Mayhem and Stardust

We are the proud parents of, amongst others, Jig, who has a handsome collection of diagnoses (ADHD, AD, FASD) which probably mean nothing and a generous smattering of fairy dust which probably counts for everything. School was a huge challenge and so we decided, probably rashly, to move to the country and home educate him. No medication, no 'support', chickens, space, a farm on the doorstep and a beach nearby. What could possibly go wrong?

Archive for the tag “FASD”

In your own time…

Concentration is such a big issue for us. I take a very laid back attitude to curriculum and schedule.  We take opportunities as they arise and we go with the flow almost all the time.  However, there are some times when you just need to listen and then do.  This is such a fundamental skill and it is so frustrating (for both of us I think) to be working in such tiny time slots all the time.  The projects we could be doing, the skills we could be learning and the conversations we could be having hang over me, taunting me slightly as the day goes on. As I began this paragraph he needed to know what 6 and 5 were.  He knows this.  He just can’t recall it.  He is blowing a piece of dust along the table, picking his nails, kicking the chair, throwing out random numbers, making himself cross eyed, picking up books next to him and reading them.  I am just typing.  If he can’t get to 11 soon this place value addition exercise is going to take all day. Literally.

You will understand then my joy at a pottery session yesterday when he painted a pot that he threw a couple of weeks ago, quietly and carefully for maybe four minutes.


His pen is now ‘talking’ to his other fingers. Out of frustration I have decreed that he will not be doing anything else until these 15 sums are done.  He is talking out loud.  Every single thought that comes into his head is now flying out, buzzing around the room, battering hard against the quiet click of these keys. He is standing on the table.  He is lying on the floor.

Can you imagine how this would play out in school? He won’t be punished, sanctioned or excluded for this behaviour today.  He will simply carry on, however much noise he makes, until we have finished this revision session on Hundreds, Tens and Units. And that is that.


Post script

In case you were wondering, two hours have passed and we have finished the sums.


How to learn

As the days and months and now year of home educating Jiggy go by I must confess that I swing crazily between wanting to sit him down at a desk and learn tables and declensions (well, not exactly declensions but you know what I mean) and the (for me) quite hard task of trusting to my own creativity and ability to teach as we go in a real unschooling way.  I don’t want to leave him without basic maths and language skills but neither to I want to argue with the wild boy who lurks just beneath the surface and shows his features the minute a maths book is opened.  I don’t want to pander to the undoubted weaknesses in Jiggy’s make up but I also don’t want to constrain him or pander to unworthy ‘rules’ and assumptions either. So, I am weaving a precarious path between the two. Maybe it is me that needs to learn how to really learn…

Anyway, while that stews away here are some pictures of a particularly great project that happened this week.  The theme for a while has been planets and this topic is phases of the moon.

Old tub with eight holes around the edge. Painted black inside. Ping pong ball glued to a stick in the middle. Flaps cover the eight holes bar one and a torch shines in that hole.

Old tub with eight holes around the edge. Painted black inside. Ping pong ball glued to a stick in the middle. Flaps cover the eight holes bar one and a torch shines in that hole.

Each flap labelled with a moon phase.  Lift flap to see the moon in that phase.

Each flap labelled with a moon phase. Lift flap to see the moon in that phase.

Crescent moon

Crescent moon

Quite a favourite - oreo moon phases, and then a snack.
Quite a favourite – oreo moon phases, and then a snack.


Bad decision detector

read today that our brain has a bad-decision detector.  A region in the brain prevents humans making the same mistake twice. The lateral frontal pole is used to reflect on decisions and to answer ‘what if’ questions.  It is the part of the brain that remembers what we didn’t choose to do and ponders the validity of our choice, constantly measuring our decisions against what could have been.

I read it in the aftermath of a particularly provoking morning and as the article unfolded I found myself having ‘that’s it!’ moments, one after the other.  It was just so Jiggy.  We won’t dwell on the issue arising from our decoupage session this morning (takes deep breath) but, before things went very wrong I was chatting to Jiggy as we snipped away,  “Mum, please don’t talk, I can’t cut and talk at the same time”, he says.  How like your father I thought and almost forgot it.  Then later on I read that this frontal pole is also responsible for multi tasking.  It allows two trains of thought at the same time.  Like cutting and talking.

I shall blog about this I thought as I read the article (multi-tasking, making plans while doing something else – just saying) I am sure there is a link to ADHD and FAS type brain damage from this research.  Then, of course, I got to the bottom of the article and the bit where they say that it has huge implications for ADHD and other conditions.  Oh well, someone else thought of it too.

Back to cutting practice.  This rather nice profile was Monday’s output (OK, the more detailed cutting was mine – the fabric dyeing, first cutting and gluing Jig’s, Rome wasn’t built in a day you know)


He looks rather angelic doesn’t he?! Bad decisions?  Moi?

Nervous Anarchy


Being off radar for over a year now I felt the need to remind myself how far we have come without ‘ support’ and although we are still, of course, made painfully aware of the difficulties Jig faces we also have a sense of autonomy which helps us to feel much less disabled. Being mainstream was incredibly costly and we spiralled further and further into needing more and more. It was a revelation to think that we could simply stop.

Since he was born Jiggy has had; neonatal intensive care team, several children’s social worker teams in two states and two countries, a lawyer, a children’s advocate, specialist paediatrician (USA ) early years intervention psychologists, full time one to one school support team, behavioural intervention team, educational psychologist, behavioural psychologist, specialist paediatrician (UK) and various casual carers and support workers. He was medicated at birth to ease withdrawal and prevent fitting and then again from 4 years to facilitate his inclusion in mainstream.

Now that we have stepped out of mainstream there is just us and an environment that suits him. I am, of course, often scared that we are being dangerously naive to think that this will be enough and I worry that we are somehow doing it wrong. However, just as often I am sure that we had no option and that this approach just needs a little faith, a deep breath and just a touch of anarchy.

Guess work and gum shields

One of our biggest concerns about keeping Jiggy in the bubble that we have built here at Treguddick is that he doesn’t have the same access to his peers that other children do.  We don’t know if that is a good thing or not.  The fact that something  is, slowly, working for him in that he has long stretches of his week where he is calm and quiet and productive may indicate that something is working but we don’t really know what.  We slot in with after school games and social arrangements made for the other two a couple of times a week and we are going to add a more formal day at Forest School this term – without me this time.  We have a session a week with the local home ed group and we have added mini rugby recently which has got off to a shaky start but hasn’t failed yet. He comes to parks and parties with us, of course. The problem is that every social event that he attends requires some artistry, a preparation, a watchfulness that isn’t necessary for the other children.  Each one also requires us to be a little bit brave, both on his behalf and on ours.  We are all judged, to a degree, by the company we keep and our children’s behaviour.  We see people’s faces close, their arms fold and their feet tap far more often than we see them smile and step forward and we need to learn how to incorporate both reactions into our family’s experience of the world.   Both reactions to his behaviour are valid and both understandable – they are both true at the same time.  Such is the conundrum of complex childhood behaviour. Such is the reality for him and we have no clear idea how to prepare him to face the world and its social intricacies without us. Its all guess work.

Gum shield moulding
Gum shield moulding

Shanah Tovah

The little two went back to school today very happily indeed, Titch was really excited to discover he is now in year 2 (how had that escaped him?!) This marks the beginning of the second full year that Jiggy has been out of school.  We have learned so much about him, and each other, during that year. We have developed a peculiar multiple track teaching strategy that provides him with information about the same subject on very many levels at the same time.  It sounds chaotic but it works well (an insight into how his mind works – or mine!)

So, for example, we are measuring up the bathrooms for underfloor heating today.  I wanted to take that opportunity to teach him how to measure area (working towards the concept of squared numbers) but I know that he needs reminding how to measure a straight line as well.  We address both needs simultaneously and he takes both sets of information in.  Just because someone can’t measure a straight line does not mean they can’t understand how to measure area. We are also forging ahead with different ways of recording time, and adding time, while reminding ourselves what each hand is for. We are going to be able to add fractions at about the same time as we understand what one is etc. etc.

On fractions, since our time in America I have adopted the ‘cups’ measuring system (because I am such a slap dash cook it suits me not to be weighing) which lends itself splendidly to fractions.  Today being Rosh Hashanah we made Challah and needed to measure thirds and quarters of cups.  Today being Rosh Hashanah we also were able to ask ourselves those wonderful questions so loved by Jews, where are we, how did we get here and where are we going.  Just perfect for the start of new school year and a new phase.  My list of goals for the next year is so much more real than my list for last year and I am enjoying that as much as I enjoyed the excitement of being in our tent last Rosh Hashanah. Quite old testament really.

Making Challah
Making Challah

Shanah Tovah!

Rare Break in the Clouds

It is taken for granted that FASD is incurable, that there is nothing that can be done and that all plans for the future are damage limitation and creative mitigation.  However, the choices we make for Jiggy are all based on the hitherto unproven hope that we can make a difference.  I read article after article and case after case about how badly children with FASD do and each one chips away a little at my confidence.  Then, occasionally, we get more research that says that there is hope after all.

South African research points again to the importance of nutritional supplements and very early intervention.  It says that a good post natal environment and a stable first seven years might minimise negative impacts of alcohol exposure.

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