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The A Word : Herd* it through the grapevine

It seems probable that it was the grapevine that was responsible, in this week’s episode, for the police tracking down Maya – who is apparently Joe’s unpaid carer/helper. She has come over from the Ukraine, and has overstayed her short term visa. So the action begins with Joe, Maya, and Alison all variously taking trips in a police car to the police station whilst the matter is investigated.

Once at the police station we hear Alison describing Joe’s difficulties not as Autism but as a ‘problem with his hearing’. What ! She is still clearly in denial and not strong enough to advocate for her son. How interesting then that she’s a very strong advocate for the illegal immigrant Maya, in her protestations and pleadings to Inspector Lemon Curd – sorry Inspector Bob Herd* (it’s just my hearing impairment). Alison declares Maya to be ‘brilliant with him, and shes got childcare qualifications from her own country’. Alison goes on to report ‘She’s talented and she’s unlocked something in Joe’. Presumably not his eustachian tubes !

Meanwhile the rueful and reflective Maya, contemplating deportation from the UK, declares (through the power of subtitles) that ‘All mothers are unsafe when they are thinking about their children’.  What ! No way.  Most mothers are intuitive, protective and committed to their children, particularly those who have Autism. Thanks Maya. So much for your espoused brilliance.

At last, it’s episode 5 and we finally have a parent-teacher conversation -of sorts. ‘Just to let you know Joe seemed a bit off today and didn’t want to join in with the activities’, his teacher informs us. Yes we know.  We’ve seen him sitting outside the classroom with his hands covering his ears.  Maya’s imminent departure from his life has sent Joe into a tailspin. How sad then that Joe’s response is trivialized by both dad Paul and the teacher as ‘it’ll be nothing.’

Much later we see mum Alison scouring the internet and extolling to Paul the virtues of ‘Intensive Applied Behaviour Analysis’ for Joe.  Good luck trying to get that into his education planning !  So far I’ve not seen evidence of any 1:1 support for Joe – which his school could deliver for him under the aforementioned ‘Graduated Response’.

It was recently my very great pleasure to deliver a presentation to Derby City Parent Carer Forum on ‘Being A Strong Advocate for your Child’ I thought a few pointers for Alison might be helpful here:

  1. Communicate upfront about your child’s needs.
  2. Request, don’t demand.
  3. Be aware of how your parenting style will affect your child at school.
  4. Be a problem-solver, not a finger pointer.
  5. Focus on the Solution to a problem … remove the blame.
  6. Listen to Your Child.
  7. Learn ‘SEN Speak’.
  8. Understand the School.

In the words of Will Young, ‘I think I’d better leave right now’…

More from me after the final episode of this series of The A Word.  The Radio Times listing hints that there will be a second series 🙁

Joy oh joy !


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