Words of Wisdom

Youth is wasted on the young.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

As My Ratings Plummet I Am Encouraged That Some People Love Me

I was somewhat freaked out by my recent Sitemeter statistics. In the past, my view ratings have remained fairly constant despite my flagging post numbers. Today however I noticed an unprecedented 30% drop in page views, a staggering body blow to the authorial ego. Upon checking my last post I noted that it has been 24 days since my last effort so really, I've gotta say...fair do-s guys. I actually need to lift my game.

I blame Small Boy of course. I pretty much blame him for everything nowadays. He has been back at his mum's for 5 weeks and I have noted a measurable drop in blood pressure and cursing. From me that is. Himself continues unabated.

I suppose I shouldn't be facetious. Life has been testing of late and that, I suppose, is the main reason I haven't been writing. Or taking pictures.

I did take this one the other day as I sat waiting for Al to turn up (or not) for his tutoring session.

I had warned him that he would need to go back to basics and we certainly have. I have challenged him, and his male African pride, in a biiiiiig way but I've got to say he has generally hung in there. I keep reminding him that if he did the on-line homework I set him he might progress faster; but he is a 21 year old, good looking, socially and financially pre-occupied young man and if that wasn't enough he has recently enrolled in uni! Half the time I think he would be just as happy to sit and chat as do any maths (now there's a surprise).  In the last few weeks he has cancelled once and let me down once. I sensed that he was becoming despondent as we ploughed over the same ground plus I knew he was going to be pretty fully occupied by his Uni course (he tells me it is a 'Creative Writing' course but after hearing his subjects yesterday I would say its probably some sort of Social Communications degree).

Stressed to the max by endless meetings and the in-school challenge of getting an autistic child to do anything resembling learning at all (see below*), I texted him yesterday to ask whether we were meeting. Previously I have made myself unconditionally available in an effort to reassure him that he could depend on me. This time, after a few hours of no response I suggested we could give it a miss. Just when I thought I was off the hook I got a text:
"Is everything okay?"
Of course I sucked it up and went in to meet with him.

Later when we discussed it he expressed concern for me but said " Mrs A, if you had just left it at the first text I would have been happy to have another night off. But because you sent me the second text I thought maybe you really wanted to come after all? My friend said I should just check you were ok and so I did."

My exceptionally tired brain didn't really deal with all this at the time but afterwards I thought about it and was stunned by his lack of comprehension of social cues. My first text had been clear: 'Are we meeting tonight. Don't mind if you need a break. Just let me know.'
His response to that was to think, 'oh, we aren't meeting tonight'...but no text to confirm. When I sent the second text 'I haven't heard from you but life is super crazy at the moment so if I don't hear anything from you I'll give it a miss tonight', he interpreted this as me wanting to come, rather than me trying to get off the hook!

This interests me because of the recently identified overlap between early neglect and abuse and autism. The autistic person, so much as they are able to reason, will surmise that since you said "are we meeting tonight?" and their answer was no, that you would automatically know this. Hence there is no need to text and confirm.  Now Al is definitely not autistic; a more forthcoming and people oriented person you could not find, but his early years spent in a refugee camp and his childhood of neglect and horror has definitely left a scar. In this misunderstanding he clearly exhibited some of the key signs of the disability incurred by his early childhood trauma. What concerns me is that if he makes these kind of mistakes with employers, he will have no idea why he has been sacked.

Anyway, the session was worth the effort because I think he saw some progress in himself last night. We are working at such a low level: two times tables; the relationship between fractions, decimals and percentage; word problems. Many times it is the words that trip him up. Last night he tackled some basic word problems around multiplication and division relatively confidently.
Of course when I threw in an addition and subtraction problem he was lost again but that is neither here nor there :-D  There was a brief lightbulb moment when he saw that 50/200 is the same as 25/100  and another when he was able to relate hundredths to tenths. It was one of those 'quick jump' nights when the last few have been plateaus.

At school I have had some moderate successes with an Asperger's student*; I'm going to call him Raymond. Raymond is a classic sensory seeker. He sniffs things, loves the sensation of a weighted cushion on his knees, leans into you for a cuddle and loves to have his back rubbed. If we don't do these things he lies on the floor and rolls around getting the sensation from there. He hates playdoh unless he is wearing gloves and is mortally afraid of making a mistake. Recently we have included him in a spelling group which has been an amazing blessing. Another group may have been incredibly disrupted but this little trio is phenomenally tolerant and have enabled him to feel somewhat normal by joining in with their activities. Yay!! (subdued celebration...just in case)

Finally, I sent an email out to staff a few nights ago, reminding them of a number of children in their classes with learning difficulties. I invited them to contact me if they had any problems or questions but to my surprise I got this:

1) Hi Arizaphale,
I just want to let you know that I think you are a truly remarkable woman. These emails that you regularly send out, your diligence and persistence in seeing needs met and gaps closed, and your gentle encouragement prompting teachers to keep on top of these issues, are all incredibly valuable and rare qualities that are so desperately needed.
I don’t ever want you to feel like you are not listened to, or that your work is in vain. As a mum of a child with Aspergers, and having had to witness his growing frustration and sadness in a school where he is not listened to, understood, or recognized, I felt it was important to tell you that what you are doing here is SO important. We are lucky to have you.
2) Love your work Arizaphale.   It is even helpful for Admin to have some idea – it just helps.
They are all very lucky to have you on their “team” A.
Xooxoxoxoxoxo   Bless the work of your hands abundantly! 
3) Thanks for all the care and  work you put into our kids Arizaphale.

We can’t always see what we reap but I think our kids lives reflect the love and consideration the Rainbow Rooms puts into these kids.
I was not expecting such a generous outpouring of thankfulness! It just served to remind me that the quiet beavering we do is actually bearing fruit. Tomorrow I have two important meetings, a transition meeting with another young African man in Year 12 and a Personal Learning Plan meeting with one of our indigenous pupils. Both are new ideas which I have not tackled previously so I am praying that I have the sensitivity and expertise to ensure that they are worthwhile and productive meetings.
Meanwhile in a frenzy bordering on ecstasy I have booked my tickets for my trip to the UK this Christmas. I cannot tell you how excited I am!!!!

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Tattoo You

I have just spent a ridiculously large amount of time trying to identify times in my blog life where I talked about tattoos.


So for those of you who are new to the conversation, my generic approach is TATTOOS ARE BAD...YOU CANNOT TAKE THEM OFF!!!!!!!


Back when Himself and I went to the Lake Boga Sailing Regatta, I had a conversation with a young person which gave me pause.

Me: People just don't realise that the things they tattoo on themselves now, won't be appropriate or relevant as time goes by.
Her: But sometimes they tattoo significant hings like birthdates and things aboutnpeople who die...they are always relevant
Me: yes, I suppose so, but...it's something done in the heat of the moment. They don't know that they'll still want that emblazoned across them in years to come.
Her: hmm.. I guess... but if its something you really really feel strongly about..

I was about to scoff furiously at the idea of something which one felt strongly about now, as opposed to 30 years time, when a lightning bolt hit me in the head..........

There was actually something which I had carried with me for 40 years, which I still felt the same way about (if not more so) and which may actually be worthy of a tattoo.

And so I posted on my facebook status: 'if I reach the age of 90 I will get a tattoo of the Rolling Stones tongue logo over my heart', which prompted my sister to suggest that it may look somewhat obscene!

The really weird thing is that I'm still thinking of it. It may be the one thing I have been continually passionate about for over 30 years

My key objection to tattoos is that the sweet babies that get them have no idea what they really think about life, the universe, and everything and therefore have no business tattooing their current thoughts/whim/obsessions onto their person. Whenever I see a sports person with a sleeve tattoo I wonder what it will look like in 40 years and I wonder whether they will have sought laser removal techniques by then.

I also hope that I've followed my gut and bought shares in laser removal companies.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Hamburger and Fries!

 The all singing, all dancing, fast food musical opened on Wednesday night!

At the risk of getting myself into all sorts of trouble with posting pictures of students, here is a brief snapshot of the opening night of the musical.

I have since put a logo on the front of the french fries box which is a whole other story as I managed to seal up the inside of the costume by not using an ironing board and therefore melting the two lining sheets of plastic together so that the poor girl couldn't get into her costume until I cut it apart. As a result the inside of the thing is shredded but hey! It only has to last for one more performance :-)

The last photo I love because these two were so professional. The young man is one of the most lovely, solid young fellows I've ever had the pleasure to deal with, and that's not just because I know his mum! He has a girlfriend (who found this whole kissing scene very difficult) but when asked by the director to go in for the kiss, there was minimum fuss and the two of them did it in a very businesslike, though believable in the context of the story, manner! I was impressed.

The Burger costume has caused me some grief as we cannot stop it from dragging at the front and falling forwards through the song. At the end of the day I supposed it doesn't really matter but I would have liked to solve the problem. Last night we spent an hour sewing loops onto the back of the front bun, so the ties from behind could go through the front loops as well. It made absolutely zero difference. Oh well. Any ideas would be gratefully appreciated. The problem is that the front bun is so much heavier than the back one.

I have also yet to find an adhesive which works effectively on the fuzzy material, to secure the sesame seeds. I am constantly picking up a trail of them from the stage and surrounds after the show. I suppose I should have sewn them on.....

So after tonight, I can pack up the sweatshop again and say farewell to the theatre for another two years. I really should try and get involved in some amateur theatrics around town myself sometime. My own family does not count. That is more like soap opera.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Looking For The Laughing Place

I know I have been threatening to tell you about the 'big falling out' with Small Boy but there is so much to say on that subject and I choke on the thought of much of it. So here's another thing:

Tonight the Baby Angel bussed back into Adelaide after 10 days with Soldier Boy's family in the country town of Tocumwal. She was tired but happy and as we drove home she started to tell me all about it.
"Mum, they are such a great family. They're like the Brady Bunch. They never fight or anything!"
Suddenly she fell silent and I glanced over at her to see eyes choked with huge, fat tears.
"Don't worry mum," her voice wavered,"It's just end of holiday blues."
But I knew that wasn't really it.
They are the Brady Bunch and we are the Munsters. Actually, the Munsters are probably better adjusted than our family. It's like a knife through my heart.

Part of me feels a terrible guilt for not being able to provide her with a 'normal' family situation. It was never my intention to be a single mother for 10 years or to only have an only child, or to be a step mother to three deeply troubled young men. The other part of me shares her grief. I too miss the easy familiarity of close family and the shared life of close friends. We have never quite nailed that here.

The most ironic and gut wrenching aspect of this is that Small Boy's mother has the social life I crave. She has a group of close friends who all congregate at her house on a Friday night where all kinds of hilarity and 'goodtimes' ensue. I know this because Himself goes there. After the 'big falling out', Small Boy did not come to stay with us for a long time and as a result Himself was forced to make the effort to go over to SBM's place to connect with SB on a weekly basis.

Initially I was delighted that Himself was making the effort and, presumably, connecting with Small Boy in a possibly more meaningful way than he did here at our place. After all, he couldn't simply sit at a computer and work.....Initially it was quite nice having an evening to myself as well, I mean, I am quite capable of entertaining myself. But then the BA started to drive. And took my car to work on a Friday night. And suddenly the evil beast 'Resentment' reared its head.

After all, Himself is a self confessed hermit who operates happily in a bubble as long as he knows his 'other half' is somewhere around. He doesn't necessarily need to interact with said 'other half'. So how is it fair that Bubble Man is going regularly on a Friday night to enjoy the company of others whilst Social Girl is sitting at home watching DVDs, drinking copious quantities of 'soothe yourself' vintage and wondering where the f*** she went wrong with this picture!!!!!!

So, when the BA breaks down and expresses a longing for an integrated family and friends group (something like the mother of Small Boy has) my heart breaks too.

And deep down  know I have the capacity to develop these networks and establish this social network.

I need to do it. For the BA and I.

The rest of them can muddle on regardless.