Isn’t it lovely to have compliments about your children? It is nice when people notice, when one of the children do something that little bit extra that makes people feel the need to comment. Because so much, so often is a focus on the negative. Its easier isn’t it? I think we all do it to a degree, we focus on the bad, the negative, the things which irritate us and wind us up. We remember the bad moments. We always remember the bad things people have said to us don’t we?
We often get so caught up in the day to day, and become so used to people “testing” and questioning our home educated children, that when someone actually pays a compliment it sometimes comes as a bit of a shock. But yes, thank you, they are rather wonderful human beings.
When a random parent approaches me in the woods to ask if “that boy over there” is mine, I answer yes rather apprehensively, knowing i was distracted looking after the little one. She goes on to tell me how kind and helpful he was when her daughter got stuck in a tree. When an elderly lady approaches my daughter to ask if her brother was with her, to then go on to say how lovely and helpful he was helping her get up a sand dune away from the beach. When I have a random parent asking me how old my daughter is and going on to tell me how lovely it is that she cares about me, that she offers to help and thinks about me because so many 15 year olds are not so considerate about their parents.
This comes in particular after seeing how far J has come socially. At aged 9 he was a very angry, wound up and controlling little boy. He was highly strung, he didn’t have a lot of faith in many people and needed to know what was happening, what was going to happen at all times or he would really struggle. We know this was his Autism, part of who he is. We weren’t able to surprise him like you do some children, he would hate it and if there was a change of plans then wow that would really disrupt him. He was being bullied in school, his head teacher believed him to be unkind, nasty and immature. She did not believe that there was any other diagnosis to be made, just that he was unpleasant. His class teacher disagreed with her, but didn’t get far.
When we first started home educating, J and the opportunity to attend a local workshop, I was unable to attend due to having a small one, and so I dropped him and his sister off and stayed local, just a phone call away. It did not go well, he got very agitated and in the end I was called to come and collect him. I was pretty mortified. I apologised profusely to the organiser and worried that this would be the way of things. We had several different incidences along the way, J getting angry and us having to quit what we were doing and remove him from a situation, there was ups and downs but we learnt along the way.
So much so that when it came to his ADOS assessment and feedback, his formal diagnosis, they were not able to suggest anything that we weren’t already doing. They agreed that the approach we were taking with regards to his education was the best one for him and that it was allowing us the opportunity to really get to know and be able to control his triggers. And so, we continued.
A big turning point came 11 months after taking him out of school, when he had an incident with another boy while we were out. J got hurt, he was upset, but he was able to come and tell me and the other boys parent. We were able to deal with it, quickly, and then able to continue our day. They were soon playing and laughing together again without a grudge being held. It was noted by other parents how much this showed how far J had come in the space of the year, that we no longer had to leave altogether due to his anger.
Here we are now, 3 yrs out of school. Some of those ASD traits will always be present, they are part of his make up and who he is. But to see him out with friends you often wouldn’t guess. He will now attend things on his own, he really enjoys a lego club that runs each fortnight and he goes to without any of us, and he is now able to have frank and honest conversations about education, about laws about his future. He is feeling more open to more structured learning, for a long time he was put off by his experience of school. He adamantly declared that he did not like Science, Geography, English etc…. yet here we are now and he is looking forward to a formal science class once a week next term, he is starting work on his GCSE Geography book and following his own interests. For a long time he would tell me it was selfish when I told him that when it comes to his education we have to focus on what is right for him and not for his friends, but now he understands that it is his future and his friends are focusing on theirs. The great thing he has come to realise is that this doesn’t stop them being friends. That understanding that he now shows is a true marker of how far he has come.
At the other end we have learning at a more basic but equally impressive level. N has shown massive progress learning his colours, animals, counting etc.. his speech is coming on brilliantly and he has developed a great love of books and stories. He will follow the words with his finger while we are reading to him and has even memorised his favourite stories. He receives his little passports package each month and has been learning about the world, landmarks and oceans so far. His understanding of these is brilliant, he is able to find the countries on his map to put his stickers in the right place after completing the activities. He loves practising his map reading skills, he always gets his map of the safari park we have membership for when we visit. I think he enjoys following the map more than seeing the animals sometimes. He confuses many people who enter into conversations with me in public. They see this rather small (because he is on the shorter end for his age) little dynamo. He has mad long curly hair, big blue eyes and a beautiful smile. He can charge around playing IT and play fighting with the older ones, and he talks and tells you what he is doing fantastically. He has confidence to run and play and jump without running off too far. Yet I say he is only just 3, no he doesn’t attend nursery or pre school. The look of surprise is an unspoken compliment in itself.