Strange Days

Sometimes days are too much.When escaping and hiding under a blanket can be classed as self care.

This blog originally appeared on firefly.

 

It’s one of those mornings.

 

I wake at 5am to hear a determined 13-year-old trying to exit her room by squeezing herself under the stairgate at her door. It doesn’t work as she is blessed with the booty of her mother’s mothers, so she gets stuck and shouts.

 

I left the marital bed at 1am for the spare room as the snoring had become deafening so I figure it’s not my problem.

 

Shaken out of sleep I realize I am a terrible mother and wife, and so am wide awake, while the escapee and snorer have both managed to fall back to sleep.

 

Just for fun I run a few of my favourite, back stories in my head. I am the star of these glorious productions, and while I consider myself, failing in a myriad of ways I make absolutely no concessions for my age, tiredness or general humanness in the tale. Each failure is utterly my fault and could only be resolved if I was an all-round better person.

I’m not.

 

Thirteen years of caring hit me like a brick on the forehead.

 

I was going to write about self-care this morning.

How important it was to eat the rainbow, do the things you love, exercise religiously and surround yourself with sunlight.

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Exercise religiously and with Pearllike determination

Instead I offer you this.

 

On the  mornings you wake up imagining that the teachers at school talk about you behind your back because you lost your child’s reading books again, these same books that your child only manages to listen to the first word of (This you understand ,not because she has huge cognitive challenges, but because you have not used your professional skills to gradually increase her attention span, but have let her watch The Wiggles on her iPad)

 

On these mornings forget the Instagrammable meals and to do list.

Get your child out of the house onto transport as soon as possible-stay in your pyjamas, cleverly disguised as exercise wear. In fact, if you like put your running tights on so you look like you’re just about to go out-they are as comfortable as pyjamas anyway.

 

Shut the front door. Turn off the phone. Find a carb if your liking and consume it with a cup of coffee.

 

Grab a cat if you have one. Put it on your chest and lean into the purr. This is an animal that knows the importance of rest. Let it be your teacher.

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New mindfulness delivery from Prime

Turn on the tv (books are available but at the bottom of this well of tiredness who even has the concentration?) and watch anything you like without fear of judgment.

 

At some point you may have to get up to boil a kettle or eat something. Do not be drawn into a chore. Resume the position you only have a few hours before the school taxi returns.

 

Rest is important, vital for recovery and progress. It is not an indulgence it is a requirement. Nobody will die if you don’t put a wash on. There is absolutely another day tomorrow.

 

There are other days when getting up and setting yourself a task like getting dressed is the way forward. (if all you tomorrows are like today and getting off the sofa becomes an impossibility then another level of self-care needs to kick in involving a GP and extra help.)

 

Nobody told me there’d be days like these. They don’t tend to be ‘grammable.

 

Strange days indeed.

 

 

National Health Service.

Huge thanks to our wonderful National Health Service.

After Pearl’s surgery (bilateral submandibular gland removal plus unilateral parotid tie)

I bring you

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Morning update.
1. Pearl slept from 4.30 pm until 10.30pm and then woke up talked and sang for two hours while I tried to encourage her to talk quietly because there was a baby sleeping next to us. Pearl has no volume control. Sadly.

2. At 12.30 she got a bit hyper/agitated/hysterical (probably the GA on its way out of her system) bounced around the bed crashing into the phIals collecting her blood from drains, and bit off the top of her venflon. Bed now looking like a blood bath she promptly fell asleep.

3. At 4.10 am she set off an alarm which made me think she was dead and I woke up and the nurses came running. Pearl who had pulled the end of the monitor off stayed fast asleep.

4. Apparently hospitals do not heat wards at night. I am a fan of saving money and supporting the NHS however I think piping refrigerated air onto sleeping parents probably costs money too.

In summary.

The NHS and Manchester Childrens Hospital in particular is MARVELLOUS.
It is clean the staff are friendly and they have performed an amazing, and I am sure costly operation,swiftly cleanly and efficiently.Their priority at all times has been Pearl. Half hour then hourly obs performed kindly, calmly and with great gentleness.

2. I am a grumpy smelly middle aged woman better suited to a super king sized bed. I will however physically fight anyone who hurts Pearl or tries to remove me from being grumpy and smelly on a camp bed next to her.
So there.

3. It is still possible to put make up on in a dark room with no contact lenses. The intention to groom well is strong in this one. I couldn’t possibly comment on the result .

4. A flannel wash is no way for a grown woman to live.

5.Pearl is doing splendidly and should be home by lunchtime.She is not drooling!

6. I am not omnipresent and find I am unable to both look after Pearl and go to a memory clinic visit with my mum. Now that’s something to remember.

7. Did I mention the NHS? It is AMAZING!

 

 

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Not Safe For Work.

Parenting can leave your personal life in tatters, your emotions wrung out, and as for your libido, well, nuff said.

Being a parent carer of someone with Additional Needs can magnify this, and many relationships buckle under the strain.

Luckily I had the foresight to marry someone 23 years ago who would easily be able to support me on this journey and who I also continue to fancy the pants off. Lucky is the operative word here, how could we possibly know at the tender ages of 25 and 26 what our lives would become? We were babies!

Anyway, that’s not the point. Despite childcare demands and the menopause (and if you are related to me you may want to LOOK.AWAY.NOW) which has had an unexpected effect on my-lets say drive-my body appears to have thrown caution to the wind, aware that reproduction is no longer a threat.

This is a brief explanation of how I nearly managed to scare a Social Services support worker, and how despite being 48 have so far failed to do grown up.

One day, after a run, I returned home glowing, and full of endorphins to an empty house. I was wearing s cute hat stolen from the eldest child (it was winter) and was looking, #imho, pretty fine.

Flinging my clothes off pre shower, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and was happy with what I saw. (Oh if only I appreciated myself as much when I really was glorious in those teenage years before everything became overused and droopy, as I do now in (gulp) middle age.

I digress.
Sexting is really not a thing for my generation (feel free to disagree and share-I dare you!) but for some reason, the endorphins, the cuteness of the hat, the HRT, I felt it would be appropriate to take a cheeky, topless shot. Not totally topless obvs -I was after all wearing a hat! This for the benefit of Father of Pearl. Just to remind him.

Sniggering like the  teenager I never was (my version was sensible and religious) I  fortunately texted him before pressing send.

“Are you on your own I have a picture for you”(winky face)

 

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Panicked reply.

“No,NO.NO I”M NOT I’M IN A MEETING!!!!!!”

Thank you, thank you, God that I had the 48 year old foresight to text ahead, specifically as I had not realized all texts run live down the side of the ridiculously large computer screen in the Blue Beck offices.

As my running high wore off remembered. The cloud! It was a thing! We had it! We all shared it including my teenagers!

Frantic texts followed

“Will that picture be on the cloud? Can the children access  it ?Who can see it????

Shit, shit, shit.

“WILLYOUPLEASERESPONDTOMYTEXTS!!!!”

Anyway it was finally sorted, deleted, cleared normal life resumed. I decided as a passion kindler sexting was not for me.

Back in the real world of additional needs.

Pearl receives direct payments for Personal Assistant employment. Every 6 months or so a Family Support Worker comes to visit to check we are using them appropriately and what’s occurring Chez Pearl.

Pearl had, since her last visit taken part in a play, modelling contract or some-such of which I was inordinately proud.

I sat down next to Mrs Family Support to show her the photos.

Scrolling though as you do (note to self never scroll through photos next to someone. At best it’s boring)  I suddenly appeared. Sans top and plus a rather fetching hat.

I have never ever, ever, swiped a phone so hard or so quickly. A blur (I hoped) of pale flesh. Cheeks on fire, I said, with a nonchalance I did not feel.

“Oh my days what was that? I don’t know what the was !”(nice try Pinocchio)

And then, because I’m a really good parent

“What have those kids been doing with my phone?”

Thus throwing into question my parenting of said teenagers.

Did she see?

Did she know?

What must she of thought?

I think she must have, I think she would have known?!

How did the ****ing photo remain on the ****ing phone when I’d deleted it with such assurance?!

Even my tech guy (and he is good) doesn’t know.

The epilogue to this sorry tale of middle aged desire.

My children have not been removed. My husband thinks I’m hilarious. No teenagers saw anything that would have embarrassed me and mortified them.

Better yet the entire staffing  of Social Services has been restructured and we have a new family support worker.

I am a grown up

I am!

Happy Valentines day to one and all!

 

 

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

 

Ch – ch – ch – ch – Changes.

Time may change me, but I can’t trace time.

Pearl is currently in transition. In non jargon she has spent half a day at her new school, and today is spending the whole day. The rest of the week, it’s back to Horton for goodbyes, parties and general end of term shenanigans.

I too am in transition.The new school seems really promising, a new start is quite exciting. The holidays are coming, there are still house moving boxes to be unpacked, Pearl has a new set of wheels from wheelchair services.

Last night I dreamt someone told us we couldn’t live in our lovely new house anymore. We went back to the old one, and the new owners had spoilt it, and wouldn’t let us have it back. Then a variety of people I love and respect appeared and told me they hated me. It was one of those nights when I may as well have stayed awake.

When I am very stressed, I get busy. (At one point I was doing three part time jobs and caring for two children with additional needs, plus one with mental health issues) at others I’ll set myself challenges, or overcommit to volunteering.

It works well as a distraction strategy, but it doesn’t actually make the stressful situation go away. If I allow it to, I become totally overstretched and have to drop everything.

It is just possible I am writing a blog a day, to distract myself from the very purpose of writing it.

 

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All the feels, just all of them.

Pearl is leaving Horton. All the people who have known her for the past 8 years, watched her grow, faciliated her development gone. The staff who encouraged me when I was wrangling with the LA for a place at Kiplings, the people at Kiplings who have washed her, put her in her PJs and tucked her in, will all fade into memory and no longer be part of daily life. Pearl’s marvelous Paediatrician, who has been with us even longer, now works for Staffordshire and has a clinic in Horton. She has listened to me whinge and rail against injustice, provision and NHS shortcomings, and celebrated with me when Horton turned out to be the place, the very place for Pearl. She too will be replaced by someone from our Cheshire, because it makes logistical sense.

I am not good at goodbyes, not good at all, and leaving all these people will be a tremendous wrench.

When my children stay away overnight, I have always put a lipstick kiss on a post it, and written ‘a good night kiss from mummy’.

Just in case I become emotional and rush off on Friday, here Horton is one for you all.

 

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A thank you kiss from Mother of Pearl

 

 

 

This blog is part of a blog a day for Horton.So far we have raised, through your generosity £390 for the Parent, Friends and Staff Association.To add to the pot and help them provide some extras that make a real difference to the friends of Pearl donate here.

 

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A blog a day for Horton. 

 

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

 

Omm….

In which a group of over excited children fail to spot the difference between yoga and sardines.

Yoga, once a spiritual exercise, has been widely embraced for its calming and mindful effects.

Horton Lodge has a simple but very effective way of communicating what happens in the day, a home school book. Filled in daily by the teaching and support staff, and also used by school nurses and therapists, it is pounced on daily in our house. Pearl is non verbal, so when I have read it we can talk about the day, with the help of the excellent PODD.

I have had a few favourite entries, but by far the most hilarious read:

“Today we started our yoga sessions.We spent the first remembering to stay in our own space on the mat”

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Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

 

Maybe it’s having worked in schools, perhaps it’s because Pearl is my third, but I could hear a world of patience, pain,and mild hysteria emanating from this simple sentence.

The next day was parents evening.

“So” I said.

“How was yoga, did they stay on the mats?”

The class teacher grinned broadly.

“Well we are using a DVD and the whole class (about 8 children of varying physical ability) made for the mat nearest the DVD and lay on top of each other in a big pile”

Now I go to a restorative yoga session every Friday. It calms me, grounds me,and helps me prepare for the whirlwind that is Pearl being home at the weekend. Because of this diary entry,dear reader, at the beginning of my weekly session,as I start to relax I hear in my head “remember to stay in your own place on the mat” and shake silently at the mental image it conjures up.

Namaste.

 

This is part of a blog a day for Horton.You can find out more about the school here .and help Pearl show her appreciation with a donation here.

 

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A blog a day for Horton

 

Society.

In which I propose we all be more Horton.

So here we are a bunch of sentient animals muddling along on a small blue planet. To help us pass the time, we make rules, create leaders and invent cultures.

After countless centuries of development what have we achieved on our small island?(The UK to you and me).

Fire.

The wheel.

Art, written language, the printing press, literature, public sanitation; these are all great things.

Public services, the NHS,  free education. Simply splendid.

Democracy, Government, local and national, to help manage the money system we created. Generally these things should enable us to live comfortably and safely with our neighbours. On the whole they do.

Inequality still exists on a huge scale, and without becoming too political is largely the result of the capitalist system we’ve chosen to live by. (Which is remember only a concept we invented).

As a model of where our values should lie I give you…

Horton Lodge Community Special School!

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Achievements are celebrated.

People help each other.

Elders impart knowledge to the next generation, keep them safe from harm and teach them the right way to be part of a wider group.

The more vulnerable are given extra help, but are also helped to use everything they have to give back to the community in whatever way they can.

Individuals within the community have a clear sense of their own self worth and how they fit into the wider community.

And when children leave education….

I fear they come up against historic prejudices about disability and cognitive difference.

They may hear labels used to describe them that are not life affirming.

As they are often unable to earn, they are often treated like a burden to the wider community and State.

They are treated like second class citizens.

There is no public moral outrage when they die in care or in the Health Service, their needs are sidelined because their own intrinsic worth to all of us is not recognized by the “Big Society”

They can’t use toilet facilities as they are not routinely provided for those who need Changing Places.

Poor access on public transport and in towns limits and isolates.

People do not help each other.

In short they are disabled by society.

Shame on us. Shame on our leaders. Shame on us all for allowing this to happen.

Being encouraged, helping each other, being kind, making paths straight for the road ahead, these are the basic requirements of a fair and just society.  If they are not followed we all suffer.

Tell them. Tell our leaders, tell each other.

Be kind.

Value peoples talents.

Do not judge an individuals worth on ability to earn.

Practice Pearlfulness be kind eat cake.

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Be more Horton.

This blog is part of  blog a day for Horton. You can donate here.

 

 

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A blog a day for Horton

 

Questions. Questions?

In which we impart the amazing truth that SEND children do receive an education!

When you fall pregnant, people ask you extraordinary questions. “Was it planned?” was perhaps the most insensitive, but if that baby has a disability or other needs peoples self monitoring really takes your breath away.

Thus, on a weekday in term time I am regularly asked “where’s Pearl?”

I know I’m not alone in this, and I can’t quite work out why.

Perhaps the wider public only see SEND children “in extremis”on DIY SOS or Children in Need. Maybe they think that these children are ill, lying in invalid chairs, and being kept out of the sun? Or are they permanently hospitalized? Seems unlikely that they believe that Pearl is at home with me, while I home educate her, as it must be obvious I have the patience of a dead hedgehog.

I’ll let you all in to a little secret, you may not see Pearl in the local primary, but that is because  she is busy honing her leadership skills at her excellent special school Horton Lodge.

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Children with additional needs are in fact children too! Who knew ? They laugh, cry and demand attention just like their  neurotypical friends, and like them, they mainly go to school! They may miss more lessons because of medical appointments, they may fall ill more often, and more severely. When they are well, off to school they go. It is (as I told my older two when they didn’t want to go in) the law of the land.

Historically Special Schools kept children occupied during the day, the best obviously achieved more, but expectations were not high.

Several decades ago, during my SALT training, schools were separated into Moderate Learning  Difficulties, Severe Learning Difficulties and Physically Handicapped.

Shortly after this integration became the gold standard and many specialist special schools were closed to allow people to be taught together in mainstream. Unfortunately integration without extra money or training often led to lip service being given to integration, while pupils were isolated in a separate room with a TA. Generic special schools began to cater for the more complex children,and now specialist provision for autism is also on the rise.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What does this tell us about Special Education? Well, like general educational provision it is ruled by the will and whim of the political elite, and similarly affected by lack of resources. Special Schools require Ofsted reports and a Governing Body. They too can become Academies, and also follow the National Curriculum.

BUT, and here’s the thing, they follow a diversified, enriched curriculum.The subject headings are the same, but the means of covering them, and the level at which they are covered, is guided by the individual learners ability and style of learning.

It could be argued that all teachers should be able to do this, and that education should be an enjoyable, enriching path to a lifetimes learning, but that dear reader is to underestimate the vital necessity of league tables, marks and passing and failing  to our daily lives. Well quite.

SEND children are educated in mainstream with TA support, at home by parents with more patience than this one, or Special School with intervention from various therapies and School Nurses alongside the teaching staff.They will learn in a variety of ways, some passing exams and going onto further study, some following a sensory curriculum and learning to react and express themselves in different ways.

A few really lucky ones will end up at Horton Lodge Community Special School,where they will leave with amazing self esteem, a can do attitude and a general belief that they are the equal of anyone. Shouldn’t that be the aim of education?

Does this approach prepare them for the real world? More on that tomorrow…..

This blog is part of a blog a day for Horton.If you’ve enjoyed it a donation to the PFSA can be made here.To find out more about Conductive Education in action check here.

 

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 A blog a day for Horton

 

 

 

Thought for the Day

In which I review my favourite inspirational messages-and a fair few that just don’t make the grade.

This post originally appeared on Firefly Community and can be viewed here 

Inspirational quotes, you know the ones. They pop up on your face book feed with a beautiful picture of a sunset, someone climbing a mountain, or jumping in the air with pure joy. They are a mixed blessing. Some can really resonate, a quote from an author, a word of scripture from a holy book. Some can irritate. Some are just plain wrong, I’m pretty sure that Winnie the Pooh didn’t make the “I have a dream” speech, and the things that Oscar Wilde reportedly said, well just don’t get me started.

Hand in hand with this come the helpful little phrases people choose to share with parents of children with additional needs. Most of this comes from the right place, although “God only gives special children to special parents” should be shoved somewhere else altogether.

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I have compiled, for your reading pleasure a short summary of some of the most common. You probably have some favourites of your own. If any come to mind that help you/make you want to punch somebody please share with the community below the line!

Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff.

In parenting a child with disabilities, as in life generally, this is not entirely true.

We brush up against mortality, severe illness, pain and struggle on a regular basis, plus the big questions of faith, meaning, love and loss. It’s not all small stuff.

Whether you have enough likes on your Facebook Page, if you have sent a birthday card a bit late, if your house is a bit untidy this my friend is the small stuff. You have my permission not to sweat it.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

This has always been one of my favourites. However now I wonder whether to replace it with

“what doesn’t kill you makes you exhausted, sleep deprived, Clinically Depressed, the possessor of a fierce and dark humour, snappy and reliant on alcohol”

Self-care suggests the first reading is preferable. On the days where the second is more accurate be kind to yourself.

Which brings us neatly to

Be kind for everyone is fighting a hard battle.

You my fellow parent, if you care for a child with additional needs you are fighting a hard battle. The person who has parked in a disabled space with no badge, I have less sympathy for.

The Local Authority responsible for providing care and support for you, your family and your child? Well they are paid, and should be working on your behalf.

For most special parents this could be adapted to Be Kind for everybody is fighting a hard battle with the Local Authority. It shouldn’t be accurate but there we are.

What cannot be cured must be endured

Must it? Well in reality yes, and emotional resilience, the ability to bounce back and keep on keeping on is useful tool in the special parents armour. I would argue however that you need to find people who get you, family friends, parents in the same position, so you can endure it with a better grace together. It may be that you can (whisper it quietly) even enjoy it!

I will leave you with my current personal favourite, which happens to be biblical but I think describes us, our children and our struggles well no matter what beliefs we do or do not have.

 But we have this treasure in jars of clay

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair, persecuted, but not forsaken, struck down, but not destroyed.

As I frequently find myself perplexed, despairing and feeling forsaken this curiously helps me. Despite all this I am a treasure in my 47 year old body, as is my beauteous daughter in her tricky, muscle weakend, wobbly, treacherous, one.

We are all the same no matter what our abilities or disabilities and that,to me is rather wonderful..