That time of year again… When Happiness is Derailed

Its such a fun time of year.

I always enjoyed the half term before Christmas as a teacher. The children would arrive on the first week back after the break all ready for Halloween and then bonfire night, and then the run up to Christmas would begin. I love all things glittery (fireworks pictures and Christmas decorations), and I loved the build up of excitement and happiness I saw in the children I taught. It was a time of year when we relaxed the demands of the curriculum a little in order to rehearse songs and lines for the Christmas performance, as well as finding time to decorate the classroom, hand out Christmas cards and plan a Christmas party.

Things are a little different now.

I noticed from when Little Bear was quite young that this time of year is hard for him, but this is the first year he has been able to articulate it for himself. There are too many changes, it is too overwhelming for him. The weather is wetter and windier (he hates wind) and gets cold enough that he has to change what he is wearing to go outside; the leaves all change colour and although it is beautiful it also makes the spaces, even the views from the windows, that are so familiar to him look different; the shops start putting signs and decorations out for Christmas when the actual event is still months away; he feels pressure to enjoy himself. He loves the idea of dressing up for Halloween, of watching fireworks (and, for someone who is usually so sensitive to noise, is surprisingly tolerant of the bangs), and of planning and preparing for Christmas Day. But all too often, when the event actually happens, it is just too much pressure.

Halloween night he worried so much about people coming trick or treating that we turned all the lights off in the front of the house to deter people. Still someone knocked, and he worried for nearly an hour afterwards because we didn’t answer the door. This wasn’t helped by Teddy screaming for about the same amount of time because he thought the person knocking on the door was Daddy, and then Daddy didn’t come in.

The day that we planned to go to see the local firework display with friends was a hard day for Little Bear. He was angry and snappish, seeming on the cusp of a meltdown for most of the day. By the time we needed to leave I was very worried he wouldn’t manage it, but he did, and we had a lovely time.

His overwhelm and anxiety has started to affect our lives, now. We have had to cancel plans three times in the last few days, and the activities we have managed have been fraught. Even his time at Forest School, usually one of his favourite points in the week, ended with both boys melting down spectacularly as we were leaving. I am so thankful to the wonderful woman who runs the group, who Little Bear loves and trusts enough to allow her to help me get them both safely to the car. There are not many out there that understand him so well.

This is not a ‘woe is me’ story. This is not a grumble about how my child is making life difficult for me, or impacting upon our happiness. No, I am using these strong signals that Little Bear is sending me to adapt the way we spend our time, in order to protect his sense of safety in his life. Yes, safety. He is not trying to make life difficult for the rest of us, indeed I believe he feels a certain amount of guilt that he is preventing us from doing the things we usually enjoy. No, this is my boy in fight or flight mode because all these changes and events upset his sense of safety. The world suddenly looks different, sounds different, feels different. He has that sense of anxiety or mild panic that everyone gets just before a job interview, a driving test or before speaking in public. Except for him that sense of panic is not going away, it is simmering there in the background, and there it will stay for another two months until all these events are over and we can settle back into normality. Can you imagine feeling that way for two whole months?

This is why we are now ‘digging in’. Little Bear has crossed off almost every event he has written on his calendar for the rest of the month (the only thing that remains in Forest School, even my birthday has been cancelled). This lunchtime he confiscated the front door keys so that we cannot go out. He knows what he needs, he needs to be home in his safe space, with his safe activities, and his safe people around him. And we will be respecting that as far as we possibly can.

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Happiness in Success

“It is all very well making your children happy now, but what about their future success? How will they cope in the real world?”

It’s not the first time, or likely to be the last time, someone has asked me this in some form or another. It is something all parents probably worry about a little for their children, and parents who home educate are no different. It is a question that all parents of children with additional needs have asked themselves at least once, and perhaps this group worry about the answers more than most. Our children have to learn to manage their disabilities as well as everything else this world expects of them. How are we to equip them to manage independently? What will happen to them when their parents (gulp) are gone? Continue reading

Happiness, Autism and Education

My last post was about happiness and autism, or rather, the difficulties many Autistic people seem to have in finding and maintaining happiness. I mentioned that I felt my Autistic children are able to find happiness because we, their parents, have built upon the areas in which they are happy. Some readers have wondered how this works in the context of their education. Continue reading

Happiness and Autism

Disclaimer: I am not Autistic. I am a parent to two Autistic children, for whom I attempt to advocate. All I know about the Autistic experience is gleaned from closely observing my children, from reading blogs and books by Autistic writers, and by talking to Autistic people. I am trying to find the best way through life for my children without discrediting who they are, but in the process I may get things wrong. If there is anything here that could be construed ableist, or misunderstands some facet of Autism, please let me know and I will amend. Thanks.

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I went to an amazing talk the other week held at a local school about Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) and Education. It was fascinating, and I came away with lots of thoughts about how we approach education in our house. The main thing that hit me, though, was a tiny portion of the talk that mentioned autism and happiness. The speaker, Geoff Evans, said “Stop looking at where there are problems, look at where they are happy.” Continue reading

Lets talk about Mohammed

I’ve hesitated over posting because this is an emotive and extremely complex subject, so much so I cannot cover everything I want to in one post. However, for home educators it is a subject that keeps coming back, and may seriously change our lifestyles if Lord Soley’s Home Education Bill 2017 comes to pass.

This issue is that of creating a register of home educating families in the UK. Lord Soley’s Bill appears to have the support of Winifred Robinson in her recent Radio 4 documentary ‘Out of School, Out of Sight‘ some of which is discussed in this article about a young man who is also the main feature of Robinson’s programme. I am not going to go into the lazy journalism of both of these features. This is discussed here, and is well worth a read. I would like to start by talking about Mohammed himself. Continue reading

Lego life

This has been a week of Lego sorting and building. We have been considering moving all the Lego down to the play room for a long while now. The small bears both have lots, plus Daddy Bear’s from when he was a child, but for the most part it is hardly played with. Teddy will sometimes go up and potter in his room, but Little Bear prefers to stay downstairs and was missing out on all the glorious Lego-ing time. So downstairs it has all come.

Continue reading