Winter Wharfe

The river flows with menace,

a boiling torrent

of peaty turbulence.

 

Winter walkers tighten grip

on leads and little hands,

fearing accidental slip

 

into the wild malevolence.

 Yet the river holds fatal charm,

despite the walkers’ diligence,

 

it attracts, dares them near,

entrancing eyes. Until, blinking,

they recall their fear

 

and proceed cautiously,

along the riverside path,

in awe of nature’s wrath.

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Because I Can.

I am running. My feet pound, rythmically, on the baked earth below my feet. Above me the summer sunlight sparkles through a green sea of tree leaves. The fabric of my blue gingham school dress rides above my knees and a ribbon from my pigtails works loose and streams behind me. Faster, faster.

I hear my mother’s voice calling me.

“Barbara! Stop!”

I ignore her. I am running.

My senses are acute, I feel the soft, warm air rushing past my face, smell the green scent of freshly mown grass and hear the panting of the family labrador running beside me.

I am running!

I AM RUNNING!

I gather more speed, confidence grows with each step. The persistent frustration of tripping over my own feet is gone.

I am running.

The gap between the trees comes into view. Hurtling down the small slope, leaping the ever present muddy patch at the bottom of the drainage ditch and up the other side I burst through the tree line into the sunlight beyond and exhilarated and joyful, with the dog at my side run, run, run.

I am seven years old. For the first time I am running. The girl whose parents were told her club-foot was so severe she’d never walk properly.

I am running!

I am running. Because I Can.

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Not so ‘non-verbal’

When my son was very small he had some speech, clock (tick-tock) duck (quack) and was obsessed with lights (eee-lat-lat-lat accompanied by a very clear pointing finger). On one occasion we were watching Casualty, there was a dramatic car crash where a car rolled over several times and ended up on it’s roof. Little Jamie toddled over to the TV and observed, with great concern “oh dear”.

At the age of two this emerging speech disappeared, a diagnosis of autism and SLD followed and, subsequently, a ‘non-verbal’ label was added. A few years later the whole process repeated itself with my youngest daughter: autism, LD, non-verbal. For years I accepted this label using it myself to describe the ‘low functioning’ end of the autistic spectrum that is our world. “They will probably never speak, they’ll always be locked into their own world, their disabilities are lifelong with little hope of significant improvement.” Over time, however, I started to question the accuracy and implications of the term non-verbal.

Various Augmentative and Alternative systems of communication (AAC) were introduced to our family. Makaton, a simplified form of sign based on BSL, was first. Jamie didn’t take to it but the eldest of his two little sisters, very bright and ‘Neuro-Typical (NT) sure did. Before her first words came she used the signs she’d observed, with ‘drink’ and ‘biscuit’ top of the list! The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) made it’s way over the Atlantic and into my son’s classroom in 1999. Again, he didn’t take to it, at that time, but a few years later his ‘non-verbal’ youngest sister did. She, later, rejected PECS for sign which is her primary, and extensive, form of communication. Through my three children I was, unknowingly, observing a real-life long term example of non-verbal autistic language development, that was to become an inspiration to me.

Whilst my kids were growing up I decided to study. With the incomparable flexibility of the Open University, what started off as an ‘Open’ degree evolved into a Humanities degree with a specialism in English Language. My study of linguistics was revelationary. Hold on a minute, language is so much more than ‘speech’, and the label ‘non-verbal’, with all it’s implications, doesn’t really fit.

Now a graduate, I’m exploring language development in more depth for my own interest, combined with personal experience and I can say this with 100% conviction: not only ‘non-verbal does not mean nothing to say’, it also does not mean ‘cannot and will not ever be able to develop communication now or in the future’. My daughter, at 15, has an ever expanding vocabulary of over 600 signs and uses a mixture of signs, part and full words to communicate, she might be ‘non-verbal’ but that girl has, can and does ‘say’ a lot for herself! Now 23, my son is beginning to use PECS and Makaton to functionally communicate needs and choices, he is also using ‘conversational (modulated) babble’ to communicate, that is he is conveying meaning in the pitch and intonation of his babbling: mood (happy/sad), affection, ‘singing’ etc.  AND, just the other day, in the midst of this babbling, when he was obviously distressed and in pain, I clearly heard the words ‘oh dear, dear, dear’. Not so ‘non-verbal’ after all then.

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Conistone Dib

conistone

The sleepy hamlet is centred round maypole,

silent stone cottages sleep in the sun.

The lane leads us to giants’ steps

where our walk is truly begun.

 

The dry ghyll is paved by boulders,

adventurously we pass through the cleft.

The limestone scree and wind sculpted trees

open before us to right and to left.

 

The palpable silence, interrupted by bleating,

clings to our unoccupied ears.

The grass, smoothed by innumerable boots,

is splattered with molehills it appears.

 

The steep climb to bleak grassy hilltop

is funneled by cliffs of green.

The view of glacier carved valleys

is different each time it is seen.

 

The drink in of fresh air and sunshine

is refreshing as water to thirst.

The walk back, descending by farm track,

each boot now rushes to be first.

 

The gulls schooling above Kilnsey Crag

symbolise the freedom we feel.

Our hearts made happy by a walk in the Dales

and their gift to uplift and heal.

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Winter Wharfe

The Wharfe was flowing fast today…

barbgrant

The river flows with menace,

a boiling torrent

of peaty turbulence.

Winter walkers tighten grip

on leads and little hands,

fearing accidental slip

into the wild malevolence.

 Yet the river holds fatal charm,

despite the walkers’ diligence,

it attracts, dares them near,

entrancing eyes. Until, blinking,

they recall their fear

and proceed cautiously,

along the riverside path,

in awe of nature’s wrath.

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Merry Christmas from the Grants

Another eventful year has sped by & the children are keeping us as busy as ever.

Jamie is doing so well now; the medication he was prescribed for epilepsy has worked well & all his behavioural difficulties of the previous year have resolved. He has settled well into college & is making significant progress, exciting recent developments are him spontaneously signing & showing a much greater comprehension of what we’re saying to him. He is well liked at college & was chosen to be featured in both their prospectus & World Autism Day blog post. I was also asked to speak at the official opening of the new autism centre at the college, which was both exciting & terrifying!

Heather is quite the young adult now, she did very well in her GCSE’s with ten passes ranging from A* to C & is now settling into King James’s School Sixth Form studying for A levels in Geography, English Language & English Literature. Earlier this year she was lucky enough to go on an amazing school trip to Iceland which she thoroughly enjoyed.

Paul & Heather still enjoy going to football matches together, although fewer trips this year whilst Heather is studying, they have been to Hull & Stoke-on-Trent.

Hazel continues to be up & down, we had a very settled spell last spring & early summer & things seemed to be going really well but then towards the end of the school year she had a spell of being challenging. Apart from lashing out at me, she is also quite destructive & keeps Paul very busy repairing the things she’s broken.

In amongst the chaos I managed to complete two OU modules, a short course, World Archaeology, & the module I deferred from the previous year, The art of English. I was so pleased to get grade 2 passes for both of them. Now I am on my final module, Exploring English Grammar, which is a quite misleading title for a course which actually focusses on linguistics rather than ‘traditional’ grammar!

Links

Jamie Henshaws College World Autism Day: http://henshaws.org.uk/blog/world-autism-awareness-week-2015/

Barbara Henshaws autism centre opening: http://www.harrogate-news.co.uk/2015/07/06/specialist-college-launches-autism-educational-centre/

Hazel Springwater school http://springwater.n-yorks.sch.uk/index.php/secondary-3/image-gallery

Heather Iceland Trip (Chaloner Magazine page 21) http://www.king-james.co.uk/ChalonerEdition68/#20

 

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Laundry Time

Baby gros, tiny as dolls clothes

romper suits and pretty frilly dresses.


Mini appliqué jeans , little Tiggers

and trucks, bouncing on the line.


School uniforms, small and smart

washed clean of mud and primary paint.


Blazers and kilts, high school hate.

Black, black and more black, all the same.


Fashion statements, clothes worn once,

laundered to newness

whilst time

rushes on.

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Hazel Talking

what a clever girl view here https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=762149537144538

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