Thursday, 22 June 2017

Behaviour in Education

Behaviour. Such a loaded word, isn't it?

Is it good, or bad? Is it acceptable, or naughty? Extreme and challenging, or exemplary?

Today I will be at the Telegraph Festival of Education being held at Wellington College. I'm expecting to see crowds of well educated and experience educational professionals, all networking and hopefully learning from each other.

I felt honoured to be invited along to speak as part of a panel of SEND parents, with our session brief being 'SEND parents: untapped resource or difficult customers?'

I am hoping we will have at least a couple of other people in the room to ask us questions, although to be truthful I'm not totally convinced we'll draw much of a crowd. Largely because it does occasionally feel like parents are the poor relations when it comes to talking about education ideas.

Over the course of two days there will be sessions on everything from how students should be tested, to making maths fun and how teachers can learn to become better teachers. Plus so much more. Including, of course, a few involving that word 'behaviour'.

It's actually such an interesting topic, but it can sometimes bring out the worst in people. Narrow-minded people, who believe that their way is the only way. People, who even when given information and facts about a condition such as Pathological Demand Avoidance (a type of autism, known as PDA), choose to deny its existence and instead see any unusual behaviour as a problem with the parents.

I have spoken with many parents of children with PDA who have been accused of bad parenting. Some have written about their experiences in my series 'This is our PDA Story'. No-one has ever suggested bad or 'not-strict-enough' parenting directly to my face, but I'm sure there have been some who have thought it.

I'm well aware that not everyone 'believes' in PDA and that some think parents use it as an excuse for not being able to control their child's behaviour. Those people though, have obviously never spent time with my younger daughter. They would probably also choose to ignore the fact that our eldest daughter does manage to follow the behaviour norms - 'typical' parenting has worked very well for her.

We have lived and breathed PDA for the past 10 years; right through to recent school refusal. As the common saying goes, 'behaviour is communication'. There is always a reason why our girl won't, or more specifically can't do something, and it is very rarely simply because she doesn't want to.

Despite receiving support, our girl struggles within her mainstream setting for a variety of reasons - many of these are sensory issues. If you ask her, she will say that lessons are boring - interestingly though, she does still say she wants to learn, and to be taught, but in a 'fun' way. This week she asked if she could be taught through her toys. That's quite a tall challenge for a teacher in a mainstream class of 30 children though...

I'm always open to questions about our situation and my hope is that tomorrow I will meet professionals who are ready to learn themselves and to consider the reasons for behaviour - because, let's face it, if their minds are not open, do we really want them teaching our children?

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Wednesday, 21 June 2017

House Renovation - Parts 17 and 18

A double update on the house renovation front again this time, as I'm just not finding enough spare time to edit and upload videos as I make them. You'll see why if you watch these updates - there is just sooo much to do around here!

So we finally moved in on a Friday just over four weeks ago and it's fair to say the house wasn't quite ready for us. It's still not. But we're here anyway, and on the plus side we don't have to drive backwards and forwards between here and the rental any more!

We did what felt like a lot of decorating before moving in, but there is plenty more to do now. So excuse us as we live with pine skirting boards and random bits of carpet as runners for now... it's our home and we love it.

The kitchen is my happy place now, the place where I always knew I'd spend a lot of time. Of course I'd be a whole lot happier if I could just get it tidy but right now I'm not quite winning that battle. Keeping my fingers crossed that the builders find some renewed energy and get everything finished off for us very soon so that I can finally put things away in their proper resting places.

So anyhow here is update part 17, taken a couple of weeks ago just after the kitchen floor was fitted but before the playroom carpet went down:

And here is part 18, taken last Friday, by which point the whole house seemed to look even more like a tip than before! I'm only showing you downstairs; of course upstairs is immaculate, ahem....

Don't hold your breath for the perfect final house tour folks; I have a feeling it could be a long time in preparation!

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Monday, 19 June 2017

Siblings {June 2017}

Now I know we're not allowed to complain about the weather, so I'll just say it has definitely been a scorcher of a weekend. Just right for Sasha's party and then my birthday today!

So after the fun and games of the party yesterday, we've done very little today... apart from a nearly 2 hour round trip in the car to collect a birthday present for Sasha (don't ask, but let's just say that Toys R Us are not my favourite store right now...). That was in my car, the one where the air conditioning isn't working, on the hottest day of the year. Oh joy. Anyhow once home I then spent an hour helping to put together the Playmobil hospital that was badly wanted and luckily most appreciated when it arrived.

After tea, both girls went into the garden to cool down - in the fab new pool which Mr C had very kindly put up on Father's Day! What a star he is. The girls played so nicely together, giggling and ganging up on their poor old Dad with the water balloons. 'Such fun'! So this month's siblings pics can remind me of all the birthdays and special occasions rolled into one..

The Siblings Project - Dear Beautiful
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Friday, 16 June 2017

Birthdays, cake and autism

Today was our youngest girl's 10th birthday - double digits already, how did that happen?!

Today we collected this most amazing creation by a wonderful friend of mine called Debs who runs her own business making all sorts of fabulous cakes (check them out on the Debs' Dream Cakes page).

How amazing is this?! At the start of this week Sasha had drawn a very specific picture of what she wanted, as shown below:

That's Kirby and Jigglypuff kissing on top - her idea was that it would be a pretend wedding cake, with her two favourite characters (Nintendo and Pokemon, for the less initiated amongst you!). 

Some of you will know that I do like to make cakes myself, and have made most of the girls birthday cakes over the years - sometimes to quite specific briefs, as this one was. Sadly I've been hit by the dreaded flu lurgy this week and I suddenly realised I just wasn't going to be able to attempt anything - so I can't tell you how welcome it was when lovely Debs suggested that she may be able to help me out (and do a much better job than I would have done, but sssshhh!). Please do go check out her Facebook page at Debs Dream Cakes and give her a like or two on my behalf. Small businesses always need and deserve a lot of support.

We spent the morning at school sports day (I know, on her birthday, what bad timing was that?!) where Sasha was not at all interested in taking part in the sports. Thanks to very understanding staff at her school, with flexible attitudes, Sasha was able to take part in the way she chose herself. She decided she would like to be a motivational person for the team who was coming last. She did add a little extra role, which was to shop anybody who was cheating, but let's try and gloss over that...

So anyway, for the first half an hour she ran up and down the pitch alongside those doing the sack race and then the relay race - honestly, she ran much more than she would have done had she been taking part in one of the teams! However it did mean that she 'peaked' quite early as it was a warm day and the heat was a bit much for her... cue a trip home to relax and check out all the birthday presents again.

Those ten years since Sasha was born have gone by in a flash, and of course have been nothing like I expected them to be. Not that I knew what to expect exactly, except maybe a second little girl who would follow the same kind of pathway as our first... I had no idea. I'll leave that reminiscing for another blog post though - I'll just leave you with the link to the very first post I wrote over 7 years ago, after an autism diagnosis was suggested....  Today, a diagnosis of autism?

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Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Wacky Day, Autism and Face Blindness

I'm so proud of our gorgeous youngest girl, who went to school today despite the fact that she really didn't want to.

To be honest, she really hasn't wanted to go to school all week (like every week this year), but with the builders still coming and going at our house and banging around, she has chosen the lesser of two evils every day so far. Today though, her anxiety was through the roof. You might not think so, looking at this photo, but she sure can put on a good pose when she's in the mood...

Sasha on her way to Wacky Day at school
Wacky day at school. All the children get to dress in anything wacky, and do their hair etc. In short, change their appearance as much as they want to. And therein lies the problem.

For most children, this is a bit of fun, some light relief and a welcome break from the monotony of 'just' learning. I'm not being all 'bah humbug' about it - it's a great fundraiser for the PTA and the sort of day our eldest daughter loved.

For Sasha, any of these dress-up days cause great anxiety. The issue is not stressing about what to wear, although I do know that can be a cause of concern for some autistic children. Sometimes, for other dress-up days where costumes are required, the sensory feel and itchiness of some costumes has been part of the problem.

The main issue for Sasha generally is all the other children (and often teachers too) changing their appearance. In her own words, it's 'scary'. I do wonder if it's a form of face blindness (also known as Prosopagnosia) but of course it's very difficult to have a conversation with Sasha about anything serious so I am not sure we'll get to the bottom of this until she's a bit older. 

Face blindness may affect as many as 1 in every 50 people - that's around 1.5 million people in the UK. This is a developmental condition which most of those affected are born with - they aren't able to recognise faces, and they may find it difficult to follow TV series or plots. Those affected tend to learn coping strategies fairly early on, such as recognising the way someone walks, or smells, or hairstyles etc.

For today though, a late night dash to the supermarket to buy some magic pink hair spray coupled with allowing her to choose what to wear did the trick to distract from the anxiety (not a particularly wacky outfit, these are just her favourite clothes!). Phew. Let's ignore the fact that she now has pink shoulders (which I forgot to put suncream on this morning, oops).....

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