Friday, 24 July 2015

I counted on you - and you delivered

MOVING ON: Alec and Bobby say goodbye to primary schools today

It was a nervous Bobby who stood on stage surrounded by his year group, about to embark on the performance of their lives. Nervous, it turns out, for all the right reasons. This is the week he leaves the comfort blanket of primary school behind. This is the night that all his small acts of bravery over the last six years culminate in one giant courageous performance.

There are two performances tonight. The show that the 11 year-olds are putting on for their parents is impressive, but nothing compared with the performance it requires to pretend to be fine about the massive changes ahead. I speak for Bobby of course, and not for his peers, but judging by the tears accompanying the Bruno Mars song 'Count on Me', it's a pull for all of them.

Here is the face, once so small and babyish, who barely made it onto stage in Foundation Stage without plenty of bribery and a costume daubed with Numberjacks. Here is the little guy who hardly spoke when he entered primary school, now singing and acting with all of his mates. Making an announcement at the end. Bright red with the emotion and pressure of it all, but getting the job done.

It's a triumphant end to a successful stage of his life. I've put everything into this, as have his teachers and his teaching assistant M'lanie. We've given it all we have, and at the end of it we have a happy, confident individual loved by his friends and capable of real emotional sensitivity.

I've only just gulped back one set of tears and it's time to head to Alec's school for his leavers' assembly. Alec has a vague notion of what's going on (it isn't Christmas and it isn't his birthday so he must be moving school). The book he's presented with charts his successes in humorous terms as well as serious ones.

Remember that time you were on the residential trip, Al, and got high as a kite on marshmallows when the TA wasn't looking? That time you were twiddling plastic reptiles and then nearly tried the same thing with a real one when the zoo came to visit? Alec's ability to laugh at tickling himself is pointed out by several, his admirable determination when it comes to food is a constant theme and his generally laid back approach to life is admired by all.

Handing your kids over to other adults during the day may be a relief in some ways, but it's also a massive worry, particularly when they're only five. Then you realise that there are people out there capable of loving and caring for them in the same way that you do. It's not you and them any more, it's an army of people preparing them for the world.

And I am grateful to every single one of them.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Dear BBC....

Conversations in our house are getting more interesting these days, on account of Bobby's current special interest in the BBC.

It started off with his interest in the historic analogue/digital switchover, which fascinated him. In particular he liked watching the old announcements just before the analogue signal was switched off. You Tube obliges nicely in this department.

This quickly grew into an interest in all the BBC logos (or idents as they are apparently called). He collects You Tube videos of BBC 2's and likes the one of the 2 as a fluffy duck the best (although the twos flying towards a silver paint pot is a close second). He's even informed me that viewers in Northern Ireland get different BBC 2 idents of their own. Another thing I would never have known were it not for Bobby and his delightfully random interests.

Anyway, the news that BBC Three was to go online wasn't a big shock, but when Gavin implied that they may rebrand it and not call it BBC Three anymore, there was dinner time consternation, followed by a lot of iPad tapping when I suggested that he might like to take it up with the BBC.

I found the BBC's customer services online and realised that his letter had already been prepared.

It read:

Hi, so when BBC Three goes onto computer please DO NOT rebrand it just add new logos if you can. Oh yeah and I'm a child even though I like watching the logos. 
ps I've been on a trip to the BBC where you broadcast.

I felt that this might require a brief explanation and so I added a tiny bit of background. When his special interest six years ago was Aquafresh, they sent him some toothpaste. You never know, the BBC may be kind enough to send us some sort of logo poster.

It will make a welcome change from Skylanders.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Why does it always rain on me?

Alec and I walked to the nearby village festival today.

This is a journey that would take me roughly ten minutes at a fast walking pace. It takes me half an hour with Alec, mainly because it takes us along a main road and if there's one thing Alec loves, it's watching cars go past.

Part of me is thinking, if cars going past make him happy, then why shouldn't it take half an hour? The A-type part of my personality is wanting to get to our destination as quickly as possible. Then  in float some philosophical thoughts about how ten years ago, after Alec's near-fatal accident, the thought of him ever walking again was amazing, let alone pootling for several miles under his own steam. So I let him watch for cars, but at the same time I'm saying 'Walk AND watch, Al, walk AND watch...'

The gorgeous sunshine makes a dawdle worthwhile, and as we arrive at the packed fair, I text Alec's teacher, who is there with her grandchildren. She wanders over just as I'm trying to squeeze Alec into the front of a Thomas the Tank Engine ride designed for toddlers. His long legs make it impossible, and so I post him in the back, and she accompanies him with her little ones in tow.

Ah perfect, I think, looking around at the pleasing amount of Alec-friendly rides on view. It starts to spit and I exchange some 'oh, the British weather eh?' looks with some other parents. You can tell Alec would rather be on the waltzer, but the Thomas theme had sold it to him.

Suddenly, the heavens open and it's as if someone's emptied a bucket of water over all of us. This is no quick summer shower. This is a big deal, havoc-wreaking storm. One of the stall tents blows away. Screaming youngsters run for cover. There is a mass evacuation of summer-clad families, all completely unprepared for the rain.

We all take a dash to a stall, but the rain is sweeping in and we're already soaked. Looking at the skies, this isn't going to clear. The exit is five long minutes in the monsoon. Gavin texts to say that he's coming to collect me (with Bobby, who had refused to be dragged away from the computer).

We're all weighing up the right moment to dash from the tent to the exit, except for Alec, whose arm is stretched out towards the rocket ship ride. The rain is a mere trifle. He still wants a go. I buy him a soggy fluffy worm character attached to a long stick to keep him quiet.

We run as fast as we can, considering there is a double buggy and several children in tow. As we pass the tornado-blasted food stall, Alec points hopefully towards the candy floss. We're so soaked by now that any further rain makes no difference and very eventually we find the car, the children are piled inside and the rest of us walk back home,with the rain easing off.

I part walk, part run home to keep myself warm, and am shivering in the porch when Gavin turns up with the twins in tow, having been stuck in queues of traffic through the village.

We get through the door and I rub Alec's hair with a towel.

"And that,' declares Bobby 'Is why I always stay indoors.'

Friday, 3 July 2015

School Life Part Two

It's been so long! Welcome back (hopefully via AuKids' new and improved website).

So, to business, Bobby's practice day at his new secondary school.

Bobby's first concern about leaving primary school is losing touch with the entire universe.

For most people who aren't on the spectrum, it's a case of keeping touch with your best mates and 'so long, have a nice life' to the others.

Bobby can't do that. This is because he sees all 30 of his classmates as his friends and although there is a slight differentiation between best mates and others, to him they all deserve hooking up with.

To be fair, they have down to the very last child been extremely supportive of my little dude.

Pointing out the practicalities of keeping in touch with 30 people would not help and I know Bobby well enough to know that this isn't really the point.

His fixation with keeping in touch with his classmates is really about the bigger picture - losing touch with a whole life that he's been comfortable with for the last six years. Losing them represents being plummeted into an unknown abyss.

The way he expresses this scarey feeling is: 'I must not lose touch with ANYONE.' So don't take it literally folks, just address the fear it represents.

Although I know that he will certainly lose touch with a lot of the pupils, as he did with his nursery friends - and not only that but it won't especially bother him when he has new friends - I am not going to point that out. I just tell him that he'll have lots of new friends as well as old ones and that we'll be certain to keep everyone's details.

M'lanie (heaven-sent teaching assistant extraordinaire) is on it, too. She has helped him to create a book featuring every single one of his classmates, their contact details, what they want to be when they grow up and which school they're going to. He is aghast that some of them don't know their email address by heart. I'm more aghast by some of their career choices...still since my own son wants not to be married/not to have kids/spend entire life being a You Tuber, I guess I shouldn't comment.

The rising panic about leaving primary school is evident in Bobby's notes to himself for his Leaver's Assembly: 'Be brave. Pretend it's nothing'.

The height of my rising panic roughly resembled his own yesterday, even though I knew that the mainstream secondary school I've signed him up for is HOT on autism.

I tried not to straighten his hair as we waited outside for him to begin his try out day and my fingers were itching to tuck in his vest, but although Bobby's young for his age I felt it would be unwise to show it in front of the burgeoning gaggle of pre-teens hanging around in clusters around him, so I left him to it.

He didn't seem too nervous - that's where ten years of telling him he's marvellous have paid off.  I was glad of his confidence as he waved goodbye.

Mid-morning I received a text from his teaching assistant saying that he was actually working and really enjoying himself. I nearly fell off my chair.

He emerged smiling amid reassuring noises from his teaching assistant that it had all gone really well. On closer inspection, his bag contained a welcome book. In it, he'd descibed his day as 'Cool and awesome' and after filling in a page titled This is me... he'd put 'LOL - Like it!'

They got a LOL. Praise indeed.

Stuff not asking autistic kids too many questions, I delivered them like a machine-gun in the car. Back in his comfort zone, playing his 3DS to chill out, he wasn't especially bothered about answering them. He just said it was a cool school and he'd obviously eaten well because half of it was still round his face.

Although Alec has many more difficulties than Bobby, his transition will be a lot easier. His small special secondary is the natural progression to his primary school, they already know him there and it's all very relaxed.

Bobby, on the other hand, will be an autistic fish in a mainstream pond of social sharks. But they will take good care of him, I know that, and I can only see a bright future ahead. Full of LOLs.