Ding Ding! Round 2020

Just when you thought 2020 couldn’t get any worse, BOOM! Lockdown 2.0, and Sean Connery taken from us (RIP Sir Sean). What a bloody crackers year this has become.

Since our last update, we’ve had a fair few developments in old Family Riley. The first being that T has now started his new Secondary School!

He made an effort with his hair on Day 1

Not without a few Riley-esque dramas in the run up though… The main drama being centred around transport. Now T’s new school is about 10-15 minutes away from us (traffic dependent) in a car. It is also the only Catholic secondary school in the area, and so they take students from all across the city. As a result, there are a variety of buses which go to and from school. T however, is not able to get on any of these due to his needs. So. We then had to put an application in to the local authority for school transport. This had been written into his EHCP so on first glance, should not have been an issue. However, we were advised that this application may be rejected because the school wasn’t the closest one to us in terms of ‘catchment areas’. It was however, the best school by a far in terms of meeting his needs, so I started gearing up for a battle.

Ding Ding! Round 1: Application goes in, in May…

We wait. No response.

I chase it. Primary School chase it.

Email received in June: Please could you submit your application for transport.

Face palm.

Ding Ding! Round 2: Resubmit application form in June…

We wait. No response.

I chase it. Primary School chase it. New Secondary School also chase it.

Email received at start of July: Please could you submit your application for transport. Otherwise your child will not be considered for AEN school transportation.

*Inaudible angry words* Second face palm.

Ding Ding! Round 3: Resubmit application in July…

We wait. No response.

I chase it. Primary School chase it. New Secondary School also chase it.

Email received in August: Apologies for the delay. I have received your application and will chase up a response.

HALLELUJAH! Heavenly angels are singing and a light is shining upon us!

A week passes. Followed by another week… We are now 2 weeks away from the start of term. I email again.

Response: Apologies for the delay. I have received your application and will chase up a response. If you have not received anything by Friday please get back in touch.

Friday arrives. No response… I email again.

Response: I am now on annual leave. I will be returning on Wednesday 16th September and will not have access to my email until this time. School was due to begin on the 9th… which was now less than a week away.

My rage knew no bounds. I had more fury than Gemma Collins after a bad blow dry. But, could I get hold of anyone to help me? Not a bloody chance. It would have been easier to get Boris Johnson to give coherent instructions. I emailed, I rang the council and was on hold for hours to be told that there was no-one available, I emailed again…

Eventually, 2 days before T was due to start school I received a response from a nice lady named Jess:

Please could you submit your application for transport. We have no record of your child.

At this point, I have now combusted. All that remains, typing this post, are embers of a former Mother.

I (very politely) replied to Jess and outlined my ‘frustrations’. Within an hour, someone had contacted me to say that T would indeed have transport to school. THANK GOD.

I mean, I must point out though, that that was literally the extent of the information we received. No information about what the transport was, or when it would arrive… he could have been travelling by space ship for all we knew.

Anywho, the first day arrived and a lovely wheelchair bus trundled down the street to collect T for his new adventure. And actually, after all the panic and worry about T going to a new school (not to mention in the middle of a global pandemic) he came home happy and excited about everything. I don’t think I’ve ever been so relieved! And so began, T’s new chapter. Until…

DING DING! Round 4!: The first week that T was back at school, he was the only student on board the wheelchair bus, as his school used the first few days as a transition experience for the new Y7’s. He was being picked up for school at about 8.10am and then dropped off at about 3.50pm. We knew there were going to be a few more students on the bus the following week, however what we were not prepared for, was the knock at the door at 7.15am the following Monday, and the bus outside waiting to whisk him off to school. T, was sat in his PJ’s munching through a bowl of Cheerios.

We literally threw him into his school clothes and chucked him on the bus. I may or may not have encouraged him to store Cheerios in his cheeks like a hamster, to finish en route…

I waited with Baby Riley at the window that evening for him to be dropped off. 3.45pm came and went. As did 4pm. By 4.15pm I was starting to get really worried. Also, due to the highly efficient (*ahem*) people in the transport office, our paperwork with the transport contact numbers still hadn’t come through. I rang the school and luckily a very nice lady told me she would try to chase up the company on my behalf.

T was finally dropped off at 5pm. He was the first to be collected that morning, and the last to be dropped off that night. He had been out of the house for nearly 10 hours. That is longer than most adults work in a day. He came in, and cried from exhaustion.

The next morning the bus turned up earlier. 7.05am. Again, he was the last drop off on the night. Again, he came in and cried from exhaustion.

The next morning, we asked the driver if he could be dropped off first, as he was collected first.

“No, I can’t do that love. Because then I’ll get finished too late and stuck in traffic.”

I explained to said driver that I appreciated the difficulty of this, but that T has a chronic heart condition meaning that if he were to become too tired, it could lead to a heart arrhythmia, which ultimately could lead to a cardiac arrest.

He informed me that there was nothing he could do.

Now I must point out, that I did understand where he was coming from in the sense that he has to drop children off all across the city, and the route he would take would be highly dependent on traffic. However, this is the welfare of a child with a number of serious medical conditions.

So I got back on my email, and some poor sod in the transport office got J on the phone…

Again, they refused to alter the route.

Finally, someone with some sense must have picked up the case, as I received an email from the Transport Manager, who agreed that yes it was completely unacceptable to make a child with serious and life threatening medical conditions do longer hours in a week than an adult who worked full time. Since then, he is still collected at 7.15am, but he is also dropped off first at 3.45pm.

He loves school. He does not love homework. But, find me an 11 year old who does! He’s also so far managed to lose: 2 water bottles, a hand sanitiser, a lunch box (for 24 hours) and 3 masks … If he carries on like this, his Christmas List is going to be 100% practical. Where do children put these things?! It’s like a black hole emerges the minute they leave the house.

I have also returned to school to go back to my role as a teacher following my maternity leave…

(Baby Riley is now a fully fledged Terror Toddler)

Maximum Carnage.

Many people have asked me how I am finding this, particularly with T having such complex medical conditions. Truth be told, when I’m there it’s easy to just ‘get on with it’. Teaching has reached new levels of carnage in current climate, so there is very little time to ponder just what it is that you are dealing with. Having said that, it is impossible to ignore the rising cases; particularly in the area where we live. It’s tough to know what to do for the best. If T were to contract Covid, there is nothing to say he would get it any worse than another child of his age. However, it could effect his heart condition; and it almost certainly would effect his levels of mobility and the rate in which these are declining. Not to mention his already waining energy levels…

When I start to think about these factors, thats when work becomes that extra bit harder. I’m not ashamed to say I had a small cry in my office when the first student case was reported in our building.

But, there’s nothing we can do except stay positive… and stay ‘alert’, apparently.

Half term threw up a few stumbling blocks this year. J was off work (he’s working from home, but he’s so busy that we barely see him during the day) and I had planned a few nice family day trips out for us. Well. I *thought* I had planned them. Turns out, there are very few places which are accessible for wheelchairs, and entertaining for 2 children of varying ages, during a rainy week in October… There are many places which claim to be accessible, but it turns out that they generally are not. Muddy walk ways, gravelly paths… I feel like I spent a good chunk of the week quizzing people on the accessibility of local attractions (you all passed by the way, gold stars all round).

We finally decided to drive over to the local town for a small mooch one afternoon… the fresh air was lovely… then bugger me, the baby got travel sick on the way home and projectile vomited all over the car.

Anyone know of any accessible attractions, suitable for a 11 year old and a 1 year old within a 15 minute journey of our house? That’s our limit now before Pukey McVomChops blows chunks across the interior…

So we carved pumpkins, baked cakes and watched movies. It’s not the holiday I wanted for the boys, and I got myself quite upset over the whole thing. But, as J quite rightly pointed out: they smiled all week, had both parents around, lots of cuddles and mountains of cake. What’s not to love eh?

I don’t think my dramatic ‘Les Mis’ style breakdown was helped by the fact that I’m massively MASSIVELY missing my family in the North East, who we haven’t seen for far too long.

Fingers crossed this will all be over soon.

Stay safe everyone, and remember to wash your hands!

Love to all,

The Riley’s


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