Thursday, May 18, 2006

The World According To, #1

Son has been for his first induction morning at the new senior school. This is an act of faith on the part of both schools (Junior and Senior), as in spite of the 8 weeks for statementing having run out on 23rd last month, in spite of the phonecalls confirming the school choice etc the following Monday, the promise of a final statement within the week - no sign of the Statement.
At all.

Consequently no negotiations about transport, no official letter from his bew school, dates, hours, uniform list, all the stuff we need - nothing.

That wasn't why I began this post.

The latest quote from the world according to Son, marvelling at his progression:

"Hey Mum, I've been thinking; I mean, I'm nearly at senior school and after that it'll be University (Editors note: Yay! The kid assumes he'll go to Uni!), so really, you and dad are just holding me down.
"Like a hundred helium filled balloons.
"So stop trying because I'm going to escape and get up to the sky in the end."

And with that he smiled and wandered off again, so I really have no idea whether he has genuine visions of greatness and fulfilment, or whether this was his infamous sarcasm.

Being the mum of an Aspie teaches you to be a bit simple really - 'ok dear, if you say so' is about the safest reaction.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

So Proud!

For all the time he's been at school, Son's SATs have been dissappointing. Gradually he has achieved decent (as in marginally above average) results for the sciences and IT, but the approach at school has been that he is an average child with a few dyslexic and attention difficulties.

Last year his wonderful teaching assistant of the time (Zoe Noble) begged approval to allow him to do some work by dictation, just as an experiment. His English work exploded from the usual four illegible sentences written over an hour, to six pages of intricate story, and the school started to wonder what they'd really got there.

The other week the whole class did a week of mock SATs ready for the real ones that they are sitting now - the year six exams that label them and decide the stream they enter at seniors school.

The deal was that Son could not be helped in English papers, where the grasp of spelling and grammar were being tested, that he could have an extra 25 minutes more than the rest of the class for papers like maths because of his need to take a question in slowly and his difficulties with pen control, but where 'knowledge' was being tested, as in science, geography etc, he would be given an amenuensis, ie be allowed to dictate his answers to a teaching assistant who would write them down for him.

First he did a science paper this way, and scored 98%! Top of the class, he failed on only one question. Asked why saucepans were metal, he reasoned this would be to make them heavy, therefore safer as containers for hot food, instead of answering that metal was a good conductor of heat.

I am so proud of that failure - simply because he is answering from the perspective of reason. He is giving answers because they make sense to him, not by remembering facts as a list. He is not and never will be a learner by rote, but if something makes sense, it gets filed away as 'obvious'. I am happy.

Later in the week there was a very long maths test paper. He came home grinning from ear to ear the following day. Apparently the children were all sat in pairs to do the test; all except Son who was odd man out and had a desk to himself. By his way of telling it, the teacher had said it was the noisiest, most unruly day of the week, and that Son alone had remained in his chair, remained silent and continued to work on his test paper in spite of all the distractions. For the first time ever, without even noticing, he became the 'shining example'.

His reward was to be Star Of The Day the following day, with his name on the board and special privileges like getting to sit on a chair with a cushion whenever the rest of the class had to sit on the floor. By my maths there are around 195 chances in every school year for a child to be Star Of The Day. With an average thirty pupils per class, most, like his little sister, have been given the award three or four times in a year, but this was the first time, ever, throughout his schooling, that Son got the award.

All the bluff about not caring fell away and he was beaming.

I wondered about his version of events and was meaning to approach the teacher for her perspective, but before I could he also won the Merit Award. There is only one given out per class per month, and he got it. For excellent behaviour doing tests, by definition noteworthy beyond any effort made by any other child in that class for weeks.

  • Genius science results,
  • Absorbed and excellent behavior in the maths test (probably down to the enthusiasm for tests that the science result gave him - suddenly, for the first time, there was a very satisfying point to them),
  • Star of The Day,
  • The Merit Award,

.....all these are wonderful reasons to be a proud mother, but they are eclipsed by the conclusions he has drawn from this experience.

Son has decided that:

  • Biting his lip and staying still is the way to go - the rewards of being 'good' outweigh the inconveniences. There have been times when he's had a 'what's the point' attitude and a feeling that he can never win, especially with the total lack of Star and Merit awards, which come with public acknowledgement.
  • That he loves being absorbed in his work and has now experienced finding it very easy (although the school still parks a TA beside him to keep him on track).
  • That he can get even deeper into thinking about his work if the rest of the class is more silent and well behaved than usual - he prefers the hushed atmosphere of a test.
  • That this means he will shine in Senior school where the teachers are more strict and the other kids will be quieter in class and involved in their work.

Okay maybe that last one may be based on a shaky, possibly utopian premise, but it doesn't matter. Deep decisions like this take time to come to him, but once they are set they take just as long, perhaps longer, to be removed or altered. He has made his mind up that the purpose of Senior school lessons is to ignore the others and soak up the learning. He has made his mind up that this is exactly what he wants to do and he is looking forward.

Hallelujah - theres no other word.

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Saturday, May 06, 2006


by prydwen @ 06/05/2006 - 10:33:22 (i.e. stolen from Husband's blog)

My son who has ASD has had a horrid time at school from certain teachers who do not or will not understand his problem. One aspect of his behaviour is amazing sarcasm.

This summer he moves up to senior school and has been plotting revenge on one particular teacher when he goes.
We were concerned as to how this revenge would manifest itself but needn't have worried. He told us this week what he is going to do is, on the last day of school, walk up to Mrs J and say.
"There is something I have always wanted to say to you Mrs J... Goodbye"......

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006


I couldn't think of another title for this. "Ah" is about right. I mean, if I was asked to make a comment for the record on learning the following information, all I could come up with would be "Ah" and possibly "OK then".

Referring back to the PA to the Director of Children's Services who helped me establish that my letter got lost in the hallowed halls of County, here, it seems that it, or the email duplicate, hit the spot in the end.

Further to this sudden turnaround and provision of my requested mainstream school, I have today received a letter from said Director, dated 25 April, so only typed or composed the same day that my caseworker called to say that P school had been awarded and that the statement would be with me inside the week (it wasn't and still isn't, but hey, if all I'd had was the Dir's letter, I wouldnt even know that much.)

With lots of apologies, it's a very conciliatory letter, but the apologies are all backed up with reasons and the last comment screams of covering backs:

"I am confident that 'Son's' special educational needs can be well met in an East Sussex County Council maintained mainstream school and that....."

Thats where the 'Ah' comes in.

I've never met this guy, perhaps he's a lovely bloke and genuine, its just I can imagine that those who were counting pennies when I mentioned the Priory school may now be jumping through hoops and cracking open the best biscuits, knowing they have the backing of the highest authority in the County Education dept to insist that mainstream is good enough.

We'll just have to wait and see if the mainstream school agrees once he is installed, I guess, and anyway Son's educational needs at this point in time need have no real similarity to his educational needs another six months closer to spotty puberty. We face the time of obvious change.

Ok, then..........

Thursday, April 27, 2006


I got a phonecall on Tuesday. To all intents and purposes it was good news, even excellent news, even a happy ending to years of sweat and stress and nail biting and polite negotiations beyond any previous understanding of my ability to remain courteous under fire.

Yeah, right, been there before. After the initial reaction (which was to whoop and go teary eyed as if I'd won the lottery or someone had declared world peace and enlightenment for all), I remembered that news of a ship on the horizon is not, actually, a ship on the horizon; nor even does the appearance of such a vessel mean much unless it then also proceeds to head towards you. Even then there is the issue of whether it truly is on a rescue mission or just blythely and ignorantly set on a course which will run you over.

Cynical? Moi? On the contrary, I have simply learned from bitter experience that it doesn't do to spend too much energy rejoicing on trust, when you are treading water in the middle of the Atlantic (and/or ocean of your choice).

This two day silence, rather these two days filled with high energy procrastination such as playing blogthings quizzes and blitzing someone else's house - these have been my equivalent of the Victorian dead faint followed by smelling salts and fresh air and a day on the chaise longue in the conservatory sipping beef tea, to recuperate. Honestly, there's never an asphyxiatingly restrictive corset around when you could use the excuse.

Did you know corsets were the cause of the earliest Western plastic surgery? Women actually used to have their bottom two ribs removed to allow the waistline to be so severely cinched. Yes I know, I said Western, I acknowledge footbinding came earlier, and head binding earlier than that. Yes, yes I know, I'm doing it again.

So, the deal (given that I'll only believe it when I see it), is this:

The policy makers at County got into a huddle, presumably decided I had them bang to rights for telling me that the school I wanted for son was 'full' and using that as the reason for refusing him a place. They may prefer to deny my assumption or refuse to comment, but for their own reasons they decided to approach the 'full' school yet again and ask them to accept Son as one over the numbers.

The new Headteacher (Yes! Miracle! Between the last time of asking and this one, a new Head stepped up!) - ahem - the new Head looked at the advices and this time said "Well, OK, we could squeeze him in, but he needs a full time INA (Individual Needs Assistant)."

The policy makers, allegedly, agreed to this and increased his statement banding and the amount of funding that goes with it, to allow for a full-time, all-year member of staff to be employed. Just like that, by the sounds of it as a snap decision during the same telephone call. After I've been begging and pleading for crumbs for over two years. %&(^£"&!!

So the school said.......................... yes.

And the final statement should be coming out to me this week, naming the school I wanted all along and giving son the provision I asked for all along.* Wow.

*At which point, however, I start nitpicking to make sure that the INA is listed as a provision in the statement, his/her hours and qualifications specified also, that the other provisions are specific and not the woolly drafts we had before, etc etc etc. Oh, and then I have to raise the testy subject of transport, ie stick my hand out for yet more money. See this is the tension of fighting on behalf of a kid with differences. Even when you so desperately want to throw your hat in the hair and shout Hallelujah, you just know it's not over. It may never be over. Hey ho.

I understand I am supposed to rejoice on the basis that I got the County to comply with more of the law than they usually do - that seems wrong somehow and makes 'victory' (however partial) a little hollow.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Son Supposes

This morning I sent Son to school in trainers because he 'misplaced' his school shoes, but completely forgot to send him with a letter of excuse for breaking uniform code. The unnerving thing is that as soon as I had given permission for the hunt to stop, he mentioned how handy it was that PE today was going to be athletics, so he would already have good running shoes on. Hmm.

Oh yes, and his chosen topic of conversation on the way to school, courtesy of having seen the news, was whether China etc were really going to join forces with America (because they had a war once, you know, says he) or whether they want to take over. Whether the takeover will be in business dominance or whether it will involve transplanting politics and communism, and whether, as the UK didn't go to war with them and we had a deal about Hong Kong, and we're sort of friemds with everybody, might we be able to stay neutral and friendly and not get communised/blown up/put out of jobs. At 8.15 on a Friday morning.

Email #45

Dear Ms New-caseworker

Thank you!

My understanding was that, for most schools, some staff would be on site for part or all of the 'holiday', particularly admin staff and usually also 'main players' like the Head. The delay this would involve was not made clear when we spoke, or, grateful as I am, I would have reiterated my request for the statement to be issued during the Easter break, irrespective of these new developments. I rather thought I had done just that in any case.

Are we near to the eight weeks yet? I am having trouble finding the cover letter that went with the note in lieu, which does not, in itself, have any date on it. Could you remind me, please?

Yes you are correct, I was at one time panicking that we would settle things in time for a proper period of transition, now I worry that we may not have this settled before schools break at year end. Given that the application for assessment went in to County in July of last year, it has been a long time to be so fraught.

Given the situation could I please have either another 'interim' proposed statement (if that's what systems require) or simply (preferably) copies of the altered pages, following our meeting on March 24th. I would be grateful - even by email.

For your information, I sent copies of the initial proposed statement and the advices that were attached to the previous note in lieu to N-H School. I have received acknowledgment and am waiting to hear from them to see whether we will be invited up for interview. You know I have to repeat for the record that I requested P for its layout, as the only school I was aware of which provided the national curriculum and yet was designed in a way that would significantly reduce danger spots and triggers. It was a 'best of' situation. Now that I am aware of the Priory schools, ie aware that there are facilities which offer the full national curriculum in a setting specifically designed to allow accessibility to students with aspergers, without there being a mix of syndromes and conditions (which would have done nothing for his self esteem), I may yet request that N-H be the named school.

Son will not willingly consider any local school other than P, yet when I told him he had a better chance of going there than to N-H, he was very disdainful, saying that even if the teachers were nice and the building was quiet, he would still be the weirdo and the geek and the one who got kicked at breaktime just for being there; so you see, I am in a bit of a spot.

On that note however, someone outside of all this recently told me that Son could and should have been invited to attend the last review meeting; that he has a voice in this and that his opinions should be taken into consideration by the system directly, rather than second hand via me. I imagine it is too late to arrange this now without slowing things down considerably, besides, he currently has his heart set on a school which he hasnt even visited or been invited to view. I simply wonder, ought I to have been bringing him along to the meetings all this time?

Thank you again

Best Regards

Cheryl Baggage

Email #44

Dear Mrs White

As you are aware, the School Admissions department have indicated that P is full for Son's year group this September; when we last spoke, at the very end of Term, I said I would discuss with senior managers here whether there was any scope for going back to P, and they agreed that we should pursue this - but we need to speak to the Head and the SENCO. We cannot do this when the schools are shut for a holiday. I understand that you are anxious to have a final statement for Son - what we are trying to do is meet your school preference before we finalise.
I hope this clarifies things for you.

Ms New-caseworker

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Email #43

Dear Ms New-caseworker

Thank you for your letter dated 18 April 06 to advise that the SEN team will be liaising further with P School and the County Hall Schools Admissions team over my request for a placement at P for my son.

I am confused.

Exactly fifteen days prior to the date on your letter, following our emails (below) you telephoned me to clarify that agreement to consider a special school was not agreement to approve one.

During that conversation I advised you that one of my resons for thinking I needed to go to tribunal was that the National Autistic Society had informed me that a school 'being full' was not an acceptable reason for denying placement. Rather they said that, according to the code of practice (8.85), going over the nominal admissions number might be incompatible with the efficient use of resources / education of the class, particularly due to availability of physical space for equipment, and that this would have to be investigated by the County.

At that point, in spite of the many email references to a place not being allocated because Peacehaven was 'full', you advised me that the County would indeed be making such investigations. There was no mention whatsoever that this may affect your response to my repeated request for the final statement to be issued prior to the beginning of this current term, ie prior to todays date.

Please could you advise me:

  1. Why I have been sent a letter confirming what was already said by telephone so long ago
  2. Why it has taken fifteen days to establish actions that I was led to believe were already in motion
  3. Why the letter speaks of negotiations with Peacehaven in the future tense - ie why the County 'will be' doing these things and has not already started
  4. Most importantly: Why this has delayed the issue of the final statement if, as you said in your email of April 03, NEGOTIATIONS CAN CONTINUE BEYOND THE DATE OF ISSUE OF THE STATEMENT.


Cheryl Baggage