Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Larry Botter and the Parchment of Special Educational Need

Larry lived in a normal house with normal parents, but as he approached secondary school he became increasingly aware of his special powers.
In the womb eleven years ago, Larry's number one X chromosome had developed differently from the others, leaving him with magical powers of memory and a raised X scar on his forehead which he hid under his thick mop of unruly hair.

Unfortunately for Larry, the other children began to notice that he was different, and hiding his special powers was becoming more and more difficult.

Professor Mumblemore had invited Larry to join Vogwarts from September, (a special school hidden away from the authorities beneath the South Downs that could only be reached by a flying taxi). However, He who must not be named at the Ministry for Education thought that Larry and his parents were absolute Muggles. Conspiring with Larry's current school they hatched a secret plan to shut Larry in the PE cupboard until he was 16 so that Professor Mumblemore and his team of Magicians would be unable to bring out the best him.

It may sound like bad fiction, but this is just another true story of an ordinary family who are discovering Autism and the need for Autistic children to be able to access their learning in a different way from the mainstream. As the Muggle Parents in the story, we are still finding out about our Larry and realising that he will flourish in the right learning environment.

Sadly, we are also learning that the school system and Local Education Authority are set up to thwart anyone who doesn't fit into the 'one size fits all box' of learning. Thankfully there are individual teachers and support staff who are working undercover to undermine the Ministry master plan. There are also excellent Medical Experts within the system who will not be cowed by pressure. No one from the Ministry will tell you about it, but there is even financial help in the form of the Disability living allowance and even Carers allowance if you qualify, all of which will be invaluable in your fight.

Having finally obtained our parchment of Special Educational Needs, we are just about to start writing on book two, Larry's continued fight to get into Vogwarts.

We understand the pressure of funding, and the difficulty Education departments face in handling these cases. However, a system which is fundamentally unfair and adversarial is unhelpful to all parties, but especially loaded against the family, and ultimately the child. There ought to be a fairer, quicker and cheaper way when medical evidence clearly shows overwhelming special need.

One day the system will change, and the needs of autistic children will be recognised within Education budgets and planning. In the meantime, Muggle parents everywhere remain locked in unequal battles with the heavy powers and financial resources of the State trained upon them. Only deep love for the nurture and future of the child compels them to press on.

To be continued........

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

My Manchester Top 5

I'm really looking forward to being back in Greater Manchester this weekend. Almost 10 years in the great county of Lancashire has been interrupted by the last 8 in equally stunning Sussex. However,telling friends that I'm returning north this weekend has produced expressions of pity and a looks of concern on our behalf!

We all know about the poor weather, the funny accents and this stuff they have up north called 'industry' - but for the benefit of my champagne drinking, sun kissed southern soft friends (also a caricature in case you were wondering!) let me give you my top 5 from the most excellent city of Manchester!

1/ The Museum of Science and Industry.
In my view this eclipses anything that London has to offer. It tells the story of our social history magnificently, focussing of course on the dual horrors and splendours of the industrial revolution. From the biggest machines to the best interactive displays for kids - MOSI is a must visit place. That the government are considering closing it in order to preserve funding for London museums is appalling and morally wrong. www.mosi.org.uk

2/ The Lowry Centre.
I know that Salford Quays has now gone up in the world since the BBC discovered the north and moved in en masse. I know that the Lowry Centre itself is not a particularly attractive building in a particularly attractive area - but anywhere that you can visit for free in order to see a large collection of LS Lowry paintings makes it a place that I would happily return to time after time. www.thelowry.com

3/ The Pennines.
Forget the Lakes, they are too far away for any reasonable person. Forget the Peak District, it's too close to Sheffield. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Pennines! The magnificent span of bleak hills and moorland that overshadows Manchester and shaped my life for many years in Oldham. I know belligerent Yorkshiremen will argue boundaries, and that the best parts are on their side. But once you are up there, only minutes from the city, but high and lonely, who cares if you are in Yorkshire or Lancashire. Pots and Pans on Saddleworth Moor remains my favourite bleak place in the world.

4/ The Pie Shop - Redgrave Street, Oldham.
The meat and potato or cheese and onion pies from the shop at the end of our street were the main reason for the early onset of middle aged spread. A lunchtime walk for a hot pie, the inevitability of being unable to choose between meat and potato, meat, or cheese, and so bringing all 3 hot pies home.....the fragrance in the house for the rest of the day, the meat juice running down your hand and inside your cuff.......

5/ A pint of JW Lees in Mr Thomas Chophouse.
I discovered JW Lees ale with glee, not just for the taste, but in those days for the pound a pint pricetag. A slow pint at lunchtime, away from the city centre office for a few minutes was one of the great pleasures of my early years in Manchester. Maybe now it's become a nasty city centre parody of itself kind of pub, but back then, just after the Manchester bomb, it was at the heart of my discovery of the real city and the real people.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

The magic of cut flowers - things women already know about romance that men don't yet understand!

We are continuing our Marriage Central seminars this weekend. One of the books that we have been recommending to our couples is the excellent, 'Mars and Venus in the bedroom', by John Gray. He takes the well known Mars/Venus analogy of Male/Female differences and applies them pretty frankly to the most intimate parts of our most loving relationship as husband and wife.

Essentially, the old generalisation that 'he wants sex and she wants romance' means that it does seem as though we have arrived on earth together from different planets. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than behind the bedroom door. Most of the book is definitely for 'couples' reading only, and not subject matter that I would quote liberally from on my blog! However, this simple passage about the magic art of buying flowers ends up explaining some of our differences in ways that even us Male Martians can begin to understand - ladies, really, we do need it explaining to us at this kind of level - just thank me for trying!

'I remember once asking my wife to pick up some flowers at the grocery store. I knew that women like cut flowers, but after a while I wondered why I should keep getting them. After all, I casually thought, she could easily pick them up while she was out shopping.
To her, this kind of reasoning was definitely not romantic. Through eventually discovering the importance of buying her cut flowers, I was able to understand the importance of all romantic gestures.
To feel romanced, a woman doesn't want to buy her own flowers. She wants her lover to do it. She doesn't even want to ask for them. If she has to ask, it doesn't count as romance.
His self motivated purchase of cut flowers for her is a symbol that he cares for her and understands her needs. These kinds of symbols are a very important part of romance.
She doesn't want a potted plant but cut flowers that will die in five days. Why cut flowers? So that in five days he will again go out and prove his love for her by purchasing more flowers! Buying a potted plant is just not romantic. It is one more thing she will have to take care of!'