Does any one get an 'A' for PE at school?

Angel was full of chat after school on Friday. It was PE day, and even though she was on crutches for a torn tendon in her foot, she still managed to take part in a Dodgeball Game. Not altogether sensible, but certainly admirable!

She is definitely sports mad! And am I happy about this? Absolutely :D

I can hardly believe that she will be 18 this year, but I well remember thinking that she was the most wonderful child in the whole world when she was little, and being terrified that she would turn into a monster at about 14 - as I think I probably did.
Apart from insisting on good manners and talking about stuff, the only thing I could think of to stop the monster phase was trying to develop a passion for sport. Well it certainly worked. For a few years she was one of those children who had a very full afterschool timetable. But I was lucky, even though I had Smiley and all her problems to deal with, and then CD, Angel's school was across the road, and most of her activities were based there or nearby. I hope that I never put pressure on her, though I did insist that she complete any course that had been paid for!

All went swimmingly - literally as well - until secondary school. Almost imperceptibly, she began to drop activities - as did most of her friends. Unless she enrolled in a club, there was no outlet for regular recreational swimming, so that went. She lost interest in Jujitsu and the Community Games. When her gymnastics coach left, Angel quickly followed, thought within months she was regretting it and finally managed to rejoin the club 6 months ago. She went to Hip Hop dancing for a couple of years, but stopped when her BF had a foot operation, and they never went back.

This is a girl who has a drawerful of medals, she taught herself to do the splits age 6, was school gymnast of the year, and plays on school basketball teams, yet she has never been given an 'A' for PE on any school report. It is bad enough that the sports clubs all seem to assume that teenage girls will stop playing sports so they don't cater for them, but for schools to ignore sporting achievements is really disappointing. If you treat teenage girls as though they have no interest in sport - it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. With gymnastics on a Saturday, Angel usually stays in on a Friday night, unlike other teens who are sometimes exhausted by Sunday. She is fit and healthy and seems to be reasonably sensible - everything I could have hoped for. So why isn't this being recognised? Why are the girls who do sport not being celebrated?
I'd love to see much more sport in schools - after all, there's a sport to suit everyone. Even CD, who is a typical football-hating aspie, has found his niche with tennis, basketball and Taekwondo. I think it would pay huge dividends : both boys and girls would be fitter, there would be less obesity and fewer problems with drink and drugs. But in the meantime, please would all schools at least encourage those children who are interested in sport. Is the occasional 'A' in PE too much to ask?

99 things - explanation time, or some of the 'interesting' things I've done with my life so far

Well I'm not going to go through them all again, and I think I'll save the full story on some of them for another day, but here goes anyway:

Started your own blog: Duh!
Slept under the stars: Did the camping thing, never really liked it.
Played in a band: Girl group at school, and a backing singer in a College band that played mainly Monkees covers - great fun.
Climbed a mountain: OMG my parents were obsessed with climbing mountains, from Cat Bells in Cumbria at the age of about 6, we were dragged up mountains all over the UK. My brother has 'done' every Munro (mountains over 3000 feet) in Scotland, and my 79 year old Dad has done most of them, and only gave up climbing alone with no mobile phone when he got a fright last year!
Sang a solo: In another life I would have a fabulous voice and be a real singer. My one real solo was 'Kate' in a local production of 'The Pirates of Penzance'. I was so proud and here's a pic of a pressed flower from my bouquet to prove it!
Watched a lightening storm: so what?

Taught yourself an art from scratch: No telly, so was an earnest nerdy child who made baskets, taught herself Origami, and yes, I pressed flowers. Then I discovered that this was not the Yellow Brick Road to popularity....
Had a pillow fight: That's what you do at College when miles away from home.
Built a snow fort: Loads and loads of snow in Wales when I was young.
Held a lamb: My first proper boyfriend was a farmer (he had a car!!!)
Run a Marathon: London, 1987, 4 hours and 6 minutes, and one of the best days of my life!
Watched a sunrise or sunset: Anyone not done this?
Taught yourself a new language: Does Welsh count? We didn't study it in school, but I taught myself a fair bit, and can still sing Mae hen wlad fy nhadau (the Welsh National Anthem).

Had enough money to be truly satisfied: Very lucky, and careful too.
Gone rock climbing: As a child, give me a rock and I would climb it!

Walked on a beach by moonlight: So beautiful..beaches are my favourite place in the whole world.
Been transported in an ambulance: For myself, I once collapsed with a pain in my side and literally crawled to the door to let the paramedics in - then it wore off after about 3 hours and I never found out what it was.

Kissed in the rain
: You mean you haven't?

Played in the mud: Didn't really do this after age 5.
Donated blood, platelets or plasma: Did it once in the UK and they couldn't get enough out - the most useful thing I did was comforting all the people who fainted. Can't donate in Ireland as they still don't allow anyone to donate who lived in the UK during the 1980s - and I don't even like burgers!
Gone sky diving: I indulged in a bit of spinning here - I was paid to 'spin' for 20 years after all. I jumped out of an aeroplane for the craic in my 20s with a couple of friends. Had a terrible hangover so forgot all my training, curled up in a ball and blacked out, but luckily the parachute opened all by itself, I came to, and glided gently down to earth - memorable, peaceful and amazing.

Saved a favorite childhood toy
: cue another picture I think!
Been fired from a job: stretched the definition of this a bit too perhaps.... lost 3 jobs since I lived in Ireland, one when I was 5 months pregnant, one when my job was basically to train someone else to do my job, and the last time, well I still don't know what happened!
Broken a bone: several, including my arm when I fell from a swing as a child.
Bought a brand new car: Er several times as I worked for a motor manufacturer.
Had your picture in the newspaper: Marriage picture in the local paper in Wales, and Dublin Women's Mini Marathon photo in 1994.
Kissed a stranger at midnight on New Year’s Eve: And I jumped in the fountains in Trafalger Square..
Had chickenpox: well most children did in the 1960s.
Saved someone’s life:it's complicated.
Met someone famous: several head starts on this: there was a recording studio just outside of the small Welsh town where I grew up in, and so we regularly hung out and partied with the visiting bands (maybe a few blog posts on this if I dare he he); as a PR I met and worked with people from media, sports and film; then with PACUB, we met various TDs and other well-known figures from politics and the unions.

Had a baby: Three!
Been involved in a law suit: Took the Irish Departments of Education and Health to the High Court over the lack of an education for Smiley and won.
Owned a cell phone: Is this a very old list? I did work for eircell so had an early brick-type phone in the mid 1990s.
Been stung by a bee: It was in my welly.

Someone commented 15 years ago that I'd led an interesting life and he only knew a teeny bit of it! All I can say is, to misquote Bertie (former Taoiseach, with a unique way with words), it just keeps getting 'interestinger'.

Not so scary school meeting number two

So back to CD's progress as a child with Aspergers in mainstream school.

And this post has a ***diplomacy warning ***. Since this blog is not really anonymous any longer, I have to tone down or leave out stuff, but feel free to read between the lines!

Got a fright when it seemed that CD's parent-teacher meeting was being allocated 25 minutes instead of the usual 10. This is it I thought, until he told me himself that there were two meetings, one with his resource teacher and a 10 minute one with his class teacher. I wasn't alone either. Despite the fact that he almost never answers my emails, RH obviously reads them, cos he turned up to do the responsible parent thing.

The meeting with the resource teacher was great - she had totally taken on board everything that I had said, and is doing a variety of exercises with him, including social stories covering issues such as staying calm, completing homework and other scenarios that lead to meltdowns.

When we met the form teacher, she apologised for worrying me by saying that the school could not manage his behaviour - he had been impossible to deal with when I was called in for the first scary school meeting, but since then he has been fantastic. He was even awarded Buachaill na Seachtaine (boy of the week) just before mid term - unheard of !

A special award system has been introduced for him - he has 10 one-minute tags, and each means a minute spent doing what he wants with his SNA (special needs assistant) at the end of the day. Every time he breaks a rule he loses a minute. Apparently this is working really well. We were also told about a new talent: for reading out loud - the other boys absolutely love it when it is his turn and give him their total attention. I had no idea, as I can only rarely persuade him to read a book to himself, let alone read to me!

It all sounds so good, so why am I not happy? I think it is hearing about everything that is being done for CD just emphasises his differences. Beechpark has turned him down for services, so I have to find out where else I can go for help. And sometimes, when all is ok and my strategies are working, everything seems fine, and I think I can just continue to muddle along. Then he does something strange or difficult or unpleasant and the panic starts again......

My first award!

I like to see myself as a tough old cynic (don't laugh!) who can live without pretty pictures on her blog. If no-one reads it, sure it doesn't really matter. I'm doing all this writing as therapy, right? Well, perhaps not... Two days ago, fellow blogger Jazzy sent a Sunshine Blog Award my way.

And you know what? I couldn't have been happier if I'd got the Nobel Peace Prize

Then this morning I woke up and checked my blog, and there was another follower who'd joined the flock. I'm starting feel responsible towards my readers now. Will I have to start taking this blogging thing seriously? Start introducing quality controls? Abandon the children to DVD land and make this my number one priority? And I've read about the enterprising mammies who make money from their musings. Not sure that's for me. But this is certainly the most rewarding new hobby I've tried for a very long time :)

The only down side about the Sunshine Blog Award is how to decide who to share it with. I'd like to send it to everyone, cos your blog wouldn't be on my list if I didn't love it.

Anyway as I have to make a decision, as well as the wonderful
Jazzy, I just want to give a special mention to the following:

Irish Mammy: Joining the PACUB campaign to save child benefit was the best thing I did in 2009, and her blog played a major part in the campaign.

Mammy Diaries: What can I say? It is just the funniest blog around, with an edge that really appeals to me.

Love, Life and Aspie Antics: The first Asperger Blog that I came across, and I return to it whenever I feel I can't cope, as Petunia's warm and wonderful posts make all the problems seem solvable.

I'd also love to give the award to Alda at
The Iceland Weather Report for the most interesting current affairs blog on my list - but not sure it would be her thing!

99 things

Love this random list of 99 things. You just bold the ones you've done and post on your blog - thanks to Maddie who suggested I have a go: -->
Started your own blog
Slept under the stars
Played in a band

Visited Hawaii

Watched a meteor shower
Given more than you can afford to charity
Been to Disneyland
Climbed a mountain

Held a praying mantis
Sang a solo

Bungee jumped
Visited Paris
Watched a lightening storm
Taught yourself an art from scratch

Adopted a child
Had food poisoning

Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
Grown your own vegetables

Seen the Mona Lisa in France

Slept on an overnight train
Had a pillow fight

Hitch hiked
Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
Built a snow fort
Held a lamb

Gone skinny dipping
Run a Marathon

Ridden in a gondola in Venice
Seen a total eclipse
Watched a sunrise or sunset

Hit a home run

Been on a cruise

Seen Niagara Falls in person

Visited the birthplace of your ancestors

Seen an Amish community
Taught yourself a new language
Had enough money to be truly satisfied

Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
Gone rock climbing

Seen Michelangelo’s David
Sung karaoke

Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt

Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant

Visited Africa
Walked on a beach by moonlight
Been transported in an ambulance

Had your portrait painted

Gone deep sea fishing

Seen the Sistine Chapel in person

Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
Kissed in the rain
Played in the mud

Gone to a drive-in theater

Been in a movie

Visited the Great Wall of China
Started a business
Taken a martial arts class

Visited Russia

Served at a soup kitchen

Sold Girl Scout Cookies

Gone whale watching
Got flowers for no reason
Donated blood, platelets or plasma
Gone sky diving
Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp

Bounced a check
Flown in a helicopter
Saved a favorite childhood toy

Visited the Lincoln Memorial

Eaten Caviar

Pieced a quilt

Stood in Times Square

Toured the Everglades
Been fired from a job

Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
Broken a bone
Been a passenger on a motorcycle

Seen the Grand Canyon in person

Published a book

Visited the Vatican
Bought a brand new car

Walked in Jerusalem
Had your picture in the newspaper
Kissed a stranger at midnight on New Year’s Eve

Visited the White House

Killed and prepared an animal for eating
Had chickenpox
Saved someone’s life

Sat on a jury
Met someone famous

Joined a book club
Got a tattoo
Had a baby

Seen the Alamo in person

Swam in the Great Salt Lake
Been involved in a law suit
Owned a cell phone
Been stung by a bee
Not a bad total for someone who has not really travelled at all - how would you fare?

Irish Politics: the nasty side

Leadership, we need leadership. That has been the call from all sides since the Irish economy went into reverse, and what did we get this week? Behaviour from our politicians that would shame five year olds. I thought that Deirdre de Búrca's resignation letter was actually the most measured contribution. If George Lee came over as petulant, that paled by comparison with the criticism that was thrown at him. What was the point of it? I believe it reflects more on the speaker than the subject. More reputations than de Búrca's and Lee's have been damaged this week, I think.

Maybe George Lee didn't realise what politics is really like as an insider, but certainly as the 'saviour' of South Dublin, I was surprised that he didn't stay on as an Independent, at least until the next election. However I don't think he deserved the opprobrium he received. The animosity towards de Búrca I found even more astonishing, as I seem to remember a lot of people calling for the Greens to pull out of Government on principle - someone does that, and is condemned. It does not make sense to me.

Of all the things that were said, I agree with just one: hopefully George Lee will be the last parachute candidate - I think there is a need for people to work their way through the system before they deserve or are ready for a seat in the Dáil or Seanad.

The standards set by politicians are surely copied by others in society, and I would have thought the most seemly and dignified way to respond to these resignations would have been to express sorrow at their departure, thank them for their contribution, and nothing else. While both de Búrca and Lee criticised their former parties, there was no need for the response that occurred. For me this reached a low point when I read about the alleged letter sent to Green Party members by Deputy Leader Mary White. If this is the level of solidarity between the small group of women in the Dáil and Seanad, it should be no surprise that more women don't want to go into politics!

None of us can know for sure why these resignations took place. The criticisms of departing politicians will soon be forgotten. The reaction to them will leave a bad taste for some time. Leadership? What leadership.

Can anyone solve this Valentine mystery?

Around this time of year I often dig out a dusty old cardboard box from the back of the wardrobe. I've had it since I was about 5 years old, and filled it over the years with keepsakes or 'treasures' as I called them when I was little. Included in the box are many of the Valentines Cards I received before I got married. Most of them are not very exciting, but there is one that I always look at and wonder. You see I don't know who sent it, and even now, I'd love to find out. Included with the card were two poems, carefully and beautifully copied out by hand: clearly by a boy though, cos he used green biro and lined paper!

Symptoms of Love - by Robert Graves

Love is universal migraine,
A bright stain on the vision
Blotting out reason.

Symptoms of true love
Are leanness, jealousy,
Laggard dawns;

Are omens and nightmares -
Listening for a knock,
Waiting for a sign:

For a touch of her fingers
In a darkened room,
For a searching look.

Take courage, lover!
Could you endure such pain
At any hand but hers?

The other poem was 'Without you' by Liverpool poet Adrian Henri.
I don't remember exactly when these poems were sent to me, but apparently they are popular with love-sick teens (do they still send poetry to each other - perhaps Robert Graves in txt-spk?), and I was one once, despite what Angel may think!

To work, or not to work, that is the question

Yesterday I decided that my main New Year's Resolution was a bad idea. The plan was to secure a paying job after a year spent as a social welfare sponger/recipient (delete as appropriate). This resolution has not lasted very long.

I have, yet again, had to turn down interviews for jobs when I realised that I just can't manage them and earn any money, thanks to the peculiarities of the social welfare system, and lack of support for children with special needs. I am coming to the conclusion that it actually suits the Government for me to stay at home providing cheap care for my kids, and they give me a carer's allowance so I don't spoil the jobless statistics.

But I would like to work because it:
Sets a good example for the kids

Keeps my contacts fresh and my skills up-to-date

Can be fun

Saves the Government some money

May help save the Irish economy through regular expenditure on childcare, new suits, bags, shoes, office presents, diesel and last minute groceries bought at twice the price from the local 'convenience' stores.
But if I stay at home I can:

Spend more time with the children and keep them at all their activities

Chase up services for CD and work on his behaviour

Be free of worry about how Smiley (non-verbal, complex needs) is being cared for while I am at work

Enjoy a higher discretionary income
and more sleep

Less stress (except during the holidays!)

More t
ime to see family and friends, exercise, eat properly, clean the house - that's not to say I actually do it - and time to work for free for voluntary groups, lobby groups - eg PACUB - and friends.

Also I did work and pay my taxes for 25 years, and I am saving the Government up to €200,000 a year by minding two children with special needs at home.

So what do I need to get me back to work? A family-friendly employer who will pay me a reasonable and regular salary, quality affordable childcare that caters for kids with special needs, and services for my son to be organised and co-ordinated by the Government Departments that are supposed to do it.

Is that too much to ask?

Well no! In 2008 I had most of that (CD had not then been diagnosed). I was well paid for the 25 hour week that I worked and, before it was taken over by a major service provider, Smiley's school offered a holiday activity programme, free afterschool childcare and respite when I needed it, and the therapists suggested and organised equipment and services for her (they still do this but are now hampered by bureaucracy).

So it can be done!

AS: Finally a pattern emerges

I've not written much about CD's Asperger's so far, because it has just been this big scary set of freaky behaviours that has left me just lurching from one crisis to the next. It's very hard to step back and look at what is really going on when you are constantly fire-fighting. Since his diagnosis in May 2009, I have been reading and researching and following all the wonderfully insightful autie blogs, and very slowly I've started to make sense of the things he does.

Then on Sunday I had a Eureka moment: finally a pattern is emerging. After a horrible week, we've had a good weekend, and I can identify the exact second his mood changed, and now I think I know why. Rewind to last Sunday when he had a new friend to play for the afternoon. The friend introduced CD to a new game. Nothing unusual in that. But CD decided that he wanted to add it to his collection. I've kept him away from the shops since Christmas, so I felt that maybe it was time for me to let him spend some of his money. But I made all the usual noises, trying to defer the purchase, insisting on reading the reviews and checking the suitability. Finally I suggested that we buy a used version on-line, and I said I'd sort it out when I had time. He kept mentioning how much he wanted it during the week, and between times, his behaviour got worse and worse. I finally sat down and placed the order on Saturday. CD gave me a big hug and said 'Thanks' and immediately the meltdowns and the whinging stopped.I suddenly realised that this was exactly what had happened in the run-up to Christmas. From the beginning of October he started stressing about what to put on his Christmas list to Santa, which had to be posted on 1st November. Then a revised version went in the post early in December. He kept saying that he "couldn't wait 'till Christmas". I'm now beginning to think that this was literally true. It was just too stressful for him to wait. Throughout November and December his behaviour deteriorated. He bought 2 DS games in December, but that didn't help either. Christmas Eve he could not sleep, so neither could I. I nearly lost it, I just remember crying on the stairs at about 4am, as I had no idea how we were going to get through Christmas Day. Then on Christmas morning it was like the clouds parted - after opening his presents, suddenly all was well in CD's world. I'm also worried that this is the behaviour of an addict - the stress while he is waiting for his 'fix' and then the relief when he gets what he wants, which gradually wears off and stops completely when he identifies the next 'want'.

Finally I think I can put a label on one of his major problems - he cannot delay gratification. If he wants something, it has to be NOW. So I've identified one of the problems, the next step is to learn how to deal with it.

He was back to being difficult this morning, and I think it's because the I bought the game on-line, so now he is stressing about which day it is going to arrive. I won't make that mistake again!

Scary school meeting

Well I meant to post this on Facebook. It won't let me! Thanks a bunch Facebook :(

So it's going here instead.
My amazing aspie, CD, had been doing pretty well in school since the New Year with all the trauma of Christmas behind him - don't ask. I knew that there were a couple of incidents in school this week, but I was a bit surprised and worried to get a message from the school that I needed to come in for a meeting in the principal's office. Anyway the meeting was arranged for this morning. Both the principal and his class teacher were there. They opened the meeting by telling me that they really weren't able to manage my son any longer, so I was thinking Oh God, that's it, they're going to ask him to leave the school. But they didn't.

He now shares an SNA with 3 other boys (which I didn't know) and also has 5 resource hours a week. It's still not enough. More group resource teaching is proposed, and he will go and do his work in the Principal's Office when his class teacher can't manage him. But as they said, this is not a long term solution so I have to chase up Beechpark and Solas.

The school has had a child with Asperger's before, but he had different issues. It seems that CD plus 29 other little boys is just too much for the class teacher - I'm really not surprised.
They said they do not intend to ask him to leave, and they plan to work with me, but I hadn't realised that things had got so bad. I do think his school are doing their best, and they have always treated both of us with courtesy and understanding, but as they said themselves, they need help too, and they don't know where to get it from!

So what now? I really don't know, I just hope that if I keep making phone calls I will find someone who can tell me how I find out what my son really needs and then how to organise it.

GOGs for SOWs

With apologies to all you happily married young yummy mummies who may be reading this, I have a problem. I'm a SOW - single older woman - but since I didn't look at another man for 20 years - really - the available men at the right age look so very old. It has been gently suggested to me that perhaps I need a new mirror, but obviously I look exactly the same as I did back then, don't I? Whatever, I have no intention, absolutely none, of becoming one of those cougar types - can't afford the cosmetic surgery anyway. So, are there any gorgeous older guys out there to goggle at and dream about? If you are younger than 45, you will probably want to stop now, but if not, here's the (rather short) picture gallery I've come up with so far, and I've had to cheat a teeny bit on the age thing: 

Except now I've learned about copyright and all that, I've had to take all the photos down....

Why do some carers not care?

Not shocked but wearily sad is the way I felt this morning when I saw the front page of The Irish Times. Why do some carers not care? Why is it that people with disabilities, who are so very vulnerable, are treated so badly by some of those in whom we place our trust? I know children and adults in residential accommodation. I also know parents who have made the difficult decision to move their children into such places because they can no longer look after them at home. How must they feel today? As the sole carer and Mum of a 13 year old girl with severe physical and intellectual disabilities, it has been suggested to me that I should consider this as an option. Sometime I do think about it, and the freedom it would bring to my life, and to the lives of Smiley's brother and sister. I am not trying to moan here, just explain. When you have a new baby, you cope with the sleepless nights, the endless feeds, the treadmill of nappy changing because you know it will stop and because babies are just so adorable! Now Smiley is still adorable, and loved by just about everyone who has ever met her, but she is like a baby in almost every other way as well - just bigger. So you get very tired, and sometimes you really really want to get off the treadmill. If I had challenging behaviour to deal with as well, the pressure to put her in residential could be difficult to resist.

But then you read stories like the one in the paper today and your resolve is firm again - maybe that's the idea as resources are so short. Perhaps these stories are fed by the Government to encourage more families to keep on caring at home, even when it seems impossible. I cannot even get my head around the idea that carers would abuse or neglect people who may not understand or be able to talk about what has happened to them. I feel bewildered and deeply hurt that our children could be treated so badly.
I just so hope that Smiley never has to go into residential care. I don't think I could bear it.