Psychology of keeping going 

Supporting a child with speech delay is a long and often frustrating journey. Here is a list of a some tactics that help me. I’d love to hear other people’s ideas in the comments!

  1. Reasonable expectations of attention span  10 minutes on a single activity is fine for a preschooler
  2. Routines when things happen at the same time every day, exhausting tantrums are less likely. There is another reason routines help – they define what ‘good enough‘ is.
  3. Set the bar to ‘winable’ define an achievable workload for yourself and your child – and make sure to take a moment to pat yourself on the back for sticking with it. It is easy to get overwhelmed looking at everything your child has to catch up with.
  4. Holidays Your kid’s speech therapist has holidays. Your kid’s teacher has the whole weekend without having to be patient or encouraging. Parents are allowed holidays too – even if their kid has extra needs. Accept offers of help when they come – even if ‘help’ sticks your kid in front of the TV for eight hours with a bag of crisps.
  5. Forgive yourself 
  6. Let your support crew in Invariably there is a ‘primary caregiver’ who is disproportionately involved in the therapy, planning and decisions. It’s so easy to become isolated and rigid though. Talking to other people, and taking time to keep your own friendships is important to keep you sane and motivated.
  7. Fun strengthens your bond Silly fun with your kid strengthens your bond and helps you progress more effectively when you work.

I see the past 

I see the little boy who would get so angry that he wouldn’t be understood – but I need to blink him away. The real boy is up on stage projecting his voice so that the whole hall can hear him.

I see the little boy who would be too shy to socialise – but he’s grown. He’s leaving pauses in the speech so that the audience can laugh. A confident, perfectly timed arched eyebrow knowing he’ll get a response.

We’ve worked with him for over 8 years on his speech. While I was worrying about each little milestone, I didn’t realise that underneath it all we were growing a confident communicator.

He still has a lisp. Not all his sounds are consistent. But I’m the only one that hears that now. Everyone else saw the young thespian loving every moment on stage.

I need to make an effort to see that too. I remember the little boy – but I see the big boy too – and I will take a moment to be so proud of all of us for leveraging a weakness into a talent.

This week I have done no speech work with my child. 

I set myself a target of blogging once a week – but this week I have nothing to say about speech. Speech has been pushed out by her brother’s school play, her parent’s evening at school, volunteering at school, looking after ill kids, visiting ill friends, entertaining guests, pretending to clean, bad lifestyle choices, dealing with a kid having a major wobble and failing to pack for our holidays.
She has: had giggles with her sister; worn a new dress; watched a movie; played Nintendogs; spent an entire day pretending to be a dog; made some beautiful pictures; been sick on the carpet; decorated 12 cupcakes; and, entertained a special little friend beautifully. Not all on the same day.

Life happens. But next week we’ll try to do more speech.

“Mum did you just Instagram the baby’s dinner??”

Well, actually I use YouFood, but yes I did.
Social media saturation – epitomised by hipsters photographing their cappuccinos – is widely accused of damaging users mental health. However this social media habit keeps me sane in the Sisyphean task of serving delicious balanced dinners to my children.

My children each only willingly eat a handful of foods. The intersection of these foods is smaller still. I understand that imprinting on certain foods very strongly is a component of autistic spectrum disorder – but I didn’t want to set myself up for a lifetime of re-heating Captain Birdseye – so I persevere.
I serve the food, I insist on table manners but I don’t force them to eat or get emotional about it. Then I scrape perfect little meals into the bin. I stay sane by eating the lovely grub alongside them – so I’m confident it’s good. And I stay sane by posting a beautifully framed photograph of the food on my YouFood feed. I don’t care if anyone else looks at it.  The rejected food looking vomitous in the garbage; the faces of my children looking bilious as I serve it; it’s a better last image to carry from my effort.

* Going into my YouFood to get some images to illustrate this post – I see that I am unfairly accused – and I normally photograph my own food. Which is a perfectly normal thing to do of course (!) The kids dinners have the same ingredients but were served in little molehill mounds of individual items to avoid contaminating a borderline acceptable foodstuff with an utterly unacceptable foodstuff. And obviously I haven’t logged the ‘bowl of plain pasta with cheese on the side’ staples we actually live on.

7 ways the UK school funding formula steals our hope

1) Institute for Fiscal Studies calculates that U.K. schools will see an average 8% real-terms reduction in per-pupil funding between 2014 and 2020. The overall funding is basically static, but there are large additional expenses. The shortfall can only be met by staff cuts.

2) Schools need staff beyond teachers. Having a TA in the room gives SEN pupils a real chance of overcoming their difficulties and accessing education. Having a pastoral support team stops a mental health wobble derailing a young person’s future. And that all frees up teachers to focus on quality  teaching.

3) We’re Brexiting. The government’s stated aim is to have fewer European migrants here. So we either need to start training more of our own hotshot accountants, doctors, nurses, IT dudes – or learn manage without them.

4) Extremist politics is on the rise. Soundbites are in fashion and facts are passé. As a democracy, we must respect people voicing their views. However, we can only survive as a functional democracy if we can effectively debate, discuss, analyse and reason. Schools are trusted by society to teach our children the skills and values that make them engaged citizens. If schools are struggling, the door is ajar for alternative ‘teachers’ to influence our children.

5) DfE can’t recruit enough maths & science graduates. Who is going to train the world-leading engineers of the future? Who’d apply to train as a teacher when funding is under threat and you might end up working with insufficient support staff?

6) We claim to be a modern economy. We don’t really have factories or fields any more. If we don’t have the skilled workforce to make the most of modern-world opportunities, then our economy will be based on soft services and property speculation. Sport and music are part of this – extra-curricular opportunities will be some of the first things to be cut in a budget squeeze.

7) I’m no expert – but ‘fairer funding’ seems to be biting an awful lot out of areas which have high deprivation. It might be ‘equal-er’ – but it’s hardly ‘fair-er’ to reduce support to kids who are already facing extra barriers in achieving their dreams.

Maybe the government have lost hope in us just like we’ve lost hope in them.

Write to your MP and sign the PETITION:

Check your school:

Gender stereotyping pronouns 

Gender is just a social construct – right? Primary aged kids don’t have any differences in appearance or strength or biological function based on their gender – so it follows I should be quite content that Junior doesn’t differentiate he/she/it. I have achieved a child totally unfettered by gender stereotypes – a modern citizen!

Darn it – she knows she’s a girl. Because girls wear pink and dresses (and she loves pink). And girls do look different even at aged 4 in uniform. They look kind of fluffy and all wear a skirt/dress and a button down cardigan rather than a logo jumper. Junior wore trousers on her first day at school (like her brothers) and then never wore them again. And Junior referring to her friends as ‘he’ just marks her out as peculiar and even causes offence. A part of me thinks that it shouldn’t  matter – there are bigger issues with her speech that cause more problems with her intelligibility. And then I get real – calling queen-bee ‘he’ is social death – it’s time to fix this.

<sharp reverse on gender neutral parenting>

Boys are noisy – they run around going ‘HE HE HE’ (comical caveman mime)

Girls are quiet – they go ‘shhhheeee shhheee shhheee’ (prissy mime of someone putting their finger up to their lips)

It made her laugh and it’s something we can keep playing. Sorry Mrs Pankhurst.

A bucket full of superheroes

You need certain accessories for this activity. A box of Marvel Lego, a local multiplex showing a thrilling Lego Batman movie and a helpful big brother with encyclopaedic knowledge of the characters. Squid’s target is to learn to use pronouns reliably; we set out together to restore justice to Gotham.

1) We ferreted through the Lego to pick out character minifigures. I also wrote key words on paper. This is not essential – but she reads quite well – so having the words to look at is a useful additional reinforcement.

2) I reminded her that we say ‘he’ for a boy and ‘she’ for a girl. We put all the minifigures into a tin bucket shouting ‘he’/ ‘she’ (depending on the gender obviously. And obviously I was doing the shouting and she was joining in. Since the point is that she mixes them up all the time!)

Bucket of superheroes

3) She shut her eyes and picked a figure at random. The figure ‘walked’ to three paper squares and ‘chose’ the correct one (he/she/it). I then supplied ‘is’ (squeezing in an excuse to encourage use of ‘little words’ that she often misses). Then she had to choose to complete the sentence with ‘good’ or ‘bad’. 

Some example sentences we made to practice pronouns

4) Her brother kindly provided a jail and a party room. So we continued with “She is bad. She goes to jail.”

5) #get_real Of course – after six/seven rounds she started sagging – and we limped to a round dozen of doing this in a structured way before I let her just play with the toys. However, she used more pronouns in her play afterwards than before, so I think it sunk in a bit. Also, her brother picked up on her learning target, and helpfully seemed to make a point out of using lots of pronouns in their game (“He is going to kill Batman! Oh no, she is coming to stop him! She is too slow! He is dead! “ . Gruesome but helpful. )