By Rachel Tenacious
So, I am back for a update after last years “Pros and cons of Home Education”.
I can’t start without something about me this time.
Two days before AKO Autism EXPO last year and two weeks before my 50th birthday, I was diagnosed with ASD. I had been self identifying as autistic for several years but never felt comfortable to be able to say out loud “I am autistic”, so a formal diagnosis was huge for me. It has given me the right to be me and to be able to have reasonable expectations of myself, to forgive myself when I mess up and to feel good about myself when I don’t. When I told H and her Dad that I had been diagnosed they were totally unsurprised and clearly unphased by the news. I guess it has bought out into the open the reason why I understand H so well and why I parent in such an instinctive way……. I know!
There was a new diagnosis for H too, one which answers a question we have asked many times over the years. How does someone who has so much to say become totally and utterly unable to communicate in some environments? It’s called selective mutism and it has troubled H for many years. We had tried to explain it to professionals but until we found an independent Speech and Language therapist who recognised it and gave it a name, we had been ignored. We have started work on a program of tiny steps to enable H to overcome this, but years of school based trauma and of never being able to express what she wanted or how she felt has left some significant barriers that will take time and hard work to overcome.
Moving on through the year we have continued to build on the successes of last year, and as the year has developed we have reflected on what works, what doesn’t, what is important and what isn’t, what are our goals and how do we get there.
When I wrote Pros and cons we had just started the Statement to EHCP transfer process, a process that is meant to take twenty weeks. As I write this in the middle of January we are on week 55. This week I appeared on BBC Breakfast to share some of our story. Our year has been incredibly disrupted by this process and I have had to work extremely hard to stay positive and continue to motivate H. I have felt at times that the LA have stolen a large chunk of what should have been an amazing second year of home ed, but when I look back I know that we have achieved loads and had loads of fun in the process.
H wanted to spend lots of time Stand up paddle [SUP] boarding last summer, so I decided to join her and had my own board for my birthday. We had so many great sessions at both the canoe club and a local SUP club and opened up a new social opportunity for all of us. Outdoors has always been H’s best place for social contact and her confidence soared in an environment she loves.
We spent time away, we swam loads, in lakes or in the sea. H had another surfing lesson at Discovery surf in Devon, she chose to learn to surf her SUP board and stood up on the first go. Her teacher was amazing and H was relaxed and surfing within minutes.
Over the summer H had a huge developmental leap and we had a full blown teenager in the house again. Her body clock went haywire and she stopped taking her melatonin. She was moving towards being nocturnal for a while which I found really hard at first but we went with it and adjusted our day accordingly. [As the year went on H took control of her sleep pattern and now takes melatonin when she wants to].
September was a time of huge change as some of H’s home ed friends went to college to start their GCSE courses and we started a new timetable, gradually introducing a maths and piano tutor and shortly after a music theory and bass trombone teacher. H’s maths teacher is absolutely brilliant in fact I would go so far as to say gifted. His creativity and patience are paying great dividends and his absolute determination to raise H’s confidence has almost reduced me to tears at times.
We already knew H’s maths and piano tutor and her lessons are at his house so that home can remain a “safe place”. Finding a music theory and bass trombone teacher who teaches in a craft centre was a stroke of luck and means that we can still avoid a formal schooly environment. Its not perfect and the teacher is still learning to speak “H” but she wants to learn and that’s what counts.
This process of gradually reintroducing H to formal learning has to be such a kind, gentle one. It isn’t going to go right every time but I am like a dog with a bone and will not allow her to be harmed by the process ever again.
There are so many moments when I have been so proud of H this year, moments that would seem odd to some such as how well she coped when we broke down on the motorway on the hottest day of the year, how she helped me to set up our caravan when I had towed it to Wales and wasn’t well, how the founder of Autcraft told me she is an awesome person [as if I didn’t know] and a more standard proud parent moment, when she played a trumpet solo in a flippin cathedral!
I am proud every single day
Along with finding Autcraft, H has found her tribe. She has made friends from the UK, Europe, the US and Canada. To hear her laughing and shouting over her headset while playing hide and seek on Minecraft is just fantastic. She is learning Swedish, German and Icelandic and doing what teenagers do.