The Sensory Seeker has returned to school after two and a half years of home education. We are still in the middle of a pandemic with many people now choosing to home educate their children with special needs. However, The Sensory Seeker really wanted to go back – this is how the first part week has gone from the perspective of his mother.
The Sensory Seeker and Home Education
To be honest The Sensory Seeker never wanted to leave school and if it wasn’t for his brother he never would have. We had previously made the mistake of moving one child from an educational setting and leaving the other one there. Let’s say that the “adults” didn’t act very grown-up about it! We also discovered that the school weren’t seen to be looking after children with EHCPs very well.
The school had told us he was doing well and was pretty much in-line with his peer group. They said that he didn’t want any help as he wanted to work independently. Then of course there was their attitude that “we are all on the sensory spectrum”. Therefore it came as rather a shock to find that he was not in-line with his peer group in math and English (the subjects they claimed he was) and that he seemed unable to work independently. In fact we were told by tutors that he was broken! His confidence was super low and that they hated to think how badly damaged he would have been if we had not opted to home educate. He was not at all receptive to learning at all.
The Sensory Seeker Returning to School
The return to school happened as he is now old enough for secondary education – which is a big change for everyone. In fact the pandemic probably made The Sensory Seeker’s adjustment easier because other children hadn’t been to school in a while. Plus a lot of the lessons are in the one classroom.
He has been back a few days now and it feels very right. The Sensory Seeker is full of confidence and enthusiasm. He has made new friends and isn’t afraid to be himself. If he doesn’t know the answer to something, or wants help, he has been able to easily ask the teaching assistants. Luckily homework is put on an app so we can easily see what needs doing. He has already willingly just got on with homework set when he has got home. He wants to try new things and hasn’t feared the change (like accessing a hot meal from the canteen at lunchtime).
Sensory Issues at Secondary School
Of course he still has sensory issues at school but seems to be just dealing with them by himself. The ones he has mentioned mostly have related to clothing so far. Having to do his top button up, the tie tickling him when he has to tuck it in inside his shirt (he finds tucking it in lower down helps), his rugby shirt is itchy (he is going to try wearing his skins next time to see if that helps). Also his lunch has been all over his clothes so I have to keep cleaning his blazer and tie – but he hasn’t told me that anyone has been mean about it at all.
The School itself
Overall I am really happy with his first week (well he started Tuesday) at school. I have heard a lot of parents praise the SENCO, and she has got a very good reputation. But also the history teacher stopped us one morning to check all was okay. Then a teaching assistant did too – all just whilst we were walking down to queue to get into the school. Fingers crossed this all continues. As a bonus he is learning Spanish which he has already started as part of home education.
The grammar school entrance exam, or eleven plus as it is also known by, is difficult for any child. Our son has been home educated for a year and a term before taking the eleven plus, and also has an EHCP for his additional needs. Despite not feeling that the test was right for him here is why we let him take it.
Special Needs and the Eleven Plus
Quite simply, despite his special needs The Sensory Seeker
wanted to take the eleven plus. He wanted to prove that he could do it (he was
in the school for four hours) and have the same opportunity to go to the
grammar schools that his three brothers did before him. He also wanted his
special day – as we reward the hard work with special treats on that day. He
wanted to earn his reward like his brothers – and not just been given them.
SEN Help with the Eleven Plus
To have extra help in our area you have to provide the school where you wish them to sit the test any additional evidence as to why and what help that should be provided for them to make it a fair test. I seem to recall the turnaround was pretty tight with applying and submitting this. We waited until we had what we needed to hand in straight away. In our case it was a full copy of his EHCP and a letter from Explore Learning just further stating why they believed he required a smaller room and extra time. They awarded him 25% extra time (whether he got it or not we do not know) and a room with just the other children who needed extra time. This actually meant that they were probably the children most likely to cause a disturbance though to be fair, and there was a boy upset and kept messing with his zip.
The Run up to the Eleven Plus
We paid for him to sit one mock exam to give him a feel of
what the eleven plus exam would be like. We only did one because it would be
different from him – as the mocks have more children and wouldn’t give the
extra time, or know about his needs. The emphasis about the eleven plus was
mainly focused on the special day. Tests he really fluctuated between getting
25% on tests to getting high eighties! It really has been an emotional roller
The one thing we have focused on is how proud we are that he
has wanted to give it a go – an important lesson for life. Plus it has meant
that he has worked towards something in a group (he went to sessions at Explore
Learning), it means he has had taken exams, and learned to be under exam
The Day of the Eleven Plus
I was a bit confused because the drop off and pick up times
were the same as all the other children – meaning he either didn’t have his
extra time or they had cut short his break. If really needs be I guess this could
be grounds for appeal. I doubt very much we will be appealing.
He went in happy and he came out happy – and that’s all that really matters. Children were allocated colours and his colour was clearly an indicator of his needs and at drop off and pick up the fact that he was this colour seem to be of high importance, so I felt that he had been well looked after. He felt it went well, but then say he answered things in the wrong section. He was so proud of himself saying, “see I told you I could do it!”
Then we had his special day. He had been awake since 4am on
the morning of the test and I am surprised that he managed to stay awake until
2am the following day when the decision was made for him to go to bed. We are
quite strict on bedtimes and so this was very late indeed for him to stay up as
a treat. We had bought him the LEGO he had asked for because he wanted to build
it with me and took him out for dinner and desert the places he wanted to go.
Plus he generally just played computer games outside of the hours we normally
The Eleven Plus Results
We now have just under a month to wait for the results but I have heard of another school that sounds much more suitable for him, in my opinion. I am going to see if we can look around and convince him that the grammar school he wants to go isn’t his only choice. The wait for the results is less than 4 weeks too – so we shall see.
Getting your period for the first time can be confusing for any girl never mind one who is Autistic or has Sensory Processing Disorder. With sensory integration problems it may take longer to absorb the physical and emotional changes in the body, which can usually happen anywhere between the ages of 9 and 16 years old, so it is best to start the discussion early – possibly with the use of social stories and visual aids. You could also use PEC’s on a keyring as a visual reminder.
with Periods for Autistic Females or those who have Sensory Processing Disorder
Communication and Emotions
As well as difficulties processing all the changes those who are Autistic or have Sensory Issue many struggle with communicating. This can be a difficult time especially if she finds it hard to regulate her hormones. A good way to help with this is to discuss what a period is and why we have them – this may start with an introduction in a physical way of this extra hole that they may not have noticed before, as it hasn’t been relevant.
Talk about the menstrual cycle, explaining that it happens to all women. Plot on a calendar the different stages (menstruating/ovulation) this will help her to keep track of when her period is due. Make sure you include the fact that they may have increased discharge on the lead up to their periods, and then on days in-between periods. Not only talk about how long the average length of a period will last each month, how much blood may be lost, and also how long she is likely to have periods in her life. It may seem strange to introduce the menopause before the first period but it might help them to have an idea of the time frame that this will happen over.
Talk about the different types of sanitary products and demonstrate how to use those them (like where to put the towel in a pair of knickers). Talk about how many of each type they might need (like only one cup or x amount of pads a day). Some disposable pads have arrows on them so this may help you decide on a preferable brand. You may or may not want to show her what used sanitary protection looks like – as not to shock her (but explain that people do not usually go around showing this!). Alternatively you could use food colouring. Either way explain that there may be blood clots – or that the blood can be either red or brown. They also need to be aware that blood slows down in water (so it is okay to get into the bath) but that when they get out it may come back suddenly so they may need a sanitary product straight away. Also that tampons can be worn in water (if they want to go swimming for example) but may change how they feel (heavy) and need changing when they get out too. Explain that the flow of blood changes too so there might be more or less at different times – throughout the cycle and throughout the day/night – with more coming at night so extra protection may be required.
Once she has had her first period you could get her to write a diary to help identify how she feels at various parts of each month – warning her previously what this may look or feel like. It may be that the days leading up to her period she feels more angry/upset/sad/frustrated but that this stops when her period starts. This will help her understand how things are for her because not everyone is the same – and that’s okay too.
It may be that she has trouble concentrating, feels depressed or sleepy; has sore breasts, stomach or lower back, she may be more hungry, feel bloated, need to go to the toilet more, and does not know how to express this – or realise why it is happening. If it is explained what this may be like for her, including how this may look and feel, and that these things are normal it will be less frightening for her. Such as that cramping may feel like an uncomfortable or sick tummy; there may be some tightness around the abdomen, or mild pain like a headache feels (I was told by a doctor that this was just migraine of the stomach for years on the build up to my periods). Others may describe cramping like bubble or gas. Offer her ways to deal with them – such as hot water bottles, paracetamol and even chocolate!
Throughout everything you discuss make sure she knows it is normal and just a part of growing up. You may want to explain periods as a rite of passage into adulthood – and even allow her to do something a little more grown up to compensate for them (such as having extra chocolate, having a later bedtime and so on).
Sensory Difficulties and Periods
Of course there may be new sensory difficulties which arise due to her periods. It may be that she cannot cope with the feel of discharge or blood, or the sensation of a pad in her knickers/tampon inside her. This could lead on to poor hygiene, especially if this is already a problem. You need to explore all the many types of products available (towels/tampons/menstrual cups/reusable pads/reusable knickers) to discover if there’s a particular one they are more comfortable with (you could donate surplus products that did not work out for her to a homeless charity perhaps). It may be that the different products have varying smells – therefore it may be a case that reusable pads would be the best option as you could wash them with the regular laundry detergent that they are used to. They may want to use toilet wipes or a flannel for cleaning themselves after they have been to the toilet if they cannot deal with the blood.
Explain that without using them that the blood could leak through their clothes and make them uncomfortable. That if they suffer with heavy blood loss that this could still happen and it may be an idea to carry around spare knickers and sanitary products with them. But also make them aware of how and where to buy products themselves. It may be that it is the visual sight of blood and so dark sanitary pants may be the only solution.
Together you could make a “monthlies” box for the bathroom with all the things she needs. Or order a subscription box for her.
general is a time when personal hygiene needs addressing and it may be that
they struggle with the odours that come with periods. Again which type of
sanitary products they use may help with this, as well as the right kind of
spray to mask the smell.
It may seem obvious but she needs to be made aware of the importance of washing her hands after changing her sanitary wear and of course they also need to know when and how to change and the correct method of disposing (including how to wrap up disposable pads and place them in the bins provided and what they can do if there aren’t any available) or cleaning their sanitary products – and that they are not flushed down the toilet. Talk about the frequency because this could be the fullness or the time – even if a pad has not got a lot of blood on it it needs changing frequently, or it will start to smell.
If reusable products are being used that they know where to put them when they have finished with them (maybe have a wet bag that they can carry around and a wet bucket in the bathroom). But be prepared that they still will hide them – you just need to make sure this situation is as least embarrassing as possible. Or maybe even teach her how to do her own washing, with her own wash hamper (obviously depending on her age) so that she does not worry what others think (and depending on her capabilities). Plus advice on rinsing them or how to treat stains.
Obviously talking about how we take care of sanitary products after they are used are part of the social rules of our society – so you may want to explain this as a reason why as well as for hygiene reasons. But also mention about the vocabulary we use when talking about periods – plus how there is a time and place to talk about menstruation but that there are boundaries and appropriate social etiquette.
That all females have most likely had periods at some point in their lives and it is nothing to be ashamed about. A lot of us have been caught short with unexpectedly “coming on” and not had the right products to deal with it. In this case for a short while some tissue paper may help, or some toilets sell products in machines – or another female can be asked if she has anything that could be “borrowed” (this is the term used but they do not actually want it back!)
This will also include getting the
attention of a member of staff if at school or college to help deal with any
issues. If this may be the case it may be worth speaking to the school and see
if they will help support them.
Of course if you have any further issues then do visit the GP, especially if her periods are very long in duration or heavy, or painful.
Social Story Images from Lil-Barb’s Delights used with permission. They were designed for a particular person with their own criteria. Some girls will be offended/upset by some of the content – or you may wish to use different products.
Thank you for everyone who helped contribute to this article, including the above recommendations.
The above is just my opinions and is not meant to substitute medical advice
Alton Towers Waterpark is situated inside the Splash Landings Hotel and is lots of fun for all the family. We received a discount on entry using our Merlin Annual Passes (for which we are brand ambassadors).
Things to Know About Alton Towers Waterpark
Access to Alton Towers Waterpark
Alton Towers Waterpark is easy to find (with clear sign posts) and is located in the Splash Landings Hotel. The normal way to access the Alton Towers Waterpark is down some stairs. I assume there is lift access but it wasn’t obvious to me, but then again I wasn’t looking.
Parking at Alton Towers Waterpark
Personally I would have found it really difficult to park the car at Alton Towers Waterpark as the car park was very full. We went when it was out of season and the main park only open to special guests. I am not sure if this made for the waterpark and hotel being busier but I am just glad it was my husband driving.
Disabilities and Entrance to Alton Towers Waterpark
There’s lots of fun water decorations as soon as you step inside the building and throughout the journey to the Waterpark, making it a great sensory experience from the off (for sensory seekers).It did turn out that we could have also had free entry into Alton Tower’s Waterpark for a carer with proof of disability/DWP letter or Blue Badge – this was not clear on the website and so I paid for all of us in case the Waterpark was full to capacity.
Disabled customers who can walk unaided but receive the higher rate DWP or have a blue badge are able to receive a Wristband which allows 4 rides on the Masterblaster slide without queuing. This did not apply to us so I am unsure at this point how this works. This can be for either single or double rings.
Parking is free. Again I am sure there is parking for those with a blue badge closer to the entrance of Alton Towers Waterpark which may be easier to park but this did not apply to us and I am afraid I did not notice.
Entrance Requirements for Alton Towers Waterpark
Under 10s must be accompanied by an adult; Children ages 5-9 years old have a 2:1 adult ration; and each under 5 needs their own adult.
Alton Towers Waterpark is open 10am-6pm – you may be asked to attend a certain time slot at busy times.
Only swimwear can be worn in the Cariba Creek.
You can go in and out of the Waterpark multiple times by having a hand stamp on exit.
The Facilities at Alton Towers Waterpark
Alton Towers Waterpark has three slides which require the use of a ring – The Masterblaster (riders over 1.2m can ride on their own and those between 1.1 and 1.2m can ride on a double) – this is fast and goes dark in sections; Rush (which is meant to have a choice of lights and sounds but was just dark when we went) and Rampage – both of which are high speed slides and has an age restriction of 3 years old, with riders under 1.1m requiring an adult). Riders are not allowed to bring their own rings and Masterblaster has a different coloured ring to Rush and Rampage. You must queue for a ring and then queue again to use the slides.
Flash Floods is the outdoor flume adventures at Alton Towers Waterpark. Two slides end up in a pool in the middle and then a choice of a further 3 slides taking you into another outdoor pool.
Also available are Lagoona Bay with a waterfall and a place for a gentle swim; the Bubbly Wubbly Pool and Volcano Springs to soothe you; Wacky Waterworks with over 70 interactive water features – with water cannons, buckets, pull ropes and water wheels.
The Changing Rooms atAlton Towers Waterpark
Changing rooms are unisex with various size cubicles to meet the needs of different sized families. Hair dryers are free of charge – and there is even lower down ones for children. Both adult and children’s hair dryers face a mirror. There are toilets located both outside of the entrance gate and within the changing rooms. Lockers take a refundable 20p piece – we managed to fit our belongings for 5 of us in 2 lockers including our towels. There are plenty of places to hang towels on hooks around the waterpark however.
There are disabled changing and shower facilities, with assistance available if required.
EatingatAlton Towers Waterpark
Inside of Alton Towers Waterpark is a café where you can buy food/drink in your swimwear. This included hot and cold food ideas, with meal deal options. You can eat around the waterpark and there are benches provided, as well as seating being provided in the café itself. You can also leave the Waterpark and return later. This allows you the option to go completely off-site from Alton Towers Resort or eat at Flambo’s Exotic Feast (all you can eat Pizza and Pasta restaurant) near the entrance to the Waterpark itself. You cannot bring and eat your own food however.
Other Things to Know about Alton Towers Waterpark
Other things you may wish to know about the Alton Towers Waterpark are:
That you can take photos inside the waterpark, but are asked to only do so for members of your own family/party.
Buoyancy jackets are available from the help desk.
There is also an arcade which you pass on the way in and out.
There are CCTV cameras in operation.
Baby feeding and changing facilities are available.
There is no running, diving or shoes are allowed inside Alton Towers Waterpark.
Thoughts on Alton Towers Waterpark
Alton Towers Waterpark is great for a family of a variety of ages (as long as you have the correct ratios). There is plenty to do so you do not have to just be queuing for the slides – again suitable for all different ages. There is a lot of sensory stimulation including lights, colours and sounds. This is great for a sensory seeker but there doesn’t seem very much for a sensory avoider, and this would be less so if the Flash Floods were closed. At least there is the option of going out and back in to the Waterpark – but the immediate area is also quite a sensory experience, especially as you have to pass the arcade.
I personally felt really overwhelmed (I am self-diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome) on entering Alton Towers Waterpark and couldn’t clearly see what I was meant to do. For me it wasn’t clear which slides did what (ie were they tight, dark, fast etc) or where to go to collect the rings for the right slides. There are some sort of signs but it just felt a little confusing (I actually ended up on my own crying). However, there are plenty of members of staff around to ask for advice – and one even asked me if I were okay and if I knew where I was going. I am expecting that Alton Towers will be providing their staff with training on this following the launch of the new guide for welcoming disabled customers.
Value for Money at Alton Towers Waterpark
I think that with our Merlin Annual Pass Discount, and a family rate, then Alton Towers Waterpark is reasonably priced and in-line with other Waterparks we have visited. There is also good value for money on the amount of entertainment. However, for our family of thrill-seekers (who are now all over 1.4m) there weren’t that many thrills in terms of exciting slides (with only 3 to really talk about at all). It is good that there was no rush for us to leave – as we were able to use the facilities between 10am-6pm coming and going as we pleased. We also found that the queues weren’t too unmanageable, even for The Sensory Seeker.
We spent a total of 150 minutes in total at Alton Towers Waterpark, including getting dressed and undressed. Then we spent further time at Flambo’s Exotic Feast – where we were thrilled to discover there is ice-cream!
Have you ever not used a business because you just couldn’t access them? Or had to leave early because your needs couldn’t be met? Worst still have you ever left somewhere or refused to spend money with someone because of their poor customer service in regards your needs? I am sure it will come as no surprise to you that you are not alone. But hopefully times are changing – such as with the launch of comprehensive guidance to help UK businesses deliver inclusive customer service by meeting the need of disabled customers by The Business Disability Forum. Yesterday we went along to the launch to find out more about it.
Why a Disabled Customers Guide is Needed
Diane Lightfoot, Chief Executive of The Business Disability Forum, explained how 1 in 5 customers has a disability or long-term condition. With 90% of disabilities not being immediately visible. A survey of 2,500 customers it was found that three quarters left where they were due to the poor understanding of their disability. That 1.8 billion pounds were lost per month from businesses not getting it right. I heard of how employees were hiding from people with disabilities out of fear – not knowing the right thing to say or do.
What the Welcoming Disabled Customers Guide Covers
Sponsored by Merlin Entertainments and launched at the LEGOLAND® Windsor Resort on the 7th March 2019, the Welcoming Disabled Customers Guide offers advice to businesses on how to ensure all customers receive the very best level of customer service. The practical resource provides customer and client facing staff with relevant information on understanding and meeting the needs and preferences of customers with different conditions and disabilities: This includes training employees about language etiquette and thinking about differences within the same disability – as well as practical adjustments with access issues and how to make adjustments. It also includes general pointers on providing good customer service and harnessing the £249 billion spending power of disabled customers and clients. In addition, the fully revised guide includes new quick reference sections (Quick Tips), updated advice on assistive communication, additional facts sections and new multiple-choice questions to help the reader to recap on their learning.
Many different types of businesses are going to be using the Welcoming Disabled Customers Guide and access the Business Disability Forum for further help and information. This is an ongoing process whilst feedback is listened to and tweaks made to make sure that everyone can gain access to as much as possible.
Merlin Entertainments and the Welcoming Disabled Customers Guide
Merlin Entertainments were one of the first businesses that I heard of that could help us meet the needs of our son with Asperger’s Syndrome. First with the way they handled his experience at LEGOLAND Windsor Resort all those years ago (probably about 15 years ago) and to be able to access days out when money was tight with Merlin’s Magic Wand.
Merlin are committed to continuously improving the accessibility of their attractions and are trying to take every reasonable step to make the necessary adjustments for all their guests to enjoy a great day out. It was great to hear about the modifications to their attractions to make them more inclusive – including changes already made, things they are trialing/future changes.
This includes great customer service, and the Welcoming Disabled Customers Guide will certainly help all their teams have the confidence to interact and create great memorable experiences for guests of all abilities. Whilst also utilising Ways into Work – employing disabled and disadvantaged individuals.
Disabilities and LEGOLAND Windsor Resort
LEGOLAND Windsor Resort has a new Total Sensory Room, Changing Places Toilet and hoist which were opened last year. The best thing about the accessible toilets are that they are inclusive – in that they are next to, and decorated like, all the other toilets. The LEGOLAND Windsor Resort hotel has accessible rooms for each theme – including hoists, open plan rooms, low baths and wet rooms. This year inside the park sees the addition of mobility scooter hire, plus the Ride Access Pass and Disability Guide have been reviewed.
Welcoming Disabled Customers Guide and Sensory Processing Disorder
The Welcoming Disabled Customers Guide is clear in that every customer should be treated as an individual – with no assumptions being made. That the best thing to do is to ask how you can help and what they need to help them access what you are offering – and this applies to every disability (and those who do not consider that their access needs make them disabled). However, sensory issues are also addressed under the heading of Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. I would have liked to see Sensory Processing Disorder as an extra title for this section, and that it only covers people who are overwhelmed by bright lights, loud noises etc – and not those who are underwhelmed. One look at The Sensory Room at LEGOLAND Windsor Resort shows that they are aware of this need, however, and places are doing things to help everyone.
The Business Disability Forum is a not-for-profit membership organisation and has worked in collaboration with businesses, disability organisations and people with conditions covered in the guide, and with support from Merlin Entertainments plc.
I was invited to the launch of Welcoming Disabled Customers Guide at LEGOLAND Windsor Resort. My two youngest children and I were able to use the pool, and the boys were very kindly given LEGO Goody bags. Opinions are honest and my own – but honestly there was a man who also went to the event who just wanted to cry as he was so pleased that someone just “got it.” Mostly that there were not only hoists, and things to allow his child access – but that they weren’t just medical – and were fun and appealing to any child.
Mousetrap Theatre Projects are running their Relaxed Performance of Motown the Musical on January 22nd 2019 at 6.30pm at the Shaftesbury Theatre. In a time of unimaginable change, a man with an unstoppable dream invented a sound that would be remembered forever. With just $800 borrowed from his family, Berry Gordy founded Motown records and launched the careers of Diana Ross and the Supremes, Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations and many more.
The show is full of over 50 Motown classics such as “My Girl”, ‘Dancing in the Street’ and ‘Ain’t no Mountain High Enough’” and “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”. So expect lots of singing, dancing and overall a fantastically fun evening out for the entire family.Relaxed Performances are designed to provide an opportunity for young people with autism, learning difficulties or other sensory and communication needs who require a more relaxed environment.
Normal rules of theatre going do not apply, such as having to keep quiet or sit still. The aim is to offer a supportive, understanding and welcoming atmosphere for all. This means it can get a bit noisy inside the auditorium. If you find that the environment of the theatre becomes overwhelming, there are special arrangements in place to make your theatre experience as enjoyable as possible.
A Relaxed Performances involves:
Adjustments to sound and lighting
Free support resources to help families prepare for their theatre visit
Trained volunteers and staff to help at the event
Chill out zones within the theatre if you need to leave the auditorium
A relaxed and fun environment to enjoy the theatre as a family
Tickets are still available in Band A (Adult £20 Child £10; Front of Stalls & Front of Dress Circle), B (Adult £12 Child £6; Back of Stalls and Back of Dress Circle) and C (Adults £6 Child £3; Grand Circle – Please note that the Grand Circle may not be suitable for those with mobility difficulties or a fear of heights. There are at least 34 steps to this level and it is quite steep. Please do not apply for these seats if they are not suitable for your family), there is still a chance to attend what is positive to be an amazing evening of theatre. Unfortunately there is no longer have any wheelchair spaces available.At least one member of the family must be a young person with additional needs aged between the ages 8-25. Strictly one application per family, maximum 6 people per application. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to receive details of how to apply. Tickets are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, and are subject to availability.
Further resources to support your visit to see Motown the Musical will be provided soon. Resources in previous years have included an SEN resource pack, a guide to the performance and venue, a story board and a visual story. They will also be offering special pre-show workshops.
Spider-Man into the Spider-Verse is a new Marvel showing how being different can make you special. Being different it is usually perceived and portrayed in a negative way so I was really interested to see how Spider-Man into the Spider-Verse had parallels with those with additional needs. That and The Sensory Seeker is a massive Spider-Man fan so we were very keen to see a special screening.
Spider-Man into the Spider-Verse and Special Needs
Miles Morales is just a regular kid. He struggles to understand his dad and hates the school he is at. But then he gets bitten by a spider and his life changes. Meanwhile King Pin is blaming Spider-Man for losing his family, and opens up a portal to get a variation of them back, but this also lets in various forms of Spider-Man from several dimensions. Each one is different from the rest and of course completely dissimilar from the rest of their societies, with their own special powers. When they come together they realise that they are not the only ones and are able to identify with each other, as they work as a team to beat King Pin, after he kills that dimension’s Spider-Man. Miles is there when Peter Parker dies and promises him he will save the day.
I think it is easy to see the parallels – not everyone is born with a disability, and it can feel very isolating to have one. Just finding others who share experiences like your own can make such a difference.
Spider-Man into the Spider-Verse: Managing your Expectations
The whole theme of Spider-Man into the Spider-Verse for me is about managing your expectations. This is first introduced by the book Great Expectations and then Miles having to write up about his expectations. It is shown through Miles’ relationship with his Uncle and his Dad – and that actually how he expects them to be isn’t always the reality. That sometimes you just need to look at things differently to see them for what they really are. Other times you just expect things to be a certain way but they aren’t always like that (like them discovering that there actually is a Spider-Man costume with a cape!)
Again when dealing with additional needs you sometimes just have to adjust your expectations – of what the person can do, how things may go, how you think, how others may behave, etc. I know, for example, this Christmas is a particularly difficult time of year for The Sensory Seeker so I do not expect him to cope/behave in the same way, I make allowances and just try to keep him as happy as can be.
Spider-Man into the Spider-Verse: Trying and Reassuring
At first when Miles becomes like Spider-Man he doesn’t know what to do in order to help, and gets things wrong. For example when trying to jump off a building he keeps thinking about running down the stairs, and when he finally takes the leap of faith to jump trips on his shoe laces. Another time is when he pulls Gwen Stacey’s hair off because he doesn’t know how to control his powers.New things take time – whether that is learning to deal with things, or to handle being given a diagnosis for example. Sometimes others may be able to help and other times you really have just got to take that leap of faith yourself and give things a go. I know for example with our experience we have really discovered that punishment (such as taking away a games console) does not work (no matter how much that method is used by others) – and to try an alternate way (when so many others tell you it is wrong) is hard.
It is when Mile’s dad tells him that whatever he chooses to do he will be great, which really helps him to learn to deal with his new Spider-Man powers and saves the day. A quote from the film is that, “That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is indeed without a doubt, a real superhero.” That’s all we can do – is do the right thing, and that actually, love and nurturing is what is best for everyone.
Spider-Man into the Spider-Verse : Identifying with Others Like You
Several times the message of unity is portrayed during Spider-Man into the Spider-Verse, and of course it is with all the variations of Spider-Man coming together that really makes the difference. When Peter Parker dies his girlfriend Mary Jane says that, “We are all Spider-Man in our own way;” Stan Lee says that the Spider-Man suit “always fits, eventually”; and when Uncle Aaron dies only Spiders are the ones who truly understand. After all it is what makes you different is what makes you Spider-Man.
We may not feel like we fit, but eventually we grow and learn to be happy with who we are and who our tribe is. It is the very reason I write this blog, to help people feel less alone – and share ways I find have helped The Sensory Seeker be happier in life.
Thanks to Stan Lee and Steve Ditko for telling us we’re not the only ones.
I was invited to a Special Screening of Spider-Man into the Spider-Verse. All opinions are honest and my own.
The Sensory Seeker has been home educated for exactly 7 months today and what a journey. I was, and guess still am, shocked but how little he wants to learn. He seemed so keen and eager at school and was making good progress. I thought when he would stay at home he would be really keen just to learn and have the option to work independently (as that is what his current EHCP says he likes best). I was wrong, he had no desire to learn – to do basic maths, read or well anything. So why I am so convinced that home educating him was the best idea?
Is Home Education the Best Option for The Sensory Seeker?
Well I guess the real icing on the cake was our last parent’s meeting with Explore Learning. We have regular progress reports of how the sensory seeker is doing in terms of the curriculum, showing his individual progress throughout the year he is working at. This is great because if you just look at where he “should be” for his age you can get bogged down in him being “behind” rather than the fact that he’s progressing really well. But he is still behind and we do very little “formal” work so of course (being in the educational system for so long myself) I worry whether I am doing the right thing for him. I asked the question – should I be doing more with him. What I got back was a resounding no! To just keep doing what I am doing! OMG I just cried there and then. My husband really didn’t get it but honestly this last 7 months has made me realise that actually our son is a very vulnerable member of society and I have just been wanting others to make sure he’s ok – but they just do not have the time, resources, and quite frankly the love for him that I have. He was so low in confidence previously that he didn’t feel that he could do anything and now, slowly but surely, it’s growing. He is wanting to do things – enjoying reading, wanting to learn about space – and generally having more of a can-do attitude. This is not only in a group and one-to-one but this elusive independently too.
I am finding my love for school becoming less and less to be honest. I am not suggesting that school’s lie but are they really able to focus on your child to let you know exactly what is going on for them? Are they really going to say that they were getting to the end of their tether because they really needed your child to do x, y or z and they were just having none of it?! That they are alone at playtime or that the other children use them when they have no-one else to play with? The Sensory Seeker is struggling a bit lately (it is the build up to Christmas) and he is spinning more, jumping and TALKING A LOT!
He has even said he cannot help but keep talking. When he isn’t talking, or making other sounds with his mouth, he is tapping something – just to have some sort of noise. I wonder how that would be panning out if he were at school; would he HAVE to be quiet, or would it just have to all spill out when he gets home? Is that really the best way for him to learn?
What now for The Sensory Seeker’s Education
I have received a letter about The Sensory Seeker’s Secondary Transfer and I really am not sure what I want to do. Currently I see no suitable school for him (well where we can afford at least) where I believe they will nurture him in a way he needs and deserves. There’s always been so much emphasis on the academic (and I DO struggle to get him to understand when he doesn’t get it) that I never really stopped to truly think about what’s important. I have already talked about this a couple of months ago but really is hard to get my head around. His older brother is going back to school next September and this will create a whole new dynamic.
When our youngest son was starting school with SEN I worried whether he would eat, go to the toilet and make friends. These were my main concerns, this is what I thought initially was important. Overall I was worried about what I could do to make sure my son was just like everyone else. I made sure that before our son started school he had a statement of special educational needs (which changed to an EHCP). This was to make sure he would get the most amount of help to be like his peers and be liked by his peers. But here’s the thing, after one term of home education I have realised that is not what I want anymore.
I feel I was so fixated with the short term that I never stopped to consider the future. What do I really want for my child with additional needs in the long term? Initially I worried that he didn’t quite get things like other children; for instance what happened if he stripped off his clothes and tried to walk around school half naked?! Or what if someone laughed at him for having a toileting accident? What if they laughed at him and called him names? No what I considered was important is that there was help to make sure he didn’t do these things, that he blended in with everyone else. But now I see things much more clearly. Now I want him to be confident and happy with who he is. To learn to ignore those who are mean to him for not being a carbon copy of themselves, and to seek out those who are tolerant and have acceptance. Those who want to learn about his difficulties and support him, but not want to change him. That they will see beyond his additional needs and see the kindness in his heart. To find friends, real friends, who don’t just want to know him when there’s no-one else around.
Home Education has been such a blessing for The Sensory Seeker – with five birthday party invites in his first term! As for food, previously I was worrying about whether he would eat, but now I want him to be able to think about being able to source what he wants: For example, I love how he is gaining in confidence learning to peel vegetables, which will be a great skill for the rest of his life. I have already written about how being home educated really taps into his sensory needs – doing what he wants when he needs it. But never before had I truly stopped and thought about what he really needs. Honestly it isn’t to be able to catch up with his peers – who cares if he can pass his SATs or not? It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that he can learn to live a happy life! Take care of himself and not let others drag him down. Being home educated is doing his confidence so much good. No longer being compared to others and judged – just trying his best; finding out what he is good at. Then practising both what he is and isn’t good at to improve, but knowing that his effort is what is enough, what is important.
BlogonX is almost here and although it is one of the friendliest of Conferences you can go to I am nervous as hell! And that I believe is down to the fact that I believe I am on the Autistic Spectrum.
Struggling with Social Interaction
I struggle with many areas when it comes to changes of routine and social interaction. I have a problem with facial recognition – which can include people I know and I have met several times (luckily I generally recognise people I know who they are and have met lots of times). I really seem to be struggling a lot at the moment – even people I have met on Monday I can’t remember by Wednesday! And people I have met a few times I confuse with someone else I have known for a long time! Of course this also has the problem that I cannot remember things about them. I struggle with conversation (always saying the wrong thing) and people really do not like to feel like they are not memorable. I try my best to mask it and this makes me feel really tired (or I go really dizzy and feel like I am going to pass out). That’s happened at several blog events even when I knew who the people were and felt really comfortable with them.
Struggling with Changes
I have been to Blogon loads of times but not in its new location. This will be the first time I will have driven to Manchester and then I need to figure my way around a new venue. I am confident that there will be lots of friendly helpful people there to guide me, but again I just feel like a right wally when I just don’t get where everything is (even at the end of the day!) and again this drains me. I see that some of the people helping to run the event are new to me too, as well as the above problem of worrying that I will not recognising those I have met before!
It may be a case that I am actually not on the Autistic Spectrum (and there’s many more reasons than this that I believe I am) – but these are my struggles either way. If you see me and I seem vague about who you are then please accept my apologies, and forgive me if I say anything not quite right – I never do mean to offend. I am sure after a few drinks at the launch party and I will relax.
I don’t think I have a favourite pizza topping – as long as it isn’t pineapple or anchovies (or sprouts) I pretty much like them all.
The three dinner guests I would chose would be my mother, my Nan and my husband. Both my mother and my Nan died when I was only 20/21 and only ever saw me with guys who were a right waste of space. I would love for them to be able to meet my husband and see just how wonderful he is.
My biggest life achievement would just be living. There have been many times when I have been close to ending it all and to keep going when life has given me some pretty serious knocks I do believe is an achievement in itself.
I would love to be Winnie the Pooh – not only is he awesome but he is surrounded by some pretty amazing friends who really care for him.
When I wake up in the morning I reach for my phone and go straight to Twitter – the light helps me to wake up.
I have never thought about what I would buy if I won the lottery as I never buy tickets. I guess I would get my husband a new car because that is what he’s done for me for my birthday.
As above I have an awful memory so don’t really have a favourite quote. Honestly I watched the new Marvel film yesterday and today couldn’t remember if the bad guy was blue or purple when asked!
If I were a superhero and could have a super power I would love it to be just to have excellent social interaction skills – imagine all the wars you could solve with the ability to talk well.
The best piece of advice I have ever been given is from Laura Seaton after her daughter Elizabeth was ill. She said – if you can change it then do, if you can’t then just don’t worry about it. I am sure she worded it better than though!
I use the laughing with tears emoji the most.
I wouldn’t tell myself anything if I could go back in time because it would have changed the course of my life and I wouldn’t have ended up where I am now. Despite my difficulties life is pretty good.
The wallpaper on my phone is of the Colosseum from when we went to Italy last Easter.
You know I am rather happy being a blogger as my job. It has given me amazing opportunities as well as the ability to be there for my children – especially important now I have decided to home educate them.
My favourite place in the world is home. There really is no place like it – as long as my family are there obviously.
Find out who else is going to BlogOnX on the Linky