Aaargh, sympathy.

It’s not maybe the unpalatable truth that I’ve been skirting around thinking about all weekend, but I have realised this morning that I suck at sympathy. I really really suck at it. Not in being sympathetic or giving out sympathy, I think I do pretty well at that. But receiving. I run a mile from receiving sympathy.

The trigger for this revelation?  I got a card in the post. It’s in reply to the card I sent last week when I was trying momentarily to “man” up to my problems and apologise to someone for letting them down and then going all radio silence (my usual modus oporandi).  I put a note in, this little gem, in the card.  So, of course I’m going to get a reply of some sort, unless the person I sent the card to is completely heartless, which they aren’t.

I don’t know what the card says though. I have opened it. I peeked in, upside down, from the back (yes, I am the kind of person who literally hides behind the sofa when Dr Who is on) and confirmed that it is from who I think it is. But I cannot bring myself to read it.

I’m trying to process why. Why is it so hard to hear someone being nice to me.  I keep coming back to how it reminds me of the thing I hated most about being pregnant. It was n’t the tiredness, or the uncomfortableness sleeping. I didn’t really get morning sickness (sorry), I didn’t mind, giving up alcohol, kicking my lame part time smoking habit to the touchline, or being the size of a house. I minded the intrusion. The fact that everyone knew I was pregnant (well, after a certain point) and thought that they could talk to me about this, like they knew me.  I wasn’t ashamed of them knowing I was pregnant, but that didn’t mean I wanted people I barely knew to discuss it with me. The fact that it took over other peoples view of me, reducing me to a mother-to-be and erasing all other parts of my personality. The fact that I was expected to be excited about it and want to talk about it at all times. Sheez, I mean I was excited, just not on a constant state of excitement for nine months solid, that would be exhausting and make me more than a bit unhinged.

So what do I think will be in this card that makes me so reluctant to read it? I’m pretty sure they’re not going to be horrible, so I’m not catastrophising this. But I feel raw and exposed just thinking about reading it. The feels man, I can’t cope with all the feels. It’s too much. Too much fuss as my mum would say. She hates people fussing over her. I’m thinking maybe this is a sensory overload, aspie, type thing going on here. Which is going to lead me down the sidetrack of where to place myself on the spectrum.

But I wonder if also this is part of the problem in talking about all the shit that is going on with other people. Because I have been spectacularly rubbish at talking about all the things I probably need to talk about with other people. I don’t really feel able to tell anyone because I can’t cope with how the conversation will go. Hence this blog. Sometimes I can talk to my husband, but there are complications with that, especially when he’s been ill too.

Which brings me to, I dunno, another side track, a branchline, a conclusion, an action, whatever. I have been thinking about trying to find a counsellor/therapist again. One in the goldilocks zone. Not too Lovely But Just Lets Me Talk About The First Thing On My Mind And This Feels Like There’s No Direction, like the one I paid for. And not too CBT By Numbers Not Listening To My Answers Cos She’s Already Decided What I Will Be Saying, like the one I got through the NHS Anxiety service. Trouble is, I have no idea how to find such a person. So I need to add it to my to do list. Which is in a state of disaray as I have been in full on life avoidance radio silence mode for a while and I’m not sure I can even go there right now.

So. Well.  I have brain dumped. And now I will read another chapter of a book (and that is a story for another day). And then I will sort the washing out. And maybe, while I do all that, my subconsious will work it all out for me.



What do you do when your child just doesn’t get ready in the morning. They don’t scream, or shout, they show no sign of concern about being late, they just ignore you and read a book?

What do you do when your child, finally nearly ready, oh so late,  sits there looking at their shoes and says that putting them on makes them feel cold?

What do you write in the reason column in the “not that late book, that only goes up to a certain time, can I ask you to write in this one” late book, for why your child is at school an hour late?

What do you do when he then sits on your knee in the office, snuggling, holding you, not speaking, not moving, while school life goes on around you?

What is the right thing to do?


Summer writing challenge update

So, we’re a couple of weeks in to the summer holidays and 10 days of that were spent camping. We haven’t managed the writing challenge every day, but I think we’ve managed it about 2/3rds of the time (I’m not counting) which is pretty good going and they’re still interested in it (albeit a little too focused on “prizes” for my liking). I’m starting to learn what works best for us.  For instance, they both want lots of help/attention all the time and the slightest thing can distract them (which I knew in theory but not the full extent of, I cannot actually count on being able to do anything myself whilst they’re writing). Also, if I’m really specific it doesn’t help, e.g. if I ask  them to write at least 5 sentences, they write exactly 5 sentences and if I specify a subject for each sentence I get really stilted sentences.

I’m trying to train them that the space under the instructions they can use to make notes, so if they’re stuck I have a chat with them and then write down some phrases that came up in conversation there, and maybe draw a picture with them, so they have something to refer back to.

I keep reminding myself not to critique spelling, punctuation, grammar, ideas, the point is not what they write, but to write, and to learn to write more easily, to chip away at the idea that writing is always hard and boring. School spends quite enough time working on those skills, this is supposed to be different. So it amuses me that my daughter starts each challenge by writing her “WALT” (we are learning to), just like at school, e.g. “WALT write a packing list”, but I let her do it that way without comment as that’s what’s comfortable for her.  I guess ultimately I want them to loose the idea that there’s a “right” way to write (although school will tell them otherwise) as I think that idea, that there is a right way, sets them up to think they’re failing and gets them stuck.

The books are starting to fill up and I think it will be really good for them to look back on all they’ve achieved over the summer. We have shown things to interested adults to and they’re proud of things they’ve done. I was pleased that the free story that they wrote, whilst taking more time (two sittings each), was the best bit of writing (in my opinion anyway). It was nice that they could take time, and go back to it later, even though that wasn’t the plan (writing on a camp site with other kids around playing is hard!), without having to move on through the curriculum and get to the next piece of work. I’d like to do more of the free story stuff, so today I bought some story cubes to see how they help. I’m hoping to tread the fine line between the instructions being too specific (and stilted) and too free (so they don’t know where to start).  I’ve printed off a couple of challenges for tomorrow and Sunday (when we might be camping).

Today’s Challenge: Discover story cubes

Before you start:

  • Go out of the front door, run to one end of the street (top or bottom, you choose) and then walk back.
  • Glue this sheet onto the next free left hand page in your book
  • Leave a space for a title on the next page
  • Underneath the space draw three boxes in a line
  • Without looking, take a die from the story cube box, roll it and draw the picture in the first box.
  • Then take another cube without looking, roll it and draw the picture in the second box.
  • Finally, take another cube without looking, roll it and draw the picture in the last box.

Then write down a story, as long as you like (at least one sentence) that links your three images. Then write a title above.

When you’ve finished:

Today’s Challenge: Story cube characters

Before you start:

  • Crouch down as small as you can and start to hum quietly, gradually uncurl and stand up as tall as you go, making your humming go louder as you grow bigger, then slowly go back again with your humming getting quieter as you get smaller.
  • Glue this sheet onto the next free left hand page in your book
  • Draw three boxes on the next page as before.
  • Take three dice without looking and roll them, then draw the images in any order you want in your boxes.

Use the images to think of a character/person/heroine/villain and write down a description of them.

When you’ve finished:

I’ve no idea where the physical activity ideas came from, I’m just making them up as  I go along. I’m trying lots of different things so hopefully they can work out what works for them (and I can feed back to the teacher if we find a good tactic). I’ve already trained them to glue the instructions in, they don’t need telling that now.

So, so far, it’s a bit early to say, but I think it’s going well. Phew.

Summer Writing Challenge


Only 2 days of school left before the summer holidays and I’ve been doing more planning for the Summer Writing Challenge, to try and get both my kids to do a little writing everyday, structured in an ASC friendly way (with a little help from my I hate to write book), to hopefully help start to break down the blockage that my son seems to have between his brain and his hand.

I have told the kids a little about the challenge (it’s not my natural style to forewarn, but I’m getting used to not springing surprises on people) and after some rather fraught negotiations they now have a notebook each with their name on, waiting in a box with a couple of prizes that I put together (nothing like a bit of bribery to get people motivated). I don’t want to over organise things, as I need to be flexible and see what works and build upon that, after all, I thought that a written version of the word association game was the easiest thing possible and I was proved wrong. However, we are going away on the second day of the holidays, so I also want to be prepared, and with that in mind I have challenges for each day of the holidays (plus a few spare for when we get back). I thought I’d share them here, as if it helps one person with a similar problem, it’s worth it. (And I’ve already typed them up as I intend to print out two copies of each).

Day 1: First day of the holidays, when we’ll be spending a lot of time getting ready to go.

Today’s Challenge:     Write a packing list for our holiday.

Before you start:

  • Check your desk and chair are clear and free of distractions.
  • Glue this sheet onto the first left hand page in your book

Firstly:        Write a title on the right hand page and underline it.


  • Write a list of the things that you need to take on holiday.
  • Don’t include family things like tents and cooking things.
  • Do group things together by theme, for example mum’s list might include (as she has family things are on her list)
    • Cooking things: 2 saucepans, chopping board, knife
    • Food: Breakfast cereal, 3 tins of baked beans, teabags, hot chocolate
  • If you realise later you’ve left something out, it’s ok to go back and squeeze it in, or  you might want to have a “things I nearly forgot” theme at the end

When you’ve finished:    We will go to the shop and buy and icecream to eat, before reading through the lists and starting packing.

Day 2: A travel day, we’ll be setting off in our van for the first destination.

Today’s Challenge:     Describe [our camper van] to someone who’s never seen her.

Before you start:

  • Check your writing space is ready
  • Glue this sheet onto the next free left hand page in your book
  • Do 5 star jumps.

Firstly:        Write a title on the right hand page and underline it.


  • Describe 5 things about [our camper van].
  • Write one or two sentences about each thing you choose.
  • Don’t forget to to start by saying what kind of thing [our camper van] is!

When you’ve finished:        You can watch an episode of Dangermouse on iplayer.

Day 3: We’ll be at a folk festival and see lots of performances, morris dancing, clog, rapper and who knows what else. This days challenge is inspired by a comment from a friend about trying immersive writing “in the field” as she reckoned it would stop him worrying about being perfect as he’d be too busy.

Today’s Challenge:     Take notes on performances

Before you start:

  • Glue this sheet onto the next free left hand page in your book
  • Pack your book and something to write with into your bag

Then when we stop to watch some dancing:

  • Write notes about what you’re seeing
  • Describe the shapes, sounds, colours, movement, how it makes you feel
  • As you’re taking notes you don’t have to write sentences, you can just write a short phrase or even a couple of words for each thing
  • See if you can fill the right hand page

Later:        We will read our notes to each other and see how they compare.

Day 4: The second day at the festival.

Today’s Challenge:     Describe a folk festival to someone who’s never been to one

Before you start:

  • Find somewhere comfortable to write.
  • Glue this sheet onto the next free left hand page in your book
  • Stretch your hands as far open as they’ll go then squeeze them shut 5 times.

Firstly:        Write a title on the right hand page and underline it.


  • Describe 5 things about a folk festival.
  • Write one or two sentences about each thing you choose.

When you’ve finished:       [I’m leaving this blank to fill in nearer the time!]

Day 5: Travelling from the festival to our second destination, camping with friends.

Today’s Challenge:     Describe a mini beast

Before you start:

  • Glue this sheet onto the next free left hand page in your book
  • Find a minibeast on the campsite and observe what it looks like, how it moves, what it’s doing, where it is

Firstly:        Write a title on the right hand page and underline it.

Then write one or two sentences about each of the following things:

  • What mini beast you saw
  • Where you found it
  • What it looks like
  • What it was doing
  • How it moves

When you’ve finished:

Days 6-9 in a flexible order, one requires me to buy postcards first.

Today’s Challenge:  Write a journal (diary) entry about today

Before you start:

  • Find a good place to write
  • Glue this sheet onto the next free left hand page in your book
  • Take 5 deep slow breaths in and out

Firstly:        Write today’s date.

Then write at least 5 sentences about your day. Include

  • Where you went
  • Who you were with
  • What you did
  • Something you saw
  • How you felt

When you’ve finished:

Today’s Challenge:     Describe the picture on a postcard

Before you start:

  • Glue this sheet onto the next free left hand page in your book
  • Choose a postcard
  • Do 5 hand stretch and squeezes followed by 5 deep breaths

Firstly:        Write a title on the right hand page and underline it.

Then describe the scene on the postcard. Start with saying where the picture is. Then write at least 4 sentances, each one should describe a different thing in the picture.

When you’ve finished:
Today’s Challenge:     Write a short story

Before you start:

  • Glue this sheet onto the next free left hand page in your book
  • Find a good place to write
  • Do 5 star jumps and 5 hand stretches

Firstly:        Leave a space for your title.

Then write a short paragraph (2 or 3 sentances is fine) with a story opening introducing the characters.

Then a second short paragraph introducing a problem.

Finally a short paragraph describing the resolution.

When the story is finished, then choose a title and write it in the space you’ve left.

When you’ve finished:

Today’s Challenge:     Write a silly song about camping

Before you start:

  • Glue this sheet onto the next free left hand page in your book
  • Find a good place to write
  • Do 5 star jumps and 5 deep slow breaths

Firstly:    Write your title on the right hand page and underline it.

Then write your song underneath. It needs to have a chorus (that gets repeated) and at least two verses, each having 4 lines.

When you’ve finished:

Day 10, another travel day. We’ll just have spent several days camping with other Quakers, so…

Today’s Challenge: Describe what happens in Meeting For Worship to someone who’s never been.

For each of these words, write a sentence about Meeting for Worship:

  • Where
  • Who
  • How
  • Why
  • What

When you’ve finished:

Day 11, travelling the rest of the way back home after our stopover.

Today’s Challenge: Write a 6 word story

A famous example is “For Sale, Baby Shoes, Never Worn”

When you’ve finished:


So, there we go, there’s my prep. Now it only remains to put it into action in a nice low key way that doesn’t cause tantrums.

Work in progress

I don’t have my new copy of the book yet, but I did look at the handout sheet on their website. Thinking of my idea to include Denis the Menace I have come up with these.

Today’s Challenge: Pretend you are Denis and write a note to pass to Minnie the Minx in class about a prank you want to play.

Your sentences need to include these details in your note: Who you want to play the prank on. What the prank is. Where you are going to do it. When you are going to do it. What you need Minnie to do to help.

You may use one labelled diagram in your note if you want.

When you have finished mum will give you one balloon for each proper sentence that you wrote that can fill with water from the outside tap (no water balloons in the house).


Today’s Challenge: You have been kept in detention by the Headmaster. Write a note for Gnasher to smuggle out to your friends.

Write at least one sentence about each of these: Why you were given detention. What you’re having to do in detention. How it makes you feel. What you would like your friends to do now.

When you have finished Mum will help you set up a target in the garden for catapult practice.



Writing – the problem

The Boy does not like writing. In particular his teachers struggle to get him to write. There is no problem with his reading, which is excellent (including his comprehension). There is no problem in his understanding and there is certainly no problem in getting him to talk on a subject, he is very expressive vocally (in fact the problem is getting him to shut up!). However, getting him to write is another matter entirely.

In year 1 (age 6) it his writing was painfully slow and the slightest mistake would make him rub out the whole sentence. His wrote no more than a few words in an assessed piece of writing, a story because he could tell that “biskit” (biscuit) was not a correct spelling so would go no further. His teacher was not allowed to help him (as it was going to be assessed) and the fact that the powers that be think it perfectly acceptable for a 6 year old to write biskit made no difference, he was reading a lot and he knew it was wrong, so he couldn’t proceed until it was fixed, end of story.

In year 2 (age 7) they taught him joined up handwriting. I was so annoyed and frustrated by this, it was the worse thing for him. He focused even more on how his writing looked, which slowed him further and exacerbating his trouble getting any kind of “flow” going in his writing. He reminded me of a medieval monk, huddled over his manuscript, making painstakingly slow progress. The fact that his teacher thought he only needed to practice his writing in his handwriting class and not in his literacy class was frankly irrelevant, to the Boy, if something is important then it’s important, it’s not just important on Thursday afternoon but not on Friday morning. It was around this time that he told me that he didn’t understand why school kept trying to get him to write down things that he already knew when he could use the time better learning new things (after all, school is where you go to learn things right?).  It was also one of his year 2 teachers who first suggested he might have Aspergers and thus started the process of trying to get a diagnosis and lots of reading on my part. He did see a educational psychologist, who suggested that writing tasks were “chunked up” into managable sized pieces for him but I have no idea what was implemented of this at the time as it was nearly at the end of the school year and I simply couldn’t get them to write anything in a plan form.

Year 3 saw a move to the junior school across the road. Despite reassurances from the infant school that they would do lots of things to help him with his transition (which for them seemed to mean familiarisation with the new school building), it soon became apparent that his new teacher was unprepared for him (I’m still cross that no plan was in place to get handed over to her) and my fears were realised, fears that the gap between him and his peers would widen as expectation rose (which had been my worry all along, misinterpreted by the SENCO as fears about the change of schools). I remember his class teacher asking me how I got him to do anything. I said something at the time, but upon later reflection realised that the options are a) get him on side by reasoning, b) decide to give up or postpone the task and c) stand over him repeating what you want him to do over and over again – which works (for simple things anyway) but at a huge cost to both of you in terms of stress and the meltdown will probably follow.

In writing terms, I remember vividly early on in the year collecting him one day to come home for lunch (as he was doing once a week at his request at the time) and having to go and find him in his classroom. The teacher explained that he had written basically nothing all morning in literacy (possibly 3 words or so, I can’t remember exactly, it wouldn’t surprise me if he wasn’t kept in at break time too) and so she asked me to take the work home with me and get him to write at lunchtime. By the time we finished talking and I had signed him out I had 45 mins to get him home, feed him, get him to do some work and get him back to school (only a 5 min walk each way but still!). I did get him to do some writing, but I basically use method c and the cost was enormous, he was in tears and I felt awful. When I got back to school I showed the teacher the 2 lines I’d got out of him and she was disappointed! I pointed out the time restraints, I should’ve pointed out as well that she was a professional and I wasn’t and she’d had him all morning and got far less out of him. After I got home again I felt awful and after that I told them that I would not be doing writing with him at lunchtimes.

At one point I had a circular conversation from the teacher that went along the lines of, he doesn’t need help with his writing because he’s in the top group, but he doesn’t do any writing unless he’s helped, however when he’s helped his writing standard is very good, so therefore he doesn’t need any help.

At some point during year 3 I remembered the Ed Psych report, dug out my copy, photocopied it and gave it to the new SENCO, I don’t think she’d seen it. Anyway, he managed to train his year 3 teacher up a little and she used to agree with him how much writing he was going to do and write in the margins, one table point if you get to here, one house point if you get to here etc. It was also noted that he finds the more factual pieces of work easier and the more free form creative stuff harder.

We toyed with the idea of using speech recognition software to let him dictate, but it would mean taking our tablet to school (which I’m fine with, it’s just complicated) and I worked out it only works when connected to the wifi (which I’m guessing could be an issue at school, as if he had an internet enabled tablet he’d be quite easily distracted) and when we tried it at home he got frustrated that it didn’t understand him properly and also distracted by the software, so that one kind of fizzled out. They also had him dictate to a teaching assistant some of the time.

At the start of year 4 (age 9) he had a young teacher who liked him and seemed to think he was doing fine, would sit to do his writing, would do an ok amount, was now writing his own titles and objectives. Over the summer I’d bought I Hate To Write, but it seemed more appropriate for teachers than parents, so I lent it to her. I have no idea if she looked at it or used it, I never got it back when she left the school either. (I also bought this book, but it seems to be for secondary kids, so it’s sitting on my shelf a while) Then we had the nose dive over Christmas, followed by moving classrooms due to a rebuild and the teacher leaving at Easter and I have no idea what her thoughts were on his writing.

Oh and it was early on in year 4 that he came home with some homework that he really struggled with. It was clearly meant to be fun and engaging and there were several options of things to write about to choose from. That was our first problem (he struggles with choices). I sat there trying to talk through the options with them. Many of them were dismissed (for instance, one about magic, because it’s “not real”). Eventually he conceded he would consider one option if it was altered. But that was a problem (for him) because then he wasn’t doing the homework that had been set. I told him that his teacher would surely prefer some writing to none, and I manage to get him to talk through a plan which I sketched down in as similar manner to the one they used at school as I could. So far, half an hour of intense one on one parent input had produced nothing written by him whatsoever. So I tried to get him to write down a first sentence. I managed, but we fell into good old method c again and he was in tears by the end (and I was nearly too). 45 minutes and a lot of stress for 1 sentence of a piece of homework that was supposed to take 10 minutes. The teacher agreed with me that wasn’t the idea when we explained and we eased off on the homework after that (which was only once a week anyway).

Now we have the second of the temporary teachers since the original year 4 teacher left at Easter. This one already knew him and I have a lot of respect for her. She is no nonsense, fairly strict, but fair, understands what he has difficulties with, doesn’t make him stressed, but does have high expectations of him. We had a review meeting last week, her me and the SENCO, and it was clear that she doesn’t think his writing is up to scratch, he hasn’t completed enough of any of his assessed pieces of work for them to be assess-able. She puts him at Secure Level Three (whatever that means) in maths, reading and science, but still Developing Level Two in literacy, because of his writing (reading wise he’s fine). She talked about him avoiding writing, coming up with excuses, talking to the group she’s helping instead of doing his own work.

So now I’m not sure what to believe. Well, I kind of am, I know that his writing lags behind the other areas of the curriculum, it has done for the 4 years he’s been expected to write much more than his name at school. That is clear. It’s also clear that there is a problem there. There seems to be some sort of block in his brain between the ideas and the page. He can think things, he can talk about them, but writing them down is clearly very hard and stressful for him. Part of the problem is motivation, he just simply doesn’t see the point of writing something down to prove that he knows it, he knows he knows it. Part of the problem is not knowing where to start, so he avoids getting started, so he’s not started, etc. Another part seems to be that he sets the standard so very high. I’m pretty sure half the time at school the teacher doesn’t care what kind of boring “the cat sat on the hat” type sentence they write, they just want them to write something that meets today’s learning objective, be it correct use of speech marks or subjunctive clauses or whatever. But he simply cannot write just any old thing, if he’s going to write something down then it has to be a perfectly formed, interesting sentence, of a standard a booker award winning novelist might write. Which of course ups the pressure and makes the whole thing more complicated, which makes it harder to start. And then there’s the contrary (oppositional defiance was mentioned last week) part of him that simply will not use an idea suggested to him by someone else. Making it very hard to help him, as when you try and narrow things down you’re actually crossing things off the potentials list.

But what about the discrpancy between the teacher at the beginning of the year who was happy with his writing and the teacher now, who isn’t. Have his standards dropped? Does he write less for this teacher? Or are their expectations different? If so, who do I believe?

I must admit I’m quite worried at the moment about how his writing is going to impact on him at secondary school, where there is a lot of writing expected across the curriculum.  Currently, I cannot envisage him getting a grade C at GCSE English, which is needed for pretty much anything. I’m pretty sure he’d be alright in maths and probably science, but I’m less convinced I can see him managing essay questions for history or geography say.

I’m frustrated at the way our school system is set up, where you’re either “bright” or “struggling” (my words, not theirs), and the help is focused at getting the struggling kids up to scratch. The system just doesn’t seem to cope with a bright kid who needs help in one area.

I’m also unclear what their current strategy is to help him. Or what it should be. Because I’m not an education specialist. I also don’t know what I can do to help that might actually work and not just make the two of us both more stressed.

Anyway, that doesn’t stop me thinking. I might not be an expert in education but I am a world expert in him. I’ve had a couple of small ideas, and that was what this post was going to be about, but I seem to need to thresh out the extent of the problem tonight, so I shall write more about my ideas soon.


Trigger warning

I didn’t tell all of the story yesterday. I scared myself. I was doing something, trying not to think about The Stuff I Haven’t Done for 5 mins, and I realised I talking to myself under my breath, a bit like you might catch yourself humming or singing a song. Except I was muttering “I’m going to kill myself” on repeat.


That is not my thought, I’m not thinking that, I don’t want to do that, why am I saying it?   It must be some part of my brain that isn’t me saying that because I do not want to do that, not even close.  Except there is no part of my brain that isn’t me.

I’m struggling to explain what it felt like, because describing it makes me seem, well, mad, like a person in a story with voices in their head kind of mad (which is surely an ignorant/rude/insulting way of describing it but I’m struggling with the words for this so please understand I don’t mean it to be).  But the reality was far from what my media conditioned brain thinks of as “mad”. It was the opposite. It was mundane, uneventful. I was concentrating on a task and it just happened. And I only just noticed.

Which is why I kind of need to make myself go the GP. I’m guessing this counts as a change in symptoms. I don’t want to overplay it, I’m not planning on doing anything. But, still. If there is a small part of my brain that is thinking these things without me realising it, then, yes, I need help.