Something sweet for the weekend

My pal at “Life with Joey” drew my attention to an interesting “video.” If you have a mo, nip over to “Joey’s Mum” and read “her” words before you watch it.

Do not be alarmed that your computer has broken, the sound track has been disabled which I might just have noticed if I’d cleaned my bifocals first.

Don’t forget to add your name to the “list” and help spread the word. I have a terrible feeling that I’ll miss the opportunity to test USPS by sending it abroad. I need more foreigners. Know any foreigners? I wonder if it’s because I’m using the wrong word? Do foreigners know what a giveaway is? Foreigners! Foreigners! Calling all foreigners! It’s a freebie!

Cheers dears

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Alex Barton’s Lesson

All parents are teachers but many of us are mere amateurs.

I have long been an admirer of the teaching profession, their vocation and dedication, all of them. We entrust our children into their care, in loco parentis, secure in the knowledge that they will do their part in guiding them along the treacherous path to adulthood.

I was therefore a little alarmed to read that a young Kindergartener, “Alex Barton,” had been voted out of his class, a bit like one of those popular reality shows on the telly. This wasn't a case like “Lord of the Flies,” where the children had run amuck without adult supervision, but rather, his ousting was instigated by his teacher.

It made “me” wonder. It made lots of “people” wonder. It made his mum take “action.”

I wondered why a teacher might do such a thing? Five years old, seems a little young to be teaching Darwin's theory of “survival of the fittest,” but I'm obviously not up to date on the State curriculum.

How else might this have come about? Maybe this was merely a role playing exercise, helping the children learn “kinesthetically,” where we learn by doing. An early introduction to the power of the vote, elections and democracy?

Then there's public speaking or the debating aspect. There are any number of valuable lessons to be learned, to say nothing of voicing opinions and sharing.

Perhaps this was a carefully orchestrated plan, to teach inclusion by demonstrating exclusion, lesson one, with a follow up next week?

It could be that this was a litmus test to check the class' moral fibre, a bench mark and launch pad for a new campaign of social awareness.

Alternatively the teacher decided that her students were in need of a demonstration of the “bystander effect.” The bystander effect is when an incident occurs that requires action from the onlookers but few are able step up to the plate. Alex found that two of his classmates were able to act, but who would choose to test five year olds?

I expect it was something to do with the harsh lessons of reality, that life can be a “popularity contest.” When is the right time, developmentally and chronologically to learn that lesson?

I wonder what her plan was? I'm just curious. It seems a curious lesson plan to amateurs. I wonder if the rest of her profession concurs? I somehow doubt it. I suspect she is in the minority, singled out with a unique perspective. I wonder if she is a good sharer? I'd love to know her perspective? I'm sure we'd all like to understand.

My own behaviour as a parent would not hold up well under public scrutiny.

I'm sure there are some saintly types around who never lose their cool. Sadly, I'm not one of them. All to often, every day in fact, I'm pushed to the point of “exasperation.” I lack the patience and temperament for “teaching,” and more importantly, a vocation. My retaliation is usually in the form of sarcasm. Luckily no-one around here understands sarcasm. Unluckily my tone makes the underlying message unmistakable = Mum is mad. I make many mistakes and more than a few hideous blunders. I've learned to forgive myself the errors and vow to do a better job tomorrow, every day, but that's the nature of human frailty.

Fortunately, no-one's going to call me to account for my misdeeds.

I get away Scott free.

It's only all the “children” that will pay.

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Suffer little children

I snatch it away from her without ceremony, her latest prize from school. A neon yellow squishy ball. For some unaccountable reason, war has broken out between them for ownership, resulting in a mass outbreak of jelly legs. No-one appears capable of walking. [translation = positioning oneself in a vertical position to place one foot in front of the other in a regular sequencing pattern.] My children flap about the ground [translation = dirt] like so many landed salmon, but much noisier. I stuff it up my jumper, [translation = sweater / shirt] the squishy ball that is to say, so that I have both hands empty and available. I guide small people in the general direction of the car. I stand tall and attempting marching with my one new perfect breast in the centre of my chest, matched either side by my own pimples.

I hold two hands firmly as we attempt the sidewalk, but junior is distracted by the cars parked alongside, or more accurately their tyres and wheels, his latest 'interest.' I try to explain about how people do not like it if their cars are touched by strangers, but I have yet to hit the right note in my attempts.

Progress is slow. Many parents and children swirl around us, the obstruction. I notice the odd raised eye brow, but assume that everyone is jealous of my new and improved feminine physique.

I also notice that quite a few children say goodbye to him, not strangers, familiar enough little faces, but none that I can put a name to. Several children make friendly remarks to him, all of which he ignores. [translation = due to a shortage of “interpersonal skills,” amongst other things] Older brothers and sisters of these same children, also make comments. I hear a mother or two ask “is he your new friend?” or the equivalent thereof.

I dig in his back pack. The daily report is there. I read it whilst he talks to a pirelli, a tyre that is to say. My other son take a rest and lolls against me, with the weariness of a long distance runner. I am a lamp post. My daughter stands nearby, a hip thrust out with the petulant attitude of the near tween, as we move, imperceptibly, slowly, from one wheel to the next.

The cars are stacked up and the drivers face towards us. Each occupant knows that their car is next for scrutiny. “Look at him, he is dah dirty one,” he guffaws as the owner leans over and lifts her sun glasses for a better view.

From the note, I gather that junior attended the mainstream first grade class for seven minutes, where he aced the spelling test. More importantly, although his letters were not formed to his satisfaction, that even though his “robot writing” had the odd curve, he managed to contain his fury and limited himself to motor mouth self talking, much to the confusion of his temporary new class mates. He managed to remain on his chair.

I hunker down to sit on the curb, [translation = the gutter, with one foot on the storm drain,] whilst he examines a hub cap, a shiny one, where he examines his reflection and pulls faces of delight. I fold my arms over my breast, then unfold them, then refold them under it. The “tip of his index finger” bravely skims the surface of the hub cap.

The special ed teachers and mainstream teachers, have a close working relationship and years of experience. They colaberate to find a 'best fit.' I suspect that the mainstream children are given the equivalent of a pep talk. I believe, that in some senses, it is merely a nudge in the right direction. This is due in part to children’s natural affinity for one another's best interests. It is also because the school has an ethos of inclusion that permeates “all personnel” and pupils. It is reinforced with a rigorous 'anti bullying' policy, the like of which I have not witnessed elsewhere. The trick here is to utilize the pupils to police their fellows. They see what adults may miss, the subtleties that are lost on addled brains. The youngsters weed out the tormentors, teasers and nere do wells, because they know what they're looking for and can see through the veil that is raised to deceive world weary, jaded and forgetful adult.

“How was Mrs. B's spelling class?”
“Boring, boring, boring.”
“Who did you sit next to?”
“I dun know. I dun know. I dun know.”
“Were there any girls in the class.”
“Dunno. Dunno. Dunno. ”

Clearly, a perfectly ordinary exchange that all parents experience on occasion. Maybe I am able to jam my foot in the door of the 'all parents club’ afterall, I wonder to myself? Junior tugs at my trousers, to point, sputtering with excitement, “did you be knowing dat wheels,er….. hub caps, dey are having dah best robot writing on dem!”

Well, a big toe perhaps?

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Traditional Irish Fayre

I e-mail my dear Irish pal in Ireland, to tell her about our day here in America. I am duty bound to assist her spouse, since he is an American. The poor man will have had to suffer the watered down version of Irish celebrations in Ireland and will have entirely missed out on the traditional version here, no Leprechaun traps for him. I don’t tell her what such a trap entails. I leave that joyful task to her husband, to see if he has any luck translating that one. I hope to transport him back to his happy childhood and St. Patrick’s Day school work sheets.

I explain how I have spent the morning toiling in the garden like an Irish navvy, spreading home made “compost” to the consternation of my children. Whilst I stood on the solid clay flower bed in a dust cloud with my fork, we seemed a long way from the rolling green hills. The nearest lawns are those belonging to the local MacDonalds, where verdant, manicured mounds tempt and confuse foreigners.

I send a picture of the children in their sparkly green bowler hats [smooth on the inside]. I don’t mention how junior used his; rammed down over his face to squash his nostrils so that he was no attacked by odourous mulch. I tell her of his great triumph in placing an item on his head. I don’t mention that the elastic chin strap had to be cut off.

I send her a link to a different site “GNM Parents” as a demonstration of my advancing techy skills, and proof that in the wee small hours, I attempt productivity. My attempts to reach out to the ‘normal’ population, those parents and children who will grow up and develop in the same generational time span as all of ‘our’ children. I need to win over that population, make autism less scary, not quite so weird, ‘merely’ a variation on a theme that they can tolerate, learn to live with, accept? My plan to conquer via humor is slow.

I hear back from her almost immediately via her Blackberry, stuck in some aeroplane en route to Japan. She and her family stopped off for Pizza [Ref 1] after a day out with the horses. But what else can you expect from a CEO of a high tech company, Irish or otherwise.

Three pairs of not particularly Irish eyes look in the same place at the same time on ‘command!’ [translation = shameless pleading and other psychologically damaging tricks]

[Ref 1] “Real Irish Italian pizza!”

“What I like about the people of Cork,” John tells me as we devour the last crumbs, “is how punky they are. Look at what you’re eating! It’s not national cuisine, but it’s not just fashionably international either. They’ve got the courage to sunder the rules here.”

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Damned lies and Statistics

In American, or more particularly in California, we are encouraged to nurture our inner child, to hold onto that innocence, especially if we wish to maintain our mental health. And who doesn't want to do that?

As adults, we try and remember that even the most wizened and cynical of us, can
learn from children. But does that still hold true if those children are autistic? Probably not. Not going to glean a lot of insight from those little chappies, and they are mainly chaps, depending upon which set of statistics you care to favour.

Personally, I like the one that suggests that as many as 1 in 166 children are diagnosed with autism. I love statistics because you can prove anything with them by careful manipulation. I thought that I was the only person locally, or even nationally with two autistic boys, but now that they're both at the same school, I find that other families with two. [Ref 1]

What does that mean? Well, it means that together, we three families, have six children, autistic ones, of a similar age, in one school. If there are thirty children in a class, that means that each class will have an autistic child. And why would that matter? It means that your child will be in close proximity with mine. In fact, because my boys are only 17 months apart, they could be in the same class together.

They separate twins, but the same doesn't apply to siblings, I've checked. That means that your child might sit next to mine, perhaps one either side. In fact those other autistic children, the two that are the right age, might end up in the same class too. My two and four more, because it's largely a matter of chance. Wouldn't that be super! Your child with four or six little autistic kids, all pals together in the same class. It would be even better if the class had only 20 children, although it would mess up my statistics a bit.

Your child would be a great role model for my children. Mine could copy yours, then they'd learn how to behave properly, just like yours do. Children learn more from their peers than their parents by the time they're in school, a sort of transfer of allegiance if you will. But that's fabulous for me, because you've taught your children a great set of moral values, things that mine might not understand, like non-discrimination and inclusion. You know, like the Barney song: ‘we include everyone!’ I bet your kids can sing every word perfectly. Doesn’t that warm your heart?

Don't worry, I lied when I said that our children would meet. My children are in the special ed class, separate, protected and nurtured, because it would be ghastly if they were all in together. They might be bullied. Wouldn’t that be dreadful? Mine of course, not yours.

Fancy a play date? Pick up the phone and give me a tinkle.

[Ref 1] and don’t forget ‘George and Sam,’ by Charlotte Moore, but they’re on a different continent so we won’t count them. Then there’s Luke Jackson and his siblings {Freaks, Geeks and Asperger Syndrome} but they’re on the same tiny little island, so we’ll ignore them too.

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