Blondy’s People… Rebecca Attwood

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Episode 16 of Blondy’s people is here my friends.

I was not diagnosed with dyslexia until I was 21. I have written about this before but it still amazes me that I got all the way to 21 (With lots of professionals in and out of my life) and did not get diagnosed until I was 21. I did not get diagnosed with ADHD until I was 25 and for sure I have some other SEN stuff going on that has not been diagnosed as of yet. The support I got around these things as an adult was poor, but I guess it was better than when I was a kid

Blondy hated school most her life for different reasons but year 5 was the start of the true hate started. It was the Christmas play and she was given a part of a snowman and this also meant she had to speak on stage. She had been off school for a week so when she returned she was given the only part in the play that had not already been chosen by others. She was given a laminated piece of paper and was told to practice. There were two rehearsals for the show before the “Big night”. Blondy had missed most of the rehearsal from not being at school. Being absent from school is a big feature in Blondy’s childhood yet it hardly ever got addressed….. But we will leave that for another day.

The show was on the Friday afternoon. The Monday before the show was a rehearsal day. Blondy arrived at 9am and was excluded for 3 days by 10:30am due to fighting. She was supposed to return on Wednesday with her mum for a meeting with the head but that did not happen until Thursday late afternoon. Blondy arrived at school on Friday morning and her teacher (Who she actually really liked) told her that the head had wanted her excluded from the Christmas play due to her behaviour but the teacher had demanded that this was not fair and that Blondy could still take part. Blondy…truth be told…. did not care if she took part or not. She had no interest in Christmas and absolutely no interest in some Christmas show. Her childhood excitement for such things had been trampled a long time ago. However, she said thank you and asked if someone could let her mum know.

The show started at 3. All the other kids had been making costumes and such whilst Blondy had been off and then excluded. So, throughout the day, whilst the rehearsals were going on, this lovely year 5 teacher was trying to make Blondy some kind of costume for the show. The fact that Blondy was so compliant seemed to get the attention of the teacher. Usually kids would be messing about and caught up in the hype of no lessons. But Blondy was just very quiet and did whatever the teacher asked. The teacher sat with Blondy at lunch time and asked her what was wrong. Now…I don’t know what the teacher was expecting her to say but if Blondy had actually told her teacher what was wrong …well…Blondy knew that it would cause a lot of trouble and that the teacher would either be very angry or very sad. And Blondy could not deal with either so she said nothing.

3pm and the parents started to fill the hall. All the curtains were closed to make it very dark and festive. Blondy, who was now wearing an oversized jumper with hundreds of cotton wool balls glued to it to make her look like a snowman, took her place on the stage with no clue what was going on. All she knew was that Miss would tell her to step forward when to speak. This was not a traditional “Christmas play” with Mary and Jesus. I think the teachers had tried to be edgy and different (It was 1990 so I don’t really know what they were trying to change) but anyway…Blondy’s part was a “Rapping snowman”. And to make it very funny (not) as Blondy stepped out she would be joined by a girl in her class who was dressed as a wrapped gift and the narrator would say “Here we have the wrapping snowman” and Blondy had to first pretend to “Wrap” the gift/girl and then turn around and say her “Rap” to the audience. Very witty for the adults.

So, all these kids were stepping onto the stage and doing whatever. Some had rehearsed their parts and were speaking confidently other were holding their laminated paper and reading from that. Anyway…. suddenly Blondy, who is clutching her laminated paper for dear life, is being ushered onto the stage with the girl (who was one of the popular girls) who is wrapped as a gift. The lights are very bright so all Blondy can see is the front two rows of people. The front row are the teachers and support staff. Blondy, very clumsily (Because she did not attend any rehearsals) pretends to “Wrap” the girl (ha ha…chuckle chuckle) and then turns to “Rap” as the “Rapping snowman”.

So…just to get context, Blondy, up until that exact day had not looked at the paper she had been given. She had been told to go home and practice with her mum, but she just put it in her tray and then picked it up that morning on her return from exclusion.

But lets get back to the big night…..Blondy turns to the crowd who are all waiting for the second part of the joke of the “Wrapping snowman”. The laminated paper that Blondy was holding said something along the lines of this:

“I hope this gift does not have a jumper inside

An Applique or Chemise would be the worst kind

I am a snowman and I don’t need the heat

A Slush Puppy is right up my street

Now…the “Rap” that paper was written on stayed with Blondy for many years. And know this…I just had to google the two jumper names to spell them right …aged 40.

Anyway…where were we… Blondy turns to the crowd and says into the mic

“I hope this gift doesn’t have a jumper inside, a …. a………” and she starts to try and sound out Applique. There …on the stage…. with the whole school and many adults all staring at her…. she tries to sound it out.

Now for Blondy…” Q” is the worst letter ever. Its like she reads it and …nothing…..no sound…. she has no concept of what to do with that letter.

So Blondy tried to sound it out. And said a word that was defo not “Applique” and then straight onto “Chemise”. Now at this point reader I wish I could insert a voice not of me …at 40 …trying to say that word. I still have no idea how you pronounce it so if you want to send me a voice not pronouncing it correctly…please do.

So as Blondy stutters to try and get the word out. There are nervous coughs in the audience and giggles from kids behind Blondy. Her face burns. The girl that was dressed as the gift snatched the paper out of Blondy’s hand, looks at Blondy with nothing less than disgust on her face, turns to the crowd with a big smile and reads the fucking poem perfect. Word for word.

Blondy looks up and on the front row are the two ladies that would now be classed as SEN support. The two ladies that people went to for extra reading support and stuff. They were the ladies that you were sent to if you were struggling academically and one of these ladies was laughing. Really laughing. She was an older lady and she had a handkerchief over her mouth and was trying to stifle her giggles. And Blondy looked at her and her bottom lip started to wobble. She was 10 year of age and could not read out the rap for the play and now the helper lady was laughing. The nice teacher stepped onto the stage and ushered Blondy off and then next child stepped up and started doing their bit.

Blondy was very angry. She started to shout and swear at the nice teacher, telling her to “Get her hands off her” as the teacher tried to guide her out the hall. Blondy, now pushing and shouting and crying, was taken into a classroom where she proceed to rip of her jumper and now, in her vest I guess, starts screaming at those poor teacher to let her out the classroom right fucking now. Suddenly, behind the teacher appears this SEN support teacher (Was her name Mrs Budge? Anyone who went to primary school with me…let me know if that the right name) she appears behind the teacher and comes rushing into the class at Blondy saying “Calm down” and “It’s all fine”. Blondy now loses her shit and is now screeching at this woman saying “You was fucking laughing at me” over and over. The SEN women looks like she has just been caught with her fingers in the till, and instead of continuing to try and calm this child who is obviously in complete emotional distress, is now justifying herself to the class teacher (and now the head teacher) who are at the door ..

“No sorry, I’m not having that from her. Shouting and screaming at everyone. Attention seeking at its best” …or something along those lines. Blondy just stood and screamed and screamed saying she could not breath and let her go. The women walked out the room saying to the Head …and these words will also ring loud in my ears “Oh come on Brian, she is a nasty piece of work, Good to see her taken down a peg or two”. That has always stayed with me and always will.

Then mum appeared.

Mum pushed her way through the staff, not a word said and walked over to Blondy and just grabbed her into a massive engulfing hug and they slowly sank to the ground together, both sobbing. Both crying. Both clinging to each other.

They stayed there, in this classroom, recovering on the floor. Blondy’s cries slowed and she lay against her mums’ chest, stifling sobs and hiccuping into her mum’s jumper.

For a long time before this incident, Blondy’s mum asked the school to help her to understand why her daughter could not read certain words. Blondy’s mum was a very intelligent woman and could not understand, at first, why Blondy could not read certain words and also wrote letters backwards. The focus was always on the child’s behaviour. They told mum that the main reason her daughter was struggling so much is because she was hardly ever there.

The SEN lady, the one that laughed, never ever spoke to Blondy again after that day. Never contacted home. And then not long after that Blondy was no longer in mainstream education and the rest…well is history.

Shocking don’t you think. That they would let a child struggle through school like that.

I could tell you about another little girl. She has the same eyes as Blondy. She also struggles in school. Different to Blondy…. but also, the same. Her mum has also been telling people for a long time that she is struggling and the SENCO in the school tried to make it about behaviour. 1990 all the way through to 2020 and children’s SEN needs are not being met in some schools due to many factors.

Today’s guest for Blondy’s people is a lady called Rebecca Attwood.

Rebecca (or Becky as we call her) is every nervous about her video going out. She doesn’t want people to think she knows everything about SEN. She is a very humble woman.

Becky (at the time of recording) works within the SEN department of a secondary school and is the SEN intervention coordinator. And she is epic at her job. I was going to try and write about what she does in her job bit I don’t even know where to start so I will just write what I think.

Becky makes people not feel stupid both adults and children. She has a way of walking into a situation and making sure that everyone in the room is advocated for despite their needs (Or not).

I have seen Becky give children a voice in situations with just by her ability to help people break things down and then say them again. Becky makes sure no child ever feels the way Blondy did that day. She would take it as a personal failing if they did.

The first time I met Becky I was crying out for help for my won daughter, the one with the eyes like Blondy, and didn’t know what to do as the school were not supportive. Becky, that day, gave me clear guidance about maybe looking at the Autism spectrum. And from that day. she has been on the journey with me and my daughter in the fight and battle I am having to get my child assessed, supported and respected for her needs in this world.

Becky has also done a lot of work around my own SEN with me (Don’t think I don’t know you have Becks…. I see you). Becky is one of my best friends. She Is what my mum would call “Salt of the earth”. Did I mention she has a law degree? Well if not…. yep…. she has that under her belt as well.

Becky is one of Blondy’s people because she would not have laughed at Blondy that day if she had been the SEN support sitting on the front row at that show (In fact, she may have knocked out anyone who did laugh at Blondy). She would have made sure that a child Like Blondy was well rehearsed before stepping on that stage. In fact, she would be there, Kneeling in front of the stage with her own bit of laminated paper speaking each word with Blondy.

Becky would have changed the poem…. just know that.

Becky is also one of Blondy’s people because she is an outstanding practitioner. She knows more about SEN that anyone I know. Serious. If she were a SENCO the world would be a better place…just saying.

So, sit back and enjoy my friend, Becky.

You can follow Becky on Twitter HERE
www.autism.org.uk
https://www.childautism.org.uk/
MENCAP – SEN support in schools

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