Anti-bullying Week: Fighting the Statistics with Love

Last week was anti-bullying week 


Mia joins in Lindsy Atkins' @liliesarelike anti-bullying week campaign
with a hand-crafted poster

Have you ever been bullied? 

I have.

Apart from the online trolls that cross my path every once in a while, I remember a more traditional bout of bullying only too well, even though it happened around 40 years ago. 

Being followed home from school on a daily basis, the group of boys 2 paces from my heels, calling out details of my physical appearance that they apparently found hilarious. I couldn't shake them. There was no escape before reaching my front door... that is until the day Mum followed us all and witnessed for herself what I had been enduring. It all stopped after that.

So when antibullying week came around I was only too happy to get involved in any way I could. 
Bullying destroys confidence, it destroys souls, it destroys lives. 

The statistics published state that someone with a learning disability is far more likely to experience bullying. See article by Tania Tirraoro over at Special Needs Jungle on the subject. 

Mencap employee Ciara, cousin of U2's The Edge experienced terrible bullying during her school years. Here The Edge talks about the impact it had on her and how she found a way out. 

U2's The Edge talks about his cousin Ciara's experience as part of anti-bullying week

Stories like this bore into my soul as the mum of two girls, one of whom has Down's syndrome. We have never once experienced bullying, we live in a small close-knit community, everyone accepts everyone else as just being who they are. But what does the future hold? What happens as we move through the school years? What will happen when they gain more independence and we parents are not always at their shoulder? Will the sibling's be easy targets too?

I hope not if we tackle these issues and give our children the tools they need to overcome bullying if it does happen.

Free 2 Luv, a not for profit ant-bullying group, launched a campaign urging young people to stop bullying at source with the slogan Friends Don't let Friends Bully. Here are our girls doing their bit to spread this important message.

Friends don't let friends bully: An anti-bullying week campaign by Free 2 Luv

Lindsay Atkins, YouTuber extraordinaire, asked us all to join in with the slogan Let's Stop Bullying for all! She has compiled an incredible video of support. Watch it here.

Maddie Sinclair who writes at Gammon and Chips fights for tighter online safety in the wake of the loss of a bullied young woman in her life. You can support her work for Izzy Dix here.

Angela Kelly wrote this important post over on Special Needs Jungle about supporting your child with SEN through a more subtle forms of bullying

The Anti Bullying Alliance has produced a set of resources for parents and young people experiencing bullying which might enable them to talk more easily about their experiences.

You might also like to read a post about the work Victim Support are doing to halt Disablist Hate Crime here. 

So, be alert for bullying, talk openly about your experiences and stamp out behaviour that harms today! 

Counting Fun with Five Little Speckled Frogs

Natty has been working on adding and subtracting numbers at school recently and we've been finding fun ways of looking at this maths concept with her. 

Counting Fun with Five Little Speckled Blogs

She came up with her own counting system using some driftwood and 5 playdoh frogs. But she couldn't quite get through the video without disolving into infectious giggles.

Kinesthetic Learner

SEN pupils, as all children, benefit from looking at things from different angles, and incorporating various skills together to embed new ideas. We all learn through song and action, the kinaesthetic approach, much more readily (I bet you can still remember songs from your primary school days as if it were yesterday).

We were walking along one of our local beaches recently when Natty found a fabulous little stump of driftwood. She bent down to pick it up, and holding it aloft she exclaimed, "Look! The Five Little Speckled Frogs' log!"

Maths in Art

It was indeed and we promised to hurry home, wash it and create 5 little frogs to sit atop. Big sister Mia helped her whilst singing the counting song as they went about their work. Natty chose the colours of Playdoh she wanted to use and set about making the little round amphibians all by herself. I love when art and numeracy and music come together in this way!

She was very proud of her efforts and took the log to school to do a Show and Tell with her froggy numeracy props. She also enjoyed singing for her captive audience at home, her family. Here she is about 3 minutes before she fell asleep that evening, determined to finish the song despite yawns, uncontrollable giggles and being too tired to know the difference between a frog, a grub and a glub!

Five Little Speckled Frogs

I guarantee it will make you giggle. Ladies and gentlemen, Natty brings you Five Little Speckled Frogs Sat on a Speckled Log...

If you enjoyed this post you might also like the video we made when Natty insisted it was her birthday (even though it wasn't). Yes it was. Yes, it really was.

#TeamT21 November Linky

Thank you all for joining in the monthly #TeamT21 blog linky and for taking part in the Facebook page of the same name.

 We are a team to be proud of indeed!

Downs Side Up
Grab your blog badge code above to show you are a part of this amazing group. 
#TeamT21 was coined by Tom Bachofner at The Futures Rosie and the 
Facebook page is run by Alice Hassell from My Son My Life My Way.

What an amazing mix of blogs by people with Down's syndrome, parents, teachers and siblings we have seen added to the list and what a treat it is to sit down with a cuppa and spend time visiting and reading around these wonderful sites. Testimony to the power of our words indeed!
My latest favourite discovery is Beth Blogs! by Ginger Warrior's niece. Beth is a teen with DS and blogs about her fabulous life, this time her dedication to dance.

With Love to our NHS Learning Disability Nurses: #PHPCYPweek

Head of Public Health Nursing, Viv Bennett has asked me to write a piece for the NHS to raise the profile of a range of children's health issues. The aim of this Population Health Practice for Children and Young People #PHPCYPweek is to celebrate good practice, motivate and enthuse professionals.

Natty celebrates #PHPCYPweek

Natty had keyhole heart surgery when she was two years old, and more recently underwent a tonsillectomy. The medical angels who have helped us along our journey will forever be in our debt, but it is the role of the little known Learning Disability Nurses that I have chosen to focus on for this piece.

Nativity 3 in November: A Review by Natty

I know I know...

It's only November and Nativity 3 is in a cinema near you.

I love to keep the magical excitement of Christmas at bay until the end of December. I think it's a throwback to the time I spent living in France. I love real decorations and simple gifts, good food and family games.

Somehow I think that starting Christmas in August (yep, I'm sure I spied a display in a garden centre as long ago as that, Baa Humbug!) just leads to wrung out children, overspent parents and a diluting of the whole meaning of that festive time of year.

That said, we have Natty in our family 

Natty at Nativity 3 in November!

Pudsey cakes for Children in Need and some Quality Sibling Time

Do you sometimes feel that your child with a learning disability takes more of your attention?
Do you try to factor in activities exclusively for their siblings?
Does this leave you feeling guilty at times?

Research shows that even half an hour spent together where they are the sole focus of your attention reaps enormous benefits for siblings of children with a disability.

Last night while Natty was having a story read to her by Daddy Downs Side Up, Mia and I baked up a batch of Children in Need cakes for a charity cake sale at school today. We had fun looking on Pinterest for ideas and creating little paw prints, spotty dotties and Pudsey bear faces with butter cream, icing and food colouring.

The stains might take all week to scrub off our fingers, but we had a giggle together. We chatted uninterrupted while we worked. And the results weren't too bad either!

Pudsey Children in Need cakes by Mia and Mummy

Inspiring, Inclusive Blogfest

"Why am I doing this?" I thought to myself as I stood cold and alone on an empty station platform in the pitch 6.30am darkness waiting for my train to take me forward 4 hours to Blogfest.

I reminded myself that today was going to be a day of learning, my brain primed like a sponge to absorb writing tips from the finest in the game.  It was also about sharing some thoughts on inclusion and diversity in blogging at a round table at the Mumsnet Blogfest event in London.

Hayley, Soraya and Swazi discuss inclusion at the Blogfest round table.

"The next train to arrive at platform two is the 6.47 to Plymouth."

I felt uneasy, vulnerable, watching out for any sign of railway staff. A shiver of cold ran down my spine, made worse by my damp hair and the urgent need for the first hot drink of the day. 
I sheltered on the bridge, watching the heavy rain fall in vertical cords and flowing like urgent waterfalls from blocked gutters.

A Blogfest for Inclusion

I'm honoured to have been asked to join a group of leading writers and speakers at Mumsnet's #Blogfest2015, a huge one day event that promises to be a 'glittering celebration of great writing and sharp ideas'.

I've watched the You Tube clips from last year and they aren't exaggerating!

mumsnetI'll be joining Swazi Rodgers of Chocolate is Not the Only Fruit and Soraya Cotwal of I Happy Now 2 talk at a round table about creating diversity and inclusion in the predominantly white, middle class, non-disabled world corner of the internet that is the blog world. Blogging holds such power to create change when we work together, that it's important to harness that for all.

Happy Birthday, Unbirthday and a Blogiversary

November is a month of birthdays, blogiversaries and unbirthdays, in our house. 

They are markers in time, vantage points from which to assess our challenges and achievements over the previous 12 months.

Happy Birthday, Unbirthday and Blogiversary 

I was pondering my own forthcoming special day, when I came across a beautiful poem by John Lavan called An Age over on his blog Poems from Reality

Dear Past Generation Mom: who wished she had aborted her son with Down's syndrome

The following was written after an article that appeared in the Daily Mail this week that came with the designed to shock-and-divide headline 'I Wish I'd Aborted the Son I've Spent 47 Years Caring For'.

Rather than lashing out at the mother speaking in the piece, I felt I needed rather to consider the times her son was born in,  her state of mind, and instead question the journalism at work which contained no regard for the voice of the man at the centre of the article which was clearly advising abortion.

Families in the 60s had a much tougher battle than we do today, and many many mums and dads and siblings were, and still are, incredible pioneers. I think this woman's opinions, which were later aired on Loose Women, are thankfully rare.

The following is written to a woman like the one the article portrayed, one who became bitter through lack of support. 

She is in no way like any of the parents of that generation that I am blessed to have met and follow in the footsteps of. Parents, and siblings I count as guides and support, such as Mardra Sikora, Sue Bessell, Wendy O'Carroll (who will be appearing on Loose Women on Tuesday 25th November to tell her radically different story)  and Elizabeth Corcoran.

Kristian Naylor writes about his Uncle Martin

Dear past generation Mom 
(who wished she had aborted her son with Down's syndrome),

I note with respect the hurdles you have faced.