The time has come. DS1 is now the proud owner of a mobile phone. His elevation into the technological age has come a bit earlier than we’d planned – but his friend Andreas is moving overseas and they want to be able to keep in touch. So, apprehensively (certainly on my part), the wife handed over her old phone and set him up with Skype as well as granting him access to Spotify among other

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There seems to be a new landscape at home. I don’t know – you go away for a couple of weeks and everything changes. For one, the wife has tidied up the house – it is no longer DS1’d. Things are where they should be; the sofa, for instance, isn’t in the middle of the lounge with an assortment of musical instruments stashed behind it – backstage, apparently. For two, the boy is charming, articulate,

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“He has finished his sentences and his times table practice,” read a text from the wife. “The bad news is his sentence for guarantee: ‘There is no guarantee that Dad is sober’.” Now, this was fairly accurate, seeing as I was at the football – and a good use of the word, it has to be said. That night (a Sunday), though, he woke me up at 3am to tell me he had been sick.

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“Oh god, you still have magic sperm coming out of your mouth,” said DS1 to the wife. Now this may be a difficult sentence to swallow, especially coming from a nine-year-old. Can I get any more innuendo in here? While you return your bottom jaw to its correct position, allow me to explain. We went to see Fantastic Beasts: the Crimes of Grindelwald, last weekend – in 3D don’t you know. All clear, now? No?

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“It’s all your fault and I never want to speak to you again,” DS1 wailed. “Oh, it’s my fault that you stubbed your toe, is it?” I queried. “But I wasn’t even in the same room as you.” It was all too apparent that DS1’s equilibrium was still not quite level; a fact that was confirmed later by the discovery of a lump of cucumber floating in the downstairs toilet. I had thought it strange

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“My brain is wasted on this idiot,” said DS1, as I failed to grasp what he was talking about. I’m clearly not in his intellectual league anymore – if I ever was. It’s hard living with a genius, you know – just ask the wife. Last weekend, we went to see Grannie. Something we hadn’t done for a fair few months – the boy being somewhat reluctant to venture beyond the front door. “It’s non-negotiable,” said

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Potter is back. I’ve left the boy casting spells at the TV while he watches the seventh Harry Potter film, as he nears the end of his back-to-back film-watching marathon. What started as an innocent “Shall we watch a film” on a wet Friday during half-term, which saw us select the first episode in the Potter franchise for the want of anything better, has turned into a rekindling of his obsession with the school of

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“I wish I wasn’t so clever,” said DS1 on the way home from school. “Why’s that?” I asked, intrigued. “Then I wouldn’t have to do this boring research for the NHS.” You may recall that towards the end of the last school year, DS1 finally received a visit from an occupational therapist. The idea being she would identify his needs from an OT point of view and create a programme for the school and us

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DS1 is still under the illusion that he is a genius. A remarkable achievement considering that he is burdened with, in his eyes, intellectually challenged parents. “Two idiots make a genius,” he has become very fond of informing us. While we’re on the subject of his genius, I recently asked him to shut the door on his way out of my study. “No,” he replied nonchalantly. “Geniuses like me are too posh to do that.”

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“The TV has broken,” pinged a text from the wife. “What? How?” I replied, flustered – I can’t deal with this now I’m watching football, I restrained myself from replying. “Dunno, half the screen has gone black, like it’s got a crack in it. But it’s still smooth to the touch.” Followed by: “He doesn’t think he touched it with anything, but he can’t be sure.” Ah, now we were getting to the crux of

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“ is wearing Chelsea shorts, a Russian hat and one sock. I have no idea why,” pinged a text from the wife. Now, I don’t think this is anything autism related – and it bears no relation to the rest of this post – but it’s definitely worth relating. We never did find out the reasoning. Over the last couple of weeks, DS1 has gone from showing the first signs of new-school-year wobble to transforming

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Typically, we had arranged to go camping with friends on what turned out to be the wettest weekend of the summer. No matter, keep calm and carry on. A cliché, but never truer a mantra. All I need to do now is adhere to the advice. DS1 likes camping, and the fact we were going with his best mate, Henry, was an added bonus. What could go wrong? Yes, we were on a campsite, with

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With DS1 out of the lounge, the wife, on a tidying spree, took the opportunity to put the cushions on the sofa back how they should be (the boy had rearranged them a couple of days previously to make some sort of den from where to watch TV. And there was me thinking that was what a sofa in its original format was ideal for. The newly built den-style sofa, though, was a ‘safe haven’,

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“No issues whatsoever,” WhatsApped Grannie (other messaging services are available). “He didn’t use a towel or flush the loo, but I can live with that.” Not a bad return for four days apart from his mum and dad, thrown into the ‘lion’s den’ of living away from home. Indeed, as Grannie added: “The worst part of the last few days was abandoning in Marks & Spencer to do some man shopping – I needed a

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“Do you want Grannie to make you a cake for your birthday this year?” the wife asked DS1. Grannie is a cake-maker extraordinaire, but she doesn’t relish the opportunity to make the boy’s birthday cake. She operates under the fear that if it doesn’t quite meet his expectations of whatever design he has requested, the proverbial shit could hit the fan. It never has, but the pressure must be horrendous. The other reason the wife

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The Saturday before DS1’s birthday was a touch fraught. He was anxious about something – getting agitated about the tiniest, seemingly (to us) insignificant thing. He was flitting around, unable to keep still. Preparing teamsheets and recording the score was more important than the actual games of football we were playing. Various items were randomly moved about the house, turning up where least expected – a lone football boot tied to a door handle, for

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“, where’s my USB stick?” “I dunno.” “Well, it was on my desk and it’s not there now.” This wasn’t the first time it had gone missing, so I knew who the likely culprit was. “Are you sure you don’t know anything about it?” “Maybe.” “OK. I’m not cross, I just need to know where it is.” “I dunno.” “So, you’ve hidden it but you can’t remember where?” “Yes.” “Well, can you have a think

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“Do you want an ice cream?” I asked as he came out of school. Every Friday, during the summer term, the PTA sets up a table from which to sell ice creams to the kids. DS1’s mate Henry was also eyeing the contents of the cool boxes. His dad handed him a quid and told him to get DS1 one as well. DS1 stood rooted to the spot. Henry beckoned him over, but he was

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“Knock, knock,” said DS1. “Who’s there?” “Gene.” “Gene who?” “Genius.” DS1 is currently under the impression that he is a genius. He’s not – very bright maybe, but not a genius. “Mum, have you got a picture of a genius?” “No.” “Well get out your phone and take a picture of me then.” The poor, misguided soul. To emphasise his point, when I pick him up from school he runs over to me, points and

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Over the past few weeks DS1 has been finding it harder and harder to settle at night, often complaining that he “can’t sleep”. Although, if he hasn’t fallen asleep within 30 seconds he gets out of bed to inform of us of this fact. “Well, you’re not going to fall asleep if you are sitting on the top of the stairs complaining that you can’t sleep are you?” I’ve said more than once. The reason

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It’s been wall-to-wall football over the last couple of weeks. When DS1’s not watching it, he’s out in the garden kicking a ball around. He’s now up to World Cup 2058 in his re-enactments (can you re-enact something that hasn’t happened yet?) He has got emotionally involved with the event, feeling the highs and lows of the various teams – though, strangely he is remaining calm, almost unmoved, when England play. I think he is

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“We had the best English lesson ever,” said DS1, as he greeted me when I picked him up from school. “Oh, yes, what did you do?” “We watched The Crown.” Oh, that was surprising. I was under the impression that this Netflix production was a tad too risqué for the likes of an eight-year-old. They’d watched episode 2, which was about the accession of Queen Elizabeth II. “There was a sad bit,” he told me.

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“Dad, you’ve got a big willy,” said DS1. What a boost for my ego. For a moment I basked in the glory – not morning glory, I assure you. And I was fully clothed at the time, your honour. “It’s not appropriate to say that,” I cautioned him. “You’ve got a big bum.” “While that may be true, again, it’s not appropriate to say that to people.” “You’ve got a big willy.” He hasn’t quite

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Finally, DS1 has gone back to school wearing new shoes. The ‘finally’ refers to the getting of new shoes, not the going back to school… then again. For the past two months (possibly longer) it had been plainly obvious that his school shoes were too small for him, but he refused to acknowledge the fact. He claimed they fitted him perfectly, even though his trainers and football boots, which were a size bigger, were deemed

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It took four days but it finally came out. Being at a music festival and needing a number two is, for the least squeamish among us, a test of the human spirit, but for someone who doesn’t like dirt (except, bizarrely, on himself or in his bedroom) it is a major challenge. It’s amazing to me that he is happy to dive around on wet grass and cover himself in mud, but he cannot bring

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DS1’s continuing discombobulation at home was becoming cause for concern, with recent events prompting me to contact his teacher and the school Senco for a chat. That day, he’d refused to go to judo, hiding his kit and getting dressed in his uniform, adamant, that although he still wanted to do judo, he wasn’t going. Explain that one. His downing of tools with regard homework was ongoing and, from talking to other parents, it was

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“We had a little incident at lunchtime,” DS1’s teacher told me, after catching me in the playground after school. “He punched Andreas in the face.” Gulp. She gave me a look that suggested it wasn’t quite as bad as it sounded, but I needed convincing. “The got things under control and took him to the Head,” she continued. “I walked past him while he was sat outside office and asked him why he was sitting

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DS1 is a bit off-kilter at the moment. There’s no obvious reason why and he’s not forthcoming when asked. “I’m fine”, “There’s nothing wrong” or “Be quiet” are his staple answers. The latter coming when clearly there is something troubling him right that second. Door slamming is a current favourite pastime. Not just once, but repeatedly opening and forcibly shutting the same door until he gets a reaction. The wall around the doorframe in my

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“Dad, can we play football?” “Sure, but I won't be able to save many because, remember, I hurt my arm when I fell down the stairs yesterday.” (I’d missed my footing trying to avoid a Match Attax card that was lurking on the top step.) “Yes, I know.” “Oh, you know do you? Only you didn't come and see if I was OK.” “Erm, well… I had better things to do,” he informed me, “…

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“Dad, I'm making a Man U Dream Team and I can't think who to put as defenders. I’ve got Ferdinand but I need three more.” “Most people normally say ‘hello’ first, especially when someone has just walked through the door after being away for nine days,” I replied. He smiled and handed me his team sheet. A Chelsea Dream Team as well as Liverpool and Barcelona ones already lay on the floor of my study

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The floor of DS1’s bedroom is awash with pieces of paper – drawings, song lyrics, made-up family trees – he’s kneeling on the carpet frantically moving them around, engrossed in whatever game he is playing. He has been ensconced in his room for the best part of three days now, only leaving it to go to the toilet. “Shall we go out?” I ask, feeling trapped in the house. “No way! N. O. W. A.

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As we enter the theatre for the event of the year – Horrible Histories live on stage, DS1 becomes agitated, dithering over the best place to sit (I’ve never been to a Ryanair version of a theatre before). Eventually we take our seats, DS1 seemingly happy with our vantage point. He sits hunched up in his chair. Any attempt to speak to him is met with a “shut up” and a flick of his hand.

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Just before the Easter break we had our end of term catch up with DS1’s teacher to go through how he was progressing against the targets set in his IEP, which forms part of the overall EHCP. Which is as easy as ABC. One of the ‘outcomes’ the school is working on is helping DS1 to ‘manage his emotions’. The ‘small step target’ is for him to identify two emotions – worried and upset –

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As we come out of school, the wheel of DS1’s scooter gets caught in a drain and he hits the ground with a thump. Before I can check if he is alright he is up and swinging a roundhouse punch at me, which luckily I manage to deflect. “Hey, what was that for?” I ask. “Serves you right.” “So it was my fault that your scooter got stuck in a drain and you fell off?”

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“He’s not a Plantagenet – look at his clothes,” came the cry from upstairs. The tone of his voice suggesting he was a tad frustrated with his grandparents’ inability to identify British monarchs. The wife and I were sat downstairs in hysterics, as the octogenarians floundered in the face of DS1’s superior knowledge. The fact the pictures of various kings and queens were on thumbnail-sized magnets meaning their failing eyesight didn’t really assist them in

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KENYA and TANZANIA 1993 Leaving Uganda before war breaks out (in my last story), we cross into Kenya, heading for Lake Nakuru. After a couple of days on the road we close in on our destination, camping up in a crater near Nakuru town. The approach to our home for the night is a ponderous one, up a steep dirt track. In fact, our progress is so snail-like that a kid jumps onto the back

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UGANDA 1993 I’m not sure what it was in particular, but Uganda was my favourite country that I travelled through in the early ’90s. Maybe it was the unsurpassable Queen Elizabeth National Park, or happening upon Lake Victoria and all the legends (and myths) of the great explorers that it conjured up, along with our mistaken belief that we were at the source of the Nile. It might have been the fact that we had

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SOUTH AFRICA 1993/2010 Without doubt visiting Africa has changed over the last 20 years. But then so have I. When I first arrived on the world’s most exciting continent in the early 1990s, I was a fresh-faced (sort of) 24-year-old, eager for adventure and prepared to rough it – sleeping out under the stars with only a flimsy mat and a mosquito net to protect me from the elements. I travelled on overland trucks, hitched

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As far as school is concerned, the Romans are done with and it’s onto the Vikings and Saxons. The advent of his new class topic saw DS1 go on a school trip to an open-air museum-type place where they got to partake in a number of activities that they might have encountered had they been around some 1,200 years or so ago. The children were requested to go wearing old clothes. A requirement that proved

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There’s nothing like a bit of a winter break, timed perfectly to get out of the UK when the Beast from the East hit. Only we went to Lille, where it was snowing and absolutely freezing. Still, it was a few days break for the wife and I from the little terror at home; the joy of looking after him fell to his Grannie. She came up to stay at our house so it didn’t

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I’m Proudy McProud Face on a proud day. I have just got back from the Year 4 Roman Assembly, in which DS1 had to deliver three lines. And he only went and did it – spoke out loud in front of the whole school and a load of parents. He has never uttered a word on such an occasion before – even when he was supposed to. He brought his words home last week to

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“I need you to come straight out of school quickly today because we’ve got the dentist,” I informed DS1 as we walked to school. “Oh, that’s the third boring thing we’ve had to do after school in a row.” That wasn’t the response I was expecting. “Three boring things?” I enquired. “Yes, first we had to go to the bank, then yesterday I had my haircut and now we’ve got to go to the dentist.”

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I recently experienced three miracles in one day – two in consecutive sentences. “I think I’ll do something calm and relaxing like listen to a CD,” said DS1, not long after we had got home from school. This was brilliant. He had recognised the need to take some time out to get his head straight and he had found his own solution. He went upstairs to his room, from where I heard him declare: “But

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My name is Phil and I’m a grumpy, shouting depressive. It’s been four weeks since my last meltdown. Today, I’m holding my head high. We are at the end of January and I haven’t lost my rag with DS1 once this year (well, apart from the other Sunday – and with good reason – but I wrote the first draft of this before then). Maybe it’s because he is in a relatively good place at

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The boy’s teacher rang me during school hours (not that she rings me out of school hours – that would be weird). That’s never a good thing. “I just wanted to let you know about an incident that happened today,” she said. I braced myself. “We were in PE, acting out some Roman battle scenes, when decided to punch one of the girls in the stomach. He then wrapped his arms around her neck. It

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DS1 handed me a piece of paper headed ‘Dad’ and which was split into two columns. The left one he’d labelled ‘Good’ and the right one ‘Bad’ – it was a list of my pros and cons, as he saw them. I read it with a sense of trepidation. The things about me that he apparently finds positive include: Fat tummy (for jumping on) Dumb smile Sort of spiky hair Tiny boobs, so I can’t

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This term DS1’s class is studying the Romans. He’s already obsessed. We spent last weekend scouring Netflix for anything gladiator related and discovered two very bizarre films. One had Ross Kemp voicing the main protagonist. Somehow Ross’s dulcet East End tones didn’t quite conjure up images of ancient Rome. But the absolute corker was a truly dreadful Italian film with subtitles and hysterically bad fight scene choreography. It was the type of movie that was

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