Happy Easter!

Simon is in London, having a lovely time with Jean, Lara, Vicky and Richard amongst others! He has been to the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, London Zoo, Kew Gardens, Southwark Cathedral and The London Wetlands and seen the production of “The Railway children” and I have most likely forgotten something! He has been up to Northumberland with Jean, visiting his favourite places and people, a walk back in time! He has got lost on London buses but found his way again. He has enjoyed organising to meet up with friends and family. All these things are a testament to his hard work at Arrowsmith and his new cognitive abilities. I hope that this holiday has shown Simon how much he has gained and that will give him the faith in himself to master the next level of clocks. He has been working on doing so for a year now. In the last period befor march break last year we heard a scream “What?” From the West classroom, He ran into Jill’s office to tell us he had mastered 4 hands and that it must be a sign that he should stay another year! Closely followed by his gang of friends who looked like pirates with their eye patches! They swallowed him up in a big “Simon” sandwich, hugging him!

I will leave you with some words from Matt Coppins which he wrote last week in reply to my email asking how close Simon was to mastering the six handed clock and would he manage before the holidays.
“Simon has been doing very well in clocks. He has put in a big effort and as a result has made excellent progress toward a master. As of yesterday (Thursday) he is about 10 seconds from reaching his mastery time, and needs to increase his accuracy by about 10%. He said that he was going to do Keypad Kaos last night so he could try to master today. I’m not sure he will master, but I’m glad that he is very willing to try. It has been a good demonstration that his progress is a direct result of the effort he puts in. The work that he has done in the last 2 weeks will benefit him for the rest of his life both in a cognitive and philosophical capacity. He should be very happy about his progress.
He and I have been working on his 3 goals that we discussed in the meeting. He has been struggling with having positive reactions in difficult situations, but he is improving. This will likely be something that will be challenging when he is home to a familiar environment where it is easy to fall back into old habits. Since our meeting I have had a ‘zero-tolerance’ approach to any complaining, moaning, or tantrums. Simon has struggled with this, but he has responded with a HUGE change. He has seen that it has positively affected his work and how people relate to him. He has also started making an effort to make his appearance more ‘professional’, this has also sparked a dramatic change in his confidence and has put a noticeable pep-in-his-step. I know he is ready for a break, but the last two weeks has been one of his best runs yet. I am looking forward to his positive attitude becoming a habit and allowing it to rewire his thinking.”

Exciting times! Hopefully I will be reporting on a mastery before too long! In the meantime, enjoy the rest of the Easter weekend!

 

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It’s been a while!

but since I am currently in Peterborough with Simon an update is apt!

We have had a fine time together, going to Ottawa last weekend for the long weekend. We did not see the best of Ottawa as it was so very cold, -29! We spent an interesting day at the Museum of Canadian History, previously known as the Museum of Civilisation. We arrived early and made our way slowly through the Viking exhibition which was fascinating, onto Canadian history and the First Peoples, then into the Children’s Museum to see the Thomas the Tank exhibition. I have to say that Simon’s train set rivals that which was in the exhibition! The following day we braved the cold to go to Parliament Hill, booked a tour for later in the day, and headed for the Byford Markets. There was no market that we could find, a hot chocolate to warm us up as we walked back for our tour, which was really interesting, the Parliament building is a small version, inside, of the Houses of Parliament. Our favourite part was the library, a beautiful circular building with a double layer of wooden balconies running around the outside, smelling of wood and old books. We admired the 360 degree views of Ottawa from the Peace Tower, and paid our respects to the fallen in the Memorial Chapel. Onto the park with the ice sculptures, unfortunately mostly melted away by the warm temperatures of the previous weekends! a quick peek at the Rideau Canal, the longest skating rink in the world, some 5 miles long, along which people skate to school and work throughout the winter!  By now we were seriously cold, back tour hotel for a swim and room service! We couldn’t face the cold again!

We went to the Canadian War Museum the following morning before heading back to Peterborough in the afternoon. This was another fascinating museum, with a special exhibition about the role of women in the First and Second World Wars. The story of war in Canadian history was shocking, I had had no idea how violent and bloody a history Canada has. Then onto Canada’s role in the First World War, in which 60,000 men were lost and on into the Second World War, I saw Hitler’s car but I had had enough of war by then. The waste of lives and sad stories of returning soldiers was too terrible and, for me, unlike the Museum of Human Rights, there didn’t seem to be much that was positive that came out of all the horror.

Back to Peterborough, back to Arrowsmith. We had a meeting with Matt and Mrs Gunning, Simon’s academic teacher, about what the future holds for Simon and how they will work to get him ready for it. He is keen to do a course in Child Care and they both have exciting ways to work with Simon so he will be prepared for life after Arrowsmith.

On Saturday Simon meets with his tutor, Nell, and they cover a lot of ground in the two hours they have together! Simon is reading the Hatchet series and has to do regular book reports. They have also studied all sorts of things that Simon never had the opportunity to study whilst at school, so now he knows how fireworks work, what is found in the deep sea and quite a bit about space amongst other things!

He showed me his folder of all the work he has done with Nell – it was massive and very impressive! One of the questions that Nell had asked him, after reading Hatchet and talking about how the main character, Brian, had changed after his experience, was this:

If you could give advice to a new student moving to Peterborough and coming to Arrowsmith, what would you tell them?

Simon’s reply was:

Keep in contact with your family and friends, especially when you miss them.

School is murder, but it works. Your brain will hurt a lot – you should let it hurt and rest. Let it do its own thing.

Put a lot of pictures up to make you feel more at home. Explore Peterborough.

If you need help at first, get someone from home to come with you.

 

Not bad advice, eh?image

 

 

 

 

Late as usual! Happy New Year!

 

We have a wonderful time with the house filled with family and friends, tables filled with laughter, chatter and beautiful food, the kitchen filled with everyone contributing to  long lunches followed by nightly feasts, card games and other games keeping us up late, the occasional  evening watching DVDs, days of long walks and sailing on our beautiful harbour, floating in the pool, walking on the beach at Pearl Beach, wondering at the wonder of the star-filled skies. It has, as ever, gone all too quickly and the first to leave will be Simon tomorrow, heading back to Peterborough and Arrowsmith. Not really rested with all the mayhem going on, as he puts it, but certainly refreshed! I think he is looking forward to more routine and his quieter life for a a while but he is also looking forward to being home later in the year and putting down roots and moving into a new phase of his life. It has been so good to hear from many people of the changes/progress they see in him (I have to remind some people that improvements is not a good way to describe his changes, at least I don’t think so, the negative connotation being that he was less before).

I am heading out to an Art gallery shortly and just quickly want to wish each and everyone of you the happiest of New Years, and may 2016 be filled with joy, laughter and much love.

I leave you with the words of Neil Gaiman:

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.
...I hope you will have a wonderful year, that you’ll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you’ll make something that didn’t exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind.
And for this year, my wish for each of us is small and very simple.
And it’s this.
I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.
So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.
Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

– See more at: http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2011/12/my-new-year-wish.html#sthash.a7vl1Z39.dpufIMG_0867

Simon is on his way!

Status

 

 

As I write Simon is heading home from Peterborough via Toronto and Dallas! A short sleep and it will be time to pick him up! We are so looking forward to having him at home for Christmas! And not only him but all the family! Such fun! Chaos and mayhem is what Simon is expecting! But what’s new? A little squeezy and a lot of laughter!

The first of the Christmas visitors arrived on Wednesday. The mending which has been accumulating for months on the chair in my bedroom is done, the sewing box cleaned out and sorted, the fridge cleaned out and sorted and the medicine box also cleaned out and sorted! Marvellous! By the time Jean leaves perhaps the entire house will be clean! But with Simon arriving, closely followed by Vicky and Richard and then Lara closely followed by Victor, we might be distracted, not to mention the festivities of Christmas and the New Years Eve party, which will not allow time and energy for much else!

As this year is drawing to an end with Christmas looming large, I wish you happy times with family and friends. I won’t say Merry Christmas yet as I may manage a post before, though may be not on my current haphazard blogging schedule! Hurray says Richard! image

A Lonely Love

This is a very beautifully written, and moving, piece about being the mother of a “different” child. To a greater or lesser extent it applies to every Arrowsmith parent too, I believe.

Star In Her Eye

The online conversation went like this: A woman on Facebook posted an article about how a Monsanto chemical might be contributing to the rise in autism. Another woman, self-disclosing as autistic, said the article was fear-mongering and unfairly demonizing to autistic people. A third woman piped in, saying that because 30-some percent of autistic people have intellectual disabilities, it was right and just to fear the rise in autism. I cringed at the implied message: A life of disability is one thing, but a life of intellectual disability? That, in the woman’s eyes, was tragic.

So I added my voice. With tense shoulders, I wrote one sentence cautioning people against assuming a life with intellectual disabilities is tragic. In response, I thought maybe there’d be some cyber-nodding. I hoped maybe the third woman would realize what she was implying, and say, “Oh of course, yes, I didn’t mean it that…

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Casa Loma, the 35th anniversary party for Arrowsmith and it is good to be home!

It is just over a week since I have been home. Whilst we have been having sweltering days, my first day home was a record breaking 41C, there have been snow flurries in Peterborough, though Simon says it is not too cold yet as most days are over zero degrees Centrigrade. How quickly we adapt! We would have thought that was freezing (literally, ha ha!) in our first winter in Canada.

Lucky me, I have enjoyed long lunches with friends, dinner with friends, sailing on the harbour, meeting up with my writing group, lunch with Emma and her friends, they have all grown into such lovely young women, a 50th birthday dancing the night away, long walks with Rusty through Balmain and going on the People’s Climate Change March. What a mix! It has been fun and this week holds more of the same for me, and into the mix is finding time to write as I plough on with Simon’s story which is slowly taking shape.

Simon is looking forward to coming home, his brain needs a break he says! He is working hard to try to master 6 handed clocks before he comes home, but he seems not to be too desperate, which is a good thing, as with desperation can come disappointment, should he not master. His time is decreasing and he is doing extra homework to help as he asked Matt what he could do to improve his time, showing great initiative. More of that and his academics in another post another day.

As I wrote the other day, we had the opportunity to meet Barbara Arrowsmith Young at the party to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the founding of the Arrowsmith school. A bus was arranged from Peterborough which was a very relaxed way to travel down the 401 expressway rather than the somewhat fraught drive – I don’t think I will ever get used to driving in 12 lanes of traffic! We dressed in our finery and the students who were over 18, the parents who were able to go and all the Arrowsmith teachers piled onto the bus, the bus was full of chatter until the driver announced he didn’t know where he was going as we sped along the 401!  Jill took charge, as ever, and steered him right to the door where upon Simon announced “I’m home!”. And he was right at home, the castle reminding him of Hogwarts, comfortable in his colourful shirt and red trousers, he is his father’s son in that regard, mingling  and chatting! The party was held at Casa Loma, the only castle in North America, all decked out for Christmas so looking more beautiful than grand.

The atmosphere was one of great celebration, so much love in that room, for Barbara and for all the Arrowsmith staff. We parents have much to be thankful for, our children’s lives transforming before our eyes. There were speeches and we all got teary as a father spoke movingly of his daughter’s life before and after Arrowsmith, she who wasn’t expected to finish high school and who couldn’t cross the road safely is now planning a round the world trip having finished a university course.  Simon raising his eyebrows at me as I got out my hanky. The teachers and staff from the Toronto Arrowsmith school talked of their favourite Arrowsmith moments – too hard to pick as there were so many. I particularly loved the talk by the cognitive teacher who said that while there were many moments in the classroom it was the emails, letter and phone calls sometimes long after the students had left the programme that were her favourite moments – the call or email to say I have just met the man who I am going to marry, I have got into Med School, I have passed my driving test, I have moved into my own apartment, I am going on a backpacking trip by myself, I have cleaned out my closet and tomorrow I am going to clean out another one – all these attesting to things these students could not have done before they undertook the Arrowsmith programme, all manner of things which most people take for granted and which they expect. How thrilling it was to hear how much these students have achieved, and how their participation has allowed them to dare to dream, just as Barbara hoped it would.

Howard Eaton was there from Vancouver, now with 5 Eaton Arrowsmith schools and the Director of Research, research which is proving that there are permanent brain changes, increased lighting up within specific areas of the brain related to specific cognitive improvement exercises. The rats, who inspired Barbara, whose brains grew in a stimulating environment aren’t the only ones! Arrowsmith students brains grow too!

Barbara talked about the prospects for Arrowsmith, strategic directions that are being forged that will allow more students to access the programme. There is so much hope and excitement for the future where increasing numbers of students will be able to realise their potential.

After the talks it was time to head back up the 401 but not before we had a chance to be introduced to Barbara and I thanked her for her life’s work which was changing Simon’s life, and a quick photo.  It was too quick because there were so many other parents waiting for their chance to say their thankyous too. A quick thank you does not seem enough.

I was re-reading the article where I first read in some depth of Barbara’s work. At the end of the article, having described Barbara’s struggle in early life and how she devised the exercises which allowed her to overcome her learning difficulties, Janet Hawley writes

“I put it to Arrowsmith Young that her life sounds a bit like Sleeping Beauty waking up after being kissed by the Prince.

“Yes” she replies with a soft laugh, “but I was my own prince”.

Barbara’s work has allowed all the Arrowsmith students to be their own prince too.

 

 

On my way home!

Peterborough has been its usual charming self, along with glorious sunny autumn weather. So different to the bleak weather this time last year and the first snow we saw at the same time in Simon’s first year at Arrowsmith! That seems such a long time ago and he has come so far, I know I am repeating myself but it is amazing and thrilling – truly life changing!

 

I am at Toronto airport waiting for my flight to LA. There is so much to tell about Simon, his latest report and the wonderful celebration of the 35th anniversary of the Arrowsmith program that we went to last night at the glorious Casa Loma in Toronto. What a special night! It will all have to wait!

 

Thank you to all my wonderful friends in Peterborough, it is never long enough but I have enjoyed the walks, the coffees, the chats, your support and friendship. Enjoy the rest of the term! Not too long until the holidays!

imageSee you soon Sydney! So excited to be heading home, it’s been a while! Not sure about the heat though! 41C tomorrow!