

Day twenty two - whose idea was that then?

The younger three got up and ready fairly smoothly this morning, all of them seemed keen to get to their weekly sports session, and they even left the house on time!

L and I settled down to some work as soon as the others had left - looking at powers and roots, which is the interesting sort of maths he loves.  He was just about finishing when the others got home.  Then we spent a while talking over a story he is writing for a mine-craft game he is working on.  He is creating lore for a world, and then quests, and has it fairly nicely mapped out.  He has put a lot of time and effort into the story, and it's a nice bit of creative writing. I have never managed to get him writing fiction happily, so I will quietly take this as a victory of intrinsic motivation, and enjoy seeing how it progresses.  Later in the day he also showed me a design for a steampunk cat to go on a t-shirt, that he had created on his PC.

Once everyone had eaten and had a short rest, we moved well and truly out of our comfort zones . . .

All the children are growing, and so we went on a mass clothes shop.  J and M do not shop well.  They get bored, they are very choosy over their own clothes and complain everyone else is taking too long to find things.  In essence they become the epitome of the saying "the devil makes work for idle hands"

It was a mercifully short trip, only about 3 hours (including a lunch break), and we ended up with almost everything we needed.  Even then, we were not happy bunnies on the way home.

Because we had cut the shop short, we had nothing in for dinner, and went to Macdonald's before dropping L off at one of his weekly games.

Now it's bedtime and story time for M, J and A, and internet shopping for me to get those last few bits.

Days twenty and twenty one

The weekend was busy - which is why I'm writing this on Monday evening ;)

Saturday was mostly eaten up by our family Pathfinder* session, with A playing out for most of the day.

After the game L cooked - he made burgers from scratch and some wedges, which we ate whilst watching Dr Who.  J and I are getting a cold, so early nights were had by all.

Other stuff happened over the day - J read to A, there was some drawing, and some mine crafting (of course!)

On Sunday M had another rugby match - the team played much better this week, although they still lost, and there was a definite feeling that they are settling in o their new roles at long last :)

A and I went to church - she began a series of lessons on Saul / St Paul, I continued trying to get three boisterous lads to think about Abraham.  I had them carrying a tent around, then pitching it, and we played a variant of "I went to the moon and I brought . . ." which ran along the lines of "Abraham went to the desert and he took . . ." I was quite pleased with the idea of the game, but it didn't work as well as it could have - we have a child in the group with quite unclear speech, and whilst I can normally translate he has a cold which makes it all worse :(

After that we all went to my in laws house for a birthday celebration.  Family gatherings can be very stressful with two Autistic children in a small space - especially when you add in people they barely know who have no understanding of their quirks.  Surprisingly the boys were well behaved, and whilst there were a few sticky moments none of them were caused by M or J :)

We got back very late, so there was a brief story and then bed for all :)

*Pathfinder is a roleplaying game, and we are playing an on going story called Reign of Winter. 

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Day ninteen a new group, and a fun day :)

A good day, well lived :)

L spent a long time today working on video editing - he's mastered a lot of interesting techniques, and is thoroughly enjoying it.  Best of all it's all autonomous :) Neither his father or I have any real knowledge about "modern" video editing, I wouldn't even know where to start looking for info to be honest, but L has found several sites that have resources and software, he's worked out how he needs to upgrade his PC, he's choosing when to research this, and how long to spend on it, and is basically just being very self motivated. 

On a similar note L has started working on his drawing skills - after talking through the negative impact nursery had on his desire to draw (and that was almost 12 years ago now!) L has been watching other people sketch on you-tube, and rebuilding his confidence.  He's asked for some specific supplies, and tells me he's feeling happier about drawing.  He also feels he is getting better at it, but isn't ready to share his work yet.   This is actually a BIG THING.  I cannot easily put in to words just how angry I am that pre-school workers destroyed L's confidence and that it has taken us more than a decade to rebuild what was a burning desire to draw.

A, J and M went to a new club this afternoon - it's a skills sharing / challenge club.  A and J really engaged with the idea of creating a club badge, and they co-operated with the other children well, drawing along side them, then working on combining all the pictures into one badge.  Both of them were happy and chilled all afternoon :)

M felt out of sorts - he has been off for a week now, not quite right just needing more "handling" than normal.  He struggled to engage, perhaps it was the new setting, a new group of people, an artistic challenge, or a hold-over from previous events at other places, but he was clinging to me and wanting a lot more reassurance than he generally does.  That said he wasn't naughty in any way, not disruptive or irritating to anyone other than me, so it was a manageable afternoon, even with his unease.

The children are all looking forward to the next meeting, and M is hoping to join in more.

When we got home there wasn't much time before we were due to go out again, there was some TV time (a growing rarity, even though we don't limit it, the children generally choose to play minecraft together rather than sit and watch the TV.)

Then it was off to Chess for M, a friends house for A and a church youth group for J.  L skyped friends and played on his Xbox in peace :)

When we got home Uncle N was skypeing the kids (he does that every week, which is awesome!) A went out to play until it was dark, then we ate and got the younger three to bed.

Apparently someone died in the Morpurgo book . . . not a surprise really, but there were tears :(

Then L, my husband and I played Lords of Waterdeep (a cool board game :) ) I won (again!)

We enjoy playing games once the younger three are in bed - it gives us a chance to play a bit more ruthlessly, to play more complex games, and it's a great way to spend the evening with L, making sure he gets his time with us not distracted by random demands from the little ones.

Sometimes it is hard balancing the needs of four very different children, but at the moment we're doing OK.

Have a happy weekend :)

Friday, 26 September 2014

Day eighteen

Another quiet day - I was tied up all day running an online game, so it was a day with Dad for the kids.

There was mine craft (as ever!) a few games, a walk to try and see the Vulcan fly over, L cooked something with eggs that smelt yummy, the dog was walked, L did some ICT.

In the evening A went to girls brigade, and they had a teddy bears picnic in a local park.

Kinda slow, but lots of relationship building from the kids.

I love hearing the younger three playing mine craft together - listening to them co-operate and build awesome structures together is great :) Their communication skills are improving and whereas at first there was lots of arguing, now they tend to play calmly with no need for adult intervention (or refereeing!)  A tends to build and furnish houses, J gathers resources and fights stuff, but also helps A with a farm, M builds grand structures and plays survival games. 

So, that was Thursday!

Day seventeen - games night

OK, I'll admit it - writing this in retrospect, I am not at all sure what we did all day Wednesday!

In the evening M and L went to their games club, A played out, J built stuff on mine craft and terraria.

At some point the paints came out, and A painted a kangaroo rat, J painted flowers in a plant pot.

L and J went for a bike ride too.

I wasn't feeling well, I napped on and off during the day.

So, that was Wednesday.

Day sixteen, erm . . .

So, Day sixteen, Tuesday, being caught up on several days after the fact . . .

The kids did some book work - to be honest I'm getting bored of listing what they've done, so I'll summarise . . .

Each of them did some maths, some English and some science, L also did ICT, A and M read.

J wrote a short story for Cubs - it was hard going, and messed with his head. He'd been told by the leaders he HAD to write a short story or poem.  He WANTED the badge (even though he had no idea which badge it  is for) but he hates writing and finds making up stories very very hard.

So, torn between following the rules, wanting the badge, but not wanting to do the work there was no way it was going to be calm and easy going. We went through repeated requests for me to do it for him - me to write it, me to make it up, me to type it, but I refused (because, really, I had to refuse.  It needs to be his work, and the leaders will ask and he will tell the truth.)

In the end he dictated the story, and I wrote it out, then he copied what I had written.  It still caused tears and stress, but the suggestion of not doing it caused those too.

I read a while ago about all the processes involved in creative writing - the positioning of the hand and pencil, applying the right pressure, forming the letters, planning the word, keeping in mind the sentence you are writing etc.  By breaking the task down - creating the story first, then copying letter by letter, we separated or removed quite a few of the processes.  It seems to have helped, but it made everything take longer!

Another part of this being hard was J desperately trying to make the story as true as possible.  He wrote about our dog escaping and going to the park.  He wanted the park to only have things that the nearest park has, he wanted the story to reflect something that had actually happened.

I am sure the Cub leaders have no idea how hard this was for J, or how much their words affect him, but in the end it is J himself that applies the pressure.  He wanted the end result but not the work, and somehow he needs to settle his mind with the fact that we need to work for things. 

The younger three went to beavers / cubs / scouts, A also spent time "playing out" and life continued as it generally does.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Day Fifteen, happy and normal - ish.

Today, as so often seems to be the case, when the children had to be up and out they slept in.  Maybe Sunday is too energetic a day for them, or perhaps they are picking up on the general societal dislike of Mondays, whatever the reason it seems that unlike most mornings when they are all up and moving well before 8, Monday mornings it's more like 9.

The younger three got up and out, enjoyed their sports session, and came home like a herd of elephants - same as usual really!

L and I looked at manipulating percentages, and later at autobiographical writing.  L had a whole pile of wacky ideas to discuss too - he spends a lot of time thinking about very odd stuff.  Blue sky thinking I guess.  Today's conversations were about reverse genetic engineering organisms. His theory is that since a lot of DNA is "switches" and many of the differentials between species are controlled by these switches, then perhaps it is possible to turn enough off / on that an organism could be made to revert (whilst in embryonic state) to a previous evolutionary level, and then, perhaps the offspring of said organism could have it's DNA manipulated to turn it into something quite different to the original subject . . .  We spent a long time rather distracted from Maths by talking through potentials.  Far more fun than percentages!  L makes connections between things that I have never thought of - I don't know if that's just a personal difference, or a different way of seeing things due to his dyslexia, but bouncing ideas around with him is a lot of fun, and we bring very different things to the discussions - but in a positive way :)

A blitzed through more maths - looking at money subtraction, chunking, and then more subtraction - once more getting her to stop once she was no longer focused was hard work.  Then we continued with Oz phonics, looked at capitals and full stops (again!), covered states of matter and read a book.

J was covering division, life cycles and scientific keys / classification.  He also worked on adjectives and handwriting practise.  He's enjoying reading "My dad has an alligator", but he is hard work to listen to.  He seems to skip every third or fourth word, although I think he's reading those silently, and he rocks and squiggles so much I can't sit near him - which is a pain as he wants me to hold the book!

M was looking at passive and active adjectives - which confused him for a while, but we got  there in the  end - then ratios, states of matter, hand writing practise and random conversation about black holes. M is still a little unsettled after last weeks events, and we have had a few disjointed conversations about friends and friendships, but I'm hoping that time will soothe his fears.

A spent most of the afternoon out with her  friends, and L is out now  at one of his weekly games sessions.

J has started a fitness badge for cubs, and is so far refusing sweets or unhealthy food  but I think we need to work on what he considers healthy (pasties instead of sweets?)

M J and A had a long discussion about a new bedtime story - they have chosen "little Manfred" by Michael Morpurgo - not a book I know, and their dad is taking a turn reading to them, so I will have to pick it up as they go.  The last Morpurgo book we read left us all in tears frequently.  Hope this one is less emotional!

Tomorrow is filling up with plans, and I hope the weather holds :)
Have a happy week folks!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Days thirteen and fourteen - a weekend of relaxing :)

Day thirteen - also known as Saturday ;) - managed to whizz past.  I slept for a long time - I took some powerful painkillers Friday at bedtime and I think they helped me to sleep deeply.  I got up at some point around midday, all was calm, everyone happy and relaxed.

After I finally got moving we had lunch, then took M to get some smart-ish clothes.  As he has moved up a section at rugby he now has to shower after matches and have a meal with the opposition after the match.  He's expected to be in "collar and tie" for the meal (he even has a club tie!)  So, smart clothes that pass the ASD / SPD approval process were required.

For most children buying clothes is easy, but for M (and to a lesser degree J) texture and seams really matter.  If we want him to actually wear the clothes then he has to try them first, and most clothes are just too rough / tight / itchy / something else.  We know what to suggest now - "school trousers" are a good bet, as are tracksuits, but both still need to be tried on.  Shirts are often better than T-shirts, but embroidery or transfers make most t-shirts non-starters.  Shoes can be a nightmare.

We found clothes for him, got home and L was preparing to go off for a sleep-over movie party.

The rest of us discussed playing a board game, but couldn't reach a consensus, so that didn't happen.

At bed time we finished "Our Island Story" - on the whole I liked it, there are a few odd attitudes, a couple of things were sanitised, and I am not at all sure the depiction of the Maori is even remotely accurate, but it covered the history of our island well enough to have prompted further discussion and intrigued the kids, so it's all good in the end :)

Day fourteen - Sunday

M had his first rugby match of the season today.  By all accounts his team were trounced, but M seems pretty relaxed about that.  There were a lot of comings and goings from the squad, so things are not settled yet.  Lots of the team are in different positions to last year, and they are missing some of their key players, so it's understandable that they aren't really playing well.  They were never a top flight team anyway though so perhaps winning at this stage would have been a minor miracle!

Because L was still out J had to go to the rugby with M, which seems to have gone well too :)

A and I headed off to church, having a lovely walk through a wooded footpath.  We walked back through a linear park spotting a little egret on the way :)

Hubby went to pick up L, I had a nap, then walked the dog, spotted the Corncrake again.

Later we went out to dinner  because it's my birthday :)

In amongst all of this the children were just doing their own things - A read a bit, drew a bit, recorded me a birthday message and song, J played various games, and watched TV, M played games, watched TV, prepared various CCG decks, L cooked, played games, watched youtube shows about cooking, I am sure lots of other stuff happened too, but it is probably best described as "life continued as it usually does."

So, that was the weekend :)

Friday, 19 September 2014

Day twelve - not a good day, if I'm honest

Today has been less than perfect.  To be truthful it has been rather hard and a little upsetting.

This morning M, J, A and I headed off to our "forest school."  No-one woke up naturally, no-one wanted to get ready, no-one wanted to rush.

We got out of the door at the desired time, and a lacklustre bunch of offspring were loaded into the car.

We got to the site earlier than normal (!) and the kids perked up fairly quickly, but with some children having left and others joining the dynamic of the group was very different.

M wasn't coping well, the first session after a break is usually harder on him anyway, but the changes made him uneasy and he was hunting for the familiar interactions just and not finding them.

The session itself went well - once I managed to get M to focus and calm himself a bit - the children built a hibernaculum / hibernarium / bug hotel.  They all worked well together, and a nice structure was built.  There was a reminder of rules and boundaries and some catching up too :)

We stayed for a picnic afterwards, and the change in dynamic made things interesting there too - on the whole that was fairly quickly resolved, but the situation required more vigilance and talking than normal, and I felt rather drained by the time we got home.  The children, on the other hand, say they had a great time.  I guess it's all a matter of perspective.

Hopefully the next session will be easier, there is every reason to believe it will be, and our Fridays can be happy relaxing days again :)

When we got home L had had a nice quiet morning, and was both ready and willing to hit the books.  He looked at percentages in Maths - we were both relieved to find he remembered all the rules / methods, and the exercises were done in about 30 minutes, which isn't bad for 4 sides of A4 :)  In English we looked again at the poems from the other day, discussed and dissected them, looked logically at why they work and how, and all went well.  ICT is still in the very early "This is an input device . . ." stages.

A and I played a lovely game called Dobble, which always leaves us smiling, and was a good redirect for her.

J has gone to a church youth group, M skipped chess because he is still wound up from earlier events, A is in the bath and L is chatting to friends on Skype whilst they play online.

Last night we read about the Crimean war, the Great Exhibition and The Crystal Palace.  Tonight we have more from Queen Victoria's reign. 

All in all, today could have been worse, we got through it fairly well, but it has taken a toll on everyone's energy levels and mood.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Day eleven - at this rate I might make it to the weekend without having to do a mass catch-up post :)

Hmmmmm, today is hard to put into words.

Wednesday, as I said yesterday, is an awkward day.  It starts and ends too late really.

Today started late - again!  Everyone was tired, and we basically did nothing much all morning.

The kids played Mine Craft and Terraria, they chatted, discussed strategies, and basically got on with each other :) The younger three still do things together spontaneously during the day - a mass Mine craft building session (they have a pretty awesome town under construction,) bike rides, watching TV or youtube, and so on.  L finds it harder to engage with them, but will play with his brothers on his Xbox occasionally.

After lunch we played Pathfinder* together - it's a family campaign**, and we're are a year into it.  The session went well, but took most of the afternoon.

A went to Girls Brigade, not sure what else they did but she made a cup-monster filled with tissue paper and cress seeds, and there was a video towards the end.

After that the kids all chatted to Uncle N via Skype, we ate dinner, and now it's bed time - we've reached Queen Victoria in Our Island Story :)

So, life was lived, they all did STUFF, and the day passed.

* Pathfinder is a role-playing game***
** Reign of winter, if you must know!
*** Far too tricky to explain in a footnote - google D & D for more info :)

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Day ten - these titles are really easy!

Wednesday, Wednesday, such an awkward day is Wednesday!

Well, it is in this house anyway!

Tueseday may be a part of the cause of Wednesday's troubles.  As the younger three go to various Scouting activities Tuesday bedtimes are *really* messed up.  Quite often dinner is late, someone isn't home until well after nine, and with the hurly-burly of sorting uniform, homework and requirements for the next week, it just all goes on far too long.

With Tuesday ending late, Wednesday always seems reluctant to get going.  This week was no exception with me being the only one up at 9.

After a very slow start everyone did some work - L worked on fraction multiplications, divisions and powers and roots, followed by poetry  his new least favourite thing ever.  J looked at factors and multiples, adaptations to habitats, comparative adjectives, along with handwriting practise and reading a new book.  A looked at totals, adding ten or twenty, filling in the missing letters in her Oz phonics book, capitals and full stops, and parts of a plant.  M did writing practise, read about solutions and emulsions, looked at grammatical agreements of tense, and I can't remember what the maths was . . .

That was all done by lunchtime, albeit a late lunch, then we all relaxed for a bit before the older ones went to their games club - they leave at four, and every other week stay to the second half of the club session, and play D & D with the adults as well as the "kids" (Who are mostly college age now.)  L and M generally don't get back 'till 11 when they stay to the second game.

Whilst they were out A went out to play and I rearranged and tidied her room.  Part way through she joined me.  It was a very odd experience - my youngest is putting away her toys!  The dolls, Barbies and My Little ponies are all headed to the great toyshop in the sky (AKA our loft!)  With them go all but a handful of her plush mountain, and a random assortment of "stuff."  She also filled two bin bags (willingly no less) with broken toys and general tat that just isn't worth keeping.

It feels very strange not to have to sneak the broken things out, and to have someone gleefully moving on.  The boys (even L to a large degree) have always held on to things until they are well beyond using them.  They all seem to have their fathers hoarding instinct.  That's not a problem until you realise they also have my untidiness and scatterbrain!  So too much stuff gets left in random places and then forgotten.

So, between greedy Tuesday ending later, and lazy Wednesday not getting out of bed and being squeezed around the games club, today was very truncated.

But hey! We did STUFF, and I even remembered most of it too ;)

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Day nine - happy :)

Today is an easy blog post :) Today has been a happy day.

One of my favourite people on the planet came over, and she even brought her kids (all of whom are adorable and fun)

I barely saw A all day, since she was upstairs playing with two of our visitors, the day passed quickly for them, there seemed to be no major stress at all.  I *think* there were games with dolls, play food and Minecraft, but since they were happy I left them to it.

I got to spend a lot of time putting the world to rights with my dear friend, and playing with her youngest.  I'd forgotten just how much I enjoy making convoluted train tracks :)

At some point I made some loom band "charms" with one of our guests, and the GeoMag came out too.

Once our guests had gone A, L and J played with the GeoMag a bit more.

M and J are really enjoying a new game on their tablets, and have spent the day researching and playing that - perhaps not ideal, but they are engrossed and reading / socialising with each other. 

Later L tackled some maths - manipulating fractions, which he has had trouble with previously.  This time it all seems to have clicked and he whizzed through it.  He's got a headache so we talked about poetry (the next section in his English book) and discussed some principles of it rather than working through the book.  When L is tired / headachey he finds reading in artificial light hard work, so whilst I would have preferred to crack on with the course I doubt he would have retained much of the learning as he would be working hard to overcome the Irlen's Syndrome side of his dyslexia.  As this whole subject is way outside his comfort zone I am very aware that he is having to work much harder than it seems for the progress he is making, and I don't want to compromise that by pushing when I don't need to.  We have already covered about 1/10th of the course, and he's doing far better than I anticipated, if we keep going at this rate then we should be starting the IGCSE level work just after Christmas, which is about 6 months before I was anticipating :) So, slow days are not a problem!

The younger three have now all gone to their various scouting sections - A to beavers, J to cubs and M to scouts.

After a late dinner it'll be a quick story (we've reached Nelson in "Our Island Story now), then bed for all :)

Monday, 15 September 2014

Day eight - settling back into the swing of things

Generally I like slow starts to the day, waking up when I have slept enough and warming up to the day gradually.  So naturally Monday mornings are one of the earliest starts of the week . . .

The younger three headed off to their weekly multisports session - today they played Unihoc - the group is well attended and provides a team-sports aspect that we might struggle to source otherwise.

Whilst they were out L did some book-work, manipulating negative numbers, comparing post 1914 fiction, beginning his ICT course.  The text comparisons are a bit tricky, there is so much left to the interpretation of the reader, but he's getting the hang of this sort of thing now.  Once more I am struck by the fact that he is picking up things readily that caused so much stress a few years ago, and it's pretty reassuring to feel that we read the situation right in backing off from English as a discrete subject for him.  His vocabulary has exploded in recent years, as have his descriptive skills and deductive skills.

When the hordes returned we were still nose down in "Of mice and men" vs "A kestrel for a knave", so the others barrelled upstairs and explored a new game on their tablets.

After lunch A did some book-work, three sets of maths exercises based on addition and doubling again, work on capital letters and punctuation, Oz phonics, food chains and predator / prey in science, and then read me a book.

Unfortunately I had planned to invite J down next, but he made it clear he had no intention of doing that, but M didn't want to disrupt the planned order.  So I was faced with trying to talk J down from the top floor or talking M out of a meltdown because I was messing with the plans (M was happy to work, just not before J.)  I decided to work on M, because he was already with me on the ground floor.  It felt like a catch-22 situation, both of them wanted to work, just not before the other.  Neither of them were happy with *not* working.  Eventually I got through to M, there was a little shouting and a lot of stress, but we stopped just shy of meltdown.

Once he got going M was really happy and focussed - sometimes it feels like he needs to have a grumble in order to get down to business - I say to him he needs a good storm to clear the skies :)  We looked at place value in decimals and sequences using decimals, "words ending in vowels" (possibly the oddest page of work I've seen yet!) and then pluralising those words, flexibility and properties of materials, and some handwriting practise.

When M was done J came down happily, he did well and was very happy.  We looked at symmetry - another thing that seems to have been introduced in the books we skipped, but again it was easily mastered even though we were looking at complex shapes.  Then we looked at 3d shapes naming them, counting vertexes, edges, faces etc.  We tackled pronouns - a slightly tricky topic for a lad who struggles to keep he / she sorted, but he got the idea and was able to switch out nouns for pronouns with ease.  He also tackled food chains, but looked at seed dispersal too.  A chapter of the Life of Fred rounded out the afternoon, and off he skipped happily to hunt down his brother.

Most of the rest of the afternoon passed with the younger three playing together and occasionally asking L for help with things.  Later on A's friends knocked for her and she went out to play.

We had an early dinner (well, early for us!) and L has gone to one of his weekly roleplaying sessions.  The lucky whatsit has FOUR regular gaming groups, three weekly and the last fortnightly. 

So, A is still out, I need to go and recapture her soon, in our bedtime story (!) America has just declared her independence, and the children were aghast at the idea of a tax on tea.

Tomorrow we are having visitors - some of my most favourite people :) And that wraps up today really :) 

Oh, one last note - I have called time on the plum leather.  After three days drying it still wasn't right.  Not sure what to do with the gooey treacly stuff it became, and not sure if I'll try again!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Day seven - or Have I caught up yet ?!?

Day seven - today! Yay! Up to date and it's not even over yet :)

This morning A and I went to church - I lead the Sunday School class for up to 6 year olds.  It's a lively group, lots of fun but a bit unfocussed.  We had a great session today. 

A spent the morning making yarn and pipe cleaner fish, she had fun and was pleased with her fish :)

M usually plays rugby on Sunday mornings but he father is feeling a bit under the weather, so both of them stayed at home and enjoyed another quiet day.

L's friend stayed over night, and has only just gone home, I'm not sure they slept much but L is happy and fun was had.  I suspect there was a lot of Xbox gaming whilst the rest of us slept.

J has enjoyed spending time with L and his friend, lots of PC time, and generally chilling.

Today has more or less picked up where yesterday left off, with people feeling drained and needing time to recharge.

Tomorrow we jump back on that horse, but the next few weeks are going to be slower.  Much much  slower!

Day six - a quiet sort of day

Day six, commonly known as Saturday . . .

Today was always going to be a relaxed day.  Normally we play a family roleplaying game - called Pathfinder - but we knew that by the end of this week everyone would be tired and short tempered, so we planned a day to stop.

With two Autistic children in the family we have learnt that we need to build "down time" into our schedule.  The boys both get overwhelmed by spending too long with other people, and even to an extent by spending too long away from home.  With the exception of Legoland on Thursday all of our forays into The World Beyond The Front Door have been medium length, and as such taken on their own none of them was "too much."  But really, the cumulative effect of all those days out and with Other People got too much.

Saturday was our pro-active attempt to redress that balance.  We placed no expectations on the children, and everyone just pottered along doing what worked for them.

Well, almost everyone.  L had invited a friend over, and therefore had some pretty major room-tidying to do.  To his credit it did get done with very little input from parents.

When L's friend arrived there was a bit of kerfuffle, because J and M like this particular friend a lot, and can't see why he doesn't spend all of his time here playing with them.  But that settled down very quickly - I don't think they had the energy to be too annoying TBH! 

I began making some plum leather - which the children all enjoyed munching last year - it's still not done, so I think I need to tweak the method just a little ;) but the whole house smells fab, so I'm not stressing :)

After a little tidying we all ate a late dinner whilst watching Dr Who - L's friend joined us - and I think the children are finally warming to the new Doctor.

Bed followed dinner, with more chapters from "Our Island Story" - we've reached Bonnie Prince Charlie now :) And so day six drifted aimlessly by, recharging batteries and soothing stresses, in just the way I had hoped it would :)

Day five, museum Chess club and crashing out.

It was very hard to get up.  Not only for the children, but for me too!  After an enormously busy day and late night it was very tempting to conveniently "forget" that we had plans.

But I didn't forget, the children did get up and ready, and we did manage to leave the house.

Not only did we leave the house, we got to the museum in time too!

A local home educator had asked one of the volunteers at the museum to give us a talk about the Saxon period, and that is precisely what he did :) He talked about how things changed when the Romans left, and the timings of that, where the name Saxons comes from, where the Saxons came from and why, how they lived, how they traded, how we know those things.  He talked about how the Saxon period  ended, and about the interplay between the Saxons and the Vikings.  He even talked about money, trade and language.  It was a good talk, comprehensive, covering lots of things my guys knew about, other things they didn't.  We've not looked specifically at the time period, but we have read about it in "Our Island story", and they've seen various TV programmes like Horrible histories that cover lots of history.  We've also been to various other places that have Saxon artefacts, so this sort of joined up a whole lot of dots for them :)

After the talk there were replica helmets and swords to try on, and obligatory photos :

Once the session had wrapped up the children played with their friends - the museum has various outdoor games, and some old slot machines, and there was lots of general catching up and nattering :)

Once we got home the children went off to their various favoured activities, and later M went to the first Chess club session of the school year. J and A usually go out on Fridays but neither of those happened this week.

A is coughing a lot, and I am a little worried that the cough is hanging on for a long time.  I've started coughing now too :(

More Pics :) )

Legoland Pictures

Not too many pictures, I was too busy having fun :)


Day FOUR!!

Well, that lasted a long time, didn't it?  Not only did I forget how to count, I crashed out and now have to catch up.

I *could* be sneaky, and set the publishing dates to the "right" days, but that wouldn't be a very "me" thing to do.  I could also do a HUGE post, catching up to date in one go - but I don't think that would be very readable, so a series of posts, one per day, but all written today (I hope!)

Now, day four - NOT day five as previously advertised . . .

A few years ago we lived in London, not far from Legoland, and my sister in law works at Legoland, so we got free season tickets.  We used to visit fairly frequently, for an afternoon, for a couple of hours here and there, it was a very familiar place for a long time.

But things change.  We moved, the sister in law no longer gets the same perks, and the park has become a whole-day thing.  It's no longer an every few weeks sort of a trip, more of a once a year sort of thing.

The day kicked off surreally.  As I sat drinking my morning cup of tea, a spider crawled across the table onto a piece of orange card.  Randomly I put a drop of tea in front of it - just because - and it crawled over and drank some, then crawled off.  A moment later it was back for more.  It came back about 15 times, drank the entire drop, so I gave it a second drop and then a third . . . eventually I had to actually get moving, but it was really cool watching it drink and clean itself.

I finally got around to making sandwiches, packing spare cloths, chivvying the children along in their breakfasting and dressing, and we left the house.

The journey was slow from the start - heavy traffic, a few accidents, satnav diversions, but in the end it took us the hour and a half we'd predicted.

The kids were excited, and the day was good :) We went on more rides this time than ever before, all four are tall enough for everything now  J can ride by himself, even though he is by far the most conservative about what he will go on.  There were compromises, the usual juggling of how to fit in what everyone wants to do, but we had a great day.

For me the highlight was probably sharing lunch with a pheasant and some jackdaws, but the rides were cool too ;)  I'll see if I can add another post with some pics once I work out which device they are on.

After LL we went to my parent in laws for a flying visit.  The traffic was heavy again, complicating  things, slowing us down.  Although brief it was lovely to see the grandparents, the kids kept things fairly calm  and relaxed, which isn't always the case with family visits.

The last stop was a MacDonald's on the way home, because after a day like that neither my husband or I could face cooking!

We finally got home around half past ten, and once the car was unloaded and kids put to bed I just about managed to post a place-holding post, then crashed out myself.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Day five - Legoland

Today we went to Legoland, left the house around nine and got back about half ten this evening.

We came home via Grandparents, and then Macdonald's.

So, I'm shattered - tell you all about it tomorrow, when I can form coherent sentences, OK?

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Day three spent in glorious sunshine

A few weeks ago a newly moved to the area home edder, after some discussion, set up a picnic-in-the-park day to meet the local home ed community, and today was the day :)

It was a mercifully late start, and everyone was able to wake up naturally - that always seems to help the day go well.

So, we picnicked.  The younger three played - sometimes on their own, sometimes together, more often with the other children - and I chatted with new friends.  All was good - even the weather!

Days like today are really a key part of our lives - getting the children out and active, helping them cement friendships with support if needed, and generally reaffirming that life is for living outside in the sunshine, not shut away in a classroom.

Things went smoothly, M lasted almost three hours - he can get a bit antsy at things like this after a while.  Three hours is pretty good for him :)

Tomorrow we're off to Legoland, and I'm hoping that todays park time will mean we're not stuck at the climbing frame there for too long!

On the way home we dropped my sewing machine off for a service, picked up a new scrum-hat for M (it's a head-guard for Rugby), and met a very friendly terrier, who loved licking the ice cream off the kids.

Once home everyone retreated to their "cave" - M to the PC, J to his tablet, me to the garden to work on the plum trees, and A followed me nattering constantly until one of her friends knocked for her after school.  M and L have gone to the games club this evening, whilst A and J are planning tomorrows routes with maps from the internet.  J's idea is everyone can pick 10 rides, then we do those in order of how many of us want to go on them - not a bad plan to be fair, think we'll run with it :)

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Day two, less chilled but still awesome!

This morning we looked after a friends 2 3/4 yr old.  He's a lovely chap and was no bother at all, but between him, a lousy nights sleep all round and a food delivery the day felt more pressured - less chilled, a bit more hard work.

That said there were some real breakthrough moments, and that is one of the things I love about home ed. 

M  was first to ask to do some work, but he really wasn't "in the zone" at all.  We kicked off with handwriting practise, then Maths (because we have to do it in the right order every time.)  The Math was looking at number sequences, which usually would be right up his street, and for the first half it was - but then the "rules" for the sequences became more complex.  Instead of add 3, or subtract 6, it was add the odd numbers in ascending order (ie 3, 5, 7 etc.)  Then start with 2 and add one more each time . . . that sort of thing seemed unpredictable, but after some wobbly moments teetering on the edge he cracked it.  That had thrown him further off kilter though.  We carried on with reading our science book, but left the English for today.  He disappeared, played with our guest and relaxed a lot.

L was next, revising long multiplication and division.  We spotted a flaw in his methodology and corrected it, so now all is good there :) He just needs to practise the corrected method enough to remember it rather than the flawed one.  Then he tackled "pre-1914 fiction" in the form of an extract from Wuthering heights.  Lets just say he's not a fan of Ms Bronte . . . However whilst he loathes it his technique is improving rapidly and he did well at the essay-type questions with very little help from me at all.  Not bad for only his second try at reading comprehension at GCSE level.  Very pleased with him, not only for the work itself, but for finding an approach he can be happy with even though he dislikes the subject matter.  Next week we add in two more subjects, this is a gentle start, not a gentle year after all.

After a break for lunch and our guest being collected A was very up for some book work.  She had spent most of the morning playing with our guest, and wanted to do something with me.  she's working through a whole pile of books because she enjoys that, so we did a page on doubling numbers, then one on doubling coins, then some more phoneme work, and a reading check for the scheme she's using.  After that she did some work on what seeds need to grow, and read a book.  Then she went off drawing and planning some other things.

J was last, and reluctant to leave what he was doing, but I reminded him that he'd asked me to help him neaten up his writing, and he had asked for a science workbook.   So he did some handwriting practise, which he did very quickly and very well.  Then we looked at the maths book.  We skipped a few books over the summer mostly because J felt they were too easy.  I was nervous about this because I worried about leaving gaps in his knowledge.  Today he tackled column addition and subtraction for the first time.  I'm guessing it was introduced in those books we skipped because it jumped right in at four digit numbers with borrowing.  It didn't phase him at all though.  We talked through the first one, then he did the rest of the page with no help.  He was absolutely delighted with himself, and there were huge grins :)  I love days like that :) Then we tackled some work on pronouns, some science about seeds, and read another chapter in the very bizarre "life of Fred" book we've borrowed.  He is loving the absurdness, and the text size / font is working well for him too. 

That took up quite a bit of the day, and to be honest I wasn't happy with that.  Whilst none of the kids are working for more than an hour and a half, it adds up to a lot for me.  I'm going to try and rotate the order we work in (if this continues for long, it is at their pace / request after all.)  I'm worrying that whoever "goes" last might get a less patient mummy, but I'm trying hard not to let that be the case!

The younger three all went off to Beavers / Cubs / Scouts this evening, first night back after the holidays.  All three came home buzzing, which is good.  It took a long time for M and J to settle properly - to start with we had constant grumbles as they got home, but now they know the leaders, and the leaders know their quirks, and all is working well - FOR NOW!

Now it's time for story and bed, for me and them!  Tomorrow is a park day, then a day out, then a museum day, then a fall-over-because-we're-all-shattered day on Saturday.

Be well and happy folks!

Monday, 8 September 2014

A shift in purpose

The original purpose of this blog was to document the ups and downs of seeking a diagnosis for the boys, when we set off down that road I struggled to find any real information and had very little idea of what to expect.

Now we have that diagnosis I'm going to divert to another project for a while . . .

Earlier this year I became aware of the idea of "100 days of home ed,"  the basic premise is to document 100 days of life in a home edding family.  There is a Facebook group collating blogs, and it is really interesting seeing the broad spectrum of home ed recorded there.

The posts can serve as raw data for those thinking about home ed and not knowing what they are jumping into, or as inspiration for those wobbling, or just as a way to build a sense of "we are not alone."

The days recorded range in style from formal to unschooling - scheduled days to free-form living.

So, I'm going to give it a try - I'm not really great at blogging regularly, but what can go wrong . . .

Today - Monday - day One!

We don't follow school terms as such, I often get a bit surprised when school holidays sneak up on me and there are actual *children* in the parks during the day, so whilst most of the children around us went back to school at some point over the last week, we waited for this week.  Mostly because all of the kids clubs restart this week, so we had to get organised and moving.

M, J and A started the day with a home ed sports meet - they played quick cricket with a fairly large group. The younger three all enjoy their Monday morning sports, but L dropped out as soon as he could.  He is not really into sport at all and at 15 1/2 towers over most of the other children there.

Whilst the younglings were out L and I hit the books for some Math and English work.  We've not done English as a discrete subject for a long time, L's dyslexia made reading comprehension very difficult, so we've worked on the skills in a sideways manner - reading for other subjects, spelling in other contexts.  We're aiming at a GCSE in the near future, possibly this year, more likely next, so we're beginning to formalise how we approach the subject.  I was pleasantly surprised when L aced the first two thirds of the reading comp exercise - an enormous improvement, and confirmation that we've built skills and confidence along the way - he was less sure of the essay type question, so we looked at that together, discussing technique far more than the actually answering the question (which he was able to cover himself once he understood how.)  The Maths was a breeze, but at this stage we're revising stuff he's already done to try and improve his grade (he took Maths IGCSE last summer, passed well enough but feels he could do better.  I'd happily leave it as the grade stands, but if he thinks he can do better then I guess I have to help him.)  After that we had a random conversation, and then L disappeared up to his room.

After a rest M was ready to do some work, so we looked at standard form in Maths, common and abstract nouns in English, materials and their uses in Science, and he read to me.  M is very driven by external rewards, and still (at 12) enjoys books that provide stickers for encouragement.  That surprised me a bit, but I'm happy to go with what works :)

A came down next, and slowly started to drive me mad.  She loves workbooks, I had to limit her to four pages of maths, which is a huge difference to the boys.  With them I seem to wind up encouraging them to just finish the exercise, with her it's more "that's enough lets move on to something else!"  so we looked at tens and units (again!) in various forms, and did some multiplication.  She worked through some grapheme exercises (looking at strings of letters that make the same sounds), did a spelling ladder (change on letter each time to make a new word from the clues,)  looked at life processes, and plants, read a book, drew some pictures about the book . . .

At that point I felt as though I'd been stuck in the dining room all day, although it was really only lunch time.  So the hungry hordes descended and ravaged the kitchen.

J stayed down after lunch, we did some handwriting practise - he still struggles with stamina in his hands, and has poor fine motor skills.  Slowly we're getting there, but it still hampers him a lot.  Then we worked on nouns in English, positive and negative numbers, place order, and words to numbers, numbers to words.  He found a science book and wanted to work through that, so we did life processes and parts of a flower, then he read a life of Fred book for a while.

Later the boys went for a bike ride, A went out to play with local friends, and L is currently at a weekly games night.

In between there has been cooking, Mine craft, and random drawings.

So that's our day one. The rest of the week looks manic!

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Waiting and Wednesdays, D-day is here.

Wednesdays come along fairly predictably

It's generally every seven days or so.

You could even say Wednesday is a once-a-week sort of a thing.

This Wednesday, however, seems to have taken it's own sweet time. 

In some ways this last week has taken forever, the time between knowing when the appointment was and getting there. 

In other ways this Wednesday has taken 20 months - from first appointment to answers.

In yet more ways today has taken years - from first worries and wonderings to not just knowing, but hearing someone tell us "officially."

We had appointments at CAMHs today. 

It was always going to be tricky, because we had consecutive appointments for J and M.  Whilst one was in with us and the professionals, the other was left under the baleful eye of the receptionist.  As it turned out though, bringing both boys Hudls and some sweets meant that neither caused any stress when out there alone.

Today we had the reports from the boys ADOS assessments - well, officially we did.  We had seen the reports already, but the lady who sent them to us covered-up the fact that she had, and we respected that. 

With J going in first Dr Z took the lead.  She read us the concluding paragraph of the report, talked about the disastrous appointment just before Christmas, talked through the points noted at the various stages, and told us that J did indeed meet the diagnostic criteria for Autism.  She talked about needing all the different reports to be ale to see where his difficulties lay, and she complemented him on his coping strategies.  Then the play specialist who was also there (J, just to be confusing) talked with our J about what the diagnosis means, gave him the chance to ask questions, and made sure he was as OK as possible with things.  We asked for support with J's anxieties, and have some information to read, a course to go on as parents, and details of some support organisations that can help. 

Then we switched over, and it was M's turn.  He was already a bit unsettled, fidgeting and curling up in the chair.  J (play specialist) took the lead this time, and addressed M more directly - she asked him if he knew what was going on, and why we were there.  He gave half answers, and she expanded on them.  Then she gave a round up of the various reports / assessments, again reading concluding paragraphs to us all.  M, we were told, was easier to diagnose, and again a diagnosis of Autism was given.  I asked about ADHD as we'd filled in some assessment forms early on in the process.  That took both Dr Z and J by surprise, but they recovered well :) Looking at the Connors form, and picking out relevant parts of other reports Dr Z agreed that there were significant indicators of ADHD, and so that was listed as a co-morbid condition.  Again M was given the chance to ask anything he wanted, as were we, and then we said goodbye.

M didn't cope well with the goodbye - there were a few tears and he became very withdrawn, but that is just the way he reacts to things that feel like endings.  Fairly soon after leaving he was fine.

At this stage we have a parenting course to go on - it wasn't pushed on us, just suggested, but there are sections that cover anxiety and anger management, both of which I feel would be helpful - and we have details of support organisations.  The files with CAMHs are closed, but we can ask to be re-referred if we feel the need at any point. 

I do feel a little as though we've been given the diagnosis, and then left on our own, but I guess now we need to see what this course offers.  Dr Z said any further help for either boy would involve medication, and neither she nor we feel that is needed right now. 

So, it's time to read, see what this course covers, see what the support organisations can offer, and research.  I feel we've left things on good terms, if I find something CAMHs can offer, I have no qualms asking for it. 

The real gain though is that knowledge.  As a family we've bent around the boys pointy-bits for ever.  We know them, and love them.  We also know that working around the issues makes life easier and quieter!  So for us, the knowledge is a reassurance - we've not done anything wrong, we've not compounded anything - but for those outside the immediate family, I hope this will make a big difference.  M and J go to Cubs and Scouts.  I know the organisation has policies in place for helping children with SEN, now we have back-up to insist the group follow those policies.  Looking further ahead I think that M and J will need support if they want to take qualifications, this official diagnosis will help with that too.  In the more immediate term, when we go places there can be more recognition of their individuality - the fact they need a little more time, a little more space, that some things are harder for them.

Lastly, but really it should be firstly, the self-knowledge that they are not less, wrong or broken, just different.  Now we have that certainty we can help them understand their differences and hopefully understand their struggles too.

So, it may have taken forever to get here, but I kinda like this Wednesday . . .

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Not the summer I had planned

So far summer has been . . . odd.  Normally we stay home, enjoy the garden and spend time with friends.  We like our parks and museums quiet, which isn't an option in the school holidays!

This year the weather has been so variable that we've not done much outside at all - no blisteringly hot paddling pool days, no out door dinners, only one water fight!

We've also been busy, so time at home has been our decompression time. 

We've been bowling, to a soft play centre and swimming with a support group, we've camped with the Scout group, this weekend we camp again with another group, and we've done a couple of home ed visits as well!  Our quiet summer has gone up in smoke - which is both good and bad.

It's good, because these have been days well lived.  Good friends and happy memories have been made.  Time has been well spent, and we've all enjoyed it.

Bad because, for me, the summer is a time of recharging batteries.  A few weeks with less expectations, less stress of getting places, less need to be on time.  It's when I build up enthusiasm to face projects and workbooks again, when I gather resources, find inspiration.  This year we have been so busy I think I'm going to hit September at the same point as I burn-out.  So perhaps we will have to take the first part of September as a recovery period - lets just hope for an Indian summer, so our quiet days can be spent in the paddling pool!

In other news, we have an appointment next week with CAMHs.  The follow up to both M and J's ADOS's.  I *think* I know what will happen, but I am worrying about counting chickens before the eggs hatch. . . I am also worrying about what will come next.  Still, worrying only borrows trouble from tomorrow as the saying goes.  And bridges must be crossed when they are reached.

For the moment I think it's time to be happy with where we are, the kids have had a fun summer, probably their busiest yet, they are enjoying "Our Island story" as a bedtime book, Minecraft has turned into some kind of challenge-based project, with J and A asking me to set tasks and then comparing their builds, M is reading a roleplaying source book at night (I don't think he knows I know) and L is writing a story.

Even when planned summer relaxing goes out of the window the children are learning and growing faster than I can keep track of, and really, I guess, that's why we do things the way we do :)

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Summer success and plans

Houston, we have a problem . . . Well, I do anyway!

Last time I blogged I had to change the account access, and now I can't remember the password! It's set up on Gmail, which isn't the main email I use, and I'm struggling to get a password reminder sent anywhere I can read it . . . for now I can access the blog via my tablet, but can't get into my gmail account at all.  So I'm typing on a *really* small screen.  The prospect of which has put me off blogging for a while.  But it's about time I bit that particular bullet, so here we go . . .

Life is full of ups  and downs, and one of the downs is CAMHs - so far they've been pretty decent with us, only one dodgy appointment and the record was set straight when we wrote to them.  We are so close to the end of M and J's diagnosis journey, I can almost see the finishing post.  So of course this has to be the time our local CAMHs have been told to find 25% budget savings!  We know some of the people the boys have seen have taken redundancy or early retirement, so changes in who they are seen by is inevitable.  I *think* that worked in our favour when J had his ADOS the other week, two fresh sets of eyes seem to have seen things a bit more clearly than those who thought they knew him.  But the down side of this is longer waiting times.

It's been almost five months since M had his ADOS, and we haven't had a follow up appointment.  So my husband called (again!) and asked how things were going . . .

Now, I do understand that losing a lot of staff creates problems, and by all accounts another member of staff is often off sick too, but my understanding has limits.  So it was better that my hubby call, he's far more patient than I am ;)

He was told about budget cuts, longer waits, staff off sick, and then as a concession the lady he was talking to said she would try and send us the raw reports, although they "don't normally do that." A couple of days later we got the reports.  They have more than a few grammatical errors, and it's clear they are meant for internal uses only, but now I can see what happened in the two ADOS assessments.  I feel a lot happier :)

The reports are at great pains to point out that they are part of a larger process, not a diagnosis in and of themselves, and so I'm not going to share the content, suffice to say that it made me happy, then sad, then relieved.

I have no idea when we will get to the next stage, we're waiting to see the Neuro-development clinic, and hopefully when we do we will have a formal diagnosis for each of the boys.

So, that's M and J . . . The next big news is L.

Back at the beginning of May L began a paddle sports course.  He was very nervous, unsure of going at all, it took a lot of talking on my part, and a lot more pressure than I was actually comfortable applying.  In the end he went, with the proviso that he try for two weeks and if he hated it he could stop  going.

He loved it!  As far as I can tell he is actually quite good at the various paddle sports, and has passed the course with flying colours.  This week he has gone to Devon with the group, for four days of paddling mayhem :) At 15 1/2 he is the youngest of the group, but he is happy with that, and has made some good friends.  He's thinking of joining a local club and earning more qualifications . . .

Lastly little miss A.  She is enjoying the school holidays.  She is "playing out" for pretty much all the time we are at home, she has lots of local friends.  For A socialising comes easy, she is a little bemused by all the "best friends" nonsense, and it has been a bit of a shock to her how unkind some of the kids are to each other, but on the whole she is happy and thriving.

Over the summer we have a lot of activities booked with our local ASD support charity, we saw "How to train your dragon 2" with them on Monday, and are going swimming on Saturday.  It's shaping up to be a very fun few weeks :)maybe the start of the school term will give us a bit of a rest!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Up, down, and often round the bend

It's been a while since I wrote anything here, life has been a curious mix of crazy and not worth blogging about.

Often I get mental blocks - if something big is happening then I can't seem to plan things the other side of the big thing, and we've had some major things to get to the other side of!

The biggest reason for my silence has been L and his exams.  He took Edexcel Mathematics B IGCSE and Biology IGCSE.  We hit the books for some pretty major revision, and fitting "normal" life in around the edges wore me out.  L does not like exams, and despite being pretty good at both subjects his dyslexia may well get in the way of decent results, but now the exams are over all we can do is wait for mid August and results day. 

Revising has been awkward.  I generally prefer to follow the kids as they show me how they want and need to learn.  Thus far it's been a successful strategy, but revising for exams changed that.  Now we had a deadline, and a specified curriculum.  No more digging as deep as L wanted, no more skimming over the boring bits.  Together we had to do this in a much more structured way, and it really didn't suit either of us!  L wanted to look far more deeply at the cellular biology.  Ecology didn't interest him.  At times I was telling him to stop being interested, and at other times trying to help him remember things he felt no connection to.  Maths was a little easier - until L wanted to know WHY trigonometry works, and why Pythagoras was so fascinated by right angled triangles.  Still, at the end of the day we got through the material, he retained a lot of the information, and he went into the exam halls confident and with a good shot at things.

So that was one big thing.

Another has been a weekend away.  Not such a big deal?  Really?  We went away with the children's scout troop.  I am not particularly keen on quite a few of the leaders, and there have been . . . issues in the past with how the leaders cope with the boys differences.  Add to that the fact that this was our first camping adventure, and that L was going to be left at home for the weekend alone . . . so much potential for disaster!

L was fine.  He had a friend come over and stay for part of the time we were away, and together they managed to cook (pizzas and curry) sleep (at least a little) and feed the animals.  They didn't change the kittens litter tray, or walk the dog, or wash up (not convinced L washed himself let alone anything else!) When we got home the house was intact, and I guess since L is only 15 that's enough of a victory for me!

The camp was OK too.  The first night we had a thunder storm.  So now we know that the tent can cope with a lot of rain in a short space of time. 

There were lots of activities on the Saturday, and from those we learnt that A is awesome at climbing - she went across the traversing wall so easily, confidently and quickly!  She is also fab at monkey bars and other "dangling" sorts of things.  We really need to find a way to get her climbing more.

J really enjoyed the air rifle range - and he improved his shooting over the day too.  He wasn't so good at the climbing side of things, but he did persevere and improve.  One thing he excelled at was random conversation.  J has a small selection of topics of conversation, and if the other person is even vaguely positive about them J will natter for hours.  The other person, of course, rarely has to say anything, but J barely notices that!

M didn't find an activity that he excelled at, nor did he fixate on any one thing in particular, he did, however, have fun and try pretty much everything.

All three children were awarded badges and trophies at the AGM - they have all been recognised as working hard and trying their best.

J has had awards before from both Cubs and Beavers, A has from Girls Brigade, but M never has.  He was so sweet as the younger two got their awards - cheering for them and being very encouraging.  He clearly didn't think he would get anything, so when his name was called his reaction was lovely.  Lots of smiles all around :)

In other news, our local CAMHs are having a bit of a reshuffle, and this has dramatically increased waiting lists for things.  So whilst J finally has a date for his ADOS we still haven't had a follow up for M's ADOS which was on the 4th of March!  This process is taking forever!

So now that the exams, revision and camping are over and done with, I have lots of posts bubbling around in my mind.  It's amazing what climbing over those mental blocks can do for the subconscious :)

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Sometimes things go right

Here we are, the other side of a manic Easter break, life continues in the way it tends to -  sometime a calm happy oasis of people in their own little worlds, sometimes a noisy chaotic mess of competing needs, mostly somewhere in between. 

This week, or perhaps next, we shall be diving back into our regular lives.  We don't have a routine or a schedule, but we do have a pattern to our days.  Shaped by external clubs and activities, places we need to be at set times.  Our time at home will continue to be worked around L's revision for his IGCSE's.  The first is less than a month away! Eek!

Last Saturday we got a letter.  A surprisingly nice letter.  A resolution to something that I wasn't really expecting to resolve so easily. 

Just before Christmas I went to an appointment at CAMHs with J.  We saw a Psychiatrist and a Clinical nurse specialist.  They were termed the "Neuro-development team", and this was to work out a next step in J's assessment process - there was a chance they could give us the diagnosis there and then, but that was always unlikely.

I left the meeting feeling dejected.  I could tell by their words and actions that they saw a lot less of J's issues than they needed to.  They seemed to have things out of balance - making a big deal out of tiny things, and minimising other difficulties that really affected day-to-day life.

The report that finally came through was worse than anticipated - and believe me I wasn't expecting anything useful!  There were factual errors, there were misrepresentations of things I had said, other stuff was left out, as in the meeting some things were inflated, others down played.

We took a few days to work out what to do.  After all, these are "The Professionals."  They Know Everything.  Could we do anything?  Was there any point trying?   It really felt like a "Them and Us" situation, we felt powerless.

When, after a few days, we were still both very angry we decided that for J's sake we had to at least try and get his reports and file to be representative of him and his issues.  As things stood we didn't recognise J from the description in the last report.  Anyone further down the line would be trying to diagnose or help a different child if they used the file as it stood.

So we wrote a letter.  Not an angry letter, not rude or confrontational, but as business-like and detached as we could manage.  We thanked them for their report and expressed our concern at the errors therein.  And then sentence by sentence we took apart their report and re-wrote it.  There was one paragraph in their three page report that didn't need altering.  Just one.  We listed what they had said, and then corrected it so that it reflected J.  Our letter was long, but it was also detailed and polite.

Then we waited.

The first contact we had was a letter telling us the Psychiatrist was on annual leave for three weeks.

The second thanked us for the letter and told us they would respond but it would take some time.  That one was already six weeks after we sent our letter, almost three months after the appointment.

And then, on Saturday, a third letter.

An amazing letter.

A letter that gives me hope that this slow and clunky system might just be able to work with us, and not against us.

The letter apologised for the delay in getting back to us.  They even thanked us for our letter, but the key phrase is :

As this report was based on information provided by yourselves . . .
They spoilt things a *tiny* bit by claiming the original report was "quite difficult to re-write" - surely it's a word processed document that they could have just amended?
Enclosed was a three page letter to be attached to the previous report.  They have basically taken our letter word-for-word, but each paragraph is begun with a phrase like "You added" or "You corrected."
It's all there - in our own words, with the things we feel are the biggest described in detail.
When we got the original report I had no idea if we had any way to do this, but by being polite but firm we have challenged the "experts", made the file more accurate, stood up for J, stood our ground.
So please, everyone out there, if "They" write something that is wrong, stand firm, challenge them, it CAN be done!
Now we face a wait for J to have an ADOS, but at least the paperwork shows him as he is, not some distorted twisted view, and that is the best we can hope for.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Sunshine, writing and being us :)

It's been a while . . . So much is going on here that it's hard to find a quiet moment to marshal my thoughts, and I'm exhausted, which makes it even more likely that I'll end up writing nonsense ;)

A week or so ago we had to fill in the paperwork for L's exam entry.  Somehow that made us realise how little time he has left to get his head around the syllabus, even though we all knew the dates and he's doing fine.  That has mean that he and I are spending more and more time ploughing through his books - and that really is a time sink!  For the most part it's going well, even though it's a long way from the maths I know and understand.  As much as anything I am learning with him, and I find that gives L more confidence if he gets stumped. A phrase that keeps cropping up is that "it's not a test", so if he needs to work things through with me it's not a big deal. 

For a long time L was a perfectionist.  If he did a page of maths and got 19/20 he'd be upset about the one that was wrong.  Finally we're overcoming that - because so much of the syllabus is new to us, or takes things we know further, L is at long last accepting that he can do well without a perfect score.  That said he's usually hitting well above 90%, so all is good :)

We have begun working through Write from the start - a sort of hand-writing program.  All four children are doing it, mostly happily.  The exercises are designed to improve hand eye co-ordination, pen control, to work with the proprioceptive system, to develop visual discrimination and generally to come at things from a neuro-developmental slant rather than just a repetitive one.  All four children had difficulties with the first exercise  - though different difficulties (as ever!) 

The task was to put a single dot inside a small circle.  The aim was to improve precision, develop and awareness of how hard to press the pen(cil) down, to work on hand movements and pen-grip. The circles were in columns, and got progressively closer together. L was fine to begin with, when there was a lot of space around the circles, but as they got closer together he found it increasingly hard to see clearly what he was doing.  I'm guessing this is a dyslexia thing, and hoping that by working on it we can help other reading issues.  M found it hard to get the dots to be dots rather than lines.  He struggled from the start, but improved as the exercise went on.  J was very disorganised in his filling things in - he found it hard to start at the top left and "read" across, and kept missing our circles.  A found her hand got sore half way through, but otherwise was fine.

I'm hoping that since each of them had quite specific issues, working through the program will help them improve - if they'd all whizzed through it without a pause it might feel like a waste of time / money. And since the issues were so clear, it should be easy to keep track of how things are going.  We're on the eighth exercise now, all of them are still fairly happy to keep going - I think it helps that the sheets only take about 5-10 mins to complete, and aren't particularly hard. So far we've had an improvement in the tasks themselves, but not in their writing.  I'm hopeful though :)

I like the program, it seems very gentle in its increasing difficulty and short tasks are easier to fit in.  I hope that it will work - I've read lots of positive things about it - I'll let you all know how things go :)

In other news . . . the weather!  Wow! It's been so lovely here we've been out enjoying it :)  We went to a local rec' and L flew his quadcopter - he's actually really good - the rest of us just hit each other with foam weapons.  Then L joined in the melee.  We have a large number of weapons - all of them are designed to look like fantasy weapons, for use as costume in Live Action Role Play (LARP), and they are all safe for LARP fighting.  Made from foam, with a solid core, then coated in either rubber or latex they do sting, but rarely hurt (every now and then a freak shot catches someone badly, but really that's unavoidable in this sort of playing)

We all really enjoy this sort of "fighting" :) It's a great way to burn off energy, and it is a big adrenalin rush.  The kids enjoy ganging up on my husband and I, and it is just a very "us" thing to do.  There are probably all sorts of "soft" skills being learnt too though - hand eye co-ordination, consideration for others, not to charge from too far away or you'll be exhausted by the time you get there . . .

So, here are a few pics . . .

A didn't get hurt BTW, J is very good at not *actually* making contact :)

Someone's gonna catch her biggest brother . . . .

General Melee

Just to prove M was there too :)

For Freddie

This post is late, mostly because Blogger doesn't like me, and had trouble with the pictures.