Tap the Frog review: There is a major difference between Apple and Tablet

imageWhen our Lexibook broke down over and over again, last autumn, a purchase I had made to make sure my boys played nice games when they were allowed to play on electronic devises (during weekends), we finally settled on abandoning the Lexibook idea, and go ahead and buy an inexpensive reading tablet instead. The bad thing about that of course being that we did not get the educational games, which the Lexibook came with, already installed and probably made especially for it. Also, it is a real nuisance for the children to have all the ads popping up all over. I think it is disgusting the way things work today. In every single game we download for it, we have to pay lots, to get rid of the ads. We can’t do that so one has to suffer through it and worry that the children might push on something they ought not.

Two weeks ago, I wanted to see what my husband had really downloaded on the tablet, because my youngest boy woke me up on a Saturday morning and the noise did not sound like a nice game at all. It was minecraft, which an older brother had saved up for, and my youngest was just sitting beside me blasting holes. Excuse me but what is he supposed to get out of that? So I asked my husband why he had not tried to find the games which were on the Lexibook. He said he had tried, but he had not tried hard enough. “Gubby’s” favourite game was making hamburgers. He did not really care for the part where you have to fill orders on time, which I thought was fun, but making and designing your own hamburgers and then taking screen shots of them.

That one I could find, but not another one which was funny and was called “Jump Frog Jump” or something like that. The frog was climbing ladders and catching flies at the same time. You moved him by putting your finger where you wanted him to go, on the different levels. At the same time, a dog ran up and down the levels and the frog had to avoid that dog or he would get smashed. After getting smashed or knocked off the screen three times, you had to start the game all over. Instead of finding that one, I found the “Tap the Frog” game and downloaded that for free. And I also downloaded the old version of it, also for free. Now, “Gubby” tried out the few games it came with and then wanted to see what was in all the green boxes, in a row beside the open games. How do you explain to a child who does not understand, that you have to come up to certain points, to be able to open them up?

Up in the right corner you see the points needed to the right and the one's this person has collected so far.

Up in the right corner you see the points needed to the right and the one’s this person has collected so far.

Since he was loosing patience and wanted to play some other games, I asked him to leave the tablet with me and I would try to open up some games. Easier said than done. I have still not figured out what it is which gives you the points up in the right corner, which eventually amounts to the right number to open up a new game. It actually should say 90, to the right of the dash (because that is what our Tap the Frog says) and this person is 2 points away from opening up a new box and game. I have no idea what purpose the achievements have nor the rank. I am Rank 8: Field Marshal, but as far as I know, it doesn’t do anything or give you any advantage.

What happened that evening? I sat and played the frog game all evening and missed all sorts of fun TV-programs, trying to open up other games. Finally I managed to do so, to a very pleased “Gubby” but he of course just want more and more opened up. I am sorry, it will take time because I am not going to pay, to have them opened up. It does seems easier to open them up in this newer version of the game, than the older one where you have to save up 500 points, even though it doesn’t go quick enough for my boys, nor me. In the old version it goes at snail’s pace to save up points, since most those games are really slow and boring or way too advanced for “Gubby”, like dialing a phone number on time or Math. A couple of days after I had opened up the games in the new version, the tablet broke down. Since it was on warranty, we received a new one. Only now I had to start over again, trying to open up everything which had been open before. Second time around was not as funny, since I was annoyed at the internet and our account  not recognising somehow that we already had the game and had played it. When I finally had fixed things last night, so everything was open again which had been opened before, I decided to get the game for my iPad 2. BIG MISTAKE. First of all, I had to pay 19:- for it (£1.49 , €2.03 , $2.21 ). Not a major fortune, right, so I guess it is alright, but considering that it is free for everyone else, I think it “bloody” cheeky for Apple to charge for it. And this is not all they charge for. Now and then, on the tablet version, you get a question if you want to earn free clocks by watching a video. I clicked on it every time the offer came up and the video is of another game and last about 5 seconds! That way you get 3 free clocks, which is nice when you are in a hurry to open up a game. I sat and collected 63 clocks like that last night which is why I could open up five games in one evening. And two more this morning. Apple does not offer you this option at all. You are forced to PAY FOR EVERY CLOCK! And I am sorry, I am not that of a dedicated fan!!! There should be a way to earn the clocks but there isn’t!

Let's say, they are not as cheap as this in Sweden either! Nor is there a free button at the bottom, which I don't know what that one would do.

Let’s say, they are not as cheap as this in Sweden either! Nor is there a free button at the bottom, which I don’t know what it does?

Alright, now on to the game itself. The first game is “Pop the Frog”. First you pop frogs wearing nothing, but then they wear caps which you have to get off before you can pop the frog itself and then the frogs get hard hats, which you have to crack before you can get to the frog. This is an alright game on the tablet and I have a pretty high score there but it doesn’t work on the iPad. The screen is too big. The frogs get too spread out on the screen andtoo big, and it takes longer to pop them because of this. Soon your elbow start hurting too, since you are moving over such a big screen. And if you get it to go  fast, your screen freezes. Or it happens because you managed to tap on two frogs at the same time, by letting your finger do the work instead of your finger tip on the big frogs. How fun is it to have your screen freeze on you, so that you have to exit the game? Poor “Gubby” doesn’t like this game at all and he is 6 years old, I might add. He thinks one has to do things too fast, so in his view it is not a fun game.

Here the frogs have started wearing caps to make it more difficult for you to get rid of them.

Here the frogs have started wearing caps to make it more difficult for you to get rid of them.

The next game,  “Jump the Frog”, was my favourite game on the tablet, which I let my children play on of course. I only play to help them open up new games. On the tablet this game is easier to control somehow. I am fast, I move by the water lily leaves in no time and then on to the mattress squares (?), grass turfs, the barrels, the beach balls, the turtle shells. No problems and I manage to not fall in, but if it happens, the frog is soon up again. I collect all the clocks and get the extra time. On the iPad, it takes forever before the frog gets out of the water after falling in and somehow it is more difficult to get an overview of what is up ahead so you quickly can ascertain whether to jump a two-step leap or a one-step leap. At the same time you have to move fast to get somewhere but so far, I have not got past the beach balls, which is a real nuisance because I want to see what is after the turtles.

This is where I am thrown out on the iPad.

This is where I am thrown out on the iPad.

The next game is “Paint the Frog”. You get a screen with two colours of frogs and you have to decide which colour to paint them, either or. Of course they are intermixed and in the beginning it is only a few but you get more and more frogs and more and more who are similar colour, so that it doesn’t matter if you make all the frogs blue or green. It will take as much time. It is usually better to go for a colour which is darker and stand out more. As with the pop the frog, it does work nicer on the tablet, since the are is smaller and you can use a lighter tap somehow. It is a fun and challenging game.

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Make them all pink or all green.

The next game I hated on the tablet! So I did not play it on the one which broke down. The “Fly the Frog” is what it is called and that frog flies alright on the tablet. All over the screen and it is almost impossible to have any control of it at all. It is certainly not flying where the bubbles are picking points and it misses the clocks among the bubbles. On the iPad this works wonderfully. There I have full control and by now I fly in the night sky, having scored 409 points! But my boys who are used to playing fast games like subway surfer, stays away from it, since they don’t think it is funny to get so little points, when they play it on the tablet.  Too jumpy on the screen in other words. So, the boys could not care less that I worked hard to open this game up for them.

So far I have score 409 catching the bubbles while flying upwards.

So far I have score 409 catching the bubbles while flying upwards.

“Launch the Frog” is the next game and I have a really high score on this one, on the tablet, but the screen on the iPad is too big, for me to get a good score. It becomes quite a work out, trying to pop the meteorites off the screen in order, smallest number to the largest, when they sit so far apart on the iPad.  So this is definitely a game which is funnier on the tablet. My children do not enjoy this one at all, since they can not think that fast, so me opening this one up, did not create any enthusiasm.

The meteorites fly all over the screen with the numbers in them and they circle as well. So they hang upside down. If you push a wrong one because you are in a hurry, you get a big red cross and then have to wait till new numbers come up, loosing time of course.

The meteroites fly all over the screen with the numbers in them and they circle around as well. Meaning they hang upside down. If you push a wrong one, because you are in a hurry, you get a big red cross and then have to wait till new numbers come up, loosing time of course.

“Feed the Frog” brought on enthusiasm though, since this is a very funny game on the tablet. You can feed the frog very fast so when I need to open up a game, I play the games where I can be really fast. But that is the problem, it doesn’t really seem to make a difference. The points needed to open up games are collected in some other way, I think, than from being fast, it seems. This game on the iPad also becomes an excercise, since you have to move your arm back and forth pushing the buttons at the bottom, according to what fruit is on the conveyor belt. If you have to go between apple and orange enough times, you soon have an aching elbow again. The screen on the iPad once again being too large for comfort, for this game. And you can’t get up to the truly high scores because of it, like you can on the tablet, because there you can be really fast.

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“Build the frog”, is the next game you can open up and I truly hate it. The only one in the family who can do it and sort of likes it, is “Gubby”. You tap on the screen or on the bars below. Then the crane drops the bar. But if it is dropped say three flats to the left, then those flats fall off. The bars go shorter and shorter, the more they get dropped out of line and it is nearly impossible to get them to drop in line. I have played it lots of times now and I have not improved at all. Then it is no fun! When you get down to one flat, most of them fall on the side, not managing to drop the one on top of a one piece flat, so you will burn all your seconds without accomplishing a single point. That really is no fun for adult or child alike, and it is equally bad on both tablet and iPad. With the iPad having the extra feature of the entire window closing down and another window coming up, say your e-mail window or an internet page you looked at earlier, but did not close down. Or your blog! Then you have to click back to the game window and push continue, but you get so shocked every time it happens that you are not ready to assume the game and lose big time. It has happened too many times for me now, that I avoid this game.

You build flats for birds and it is nearly impossible to get a high score.

You build flats for birds and it is nearly impossible to get a high score.

“Treat the Frog” is another game which “Gubby” thought funny at first, till he realized that it was a tricky one. And it definitely does not work on the iPad. You can see why, on the screen shot below. The frog is supposed to jump on the logs to eat the candy and pastry. He can jump up and down, diagonally, and sideways, but let me say that on the tablet he does not jump as fast as I tap the different logs and then you get a big red cross. When he has eaten the three treats, he gets new ones, spread out of course. And it just is not a funny game, since on the iPad the logs are too big, the distances between the logs too big and the program doesn’t follow your speed. So another wasted game, I opened up for both the kids and myself, on the different devices.

Another game where the frog is supposed to eat.

Another game where the frog is supposed to eat.

“Leap the frog” is really fun to play on the tablet. Unfortunately I could not find a picture of this one. What the frog is supposed to do, is to jump up bars that looks like the swing part you sit on, on a swing. But some are fake ones, looking very similar to the things he is supposed to jump on. If you jump on them, he falls down and has to come back, which goes pretty fast on the tablet, so you can still score highly, if you jump upwards fast enough and on the swings with clocks. Playing this game on the iPad is like chewing gum. You try to move the frog fast but the device will not let you. That is disappointing, when you can compare your score from the tablet!

Drive the frog, is really my favourite now. And on the tablet it goes quickly!!!! The frog kicks himself forward on a skateboard and you have to avoid cones. First red ones, then blue ones, then purple ones, then green, then orange… You also need to run over clocks to get extra time and right before a clock or right after it, are speed marks. Get on those and the frog gets shot forward in a high speed, so you can get further in the game. Here the iPad also works as slow as molasses. The frog hardly moves by the red cones. With every colour change, the game goes faster and faster, so that at the orange it is up to a really high speed on the tablet and the cones stand in trickier ways.

This is MY very favourite game but it takes quite a while till you get to open this one up!!! :(

This is MY very favourite game but it takes quite a while till you get to open this one up!!! :(

After this one, a blue box appear which do not exist on the tablet version of the game. It is called “Fight the Frog” and is something of the most idiotic I have ever seen. Two sumo wrestler frogs stand on a platform and you choose your champion and tap on him till he pushes the other one off the platform with his tummy. That is it. You get no points, the game just says that blue or red won!

“Double Tap the Frog” was opened at the same time, and this one is fun. You have to use both hands and you must tap two frogs at a time, in the same colour. Of course they are not always standing beside each other and mixed with lots of other colours. This actually works better on my iPad than on the kids’ tablet, since the frogs there do not want to respond. You have to push long and hard before they react, which means that I actually get further and get more points, on the iPad. For once!

My husband laughed at me furiously tapping frogs on this game, since it sounds click click click click, when my acrylic nails slam on the screen over and over again. Drives myself crazy actually.

My husband laughed at me furiously tapping frogs on this game, since it sounds click click click click, when my acrylic nails slam on the screen over and over again. Drives me crazy actually.

The next one is also one which is fun to play on the iPad, but doesn’t work too well on the tablet, which is “Spoil the Frog”. The frog sits on one side and on the other side, candy, cookies, and other nummy things are thrown out. Some barely manages to get off the edge, others fly almost over to the frog, but you have to move the water lily leaf, so they can bounce and then go in to the frog’s mouth. At the same time you have to block the clocks from falling in to the water, because they mean extra time. As for me, I concentrate more on not letting them go, than helping the goodies bounce. For someone who was never chosen for a team in gym class, this is great practice, trying to have the leaf in the right spot! On the tablet, the colours were not as strong and I had a difficult time seeing where things would land and get it all to work, the way it did on my iPad. image

 

The last game I have opened up was the worse disappointment, after the fighting frogs. The frog sits in a ball and the game is called “Bounce the Frog”. You are supposed to get that ball to bounce and hit tiny balls in the air, with fruit and with clocks. One tiny ball at a time. Well at the most I can get 15 points, because I can not get this game to work at all on my iPad. It is SO slow! That ball is NOT bouncing! And I have not been able to open it on the tablet yet, to see if it works there. I suspect that it might work a little bit better, but I don’t like these games that are just chance luck, like the bars being dropped on top of each other, where you can not really improve no matter how many times you play it.

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What do I think about this game so far? First of all I think it is a disgrace that the only way to get clocks for the iPad version, is by paying for them. This game should be for free and either one should be able to earn the clocks easily by getting a new rank or some other way OR get them by watching commercials for other free games! It doesn’t have Game of Thrones or World of Warcraft status! If you can get it free for tablet, it should be free for all devices. Why should a person be punished for having chosen Apple for heaven’s sakes! It should be free for Apple, especially since it works so poorly for the most part. The only games which perform better on the iPad are the “Spoil the Frog”, “Double Tap the Frog” and “Fly the Frog”. For all the other games, Apple’s devices work too slow for it to be fun.

All in all, I would say that some of the games are really fun, others are fun, when one wants to take a break from the others, resting, but some are really drole. And since I am a newcomer to this game’s world, I must say that I don’t really approve of the fact that it is so difficult to open up a new game. Yes, I can understand the people creating these games wanting to keep people interested as long as possible and not having all the games to play from the beginning. It will make one come back and come back, trying to reach the points that will open up a new game. At the same time. Honestly and seriously: Who were these games really intended for? Hardly for adults, were they? They were like most games, created for children, who have the time which us adults lack, to play games. And how many children really have the patience and attention span to play it as much as I had to, in order to open up the games I did? Not my boys! They tell me, mamma, please play and open up some new funny game for us. And what happens? The same thing as for poor Dumbledore, headmaster at Hogwarts: He dares to try a Bertie Bott’s all flavours bean and once again he gets snore or ear wax flavour! My boys have been disappointed with most of the games I have been able to open up for them and have felt it wasn’t worth the wait.

For an ordinary tablet, I rate the game as a whole, a four for a grown up and a two for a child. There is no way for my 6-year-old and 8-year-old to get enough points for anything. For the iPad, I rate the game as three, because only three games work the way they should on it, at the level I am at right now, having 5 more games to open and two, probably silly, blue boxes.

This is embarrassing and along the line of the old versions worse games. Even my 6-year-old autistic boy find this boring.

This is embarrassing and along the line of the old version’s worse games. Even my 6-year-old autistic boy find this boring.

 

 

 

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“Rock Every Sock”. It IS alright to be different!

Last night on the children’s news, little sister Nathea told Sweden to put on mismatched socks today, to point out that being different is great. Her older sister Noelle has Down’s Syndrome and younger sister Nathea has got very upset at how poorly people treat her sister and her getting bullied for… you guessed it, BEING DIFFERENT!

This morning, I instructed my children to put on mismatched socks instead of standing digging for matching pairs, in our clean laundry basket, full of massive amounts of socks. It’s a nightmare to sort them so more and more get added every week, till someone gets the idea to attack the impossible task of sorting them all, in to matching pairs. Till that day, we stand in search every morning! Very stressful. But of course this morning, it was just to grab two socks belonging to oneself, no matter how mismatched they were.

"Gubby" and myself today!

“Gubby” and myself today!

 

“Boo” and I watched the news yesterday, but I am not sure he fully understood what they talked about and “Kitty”certainly had not seen the news, having been out on the playground instead with “Gubby”. So I told them at the breakfast table about this girl Noelle, who gets bullied because she looks different from everybody else and because she acts different too. But that it is alright to be different and that the socks were to tell the world that.

The discussion of course led us over to my boys’ handicaps. Because what does it do to a child to be referred to as handicapped. I tried to explain the word to them and realized that it is not easy at all to explain it. Not like I have not found that out through the years. It is a nightmare to explain what disabled or handicapped means, to your child. What their different diagnoses mean. You have to explain why they have been labeled with ADHD or Autism, what it is in their behaviour which is different and at the same time, not tell them that this will limit them anyway in the future and still make them feel good about themselves. I will admit that I have not been good at this at all. I have never sat them down to talk about things, because it is too hard. You get so scared that you will say the wrong thing. That you will do damage instead of doing something good. So in my case, they just get it piecemeal, when there is something they do, and their siblings object and wonder why they do this and that.

Today I felt forced to say something though. In Swedish, one is not supposed to say handicapped anymore. The word has been changed to “funktionshindrad”. Which in English becomes disabled. But is it any use in using these words? To a child it does not mean anything. What is a handicap? You can have a handicap in golf. What the new word means, in a way, is worse. Hindered from functioning. Not able to do things, in English. Well, they are hindered from doing some things the normal way. But often they find new ways of doing things. Or they do things their own way. Is our normal way so much better than doing things in some other way?

I told my boys who were eating, that what disabled or handicapped boils down to is really just being different, but that different is not wrong. I told them that they must not say “I can’t do that because I have ADHD or autism”, but that they must think or say, “But I can try to do it in my own way”. I hope that they will understand that nothing need to stop them from doing whatever they want to do in life. Life does not end with a diagnosis. Talkink to “Kitty” I told him the following: “Last night, I

Jamie Oliver has ADHD

Jamie Oliver has ADHD

watched Jamie Oliver stand and make a cake. He is married and have four children. He teaches people how to cook and he has set up a hole system in Britain, teaching schools how to cook food for the children, which they like and which is nutritious. His ADHD has never stopped him from doing all the things he has wanted to do!”

I also told him about Winston Churchill. I showed him a book with THE man on the front cover and asked “Kitty” if he knew who he was. He said no. ” Winston Churchill was the leader in Britain during WWII. He wrote amazing speeches, which he is famous for. He gave his people courage to be brave and continue fighting, when the rest of Europe had given in to the Germans. They were imagebombed every night, but he gave them the will to want to continue as usual and not give in. He also wrote books and got the Nobel Prize in literature. He was a journalist. During the Boer War, he was captured as a POW but decided to escape, which he did. This man did not let his ADHD stop him. When he was not in power anymore, he was having ants in his pants and did not know what to do, so he went, like his children and told his wife, ‘I don’t know what to do’. Her being used to giving her children suggestions to kill boredom, told him to go and paint. So he did, he started painting and they are beautiful pantings!!!

Churchill's studio

Churchill’s studio

One of many Churchill paintings. I certainly could not do this!!!

One of many Churchill paintings. I certainly could not do this!!!

I did not tell him how Churchill was a workaholic and forced everyone else to work as hard as himself. I did not tell him how Churchill had a difficult time sleeping as well, like “Kitty”, how he was addicted to nicotine and alcohol, just like kids today with ADHD get addicted to computer games. Nor did I tell him that he was good at multi tasking and wanted everything right so. Another time. The only thing “Kitty” needed to head off for school with, was that only yourself will stop you from achieving. If you say ADHD makes it so I can’t do this, then you will not achieve. You have to try to beat your difficulties, to go where you want to go.

“Boo” was listening in and asked if there was noone famous with autism. What could I say? Something I just read some days ago: “Yes, Einstein had autism. He was a math genius and thanks to him we have nuclear power and the atomic bomb. Remember those little dolls that nodded their heads, in ‘Night at the Museum 2’? That was Einstein!” -“All of them?” “They were just dolls in a souvenir shop, but that is what he looked like.” “Cookie” pointed out that the atomic bomb was nothing to be proud of, but of course he did not do things in order to kill humanity, it is other people who have used his discoveries for not always good purposes.image I also told “Boo” about another famous person with autism, being Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. But I did not have the time to point out which music he created. The most important thing I wanted to send my boys off with this morning, was the knowledge that a diagnosis is not the end of the world and that different can mean that one actually can succeed where everyone else stick to set boundaries and never venture outside the box.

When we got home today, out of curiosity, I googled which other famous people have had ADHD and autism. I must tell “Kitty” that Walt Disney and John F Kennedy also had it. Look at what they did and became! Many, many are found in the autism spectra like H C Andersen, Andy Warhole, Michael Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Isaac Newton… This one page had mixed ADHD and autism so I can’t say who had what but it claimed that Napoleon Bonaparte, Leonardo da Vinci, Alfred Hitchcock, Agatha Christie, Alan Turing, General Patton, Eleanor Roosevelt, Galileo and lots and lots of others, had all the symptoms. But of course it was in the time, when there was no such thing as a diagnosis. They were different and perhaps did not fit in too well in he society around them, but they were remarkable achievers!!! And why? Because their brains did work different. They did not get bored with a task which took months or years to crack. And they wanted answers to all the questions and topics their minds wandered off to. And because of autism, they did not waste time on socializing but stayed focused on the task instead.  Today we think that what they did was amazing! Not thinking about how they got there, how misunderstood they were in the world they lived in, because they were DIFFERENT! So next time you see a child which is different, well, you might just have met the next Winston Churchill or Einstein!

Absolutely! I would say heer heer if I knew how it was spelled!

Absolutely! I would say heer heer if I knew how it was spelled!

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My Friday Book: When humans were less worth than dog turds: “The Last Jew of Treblinka: A Survivor’s Memory1942-1943″

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Friday 13 March 2015:

After a long and hard week, this is hardly the book I would recommend to anyone, for a little bit of relaxation. As a matter of fact, it was a good way to assure that I got nightmares all Friday night! Reading this book, first in the afternoon and then during commercial breaks, watching an episode of “silent witness” (where two little girls had been murdered, by their mothers’ psycho boyfriend), made for a very violent Friday evening! Maybe I should have stayed with my original choice of Göran Rosenberg’s memoirs. But his book is written in such a  heavy language, that I just had to read a book where the language at least was not the problem. Even if the topic was the same. That of the Holocaust and what it did to the victims.

That said, this book has its own problems, where the editing has clearly gone amiss. Unless, Chil Rajchman’s notes really were as disorganised as the book is, which is printed from them? The book was never a ready manuscript, if I understood the Swedish translator Salomon Schulman right, but just notes in Yiddish, which he and others have had to translate. And perhaps other language translators have done a better job than Schulman? Like the English Edition? Maybe there, events are in order/ pages are not jumbled? Because in the Swedish edition on page 82, he talks about young women having to stand naked out in the snow for hours, for the amusement of the SS- and Ukrainian guards, them crying and begging to get to go in to the warm gas chambers. But page 83 suddenly talks of the heaps of ashes and the need for getting rid of them. I thought I was too tired or something, and had to go back, reading previous pages, to see if I had missed how ashes suddenly appeared in the camp. On page 88 and in another chapter entirely, he suddenly mentions the freezing young women again in a paragraph and then it starts telling how bodies were dug up to be burned, in order to get rid of evidence. Up till that part of the book, everything made sense language wise, but after that, things were often jumbled in the text and time, which means poor editing on the Swedish side, no doubt. Even if Rajchman did not present a ready manuscript, someone needed to have gone over the text, to make sure it made sense, before going to print. In my case, I sat and was so upset about this mess, that thousands being killed, became secondary, and that is not the point Rajchman wanted to make.

But if I overlook that point, I am glad that publishers decided to print his notes, since very few human beings survived Treblinka concentration camp. They were not meant to! If you think that Auschwitz was bad, you know nothing! Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor were built for one purpose only and that was to exterminate the Jewish people, while other camps often had a dual purpose of making the fittest work, as long as they stayed fit on a starvation diet,  and the “useless” were sent to die. That makes famous Auschwitz less ghastly than places like Treblinka, because there was no chance of survival at all in Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor. The Germans built the extermination camps as far away from civilization as they could, so that there would be no opposition nor witnesses. And when they had served their purpose, they were destroyed and all evidence wiped away. Not like Dachau and Auschwitz, which were left for the world to see, because nothing could really be proved there, except forced labour. And labour camps existed all over, even in the US.

No when you read a book like Rajchman’s book, you really feel ill. It makes you nauseous as you see the pictures in front of you, because you do not need a whole lot of imagination to see the pictures he describes, in your mind. You see the hopelessness but also the true evil. The desperation of the people, when they realised that they had been tricked and that there was no way out, no way of escape. The scale of the camp, a small and highly effective camp, made it very simple for the Nazis, to get on with their “chores” and guard the place. It turned out that you did not need a whole lot of space at all to liquidate hundreds of thousands of people, if you were just quick about it.

What sort of people act the way these men did? Noone! I refuse to accept that these were normal people who went home and had dinner at the end of the day and wrote a loving letter to a wife or a sweetheart. What on earth can create so much hate? No, not even hate, because hate requires feelings. These men, had a screw loose. You definitely have a screw loose, when you take pleasure in treating your brothers and sisters as vermin. These were men and women who arrived dressed in nice clothes, talking, lovingly holding hands, praying to God, educated people, who had had a life like everybody else before the Germans arrived and still when they climbed off the train at Treblinka. And yet, what the Germans and Ukrainians saw, was not humans. Then you really should have been thrown out with Satan’s Angel’s after the big battle in heaven. These people lacked the light of Christ, that God planted in us as we were born, to be a guiding light in our lives, in order to find our way back to him, but also in order to know right from wrong. These people, had blown that light out, and to burn in hell for the rest of eternity, is not a good enough punishment for them. Because they chose to do what they did, unless they really were mentally insane, unless they were all born psychopaths. I doubt they can all claim that on the day of judgement.

I am not even going to go in on what punishment these men got from earthly courts, because they more or less got off scott free and while part of me want to weep at the injustice, part of me felt last night, as I was going to bed, that the Allies should just have gassed the entire German nation to death, for even having invented such a manner to kill humans and for letting the Nazis sit in power for 12 years. I am all amazed at the Poles actually have put up remembrance walls, stones and statues, at all the extermination camps in their country (where most of them were situated) and letting buildings become museums, instead of just letting everything disappear. From everything I have read, they treated the returning Jews, almost as bad as the Germans had and started regular pogroms in 1945, making sure that the Jews did not even consider trying to re-build their lives, in their old home-country. Their anti-Semitism is as strong today as it was in 1945 and before, people still accusing the Jews for kidnapping Christian children and drinking their blood at Easter. I mean, honestly, in today’s world with internet, instant communication and mobile phones. How can a person even think a thought like that? Straight jacket next!

Treblinka in operation between 23 July 1942-19 October 1943

Treblinka in operation between 23 July 1942-19 October 1943

In Nazi terms, Treblinka was a great success. Noone knew of its existance after the war, except the VERY few survivors, that only survived because they broke out of the camp, and of course the criminals themselves, who had worked there. In that respect, the Nazis did win, because revisionists and neo-Nazis claim that the Holocaust never happened and the Nazis did wipe away all the evidence of these extermination camps. Out of guilt? Well, who knows? If they had not known what they did was wrong, why hide it? They did not want any discoveries, like the one in Katyn, where bodies of Polish officers were found, after the Soviets thought they would never be discovered.

Because, what would people have said if they had found the mass graves full of 700,000-900,000 dead people? It is unfortunate that a precise figure has not been established, but how do you get a figure when the proof is just ashes, a couple of bones here and there, that the Jews left behind, when the guards looked away, and thousands of people having gone missing? Researchers have had to look at passenger lists heading forTreblinka, to find out how many died there. The fact is, that Treblinka comes in second after Auschwitz, of most Jews killed, so we should shudder at the name.Not strange that the author of the book wanted to leave Poland after the war. Like translator Schulman said, that big Jewish cemetery. Can’t have been pleasant in Uruguay though, since most Nazi criminals headed for South America, as well, after the war, to escape justice. Why would one have wanted to live with the perpetrators of these audacities? But perhaps getting away from a physical place of horror was the most important.

Chil Rajchman  was 28 years old, that day in October 1942, when he arrived at Treblinka with his beautiful 19 year-old sister

Rajchman's shtetl can be found left of Sobibor, North-East of Majdanek. How could they have hidden surrounded by concentration camps?

Rajchman’s shtetl can be found left of Sobibor, North-East of Majdanek. How could they have hid surrounded by concentration camps?

Rivka. He said nothing of what they had been through up till that day, nor if they arrived from a ghetto, say Lublin’s, or if they came straight from the little shtetl, where they grew up, called Jedlanka or Jedlonke, as Schulman has translated it. What he did say was that the cattle car they travelled in, was full of people from the neighbour shtetl of Ostrow Lubelski, which one can find photos of on the internet. The town that is, which it has become today. All of them thinking that they were on their way to the Ukraine, he and his sister decided to eat frugally of their food to last them days, which was totally unnecessary, because 15 hours after they stepped on the train, they had travelled the 120 km to Treblinka and his sister had to die hungry. I don’t know why this upset me the most, but even a convict on death row, gets to eat a nice final meal. I guess it doesn’t matter whether you have a fully tummy or not, once your are dead, and I am sure it is not the first thing you think about, as your spirit leaves your body to be greeted by loved ones, long dead. But still, it really upset me, that she had to die cold, hungry, frightened and humiliated.

Chil Rajchman 1914-2004.

Chil Rajchman 1914-2004.

There are no photos of Rivka to be found on the internet, even though there are four photos of family members in the book. Those of his father, his mother, a married sister and a younger sister. His mother died long before the war, and the married sister died in the Lodz ghetto. One brother, had run off to the Soviet zone and actually survived the war, but he never found out what happened to the one little sister, a younger brother and his father. Rivka of course died in Treblinka, right after arrival, like all women did.

When they arrived in Treblinka, at the fake train station, they were herded out in to an open space where all valuables were taken from them. Two barracks were ahead of them, one for all food people had brought for the journey, and one for the women and children to undress in. To the left of everything,he could see barracks for sleeping, kitchen and work shops. The open space had all sorts of piles, where everything was being sorted. At the end of the two barracks in front, started an alley which he came to know was called “Schlauch”. By the time, the Jews had reached that far, they were all naked, men, children and women (one could wonder why the two latter groups were allowed to undress in a barrack, but then be forced to show themselves in front of the men naked anyway and die with them that way? What was the point? To keep them silent? Trying to trick them to the last?), all in one group, and the guards sticking bayonets in them or lashing them with whips. The road was full of sand, which soon was covered with blood and there was a special work unit, called the Schlauchkolonne, which had to spread out new sand for the next group not to panic. Like they did not understand by then that all hope was gone? And what was the point of fighting it when you had 144 Ukrainians and 100 SS-men with weapons in their hands, to prevent any escapes or opposition? Even if not all were in the same spot of the camp. This of course being a factory, a factory manufacturing dead bodies and everybody having their individual tasks to keep the machinery going.

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When Rivka had undressed, she would have been chased out of the barracks to meet the rest of the people from her shtetl and others. Under whip lashes she was forced to run to the end of the alley where a white house suddenly appeared, with a blue star of David painted on it. (Seen behind the trees to the right). After walking up a couple of steps, she would have entered a corridor with flowers and towels hanging on the walls and there the real charade ended. Because as Rajchman later got to experience, she was forced in to a room, where a prisoner cut off her hair in five cuts and then she was pointed through a door in to the gas chamber with 400 other people. 45 minutes later, she was dead. Rajchman’s beautiful teenag sister, no longer beautiful since all the people in there, all emptied their bladders and bowels as they died. Because of the shoving and death anxiety, all the bodies went sweaty, became swollen and black, and when the doors opened, it looked like just one big mass of flesh. The prisoners in charge of the next task, had to try to break loose a couple of corpses, for all to fall out. How can one put humans through something like that? It is just not comprehensible!

Rajchman was one of 100 lucky young men, chosen to stay to the side. When all the rest were gone, the 100 got to clear the area of all the piles of belongings (marked 25 above) . Shoes went in one place, clothes in another, and so on. While he was sorting, an SS-man screamed for a hairdresser. He saw a friend from his shtetl stand in a group of four and ran over there and said that he was a hairdresser, which of course was the first time his life was spared by a lie. They were all given a pair of trousers and a coat, a pair of shoes and they sorted clothes till the next transport arrived, not knowing what was going on nor what would happen. All clothes had to be searched through for jewels and money, and they did find quite a lot. He tried to find out what sort of a place he had got to, what really was going on and he got the best and only advice one needed in Treblinka: “Don’t talk, don’t bend over, don’t stand up, because you will get lashed for everything. Make sure you protect your face because if you bleed in your face, you will be shot.”  He got to pick up scissors for his next job, which he dreaded since he had lied about being a hairdresser.

Throughout the book, the 244 guards did not do anything but shoot people at will and use the whips, lashing people the entire time, over the head and wherever they could aim on the bodies. If they did not lash the running prisoners, they demanded they stand still or lay down to be lashed.

The following day, 700 people went to work with their different tasks. Rajchman continued sorting and suddenly stood with his sister’s skirt in his hands. He tore a piece from it and carried that piece in his pocket for his entire 10 month stay in the camp. After two hours of work, the first transport arrived and the ten hairdressers were called to the gas chambers. Each man took position by a trunk and the Ukrainians entered with their whips. Five quick cuts and you had to be done or you got lashed. The women come in crying one by one and sat down by a hairdresser on benches. The women asked him if it would be a painful death, if it would take long, if he could cut slower so a daughter would be able to die with her mother and so on, and he could do nothing to answer or help. While the people were being gassed, they hairdressers got a break but the guards forced them to sing. They worked for another hour and then thousands had been killed. In the evening Rajchman and his friends Leibl and Moshe cried because they had finally realized that they were in a factory which swallowed its victims, the day before 12,000, that day 15,000. The dead bodies being in another camp, nr. 2, where the prisoners were isolated and had no contact with the rest of the camp.

He and Leibl decide to steal money which they found hidden in clothes, so they could escape and pay for help, but it seemed like the guards must have felt that something was going on, because everyone had to strip down and be searched. Rajchman got rid of his coat and swallowed one paper note. The group the was moved on to camp nr. 2. No doubt a punishment! With wheelbarrows they had to wheel sand to the pits and dump it over bodies laying in the pits. Within 15 minutes, the guards had demanded that 20 of them must strip off their clothes, climb down in the pits and there they get shot. Rajchman got severely lashed for not running fast enough and running out of steam, but was not shot. Of the 30 that came with him in to camp nr. 2 that day, only 6 remained at 16:00. Then it was time for Rajchman to get a new work task: grab a wheelbarrow that looked like a step-ladder and it was time to run off to a large pile of… corpses, from the gas chambers. They had to work two and two, grabbing a hand each and trying to jerk a body out of the pile. After getting lashed and finally getting a corpse on to the ladder on wheels, they had to run in front of the dentists.

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Rajchman made sure not to spare the reader details. Because when he arrived at one of the pits, the first time, the corpse’s head had got stuck between bars in the ladder and there was no way of treating the dead with any kind of respect, when you were lashed for being slow, when you were whipped for just being Jewish, and when he finally managed to get the head loose, he had to throw it down to prisoners standing in the pit, organizing the dead like sardines, to make room for as many as possible. And of course, them standing down there, was a great temptation for the guards, who more often than not, pulled the trigger on them. Not a good job to have, if you were trying to escape being killed.

One of the most cruel thing the Nazis did in this camp, as if the constant beatings and lashings were not cruel enough, was the fact that the people who had been spared in one transport, soon were killed off as new transports arrived and new people were selected for the few cruel jobs available. It was with calculation this system had been set in to practice, to prevent friendships to form, and to keep knowledge away from them all. People were too scared to talk, because it meant getting killed and the ones working with the gassed corpses, were locked in behind wire, so they would not spread what really happened to people after they ran up the “Schlauch”. Rajchman was eternally grateful that his mother had died 15 years earlier, so she did not have to die the way his sister had and all the others.

The different work groups were the one working in machinery, running the gas chamber motors, the dentists, removing all tooth gold, carpenters building barracks and sheds, schlauchworkers adding sand on the walkways to cover the blood, washing the gas-chambers and re-painting the walls, the rampworkers who threw out corpses from the chambers, kitchenworkers and then the ones chosen to carry corpses and working in the pits. Rajchman thought that it was around the 3rd November, that he managed to get in to the dentist group. Once again he lied about a skill he did not possess, the only way to survive in the concentration camps really, especially in an extermination camp.

The dentists worked in a wood building, by a table with bowls full of teeth. Gold and platinum needed to be removed from the extracted teeth, but also jewels hid in them. But I guess it was not just gold and platinum which was saved. They were 20 dentists and 5 worked with artificial white teeth, some experts on different metal teeth, sorting them according to white gold, red gold, platinum and regular metal. Depending on the arrivals, six or more dentists would go out with tongues to extract teeth from the bodies the corpse carriers wheeled by the building. It could become a lot. The bigger gas chamber building had ten smaller gas chambers in it and each one of those took 400 people. They gassed the people there for 45 minutes, as mentioned above, while for small transports, people were taken to a smaller gas chamber with three chambers taking 450-500 people in each. Death took 20 minutes there. Most shocking was of course when the command center in Lublin called and said there would not be another transport for a while. The guards, in their disappointment then, let people walk in and stand in the gas chambers and just suffocate to death, without the gas, which took 48 hours. Can one really claim those 144 Ukrainians and 100 Germans as being part of the human race?

One of the Ukrainian guards at Treblinka death camp.

One of the Ukrainian guards at Treblinka death camp.

When the corpses were run by the dentists, it made a difference where they had died. The ones from the big 10 chamber building, were all black and swollen and almost impossible to open mouths on. While the ones having died in the small building, looked like they had just fallen asleep. But it happened that the dentists missed a tooth and when that happened, whoever was near by, was lashed. Rajchman was lashed for someone having been sloppy, twice. The second time he was lashed 70 times and the wounds turned in to gangrene. Dr. Zimmerman, who was a real dentist and in charge of the 19 other dentists, saved his life, one Sunday, when they were not working, by surgically opening up the wounds and draining them.

During December new experiments took place, trying to getting rid of the corpses by burning them. It did not work in regular ovens so crematorias were installed, with a special motor and extra much petrol being used. It was necessary to get rid of the corpses quick, because the bodies of Katyn had just been discovered, (Polish officers killed by Soviet forces), and the Germans did not want anyone to make the same discovery in Treblinka. This German which they called “The Artist” arrived and overlooked the progress, making “improvements” the entire time, to make the whole killing and disposing of evidence, more efficient. He built little rails to the crematorias, because what is understood throughout the entire evidence given by Rajchman, is the terrible hurry, the Nazis were in. The killing had to be done in a hurry. Getting rid of as many as possible, in as short time as possible, and why? Because maybe deep down they knew that they eventually would be stopped? And of course getting rid of evidence was also very time-consuming. More diggers arrived, to dig up bodies.

When the pits looked clean, workers had to jump down and search for bones, in order to not leave any evidence at all for archeologists and such in the future. The ovens were moved closer and closer to the pits. At the same time as they were dealing with old corpses, they of course had to deal with new ones and in April 1943, the foreign loads of people started arriving. Rajchman who by then was used to seeing everything in a pretty mechanical way, had to mention the Bulgarian Jews arriving. He thought they were so beautiful, even in death, young and more beautiful than the Polish Jews, he had been used to seeing all his life. And the Nazis had really managed to fool the Bulgarians. They had been allowed to bring lots of food and even furniture, so they really thought they were being relocated to work in Russia. They had been allowed to travel in Pullman cars and not the regular cattle cars, used for Jews. Rajchman had even heard music from the cars. Which of course made it the more sad, since when they climbed off and had all their jewelry taken from them and thrown in one pile, they finally did realize that things were not as they had thought.

When all the bodies were dug up, the people carrying corpses had to report how many bodies they had carried to the ovens. The Germans really kept a close tab, so somewhere, the must have been careful records. They knew how many had been gassed and buried and how many must be dug up. But of course those records have not been found and were probably destroyed, because noone knows how many Jews the Nazis killed in Treblinka. This really was a camp they kept from the world. Like I mentioned before, experts have counted out that at least 700 000-900 000 died there. The Nazis even forbade photos being taken, of and at this camp, which was very unusual. But then this was no usual camp was it?

One of the pits containing the ashes of thousands.

One of the pits containing the ashes of hundreds of thousands.

In June 1943, 11 pits had been totally cleared and filled with the ashes of the dead. On top, lupines were planted to make it look like just an ordinary field in the countryside. Himmler was to come for a visit in July and that man could not stand to see anything nasty. Nor could the guards, according to Nazi policy, who every 6 weeks were allowed to go on furlow for 24 days. But they came back meaner than when they left, so it seemed to the prisoners, like they appreciated their time in the camp more than at home. They were after all surrounded by all sorts of luxuries in the camp, that they could not get elsewhere.

Eventually the camp administration had to change tactic and not get rid of their workers, as fast as they had. They finally realized that if you got rid of prisoners, who knew the drill, it slowed down work, while the new ones had to learn. A policy which saved Rajchman’s life of course. But the place was not safe, because of this. Not being able to wash themselves and not eating enough, meant that most of them soon walked around with typhoid and a high fever. The kommendant decided that sick people should

Treblinka's Camp Kommendant during Rajchman's time in the camp.

Treblinka’s Camp Kommendant during Rajchman’s time in the camp.

stay in the barracks and a hospital barrack would be installed. Noone would be killed for staying in bed. For a couple of days at least, but then the Ukrainian guards came in and dragged people out by their feet. Unless the person fought it, they were shot. Rajchman fought for his life when they grabbed his feet and got to stay sick in bed. But none of the ones spared that day, 13 people, dared to be sick anymore. There were changes being made though. They received a clean shirt every week and some water to wash themselves with, on Sundays. And a loo which you had to get a queue number for. The mean guards sometimes refused to hand out the numbers and they always dressed the Jew, who had to oversee that noone sat for more than two minutes, in humiliating clothing.

By getting to live longer, people started talking and soon they found out that the first camp was planning an uprising, when number 2 camp had received 15 new people, from that other part of the camp, in January 1943. By talking loud to workmates, close to the fence, the people on the other side of the fence could hear what was up and a key had been made for the weapon’s arsenal. The rebellion was planned for the 2nd August 1943 and while they waited, the elder of the barrack, who was also the camp butcher, sharpened both knives and tongues to cut wires with. They also had it carefully planned, so that no work would be finished, so the guards could not have them locked up. Water needed to be fetched, the fires had to be kept burning. At 15:30 they finally heard shots from the other part of the camp. They were ordered to stop working and that is when they saw a huge fire from

A Polish peasant photographed the fire far off in the distance.

A Polish peasant photographed the fire far off in the distance.

the gas chambers. As guards were having their throats cut, others cut the barbed wire and Rajchman was actually one of the last ones to leave the camp. They all ran in different directions. Rajchman ended up in a group of ten hiding in a forest. They heard shooting the entire time and heared civilians helping with the search. After three days, he and a friend ventured up to a farmer’s house to ask for help and food. They were not let in but were given some food, which they had to pay for in gold. They were told to go hide in bigger forests, further away because all farmers had been instructed to turn the Jews in. After 14 days Rajchman was fed up with farmers not helping them and trying to eat off what they could find in fields and suggested that they all should got to Warsaw But noone dared to come with him. His journey was a long and hard one of two months, getting help from some and having to flee from some. He finally did arrive and found friends who were able to give him false Aryan documents, so he could continue living out the war as a Pole. But he did not really want to live anymore, feeling he did not deserve to after what he had seen and done in Treblinka. His friends had to convince him that he had to live to be a witness of it all.

And that is why you should all read this horrid book, so that he gets to tell where his beautiful sister Rivka, the beautiful Bulgarian Jews and all the families arriving at Treblinka, disappeared to. It is far too easy for revisionists and neo-Nazis of today, to say that these things did not happen, because the Nazis of that time, were far too skilled and able to get rid of the evidence. But millions do not just disappear in thin air, without being “helped” to vanish! They did not all put on Harry Potter’s invincibility cloak but were instead forced to walk in to a chamber, against their will, soon filled with gas, and to the last-minute, believing in the people of Schiller not being able to do such a ghastly thing, as killing people who had done nothing else, but happen to be born in to the tribe of Judah.

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Autism and the education system: School doesn’t work for “Boo” at all!

Originally written 24 February 2015:

Today it was time to go to “Boo’s” school for his developmental talk. I had been given a task by habilitation to find out exactly how bad it is, if the school recommends him re-doing second grade. It was with trepidation I went, because it is a touchy subject to bring up with a school who can’t afford to lose students and with a school which looks down on all other schools, not seeing any problems with its own. But I had to know, in order to make a final decision on what to proceed with.

According to his teacher, during the first part of the autumn, he was pretty calm, and actually started to sit in on class presentations and social gatherings in the morning. But towards the end of the term, he started to walk out and not giving the subject nor the presentation a chance. She said that it feels like he is so afraid of failure, that he will not even try, in order not to fail. And part of the problem being that he is really disturbed by the environment. He can not even work in the room next door of the class room, because the noise reaches him and there is interaction between the two rooms. He can’t get the peace he needs and it is difficult to get him to start doing things and keep him going. He is too easily distracted. Now they are going to try for him and his assistant to go over to the new after-school-care rooms, which will be used till the school’s flooding problem is solved. (But she has only used it as a reward scheme, a carrot for him to work!)

It was decided last autumn, that he must go in to 1st grade, so he can start catching up on what he missed there.  But he doesn’t always go in there when he is supposed to. The reasons we do not know, because when he does, he likes it since they are on the same level as himself. And I guess that teacher handles him very well in a calm manner, according to the teacher. (Difficult for me to believe, when she has threatened with foster care! True, he had run out in to the street, when both classes were at the cinema, but still.) But there is something which makes him refuse to go in there on certain days, and while it might be legit reasons if one managed to get him to explain, noone takes the time to find out.

He can’t be present at the social gathering in the morning, since it takes too much effort from him. He and his assistant sits down to have breakfast instead, in an empty cantine, and go through what will happen during the day. This have turned out to be the better alternative for him.

The half hour with the special ed teacher has proved meaningful, because he thrives with one-on-one education. It is peaceful in her room and they sit and write sentences about pictures. But he still is a whole year behind in Swedish and Math, which will cause big problems in grade 3, since much is demanded in grade 3, there being national directives for what one must have achieved by then. As far as education goes, he needs to re-do 2nd grade because he is too much behind to proceed to 3rd grade and in Math, he is even further back than in Swedish. Both of us feel that he needs to be tested for both dyslexia and dyscalculia. But that is not all, he needs to be tested to see why he can not sit in the classroom and listen to instruction, group presentations and so forth. Why he just wants to run off. What one can do to help. His self-image is really poor because he has failed so many times. Or because he sees what others can do and he knows that he is not there yet? It would not surprise me if certain mean elements in the class, have also laughed at him. Wouldn’t be the first time that they ridicule him over things.

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We talked about habilitation not really being that helpful. That the only ones who could help and direct the school with ideas and teaching methods, is LSR. (The resource center for schools in our council.) They have the people who are experts on autism and can educate personnel. The problem is that it costs to hire them in and the headmaster at my children’s school, has so far refused to seek any help from them since it costs. So, habilitation will go and watch “Boo” in action on the 11th but what is going to come out of them doing that and the physical therapist and work therapist testing him on the 4th? I suspect that things will just hang in the air. I am supposed to push “Boo’s” pause button till they make up their mind about what they can help with. I suspect that they can’t help with anything, since the school is not willing to seek professional help. And so far, I have not received any help what so ever when it comes to “Gubby”, from habilitation, so why would it be different for “Boo”?

The thing that worries me the most about changing school for “Boo”, is the fact that his classmates have gotten used to him. He doesn’t have any friends though. Not in any of the classes, even though he during the autumn played a lot with children in the zero class. But some of those children are now scared of him, as is one little boy in 1st grade. They don’t understand his unpredictability, so it scares them. When he and his assistant had baked a cake for the class, he came out happily to the car and said “My classmates want to be my friends now, they no longer hate me!”. I wanted to tell him that it was because he had made them cake and that soon things wold be back to normal again. But I did not want to be a party pooper. His teacher had reflected on this as well and had felt close to tears, just like me, since the situation is the way it is. It really isn’t fair to force autistic children to go to school with normal children, because the normal children treat them so badly, that they lose all self-confidence and start looking at themselves as monsters. “Boo” can’t understand why noone wants to be his friend and why they all dislike him so much. I doubt it will be better at a new school, but can it really get worse? At this school he has had to face bullies. People are mean to him, including personnel. And he has learned to say the most awful things.

The teacher brought up that his language has turned really foul the last couple of months. When he gets angry, he uses swear words and genital words. Since we don’t use them at home and I don’t let him watch programs on TV with bad language, he has got those words from the association with the six-graders and others at the school. There are elements in the 6th grade class, who really should end up on the desk at both BUP and social services. All those who think that a Catholic school in Sweden would be a nice thing to go to, think again. The pupils behave worse than at any other school. And I have never ever heard so much swearing before! We discussed his language a lot and it is when he is in affect that he uses it. I can imagine that he is so upset, that he doesn’t know what to say or how to handle his feelings, so the words coming out are inappropriate and offensive to a lot of small children, who haven’t heard them yet from the older grades. Unfortunately “Boo” associated a lot with the boys in 6th grade about two months ago, since he has poor judgement and very much wants to be approved of. They think it is fun to get him in to trouble and trick him, so they can laugh at him behind his back. One of the reasons I want to move him to another school is, so he will get away from those rotten eggs. I have forbidden him to go near them, but… Everyone just thinks that “Boo” needs to learn how to show better judgement. He might never be able to do that! HE must change, but that is the problem with autism isn’t it, they can’t change because they can’t help the way they are! And for the school to refuse to see the problem behind the signs, well that in my view is really bad, since the fact of the world is this:

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It is time to wake up and change the world, so that these children fit in! Budgets need to be altered. And these children must be allowed to succeed in school and not just face failure. And if it has to be, if parents can’t teach their children that there are all kinds of people in this world, and that different is not bad or dangerous, then these autistic children need to be protected from the narrow-minded, really dangerous ones! Autistic children did not ask to be born with their handicap!

What will I do next? I will be able to tell habilitation that he has to re-do 2nd grade, that is for sure. And I can tell them that he spends less and less time in the classroom, since he can’t handle the situation in there. Question is, if he will be able to do so at any school? And how can he ever catch up to his peers? I look at his adorable baby pictures when I thought that he was the loveliest little boy and that he was normal. What on earth happened? How can a child act completely normal till the age of five, and then turn around and suddenly be autistic? Life really is a big mystery! And it breaks my heart, since he was so happy back then! She was my mother’s favourite grand-child. What sort of future will he have when he can’t be around other human beings?

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No room for autistic children in Sweden: A meeting with the Schools’ Resource Center in our Council

Post written Monday 23 February 2015:

We live in a council covering all the villages around a University town in southern Sweden. So it is quite shocking how little this town and its council, care about education and the well-being of their pupils. How little they have to offer and how hard it is to get help when your child is neurologically handicapped. Today I had a meeting with habilitation and LSR, the resource center for our council. To talk about schools available for my two autistic sons. Habilitation was panicking, when they realized that we are actually making some decisions here without consulting them. Or rather us being fed up with waiting for test results and for advice. They think we can push the decision in front of us for however long, but for all independent schools, there is a long queue. And as for now, we are in a deep pickle. There is room for one boy at one school and room for another boy at another school and what about “Kitty”? There is no room for him anywhere!

Habilitation feels that it is insane to have the children at different schools, but what option do I really have? None. I know I am creating yet another nightmare for myself, but I don’t do so intentionally. I am trying to do what is best for my boys, myself always having to come second. I sat down with the psychologist, special ed teacher and woman from LSR, and the special ed teacher asked me to present myself and my boys and what is the problem with school. She had one major question for me and that was why the scholastic bit does not work. Habilitation declared that they can not test for dyslexia nor dyscalculia. But I asked why they did all these tests on “Gubby” and not on “Boo”. Because I have to sit at the headmaster’s office and say that my child is like this and this and needs this and this, but it carries no weight, without documented proof that he has this and that problem.

LSR of course thinks that council schools are much better fitted to take care of children with special needs, since they are big and have the budget to buy in LSR’s services. But I informed her what the headmaster told me at the local council school, that her school is for “normal children who can sit still in a desk.”. That she has never offered a full-time assistant to a child. That at the most, she can offer a couple of hours with an assistant and maybe a little bit of help from a special ed teacher. In other words, her school will not welcome my boys and they will not get any, of the help they need.

LSR suggested I put both boys in a council school in our neighbour village, since part of it is becoming a special needs school. So if they need that in the future, they would be at the school already and the transition would not be so great. Habilitation expressing that “Gubby’s” IQ might not reach above 70, next time they test him. His language being IQ 50. News to me! So we are going to be  living in limbo for years to come! Not knowing one way or the other, what the boys will need in years to come. What I can say today is that I am not very keen on that council school at all. Then I would rather test Montessori for zero class and then hope and pray that there will suddenly be room for “Gubby” at the Waldorf school, when it is time for him to start grade 1, in 2016.

She also told me about this autism group at one of the council schools in town. A nice little group of 6 students, who is an integrated class of 1-5 graders. Only problem being that their IQ is really low, while they at this village way south of here, have the same kind of group, but with high IQ students. I don’t know what “Boo’s” IQ is, but I doubt he would end up at the lower end like “Gubby”, and that would be pretty terrible for him to sit in that group in town! Although I guess it would be a boost to his ego, to be smarter than all the others. Not until the end of the meeting, did I find out that you can’t just ask to go to that school and group! No, the headmaster at “Boo’s” school must write a letter to LSR, stating that his school no longer can handle “Boo’s” autistic problems and THEN he can go to that school. Sorry, but the headmaster will never ever admit that, since it would mean loosing “Boo’s” school money. Every pupil is worth a lot for the schools. One pupil quitting, means that the school has to make cuts somewhere. So back to square one. And of course they do not offer zero class at all, in that group!

As I see it, and as most parents with children who have neurological handicaps also see it, the only option we have, are the independent schools and then only the ones who actually are willing to spend money on LSR or whatever they call them in other towns and councils. I know for a fact, that Montessori does take help from them, they are not too proud and they apply for all the money they can apply for. I believe that Waldorf does the same thing. But if they get rejected, they try to solve the problems best they can, on a small budget.

The LSR boss told me that the independent schools have dug their own graves, since they want small classes and therefore doesn’t have the money to spend on children with special needs. I told her that my children’s school would gladly have bigger classes, but they can’t get new pupils, the parents taking their children away from the school rather than starting them there. The Waldorf class which “Kitty” would need to go in to, if we decided to move him, has 25 pupils and have no more room. According to the teacher in the class “Boo” would go in to, the number of pupils in the class is somewhat decided on if they have children with special needs or not, since that will require more of the teacher.

According to LSR, which I found very interesting, the independent schools actually receive a higher amount in school money per pupil, than the council schools. So there should not be any excuse for them not spending any money on “Kitty” and “Boo” at their present school. Priorities, in other words!

We also got in on the topic of “Boo” acting out and parents getting angry. LSR suggested that she come to a parenting meeting along with habilitation and explain the situation to the parents. But what is the point if we must move him? Then it is wasting their resources and have to be re-done in the autumn at the new school. But otherwise I like the idea. I am all for informing people about my son’s handicap, so they know that he can’t help his behaviour and maybe will be a little bit more understanding towards us parents. That we are trying to do our best, even if it doesn’t always show in his behaviour or language. Information is always better than unfounded hatred!

In the end, the only conclusion we could draw was that “Boo” needs extensive testing, so we can find out what his difficulties really are. And so that his new school can prepare for his arrival in the best manner. And that there is no alternative at all for “Gubby”, except zero class at Montessori. LSR suggested that he goes straight in to grade 1, at some other school, but that is not an option when he has IQ 50 language wise and he doesn’t even know the colours yet. I am glad that the psychologist backed me up on that point. The council has nothing to offer on zero class level, which is why she suggested that. Well, maybe it is time to look over what they offer then, isn’t it? You can’t tell a parent to put her child in to a class he is not mature enough for, just because you have no other easy solution. Then it will just end with the child having to re-do 1st grade, because the child was not ready. Plus the child will have a year of hell, because the child understands absolutely nothing what is going on and can not sit still. And of course teachers do not appreciate children who do not sit still when they are supposed to. Noone is going to scold my sweetie for not sitting still, when he can’t help himself. As far as I have understood, all autistic children have this desperate NEED to move, whether they jump or “flax” about, like my sweet pea does!

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Swedish council schools are “for normal children who can sit still in a desk”: 2 meetings and a phone call

15 January 2015: Finally, the head of the pre-school, the headmaster of the pre-school and the Montessori school, the special ed teacher working at both, were going to find out what conclusions habilitation have drawn from all the tests they have conducted on little “Gubby”. And they were also going to inform them about what he will need when he starts school. Both T. and I attended, since this meeting felt incredibly important.

K. started telling them about the PEP test she did on him and that the result showed a very uneven profile. That “Gubby” is especially week on language and imitation, the latter being needed to understand and learn language but also other things. (See earlier post with further details!) V. told them that the IQ test concluded the same things, that he is clearly autistic and that he has especially difficult with language and communication. But that he has no right to special needs school, since he ends up in the normal IQ span, but with mild retardation in the language area. This IQ test has to be repeated every year, since he might actually end up having to go to a special needs school eventually, if he falls way behind his peers. A speech therapist is also going to look at his language and try to find out what the problem with language is.

Habilitation told the pre-school that they were very pleased with what has been done for him there, all this time. That he could not have been in a better place. But they also looked at the headmaster, telling him that if “Gubby” starts at the school, he will need a LOT of support, visual help and information geared especially for him. He does have a very difficult time with getting contact with other children. He doesn’t act out at all, and he does talk to other children, but he doesn’t care if they listen or not and he does not keep a dialogue with them. But he can participate in discussions at meal times and in games played with other children. He also have started asking children if they would like to boil pasta with him, or do other things they do two and two, so his language has improved and the children do take notice of him, which they did not before. When concrete things are not involved, it is difficult to understand him and other children give up, as does he himself when people obviously don’t understand him.

It is very very important to be clear, when speaking to “Gubby”, since he does not have as many words as his peers and he makes up his own words for things. Instead of saying ten sentences, one has to weed out all unnecessary words and just say a few things. He really does the best in a small group, so he can not be in a big class.

When he doesn’t understand what is going on, he “flaxes” about like a bird taking off in flight. He does this when he has been working hard with something, as well, and is in need of a break. But you can catch him and point out something else for him to do and then he will do that instead. If a group presentation is going to work for him, it has to be with concrete things, abstract things do not work at all. Then he will stand up and go off “flaxing” instead.

When it comes to categories, he is really not there yet. He does not understand that an apple does not belong with animals, that it is something else. In his world, the apple belong because it is the animals’ food, when someone asks what belongs in a group and not. Nor does he know the colours, but he can see them. He is not colour blind.

He does want to interact with grown ups and has developed his own strategies for handling things. He always tries to do his best so in that respect he is a model student. But he does get very tired, since the work does take a lot of energy. It is very easy to get him interested in trying out things and he has not displayed any aggressive behaviour at all. As a person he is very much liked by all the other children. And he does not get sad or angry if the others turn him down, not wanting to do things with him.

He does not see how things are connected and he really need a lot of extra help when it comes to understanding what he is supposed to do, with whom, how he is supposed to do it, for how long and what he is supposed to bring in order to do something. If he doesn’t understand, if he doesn’t know how to do something or thinks it is too difficult, he does not say so, since he can’t make that connection between language and what he is not able to do, so he will slide off the chair instead, start associating to other things or go and hide. He gets stressed out from these situations. So his teachers need to look at what level he is on and give him appropriate things to do.

This is where the big question was raised, how does one solve his problems practically? He has to be in a small and calm group with an assistant or teacher who is with him, who knows him well and knows what his needs are. It will be very difficult for a teacher to meet his needs. Right! So why is he not allowed to go to a special needs school then? What they were telling us all was that everything is set up for him to fail, because he is the person he is or rather has the handicap that he has!

He will have a very difficult time with relationships and also with the big setting, at a big school with many children running around. I told them all how difficult it is for him in church, to sit still and listen to all the abstract things said there, which he doesn’t understand at all. And he does stand up and flax about, that is just how it is.

Will it work at the Montessori school for him? Well both the special ed teacher from habilitation and the one from the school, who has been down to the pre-school working with him, said that he can not function on his own in a classroom with 13 pupils. He will need an own grown up to be there with him and help him function, in order for him to develop on his own level. The headmaster wondered about the Puzzle Piece school and I told him that I think that he needs to be around children, even if he does not interact that much with them. They work alone at that school, each child in one room, and the special ed teacher from habilitation agrees with me, that it would not be the best for him. And as few places as they have at that school and the long queue, it really is not a school to count on. One can’t just decide to go there and then get a place.

I could see how concerned the headmaster was at perhaps receiving “Gubby” at his school. So much work and so much money. He said that one-third of the school’s pupils are having similar problems. And he really wants us to look at alternatives. But there are none. Habilitation said that LSR, the resource center for our council, has decided to not have any integrated groups for grades zero and one, that the schools should try to accommodate these children first and see if it works. So our children are all test rabbits. And while ordinary children might be able to move around schools however often, these children need stability. It is not good to move them around!!! How can LSR even suggest such a stupid thing? What planet do they live on?

So what did we decide on this day? I told them that I don’t want “Gubby’s” school start to become a failure, like “Kitty’s” and “Boo’s” were, which affected them in a bad way. Them loosing all confidence and no longer being happy little boys. Both of them hated in school and rejected by both peers and teachers. The headmaster said that he is most welcome at the school and he will do as much as he can for “Gubby” but ultimately it is the council who is responsible for his schooling and maybe we should  check out those options too, them perhaps having more to offer and more money to spend. He was going to phone LSR and ask them what they offer in the council schools. I know, it sounds like Greek doesn’t it?

On 21 January 2015, you could say that our meeting continued, but I still had not been able to go and visit Waldorf, the alternative that I was seriously considering after reading an article that the headmaster at that school, had published about his view on children needing extra help in school. The headmaster at Montessori had done his homework and had contacted the resource center to see what they had to offer, which turned out to be absolutely nothing. There is nothing for children “Gubby’s” age and they had even told him that the council is having severe problems placing their own children, so to speak. The children who have attended the language pre-schools, meaning children with delayed speech like “Gubby” but also children with other speech problems. They have nowhere to place these children who obviously need continued help. Sweden just can’t handle all the handicapped children born in this country! I was told to contact the council school that we belong to, in order to find out what that school is prepared to give him in the way of support and help. I did not like the idea, but was forced to accept the task, since I would be considered a bad parent if I left a single stone unturned.

He told me that if I decided that “Gubby” should attend the Montessori school, then I need to do so before the end of March, since  then he can start the application for extra money and he can start interviewing personal assistants during the summer, if he gets the money for “Gubby”. IF he gets it! He told us all how this retarded boy used to get extra money and then one year, it was withdrawn and the school had to solve it best they could, without the money, and then the following year, he once again received the extra money. So there are no guarantees what so ever. But if they receive extra money for “Gubby”, then perceivably, there should be a personal assistant there in August to greet him and make him feel welcome and safe.

One thing I could tell them right off is the fact that he would not be staying for after-school-care, which of course is an extra problem they do not have to solve. That is when there is absolute “chaos”, children doing as they please and not staying put in their respective classrooms.

It was also discussed that he needs so much support with his language and that noone at the school has those qualifications. So they will need to buy that in from the resource center, which will have to send someone to guide them and teach them what to do. The speech therapist that he will eventually get to meet, will test him and ascertain if he has a specific speech problem or if it is just part of his autism, because if it is the latter, it can not be overcome.

The headmaster said that there would be 12-14 pupils and one teacher, with extra help part of the day, in the zero class. In the morning there is a grown up greeting the children when they arrive. His teacher would be out at recess guarding, which is something she did not, when I visited weeks later! The school day last 08:20-11:30. Then lunch is being served till 12:00 and after this they go out for recess and the recess guards are out there involving the children in some group activity. Probably to avoid fights and other nasty things. Children of today, after all, can’t play on their own anymore unless it has to do with computers and computer games!

I walked in to the zero class afterwards and got the teacher’s e-mail address, so that I could set up a time to come and visit. It was also decided that when I spoke to the headmaster of the council school, I would set up a meeting with that person and habilitation would come with me, so they could inform that headmaster properly and then we could hear if that was a good alternative for “Gubby”.

I was a good girl and did what I had been told. The next morning, after dropping off my little sweetie at pre-school, I drove over to the council’s village offices, and asked if there was anyone there who knew which school district we belong to. I guess it has been two different schools, that children around here have gone to and they gave me the phone number to both of the headmasters. I knew that I would not phone one of them. In a previous post, I am sure I have mentioned that this substitute teacher, from years ago, at the pre-school, ran in to me at the supermarket and we came to talk about autism. Her son is autistic and attended that school. He got zero help and was often put in a classroom with 50 students in it. The parents were so fed up that they were planning on selling their house and moving elsewhere in the province, where their son could get what is owed to him according to the school law. Our neighbour, who is a school psychologist also told me about a year ago, that it is a horrible school and that I should never ever even consider to put my children in it. She hates having her own over there.

When I got home, I phoned the second headmaster. She did not answer me, but an hour later, she phoned me, having seen my phone number on the presentator. She was very aggressive. She did not want me to come for a meeting with habilitation and what did she have to offer “Gubby”? She told me verbatim: “School is for normal children who can sit still in a desk!”. She told me that she had never been given any extra money for any students and that she can not ever offer a student a personal assistant full-time. At the most she has been able to offer some hours with a special ed teacher and perhaps a couple of hours with a personal assistant. She made sure that I knew that “Gubby” is not welcome in her two schools. He needs too much help and her classes have at least 20 students in them, if not more, so it would not work for him. She told me she would talk to her bosses and get back to me, but I have not heard from her, it now being March. Nor do I think she will dare to phone me, because as LSR and Habilitation told me, after I quoted everything she said, to them, I have the right to report her! They can bring a case against her, but what would come out of it? Do I really want my son to go to a school with a headmaster like that? A regular Nazi! Heaven forbid but I don’t want my son to become the victim of a person with that sort of attitude. None of us would feel comfortable.

I hear it all the time. Report the school, report the school… People tell me that over and over about the Catholic school, but what would my children’s lives be like, after I have reported their school? We would not be welcome there anymore, so it is a thing you do as you leave. For others to hopefully benefit from the verdict. Because the personnel would certainly take out their anger and frustration on my children. You can’t keep your children at a school after you have reported it! Sometimes I really wonder at the intelligence level of people, when they suggest this option, to make things better for my children. People are full of revenge and they will take it out on the weak, who they can get at, in other words the children present all day. Some adults will of course act adult, but I have met some very mentally unstable people at my children’s school, who should not even be allowed to work around children. Adults acting like sulky children. No, reporting someone will only lead to bad things!!!! So a council school is in other words, out of the question as is the Catholic school, “Gubby’s” siblings attend. When I can get them out of there, I will. “Kitty” is not happy there and it is not working at all for “Boo” who just falls more and more behind.

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Four visits to the Waldorf schools

I had a lot of time to think about things during Christmas vacation. Thinking about “Boo’s” school situation, likewise “Gubby’s” future school situation, now when he is not allowed to go to a special needs school. But also the fact, that thanks to everything moving so slow at BUP and habilitation, we in most likelihood have missed out on some good school opportunities. Going to the Montessori school information meeting, we found out that there is no room for anybody but “Gubby” at the school. No room for “Boo” nor “Kitty”, and what parent takes it lightly, that all children can not attend the same school. One creates a logistic nightmare by having them in different schools, especially if one lives out in the countryside and the schools are in other villages and towns, from where one lives. We should have put them up years ago whether we were seriously interested in the schools or not. That is how other parents do, even if it is somewhat irresponsible, because one creates a lot of air in the queues.

So during the Christmas holidays, I had the queue applications printed out, for the Waldorf school, and filled them out for “Boo” and “Gubby”, even though I had never visited the school, let alone did I know where exactly it was located. And then I prepared myself for phoning the Waldorf playschool, since they do not accept a person putting children up in queue, until the parent has visited the school and understands what it is all about.

After two meetings with habilitation and hearing what the Montessori headmaster said at the meetings and watching his body language, I really felt the urgency to check out options. Waldorf feeling like a strong contender to Montessori. Our first meeting at Waldorf, was meeting the head of the playschool on the 21st January. We drove out there on tiny roads and got lost a couple of times, walking in to the wrong buildings since it is a big school complex, spread out all over a village. The road is of gravel full of potholes and no street lighting, which made me wonder what on earth I was on my way to undertake. Finally we arrived at a newly built building which looked very nice indeed. Coming in through the entrance was an experience since it felt like coming in imageto a jungle or a hothouse. The entrance was full of plants and it smelled strongly of herbs. I was impressed and also with the cloakroom which came next, which made it the more sad, when we entered the room which is the actual playschool itself. It felt dark and old. Murky and perhaps not entirely healthy. Toys and furniture looked very worn and what upset me the most was to know that the room is supposed to house something like 17 children (I have lost my notebook) and two adults. It felt too small of a room for that large of a group and I wondered what the noise level would be when all of them play in there, doing different activities. I could see “Gubby” freaking out, meaning starting to flax about, because he would not find his place in this unorganized environment. The head teacher explained that they come in to the room in the morning and then it is free play. The adults do no interfere but are there if asked for help.

While the children play, the adults sit and knit or crochet or sew. At lunch, they open up a door to the next room, which also had a very old feel and smell to it. All different classes sit with their own class, behind a screen, looking like an old Victorian dressing screen, except it was just wood frames with apricot fabric hanging over them. It looked like they were drying laundry. I wonder at what the noise level in there would be. The kitchen lay adjacent to this big room and it was a big industrial size looking kitchen. The rest of the day, the children spend resting and listening to a story. Of course they also go out in the garden, which is nice and big. I felt more confused than anything after being told all of this. They make no changes, when the children turn 6 and ordinarily would go to zero class. “The change is in the attitude towards the children”. That is all. To me it sounds like just another year in daycare. Because to me this more than anything resembled daycare and nothing else.

Yes, Waldorf does not believe in trying to teach children anything before the age of seven, but still. “Gubby” has been taught things since he started Montessori pre-school. In a playful way, but still. And I think that is what has made him progress. Especially his language. I am afraid that if he starts at the Waldorf playschool, that he will regress and forget everything he has learned. He might withdraw in to himself even, because noone will be there to coax him to come out of himself. He will not ask for help, because he doesn’t know how to. She agreed that it might not be the best form of zero class for him and that if it was going to work, he would have to have an assistant. She was not against that idea at all but… The biggest problem was, that after our visit, she explained that there is no room for him at the moment, at the pre-school anyway. So why did we go there? We would have to stand in queue, but chances are very slim that he would get in.

When we stood outside ready to take leave, she pointed at an old house beside the new one. That is also a Waldorf playschool and THAT is an old house indeed. In other words, it might be more dark and murky. And they hardly have anywhere to play outside at all, since it is just a little gravel courtyard in front of the house. It sounded like his age group can also be found in that house. That would not be nice what so ever!

The way the class room is set up at Waldorf

The way the class room is set up at Waldorf

In the evening of the 22nd January, we headed for Waldorf again, to meet a teacher, so she could inform us about the school. Only when we finally found her, there was a big group there. I guess they decided to put all prospective parents and pupils to come on the same evening, which annoyed me. I wanted to talk about our specific problems and ask if they can be solved at the school. Now we sat with a family of Muslims, who had brought their kids, and lets face it, those children should have stayed home since this was very boring for them and they let us all know how bored they were. Surely one can get a babysitter for an information meeting. They did not have to come and see the school at this point. That can wait till later, if the parents are interested in the school and its methods. The other family had also brought their children and the mother was German, while the dad wanted a lot of answers, since he had read information books on Waldorf, written in the 1970s, when families were not allowed to have TVs at home, if they wanted their children to attend the school.

What did we find out? They start with both English and Spanish in grade 1. Which I feel so so about. “Gubby” has such delayed language, that it is enough for him to try to sort out Swedish and English in his head. To add Spanish, would not be that great. And why Spanish? We are not even half close to Spain! Waldorf comes from Germany so should it not have been German instead? Our neighbour almost! They are entitled to Mother Tongue, which of course is good, since poor “Gubby” has been deprived of that, for a year and a half, the pre-school feeling that it was too expensive to buy that in.

There are 17 pupils in the 1st grade, which “Boo” would join in the next school year, when they become 2nd grade. If we decide on starting him at the Waldorf school. There is no way he can go in to 3rd grade next year, when he has not caught up 1st grade yet and is barely starting to read NOW. So that was good news for him. But in 4th grade, they are 25 and there is no room for more. In other words, we can’t even contemplate moving “Kitty” over to the school, in order to have more children in one place. THAT was really depressing news. It really looked like a nice school to attend. It is not too big. It is old-fashioned with old wood tables and benches to sit on. The teachers told us that when a child has ADHD or is autistic, and has a difficult time sitting so close to others, they just put in an extra table for that child, so it can still be part. That was the good news, that they have had a lot of autistic children at the school and still have. They have experience in other words. Parents tend to seek themselves to the independent free schools, since you don’t get any help at the council schools, you have to follow your peers there, at their speed and the classes are too big. Neurologically handicapped children do not fit in to the Swedish school! That is just how it is.

They use the old chalk boards instead of white boards, there are no computers at all on the school and no WiFi. This I can object to, since sometimes an iPad can calm down autistic children and help them with learning, in a different way, than the traditional. But I guess one can only test it, and see how it works! Besides, they have taken the iPad away from “Boo”, after they discovered that one has to pay for the learning apps, after a certain amount of time. So, it was fun while it lasted, but it did not last for more than a month or something. Another thing I did like, was that they cook all the food and bake all the bread, at the school, and I guess it is all vegetarian. I am not sure what my boys will think about that? But one can hope that it is nice tasting food and I guess all the pupils there now, like the food. Home baked bread. Wow! Says I, who have to stay away from bread or I gain weight plus get a bloated stomach. But the boys do love bread. And the best of all, there is no big cafeteria. Every class eats in its classroom, so the noise level can never get too loud, nor can it become the utter chaos, my boys have to put up with today, when many people eat in the same room.

There is a school bus, which goes through our village, and how great it would have been if I could have utilized that. But there is no way that I can drop “Boo” by a bus stop and let him stand there and wait for a bus, with other children. He would pick a fight and storm off in anger. It would have saved us so much money though, if we could have used that! The fee being less than what regular buses cost and of course driving your own car. Instead, I will have to drive to the next village and drop off “Gubby” for zero-class at about 08:10-08:15, and then step on it, driving to the next village to drop “Boo” by 08:30 and then I can relax and drive home to our village. I have not timed it, how long it takes from the Montessori school to the Waldorf one. If it is feasable to do what I have to do.  Every morning the entire Waldorf school go for a nature walk. It actually becomes that the teacher walks to fetch all the school bus children down where the bus drops them, by the high school part. So maybe, I could drop “Boo” there with the others? Or I drive him to the teacher and she and he can get some alone time, walking to fetch the rest of the gang? He would enjoy the latter more, than waiting in a group and get anxious. And of course, there would have to be an assistant for him, for the walk back, since he can not handle walking in the big group. A lot of things to think about. Him always freaking out in the big group setting.

They also spoke of all the crafts the children get to do, like learning to crochet and knit, but also the music being integrated in the course work, them all learning how to play the flute. And then the Eurythmy lessons they have every week. I think that “Kitty” would have a difficult time with this, unless the cool boys did it without complaining. I am not sure how “Boo” will do with the latter either, since he has a difficult time coordinating his body. (More about this in a later post, since he has been to see a physical therapist and work therapist, but I don’t know their conclusions yet. Except that he does have problems.)

Many years ago, I shied away from the Waldorf school, since someone told me that it does not tolerate religions. I just had to ask the teacher about that, since it is important for me, that my children do not get bullied by students or teachers, because they do believe in God and go to church. The teacher, who is in charge of 5th grade, told us that there is a Jewish girl in the class and they had all celebrated Rosh Hashana with her, she telling them about the Jewish traditions. She has never been pointed out as different and they all appreciate learning about her religion, so I thought that this was good news. If one religion can be accepted, all must be accepted, as being alright. I am surprised the Muslim family did not stay to ask the same question, but they of course have got used to that Swedes bend over backwards for them. They just demand to be tolerated!

Friday, the 30 January, I was back at the Waldorf school, this time to observe in the 1st grade. I wish I had arrived when they started, but they had said for me to come at 09:00, so that is what I did. So I had missed their walk and also what they had done the first minutes. When I came in, they were standing in a ring, with a little bean bag each, in their hands. They let the bean bag travel around their bodies from toes to head and then back down, saying this little verse. I thought it was perhaps Eurythmy, but it wasn’t. When they were done with this, they all sat down in a ring and told me their names and I had to tell them mine. And then the teacher told them, that they would start with Math. They were counting up to 100, walking in place, but on every ten, they had to jump in the air. “Boo” would have loved this, since it is moving about instead of sitting still, and doing things practically. Although I could see him jump in the wrong place. Then they were supposed to go to their boxes and fetch their math books, which are books they make themselves. They get big sheets of paper. They fold them in half and create a book by putting several papers together. They use really thick colured pencils and the teacher writes with chalk on the board, all these math problems. They have to copy them in to their individual books and fetch chestnuts, if they want to, to have as aids in the counting. I was horrified when I saw the problems, because they were way further than “Boo” is, who can not count beyond ten and who can not do subtractions. Some got done quickly, and got additional problems, others chose not to do the extra ones, but started to crochet instead. 6th graders had just been in teaching them how to do that, some weeks earlier, and they are all making some simple rabbits.

It was fun to watch. But then it was time for recess. We all walked out and there was time for me to ask the teacher all sorts of questions and discuss “Boo” with her, because this was the teacher which will be his, if he starts there. I guess she has had her own two children in the school and was very pleased. A teacher starts with the pupils in grade 1 and is their teacher till they graduate from school, in grade 9. She had just finished with a 9th grade in June last year, and there had been an autistic boy in the class, so she has lots of experience. And she has had autistic children before, as well, during her career, which of course is a GREAT bonus. I had to go to the loo, and this was the backside of the equation. The loos are in another building, than were the children in grade 1 are housed. Which means that “Boo” could walk off and not come back! And the loos were really gross! Pretty wood doors, but it did not really feel safe to sit down. So that is something that perhaps one must bring up at parenting meetings?

We talked a lot about the need for an assistant and what can be done if things get too much for “Boo”. Many teachers were absent that day, because of further education, so many classes had substitutes and were not out at recess. It would have been good to have seen the entire picture, what it is like, with all of them present. She seemed to be positive, that all children needing an assistant, have one at the school. When it was time to walk in, she set up for painting. They all fetched paints, big brushes and water, while she wetted down all the papers in a box on the floor, and then they all got a board on their tables and a wet paper on imageeach. They were talking about the sun and how it looks and feels when it is up during the day. Then they were supposed to paint how the sun feels and what it looks like. Various interpretations. But I think that “Boo” would have liked this. To see the paint float out on the wet paper. To be artistic without too much effort, not having to hold on tight to a pen or a brush, to get results. She said that this is a classic Waldorf thing, to paint on wet paper. After they were all finished, they got to sit on the floor discussing what each one had painted, having the paintings in a group on the floor. They had all done very different things. When she had talked to each child, it was time for a game. Fruit salad, I think it is called. They needed for me to join them, in order for the game to work. I who am way too shy to play games. I became an apple and they had to explain the game to me, before I could join. I never took part in things like this as a child, since I was too shy to end up in the middle, calling out a fruit or “fruit salad”. You can call “bananas” and all bananas must change place and the person in the middle must try to steal one. If you call fruit salad, everyone has to change place and the girls liked to call this out since they were trying to sit down beside me. I was really popular to sit down beside, even if it was only for a couple of seconds!

After the game it was time for them to have lunch and they were divided up in groups. Some setting the tables and some fetching things. It was sad that I had to leave right then, because I would have liked to have seen the food and the children’s reaction to it. But also perhaps having got to taste it. When they have eaten, they go out for recess and then they finish with sitting on the floor on fur skins, a candle lit and listening to the teacher reading a story. I had to leave and then go fetch “Gubby” after a while. My impressions of the school were good ones, at the same time I can feel that there are concerns. He really needs an assistant to be able to handle the classroom situation. And will the other children accept him, when they have already formed friendships and has become a group? The outside situation with all ages out in the same spot, is another concern. And how will he handle moving class room every year? It is so difficult to make a decision. I wish I had a crystal ball and could look in to the future and see if I made the right decision!

On the 3rd of February, I went on my last school visit. I was not really keen anymore, since it was to the Waldorf playschool. First of all, the head is the grandmother of a bully, who will not leave “Kitty” alone. He gave my son a black eye after Christmas and I do not quite appreciate the way his other grandmother deals with her grandchildren. Seeing them as angels and my son as, well I am not going to say it, but the opposite. He doesn’t have that grandmother for teacher anymore, which I am grateful for, since what started out as a good relationship between her and us, deteriorated over the years, so that I finally could not stand being around her. She was so disapproving in the end that I could hardly shake her hand and say goodbye when she retired. She wanted our son heavily medicated or she was not going to bother with him! And now I had to meet the other grandmother, who had a very chilly attitude towards me, on this second visit. Perhaps she had spoken to her son’s mother-in-law? Or she just felt the visit a waste, because they do not have room for him anyway? Or she felt that she does not want an autistic boy in the group, not knowing how to handle him? I tried to avoid her as much as possible and talk to the other teacher instead.

Another thing which bothered me, was the fact that she felt somewhat absentminded, like she never knew what to do next. And with children you do need to know what happens next, or they will start climbing the walls. Especially “Gubby, will start flaxing when he doesn’t know what to do next, when things feel like “chaos”. I walked in at 09:00 again and had missed their walk and their free play, the one I don’t think that “Gubby” would be able to handle. I would have liked to have heard the noise level. Several pupils were also missing this day, which meant that instead of about 16-17, there were only about 11 children, which makes a big difference as well in a small room. I wanted to see a typical day and this was not at all a typical day. So many children missing and them already putting away all toys when I arrived. One boy was sitting screaming in a box and I wondered if he was retarded or what his problem was, because he acted strange all day long. And the head told the other teacher to just leave him, so it seemed that he was new or? I also noticed that this particular boy was allergic to basically almost everything. It just disturbed me, that he sat in his big box screaming and everyone ignoring him. I don’t know what he really wanted. Attention or to be left alone? I would actually have guessed that he was autistic, just because his behaviour was really bizarre. It just felt like the personnel did not know how to handle him. And that did not feel like a good sign.

image

I know it was not an ordinary day, but still it was. Because they have Eurythmy once every week, so things should not have been as chaotic as they were. I don’t understand it. When teachers act like they don’t know what they are doing, act nervous and act like they don’t know what happens next, it does not give a good impression of the school. These two are old routined teachers, so what was going on? Suddenly the things were put away and they told me that I just had to blend in, because it was Eurythmy time and they opened the door to the room where they eat, and we all squeezed in to the middle, between the wash line looking room dividers. I was told that I had to take part which was difficult for me, since I am so shy. I don’t like when people look at me and I did not know the movements at all. We walked around and around in a circle, while this special teacher, a parent actually, was reading a story rhythmically. I don’t know how long we were doing this thing but I really felt uncomfortable since I am not used to doing this sort of thing. As a child, I would have crawled under a table as usual, which is what I always did. I never dared to take part being so horribly afraid of being laughed at. And I can never get over that feeling. The screamer boy and one girl, refused to take part, so why could I have not been allowed to just watch? It was alright I suppose, doing the movements, listening to the story, and I actually think that “Gubby” would have loved this, but would not have understood why they did it, nor the story told except here and there. After this was over, we walked back in to the room and closed the door behind us. It was time for tea.

Now, five children were missing like I said before, and still there was not seats for everyone. “Gubby” would have flaxed around or just stood looking, wondering what to do. They do this every day, so why was there not room for everyone? It should have looked like this picture, that I took off the internet, from a German Waldorf playschool:

imageRoom for everyone. And notice that even if everything looks old, it looks fresh and light! Take away all windows but one and see the walls in a dark colour, in your imagination, and you know what it looked like where I visited. What do they have against light? The table was also just half the size or length. The room we were in, was half the size of this one. I don’t know what to say and feel.  When everyone finally had a seat, some sitting on a sofa, us grown ups on extra things, the herbal tea was finally served and knäckebröd, which is a crispy  bread. I wondered why this was served so close to lunch. As soon as everyone was ready, the children sat down on the floor and the head massaged each child. Either on the back or on the feet. One by one, they headed out to get dressed to go out and play. I should have stayed for another hour and a half but no way was I going to stand out in the cold, not dressed for being outside for that long, watching the children play. So I left, passing the school hens and rooster at the gate. That was fun! What conclusions did I draw? That poor “Gubby” would feel lost at this place. He is used to organisation and that there is always something to do. No dead time, like there was a lot of here. And I don’t think that it is right to cut out all learning for children under the age of seven. If they show an interest, by all means, let them have a go. Natural curiosity should not be suppressed and that is the feeling that I got from this place, that they are supposed to play only. And autistic children can not play, they can’t usually entertain themselves. One has to give them things to do, suggest things for them to do. He is learning at pre-school, so I can not force him to go back in development. And the last thing the head told me, before I left was that the next day they were going to be in a meeting, deciding if they were going to accept any more children in, but she did not think there would be a place for “Gubby”. Thanks a lot!

On the way to the car, I decided to swing by the headmaster’s office. So I drove down to that. He was pretty aggressive at first and wanted me to make an appointment. Even though I only had a quick question about the queue situation and how he feels about getting a personal assistant for “Boo”. He finally decided that the article he was writing could wait a couple of minutes and he sat down to discuss things. In Malmö, they are trying to open up a Waldorf school, autumn of 2016. But nothing is for sure, if they will be given permission to do so. So, all Malmö children are in queue for this Waldorf school as well, far away from where they live. If the school doesn’t open in Malmö, all those children will start in the village instead, and there will not be any room for “Gubby” at all. So I would have my children in four different schools. A situation I would have wanted to avoid if I could. And I just can’t start him in 1st grade this autumn. He is not ready for that at all. Besides, this lady I know, will have her son start then, and I do not want to have to meet her at parenting meetings and hear her insane ideas. She wants us all to live like in the stone age and that is just not my thing, even though I am a historian. I avoid her as much as I can because I do not want to hear her propaganda. Its enough with all the e-mails that I dump in the trash unread. Her son clearly shows signs of ADHD, as well, and no teacher would be able to cope with one child having  undiagnosed ADHD and one being autistic, in the same classroom!

The headmaster did not sound too keen on starting out “Boo” with an assistant either. Which means he would have a lousy start, like at the Catholic school, and all parents judging us of course, for bringing an awful child to the class that was so nice before his arrival. He will hit other children so that they get scared of him and don’t want to go to school and the teacher and the parents will tell me this of course. Like it is my fault. No, the headmaster wants to try things without an assistant first and then sit down for an evaluation meeting after six weeks. That is not going to work. Six weeks and he will already be hated by all the other pupils. I tried to explain the situation in detail for him and he started agreeing that IF I can get a lot of documentation in, on his weaknesses and problems, and IF someone from the school can go and observe him at his present school, perhaps there might be another option. And sadly I realized that there is hardly any documentation yet, since habilitation has not got that far with him. They are way behind in the testing when it comes to “Boo”, the one who really needs help NOW! So, I certainly knew what I needed to tell habilitation the next time I had a meeting with them.

How do I sum up my visits to Waldorf? On the whole, I like it and I think that these alternative schools who look at children in a different way than the main stream schools do, who do not allow for any difference, are the answers right now, for neurologically handicapped children. There are no other options. There is no perfect school! All schools have their shortcomings but some have less than others. And the headmaster agreed that there must be a reason why more and more parents with autistic children, try to get their children in to his school. I would say, that the lack of pressure not being there in the early grades, might be one reason. Because you can’t force these children. You can’t hurry their development. Things have to take the time they take. And as for as I am concerned, I like the fact that “Boo” would get to do crafts and music, to ease up the school day, stand up and move about, doing the Eurythmy. I can only see benefits with this for him, since he can’t sit long periods and concentrate. But I don’t know, I wish I knew what was the best for him. I wish habilitation could advice me properly and tell me right out which schools have been good so far. But they are not allowed to do so.

I can understand this though. They want to protect themselves from angry parents when things do not work out. Because it is enough that the school changes staff and things can go from good to bad in one day. And at one school there can be good teachers and bad teachers and as a parent you will never know which ones will be assigned to your children’s classes. Even when two children get the same teacher, it can be that it worked personality wise between the one child and the teacher and then it doesn’t with the other child. I wish that the Swedish school system was not such a jungle for us parents, to wade through. And I wish the law really worked, so that no school could get away with doing nothing for the children, who are in need of special help.

 

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