Friday, September 30, 2005

Am I An Over Fussy Mother?

My ten year old son is tickled pink - he has found a game on the internet that has him chuckling away out loud.

His favourite 'buddies' for this game (as you can 'buy' new buddies without using real money) are George Bush and a large purple Teletubby. Somehow he has opened a whole lot more options for projectiles - grenades, babies etc.

So, is he displaying alarmingly evil tendencies, or completely normal ones (as far as any horrible ten year old boy can be said to have normal anything)?

Should I be ignoring it until he's bored, or having an apoplectic fit?

Would love to know.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Eating Crow and Carpet, in Humble Pie Hat

Went to see 'the teacher'.
Explained that if Son doesn't get his statement of special educational needs he will sink without trace as soon as he hits senior school.
She agreed completely.

Expressed fear that the Education Authority would ask for proof that more help was needed than previously recommended, and that said teacher would indicate that none was used, nor needed.
Got corrected. He has his own desk, facing the wall as he likes it, and is kept company by a teaching assistant to keep him on track - all the stuff that costs extra money and that we want formalised so he can access the curriculum. The only things missing were his headphones - used in the past as earplugs, to deaden the noise of the classroom.

Explained this fear was partly based on Son insisting his homework had to be handwritten. It turns out that lots of children do their homework on the computer and are allowed to, as is he. The teacher's comment in his homework book was also based, she says, on knowledge of even tidier work he had recently done at school.

This, I guess, is why his note in lieu stipulates close home-school communication, because if news travels via Son it can be heavily filtered.

After all that fear - back on the same songsheet now. I'm still not sure that one of us isn't singing sharp, or flat; but we seem to be looking at the same piece of paper.

Maybe I need to take up meditation. Or possibly medication, hmm.

P.S. Ref BigSon post, below - if you look you can see his broken nose and broken, 'lopsided' shoulder. You can't see all the fisherman's scars up his forarms where spiked fish or crab have expressed their annoyance. He's 21. One day I'll scan one of his younger photos, from when he still looked like a cross between a choirboy and a member of the Royal Family / Christopher Robin.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

At A Loss With School Again

Last year we tried to get Son statemented for Special Needs. His hand-eye coordination is appalling, he has Aspergers and dyslexic tendencies. Nobody has 'dyslexia' any more, officially, just tendencies.

At ten years old he still has to ask me how to spell simple words and his writing is near illegible.

His last year at school saw quite a few breakthroughs - thanks to the encouragement of that teacher and some excellent teaching assistants, he did consider an academic future. She let him display his powerpoint presentations to the class, and even sent him round other classes to share them there too. He picked up on lecturer-speak, 'I have prepared', 'you will see'; all that, and decided he wanted to be a teacher. It was enough to make me cry.

This year, as I think I already said, his plans progressed and he decided to do all his homework (for a complete change). It became a pet project of his to see every piece done and returned.

Last week he did a book review ahead of the homework being set, because he heard the teacher mention it. It was rejected. When the homework was set he had to do 100 words, hand written, this in spite of the fact that up to now school has allowed him to use the computer; allowed him to use amenuensis (dictation) and by that method write a whole lot more, and has done everything barring the Education Authority's official recommendation on his Note In Lieu (the thing you get if you fail to get a Special Ed Statement) that he be given a tape recorder to do his work orally.

Fired up as he was; determined to do all his work as he was, he ignored the headmaster's concession that he could simply do the review on the computer. He composed it in Word, just to get the spellings, then printed it off, sat down and reproduced it in his homework book by hand. Effectively he did the whole exercise twice, to conform to the letter of the assignment, with the writing out taking forever as he slowly struggled to copy digit by digit, keep them roughly of a similar size to each other and watch his spacing. I was really proud - I have never seen his work, albeit still a spider scrawl that goes up and down and all over; looking so neat.

I got his homework book back on Friday, ready for more work. The teacher's comment was:

"You make some really good points, but please keep your writing clear."

He is now looking at a very simple piece of work for this weekend and in the light of that comment, muttering that he can't really be bothered.

I don't think I can be very rational if I go to see her - I will either lose it, or go all squeaky and weak and sycophantic under the influence of adrenalin overload. I think I am going to steal his book and go see the SENCo (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) and ask her if she can point out little things like his Note in Lieu, his IEP (individual education plan), any disparities between them, and the comments of other teachers in his current statementing application. You know, stuff any teacher who gave a rats fart about the job would have read before she started.

If this woman screws up his chance at getting the help he needs by pushing the idea that he doesn't need any of what was stipulated by anybody else, I think I will let her know just what I think of her in front of her class - and I really don't want to be barred as an aggressive parent.

Anybody reading, who knows how I can handle this through the English system with some measure of diplomacy and without leaving the woman feeling cornered or resentful (but still in charge of my son) - HELP!!!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


This year, for some unfathomable reason, my ten year old's sense of achievement has been stirred. He suddenly wants to produce schoolwork, including extra curricular, unrequested extravaganzas of self-initiated work that mirrors the class topics.

Good work gets shown to the class - paperwork goes up on the walls and PPSs get shown on the wall screen, including stuff you did at home.

The kid who used to look at a four-question homework sheet like it had the plague, suddenly spent four hours researching World War 2 and making up a seven page Powerpoint presentation, complete with flying bullet points and moving graphics.

An hour of that time was spent on the phone to his Gran, and both left the conversation with a sensation of being special. They bonded.

In fact, most of his presentation was to do with the little things she told him - born in 1930, my mother was ten when we went to war and fifteen when it all came to an end.

She told him (and he quoted) that:

  • Some children were evacuated, and some of those were used as unpaid slave labour on the farms when they arrived - treated as good only to replace the farm hands that had gone to war
  • Some children (like her) stayed in London with their families ("If we go we'll all go together") and that for them there was a kind of club you joined to collect newspaper and shrapnel for the war effort. You started out as a Private in this official club and went up the ranks according to how much you had collected. It meant she tailed the ARPs etc, waiting for a bombed house to be declared safe, to clamber in and get the shrapnel - her and a whole bunch of kids, who would compare finds to see who had got the biggest bit. It put some fun and purpose into facing blown up houses.
  • She ended up as a Field Marshall.
  • There were queues everywhere. If you saw a queue you joined it, no questions asked, because it meant there was something worth having at the other end.
  • Because every scrap of good meat was for the human rations, the pet shops would stock horse and whale meat, for the pets. There were a lot of imaginary dogs where she lived, people 'created' animals, so they could bump their diet up with a bit of horse. The pet shop always had a long queue.
(No I am not going to make some scathing comment about the reports that some New Orleans residents have disdained fresh food and water because it wasn't burgers and Coke.)

He took this in to school on Friday morning, on his own memory chip, having first done a grand presentation to us at home, so I know exactly what ended up on the finished piece. He even removed the point that dressmakers would ask the butchers for the net that the meat arrived in, as it could be bleached and was the only material around for making a wedding dress (unless you got your hands on a rare parachute silk - although those had their own black market for making women's underwear.) He thought that was gross, too yucky to use.

His teacher didn't have time to look at it that day and ended up keeping his chip for the whole weekend. Then she was in and out of class yesterday and he finally got it back today. Since he completed his mini project on Thursday night, he has waited five days to see whether he would be allowed to share his effort with the class. So much tension and excitement, and hope.

No. Apparently his teacher said it was unsuitable for two reasons:
  1. Too many exclamation marks.
  2. Some of it wasn't true.
He asked her which bits weren't true, but she said she couldn't remember.

Post Script due to comments:

Lewis is Aspergers and dyslexic, with a bad case of the "I can't so I won't" and trouble reading faces and inferred intent. He has a 'Note In Lieu' at school and does a lot of work on the computer there because his handwriting is so appalling. Last year they 'discovered' his brain when a teaching assistant regularly took dictation for him.
Up to now he has been encouraged with House Points for good behaviour and teachers are free to award them in extra amounts to kids who struggle.
He has NEVER recorded them or paid them any attention because you mark your own points on the board at break time or the end of the day and too many times he has amassed enough for teachers to wipe them back off the board, calling him a liar - so he just doesnt play.
This year, if he does every single piece of homework, he feels that he will be presented with £5 cash, in assembly, by the headmaster.
I didn't think this would inspire him but it has, I guess because homework sheets are tangible and can't be called imaginary - not that he has EVER done a single piece of homework outside of school hours.
He has also started trying, like this instance, to put in even more hours.
Perhaps she was stopping him from getting ego issues with it, from becoming obsessively carried away, but I really do have to go in and see, don't I, I can't let it lie.