Tag Archives: potential plus uk

Pushing Her Nibs

9 Oct

Why? Why would anyone in the world NOT want to put pen to paper? To reach out, to inform, to entertain or to explain themselves via the written word? I had never understood those who didn’t like to write.

Until I bred a family of aliens. (Although they think that it is I, who happens to be the odd one out…)

I started this blog after a bit of a personal journey. One that involved having to do rather a lot of swotting up about dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia. Not dysentry so far – although my other half now tells me that he was admitted to hospital with this as a toddler. So we seem to have ticked that box too (no jokes about this not being too much of a surprise, what with him being from Birmingham and everything. He is very sensitive about anti-Brummie jibes.)

Thanks to the lovely people from the charity Potential Plus UK,  I’ve  learned lots about human intelligence and learning differences. And I’ve made some wonderful friends along the way who, on the ‘trickier’ days, remind me that the brightest sparks in the world often struggle with the bizarre cobbled-together thing that we call the english language – and which is a never-ending battle for those with dyslexia.

mind games article and comp CHRON

The Mam writes. She writes books! Oooh – bully for her. Not everyone can write like a woman possessed.

So, that’s all very nice for me. But when you’re the little kid and you look around and see everyone else doing the 3 R’s  beautifully, it really can sap your confidence.  My own gal looks at me writing away (by hand, or keyboard) and often sits there saying “Oh…I wish I could do that…I wish that I could write like you can!” I try not to answer back “well, practice makes perfect”- because let’s face it. It doesn’t always. And there is nowt worse than someone for whom something comes so easily, telling you that *you* just need to try harder.

But a couple of weeks ago I had a little idea in order to Up The Writing Ante for my girl. Following a bit of a mum-daughter spat, I chucked a notebook at her (not literally – although I was quite tempted to at the time…) and said “Look! Just write a diary! Write about how horrible and mean I am in it. It will make you feel better. It certainly worked for me when your grandparents were being  being particularly evil and acting like the worst parents ever.”

She warmed to the idea (apart from the fact that she had to actually *write*.) And then came idea number two. It suddenly occurred to me that kids today are missing out on what truly was a Rite of Passage in the writing stakes. When we were nippers, at our schools in Manchester (probably all over the UK), we all had to write in pencil – until our writing had become neat enough in order that we were ‘allowed’ to use a fountain pen.

Oh the pride – the sheer joy – of choosing your first little fountain pen! Shall it be a long cartridge sort? Or shall I use a pen that goes with the short stubby little ones?  Do I want to use a pointy nib? Or a flat-tipped one so that I can make my letters look all-medieval scripty?

I started getting all dreamy, waxing lyrical about those fond recollections… and then she goes;

“What’s a fountain pen?” So it was off to the shops for me.

Two weeks later we have a kid who every night, writes her diary religiously. “Because it feels so beautiful and smooth with the ink flowing. I can’t stop writing! I love it now!”

My treasured fountain pen and the lass's own new pen ("Even though it's Hello Kitty - it's still the best pen ever!")

My treasured fountain pen and the lass’s own new pen (“Even though it’s Hello Kitty – what I can’t stand – it’s still the best pen ever!”)

So sure – give me your ipads and your computer keyboards and your wii things. But let us not forget that some of the oldies are the best. And if you struggle with holding a pen and letter formation – then using the ancient methods might well be the preferred choice for you and yours…

So. WHAT’S A FOUNTAIN PEN?

It’s a dying breed, it is. It needs to be resurrected.

(And – as child number 2 noted “It’s really cool cause you can shake the ink everywhere. And probably stab someone with it!”)

(PS *** EDITED VERSION OF MY DAUGHTER’S DIARY AND LETTERS ARE ONLY SHOWN HERE. I WOULD NOT WANT TO SHARE THE  FULL HORRORS OF HER LIFE WITH MY DELICATE READERS.***)

 

 

 

 

 

Barclays! Nowt Wrong With a Bit of Chest-Staring!

24 Sep

I was a bit gutted to see that in their latest LifeSkills advert, Barclays have opted for the old ‘C’mon kids! If you can’t make effective eye contact – you’ll be on the job scrap heap forever!’ approach.

I would have hoped that Barclays – given their oodles of dosh – could have thought a little bit longer and a little bit harder before they decided to embrace such an off-the-peg and unhelpful approach to customer service training. The last thing people who really, truly struggle with this issue need is a an advert going out there – telling all and sundry that they are somehow ‘wrong.’

Sure, it’s important to tell young people that *some* people (not me, for example – good grief, no) prefer being looked slam-dunk in the eye when they’re asking you where the tins of baked beans are located.

But it’s equally important not to discriminate against those of us who cannot do this – and who cannot be trained to do this. Whether due to cultural differences or disability issues.

Get the balance right, Barclays!

Get the balance right, Barclays!

So c’mon Barclays! We all liked the nice, chirpy lass who stars in the advert…but please drop the emphasis on Eye Contact Or No-One Will Ever Give You A Job tosh.

(and now to re-blog my original article…)

STOP STARING AT MY CHEST!

Now that I’ve got your attention…

This is a semi-serious post. Yesterday I began a discussion with my daughter about ‘eye contact.’  I was trying to pre-empt some of the social misdemeanours that she might commit when we return to southern Africa. The thing is, my lass has *the* most incredible staring prowess. When we lived in Namibia, she used to freak the locals out. We’d often hear ”Why must your daughter stare at me so much?” and “That kid is scaring me with the way it is looking at me!”

Even the cat buggered off and left home after the babe in arms trumped it in a staring competition.

My girl isn’t being rude. But in certain parts of Africa, as Libertina Amathila (freedom-fighter against apartheid-turned politician) outlines in her autobiography, youngsters in southern Africa are taught that it is a sign of disrespect to hold eye contact with an adult. And yet – when Africans from this tradition meets a westerner  – all too often this comes over as a very negative action to the likes of you and me. This person cannot be trusted. Is shifty.

During the early days of living in southern Africa, I found this lack of eye contact to be distubing. Once (when pregnant and probably feeling even more paranoid than usual) I became convinced that Africans were looking at my crappy footwear. Regarding it with total disgust. Probably thinking “Buy yourself a new pair of shoes, you crazy and scruffy white lady!” But it transpired that they were simply moving their eyes away from my face, then away from my bump – and finally resting on my feet. (Well, this is what my partner explained to me. But the tightwad was probably making an excuse up not to have to treat me to a new pair of shoes.)

And of course, the apartheid system also had an effect on whether a black person dared to hold eye contact with a white person. And the legacy of this still very much remains.

And as I was giving my 9 year old a very nurturing and compassionate mini-lecture providing sage advice such as “so don’t go gawping at people. Okay?” I was reminded of the similarities with regards to misunderstandings about autistic behaviour and eye contact.

Yes wear the Springboks top. But don't GAWP at people. Okay?

Yes wear the Springboks top. But don’t GAWP at people. Okay?

Regular readers of this blog will know that I try to raise awareness of autistic spectrum conditions and of any kind of ‘exceptionality.’  And thanks to initiatives such as World Autism Awareness Day and some of the incredible charities and associated campaigners (with a special nod to Potential Plus UK here) society now knows more than ever about some of the more common autistic traits.

Lack of eye contact is often cited as a key characteristic of autism.  And this is just one of the huge barriers that ‘autie sorts’ really suffer from a lack of understanding about. Classroom teachers – if the signs of autism are more subtle in a child – might well simply write the kid off as being surly or rude, if they don’t make eye contact.  Adults with autism can ‘bomb’ at job interviews, for this reason alone. Even some of the organisations that you might expect a bit more awareness from haven’t clicked just how excruciating it can be for an autie to meet your gaze (The Co-operative retail outlet once asked me in a customer feedback questionnaire ‘Did the till operator make eye contact with you?’ Yes dear reader, you can imagine what my response was….)

And finally – a distressing example – I know of one young man (then undiagnosed autistic) who was mercilessly bullied because he couldn’t look anyone in the eyes. Several of the more immature teenage girls in his classroom took hysterical offence to the fact that his eyes would always drop downwards when talking to them. He’s Staring At My Tits.  Cue regular beatings by the other lads and for the rest of his life being known as ‘weirdo’ or ‘pervert.’

So today on World Autie Day – let’s try and not judge everybody else by the eye-balling Stepford Wives cultural and customer service standards.

Let’s convince ourself instead, that it is polite, it is pertinent and sometimes it is the proper thing to do – to look away and to give someone that extra bit of peeper-space.

(So long as you don’t look at my chest today, poppet because this T-shirt has got gravy stains all down it.)

Comic Remedies

19 Jun

….Part 7  (Dictated to me by small, guest blogger/daughter.)

“My mum said that I can have the last blog where we talk about the street children in Namibia.The very last thing we did that day – on the day when all of these pictures were taken – after we gave the children all of the things that had been bought for them, was this:

WE GAVE AWAY OUR BELOVED BEANO’S!!! (3 exclamation marks please, mum!)  ARRGHHHH! I just can’t believe that we did that. And other comics too! And here is a photo of the children with them:Their new comics - not enough! Need more!

But we were so happy that they got something to read. Because this will entertain them. And teach them to read english. It’s their national language actually and it is nice for them to learn.

They asked us to send books because they don’t have any. And they wanted – if they could manage to get to school like we were helping them to – to have sort of something like an after-school club, to have like – a reading club. We said that we couldn’t afford to pay for a big box of books because of how much the post office people charge you for parcels – even to the poorest people in the world 😦  And I think that our government in England could change this, if they really wanted to. WHAT CAN WE DO TO CHANGE THIS? IT MAKES ME REALLY LIVID!!!! (4 exclamation marks this time, please.)

So instead, we said that we would send them some comics instead. And this will be brilliant because we can send a lot. It’s still expensive but not anything as stupidly expensive as a big parcel. BUT this will entertain them even more than proper books, I think!

Comics are so important to our family because they helped me to read. I used to detest reading. But now, when a book is put in front of me – I can pick it up and read it. Only – I repeat – only IF IT’S INTERESTING! Also my mum, when she was my age, loved comics more than anything. Here are two photos of her reading a comic. Haha look at her glasses and that bum! No wonder she never goes out of the house without make-up on! And she still never stops reading now!

Look at that bum!

She couldn’t read without her glasses! (she still can’t!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here also is proof that even Grandma is made to read The Beano. Hahaha! (evil laugh.)

Grandma enjoying The Beano (in her wildest dreams/ nightmares.)

Grandma enjoying The Beano (in her wildest dreams/ nightmares.)

The kids at my school and my brother’s school where we live in west Yorkshire are now collecting their comics for all of this. Can I just say an overwhelming THANK YOU to all our school friends and parents and those very very special other ones who helped us and whose names I will not say because you might slap me. You know what? You made their lives so much better and I bet you don’t believe that. But really – be proud of yourselves because you really did put a big smile on their faces. I wish you could have seen it for yourselves.

I’m finishing with a Hello and a Thank You from them all to you.

And just to add a bit of comedy to it all, this is where we left my brother.  It has been very peaceful without him!!!!!!!!!! (10 exclamation marks, please.)

Love, The Mini Funnylass xx ”

My brother and his new house. I do hope that he is alright there ... (not!)

My brother and his new house. I do hope that he is alright there … (not!)

 

 

 

 

 

Stop Staring At My Chest!

2 Apr

Now that I’ve got your attention…

This is a semi-serious post. Yesterday I began a discussion with my daughter about ‘eye contact.’  I was trying to pre-empt some of the social misdemeanours that she might commit when we return to southern Africa. The thing is, my lass has *the* most incredible staring prowess. When we lived in Namibia, she used to freak the locals out. We’d often hear ”Why must your daughter stare at me so much?” and “That kid is scaring me with the way it is looking at me!”

Even the cat buggered off and left home after the babe in arms trumped it in a staring competition.

My girl isn’t being rude. But in certain parts of Africa, as Libertina Amathila (freedom-fighter against apartheid-turned politician) outlines in her autobiography, youngsters in southern Africa are taught that it is a sign of disrespect to hold eye contact with an adult. And yet – when Africans from this tradition meets a westerner  – all too often this comes over as a very negative action to the likes of you and me. This person cannot be trusted. Is shifty.

During the early days of living in southern Africa, I found this lack of eye contact to be distubing. Once (when pregnant and probably feeling even more paranoid than usual) I became convinced that Africans were looking at my crappy footwear. Regarding it with total disgust. Probably thinking “Buy yourself a new pair of shoes, you crazy and scruffy white lady!” But it transpired that they were simply moving their eyes away from my face, then away from my bump – and finally resting on my feet. (Well, this is what my partner explained to me. But the tightwad was probably making an excuse up not to have to treat me to a new pair of shoes.)

And of course, the apartheid system also had an effect on whether a black person dared to hold eye contact with a white person. And the legacy of this still very much remains.

And as I was giving my 9 year old a very nurturing and compassionate mini-lecture providing sage advice such as “so don’t go gawping at people. Okay?” I was reminded of the similarities with regards to misunderstandings about autistic behaviour and eye contact.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I try to raise awareness of autistic spectrum conditions and of any kind of ‘exceptionality.’  And thanks to initiatives such as World Autism Awareness Day and some of the incredible charities and associated campaigners (with a special nod to Potential Plus UK here) society now knows more than ever about some of the more common autistic traits.

Lack of eye contact is often cited as a key characteristic of autism.  And this is just one of the huge barriers that ‘autie sorts’ really suffer from a lack of understanding about. Classroom teachers – if the signs of autism are more subtle in a child – might well simply write the kid off as being surly or rude, if they don’t make eye contact.  Adults with autism can ‘bomb’ at job interviews, for this reason alone. Even some of the organisations that you might expect a bit more awareness from haven’t clicked just how excruciating it can be for an autie to meet your gaze (The Co-operative retail outlet once asked me in a customer feedback questionnaire ‘Did the till operator make eye contact with you?’ Yes dear reader, you can imagine what my response was….)

And finally – a distressing example – I know of one young man (then undiagnosed autistic) who was mercilessly bullied because he couldn’t look anyone in the eyes. Several of the more immature teenage girls in his classroom took hysterical offence to the fact that his eyes would always drop downwards when talking to them. He’s Staring At My Tits.  Cue regular beatings by the other lads and for the rest of his life being known as ‘weirdo’ or ‘pervert.’

So today on World Autie Day – let’s try and not judge everybody else by the eye-balling Stepford Wives cultural and customer service standards.

Let’s convince ourself instead, that it is polite, it is pertinent and sometimes it is the proper thing to do – to look away and to give someone that extra bit of peeper-space.

(So long as you don’t look at my chest today, poppet because this T-shirt has got gravy stains all down it.)

Yes wear the Springboks top. But don't GAWP at people. Okay?

Yes wear the Springboks top. But don’t GAWP at people. Okay?