Wednesday, 21 March 2012


Resilience. Not a word I use very much to be honest. And one that was oh-so-painfully overused at H's previous school by the Headteacher who had co-authored a book on "Building Learning Power". Don't get me wrong, there are some inspirational ideas and a lot of good practice in that book, but the nomenclature grated For example focussing on "Brave Spellers" was a useful means of encouraging emergent independent writing but even the children felt it was slightly overdone at times.  But I digress.

Today I am a Resilient Learner however. Today I binned Hope and Trust in a positive move, but somehow "Goodbye Hope and Trust" didn't strike me as a particularly positive to a Blog post.

Today I viewed the second of two specialist school possibilities for H. As any follower of this Blog will know, I have been round in circles fretting about his academic future, yearning to Home Educate but too afraid to "jump" and fearing I would be dragging an unwilling victim with me. For too long I have been seduced by promises of "support" and "alternatives" which are about as real and believable as my husband remembering to lock the garage or my eldest son turn his light out by 10pm. Well intentioned yes, but about as likely to happen as Christmas in July.

I was quite shocked at the school I saw today. The first seemed to confuse "school" and "education" with "Care" with a capital "C". It was not somewhere I felt I could leave my child at all, a place where his identity would count for little as their overarching agenda seemed to neglect the individual - bizarre in such a small school. Micro management is probably perfect for many profoundly challenged by Autism but many like my son have a desperate, primal need for a little flexibility on their own terms in an otherwise seemingly oppressive world. And removing all of the challenging and traumatic factors isn't really helpful either - because at some point learning needs to occur, and "Brave Socialisation" (to use the analogy!) needs to happen.

Today's offering was more excruciatingly depressing. A school lacking a clear ethos or raison d'ĂȘtre (I did ask, the Head didn't have an answer) in a terrible state of repair. Private provision in a small environment, some specialist support in a beautiful setting, but stuck in the 1950s with no evidence of investment in decades - yet charging identical fees to the top private schools in the County! Not a computer older than a BBC Micro or an interactive whiteboard in sight the school was incredibly dated, dilapidated and depressing. Ageing portacabins with peeling lino and ancient heating enclosed in cages across the walls.... and the dormitories made MY boarding school from years ago look plush and modern. None of that would have mattered so much if I felt the teaching and support was good - but I didn't. My son would have died a little bit at that school, there was no vibrancy, no life.

As I drove away I felt utterly liberated however, as I mentally binned the sack of hope I had been carrying these past years. Hope of something different, a false sense of security when facing an uncertain future. That sack had become much heavier in recent months, with encouragement from school and health to pursue alternative placements for H for secondary school. I placed my trust in their judgement, they know my son and they are familiar with these schools. But that's just it - they don't know my son, and that is exactly why trust went into the same roadside bin with that sack of hope.  From now on I am trusting no one but myself and our family with my son's future, and realism and pragmatism will guide me. The academic outcome for him at these "alternatives" would not be any better than being out of school, and our one target for his future - happiness - would slip further out of reach. Kids with ASD are emotionally needy and oh so young. They need families, need support, nurturing and understanding. There isn't a magic wand, there isn't an alternative - at least not for us. He will go to the local school, with those he knows, round the corner from home. He may well struggle, if he is unhappy he can learn at home or a combination of the two. I'm flexible - because I know my child better than anyone. He might not reach his "academic potential" but what is that in reality? This ten year old son of mine is programming Java using IntelliJ, teaching himself coding via YouTube and adapting the code (and cursing loudly) when the offered code fails to work. His current skills would earn him a practical IT GCSE, almost A level grade and I have no doubt whatsoever that he will be extremely successful in life. We will muddle on, learning from each other, taking the rough with the smooth.

You see, it isn't *just* about resources, it's about people. It's about what makes our children who they are, their individual quirks and needs. My son needs free Java flirtation time, space to keep the world out, time to bake and cook curry with his mum, knitting with his Granny and gardening with his Grandpa. He needs to watch Tracy Beaker on loop for four hours at a time on a challenging day, guard his Pokemon Card collection and sleep with his Polar Bear close at night, under the photo of his beloved hamster. How in the world can the hope of any academic qualification top those achievements and securities?

So tonight I am saying goodbye to hope and trust, in the context of the lure of an alternative future for my son, and embracing the future at the end of the path we are on. There is nothing better on offer and nothing I would rather strive more for. It is a road on which I too am learning and growing, and resilience and self confidence are two valuable assets I am gaining. Resilience in navigating my son's path through life rather than handing the task to anyone else and nurturing the determination we will both need to succeed. Both of us are learning together to cope with the stress and adversity life may bring, and coming out the other side (I hope) as better people.

"Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go." And one thing H does not lack is determination. I reckon he will be very successful, with us right behind him.


  1. This post is depressing and encouraging. Perhaps it is the journey that you needed to accept that *you* are what he needs, he is remarkably lucky to have you. But what about everyone else who isn't so lucky, and where is the support when you need it?

  2. Absolutely. I have always said that. I feel encouraged and even uplifted, not depressed, genuinely relieved of the imposed pressure to look for something else, and the constant "carrot chasing" seeking something better. It is liberating, I shed tears of relief writing this - but it is so, so true that the support is rarely there for those unable to fight their child's corner.

  3. Success is a matter of hanging on after others have let go...after your fingernails have come off...after it's got dark and everybody who was cheering has gone home...and most importantly IMO...long after what you thought you were fighting for has become and distant memory and you keep holding on with no idea of the rewards but you know if you let go the whole thing will come tumbling down so you keep going and going until suddenly you're over the top and running along again, heading for the next cliff face...

  4. It sounds like he will be in the best place and will thrive with people who care so much about him close by.

  5. He sounds like he has a very bright future ahead of him with you by his side.


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