My son is 4. He has a severe speech and language disorder and global development difficulties. His spoken output is severely limited – possibly a hand full of complete words, and then (after 2 years of speech therapy and constant practice at home) a lot of mostly prosodic but unintelligible utterances. He has an extensive signing vocabulary, but because of difficulties with motor control – you really need to know him well to understand them (oh – and know Makaton as well!).
Consequently he struggles greatly with communication and making friends. We have put him in our local mainstream school because we believe it to be his best way of making and maintaining friends. He has made an amazing start to his school year. He has the most wonderful learning assistant who is truly responsive to his needs. He seems happy at school and the home school communication book goes a long way to ensuring I know what he has been up to so I can chat about his day with him. We have had a good first update meeting on his progress and the actions that they have in place to support him. So all in all everything in principle seems to be working fine.
So why do I still feel that gnawing pit of anxiety in my stomach everyday when I take him to school?
Yesterday, I had to pick him up early from school for a Dr’s appointment. All the children were out in the playground. I stood on the upper deck looking for him and then I spotted him. He was stood alone. Passively just standing there whilst all the children ran, shouted and played around him. He was unresponsive to everything that was happening around him, still and silent, with the blank look he has on his face when his environment has switched him off. Then he turned and saw me – his entire demeanour changed and he ran his daft lolling run towards me and put his tiny hand in mine. The change from marble statue to my warm emotionally responsive son was electrifying.
I know it’s still early days in school and he needs time to settle and time to build friendships and relationships. I don’t know if this is happening everyday or this was just a snapshot in time. But I just can’t get the image of him in his bright orange coat – stock still in the melee of the playground – out of my head. And it makes me sad.
It’s 13.05. So far today (since getting the kids to school) I have done nothing productive – nada, zilch, didily squat.
This is not unusual.
Despite promises to myself that I will get better, be better, do better. I have read Mumsnet, commented on a few threads, wrote half a Christmas shopping list. I have thought briefly about a play adaption for my Open University assignment (a monologue about a woman doing nothing). I have had two cups of tea and two crumpets spread with Nutella.
I have mentally calculated to the mili-second just how late I can leave walking the dog before collecting child from school. This goes for putting in the laundry, planning the tea, changing the beds. If I could keep up the intensity of production during that half hour before school pick up I would/could be prime minister by now.
Looking on the positive side – maybe it just showcases my superior project management skills – no need for any effort to go to waste eh? I really must get on – but first where’s that kettle.
I have started this blog because I keep getting myself tangled in a metaphorical web. I want to have a blog, but I have lots of different ideas for a blog, but I don’t know how best to organise them and I need it to be perfect, but my quest for perfection ends in the holy grail of nothingness.
So I need to combat the nothingness and replace it with somethingness. if I just write about whatever I am thinking, in time patterns will emerge and I will be able to find my blogging voice.
I am going to strive instead for flawless imperfection. Actually take my own advice for once and just try. There is no failure here. Just a series of small steps whilst I try and see what could be.
Maybe talking to the void won’t be so bad after all?
It’s time for A to choose her secondary school. Well I say choose – but this is of course a misnomer as your choice is limited by mostly distance based admissions criteria. We are actually very lucky as we live in London – which has some of the most improved comprehensive schools in the country. So in actual fact our choice has been pretty easy.
But we also live in the catchment area for one of the most selective grammar schools in the country. This school scrapes only the best cream from the top of the local milk bottle. So much so, that there are 2000 applicants for a mere 180 places – allocated (mostly) in order of ranking from a specially prepared examination. Only children who achieve over 80% in this exam are even likely to be in with a chance. This leads to children locally being tutored (in some cases) from their entry into primary school. (These tests are now supposed to be un-tutorable but that’s a whole other discussion!) Lots of local parents worry that if they don’t do this – then they will be damaging their child’s future prospects.
`We worried about this – but decided against against any additional tutoring other than general support for what she was doing at school anyway – figuring we could aways change our minds closer to the time. But by the time was actually upon us it was too late. We entered her for the test anyway. Did some very low key practise papers over the summer holidays with varied success. But more importantly (I think) we talked to her about the importance of trying, we talked about how it was pretty unlikely she would get a place because of the very intense competition, we talked about how not getting in wasn’t a failure.
She did well. Not well enough to secure one of the golden ticket places – but well. Her rejection letter detailed just where in the 2000 she had come. But the best bit – she was so proud of her ‘achievement’ she pinned that rejection letter to her notice board in prime place, demonstrating amazing resilience. And I am very proud of her.
Yesterday at school, D let a dentist put fluoride on his teeth. This seemingly small and insignificant thing actually marks a huge step forward – and is the result of 3 years of teaching him to open his mouth and let us brush his teeth. He has gone from completely refusing to open his mouth – culminating in actually physically having to pin him down nightly and making him cry so we could get access to his teeth. Followed by months/into years of a gradual process of desensitising him and teaching him.
This is just one of the things he finds difficult.
I’ve shared this because sometimes it’s hard to put into words the challenges we face as a family with D. Each little thing seems by itself petty when you’re trying to explain to a friend why you haven’t been in touch, to a tutor when you have to hand in an assignment late, to family when we aren’t always responsive to their needs. Delete as necessary – ‘I’m sorry I didn’t call/haven’t been in touch much because I’ve just been utterly exhausted from trying to get my son to brush his teeth/get dressed/eat his dinner.’ Sounds daft – no?
But yesterday – when he so very proudly handed me the aftercare sheet from the dentist – I cried. I cried because it was symbolic of the journey that we take with him everyday, It was symbolic of the love and care that surrounds him everyday, and marks one of those small turning points that makes you realise that all the effort is so very much worth it.