Tag Archives: children

My Friday book: “Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew” … continued

WordPress functions poorly when your posts get too long, so I decided to split my post in to two parts, this being the second of the two. So for newcomers, please go to the first post, before proceeding with this one. It might explain a lot and the five first things we need to know, are too important to miss.

The 6th thing you need to know is that autistic and children with ADHD, are visual people, not auditory at all. Most of us are helped by visual aids. How many of you are not the owners of a diary? Alright, maybe I am one of the few, while everyone else use their mobile phones. But even that will be counted as a visual aid, since you LOOK at it. Myself, I have somewhat of a photographic memory, so I have no idea what it is like to be an auditory person. I am not going to say that I can hear something and then forget it right away, because it was not written for me to see. Yes, I can remember what I have heard, but it can feel overwhelming, if I am in a lecture and want to remember big parts of what has been presented there. For me, there is no better tool than pen and paper. I take notes and thereby write things in to my memory. I highlight things in books, which makes me remember what it said and it helps my memory, so that I later can tell someone that it was at the bottom of a right page or whatever. To listen to a book on CD is not at all my thing, because my mind wanders. But with a book in my hand, I will make mental pictures of everything I read. So, for me it is easy to understand why autistic people have an easier time with visual things.

Notbohm proclaims that some autistic children think of life in pictures, not in words at all. Then you need to present everything to them in pictures, don’t you. As a matter of fact, all children with autism and ADHD benefit from getting everything presented to them in pictures. A schedule should contain pictures even if they can read. They need these pictures to create security, for one. So they know what will happen next. But also because they lack all sense of time. It does create a sense of order too. When it comes to things going wrong, pictures can also help. With the help of the pictures, one can explain what went wrong and why. And also teach the child what to do instead. The special ed teacher who tested my youngest son “Gubby” for autism, told the pre-school personnel that they needed to do this for when he has his meltdowns and aggressive reactions. We stared at her, all of us, because “Gubby” has no meltdowns nor aggressive behaviour. Not a whole lot of things become him. But his reaction to things is not common for autistic children. This behaviour I see in his older brother “Boo”, who basically IS going through those things on a daily basis. HE needs picture stories. Too bad that the school doesn’t understand this.

Notbohm does go through why it is so important with the picture schedules and as I said above, it creates structure. Why does the child need so much structure? Because all autistic children worry. They worry about the smallest things. They do not like surprises, nor unpredictability. They want to de-scarify the world around them and the best way to do this is to be prepared for what is about to happen. When they know what is to happen next, they can concentrate 100% on what to do now.

Autistic children also like routines, whether they are pictured on a schedule or not. My youngest son wants everything in the same order, every day. And his brother who goes to school, would probably benefit from as little changes as possible. When there is a new thing introduced in the schedule, like going to the public swimming pool, going off to the sports arena, to the library, to a play, he flips out. He can not cope at all and what happens is, that he runs off and does his own thing. He no longer feels safe and doesn’t know how to behave or feel in control anymore.

To have a picture schedule also helps a child to see that there is an end to boring things and that funnier things lay ahead. When my youngest son (who is now being tested by the habilitation speech therapist), goes to the tests, she has put up pictures of everything they will do. First look at pictures, then talk about words, then there is a picture of the play room, which he loves. Monday, he sat and held the picture of the playroom in his hand during the test. Because first of all, she had forgotten to put velcro under it, like with the other pictures, which upset him. Order is important. Secondly, because he could hardly wait to be allowed to go in there.

With a schedule, the child can also become independent. He can look at the schedule and knows what to do next, which is good. My oldest son Johannes was never diagnosed with autism, because noone told us to go and have testing done. One did not in those days. Instead he was labeled as stupid, having learning difficulties, being lazy, being awkward, doing socially unacceptable things, lacking motor skills… One thing which became clear when he started high school, at the age of 12, was that the schools ideas of working in steps, did not suit him. One worked with a subject in seven steps, if I remember right, and one had to choose which level of grade one wanted to aim for. In his case he always had to aim for the lowest, since everything else was beyond him. But the major problem was that the teacher would explain to him what he had to do to complete a step, and then he did nothing. He just sat there and did not get started since he had not understood a single word. He could not sort out the information, even in written form. The steps required to pass a course were seven, but finally the teachers understood that in order for him to pass a single step, they had to break each of the seven steps in to tons of little steps. When the others got three to six weeks to finish the seven steps, he got 12-18 weeks. It is a miracle that he was able to graduate and had I not done a lot of his homework in gymnasium, he would not have graduated from there at all. I don’t think that I will ever understand how his brain worked or works, but he certainly can not put a schedule together himself, nor put his words in to anything comprehensive on paper, so he might be one of those people who clearly thinks in pictures and not at all in words. And his schooling ought to have been in pictures then.

Number seven on the list of things, is the fact that we must focus on what our child can do, not on what he can not do. Easier said than done. In school, there are certain things a child just has to learn. Johannes sat the entire first school year and just glued and cut paper. He was not interested what so ever, in learning anything, especially learning how to read and write. His brother “Boo” never learned to read in first grade either. Now he is in second grade and the goal is for him to catch up on everything he missed in first grade, including the skill of reading. I agree, you don’t have to point out everything your child can not do, and yes, you should build on what they already can do, improve on it and encourage it. But at the same time, we all have to learn new things in life, every day almost, and that goes for autistic children as well. The goal is for them to learn as much as possible, so that perhaps one day, they can actually live a life on their own.

Our Knowledge channel (Kunskapskanalen) on TV showed this documentary a couple of days ago, called “Living with Autism”. One of the things which touched me the most, was at the end of the program, which I have seen twice, trying to catch the first 20 minutes of it and failing both times. They showed an old black and white film of this really cute little boy. Inquisitive, talking to the interviewer, not really coming off as autistic at a first glance. The program producer was a psychologist named Uta and she was the one who interviewed the boy, all those years ago, and it had started her interest in autism. After the black and white sequence was shown, they visited the now greying man and I was shocked. The little boy who spoke pretty normal and looked pretty normal, no longer seems normal at all. He is a pudgy old man who can not look after himself. He looks off in space, avoids eye contact, he repeats everything people say to him, like a parrot, clearly acts retarded and looks that way too. What happened between the little boy and this elderly man? It looked like he was on the right track back then but somewhere, something must have gone wrong. The question is what? Did he not get the encouragement he needed? Did he not get love, attention, training…?

The book I read said that we are all needed in this world with all our personalities and different skills. That there is no reason to grieve that your child will not be able to do this or that. Fine, if the child does not have any ambitions. But if my little “Gubby” will turn in to a man like I saw on that documentary, it is time to weep and pull my hair. That man has gone in to his bubble and can not get out. And what if the child does have ambitions? “Boo” talks of when he is going to get married. He is 8 by the way. And now when D. is doing his basic training with the military, it has given “Kitty” and “Boo” new dreams. They also want to wear a uniform, shoot a gun and live in a tent! And how can I tell them that with an autism diagnosis, you are not allowed to become a soldier nor a policeman. “Kitty” so far has only an ADHD diagnosis but he will be tested for autism and I fear, that what goes for autism in the military goes for ADHD as well. Some doors are already closed to my boys and how do you explain that to your child, at the same time as you have to make them feel good about themselves and tell them that they are not ill, they are just different.

When I go to habilitation they look at me and wonder if I can really cope. Should they report me to social services? Can one woman really deal with taking care of three handicapped boys and at the same time give the three normal children what they need? I became really angry with the counselor at BUP some months ago, when she suggested that I can not cope when I tell her that I feel stressed out about all the visits I have to do at BUP and habilitation. My answer to her was this: “I came here for help, but all you have created in my life, is stress. You hand me appointments which clash with my children’s schooling, fetching times and other appointments. Some weeks I have to be here every single day and I have to bring children, who would be better off at home or elsewhere and you demand that they wait outside by themselves in the hallway, while the sibling and I, go in to see who ever we are here to see. How can I not feel stressed out at leaving one or two autistic boys on their own, out in the hallway for an hour, because of your bad planning? What parent would not feel stressed out about this constant logistic mess? And I do not come here to tell you everything that works in my life, do I? You go to BUP and habilitation to tell everything which does not work. What would be the point of going here to tell you that everything works just fine?”.

BUP, Habilitation and Försäkringskassan, where you apply for care support, do not want to hear anything about what your child can do, but you are supposed to tell them about everything the child can not do. In your daily life, yes, you try to encourage everything that your child can do, and let him do it on his own, instead of you doing it for him. But most of the time, everybody around you will point out everything that your son can not do and can you please fix it for them?! It is inconvenient for a teacher to have a child who walks out of the classroom or who hits his classmates out at recess. The physical therapist will tell you what you have to practice on, with your child. The speech therapist will tell you what to do, as far as language goes. EVERYBODY points out to you, what your child’s shortcomings are, because this world does not really believe in the fancy words, that there is a place for everyone, that it is alright to be different. Your difference must be erased somehow and schools and work sites are not set up for DIFFERENT. You as a parent, is ordered to FIX your child so that he fits in. You can’t do that by only focusing on what he can do!

Number 8, is all about being social oddballs. Uta the psychologist in the program “Living with Autism” said that what autistic people completely lack, is the social sense, that the rest of us are born with. As a child learns social skills, the more it fits in to the society around it. But autistic children do not learn and are not born with that sense, so they need constant help. The results are otherwise getting bullied, ostracized, and loneliness. They do not really want to be alone, they do like company, they just don’t know how to handle things nor how to act. Children can be very cruel. They will bully the child which is different. And grown ups will avoid the different, the socially embarrassing people. The socially different people make us feel insecure, because they break all the rules.

What is it that autistic children and grown ups can not do? They can not “see and experience the world from standpoints other than their own”. Uta said it so well. They get angry when we do not know what they think and want, before they have told us so. We all have the same thoughts as the autistic child, right? The same brain? Uta showed two examples of the same thing, which illustrated this very well. Uta put a marble in one box of three and then walked out the door. Another person moved the marble to another box. If you ask an autistic person “where will Uta look for the marble?”, the autistic person will tell you that she will look in the box, where it has been moved to. Not in the box where she put it herself, before leaving the room. The autistic child or person does not understand how Uta will think. That we expect to find things where we last put it. Even if another person has seen it being moved.

Johannes could never socialize with other children at pre-school or in school. He did the most bizarre things, like sticking a fork in his neighbour’s face at lunch, not understanding that this made the other person feel very uncomfortable. Autistic people say things that hurt other people and they do things that hurt others, and they can’t understand why the other person gets upset with them. Nor does an autistic child see why noone wants to play with him.

They lack flexibility. I pointed this out in the first part of this blog post, which is split in two. Disappointments are complete disasters to them. There is no flexibility, while with the rest of us can see that mistakes are part of learning and growing. It is not the end of the world. But the autistic world is black and white, it is either or, not in the middle.

“Gubby” is not the typical autistic child in that he actually is naturally curious. He is interested in people’s emotions, why do they feel that way, why do they do that. But most of the time, I must admit that “Boo” accepts things the way they are. He doesn’t really want to know why things work the way they do. He is not really curious about anything.

Self-esteem. Believing in yourself and daring to try new things Notbohm says. Getting over bad remarks and realizing that they only say things about themselves, not you. Sorry, but if this is a criteria for autism, then I am autistic. Because if a child hears nothing but bad remarks about their personality, their looks, their body, their results in life, then that child is not going to have any kind of self-esteem. My mother always told me how ugly I am. She told me to go to a tanning salon because I was too pale, put make up on to give myself colour, to have my hair permed, because it was ugly straight. In all my teen years she told me my bottom was as big as a barn door and that I should diet. (I was never over weight, wearing size 36.) Never ever was she proud of that I came home with the best grades and 100% on tests or close to it. Because she herself hated all education. So she complained about me studying. And as far as my religion, well she threatened with having me committed to an insane asylum since it is not normal to think about God. Having more than two children was wrong. My house was not clean enough for her, so as soon as she arrived as our guest, she started to clean and put away things, so we never found them again. Nothing I have ever done, has been good enough in my mother’s eyes. I am a total failure. And the extended family always agreed with her, reinforcing everything she said, to push me down in to my shoes. Yes, I do believe that it reflects more about them than me, but it doesn’t make me feel better about myself. Not even today.

I have not stopped living though. Nor have I stopped trying to do things. But when I see how people have torn down one child of mine after the next, I do realize, that this will go on no matter what you do. You can hug and kiss your child and tell them that they are diamonds in your life, but when the rest of the world doesn’t agree, your child is still going to get a low self-esteem. From day 1 in school, people complained about “Boo’s” behaviour. And he has not succeeded. He will not try new things anymore. He even tells the teachers that he will fail so what is the point. School, classmates and other parents can destroy your child. So whether you have a mother like mine, who clearly could not really love me, or a loving parent, you can still end up with no  self-esteem.

When Johannes went to test if the military would take him, he utterly failed the IQ test, showing him having a below average IQ. When it was time to talk to the psychologist, this man told Johannes to take his bag and get out of his office, that he was too stupid and psychologically unfit to do military service. Surely there must have been a better way for the psychologist to dismiss him? In gymnasium, his Swedish teacher told the entire class that Johannes was too stupid to be in there, that he had never even read a single book. His reading was very selective. By then he had read all the Harry Potter books once and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, three times. I don’t think he has picked up another book since and he was not interested in reading anything but those books. But that is just another example of, how human beings can tear down another person and make them not want to try anything again.

I am a hyper-sensitive person. I can not let things go. I sit and mole over and over situations I have been in. Thinking about what was said, what I said, what I should have said instead, what I did and should not have done. I love mysteries and trying to solve the problem before the police/detective. I can think about a film I have seen and discuss it in my mind or with my husband at length. Normal people do this. Autistic do not. It is called the big picture thinking. How does this fit in to the topic though? Do not know? But she did bring that up and then she moves on to say that autistic people do not really want to be alone, they want company, but it is too painful. They know they lack the skills, but do not know how to approach their shortcomings and how to get over them. It is too painful to think about it, so they choose solitude. Which in itself is a scream for help.

In a second, when you meet a person, you think about that person’s feelings and thoughts, you show you want to communicate, you read the signs in the other person’s body language and eyes and then you talk. The autistic person can not do this at all. Often he can not even talk properly. He doesn’t understand sarcasm, jokes etc. See the earlier post about this. And his own language can also be difficult for us, to understand. Johannes, my oldest is very difficult to understand. He speaks in a monotone voice, too softly and very, very fast. And then he gets insulted when you say you did not hear or understand. “Boo” speaks loudly, VERY loudly, and “Kitty” (with ADHD) speaks not only choppy but so slowly that your mind starts wandering. The autistic child and adult fail to understand body language or rather doesn’t notice it being there. “Facial expressions and emotional responses” often are also often missed, since many autistic people avoid eye contact. Or they just can’t interpret what they see, since they can not feel what others feel. Nor does the autistic person understand personal boundaries. Some will not want you to stand close, like “Boo”, others like “Gubby” comes too close for comfort, for most people. Like I mentioned about “Gubby” at the bank, in my previous post on this book.

What most of us very soon discover, is the fact that if we are not forced to become our child’s defence lawyer, we at least have to become the child’s interpreter and mediator. Which is all well at home and when the child is with us. But the more the child spends time in school and in other places, the less control over things we have. They are on their own in a world that doesn’t understand them. And that is where they undoubtedly fail. And in my world that means, that I get phone calls and e-mails and am called in to conferences about my failings as a mother, since my child has behaved in this or that manner towards other people. In this respect, it doesn’t matter that my boys have diagnoses, because when people do not know what the handicap entails, it seems like it is always the parent’s fault and a lack of proper upbringing.

Chapter 9/the 9th thing you need to know, is perhaps the one which is the most important. Meltdowns. They are the message from the child that he can not cope, that something has rocked the boat. You must find the trigger in order to prevent a future identical meltdown. Oh how I wish the school would do this! Once the child is in affect, it is too late to do something. He needs to cool down somewhere but as soon as you can talk to him, it is time to find out if it was biology, psychology or environment, which caused everything to collapse. When “Boo” has big meltdowns, the cause is usually disappointment, maltreatment or he feels that he has been treated unfair. Like being accused of things he hasn’t done. Being accused of being fat, which he is not, being accused of having ADHD, which he has not. Being accused of peeing on the school loo floor, which others do too. And one big trigger is adults being very bad examples! He also gets frustrated when he feels goals and expectations on him are too high, when he doesn’t understand what he is supposed to do, why he has to do it in the first place and more than often, he actually has a difficult time to physically do things.

One thing which an autistic child can not handle well at all, is when something he counted on, does not happen. He likes things to be just like he expects them to be, like he has imagined, and disappointment is too much to handle. For some children it takes a long time to get over the disappointment. Routine and Familiarity is A and O with these children. Everything else will rock the boat and make the child feel insecure. In “Gubby” it shows by the fact that he gets scared, huggy, clingy and wants re-assurance. He doesn’t dare to do things he normally does, like go fetch something from a bedroom or go to the loo on his own. Suddenly he regresses and needs help with everything and feels unsafe. “Boo”, on the other hand, gets aggressive and misbehaves. Acts out. Destroys things. Screams. Runs off.

As far as maltreatment goes, it is a serious matter and the book advocates zero tolerance. But as with school, as a parent I can testify that is not that easy to act zero tolerance. In school, all teasing and bullying goes on behind the teachers’ backs. It is classic isn’t. All of us who have been bullied, know that when other children did mean things and said mean things, there was not a single adult around. And when one dared to tattle tale, the teachers never believed it, since those children were always able to fool the grown ups. It is up to grown ups to grow up and not believe that children are all innocent. They can be cruel and it serves no purpose to be blind. As far as home is concerned, the same problem occurs there. A sibling whispers something mean that is out of ear shot. A sibling kicks the child under the table or gives the child a look. Little acts can trigger things. In my case, I have a teenager that acts out and the psychologists at both BUP and habilitation have told me that she has to be allowed to be a teenager and do mean things. That it is part of growing up. I do not agree. You do not kick on those who are weaker than yourself, in my household and I am of the strong opinion that there should not be any bullying at home. If that is the only place on earth where you can feel safe, that is how it has to be. You should never fear to go home and you should never meet with disapproval at home, at least. Let the world hate you, but at home you are loved. And I do my best to instill this in my children. One day I hope they will understand and deep down I think they love each other, even if it is difficult for them to accept each others’ oddities and handicaps.

As far as adults go, you really have to be an example. Stay away from your child when you are angry or your pupil. Notbohm quoted author Laurence Peter here, who said “Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you’ll ever regret.” True! You don’t usually say anything of value when angry nor do you write anything that should be published, in the heat of the moment. Do not make fun of the child, do not compare it to someone else and do not accuse the child if you have no evidence. To be honest, does this not apply to all children? And to adults alike?

Finally, the autistic child wants to tell you to love him unconditionally. God has given this child to your for a purpose. As Hercules Poirot tells the insurance person who doesn’t want to pay out the premium: You just have to accept it and deal with it. You have to make the best of the situation. No use in crying over spilled milk. So your neighbours can send their children off to school on bicycles, go to a fair, have their children in after day-care, go to work, both of them… There are things you can not do when you have an autistic child. There are more things you can not do when you have two autistic children and even more things you can not do when having a child with ADHD on top of the other two. In a way, you don’t have a life. A life outside your home that is. You have to live your life with the phone by your side, the computer nearby to answer e-mails, and work is often out of the question. Your career is your child. Your child needs help in school and you have to fight for it. You have to fight for all his rights because they do not come by themselves. Your child costs more. You have to avoid doing things, going places, avoid people… Yes, life is tough and a struggle the more handicapped children you have, especially when their major handicap is a social one. But becoming bitter about it really serves no purpose. It is not productive.

A friend asked me if there are no sunshine moments at all, because I rarely write about them on my blog. Yes, there is. But blogging is a lot about venting, isn’t it? At least for us who are house bound. Who have been forced to shun society because society do  not appreciate children who are different, who do not fit in to the mold. We hurt and we have noone to talk to, because when we do, they accuse us of not being able to cope. Then the blog becomes our communication partner. A one-way such. But of course there are sun-shine moments. But they are so quick and so fleeting, that I save them in my heart or send a note off to my husband’s mobile. For me, they might seem major things, but for someone, who does not have an autistic child, they would not be meaningful at all. When I watched the “Life with Autism” program on TV, one thing shown was how autistic people really pay attention to detail. They were supposed to find Wally, in a painting, and the normal person could not find him without lots of clues, while the autistic persons found him right away. Yesterday, I was in the shower and “Gubby” thought it nice and warm in the bathroom, so he joined me in there. He looked at me and immediately said “But oh, mamma, you must not have that on!” I was wearing my silver bangle, which is almost impossible to get on and off. I sleep with it and shower with it, there is no point in wrestling with it each day. Either I wear it all the time or not at all. He noticed though! And pointed out that this was not normal to shower with. And I had to explain, that I can’t get it off so it is alright to shower with it.

Another time he laughed and said that I sparkled. I had no idea what he meant, till I looked at myself in the rear view mirror and noticed that some of my eye shadow had fallen down on my cheeks. Just the sparkly bits. Since I only wear make up on Sundays, usually, he noticed that there was something unusual with me, taking him to pre-school. Can’t remember where I was heading with make up on, in the morning! I usually don’t have the time to get earrings on during the week either, but when I do, he is the only one who walks up to me and says “Uh, how beautiful!”. He said this when I had a new nightgown on one day as well. He is very observant, notice when something is not right and has a clear view of what he finds beautiful and not. To me, that shows a rare form of intelligence. While he might not be able to read other people’s feelings and doesn’t know that it makes me happy, when he tells me that I am beautiful or that he likes me or that he has missed me when he was at pre-school, it still proves to me, that he is in there at least and that he is very much a little person, with feelings and thoughts.

Both “Gubby” and “Boo” do things on their own time schedule. I am in no hurry. I have the rest of MY life to be there with them and help them along the way. They do things daily which make me smile and feel happy about being their mother. At the same time, “Boo” does lots of things which make me sigh or cry inside. Had I wanted them to be born normal? Of course. What parent does not want their child to be spared pain, ostracizing, bullying, hardships that other children do not go through. On the other hand, who would they have been? “Gubby” is my little angel, partly because he is autistic. Thanks to his autism, it is still alright for me to look at wooden trains, soft animals, baby cutlery and so on. If you enjoy being a parent of small children, that is what you get when you ave a child with ADHD or Autism. Question is when and if they ever move out of that stage.

After Notbohm has finished the ten things we ought to know, she adds an afterword, a stupid chapter on her graduating son, a word discussion etc. For me the book ends on page 135, not 197. Her personal story and bragging has no importance to me. But she did say one thing in the afterword, which I would like to share. I have no idea what religion she belongs to. Being an American, I assume that she belongs to something. The sentence she wrote, was very Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints: ” that Bryce had chosen me as his mother, that somehow across time, he believed that I was the one for the job, renewed my determination to do right by him.” (She does talk about reincarnation and stuff, which proves she is not a member of above religion.) But I firmly agree, that somewhere in the pre-existence, my children chose me for a mother. I know that our Heavenly Father told my sons there, that they would  be sent down to Earth, with their handicaps, that these were the trials they would have here and have to overcome, best they could. And they accepted this. Yes, I believe that I am their particular mother for a reason. This was the trial I have to go through on Earth, with many other trials added to this one. Noone else could do my job. I owe it to them, to do the best job I can, because they believed in me in the pre-existence, when they chose me for a mother, and they believe in me now. I can not let them down. When I sit at habilitation and they ask me if I can really cope, I can not bring up my religion nor what I believe in. They are atheists, so how can they ever understand. But what I can tell them is this and is what I have told them: “Noone else can take my place, because noone else loves my children the way I love them. Noone can help, because they don’t know where the help is needed. It is my intuition who tells me what each one of my children need and to have an extra person show up to help, just means that I am forced to take care of one more!”. I will fight for my boys, as long as I have life in me and a brain to do so. When I am no longer strong enough or dead, I hope that they can have learned to look after themselves, and if not, at least D. have promised to take over.

Take these two blog posts for what they are, a personal comment on Notbohm’s book and always remember what I said in the first post about it, which contain’s comments on the first five chapters and things we need to know: These are another person’s experiences and will never be yours. You have to go down this road on your own and make your own mistakes as well as succeed. Her book wants to teach you how to succeed, but since no autistic child is the same, only your own experience will teach you how to do that. With my posts, my only aim have been to show all of you parents out there, that you are not alone. We are thousands, millions, going through this. Alone, yes. But also together. And you know something? Our children are unique! Because they teach us to re-discover the world! No other children do that!

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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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A visit to the zero-class at Montessori

On the 24th November 2014, parents of children in the queue for zero class at the Montessori school in our neighbour village, were invited for an information meeting. Since “Gubby” is already in a Montessori pre-school belonging to the school, he automatically had a place folded for him if we wanted it, so all parents in our situation, were also there at the meeting. We of course had to go, since habilitation had not told us anything, whether he need special needs school or must go to regular school, and we had to proceed with decisions, in order not to get burned. Montessori wanted to know by the 5th December, which children in pre-school wanted their places at the school. After that date, they would start phoning parents in the outside queue.

I can not say that I drove to the school with happy thoughts. And I had two “children” at home objecting! Both of them having attended the school at the age 7-9 and D. even till the age of 10, since he had to do third grade two years in a row, to catch up to the others. I had to tell them that things change when personnel change. But the bitterness is still there. J. getting terribly bullied at the school since he was so odd. If we had only known then what we know now. That he is with 100% likelihood autistic. He should have re-done first grade. He should have been moved in middle school so he could not sit off time for three years, like he did.

The last year, E. attended the school, I had a very difficult time with the personnel. They looked at me with contempt, they were rude and cold, and I could not wait, to take my child out of there and never return. And now I was back and who do I encounter in the zero-class classroom? Some of the judgemental people from when E. did her last year at the school. I was in shock and so were they at seeing me. But I decided that people can change. And what options do I really have? Perhaps things will not be so bad in zero-class, especially if “Gubby” gets an assistant? I decided to try to be open-minded. We both did, T. being with me for once. We sat down and saw that some other parents from our village Montessori pre-school was also in attendance and I felt that this was a little bit comforting, since “Gubby” will then recognise some of the children. Providing they actually take their slotted places.

I am not sure what I thought of the information meeting except that I got vexed at this woman from the outside queue. She brought up the topic of home language which has the formal name of Mother Tongue. That is for children who has at least one immigrant parent, who speaks the language of their home country, at home. In our case, its English of course since T. speaks English ALL the time with the children and he and I only converse in English between us. This lady, has a daughter and at her pre-school the daughter was allowed to sit in on the English lessons and she thought it was so much fun! And the parent was delighted that she got to learn some English at such an early age. It made me angry!!!! First of all, my child’s pre-school has had to cut home language lessons because it costs too much. So “Gubby” has not received his entitled home language lessons. These lessons cost the schools a lot of money so they are only meant for the children who are entitled to the lessons. They are not supposed to be something fun for Swedish children! And this cow sat there and argued with the teachers that why should her daughter not be allowed to have all this fun at their school as well, even though she has two 100% Swedish parents? I wanted to bite the woman’s head off and hoped that no place would be offered to her child, because I’d rather not “Gubby” go to school with such a stupid woman’s child! Nor do I want to meet that lady again at future parenting meetings etc. She has completely missed the point of what home language or mother tongue is all about and that it is a service the school buys in. A native teacher comes to the school, to teach his or her language. There were other stupid questions from this lady and another lady from the outside queue, but the above is the only one that I really got emotionally involved in. (The fun thing is that all places have been taken by Montessori children, so these outsiders asked their stupid questions in vain!)

After we went on a tour of the school, which has changed A LOT since E. quit, we got to talk to the teacher who will be in charge of the zero-class. I wanted to see her reaction when I asked her about a child with autism attending her class and how they could adjust things for him. I guess autism is not a foreign concept at the school like it is at the Catholic school that “Boo” attends. Some children have assistants at the school which sounded positive in my view, since that means that the headmaster is willing to exert himself on a child’s behalf and apply to LSR (School Resource Center for our council) for help. It sounded like they would try to help “Gubby” as much as they possibly can. But I guess one will not know that until one sits in the middle of it. It was decided that I come and visit the present zero-class to see how they work on that level, since none of my children ever attended zero-class. It did not even exist when J. and D. was that age.

On the 27 January 2015, after saying yes to the place at the school on the 5th December, but still feeling undecided if it is really right for “Gubby”, I went to spend the morning with the zero-class. I arrived at the school at 9:00 and was received by the special ed teacher who has been down to help both “Boo” and “Gubby” with their speech and language, at the pre-school. She walked me in to the classroom which is in the middle of the school. My first concern of course being that “Gubby” will run off to the loo and get undressed to poop and then noone will hear him, if he learns to shout that he is ready and needs to be wiped. I can see him running out naked like he does at pre-school, to get someone’s attention and this will of course not work at a school where children from age 6-12 is in attendance. I fear that he might get bullied and teased, unless they realise how sweet he is and needs help?

imageThe school was really quiet, everyone working hard and I was surprised at the little group in front of me. Sitting one and one, by little tables or on the floor, working on their own tasks. Hm! How will “Gubby” do in that environment, with glass windows all around the room, but that is the limit of how far he is allowed to go. If he is going to go flaxing, it will have to be in the room! Because flax he will do! No way to escape it until he grows out of it or learns that there are places where it is not completely alright to flax about. Flaxing? Have I not explained it? He looks like a bird, flaxing his wings in order to take off and he runs while doing it. The new thing though is to clap his wrists when he is flaxing and running. It can get on my nerves so sometimes I beg him to stop, but he doesn’t usually pay attention to me. The best thing is to call out to him and beg him to come. Come and look at this book with me! Come and let us build a puzzle! He does the flaxing when he is tired, happy, bored, overwhelmed or unsettled. So what the school needs to do, is try to catch his attention when he does this and suggest something for him to do. It usually works at the pre-school. I am not sure how M. will handle it at the school though. She can get irritated and I see why. She has a class of about 15 pupils who all need her help, a lot!

The first hour, they were two people in the classroom. One woman from after-day care helping out in the classroom. But the second hour she has to do her real job for some reason, even if the school day is not out for anyone yet. And that is when the real problem starts. One person trying to help all the children working on individual tasks. I saw how thinly stretched M. was and that it would be impossible for her to have “Gubby” in the classroom, without him having an assistant. He would be lost and spend all his day flaxing. He needs to have someone there for him alone. Especially when I saw how advanced these 6-year-olds were and where he is at. One boy sat on the floor and read cards matching them up with clocks. And he did them all correctly. One girl sat imageand did Math. She had to fill in the number coming after a number. Like what comes after 599, 437… Some children sat and worked on work sheets that had a picture that they had to colour and then they were supposed to write a text under it. The teacher writes the text in very thin pencil and they fill in her writing. One boy was sitting doing number exchange, which I still do not understand but then I am not a math genius! I know that “Boo” would not be able to do what that boy was able to do, and then he is two years older than all these children. As a matter of fact, it felt like all of them were way more advanced than both “Gubby” and “Boo”! It felt worrisome. I spent a lot of time looking at all the different Montessori materials and everything looked terribly advanced. I got so worried that “Gubby” will not find anything to do, that is within his scope of intelligence, that this school is too advanced for him and then we are only talking about zero-class, which is not supposed to be serious and should be mostly about play. There was no playing in that zero-class at all. It is all very serious already. ,

M. had some time for me, when most of the children had done their two tasks that day. In their planning books, she writes up two things for them to accomplish every day. Some gets them done quickly and some barely get them done at all. The girl with the math sheet for example, did not get a lot of free time, because she just sat and looked at everything going on around her, wanting help she said. But when M. sat down to help her, it was clear that she needed no help, she just wanted company. I sat down with her for a while and she said she did not know what to do, but I told her that I knew that she could do the numbers and she gave me the answers. She just wanted immediate feedback and someone to sit and chat with, while doing the paper and this, the teacher does not have time for. M. told her that she was just being lazy. At a meeting at BUP, the counselor asked me if I really want my child in a school where the teacher says that to children. The counselor doesn’t have any children! I told her that there are teachers that say far worse to the pupils and that no school is perfect. At the Catholic school I have heard teachers swear at the pupils like the worse harbour workers, so you just have to decide which level of badness you can not tolerate.

imageM. told me that they work on different time periods from the big bang and so on. (They are very anti religion at this school which is one reason I was adamant about taking my children out of there.) Those are the worksheets that she writes text on and that they have to fill in. Not all the children can read what they have just filled in. She also said that there is plenty of Montessori material to work on, depending on where you are in the development. I am sure that some things “Gubby” will recognise from his pre-school and some things she showed was actually on his level. One was these boxes with littleimage tubes in them and you listen to them by shaking them, determining which ones sound the same. It seems like if he received an assistant, that person could sit and help him use that material, if the other pupils are doing more advanced things. And he could definitely sit and colour in the worksheets, even if he does not understand at all what they are about and what she has just had a presentation on. He could even fill in letters I think! But would he learn anything? No, but he would learn to sit still for a while on a chair. For the future, that will be good.

The good thing is that the group is small, the room not too cramped up and light. He can look outside. And the noise level was very low if not completely quiet. Only when it was nearing lunch, did the volume go up. I did not stay for lunch but it is eaten in their room, so they do not intermingle with the older pupils who can get very noisy at lunch. During the lunch recess they also have someone go out and do organized play after a while, which is nice since he certainly can not come up with things to do on his own, except flaxing or running around. Well, going on slides and such, also works of course, but I did not see if they still had the slide or not. My concern is the big forest right by the school and that he will take off in there and get lost. Or children lure him in there and then abandon him for fun. But with an assistant, he would be safe. So everything hangs on a little thread called an assistant. Failure or success is dependant on such a person being available to him. Then I think, he could continue to thrive at the Montessori school, just as he has at the pre-school. There he is surrounded by understanding children. Would it be the same at the school? I wish I had a crystal ball so I could see in to the future! What should I do?

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Lexibook Tablet Junior 2 from BR

All summer long, I suffered the same upsetness, as many other parents I have spoken to. We all remembered our childhood summers. Going swimming. Playing outdoors. Reading books. Playing with dolls, if you were a girl of course, otherwise with boy toys. I remember how D. dressed up as a knight and played outside every day, and when he grew out of knights, he dressed up as a soldier and ran around with a plastic gun, pretending there was a war on in the forest, with the neighbour boys.

Now you don’t find kids out playing games anymore. You almost have to force them to take part in the library’s summer book campaign, “read eight books and receive one for free”. Forget trying to get the boys to participate in that! No, come rain, come shine, they park themselves in front of a computer to play games and for the children, who are not on the computer, there is the DVD player to use, while they wait their turn on the computer. I don’t think I have ever spent such a frustrating summer ever, trying to get my children to do something else, but sitting parked in front of the TV and the computer screen. When school started in August, I was glad because for one, there would only be computer games played on Saturdays, again.

But, by then I had discovered that “Boo” did not play the silly, innocent games I had allowed him to play on the computer. No, when everyone was out of view, he just surfed in on games that I do not approve of. I can’t prevent D. who now have turned 20, from sitting killing people on-screen. But my other boys can forget sitting playing anything remotely close to people or things dying! NO SHOOTING or destroying of anything. For a while, I have noticed the little tablet Lexibook, at the toystore BR. When it first got out, it was way out of my range. But lately, or say for the past 6 months, they have had it on sale, for half the initial price. The price now being 799:- (£ 67.26 , $ 108, € 86.15 ). When I noticed that “Boo” was playing games I do not approve of, when I realized that I can’t prevent the kids from loving computer games, and when I realized that “Gubby” needs some form of stimulation, to learn colours, shapes, math etc., then I started to think about the Lexibook seriously. I started to think that perhaps 799:- was not such a bad price after all. T. and I checked the tablets available, since there are two, and decided that the tablet for small children, would be perfect. Nice, kind games. And sturdy construction if they accidentally drop it on the floor.

image

So, as a surprise, on the 22 August, I went to BR, with D. and “Gubby” in tow, and bought a Lexibook for “Gubby”, “Boo” and if necessary, “Kitty”. When the lady in the shop saw “Gubby” she said, no that is for babies and toddlers, you need to get the one for older children and I had to point out that, he is behind in learning, he is autistic and “the other child who is going to use this is also being tested for the same thing, and is behind in language and learning. I WANT THIS TABLET, with simple games and a sturdy construction”. She stopped arguing with me and happily we walked home with the machine and plugged it in for charging.

As a word of warning, the lady in the shop said “Make sure it is a grown up who plugs it in for charging. We have had a couple of them back, because children have plugged the charging plug in too hard, and have pushed something in the outlet hole too far in.”. I had no idea what the lady meant when I plugged it in. You have a holeimage on the machine, on the side. You have a charging cord with a metal “pin” at the end and you have to stick the pin in all the way in to the hole for the cord and the black plastic part, to touch the machine. You can’t have the pin hanging out half way, or you get no or uneven amount of electricity in to your machine! The boys were happier than happy!

We took photos of them with the tablet and created three “accounts”, since you can create three. So all three boys had their faces and their names on one box each, when you start the tablet. They soon found favourites among the games. “Boo” loved the squirrel, who has to get over a field of traps. And he also sat with a monkey jumping upwards, getting rewards and trying to avoid obstacles. “Gubby” loved to try most things, but he really loved the making hamburgersimage. I had to steer him in to the learning games, like one who taught shapes, and one who taught colours and light/dark. He also managed to do the funny game Jump Frog Jump, in the learning section, with my help and tried his hand at parking a car, or getting it out of a parking space really, and the memory game. He really came to love the latter.

Two Saturdays went by and the boys looked forward to every Saturday, since that is when they got to play on the Lexibook. And if I was nice, also on Sunday afternoons. But with the arrival of the third weekend, after my purchase of the tablet, the Lexibook no longer wanted to start-up. Sadly, I had to take it to BR and ask them what could be wrong. “Your children must have plugged in the charging cord too hard!”. No way was I going to accept that. I told them, that the only two people putting in the charging cord, was myself and my husband, after the warning they gave us when I bought it. I had decided that it was not going to break on us! I have an iPod, an iPad, an iPhone and have charged all of them for years as well as my laptop. I know how to charge electrical things and don’t use excess force! Nor does my husband. The machine was in for repairs, for an entire month and came back in time for Saturday, 12 days ago. The repairs people said we had put the charger in too hard.

I got really upset at this, and once again explained that only two grown ups had dealt with the charging. I also told the woman how it is very strange to sell a machine that is that hypersensitive. The girl agreed and said the binder in front of her, was full of Lexibooks in for repair, for the same thing. She had pointed out to the company, that since this machine is made for toddlers, it is insane to make the charging hole/outlet so sensitive. It is meant that children should charge it by themselves, and we did not even allow our kids to do this! They are no toddlers, who are a famous for being clumsy and not careful with things, but I wanted to make sure, just in case. I don’t understand why they have not put in an iPhone charger plug/outlet instead, which is wide? Or as T. suggested, a USB port opening which is also wide. Instead of having just a pin! But I told the girl, you have to stick the pin all the way in or your machine is not going to work! I went home with the machine, and “Gubby” was soooooo happy. He sat and played a lot on it that Saturday. And 3 days ago, he once again wanted to play on it, since it was Saturday again. But lo and behold, the machine no longer worked. Again!

This time I had told T. that I did not dare to charge it up, so he was the only person who was allowed to charge it up after we got the tablet back, a week ago. Sunday night, I told him “Since we bought that machine two months ago, it has spent the majority of the time, at the repairs. What’s the point? How many times are they going to repair it for us before they say, no, we refuse to fix it another time?”. The girl said they had never received a tablet back a second time for repairs. I thought that sounded hopeful, till ours broke down after one day of use. So, last night, I had T. take the tablet back to BR and demand my money back. I bet everyone else have done the same thing and that is why it never comes back for a second repair. T. said they did not fight him at all, no questions asked. It breaks my heart, but I did not see myself having any option. What is the point in having a tablet which spends all its time in a repairs shop and not in my children’s hands? I am so horribly disappointed with the whole thing because I considered the purchase for so long. It was a great sacrifice to shell out the money. But I wanted to do something nice for the boys, I wanted their time with computer games to be meaningful, I wanted especially “Gubby” to learn things. It had puzzles, films, memory game, feedback when doing colours etc. The thought behind the tablet was such a good one. Safe games, good games, collected in one place. And if  I am going to be honest, both E. and “Cookie” thought the games were funny as well. Even I sat and filled hamburger orders, finding it a challenge to do so on time. So, it was very, very sad to let the machine go. But what is the point in having a good-looking tablet that will not start, a dead item for 799:-?

They did tell T. that an update is planned. For Christmas, he asked them? No, we have to sell all the ones we have first! Excuse me, but is that not totally dishonest? They have a big inventory of lousy tablets, which they are planning on pawning off on people, people who then in return, are going to come back to the shop with them broken. Because this machine will break! Noone can plug-in that charging cord without breaking the machine. It is impossible. We can testify to that! And why are they doing this? Would it not be cheaper to accept their mistake, throw away the machines and start all over? People are not going to buy the update when they know how bad the first one was! The market is a slim one, with lots of competition. They can’t afford making these mistakes. They really can not afford to sell off their inventory first and then have every customer come back with their machines. Idiotic plan!

I have no idea what to do next? Proper tablets with proper charging cords and outlets, are designed for grown ups. They are fragile and they are expensive. T. pointed out that he might be able to find some of the same kind of games for the boys, BUT it will take hours of searching and he doesn’t have that! It was so nice to have a tablet programmed with it all from the start, that someone had done the job for us already. And to go out there and get a Gameboy or Nintendo, is just not my thing. Kids get tired of games as the Dragons said in “The Dragons den” when they were asked to finance this lady’s business venture with carry ons which had built-in games in to them.

Last week I had my nails fixed and my nail technician told me how her son is really in to Skylanders. I have seen the little figurines at BR and did not know what they were for. But according to her, you buy a game and all these little figurines. Every figurine costing 129:- (£ 10.86, $17.43, € 13.91) and kids of course wanting them all. You put the figurine on the game somehow and then it “jumps” in to the game and stays there, till you remove it. So the little figurine is just needed for that first transfer. Her son had received the game and lots of figurines for it, when it first came out. Then the following year, they introduced new figurines called Giant Skylanders or whatever. But you could not use them with your game, you had to buy a new game for them to work. You could use your old figurines, for the new game, but not new figures for the old game. Old after one year, mind you! If this is not nasty and taking advantage of children’s game obsession and needing new kicks, just like game addicts, what is? The next year, a new game came with 27 new figurines. Can’t remember their names. Her relatives had asked what her son wanted and she told them all, that he wanted those figurines, she and her husband buying the game, once again. Of course he wanted all the 27 new figurines and that is what he received and when school started in January, he was the most popular boy in school. But for how long? She said that they release all these in time for Christmas and as it happens his January Birthday. She added that if you go home with your game to a friend and put one of your friend’s figurines on your game, then you get that character inside your game, so you could easily get all characters, if you and your friends share and visit each other, plan wisely in other words. But she said that kids just don’t go home and play at each other’s houses. They sit alone at home instead, when they easily could had saved a lot of money, if they had walked around to friends, adding characters to their games.

I must say that I detest all this business. If those figurines could have been sold on eBay or something, to children just entering the gaming age, I guess it would not have been too bad.  But what child wants last year’s model or figurines from three years ago, when everyone in school talks of the latest models? It’s not cool is it? I will never jump on anything like this. And I will never buy a little machine with one game, which will be boring after so an so many weeks and then the nagging for a new game starting. No, we will have to come up with some other solution. But it will not be any of BR’s options, that is for sure. The Lexibook tablet was a huge disappointment!!!

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Birthday # 4: A legendary one

Started to write this 22 August 2014…

School started Tuesday (19 August 2014), and boy does Birthday celebrating take a sad shape, when school is in session. Everything just becomes so bla-ha somehow. I wish I could persuade at least my older children, to celebrate their Birthdays, at least the party part, on weekends. It would make it so much more festive, when we are all home, all day. But none of my children are really willing to do this. So, today, we just had to sit and wait, forever it seemed, till everyone was home, so we could celebrate E. and her big day.

imageShe has been walking around for a week, singing “I am sixteen going on seventeen…”, since she feels quite upset about it soon not fitting in on her. I reminded her that she can take “Rolfe’s” part instead, singing “I am seventeen going on eighteen…” but she was not amused. I was amused though, going in on IMDB to see what they all look like today, and reading that “Rolfe” met his first wife on set. She was the Austrian stand-in for “Liesl”. I guess, romance did not last long, like with all Hollywood tralala romances.

While we waited, E. got busy decorating all of her three cakes. Yes, I know, it sounds insane, but we were afraid that there would not be enough. Thinking in the old ways, a ninth person in the household, who used to eat like a bucket with a hole in it. She had opted to not have a bakery made Princess cake this year, but to put together our own cake or cakes, with supermarket bought cake bottoms and then fixing everything else by ourselves. We made two with pineapple/cream and strawberry/cream layers, thanks to the above reason. Not that we expected him to join us, not at all, but because we did not think straight. The third one became the younger ones’ cake with banana/cream and strawberry/cream layers. Does it sound weird? Well, it was this lady in church that gave me this tip many years ago.

She had children that were not that hip on Birthday cake, because cakes tend to be very dry when you make them yourself at home. What her mother had always done and then herself was, instead of for example spreading banana on one layer or whatever, she mashed a couple of bananas and then mixed them with cream. Most children love bananas.  And then she would mix strawberry jam with cream. These two fillings, she would spread on two layers of the cake and then as usual cover the cake with cream and add some funny decoration. She also did a mix of pineapple and cream, since pineapple is very juicy and REALLY prevents the cake from tasting dry.

In our family, “Cookie”, “Kitty”, “Boo” and “Gubby” will not go near pineapple, even if one smuggles it in to a cake. So first mistake today, was making two pineapple cakes. Second mistake was, E. forgetting which cake was which so I accidentally gave “Gubby” and “Boo” of the pineapple, before my strong-smelling sense revealed the truth. I said nothing, to see if they would swallow it, but alas they were not fooled. “Gubby” happily ate but then I noticed that he had managed to save all of the pineapple filling on the plate having scraped off the cake on both sides. Grrrrr!

E. had bought all sorts of candies that she wanted to decorate the cakes with, and she did, but acted like a tookey child, when it was time to eat the cake with the “Lion’s” bars and Ahlgren’s cars on it, since her siblings had to hand over the decorations to her for eating, which had ended up on their pieces. I let her be. I just did not want to start an argument about it. Just  shows that even if you turn 17 you can still act like you are just THREE! “Mine, mine, mine…”.

When we were all feeling like we could not eat any more cake, we put all the leftovers on one plate and realized it was an entire cake! And that made us discuss, that had Johannes been there, it had been gone. Well, his siblings said so but I had to inform them that no, he would not since he is obsessed with dieting and exercise, and IF he had eaten anything, he would immediately have gone and either put his fingers down his throat, which I suspect he did from the time he started this craze, or he would have eaten the pills he put on the table by  his place, that prevents the body from taking in the fat. He was so obsessed, like he gets with everything. T. shook his head and informed us all that he would not have gone near the cake at all today, because his girlfriend is a Vegan so of course he has had to become one as well. That young man is still the teenage rebel that can not think a sound thought on his own. He has been phoning T. to  convert T. to the cause and telling his father what an idiot he is. He just can’t leave us alone. And what about the Word of Wisdom then? Both of them are members of the church, but I  guess they just poo poo on the dietary law we  live by. Where God says that we shall  eat of everything.

When I visited the dietician at  the hospital with “Kitty” a couple of weeks ago, the most  important thing he told me was “Do not cut out things from his diet because when you do, you ALWAYS run the risk of becoming deficient of something.” That goes for both children and grown ups. All healthy food has nutrition in it, necessary for us and our bodies. To cut out  bread deprives you of important grain and everything that gives you. Our  bodies need carbohydrates whatever LCHF people say. Our bodies need the calcium in milk, the protein in eggs and meat… All dietitians insist on this as does God in the Word of Wisdom, and anyone that says different, is a lunatic and deserves to get ill. I was contemplating removing all gluten from my diet, because all thyroid experts said, that gluten kills the thyroid. Well, for most people gluten is not a problem at all. And the problem us people with Hashimoto’s have with gluten, is probably an isolated one. I decided against removing the gluten, since it is not economically possible to do so. I trust my Heavenly Father that he will keep me alive for my children, whether I eat gluten or not. It was not a tough decision at all, since the food the dietitians told me to eat instead was red meat, onions and all the sorts of foods which I can not eat, because I also lack a gall bladder on top of the Hashimoto’s.

So, do not come and talk about stupid diets and removing food out of one’s life. I know what it can lead to. And I trust that God knows best. Who else can one trust? Obviously my oldest son and his young lady, feel that they are above him and know better. Typical teenagers in other words, even though they are 24 and 25 years old. Birds of a feather, eh?!

We put the left over cakes in to the fridge and people nibbled on them for three days. But I can not recommend three-day old cake. Ghastly tasting! The only one who still enjoyed it, was “Gubby”. What a little vacuum cleaner!

Before we sat down for the evenings film, and in reality, before we had the cake, E. received her presents. It is not easy to shop for someone who doesn’t write a wish list and never has. “Cookie” had bought a travelling mug and “Boo” had made a necklace in school for her with his assistant. I had done the stupid thing and had bought a pair of 3/4 length black jeans on sale, because she has complained that she has too many shirts and hardly anything to wear on her lower body. I know the feeling. Same goes for me, since I hate buying skirts andimage trousers, having the C-section bag which makes me look fat in everything! (The following image is not of MY belly, but this is what you will look like after three C-sections. Image taken from a woman after having just ONE C-section, so you can imagine what my bag looks like!) But surgery cost 35 000-45 000 :- (£ 3065-3941/ € 3816-4906/ $  4944- 6356) so I am forced to live out my life looking like this and receive people’s disgusted looks! Because everyone’s eyes are drawn to this misfoster belly which always destroys every outfit!

Unfortunately, my daughter did not bother putting on the jeans for two weeks and when I got home from having fetched her brothers one day, she informed me that she can not get them over her hips. And you only have three days to return sale items, so now we are stuck with a pair that noone can wear! And she still is short of things to wear from her waist down. If that is not depressing, what is?

At Legoland, I ran in to the yearly sale there, on name brand clothing. T. was standing in Duplo-land, waiting for a ride on the airplanes. It was hot and I needed to go to the loo, so I did that and also ran to the clothing shop, to see if they had something fun on the sale and something I could afford. I saw this periwinkle hoodie, lovely in colour, by Esprit. It was 30% off and somehow in all the calculations I did in my head, from Danish to Swedish and then 30%, I came up with a sum I could accept. Till it was time to pay and I realised that I had counted wrong. Too late! I needed to get back to Duplo-land and the queue, since I had promised to take a photo. I need not have hurried with the purchase or back because the queue had hardly moved at all. But this is also what she received. An over-priced hoodie, even on sale!

Finally came the yearly Thomas Sabo charm. E. plans on going to New York or London when she graduates from gymnasium, and make it big on stage. Her life circles around films, film stars and actors. That is all she and her father talk about and I just want to stick my fingers down my throat, since I think it is unhealthy to be obsessed with these self-absorbed people who can’t tell reality and fantasy apart. Who make the decadence of the 1920s seem like child’s play in comparison. Every year, I pick a charm which symbolize her life right now or her character and this is the charm she received this year:

imageShe loved it and thinks it is the best of all her six charms. Somehow I knew she would feel that way about this year’s charm. Well, she has two years left of school and things can change. I am not saying that she does not have talent and she certainly has the diva part down to a T. But is this really the right thing for a smart girl who basically can become anything, having a head for studying? And how many good actors are there not out there, who are unemployed because the jobs don’t grow on trees? I just watched part of an episode of the last TV-show (The Crazy Ones) that actor Robin Williams did. Pure and utter garbage. No wonder he was depressed! To be such a great actor and to be offered a part like that. I had to change channel!

When it was party time in front of the TV with crisps, cheese doodles etc. I of course had not chosen one of all the silly romantic comedies she insists on watching, but something we could watch and enjoy, all of us.  I chose “the Rise of the Guardians”, because I knew how picky she is and she had asked me for days in an accusing manner, that it better not be the latest Lego film. This was a film I knew some in the family had wanted to watch and it really was a good film. For those over ten years of age. imageUnfortunately, “Boo” thought the film was too scary so he just went to sleep. And little “Gubby” did not really understand what it was all about. Jack Frost is not someone who Swedish children are familiar with, nor the Sandman. Which of course complicates things when one is watching a film about all those things that American children believe in.

The film is really about Jack Frost and him coming to terms with what his true calling is. His talent. He doesn’t know who he really is and why. He remembers nothing from before he woke up and was able to make everything freeze. He is a rascally boy who likes to play with the children, even though they can not see him. A person who detest not being seen and not being someone who children “believe” in, is Pitch. Don’t know why he is called that in English, because when you watch the film in Swedish, he is basically Mr. Nightmare. He feels that his powers diminish when children hope, believe and are happy. And children believe in Sandy, who makes them go to sleep every night, in the Easter Bunny, Santa and the Tooth Fairy and her little helpers.

Nightmare wants to take over the world and for there to be nothing nice for the children. Then they will believe in him. The first thing which happens is that the legends feel that he has become a threat and they need help, help from Jack Frost. But he doesn’t want to help or become a legend. Things of course happens, which forces him to grow up and help. Nightmare kills Sandy, as the first thing he does. He imprisons the little tooth fairy helpers, which means that children do not find coins under their pillows but the teeth are still there in the morning. Santa has a globe in his home which shows how many children believe and when lights are going out all over, he and the remaining legends and Jack Frost, have to try to stop the effect Nightmare has on the world. They help the Tooth Fairy go all over to fetch teeth and leave coins, making it in to a competition. Then the Easter Bunny needs help because all his eggs are getting messed up by Nightmare.

It ends up, that they have to show themselves to a group of children, so they will believe and help them get rid of Nightmare. And the reluctant Jack Frost, gets to see that he had a life before, with a family and that he saved his sister from drowning with the stick he now uses to freeze things with. He died, to save her life and he finally accepts who he is and becomes a legend like the others. And of course, Mr. Sandman or Sandy, does come alive again as Nightmare’s power disappears. The film has it’s funny moments and of course a message like all films for children have nowadays. We all have to accept what life hands to us and make the best of it. We must develop our talents and be grateful for them. We all have something to contribute with. Also, that it is very sad when children stop believing because they really loose their innocence then and we all feel much better when we remain children at heart. To believe in something makes life and the world a much better place.

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Birthday # 3: A “Frozen” one

So, it was time to put the party hats and frocks on again. This time, it was “Boo’s” turn to be celebrated. He has been counting the days, and weeks and months really. At the same time, I sort of wonder why, because it’s not like he plays with toys, has a long wish list for them and is anxiously awaiting to see what he will receive.

T. had to go off early in the morning as usual, so we couldn’t start celebrating till he got home from work of course. And “Boo” was too hyped up all day. When he is hyped up, he does not behave like his brother with ADHD. He gets irritated instead or should I say semi-aggressive? A behaviour which is difficult to put up with and it doesn’t really put you in a party mood. I had to remind myself all day that he was indeed excited, but did not know how to show it, and that he can’t help the way he is.

It made me think about the sad fact, that I never ever knew something was wrong, until three years ago. Up till the day he turned five, things were just fine. I gave birth to the smallest of my babies, through planned C-section, eight years ago. The baby they lifted out of me, was crying till he heard my voice, and then he calmed down and just looked at me with serious eyes. He was the cuddliest of babies and he got his nickname “Boo”, already the first day home, when he lay in my arms, looking up at the picture of the Temple, and after a minute or so, said “Boo”. Everyone was smitten with him in church, because he was such a cute baby. When he grew, we knew that HE was his own individual.

He did not follow the charts what so ever so we have this saying: “Boo” does things in his own time. And seriously, what is wrong with that, as long as things happen eventually? He did not start crawling when other babies do, he did not start sitting up when other babies do… He got his first tooth at eleven months. A friend gave us a walker so that he would get up from the floor and see what the rest of us was doing. But he was always happy and content. At 16 months he took his first steps. But he was never ever wild like “”Kitty” was. We could have him sit with a harness in his pram till he was 16 months old. Everyone was amazed at how he sat so nicely and did not try to get out. Which is why I seriously doubt that they can give him a diagnosis of ADHD in September! He is not wild in the sense that ADHD children are.

But when he became five years old, the troubles started at pre-school. He started to misbehave too much for comfort. He was not the only misbehaving boy, so he was not alone having to sit and be ashamed on the stairs. In my mind I always asked myself, why? The special ed teacher which started to come to the pre-school at that time, also alerted the personnel that his speech was so behind that they must make some sort of effort, to help him. He had been to a speech therapist already but I had not been given any practical help, apart from him asking us to teach “Boo” sign language. We tried but “Boo” refused to cooperate so, we just had to continue talking to him in the regular manner one does and hope that he would pick up the language eventually. During that final year at the pre-school, we went to the speech therapist every two months, so the pre-school could get tips on what to do with him, while we at home could not work on things the way a school does! He had to know that we accepted his form of speech whatever other people said.

Since he started zero-class, his problems have just amounted. The school ignored the warnings we gave it, and he has had problems in all areas. To be in the classroom, to listen, to concentrate, to participate, social contact has been disastrous, we have become hated by everyone. Because of him! And the testing started a year ago. The school psychologist did her tests and then referred him to BUP hoping they will find Autism or ADHD. We did not get called to BUP until January and then were told the testing would start in March. It started after school was out, 13th June! And we still don’t know what is going on. In posts to come, relating our holiday trip, I will go more in to his problems, but suffice to say, I feel very upset about it all taking such a long time. Not that it will change a thing. He will be the same boy the 11th September, as he is today, but we want answers. And we want to know what we can do, to stop some of the bad behaviour, if it is possible.

One of his problems is that he can’t play with other children. He does not function at all in a social situation. So he is confined to be with himself and his siblings. “Gubby” plays with toys as does “Kitty”, but “Boo” does not. When I had been with him to BUP one day, in June, we stopped by to get some miniature “Smurfs” for “”Cookie” and he started to show me everything he wanted for his Birthday. I stopped looking eventually since he showed me half the shop. BUT what made me very sad was that I had to tell him “But Boo, you don’t play with toys!”. Last year he wished for Lego Chima things, but he never played with them. He got thrilled opening them but the one who played with them was “Kitty”. I was just not going to do that mistake again. Everything I give him from now on, has to be practical things, physical things. And it is not easy to find things. T. and I spent a lot of time Saturday trying to find perfect things. A budget of 400:-/£35/€ 43,50 /$58 per child, does not help either. Things in Sweden cost a lot!

imageThis is what we were able to get actually, thanks to some fantastic sales at Danish BR (toy shop). Half of the money were spent on the kick bike, which had cost triple. Unfortunately, “Cookie” and “Kitty” became green of envy when they saw what “Boo” received, since they too want kick bikes, but they never wish for them when it is Birthday time, do they?? No, they give me long toy lists!

The rest of the money went to the pirate shield, that we bought together with a hook hand, at Legoland. The hook was his holiday souvenir, so now he can be a complete pirate next time he dresses up as that. E. gave him a pirate hat for Christmas two years ago, I bought a pirate outfit at H&M for “Kitty” four years ago, which he is has outgrown a long time ago, and “Boo” got a pirate sword two years ago, so the ensemble is finally complete! He has a printed sheriff’s T-shirt from Daniel’s time, so the sheriff’s hat on his wish list, was perfect. Only a rifle missing now. Christmas? Since I had 40:- left over and he loves “Monsters University”, I bought ‘Mike’ and ‘Sully’ at BR too. They  only cost £3.50/€4.35/$5.80 together so it was perfect and he was thrilled with them. Even if they might just sit on his bed. I know  someone who will play with them if he doesn’t!

So, when T. came home, the wait was almost over. He took them all swimming, minus E. and me, since we are afflicted with female issues this week. We had dinner when they got home and then delicious Princess cake, which we had the bakery in our village make, since “Boo” wanted a red one! Before we served the cake though, “Boo” ran out to the sitting room and lay down pretending to be asleep. We went out there and sang to him and he finally received the much awaited gifts! In the old days, when T. worked in town and had flex time, we always woke each child up on their Birthday morning, singing and giving the gifts. But since T. leaves at 06:00, we have had to change tradition the last 3 years. We no longer can start celebrating in the morning but everything have to wait till evening, unless the Birthday is on a Saturday or Sunday! Sad! But we can’t all get up at 05:30. It makes a too long day for some of us, since there is no going to sleep afterwards.

The children have spoken of and dreamed of watching a particular film and guess what, I secretly had purchased it. So everyone was over-excited when we turned it on. It was “Frozen”! And to be honest, now, afterwards, I do not understand what all the hullaballoo was about? It’s not THAT great! The songs were nothing to rave about. The story line was so boring in half the film, that I wondered if everyone who raved so much about it, had a screw loose. After finishing watching it, I guess I can see why some people thought it good.

For those of you with an Autistic child who is almost six years old and whose speech is not up to a six-year-old’s: He will not understand a thing! “Gubby” has watched the film two times now, and he cries when ‘Elsa’ leaves and does not understand why she is sad and can not stay with all the others. He does not want to see the film on his own since he finds it scary and very sad. I have to sit and explain what is happening the entire time, or rather explain their emotions and to tell the truth, I do not know if even “Kitty” and “Boo” understand. It is an awfully adult film!

image Princess sisters Elsa and Anna are happy children, but Elsa has a gift, everything she touches turns to ice or snow. One day while they are playing, wild Anna gets a little bit too wild and to stop her from getting hurt, Elsa knocks her over, with an “ice beam” to her head. Anna gets hurt, but their father, the King, in this Norwegian tale, takes her to trolls that not only save her life but takes away the memory of the accident. But life changes. To protect Princess Anna, the parents keep her away from her sister. And Princess Elsa is told to learn how to manage her curse. The truth is kept from Anna till the day they are both adults. And to make sure noone gets hurt or finds out that the heir to the throne has powers she ought not to have, the palace is locked and the staff kept to a minimum.

When the girls are still young, the parents leave on a journey and Disney chooses to show a storm, where in one moment the ship is there and the next it is not. I hate  these dying parts of Disney’s! Children don’t get it. Nor do they get the part where two children obviously grows up without any supervision at all. While others know how to behave, Princess Anna behaves like a clumsy monkey in a zoo, the day the palace gates are opened and her sister is to be crowned queen. Anna runs off like a hooligan and runs in to a 13th son of a far away King. They immediately fall in love and declare their engagement at the coronation ball. Elsa freaks out and her anger puts an entire ice age spell on the country. She storms off, to go live by herself and once up in the mountains, she creates an ice palace for herself. This is where my little son, cries and need serious comforting.

Anna leaves her fiancée Prince Hans in charge, while she goes after her sister, but knowing nothing of the mountains, she hires Kristoffer, a man who breaks ice and sells it, together with his reindeer Sven, to help her find Elsa. And usual Disney style, a snowman called Olof is thrown in for comic relief. Kristoffer tells Anna that one can’t get engaged to a person one has only known for a day, that you need time to fall in love and get to know a person. But Anna doesn’t believe him. Turns out, she should have. When she finds Elsa, her sister has no wishes to return to her kingdom. In the argument that ensues, Elsa once again sends out an ice beam against her sister and this time it hits the heart. She doesn’t realize it but Anna, going back down the mountain, soon realize that she will die. She has to be taken to the trolls again. Once with them, they assume that she and Kristoffer are a couple, something which has never occurred to themselves, as a possibility. But all adults of course have seen it coming along, the entire time. Deep sigh! Hollywood tralala! Anna is told that she can only be cured by an act of love, so Kristoffer takes her back to be kissed by her beloved fiancée Hans. But Hans is not the person she thought he was. He only came to the palace to make Anna fall in love with him, then he would kill Elsa and finally Anna, and be King himself. He refuses to kiss Anna and leaves her to die,while he goes to arrest Elsa. Once Elsa is captured and sentenced to death, it looks very  dark. But Elsa manages to escape and out in the harbour, it all reaches a climax when Prince  Hans tries to kill Elsa  with a sword and Anna throws herself in front  of Elsa, to save her. Anna freezes to ice, but only for a couple of seconds, since what she did was an act of love, and soon they live happily ever after. Elsa realizes that love can thaw the ice that she creates, so she melts all the ice. Anna realizes she loves Kristoffer. Prince Hans and others who tried to steal the kingdom, are sent packing. Honestly, I prefer the old Disney films to this.

If there is one thing children are not mature enough for, it is to understand grown ups’ emotions and this film was just too advanced. Controlling one’s gift or curse? Parents dying? Getting engaged in a day? Prince charming being a calculating villain? Maybe I am extra sensitive to what my children are not ready for, because many of them fall under the umbrella diagnosis autism spectra, but still? I see what my children prefer to watch over and over again and it is the less complicated stories. This film was basically made for a category of children who usually see themselves too old for Disney. Not being  cool to watch Disney, at a certain  age. So who is Disney’s target? Are they out of touch with reality? Or have they jumped on the same band wagon as all clothing companies, who have decided that childhood should be abandoned and children should become adults pre-maturely?

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The woes of a Sunday school teacher: Teaching ancient Jewish practice

The worse part of being a Sunday school teacher, for children, in our church, is that nothing has prepared me for teaching. You sit down with a complicated manual, written by men, who work on inspiration no doubt, but sometimes the distance between their inspired thoughts and the children in my class room, is as far as the distance to the moon. From this manual, I am supposed to make some sense, for the children whom I teach. Without having any teaching skills what so ever. But not just make sense for them. Not bore them to tears. And not lose control in the classroom. And that last thing is very easy with two children having ADHD in the room. One of them is not diagnosed, but the symptoms are there and the problem with this child is not just having no attention span at all, but he hardly ever comes. So when he comes, he is clueless to what has been discussed in the weeks past, and shows his frustrations with just calling out comments aloud or he “screams”.

What makes me lose control in the classroom? When there is no table present at the beginning. When I try to do the initial “gathering activity” , which is supposed to set the stage, not create chaos! Like this past  Sunday, when I was supposed to set the stage for walking in someone’s footsteps, the way Ruth did. I was supposed to put out steps made out of paper, on the floor, before class, which made the kids go crazy outside the door. And then they were supposed to walk on the steps to their regular seats, which of course could not be done in a quiet manner, but had to be done with accompanying screams. Now I know I should have skipped the activity! It’s very easy to be smart afterwards, teaching this class! All the things one should have avoided, all the things one should not have said:

Like last week, when the lesson was about Samson. I decided to explain what a Nazarite was and is today. And I lost it of course, already at the fact that a Nazarite was not allowed to be in company of the dead. “But what if there is a dead mouse on the road?”, “How could he then eat meat?”,  “What if someone is dying, would he run away so he wouldn’t be there when the person died?”, … Thousand questions about something that was not the topic of the lesson. But it got worse. Samson going out and killing a lion and then walking by it, at a later date. It was a dead lion! And “gross”, him taking honey from the mouth of it! A discussion ensued on how disgusting it must have been to eat something from a dead body and did he tell his parents where the honey came from? And when Samson killed 30 men, in order to get their clothes, to give to his wedding attendants, after the men of that party, tricked his wife, in to finding out the answer of a riddle he had given them. You imagejust can’t mention killing in my class! If you do, it is on your own risk. They want to know the weapon and all the boys have to demonstrate the way the killing went about. And I just want to rip my hair and ask myself, how do I get them to sit down again? But it did not end there, did it? They were soon out of their chairs again, when Samson picked up a donkey’s jawbone and killed a thousand men with that! I don’t quite think I am cut out for this!!!!

When I finally got to the part that they were all waiting for, the cutting off of the hair, I carefully had to avoid the fact that Samson and Delilah might not have been married and what  he was doing in her room, falling asleep on her lap. And how to explain that it was not the hair in itself that made him strong, but the hair was a sign of a promise he had made to God, and with it gone, he had broken the promise. I finally had to explain it with, that the hair was like a wedding ring, a visual sign of a commitment one has made. But yes, I do agree with the children, he did not cut the hair off himself. So there must have been some more naughtiness going on and I had to explain to them that Samson must have expected that she was going to cut it off, since every time she had asked about his strength and how to capture him, he had said that she could tie him in this and that manner and she had then tied him that way, and had called out that the Philistines were coming, in order for her to see if the ties held him.  Of course I could not tell them that Samson’s lust for Delilah was bigger, in a weak moment, than his commitment to God. And that is why it is SO enormously difficult to teach these lessons, since a lot does not make sense to the children, since they only get the appropriate truth told to them and it happens, to often be, only part of the truth. To fully understand the impact of the story and why it was deemed important to record it in the Bible for generations to come, to learn from others’ mistakes, one really has to get the entire truth. But you can’t teach that to 10-year-old children nor to ones having ADHD. Needless to say, the violent end to poor Samson, who we deemed a hothead, finally, came as a shock to the only girl in the class. It was no easy task to try to explain why Samson had to die. That his mission on earth was over. Why you die when an entire house falls down on you. And all this after there has been a knock on the door, signalling that everyone is waiting for our class. Again!

This Sunday, I did not think there could be anything controversial in the lesson. Nice Ruth who did everything for her mother-in-law and married a nice man. Right! I should have known better. As I said, I lost the reverence, when they were walking on the foot steps. Trying to get someone who is giggling, to say opening prayer, was just an ordeal in itself. But then we moved on to looking at the biblical map of Israel, locating Bethlehem and Moab, and Naomi travelled safely with her family there without any interruptions. And all was well, till we got back to Bethlehem and Naomi told Ruth to go and sleep under Boaz blanket. Right! These children are innocent so they were more concerned with Boaz’s footsmell. Iimage was more concerned about how to explain, that it was not a good thing for a young, unmarried woman to be out during the night, sleeping by a group of men and tongues always wagging. As an adult woman, I of course know of the dangers, which Naomi warned Ruth of. Boaz suggested Ruth staying in his fields only, and with his female servants (for protection of course). Naive Ruth did not understand, so Naomi had to inform her that the men could attack her. That is why Boaz said that he had forbidden the men to touch her. I had to carefully steer clear of what can happen to a girl among a lot of men, a girl who is not protected by society. Being a historian, specifically interested in social history, a family historian, watching the news about Muslim women being raped as a weapon of war and who knows for what reason, girls being raped in India, I do have knowledge which these children do not have. And yet, how to navigate through all the violence and still keep their innocence?

Talking about Ruth sleeping by Boaz feet, was not the toughest part though. You really have to have reached a certain level of maturity, to understand, which these children do not have. For them, it was all about smelly feet and I had to read all of it, over and over again, to myself, when preparing the lesson, to get a clear picture. And then draw my own conclusions, as to why Boaz got so excited over what she had done and what she said. Saying that she was his servant and he, her redeemer, in essence meant that she said told him that she believed in Jewish tradition and fully accepted it, even though she was a foreigner and a Moabite who was brought up worshipping several Gods. What she really said to Boaz was, “I know you are supposed to marry me, so do your duty, you are supposed to give my dead husband a child, so his family name does not die out”. When she got home, Naomi knew that Boaz was going to do the right thing. But Boaz, Naomi and Ruth belonged to a world long gone. We are in Sweden, 2014, and to explain these ancient traditions, is not a simple thing. Explaining that, just like the ultra orthodox Jewish women today, are only brought up for one thing, and one thing only, so were all women back then. They were supposed to get married as soon as possible and have children. An unmarried woman was an anomaly which one did not really know how to deal with and there were clear economic problems with this marital status as well. When a man died, the woman was still part of the family and had he not had children, there was a big problem! Easily solved if the man had brothers. They had to take his place. One of them had to marry the widow and give his brother a child. How insane does that sound to a ten-year-old in 2014? And when the Bible then speaks of it cryptically, saying that Naomi wanted to sell her husband’s land to the closest redeemer… Well, I had to explain that yes, Christ is called our redeemer, but the closest male relative to a widow, was also called a redeemer, not to be confused in other words. Boaz even had to point out to his male relative, that it wasn’t just Naomi selling the land, but very much so Ruth, who had the claim on the redeemer, of having to marry her and give her husband Mahlon a child. Most of us know how the story ends, the redeemer without a name, withdrew his offer of doing his duty, and Boaz took his place. A discussion followed why the man did not want Ruth. I suggested that he might be married already. They thought he found Ruth ugly. Maybe he was Xenophobic? Whatever, all is well that ends well.

Apart from the fact that the last chapter talks of Ruth’s son Obed and whose ancestor he was. These children love when I write down people’s genealogy and tell what all names mean. I don’t know how I ever was able to finish the lesson on Esau and Jacob, because the children thought the way babies were named, was hilarious. Especially poor Esau! His name meaning “Hairy”. It took at least five minutes to stop all the comments about that name! Well, going through Boaz genealogy, was a sensitive matter indeed. I understand why we skipped his origins, months ago! I jumped back and read it, in preparation for this lesson, since I knew that there would be questions and let’s say, this was something I was not going to go in to! How Judah’s son died, how his second son refused to make his brother’s widow Tamar pregnant, how Judah sent Tamar home to her father, to wait until his son Sela was old enough to marry her (son number three). For those of you who are familiar with the story, it is not one of those uplifting Biblical stories, is it? Judah’s wife dying, him not honouring tradition and marrying off his son to his daughter-in-law and her taking drastic measures. Drastic indeed, dressing like a prostitute with a heavy veil, parking herself by the city wall, father-in-law promising payment for her services, her asking for a pawn of his signet ring, her disappearing after a night of passion, so he has to keep his goat, people coming telling him that his daughter-in-law must be killed because she has got pregnant out-of-wedlock and him discovering that the prostitute he was with, months earlier, was Tamar, his daughter-in-law who had not received Sela for husband as promised. This is NOT a story to tell children! So, I just wrote up Judah fathered … down to Boaz to… David to… guess who? I had the attention of all the class, before I wrote the final name, when I asked “who had to go to Bethlehem?”, “who was born in Bethlehem?”. They finally exclaimed, “It was a family reunion!”. I thought it finished on a happy note! What do you think?

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