A Chair. With Wheels.

This post was originally shared on Firefly Friends.Hop over there to see a variety of excellent blogs about special needs.

 

A holiday, in Cornwall. Pearl decides to do some beach walking.

Unable to use her trusty kaye walker on the sand she relies on Dad’s hand, stubbornness and occasional crawling.

 

The family become silhouettes on the shoreline, and I am marooned with the new, cumbersome, wheelchair buggy, unwittingly about to take part in a social experiment.

 

The buggy is new, green, and slightly reclining, it also holds weights up to 14 stone.

It’s sunny. The small girl shape on the shoreline is digging. I have a book. So, I sit down on the deckchair substitute I’m minding.

 

Soon I start to feel uncomfortable. I’ve positioned myself just off the main path to the beach, so I can see the sandy explorers, and be as close as possible when Pearl’s energy runs out.

People are passing, as they have been since I arrived. Something however has changed and I’m not sure what.

 

As crowds stream past, adults look over my head, some glance at me and look away as soon as I catch their eyes and smile. Those who do say hello often accompany it with a head tilt, and a mild look of sorrow. I am in direct eye line with sandy dogs and small children, who feel free to stare, but generally return my smiles, even the dogs! (Famously

known for being a bad influence on children and dogs, I tend to over excite both!)

 

A couple my age are struggling up a steep embankment and having difficulty managing the climb, and a lively canine.

 

“Can I help you by holding the dog?” I ask.

 

“No, no, don’t worry we’ll be fine “comes a swift reply.

 

I look at their kind, concerned faces. Then it hits me.

 

I believe I’m sitting in a chair, but all the passersby think it’s a wheelchair. The feeling of dislocation has come from the reactions to a chair and a young(ish) disabled woman.

 

Ouch

 

I think of Pearl, and my best friend who has CP and is a wheelchair user. Do they get this? Every day?

 

I get up to help the dog walkers, who are astonished at my miraculous recovery.

 

This also gives me pause. What if I was an occasional wheelchair user (like Pearl) would people have an opinion on that too? Perhaps think I was inventing a disability`?

 

I chat about this to the dog walkers.

 

“I’m sorry”, he (who incidentally was one of the only people to look me in the eye and grin and greet me when I was in the chair) said.

 

“I just assumed”.

 

I talk about my feelings at swapping places with Pearl and say

 

“I think everyone should be made to sit in a wheelchair in a public place for half an hour it’s been an eye opener”.

 

Ms Dog walker agrees. Her best friend at school had been a wheelchair user, and she’d had a go in her chair.

 

“Didn’t like it, everyone treated me differently and nothing was in my reach or eyeline”

 

Do people look at Pearl like that? Does she notice? I hope not, but being nonverbal and having challenges with her understanding of verbal language, I’m sure she does. She is a very astute reader of body language and facial expression.

 

I would urge anyone to try this. I found the power in an exchange shifted very subtly. I was literally being looked down on. Not only that, but the burden of beginning an interaction, lay with me as people over empathized and felt uncomfortable about how to acknowledge me.

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So to all of us who get around on two feet.

 

No cause for alarm.

 

It’s just a chair. With wheels.

To read other posts on accessibility check out #AccessLinky

 

Goodbye to All That..

This post originally appeared on Firefly at the beginning of the new school term.

 

Hello and congratulations!

Made it through the school holiday?

Feeling smug?

Or, like me utterly exhausted and considering out sourcing your parenting to someone more qualified and altogether calmer?

Is the undoubted joy of handing your child over to someone else, tempered by fear of the consequences?

Then you are probably the parent of a child with additional needs.

Perhaps you love someone spectrumy who is managing in mainstream, but struggles with change and has to enter a new class, with a new time table, and new teachers?

Maybe your small significant other has complex needs and you have to trust someone to keep them safe, well, clean and alive, along with the curriculum?

Do you love someone moving from Mainstream into Special Education, and fear that there will be associated stigma?

Or is your small special person moving into Mainstream?

How do you balance the relief at having time to go to the toilet alone, with the concern that someone else who doesn’t have a parent’s eye is caring for them?

How do you relinquish control?

Pearl is now 11 and has left her beloved Primary School and is heading off somewhere new.

To be honest Pearl, although apprehensive, is excited and looking forward to making friends.

I do however, expect an increase in challenging behaviour and mood swings over the next fortnight.

And Pearl may have some too!

There is always a wistfulness to this time of year.

Taking the dogs out early this morning mist hung in tunnels over the fields.

The blackberries are going over (they have, “the devil’s claw”, an old term I particularly like for the fusty, past their best ones).

There is a feeling of change in the air.

Change of weather, change of season.

Shortening days and cooler nights.

I have been involved in the education system for 45 years, pupil, student, school therapist and mother.

Autumn is intertwined so tightly with the new school year it’s impossible for me to extricate my emotions from the season.

Tomorrow when Pearl puts on her new uniform and gets on a new taxi, to go to a new school I will be tense.

Will they understand her?

Will she fit in?

Will they see how wonderful she is?

Did we choose the right school?

I know I’m not alone.

From experience, I know this season will be replaced by the next, routines will be reestablished, and life will go on.

So fellow travellers, let them leave, take a deep breath, put the kettle on.

 

 

 

 

The Way We Were

A stream of Horton consciousness .

Change occurring always opens up a stream of memories of places, people and things.

Today I bring you a stream of Horton consciousness.

The School trip to the Snow Dome in early years. Pearl and I traveled together and arrived early. As we waited she grinned at me and signed vigorously. Although I wasn’t very familiar with Makaton at that stage I knew exactly what it was.

“Yes” I grinned back

“I’m excited too!”

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The Horton fundraising triathlon. All the children swam ,wheeled, walked, stepped. Those who could rode bikes, while others pressed buttons to move a cyclist on the computer. It was done in class teams and while it was another teams turn they were supported with whoops shouts and shakers for encouragement.

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Watch out world,she’s on her way.

 

School plays. This years nativity in which I, Mother of Pearl, was the proud Mama of the Mother of God.

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The environmentalist one about polar bears (!?) where 4 wheelchair users bedecked in Christmas tree lights were by danced by TAs in formation while “Northern Lights” played in the background.I’ve seen some world class theatre and contemporary dance but watching this was right up there.

The fortitude the staff showed one dreadful year when  Horton lost three children with life limiting conditions in two terms.The way they continued while supporting parents and children and managing their own mourning was commendable and impressive.

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A visit from Paralympian Ellie Simmonds,when Pearl was reluctant to return the Olympic gold she’d been allowed to hold.

 

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Thank you Ellie,you don’t want it back do you?

 

The Oscars when children are presented with Oscars for proper achievements like fabulous community spirit and great communication aid use while dressed up for the occasion.

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Oh and the leavers assemblies when the handful of leavers a year are remembered,teased,and commended for simply being who they are, part of Horton family. Huge apologies to the friends whose children left in the last couple of years, I just couldn’t bear to see them go so stayed at home.

I would go on, but now it’s time to go to a leavers assembly I also feel emotional about, although this time staying at home isn’t really an option.

This post is part of a blog a day for Horton.You can donate to help us say thank you here

 

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A blog a day for Horton

 

Also Known As..

In which the Glory enters the hallowed halls of Horton, and leaves me with a lasting impression.

As the Glory, back from University pads into the kitchen to make a cup of tea I complain.

“Now I’ve got to write another blog and schedule it for tomorrow ‘cos I’ll be too busy”

“Write one about me!” she exclaims.

During Year 9 all students have to do work experience. Anxiety was beginning to bite The Glory of the Clan, and she was quite unable to decide what to do. As she was considering Medicine or something related at the time, I suggested Horton, as long as she was not in the same class as Pearl.

A week with the Early Years followed.

“What did you do today?” I asked.

“Oh something really excellent, with the sensory group. They lay down and we played chimes music, and touched them with feathers and stroked them, and did some massage too-they loved it, it was called TacPac”

“What does that stand for” asked the ever curious parent.

“I don’t know”

I’ll just explain, that we have always played word games, in our family, making up phrases from number plates or abbreviations.

“Probably Tap a Child Poke a Child” says she.

And in our house that’s what it has been ever since.

I leave you with some incredible art work, from my talented daughter-sorry Oh Glorious One, but it is Pearl’s blog really.

 

 

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This blog is part of a blog a day for Horton.Find out more here  Donate to the PFSA here

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Adventure Time.

In which Pearl flies through the air with the greatest of ease.

Most primary schools have a school trip, in year 5 or 6. It becomes legendary in the school and is a rite of passage.

Surely a school which caters for children with physical challenges would not be able to do this? These children need wheelchairs,  fancy equipment, medication, help washing, changing and dressing, some are fed through tubes .Far safer to keep them at home on familiar territory doing something nice and gentle like painting, or Muti Sensory activities.

If you agree with the previous statement I have failed, in the last few days, to convey the ethos of Horton Lodge Special School. For this I apologize.

I give you…..Bendrigg.

As soon as they enter the school this children know about Bendrigg. The big ones go there,  assemblies show abseiling, climbing,zip wires, caving.

As a newbie parent at the school, I was astonished.Pearl could never do that! Then I saw videos of some of the least physically able children in the school flying through the air on zip wires, squealing loudly and grinning widely.

And so, as it’s Saturday,and I need to take a small girl to her swimming lesson I’ll say no more, but treat you to some pictures of Action Pearl.

Oh just one more thing, if  you donate to the school PFSA ,or have donated, this is one of the things the money will go towards.

The logistics,training and high staff to pupil ration could make Bendrigg prohibitively expensive.The centre itself is charitably funded, but costs to Horton children are kept low by the PFSAs tireless fundraising. If you would like to help some of Pearl’s friends fly through the air next year (and imagine this feeling if you spend most of your time in a wheelchair) please donate any amount,  however small here.

 

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Important practice for being in small spaces before caving.

 

 

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I know tI couldn’t do this,She went in in her wheelchair, but the spirit of adventure is strong in this one.

 

 

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A brave face here,I saw the video, she was a bit scared at the top.
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Messing about in boats.
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Action Pearl.

 

 

 

 

 

This is part of a blog a day for Horton.

 

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A blog a day for Horton

 

Wonky Genes. Rare Disease Day 2018

Eleven years ago an event occurred that made me Mother of Pearl.

A home birth, relatively easy, despite traffic problems meaning no pain relief at all.(Pause for standing ovation)

This beautiful third baby took us on a journey of discovery, to see if we had what it takes to join the Special Parents club. Fortunately it appears we did, which is just as well.

Nine and a half years of alternative reality later we finally had a diagnosis.

Join me on a normal morning in our household.

Six a.m. the alarm goes off. Father of Pearl is in Barcelona,with work. (Having had a full week of half term already, I was delighted to receive pictures of Gaudi’s world famous architecture while child wrangling)

Pearl is already awake and shouting loudly (she is non verbal-but vociferous).

I change her wet nappy, bung her a breakfast biscuit and an iPad,jump in the car to take her older brother to the bus station for college. (Before you phone social services her older sister is home from Uni and holds the fort.)

Back home, up date the Home School diary with the events of the half term week-forgetting to include the fact that she fell once or twice a day over the holiday, explaining the purple bruise on her behind. I should have mentioned the scratch on her tummy too, but forgot until now. I daresay there’ll be a note.

Pearl proceeds to climb into my bed with iPad (other tablets are available)  as I explain that it is no longer the holiday and she has to get dressed.

Pearl is famously bad at transitions and despises having clothes put on.The tights are OK, but something is very bothersome about the jumper and it leads her to throw herself on the floor and weep big fat, slightly over dramatic tears. After a debrief, several cuddles and a face wash we go slowly down the stairs. Slowly because as she gets taller (about 5ft now) her legs are becoming less and less predictable. I have to go down in front of her backwards. Also slowly as somehow we have got into the unwise habit of her throwing herself into my arms and biting my left shoulder, before signing sorry and cuddling and kissing my right shoulder. I do not know how I allowed this to develop,  but it has and it is what it is.

We have by this stage, left a trail of pyjamas, unmade beds, dirty nappies and breakfast biscuit wrappers behind us.We have ten minutes until school taxi arrival time. Fortunately she has got out of the right side of the bed, and sloughed of the dreadful dressing experience and allows me to brush her hair, without the need for us both to have counseling (this is remarkable)

Five minutes to get her into splints and shoes-and she doesn’t kick me in the face today-bonus!

A big kiss and she lets me put on her coat, and makes no fuss at all about leaving the house for the taxi. It is a good day indeed.

 

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Despite the relative ease of the morning as I’m clearing up I reflect on rare diseases and how this one effects our family.

Pearl has a novo mutation on GNA01. This was discovered by the Deciphering Developmental Delay study, which we took part in as a result of SWAN UK.

SWAN (syndromes without a name) is part of the Genetic Alliance, and provides support to families with children who despite a myriad of difficulties have no known diagnosis.

GNA01 does not describe Pearl’s difficulties but the gene change that produced them. It is a novo mutation, as it is new, and happened by chance during her development in utero.We did not pass it on, and statistically Pearl’s siblings are no more likely to pass it on than we were. Her geneticist did not spot it as Pearl was not particularly similar to the wider cohort of children with it.

Pearl’s difficulties, include epileptic seizures. These are rare for her and well controlled by a vary low dose of medication. Not so in the wider cohort, where seizures can be frequent and hard to tame. She does not display the uncontrolled and random moment disorder displayed by the majority of the group.She has an ataxic gait, walking  (as one Orthopedic Surgeon who went to the Bernard Manning school of tact) like a drunken sailor. Her centre of gravity is all over the place and her muscles are unpredictable, increasing in tone when she grows, while also unexpectedly giving out and causing falls. She has no recognizable speech, although she uses yes and a head shake, plus her wonderful PODD communication book. Severe learning difficulties, double incontinence, global developmental delay, poor fine and gross motor skills and a bit of autism complete the picture.

Luckily neither this list, or her diagnosis define her.

She is observant, funny, loving, thoughtful, stubborn, self possessed, strong willed and has a ridiculous sense of humour.

So what has Rare Disease diagnosis meant for us? If it isn’t who she is what its the point?

Well it has given our children peace of mind about the chances of passing it on.

We are now part of an online community of parents with children with the same condition, we can ask questions, share stories and see what the future may look like.

Most importantly we are taking part in fact gathering for the next generation of geneticists, parents and Pearls about how the disease can look.

There are thousands of children out there with Rare Diseases and no easy answers, further research is needed to smooth the way, provide evidence for therapeutic intervention.give support to families and arm the professionals with information to pass on.

It’s Rare Disease Day. I love someone rare and she is quite magnificent.

 

 

 

 

 

SEND 30 Day Challenge. Day 1 : Meaning behind Blog Name

It finally happened. I realised I have a terrible addiction. My laptop has died and I feel like part of me has been removed.

Blogging for me is quite old school, I write long hand in a real book with real paper and pen. I settle down with my beautiful laptop and type and edit and fidget. I also do my paid work on it, and all our family admin too. I  am not very good at typing on the tiny screen of my phone.

Yet here I am. A SEND bloggers group I am part of is doing a 30 day blogging challenge, and I want in!

It will be short, it may be pointless, it absolutely will be typed very slowly with one finger and wearing my bifocals .

Why is the blog called The Wrong Kind Of Snow? If you’ve been a regular reader you will know.

I love names,and slogans and brands. I’d considered “Home thoughts from a Broad”(already taken unfortunately) I toyed with “Adventures in..” and having several blogs Adventures in Vintage/Antique/Parenting/Disability/Autism but realised that might be too ambitious.  As one of the big supermarkets recently started using this, I’m glad I ditched this although I did wonder if I’d missed my calling and should be working in marketing.

Reflecting on Pearl’s lack of diagnosis and the catch all term that is Global Developmental Delay I thought of explanations given by British Rail for journey disruption.I did consider “Leaves on the Line and other reasons for delay ‘ but it was overlong and didn’t stick.

One winter the rail companies exceeded themselves by blaming the wrong kind of snow on delays and disruptions.Perfect ! Snow  has a quality of stillness, nostalgia, longing and rarity that appealed. I wanted to capture some of these feelings in the blog.

The desperate excitement and longing to get out into the snow, quickly replaced by the desire to be anywhere else, once the reality sets in seemed particularly apt.

 

Thomas in Snow

 

Two months into the blog and nine and a half years into the life of a small person, a diagnosis arrived in the post.

 

“One Girl’s Journey with a Novo Mutation on GNAO1” ?!?

 

The Wrong Kind Of Snow it remains!

 

You can also follow me and lots of other SEND bloggers on  Firefly Community