Saturday, 6 March 2010

Books, butterflies, tigers, language and Statements

Simon Barnes is a sports and country life columnist for the Times Newspaper. He is also the father of a little boy, Eddie aged 5, who has Down Syndrome. Other writers who share this distinction are Dominic Lawson of the Independent and India Knight of the Sunday Times. The 'back-catalogues' of all three are worth browsing.

I include the link to Barnes's article in the 'Weekend' section of today's Times ( It's a beautifully weighted piece and wonderfully written, making me smile from start to finish. The 'hook' for the article was last Thursday being World Book Day. Angharad's school asked that the Nursery class should attend dressed as characters from a favourite book; she was happy to go as the butterfly from Eric Carle's lovely "The Very Hungry Butterfly". That creature was more like a Painted Lady, Peacock or Red Admiral, whereas we dressed Angharad as a White Lady. But that's parental licence for you...! The pictures attached to this post show Angharad the Butterfly. It's a clever little costume since, with the addition of a magic wand Angharad is convinced that she is the little fairy, Princess Holly, from "Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom" on TV. She's been waving her wand at Nikki, making Nik spin around, and then signing 'frog'. I.e. she's been turning her mam into a frog and then having a fit of extended giggles. Apparently, she's also turned Nikki into a rabbit. No comment. And, like Eddie, Angharad loves dressing as a Tiger! (See previously posted photo, below, on the right hand said of this blog.)

We have a review meeting with the School staff on 15 March. This will look at her progress to date, take inputs from educational and health professionals, and consider her needs for next year. The LEA will use the findings of this meeting to determine whether Angharad will need a Statement of Special Educational Needs (and the concomitant funding to deliver said needs) and which school she will attend. We will be pushing for her to stay at Marlborough Infant School and be placed in the school's Special Educational Unit, but with access to the mainstream Reception class, where her friends from this year will be, as regularly as feasible.

It seems that, in the class setting, they are unsure whether Angharad can count up to 5 or to what extent she indulges in abstract play. Yet we know, at home, that she does both these things frequently and has done for a while. For example, she plays chess with me without pieces or board (and I have no doubt that this is what she is doing) and just an hour ago she placed 6 square blocks one atop the other and counted 'one' through 'six'. The problem might be that there is so much activity in the classroom that Angharad doesn't focus or simply that the staff don't notice. A cause for such a mis-match between what we parents know and what is evident at school resides in Angharad's language. Her articulation remains unclear. (I hope to post a video of her counting later this weekend. You will see that each word, on its own, might be misperceived but that in the context of the activity it becomes crystal clear. I'll try also to post a brief video of us playing chess.)

Angharad has attended a number of her friends' birthday parties this year (and we shall be throwing a party for her the day before her 4th birthday). She's also been invited to play with her friends in their houses. What is apparent is that the kids get on fine together but that Angharad cannot actually say what she wants e.g. "let's go play dressing-up in the bedroom". Which makes it hard for her to be an equal player in deciding upon and leading shared play. With practice and time, we are sure that Angharad will overcome this deficit. But it does show the centrality of language in early development.

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