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Storm SATs and the fright in the night 

shutterstock_356510603Last night Storm Katie rattled the roof tiles of our house in the small hours, clattering them like plates in the kitchen of a busy restaurant. It was disturbing and troubling. But I was far, far, far more troubled and disturbed that the final 4 months of my youngest child’s experience at primary school will be overshadowed by the anxieties of testing, unrealistic expectations and hideously wonky ideas of what getting the most out of schooling are. Her curious mind, her clever word play, her creative soul, her amazing observations; her beautiful choice and use of words in writing to set scenes, evoke emotion, create dialogue, and take the reader to another world. Her thoughtfulness, her wonderful sense of right and wrong and of fairness. None of that will count. She will be judged on technicalities, on her memory of rules, on her speed of taking up these rules and applying them in stressful exam situations. She will feel less able and intelligent than she is, she will feel pressure to perform on behalf of people she has never met and she will feel her worth and ability diminish. She is already frightened and I am having to take measures to deal with her anxiety.

‘What if I fail?’

‘What will happen to me at secondary school?’

I do what I can to tell her her strengths, to praise her, to show her I do not believe in testing for primary age children, and I do not trust these tests – now more than ever. But I can’t give her back these last four months and I can not change the way it means she will be judged by strangers and future education systems because of this.

Childhood should be great. It should be fun. It should be as diversely approached as possible by all of us responsible for the care of children. It is not only wrong but cruel to see it as preparation for work and adulthood. But cruelest of all is this idea that you can set strict standards for developing minds when development in children is so spasmodic and varied from child to child. Squidging all kids through sets of judgements with the very narrowest and limited of definitions of success and therefore creating massive scope to feel failure is like trying to shove a huge great, tangled multicoloured ball of fishing ropes through the eye of a tiny sewing needle. So so much will not fit and has no hope of doing so. And why should it? Why should they?

Why the hell should they?

It’s time to take back childhood.

Bugger the tests. Yes. Bugger them.

 

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Neither This Nor That: autism identity in a non-autistic world 

img_3016Being a mum and wife and helping run a business and a home, and being autistic has created two main versions of me: I can do busy, I can do efficient. I can do friendly, capable, organised. I can get up early and get through whole days without any me time. I grin and chat and duck and dive. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, it’s that it’s exhausting. But this is the version of me every one likes and I push her hard to keep it up.

But it’s not really me.
Real me is holding her breath.

The lack of proper breathing space catches up with me though, and I begin to fail, to fall. It’s like I’m sitting on a cliff and getting closer and closer to the edge. Days get more difficult to wade through, I become clumsy, forgetful, insanely anxious.

I panic. And the panic rises.

Like a dog I pace and circle and look for a safe place to hide and be alone and rest, but the busy me has created a void where there are no safe places for the burnt out me. Every sound around me makes me twitch. Other humans become a threat. Not like paranoia but in a dutiful way, in a destruction of my peace way. I begin to loathe the sounds of fellow humans. My body starts to freeze up because the 2 strongest messages in my brain are “Run away from this!” and “Keep coping!”

Everyone around me is unaware of how much I’ve struggled and am struggling. I stumble and scrabble and I can feel the massive inevitable drop coming, and it’s horrid, it’s terrifying, and I really don’t feel safe at all anywhere.

Bit by bit by awful bit, events get more tedious, conversation becomes less possible, sleep fails, waking up fails. Pain comes. I run out of possibilities, I lose all direction. I can not go on. I am empty, biting my knuckles, unable to eat or drink and staring into space.

Help… I’m falling…

And fall I do.

I deliberately banged my head against the garage door 2 nights ago. I hurled my notebooks into the middle of the garden – my gardening lists, my household lists, the confusion of what needs doing. All these plans. Good stuff, bad stuff, who knows? What was I thinking? I was now incapable me.

I couldn’t do shit.

I’ve felt steamrollered ever since. Flattened. Hurting. Needing recovery. It’s a long climb back up and I’m not ready.

There shouldn’t be these two versions of me because neither one is right. The me that feels like real me pops up now and then but she makes me feel guilty. I’d love to let her live a full life and wipe away the other versions of me but I really really don’t know how to let her exist and be happy. She’d have her own pace, her own needs and they don’t fit this world.

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