Posted in school

Self doubt

I had a moment last Wednesday night… and when I say a moment I mean that I didn’t sleep through worry (or maybe it’s this cold 🤧)

I worry alot so this may not seem unusual but this was different, this wasn’t necessarily my usual kind of worry. This was more self doubt. I had fought to get William the right education for what feels like eternity, we got the school we chose but I started to panic that I was wrong. What If it wasn’t the right decision. What If I had fought so hard for the wrong thing.

This hadn’t come our of no where, it was because Williams dad and I were taking to his new school the following day and I had become immersed in this overwhelming fear that I was wrong. I can only compare it to one other feeling I had had previously and that was when I was pregnant, I was terrified that when I went for my first scan, there would be nothing there. It was that same kind of feeling! I spoke to other people about the scan feeling and I’m most definitely not the only one and I imagine my doubt about the school wasn’t just something I experienced but last Wednesday night I felt alone in my fear.

The Thursday morning was just as bad, whether is was the cold, my bad shoulder, the lack of sleep or the worry… maybe even a combination of all three but I didn’t stay still, I couldn’t eat or focus on anything other than watching the clock waiting for the time I needed to meet William and his dad. Let’s just put it this way… the saying is right. A watched clock does go slower. ⏰️

I had spoken to Williams teachers via email a few times over the last few weeks but it’s not the same as meeting face to face. The moment we arrived at the school, they put me at ease. They didn’t just fall in to SEN teaching, they are there because they are passionate about it, because its not just a job to them but a vocation. They know every child from noises they makr in the other room, from tiny footsteps or a stray sock on the floor. Other parents had given me glowing reports about the teachers too which all made sense once i met them. William immediately connected with them and just left us to go and spend time with his new classmates. I knew as soon as he did that, that all the worry was for nothing. It was 100% the right decision for William and I was right to fight so hard for it.

The school itself is perfection. Everything is laid out perfectly, there is structure to everything and more visuals than you can possibly imagine. It’s so accommodating for children like William. I would love to say I held it together but we all know that would be a lie. I sobbed at how perfect it was for Williams education, the fact that he will travel through the school and be safe and in the right environment until he turns 19 just gave me this overwhelming sense of relief and in a big headed way a sense of accomplishment. I did that. I fought and I acheived it. All the worry was gone and I felt proud of myself.

27 days. That’s all he has left until he joins his classmates and I can not wait. I’m so excited for him to be in an environment that will be so beneficial to his development.

Uniform all ready 🥰

It’s been a long time coming but it will be here in the blink of an eye and as confident as I feel about it, I know that come that date in April I will be an absolute mess.

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Posted in Appointments

Precautionary

Poorly kids are the worst! 😭 Actually, I take that back… a 7 and a half hour wait in our local children’s A&E is the worst.

William hasn’t been feeling well since the end of February when he got his first (of many) cases for tonsillitis. Antibiotics didn’t clear it after the first dose finished so 5 days later we were back at doctors for a second dose. 3 days after the second dose ended he was still poorly so on Monday his dad and I took him back to the doctors (I feel like we’ve seen them that much recently that they’re going to invite us round for dinner at Christmas 😳) the doctor said he was fine but tonsils still a bit sore but no longer infected, the give him pain relief and he would be fine.

Fast forward to Friday and I have to take him to chemist as he has conjunctivitis because let’s be honest, it never rains, its pours 🌧 Drops received and starting to be administered, let bare in mind that my shoulder has gone again so I’m fine this one handed… its not easy even with two hands. Friday evening William was lethargic, hot to touch and clingy and he had barely eaten or drank all day…Not to mention the waterfall of slimy vomit that came out of his mouth and all over me. Honestly it’s like my kid aims for me when he’s sick 😫

Like any parent I was worried and ring my own mom for advice and then rang 111 who told me to take him into A&E as soon as possible as a precaution. Luckily I have some amazing friends who are used to being on standby when it comes to getting William places in a hurry.

We arrived at A&E at 8.15pm. It was busy, super busy. Kids were screaming, adults were moaning really loudly about how long they had been waiting etc. One parent told me it was going to be a 5 hours wait… she was wrong 😭

I want to talk about the waiting room, firstly the chairs are not built for 7 and a half hour waits with a gimpy arm. But that’s not my gripe… my issue is how unfriendly the waiting room is for a child like William. The lights are super bright and loud, some of them were flickering.the waiting room is busy with colour. Lots of different colours and sparkly fish hanging from the ceiling and the air con is loud. For an autistic child with sensory processing disorder that is a lot to take in for a lengthy period of time. It’s a difficult wait for most children but I’m sure other towns have sensory rooms for children like William. I’m almost sure the eye hospital next door has one or were at least trying to raise funds for one. It was also a nightmare that only one person could accompany each child, I understand that there is a limit on space but William needs to be restrained to be examined and unfortunately its not ideal with two arms let alone one.

Anyway that’s my moan over… the nurses who triaged us were brilliant. So patient with William and understanding. The doctor we saw was also amazing. Thankfully William just has a viral infection which will pass with calpol and time and even though the wait was long and painful I’m glad we went. I’m glad I made the 111 call and followed their advice because really you just never know with any child what is wrong but when they can’t tell you, it’s so much worse.

Hopefully he will be better soon and can enjoy his last 2 days of nursery next week. 🤞

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Posted in Brief updates, Emotions

Calling all lazy parents

I would like to take a moment to state that I do not always want to play with my child. I sometimes can not go through the same set of flashcards for the 500th time I’m a day.

We all have moments in which we check our watch and realise bed time is a long way off. This doesn’t make us bad parents, it makes us tired parents. It makes us human.

Becoming a mom or dad doesn’t make us super human. It doesn’t change the fact that we crave time that’s ours and ours alone. That soak in the bath which involves candles, a book and enough time to shave both legs 🦵 time which doesn’t involve accidentally sitting on a rubber duck.

We want to watch TV or a movie that doesn’t involve animation or singing. I would like to have a power ballad stuck in my head instead of nursery rhymes.

There is no shame in needing a little time out. We can not always be on it 100% of the time and its important to try and take that time when we can, so we don’t burn out.

I remember thinking that my kid would have limited screen time… that didn’t happen. It is I who ended up with limited screen time 🤣 I can’t remember when I last watched Corrie when it actually aired instead of days later. I gave up completely on the other soaps as there just aren’t enough free hours in a day.

I work part time and absolutely adore my job. It gives me something to focus on that isn’t being Williams mom and I need that but I admire those full time workers and full time parents. I choose to work and if someone chooses not to then that is their business. There is a lit of stigma around parents that work and parents that don’t. There seems to be no happy medium. There is a archaic kind of judgement that working parents should be home raising and looking after their kids but then a judgement against those that choose to stay at home about how they should be working. I feel like non of us can win!

So this post is dedicated to the parents who aren’t ashamed to say that some days they only give 99%. The ones who don’t want to listen to the same song for the millionth time. Who pretend peppa pig goes to bed at 5pm. The ones who pretend toys are broken but have secretly take the batteries out 🔋 enjoy that 1% of time you need for yourself because you deserve it. You deserve to shave both legs, to wash all the conditioner out of your hair and to not have to hide in the kitchen when you want to eat a whole chocolate bar!

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Posted in Appointments, Brief updates

Wheelchair services

It’s been almost 2 years in the making but today, Williams new adaptive stroller finally arrived.

If I start from the beginning, we asked for a referral via our health visitor who put the request through our doctors. Who lost it after a year despite me chasing it repeatedly 🙄

A second referral was put through after weeks of chasing our doctor… apparently there is only 1 doctor for everyone in Hull or at least that’s how CHCP make me feel.

Let’s just point out that in this time he had fully outgrown a standard stroller and I had purchased a second hand adaptive Maclaren Major Elite stroller specifically designed for children from 6 months to approximately 8 years. It was expensive but worth it and William was comfortable and safe. It wasn’t going to last us forever but would do until we got sorted because let’s remember, covid fucked us in regard to appointments and referrals for the last 2 years.

The actual appointment with wheelchair service came much later, in fact it was October last year. Williams dad took him and he was assessed by a clinician, a clinician who decided that a Maclaren chair wasn’t suitable and he wouldn’t issue one for us but would look at a PWB which is a personal wheelchair budget and we could potentially gets a different stroller as long as its deemed suitable. Brilliant!

Fast forward 2 weeks and there is a fucking wheelchair sat in my hallway!

The delivery guy came and I turned him away. This wasn’t right for my son. We had discussed the issues with a wheelchair like this, in ridiculous depth with the PWB worker but she sent the chair back and I was forced to accept it. It just took up space in my already crowded office.

They all agreed it wasn’t suitable for Williams need so why was it sent? Why would they not collect it claiming it would leave William without suitable provision. That whole scenario was just mind numbing. How could a self propelled wheelchair be suitable for William? There was exposed velcro which would cause him sensory problems. Plus many many more issues including hygiene and safety with William being able to access the wheels.

The woman who dealt with us said she was referring it back to a clinician to get us a Tendercare Snazzi stroller but then she left NRS and it was handed over to someone different. The gent who took over ignored all calls and emails and only came back to me after I went on social media and Trustpilot publicly shaming them for failing to assist my son. Then he was suddenly able to reply to my multitude of emails.

Suddenly a Maclaren was suitable but they couldn’t provide one due to stocking issues but they can offer me the Tendercare Snazzi. I immediately accepted it and queried when delivery would take place and collection of the chair. I felt the Snazzi was suitable for his needs and that’s all that mattered.

But wait…

The Snazzi is out of stock 🤔 but they can offer me an off brand Maclaren knockoff or a Tendercare Snappi. The PWB guy told me to take the knockoff as similar to what we asked for… you know the one they were telling me wasn’t suitable for my 4 year old but designed for much younger 🙄 Needless to say I declined this option and went for the Snappi.

And based on his face… I made the right decision.

It’s been a long wait and it’s been worth it in the end but there shouldn’t have been a such a wait at all. There are so many failings in the NHS in regard to referrals themselves and again with services such as NRS. I hope they take my trustpilot review on board and look into what went wrong so that no one else goes through the heartache of chasing a service or even just replies that aren’t coming.

Apologies for spelling and grammar etc but I’ve wrote this one on my mobile 🤣

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Posted in EHCP Process, Emotions

Underfunded or poor use of funds?

I want to start this post by saying that for the first time in a very long time, I am writing this on my mobile so be prepared for more spelling mistakes than normal. Part of my process is to sit at my laptop and write… I don’t know why. It makes my thoughts feel more official and organised and when I’m on my phone it feels like I’m just ranting to my friends via message but maybe that isn’t a bad thing so here goes nothing.

I spoke to another parent today who’s child seems neutologically very similar to William. This family are having to take the local authority to court to ensure their child’s needs are met and it made me think about how many other parents are going through this right now. Thankfully I didn’t have to go to court but we are still schoolless. How many children of school age are without adequate education? How many children are stuck with inadequate education?

How can the local authority knowing do this? Spend funds that could help our children on fighting parents who just want the best or at least the bare minimum for their children? Or do we pay for that in our taxes? The money spent on fighting parents could get more children into the right schools, the right level of 1 to 1 support. I am a firm believer that the SEND departments are massively under funded and when my solicitor asked if I wanted to persue compensation, I firmly said no. Why would I want to take money from an already underfunded department? But what are they doing with the funds they have? Are they using it in the best way possible? I don’t think so! 💸

I’m worried about whats to come for us as it gets closer and closer to William’s loose start date of April/May. What If they name a school that isn’t suitable for William? I won’t send William to just any school. I have to be sure  it will meet his needs, I have one in mind but would happily accept a suitable substitute but what if they don’t offer one. William will be schoolless and too old to continue to attend nursery and thats a real fear I have. I could attempt to home school him and although I would give it a bloody good go, I don’t have the resources available to me nor any idea where to start. We try educational play with alphabet and numerical flashcards and use many sensory items but it’s not the same as school and I’m not cut out to be a teacher and these are pivotal years of his education. I chase our caseworker every month after the monthly allocation meeting to be met with the same replies. ‘No update yet, we will be in touch when there is’ I’m worried about the transition time and if there will even be any. 🤷🏼‍♀️ Both myself and Williams dad may need to take time off work but we can’t prepare until the local authority let us know more details and as someone who needs a list to organise her lists, the lack of being able to prepare weighs heavy on me and my mental health. Some days the panic takes over and all I can focus on is what I don’t know like how much school uniform is going to cost me, will William be able to scope wearing it? How will he get to school? No one will discuss transport with me until he has a named school but what time would it come? Will Williams dad need to be here whilst I work to hand him over? Do I need to provide a car sear? What if it doesn’t arrive? Will he be on a bus or with a PA? I should be happy because I’m in a much better situation than other parents but I’m not. I won’t be until William is settled in a school that can meet his needs

I re-read my post from February last year, school allocations. It broke my heart all over again… almost as if I was sat in the bath receiving that phone call from Elaine to tell me William wasn’t even on the list of allocations all over again. This was the day I genuinely didn’t think I could keep fighting. Couldn’t keep getting knocked down. The 15th February 2021 and I just wanted to stay down. I shouted and cried and broke things! Why wasn’t my kid important? Why didn’t we matter? It took me a while but I got up and I fought, with alot of help and advice 🥰 and we actually got somewhere. Not where we we want to be but almost there.

I almost let them bully me into sending William to a school I knew couldn’t meet his needs. I even met head teachers who were non committal about whether they could or couldb’t support him. They expected me to name them on his EHCP without a commitment and thankfully I just couldn’t do it. The local authority expected me to and pushed me to, making me believe it was the only option for us. That’s not right, that’s not ethical and it was most definitely not what was right for William but it was what the local authority deemed right for them. They should have been putting William first from the moment he was on their radar but they didn’t.

I received a SAR in regard to Williams education and when I looked through it, it broke my heart. Not once did it refer to Williams best interests and meeting his needs, only after the point I gained legal representation did they seem to change their agenda and that’s wrong! Some parents can’t afford legal help or aren’t entitled to legal aid, it shouldn’t come down to money in order to get our children the educational they deserve! The education they need and are entitled to!

I recently read the ofsted report on the Hull services from December 2019 and its a damning read. Here are a few highlights or more accurately lowlights…

There was too little involvement of families in decision making about the services and support they need and insufficient awareness of the resources and support available to them in the local area.

There was poor self-evaluation of service quality and insufficiently focused improvement planning to facilitate better provision and outcomes for children and young people with SEND.

There was a lack of an effective strategy for jointly commissioning services across education, health and social care.

Here’s the full report if you wish to read it.

As always I will keep you all updated with our journey to education but if any of you have your own stories you wish to share please reach out either via our social media pages or our reach out page.

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Posted in Brief updates

New Year, same hopes and dreams

Its now 2022, how crazy is that?
It doesn’t feel like over 22 years ago when we were all relieved the millennium bug didn’t exist, you know that massive system issue that would affect computers and, in some cases, all electronic devices ⚡ How ridiculous is it that we thought that was possible 🤣

This is going to a big year for William, by the Easter term he should have a place in a specialised school. I’m under no illusion that’s its going to be easy… for example I contacted our case worker Richard on the 1st of December for some form of clarification on dates and have yet to receive a reply. When I email the main address, it usually takes two or three emails for anyone to bother replying and its usually a ‘no update’ generic response and that they will contact me, but I like to chase each month as its better to be an irritation and remembered than be forgotten. Those who speak the loudest are usually remembered. 📣

We were lucky enough to qualify for legal aid and have a solicitor on standby due to this after the failings in the local authority already. This isn’t because I want to sue although they did ask if I wanted to push for compensation… but why take money from an already underfunded department, in my opinion that would just be adding to the problem. They are on standby in case the promise of a specialised school by the term after his birthday is broken. They made this promise verbally and on his EHCP which is a legally binding document.

This is probably the biggest battle war we will face because once he has a place then he is in the right form of education until he reaches young adulthood… then we fight the next war.
Everything else, although it’s a battle isn’t as huge as schooling. (Although wheelchair services are currently the thorn in my side right now, but I’ll sort that out as and when)

This is going to be our year; I can feel it. It may not be easy, but it will definitely be the year in which things start falling into place for us and this Momma Bear will be able to have a rest from fighting. 🐻

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Posted in Appointments, Autism Assessment

Triage

Its not a word you would usually come across in day to day life.
When I think of it I used to be reminded of the scene in Pearl Harbour in which the nurses have to mark the wounded men with lipstick.

For us triage is part one of a much bigger process, a process that has consumed our lives and will continue to do so until William receives a diagnosis.
William’s triage appointment was today… As you can understand due to the current pandemic this appointment is not face to face but instead was done over the phone.

I’m not going to lie to you and tell you I slept well (or even at all) last night waiting for this call, the crazy irrational thoughts kept me awake…
‘what if they decide he doesn’t need to be on the waiting list and we have to start afresh in a different sector’
‘what if they say he is the way he is because we are shit parents’

What if I don’t say the right things?’

I know it’s irrational and crazy and so does Dave or at least that’s what he told me at daft o’clock this morning when I was still awake trying to ask Dr Google what they will be asking us.
Not that it helped any way as we couldn’t find a list of questions anywhere ❓❓❓Not very helpful for ridiculously anxious people like me who like to be prepared for everything.
This notebook (which I just had to find and get ready at for 4am to be prepared for a 10am call) has been with me to every appointment. The writing is messy and blurred from tears. Anybody but me would find it indecipherable but I take great comfort in knowing I have it and can refer to it when needed. It is like a comfort blanket and knowing I look over it to see what meetings we have had, what questions we have asked and what answers we have and have not received makes me feel like I am a better parent than I am.

The call came in literally as the clock ticked over to 10am, I was mid wee 😳 Appointments are never on time so I was sure this one would be the same. The woman was called Emma Gibson and she gave off good vibes if that makes sense. Pleasant to speak to, not too clinical and had a friendly tone to her voice.

So I made notes (shocking) in my little book about each question asked so that anyone reading this waiting for their triage appointment can have a rough guideline to take the anxiety off a little. Each lead to other questions so this will not be a comprehensive list.

  • When did you first notice something was wrong?
    Holy shit she went straight in there with the bullet to the head! 😔🔫
    As many of you will know already it took a long time for us to openly admit something was wrong with our child and it wasn’t until William was after 2 that we started writing about him publicly on Facebook to share our journey. It wasn’t that we were ashamed, we were frightened, not only thing things William would struggle with but of the stigma that comes with having a learning disability.
  • Who is in your household?
  • Is Dave Williams dad?
    I had to kick Dave to make sure he didn’t pull his usual not funny trick of saying ‘as far as I’m aware’ or ‘Yes or the milkman’s’ Honestly these jokes are almost as old as the one were he says he’s shagging my sister 🙄
  • Do you both work? Who’s the main breadwinner? What does he do for a living?
    Insert idle chit chat here about how the current pandemic is effecting him at work.
  • Has there been any history of trauma or domestic violence that may have impacted William?
    I had just kick Dave but that doesn’t count… No of course not 😇
  • Is there a history of autism in our family?
  • Is there a history of mental health issues?
    I explained about my lengthy battle with postnatal depression and anxiety and the medication I had been on and for how long. I’m not ashamed of it, in fact i’m proud. Although it took me a long time to seek help, I eventually did and came out the other side. Some people don’t.
  • What other agencies are involved with William?
    We then discussed things his paediatrician had put forward; blood testing and genetics testing and our next appointment.
    We discussed Lisa who liaises with the nursery in regards to his education.
  • Are social services involved?
    Eh? No!
  • What was my pregnancy like?
    We discussed how high risk it was, the lengthy induction, having an assisted labour, gestational diabetes, being in hospital longer than expected.
  • Is William on any medication?
  • Did you bond with William?
    Yes. No. Maybe? He didn’t really bond with me? He’s indifferent.
  • What was he like in meeting his milestones?
    Insert big head joke here and not sitting up until 10 months.
  • What were his first words? 🤐
  • What does him playing look like?
  • Does he make eye contact? If he does can he maintain it or is it fleeting?
  • Does he respond to his own name?
  • Does he indicate his emotions or pain with facial expressions? Let me tell you something… Justin Bonomo and Erik Seidel are amateurs compared to William when it comes to having a good poker face. I’ve let me nerd slip out again there. Justin and Erik are two of the most famous poker players in the world.
  • How does he behave with other kids at nursery?
  • Are there any children outside of nursery that he engages with?
  • What kind of support does he receive at nursery?
  • Am I OK to contact the nursery?
  • Does William recognise other peoples emotions?
  • What are Williams meltdowns like?
    Like a tornado ripping through my living room.
    Like stepping into the ring with Conor Mcgregor.
    Like trying to hold onto an oiled up contortionist.
  • What sensory issues does William suffer with?
  • What are the main indicators he is about to have a meltdown?
  • What are his eating habits like other than during meltdowns?
  • Does he show any signs of anxiety?
  • What is his sleep pattern like?
  • Are there any things he cant do in regards to his motor skills?
    Jump. Hop. Point. Wave. Clap.
  • What is he like with danger? or strangers?
    No sense of danger or recognition between familiar adults and strangers.
    That was it!
    Interrogation over.

She was happy that William had been referred to the right place and he will remain on the waiting list 🎉🎉🎉
Relief swept over me. Tears ran down my face.

What happens next?

A letter confirming this will be sent to all parties involved.
A team of specialised autism nurses will be on hand during our wait to answer any questions we may have.

The wait is currently between 2 and 2 and a half years. We will not be contacted until William is at the top of the list.
To put things into number which you know I enjoy, there are over 900 people in front of him in Hull alone. In order to them to bring their waiting time down they must assess a minimum of 8 people per week and I know a company called Healios have stepped in to alleviate some of the pressure but they can’t carry out all the assessments as they conduct theirs via video link and not all of those waiting would benefit from such an assessment.
The actual assessment is called ADOS (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule) and it is currently the standardised diagnostic tool for diagnosing ASD.
The ADOS process involves observations under controlled circumstances that other professionals are able to replicate.
Only trained professionals can administer the ADOS diagnostic screening, but it eliminates some of the differences of opinion otherwise possible when two different experts provide a diagnosis without following the same consensus in regards to what they should be looking for. Using the one set of clear guideline minimises the margin for misdiagnosis and errors.

When it is Williams turn for his assessment he will already be finishing his first term of his second year at school 📚 That is if they continue seeing people at their current rate.


November/December 2022 – What a brilliant Christmas gift that will be for us that year 🎄🎁