Should children with SEND be forced to do homework?

Firstly my question would be, what is the purpose of homework?

Some say it’s to consolidate learning that has happened at school.

Others say it’s to enable children to develop independence and prepare them for revision in later years. Maybe it’s a bit of both.

Some children regardless of needs thrive at school and love nothing more than the challenge of homework, revising for tests and completing projects at home. Fantastic! These children should be celebrated.

Some children don’t want to feel different. For these children academics are a challenge to them and they don’t love completing homework, but they would rather do it, at a limited standard, than deal with the feeling they get from not doing it.

Other children, generally those with significant additional needs can not, will not, and point blank refuse to even entertain the idea of mixing school with home! And these are the children I am referring to.

So, should we, as their parents force them to do it?

Should we allow the school to punish our children for not doing it?

100 % NO on both counts!

Children As young as 4 spend 6 hours a day actively being taught a curriculum which they are expected to memorise and then regurgitate in a standardised test to prove their worth. They are ALL expecting to learn exactly the same and in the same way and if they don’t memorise enough, we as their parents are told our children are falling behind – another words ‘they are failing’.

Now let’s be clear here.

Your child is NOT failing! the system is failing your child!

Your child, like all children, regardless of any additional need, will learn at their own pace and in their own way.

Children that are so called ‘failing’ at school will find the school day an immense struggle. The speed of expected learning will be way too fast and they will feel like a sinking ship.

Their self esteem will be rock bottom and no doubt their behaviour will be reflecting their insecurities.

So when the bell goes at 3 o’clock and they break free from the prison of doom they finally feel safe, back in the arms of unconditional love.

As parents our single most important job is to love and care for our children, keeping them safe from harm.

You are not a teacher of academics!

The time we spend with our children is undeniably the most valuable time on the planet. It’s when we teach our family values, our beliefs and our traditions. It’s when we share our experiences and we express our emotions. In everything we do we are constantly role modelling expected behaviour.

We consciously and even subconsciously spend every opportunity building their self esteem by celebrating their personalities and each and every micro achievement that they make and most importantly we are the people that know and believe in our children.

In society we all harp on and on about having a work/home life balance. Those who bring their work home with them are stressed beyond content, suffer mentally and as a result their family life suffers!

So why do we think that it is acceptable for children?

It’s not! Children need time to be children, they need time to learn who they are and they need the time to be that person. They need time to partake and enjoy other aspects of life.

Learning at home happens all the time. A bedtime story, fun games intertwined with life to support times tables or science. Creating thank you letters. Knowing what topic is being studied at school and visiting related places as a family. Grow broccoli. Cooking together and eating your delights together (or in my case probably not quite so tasty delights). Laugh and have fun.

But DO NOT sit down and force a disengaged child to do homework.

Do not sign a home/school agreement to say you will do the homework set and do not allow your child to be punished by the school.

Go into school and have a meeting or write a letter.

You are not being a lazy parent or allowing your child to fall further behind – you are simply doing the single most important job a parent must do, which is to love, care, and keep your child safe from harm.

The picture is of Jazz and myself attempting to grow broccoli after I discovered at 11 years old she thought broccoli was made in a factory!

DLA & PIP – The 3 letter words that send shivers down my spine.

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When I decided to have children the word benefits never entered my head! I was bought up with a great work ethic and enjoyed earning and spending my own money within my means.

After Morgan was born we spent the majority of his first year in and out of hospital, finally to receive his and Aidens’ diagnosis of the life limiting disease, Cystic Fibrosis at the age of one and five years old.

After coming to terms with this diagnosis, which will be another blog when I’m brave enough, reality set in about what this actually meant.

One certainty was that my career path was instantly shut off. Who would employ me knowing that at the drop of a hat I am likely to wind up in hospital for weeks on end?

The hospital, doctors surgery and chemist became my second home. They all knew me on first name terms and that tells you something. Even the most generous boss in the world will only take so much because at the end of the day they are paying you to do a job, so they need it done.

Suddenly we were thrown into the world of ‘benefits’ and on one hand I am truly grateful that they are there but on the other hand I live with guilt, frustration and fear of having them, which follows me everyday.

I am truly grateful because it has meant I can be by my children’s side through their difficult and unplanned journey and without them our lives would have been completely different.

Yet, I hold guilt from other people’s judgments that I am one of those ‘benefit people’, you know the ones, the ones that are ‘a drain on society and wasting tax payers money’. I think these judgments seem far more apparent for those who have invisible disabilities – my children don’t look sick! Look at the picture, can you tell which ones have disabilities?

I also live in fear! Fear that I am being watched, fear that I’m being judged and fear of anticipation!

Awaiting that dreaded brown envelope, the DLA/PIP renewal form, dropping through my letterbox is sheer hell. This is the 40 page document where I have to explain in great detail all the things my child can’t do, all the things that in life, I just used to take for granted.

I then live in fear that ‘they’ (the powers that be) won’t believe me, or that what I’ve explained is in fact, not disabling enough, or that what I have written and how that actually looks in reality are two different things which could somehow be seen as fraudulent.

They ask questions like ‘Do they need encouragement, prompting or physical help to take part in hobbies, social or religious activities? Or, do they need help when they are out and about? How many times a day you you need this help?’ And then expect the answer in minutes!

Disability is not measurable in minutes or with a simple yes or no or tick box answer how do you convey life into minutes?

And then there’s the biggest fear of all – after feeling guilty and fearful for receiving such a thing you begin to live your adapted life, you are then tasked with the thought that ‘they’ are going to take it away!

Cystic Fibrosis is a life limiting, degenerative disease, like many other diseases and conditions it is not suddenly going to disappear or get better so why do So many people have to live in fear or something that was put in place to support them? This is where the frustration lies.

No amount of money will take away the pain, heart ache and trauma that is felt every single day by families affected by illness and disability but receiving this benefit does enable lives to be lived in a way that is more manageable.

The money we receive allows our children to live a life they deserve – an equal life to those without a disability.

Research suggests that is costs three time more to raise a child with a disability that without.

Yet, society has created stigma around that the word ‘Benefits’ and that needs to change, as does the benefit system itself. It needs to stop this fear factor ruining peoples lives. The change in the benefit system is sadly out of our control.

We can however, remember and remind others that people do not choose disability and this will go a long way in helping to change the stigma attached to ‘benefits’.

I have attached three brilliant websites which have step by step guide lines to how you fill out that horrendous DLA form.

https://skybadger.co.uk/2018/08/20/dla-form-a-step-by-step-guide/

https://www.cerebra.org.uk/help-and-information/guides-for-parents/dla-guide/

https://www.carersuk.org/images/Factsheets/DLA2018-19FINAL.pdf

For those moving over to PIP at the age of 16, here are some step by step guidelines.

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/benefits/sick-or-disabled-people-and-carers/pip/help-with-your-claim/fill-in-form/

https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/default/files/word/PIPGuidetoclaiming24october%202018.docx

Half Term – Hell Versus Happiness

Well this is a tricky one! For some, it’s a truly happy time, no school for a whole week, wahoo! but for others it’s a week from hell and this is true for both parents and children.

In my house the half term holiday holds mixed feelings. I work term time only so I personally relish in the fact that I don’t have to get up and out for the school run. Nor do I have to referee the morning routine or negotiate behavioural consequences or rewards if the kids can leave the house without killing one another, all at a time when I’m barely awake myself. Although, as I relish in that though I also realise that this means that all the kids are in the house together for a longer period of time and therefore they are far more likely to fall out with one another. Oh and there is that small issue of knowing there is NO break from them!

Thankfully, I have found that there is a positive side to having teenagers – they sleep in! See, it’s not all bad! Gone are the days where they would be up at the crack of dawn regardless of what time they went to bed or whether is was a holiday or not. No, now I have to drag their lazy butts out of bed before they miss the second meal of the day! Oh, obviously that doesn’t include the hyperactive one! No he’s always up and bouncing, music blaring and wanting to plan the day. And this is where those feelings become mixed.

Unstructured time is really difficult for some children yet others need the down time and the break for routine. I happen to have two that need routine and can’t cope without it and two that need a break and just need to chill. Arggg!

This is really tricky as a parent, who is always striving to please everyone.

Aiden, now 18, is naturally lazy, he went from what felt like the terrible two’s, which starting at birth and lasted a decade, straight into being a teenager! Not sure when we progress from here but I live in hope! Although, no matter how lazy he is, Aiden needs structure. He needs a plan, he ‘loves’ a plan but he just doesn’t know how to create one. What I mean by that is, if I didn’t organise his day, he would simply do nothing. If I didn’t make him leave the house, he wouldn’t. He would sit in front of the television 24/7, eat the cupboards bare and sleep at completely inappropriate times and this isn’t because he is a teenage boy, he has always been this way, he just has less tantrums now. He doesn’t seek social interaction and he doesn’t seek entertainment. As a young child he never played with anything, he just didn’t really know how to. Due to his learning disability he is still unable to play computer games (which I guess could be a positive) but he just doesn’t know how to occupy his own time. This is tiring as a parent because it demands constant organisation on my part. It also means it’s always ‘my fault!’ My fault for making him do something he doesn’t want too, or my fault for not making him do something he does want too! Either way, I made him do it, therefore, according to him it’s ‘my fault!’

It’s ok, I learned early on not to take to heart all the anger and upset that he directs my way because I know how much he benefits from the outings we have. His anger is anxiety and his upset is often his frustration through his lack of understanding. However, even knowing this, it doesn’t make it easy especially when you throw the other kids into the mix.

Anyway in true autism style and even with my lack of strong organisational skills we have a plan.

The plan consists of the weeks activities, the weeks jobs list and also includes plenty of time to chill and slump in front of the tele. This works for the sloth like teenagers because they know they are going to get their down time, it works for the hyper one as he can see when he has gaming/screen time and if he needs to add extra gym sessions to burn his energy he knows he can do it in these times and it works for Aiden, because it’s ‘a plan’ and even if he doesn’t like what’s on the plan he has time to digest it and can see that his tv ‘safe’ time is going to happen.

Equally it also works well for me! Breaking the days and week up into manageable size chunks doesn’t make the week seem like such a mammoth task. It also means at the end of the day, I know exactly what time I can chill and pour that well deserved glass of wine knowing that the kids have all had a happy day.

So thankfully for me this half term happiness wins but believe me, it hasn’t always been this way!

Get a plan! It’s hard work but hard work is far better than hell!

Skipping School – Part 2

This is my second blog to present what Channel 4’s, Dispatches ‘Skipping School’ Programme failed to investigate – the reasons thousands of children are being home schooled.


My second fight against ‘the system’ was very different to the first.  I didn’t need a special school place but additional support within a mainstream school. Children can legally secure this support via an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP), which provides additional funds to a school who need to support a child with SEND (those with Special Educational Needs and Disability).  This fight is one I hear many parents battling and, sadly, loosing.  It’s one of the key reasons thousands of parents are being forced to home school their children – something Dispatches failed to mention.  

 

In many cases these are bright children – academically capable of achieving but require additional support to succeed. Many will have a ASD, ADHD, Anxiety or Dyslexia diagnosis. 

 

Some of you reading may think ‘yes I can see how school would be tough for these kids.  If you are a teacher, already overwhelmed by the amount you already do, you may well be thinking ‘don’t put them in my class, I haven’t got the time’. But many will likely see the label ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and will be making instant judgements about these kids. “There’s no such thing! It’s an excuse for naughty kids.  It’s bad parenting! Discipline – that’s what’s needed!” It’s hardly surprising, given how ADHD has been unhelpfully reported.  Those with ADHD aren’t any of these things.  And, with a supportive school system, those with ADHD would flourish for having what they actually possess:  additional abilities rather than a disability.  

 

Unfortunately, our school system, as it stands today, is a ‘one size’ fits all system.  It has experienced so many funding cuts that it is unable to support any child that is not ‘one size’.  It shuns, shuts out and basically shits on these small superheroes.  Here’s how


All children want to learn. All children want to achieveAll children want to fit in. But our school system doesn’t enable equality of access to this.  Instead those with additional needs are denied the support they need and are then criticised, blamed and punished for failing to fit education’s standard mould.  That seems unfathomable to me, when we’re continuously told our country will only prosper if people break the mould, think outside the box and are creative and innovative.  

 

Instead if you are one of these children with SEND what happens is this.  For six hours a day, you are told you are a failure by every adult you come into contact with.  You are repeatedly made to sit outside the classroom. You are then punished by given detentions and made to miss your breaks, lunch or stay for another hour after school – because you failed to complete enough work.  

 

Each day you are forced to walk around with your ‘badge of honour’, otherwise known as a ‘Behaviour Report Card’, just in case there was someone who hadn’t noticed that you are the kid that doesn’t fit in.  

 

And, of course, don’t forget the times when you are sent home because you hate the numbness of being medicated with Ritalin so choose not to take it but your teachers refuse you class entry because they’d much rather you numb than ‘naughty’. 

 

Unsurprisingly, these children, eventually, refuse to go to school. These are also likely to be some of the thousands of children who end up with mental health problems and some will even go onto make up those suicide statics. Yes, there really are thousands of children out there who would rather kill themselves than go to school.  Coincidentally, the Dispatches the programme, failed to report on this too.

According to the system these children with SEND have the academic ability to pass their GCSE’s and, therefore, do not need support.
According to the system children who present in this way are not ‘disabled enough’ to warrant extra support.
According to ‘the system without additional funding the school can not support them… so they don’t.

 

Many parents who request additional support are told by their school that their child won’t attract the additional funding because they’re too able, that the criteria is too difficult, that they’d be wasting the school’s time. But how can they possibly know that if they haven’t applied for an assessment? Even though our law states ‘any child who MAY have a special educational need MUST be assessed’ schools refuse to apply!

 

Parents are stuck.  They are left with a child that isn’t at school, has mental health issues and could even be suicidal. They are also left with the terrifying thought that they will be taken to court for their child not attending school. (Yes they can and do do this alot!)

 

For parents dealing with an uncooperative school, fighting the system, with the added threat of being taken to court, is simply a step too far during a time when their world, and more importantly, their child’s world, is literally falling apart.  It is heartbreaking but it is either fight the system OR home school.  That’s the choice.  Fighting the system is tough. Trust me. I’ve done it and thankfully won but you need to practically become a lawyer in disguise – and it’s not just knowledge you need but mental resilience.  Taking on the education ‘system’ is like going in the ring for 10 rounds with Mike Tyson – only it takes longer and hurts more.

 

Not every child can achieve 10 GCSE’s at level 5 or above – it doesn’t make them a failure.  Not every child learns in the same way, yet our schools expect them to. Our education system is setting many children up to fail, not just academically but mentally and it’s parents that are having to pick up the pieces. That’s the reality about why so many are home schooled. 

 

I think my heart sank most during Dispatches when the Children’s Commissioner – the person highest in the land responsible for advocating for children’s rights – said:  No matter how bad it is for a child in school, removing them is not the answer.


And there, I believe lies the real reason our country has thousands of children being home educated. The very ambassador with the top post for protecting our children, all our children, is simply blind or ignorant to what’s going in our schools. No parent of a child with SEND that I have ever met wanted to take their child out of school to home educate – but for the sanity of their child they simply have no other choice.    

 

If you are a parent in this position, I urge you NOT to listen to that advice from the Children’s Commissioner.  She’s demonstrated one thing for sure her ignorance of what families face.  Nobody knows your child better than you. Nobody is going to fight harder for your child than you.  And no ‘standard’ school or ‘one size fits all’ education system is more important than your child’s uniqueness, happiness and wellbeing.  

 

Skipping School

After watching the channel 4 Dispatches Program and feeling utterly disgusted, it’s taken me a while to think rationally about what I want to write on the subject.

Having 4 children with a range of needs, nannying and childminding for many children, working in mainstream nursery’s and schools and also in special needs schools, I have had a real insight into our education system over the last 25 years.

I have supported so many parents and children who have been completely crushed by the system. When I say crushed, I mean their whole lives completely destroyed! I know of children as young as 5 wanting to kill themselves, children of 10 attempting to kill themselves and children of 14 actually kill themselves.

The very system that was put in place to ‘ensure equality’ for all children. A system which would ‘enable’ all children to become successful, working adults within our society. I too have been one of those parents who have been crushed, not once but twice by this system.

I will tell you about The first time in this blog.

Aiden who is now 18, was out of school for 10 months aged 11 because there was apparently ‘no space’ in the only special school which could meet his needs. In that 10 months not one person from education questioned his welfare! Not one person from the education department (Local Authority, LA) provided or even questioned his education!

Just remember, this is the same system that takes you to court if your child ‘skips school’ (suicidal or not) and the same system that fines you for taking your child on holiday!

After 10 months of radio silence, deadline day arrived, that was the LA’s deadline day according to policy. However, this deadline was only in place because I fought the system. It was the day before our tribunal was due to take place and all of a sudden, miraculously, out of the blue a place suddenly became available in the school! Funny that! (Tribunals cost the LA a lot of money!)

That 10 months was the hardest 10 months of my life! And as you’ll know by my blogs my life up until then was far from easy.) I was unable to work, financially broke and desperate for Aiden to go to school. Equally, Aiden was desperate to be at school! I did not choose to keep him at home, I did not choose not to work, I did not choose to go to tribunal. I had no choice!

To have a disabled child, who needed routine, who was desperate to fit it, who had no friends, who was completely dependent on me 24/7 for every single, day to day task and did not understand why he couldn’t go to school was sheer hell. On top of that I had to trawl through paperwork, beg professionals to write reports, learn the law and gather evidence as if I were a criminal whilst still keeping it together for the sake of my family. I had to prove that my son was worthy of going school. The stress that this caused, not just for me but for Aiden, for my marriage and for the rest of my family was beyond immense. I then had to prepare myself, to be brave enough, to stand in a court of law and fight for my son!

Life is hard enough when you have a child with a disability, nobody should be expected to fight a system that was put in place to support people.

So to watch the Dispatches Program portray families in such such a flippant way makes my blood boil.

The children’s commissioner – (the very person who should be enabling children and their families to access an appropriate education) had the chance to investigated why thousands of children are missing out on an education, she had the chance to help schools, to help families and more importantly to help children but instead she implied to the nation that parents who homeschool their children could be abusing them!

I took my own advice

Get me – I took my own advice! I took time out and I took a horrendous photo!

It only took me wearing socks and flip flops in public to get my arse in gear and book the well earned spa treat that I got for my birthday a year ago. Maybe I should wear them more often!

Or maybe everyone needs to write a blog! You can’t go giving others advice if I don’t do it yourself!

My next piece of advice is to drink as much as you want and eat a lot of chocolate! No no no – that’s not my advice at all, I’m just kidding – that’s just something I’m good at and need to do less of!

But this morning was perfect! It was so lovely to sit, chill and have a girly chat! We put the world to rights, we had a moan about life, men and kids and reminded one another about how lucky we are.

We can rant and rave, feel angry, upset, cross and confused but still love our family more than anything in the world and that’s ok!

You can not be that happy, smilie person all of the time because, one it’s not real and two, it’s exhausting!

Sometimes you just need to be you.

Nothing lasts forever

One piece of advice I would love to share with others is, make sure you capture the memories. Sounds simple, we all take photos, but it’s more than that. Take photos, take videos but more importantly, write things down. We live in a world of digital technology, however, we often don’t use this to the best of our ability. With baby number one, I was obsessed with taking photos. Fast forward to baby number 3 and the novelty had worn off. By the time baby number 4 came along – well, who’s that? (Sorry Jazz, I did capture the toilet picture though!) Also, be mindful of what photos you take. Aiden was a grumpy baby and I was so desperate to capture him when he was smiling that if you were to look through his photo album now, you would have thought he was the happiest baby alive. This is lovely to see and of course they are memories I will always treasure but, it doesn’t truly reflect his journey. There are also those special times when little ones say very funny things or pronounce words or phrases in such an endearing way. In that moment you think you will remember them forever and for a few weeks you do, but after a few years have gone by and more children come along our memories get confused and even fade. I can’t remember what I did yesterday net a lone what Aiden said 18 years a go. I really wish I had written more down. We have our phones glued to our hands now days – put a folder on your phone for each child and just capture those memories because you WILL forget.

Aiden still says phrases now that make me smile – while watching the tv he’ll say, “can you fast forward that back?”

“Do you mean rewind Aiden?”

To which he replies – “yes, fast forward it back.”

He’s said it so often that this phrase has become normalised in our house , the other kids say it and I even find myself saying it sometimes!

One day that sticks in my mind, we were in the car, and Aiden was having a bad day. As usual we were treading on egg shells around him. He seemed to have calmed a little and asked me to turn the radiator up. I thought it was odd as it was a bright summers day, but I went with it, anything to keep the peace and the mood he was in I wasn’t taking any chances. A few minutes later but in a much louder and more aggressive tone Aiden blurts out “I said, can you turn the radiator up?” So as instructed, I wack it up to full blast. By this time I was beginning to sweat and I had to open the window through fear of passing out. Then without warning, he loses it completely, full meltdown head banging, shouting at the top of his voice, screaming, crying, and yelling on repeat “turn it up, turn it up! Seriously, I can’t win, I tried to reassure him that I had done as requested but it was’t enough! Not knowing what else to do and needing to stay alive whilst driving, I turned the radiator (or heater as we know it) off! His screams were ear piercing so turned the radio up full blast to drown out the noise and with that he miraculously stopped! I glanced round and he was happily dancing along to the music! (His mood can switch within seconds) We arrive peacefully at our destination and all was silent.

Aiden says “Mummy are you deaf?”

“No, why?”

“Because I asked to you nicely to the radiator up but you didn’t and when I shouted to you, you did it and you turned it up really loud!”

Finally the penny dropped!

“Aiden, do you mean the radio?”

“yes, the radiator!”

If only I could see inside Aiden’s head I would have been able to save so much heart ache.

I remember that one because it caused him so much distress. Generally we remember the bad memories but there are so many funny moments and happy times that I’ve forgotten.

Capture the memories, the good, the bad and the ugly – because nothing lasts forever.

Yummy Mummy at her Best

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Yes, I hear you! “Please tell me, you didn’t go out like that Vicky?”  I could lie, but the truth is, I did – the more worrying part is that I didn’t notice until I was already out!  My children however, including Aiden, noticed instantly and were mortified!  “Mum you are so embarrassing.” What could I do? It was freezing, in fact, there were flurries of snow in the air, and more embarrassingly, my ankles were probably hairier than the fluffy boots I should have put on, so there was no way I was taking those precious holey socks off!   Suck it up kids, Mums are made to be embarrassing and today is just one of those days.

The reality of this slight misdemeanour is what I find more frustrating.  Why am I not that Yummy Mummy who bounced back into my size 10 jeans after having a baby? (ok, maybe a size 14) Why don’t I leap out of bed in the morning radiating beauty? (Yes, I Know, your beauty is within!) Why don’t I have the time to go to the gym, do my hair and apply my perfect Kylie Jenner make up before I leave the house?  (Um, probably because I don’t own any, but that’s not the point!)

I’m amazed at how our priorities change throughout our lives.  Pre-children, I would spend hours in front of the mirror, doing my hair and makeup and I would love going shopping each week for a new outfit to wear at the weekend.  I would never wear the same outfit twice if I was with the same group of friends and our conversations would revolve around clothes, brands and makeup.  Now, the thought of shopping sends shivers down my spine – after years of torturous shopping trips with a screaming child on sensory overload, that delightful baby managed to crush any ounce of joy out of ever walking into a shop again – And he has the cheek to call me embarrassing!  I wish I had videoed his antics so he could see just what he put me through in his younger days!  

Now a days, I would just be grateful for one outfit to wear out at the weekend that I haven’t bought from that well-known boutique Georgai – otherwise known as Asda- George! And I’m sure many of you reading this are thinking – I would just love to go out at the weekend, and I don’t care what I wear!  My children are older now and I am lucky enough to have wonderful parents who make excellent babysitters.

The point is, life is so busy that we put ourselves right at the very bottom of the priority list and this is OK for a short period of time, but it is not sustainable forever.  Of course, our priorities change – we have to keep another or multiple little humans alive. This is a massive responsibility, but you also have to look after yourself too.  Our children need a healthy and confident Mummy or Daddy to care for them.

We all have our insecurities and we all aspire to be something we’re not.  We don’t need to be that perfect Yummy Mummy, but we do need to take time out for ourselves.  Even if you can’t go out on a weekend ‘yet’ – your time will come. Have a bath, do your hair, put on your best Georgai outfit and invite your friends’ round for a well-deserved glass of wine and adult chatter.

Children will take take take thats what children do! Children with additional needs will take even more! You need to remember who you are, you need to feel confident and healthy so you need to take the time to recharge your batteries and reboot your system – You can’t give what you hav’nt got!

How do you know when it’s time to recharge? When you wear socks with your flipflops out in public!

To label or not to label?

I think this is a very personal opinion and your view will completely dependent on the journey you have taken.

However, for me, I was incredibly grateful for that label, even though, at the time, it truly broke me.

Deep down, I knew from the moment Aiden was born that there was something different about him.

As he grew that difference became more apparent and it felt like I spent my life making excuses for him.

‘Sorry, He’s just tired’

‘Sorry, I don’t think he heard you’

‘Sorry, he doesn’t understand’

These excuses changed after my acceptance, to:

‘That’s just Aiden!’

‘In Aidens world it works like this…’

‘Aiden just has his own set of rules’

The hardest part was trying to justify everything he did or we did because of his behaviours.

Really what I was trying to do, was gain acceptance from others.

Without a diagnosis we had no answers or reasons for his or our behaviour towards him and more importantly, we had no guidance as to whether what we were doing was right.

His label of Autism felt like a massive relief! A relief that I wasn’t going mad, a relief that there was a reason to his extremely difficult behaviour, a relief that there was a reason for his differences. It was also a relief to know that I could now learn to understand him and that ultimately, I could learn how to help him.

However, with relief also came an abundance of guilt and grief. (Which has never gone!)

Guilt – what did I do to cause this? Also, guilt about how I’ve dealt with his behaviours up till that point – maybe if I had responded differently, I wouldn’t have caused him so much distress.

And grief! Well this is complex, because nobody has died. However, the feeling you get after retaliation sets in, that your child and your relationship with your child is never going to be the one you had planned and it is said to be the same feeling as grief!

These feelings then create a cycle which leads back round to guilt again! You feel guilty for feeling like that! ‘I just wanted a ‘normal’ child!’ You envy others with their ‘perfect’ children – because they have the life you had planned! That doesn’t mean you don’t love your child (on the contrary, I think I love him even more!) but you grief for that something that you never had and will never get and feel guilty for even thinking it!

But without that label I think I would have gone mad. I would not have known where to start with helping to support his needs because according to society he didn’t have needs and I would not of been able to grow in my ability to understand him.

It is easy to be caught up in the negativity that surrounds a so called ‘naughty’ child and it is easy to forget how this negativity affects not only their, but your self-esteem.

Professionals say you don’t need a label to access support! That is utter nonsense! Without that label Aiden was a ‘naughty’ school boy struggling to fit in to a mainstream school. I was a bad parent and I was ousted by other parents within my community.

With that label Aiden became a complex little boy who needed specialist provision. He was given access to therapies and social support to enable him to fulfil his life ambitions and to achieve an education and future he deserves. Other people had a name for his behaviour (I won’t say they understood) but with that label their was a degree of acceptance because there was a reason for his behaviour.

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