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.

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.

Never underestimate the desperation of a woman who chooses to be up at midnight hot-glueing home-dried rose petals to a cereal box.

Let me take you back a few hours. It all started quite sensibly. Family learning homework being to do something (anything) on the topic of ‘flowers’. Flowers: we know. Roses, daffodils, bluebells, daisies: we love but we don’t know. Petal, stem, leaf: blank.

Like many other school interactions – I take it as a tip-off for what classroom discussion will be about – and disappear down a rabbit hole of trying to prepare Squidling to be able to participate properly. Without making Squidling’s life feel like one long remedial class.

Here is what we made. We have flower names, we have parts of the flower, we have cued hours of discussion using this new vocabulary. We have second degree glue gun burn on the index finger of my non-dominant hand and we are probably in line for side-comments about unnecessary performance parenting.

Tomorrow I think we’ll make cake pops with green stems, wide leaves (and maybe a few narrow leaves) and of course lots of pink petals. Because I want her world to be beautiful and vibrant and not defined by the words she doesn’t know. A box of rose petals is the best way I know how.

12 things I hate about indirect speech therapy

1) She has enough challenges in her learning without diverting her teacher to be a ‘shadow speech therapist’

2) She has enough challenges engaging  with her peers without diverting her teaching assistant to be a ‘shadow speech therapist’

3) You’re trading quantified targets (e.g. speech sounds) against softer unspecified goals (e.g. answer a question in class, tell a joke). One is not necessarily more  important than the other. Delayed kids need to learn on many levels at once (unless you’ve ‘given up’ on them catching up).

4) It stinks of shuffling expenses from one departmental budget to another without actually saving anyone any money.

5) I wasn’t told this plan. I found it out through questioning. 

6) Lines of accountability. Who is responsible if therapy is not done or done wrong?

7) Parents are estranged from the process: they don’t see the therapist, therapist doesn’t know how kid is engaging – everyone less likely to talk/pass on homework/share observations.

8) Targets will be updated based on how frequently the therapist re-assesses the child rather than how quickly the child meets the targets. A kid with seriously delayed speech doesn’t have months to waste waiting for reviews.

9) Not evidence based. Research shows that indirect therapy less effective. If budgets are tight, better to work in small groups with a SALT, or use a SALT assistant.

10) Musical chairs giving everyone someone else’s job. The SALT writes reports and doesn’t SALT. The teacher SALTs based on the instructions in the report and doesn’t teach. I teach based on what the school report says she doesn’t know and I don’t Mum.

11) A school linked speech therapist should have an amazing role at the heart of school’s support strategy – reducing frustration for pupils and staff. Really wrong to turn this into a way to offload healthcare provision obligations onto education staff.

12) She has a right to education. Her speech delay makes it harder for her to learn. Her learning resources shouldn’t be bartered away to make up gaps in healthcare budgets. And if they are, I should be told in good time and pointed towards which fence I should chain myself to.

The edited version of the letter I actually sent is HERE.

New words for me

I’ve put together a little glossary HERE (or reachable through top menu). I find that it is helpful to understand the terminology & theory of Junior’s additional ‘needs’ so that I can plan for her better and have more effective conversations with healthcare professionals. And Google better. 

I’m not a therapist myself – so I’ve written down the glossary as ‘what is in my head’. How I understand things in order to be effective as Mum.

Have I made any hideous mistakes or omissions?