Communication – another way?

Face, Soul, Head, Smoke, Light, SadI’m aware that I’ve gained a few new followers recently – thank you so much and welcome to my ramblings and wonderings – so I thought it might be a good time to briefly explain the William connection before launching into another post about him and autistic spectrum perception.

William is a young man in his mid twenties, whom I met almost 20 years ago.  He began as a pupil in a class I was teaching – a class for kids with speech and language difficulties.  A set of circumstances which might be considered very strange, if you didn’t believe in pre-planned soul contracts, caused our paths to cross and re-cross in many ways, so that even now we are the best of friends.  Despite the fact that he is only able to communicate with me through text and email at present, I still have longer and deeper communications with him than with anyone else I know.

School, Teacher, The PupilSo yes, to begin with I believed my role was to teach William to communicate.  He had oral dyspraxia, which meant he had a very limited range of speech sounds.  Additionally he was on the autistic spectrum, which meant that social communication – reading body language, facial expressions, tone of voice etc. was challenging for him.  He made excellent progress, no denying that.  However at the same time, he and a couple of his classmates began teaching me other ways of communicating – ways I’d never dreamed of.

Alan could ‘beam’ states of mind into my head.  I didn’t have to be facing him, or even thinking about him, to find that I was aware that he was feeling angry, frustrated, impatient or in need of help.  Martin’s speciality was sending words to me.  I could ‘hear’ what he was saying, although no words had been spoken aloud, sometimes from across the building.  Once I spotted him and made eye contact, he’d give the briefest of nods, meaning, “Good, you got it.”

William was on another level entirely.  “I think,” he told me, rather deferentially, one morning when he was about eight, “I should tell you that I’m telepathic.”
He waited, a slight smile playing around his lips, for the full impact to sink in.
“You mean you can read my mind?” I asked, suddenly feeling horribly exposed.
He nodded, allowing the smile to break loose.

Of course the children used this form of communication amongst themselves all the time.  I’d often wondered how a bunch of kids with only the most rudimentary verbal language abilities were able to engage in imaginative games, with each of them understanding their role perfectly.  Once William twigged that I was sometimes able to pick up snippets of their telepathic communication, he took it upon himself to tutor me in these skills, although never overtly.

It’s subtle, this hidden communication – infinitely so.  By comparison, spoken language is crass and imperfect.  Our labels and descriptions, no matter how extensive our vocabulary, are often open to misinterpretation or simply inadequate to convey our true intent.

Having spent a lifetime closely observing children of all ages, and in particular watching my own three and my two grandchildren develop language, I firmly believe that all humans begin life with the subtle, non-verbal language.
“Oh, she understands so much of what we say,” parents will tell you as they cradle an infant in their arms.
Maybe. I suspect the tiny person is understanding far more of what the parent thinks. I also believe she is using this telepathic (for want of a better word) skill to communicate her needs to the mother. Most would not put this at more than a ‘close bond’ between mother and child.  What, though, if it’s something far greater?

Learning, Telephone, To Call, AlarmOnce they had learned to speak clearly and to follow the conventions of conversation, my little students more-or-less ceased using their telepathy.  Our society places great value on effective spoken and written language.  The children – Will included – worked diligently to improve these.  I was busily congratulating myself on our success and only dimly aware of what we had lost in the process.

As I’ve said, though, this was a soul contract, and although the children  went their different ways and I moved back into mainstream teaching, William and I still had far more to teach one another.

We stayed in touch.  Sometimes we’d have long, rambling, fascinating conversations that would last for hours, and I’d be amazed at how brilliantly he’d picked up the ability to speak.  At other times, though, he’d withdraw for days, weeks or even months at a time.  Conventional language caused too much stress and the best I could hope for was a single word text to let me know he was still alive or a ‘beamed’ impression of his state of mind.  Not great, usually.

Now it’s come full circle.  Yesterday, William sent me a draft article for inclusion in his second book.  It’s a stunner.

He begins by explaining how it is for people on the autistic spectrum to attempt to learn social communication.  Ruefully, he says:

Having to learn such skills is generally very difficult and time consuming. An analogy may be learning a second language which for the vast majority, autistic or not, is again very difficult and time consuming. And even then, few who learn a second language can match the fluency and competency of a native speaker whose language skills developed naturally as part of growing up.

He bemoans the fact that, despite this, the non-autistic population expect perfection from those challenged in this way.

Later, he begins to consider the reason computer-based language is easier for ASP people to manage:

Man, Notebook, Continents, Binary, CodeMany autistic people demonstrate a good level of competency with computers – likely to be linked to their operation depending on clearly defined protocols and mathematics, things which are very different to how social communication and interaction works.  Most communication between people which occurs via computers is in a written format, offering a greater similarity with the clearly defined operating protocols of a computer, since written communication often takes a more formal and literal interpretation of language than face to face communication.  This also removes the need to attempt to understand body language and tone of voice – things often problematic for those with autism.

Only in the final paragraph does he allow his thoughts to wander into that other type of communication – the early ‘telepathy’ and our more recent forays into ‘remote viewing’.  William isn’t certain that either of these terms fully encompass or describe what is actually taking place.

[ASP people] have a naturally different method of accomplishing [communication].  What exactly that method is I don’t believe is fully understood at present by either autistics or non-autistics.  I don’t believe the correct words have been attributed to autistic matters to describe or explain it properly.  I suspect at some point this will be achieved and hopefully will allow for autism to be harnessed to it’s full potential and remedy the blindness of so many.

I hope so, William.

 

We are still compiling The Words of William Volume Two.  Volume One is available via Amazon as a paperback in the UK, Europe and North America and as a Kindle edition worldwide.

 

 

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Pink…

IMG_20160510_123740To quote one of my favourite Aerosmith songs (selectively – don’t want to cause offence), ‘it’s my new obsession’.

Why?  Because it’s the colour I’m painting my bedroom: walls, ceiling, the whole shebang.  Not some trendy hot pink, you understand, more a wistful, nostalgic dusty pink – the colour of the columbines that nod all around the garden below at this time of year.

You’re wondering why I’m updating you on my cottage renovations, no doubt.  Well, like I say, I’m slightly obsessed with it at the moment.  It’s trying hard to take over my life.  If I wanted to go all new agey, I could say it’s grounding me (‘Pink, it’s like red but not quite’ – more Aerosmith).  Not sure about that.  Certainly it’s anchoring me in the physical, if you can call wobbling about on a dust-sheet shrouded bed with a drippy paintbrush anchoring.  This self-created cave becomes my universe.  The aches in my shoulders and neck become my whole experience.  Most of all, though, the pink obliterates the ugly, stained, yellowing white that was there before, so I’m transforming my little world.

IMG_20160504_094431The rest of the cottage was finished ages ago.  This one room – the one that didn’t matter so much, because no one else saw it – was left.  I lavished attention on the spare room, so friends and family would have a lovely space to stay in; the study, so that my students had a good place to work; the kitchen, bathrooms, living room and stairwell – all relatively public spaces.  Then, each night, I’d repair to the depressing, grubby box of a bedroom, peer up at the water-stains left from when the roof used to leak and close my eyes quickly.

It’s taken me two years to give myself the gift of a new bedroom.  How pathetic that sounds!

Decorating is hassle – especially when you’re getting on a bit, arthritic and doing it all alone; especially when you work from home and have to keep parts of the house tidy and acceptable for the students; especially when you know all that peeling ceiling paper has to come off, and that it hides a depressing topography of ravines and craters; especially when most of the furniture is too big to move out of the room and has to be eased and shunted around .  Yes, I’d elevated procrastination to an art form.

IMG_20160522_163501Then I discovered something that will doubtless have been glaringly obvious to you; I was feeling cheated – cheated by myself.  And that was a pretty stupid state of affairs.

I reminded myself that I deserved a beautiful space to rest in, sleep in and wake in.  Suddenly, all those obstacles didn’t seem such a problem.  I’m taking them on, one at a time.

Initially there’s fear:  I pull back a piece of ceiling paper and find a gaping 5 cm hole behind it.  Next I tell the fear to move on, and wait for it to subside.  After that, I wait for the solution to come to me.  If I stay in that mindset, it always does.  Then I work through it.

The room, like so much of the cottage, is becoming a testament to positive thinking.  If I can imagine that it will be solved, then it will be.  Not finished yet, but getting there…

 

 

Never having to say goodbye

Mural, Girl, Balloon, Heart, GraffitiI had one of those ‘goodbye’ dreams last night.  It was my final day teaching somewhere or other.  Children I haven’t seen in decades were there, looking just as they did when I last met them, wishing me tearful farewells.
“I can’t believe I won’t see you again, Miss,” said Tony, a little chap I’d been particularly fond of.

I must have woken at that point, still feeling the poignancy and pain of the separation – but then realising that I had nothing to feel sad about.  Tony and the others had long since left my life, and we were fine without each other.  Life had moved on.

Maybe something of the dream lingered, though.  Throughout the morning, my thoughts kept turning to my mother.  I was due to attend a concert at a venue next door to the nursing home where she’d spent her final years.  It’s in this town, but I tend to avoid that road because of the feelings it stirs.

Chorus, Stage, Music, MusicalThe concert was wonderful – an excellent a capella choir with a great range of music.  Several of the ladies from the care home had been wheeled in by their nurses and sat nodding happily.  I called to Mum in my mind.  ‘Come and listen,’ I said.  ‘You’ll enjoy this.’

Do you think that fanciful?  Could she have been there?

Well there was another person – not physically present, but with me in some way.  The concert, you see, was on a Sunday afternoon – the time William and I always put aside for our remote viewings.  I had told him the name of the venue, but not the reason I’d be there.  We’d fixed a time when I knew the concert would be well under way.  I’d asked him to try and sense something about the building and what was happening there.  He’d sat at the other side of the country, feeling with his mind to where I was.

In the interval, as I sipped tea and munched biscuits with a couple of friends, I switched on my phone to see what, if anything, he’d been able to pick up.

In the text message he’d sent me, he started by describing some features of the room, then continued, “Someone making a lot of noise, and food and drink.”

I had to laugh.  If he’d been here in the flesh, and I’d somehow managed to drag him to the concert, that’s probably just the way he would have described it!  It was comforting – massively so – to have that proof that he’d been able to transport some aspect of himself to share in my afternoon.  Why, then, should I not believe that Mum, too, was able to join me?

As we work – my young friend and I – to expand our consciousness and our ability to cross time and space to ‘meet’ in this strange way, it helps me to recognise that those who have stepped out of their bodies are at least as able to ‘travel’ to us.  They, after all, are pure spirit now.

The more I can grow that belief, the easier it is to say ‘goodbye’.  Or perhaps we don’t need to say it at all.  There are so many ways and so many levels on which to meet those we care about.

 

Positive steps

darkmarked: ”Down with this sort of thing!” ”Careful now!” Father Ted This feels much better!

I’ve been moaning on about the state of things in education for weeks now and doing my own Father Ted-type protest.  (You’d have to have seen the sitcom to know what I’m talking about, but some will know and love it as I do…)

That kind of negativity didn’t sit well with me, though.  It got even worse when the TES published a short article I’d written some weeks ago and still more people started wringing their hands and demanding to know what could be done to stem the flow of cramming-junk-education-into-small-kids-for-political-purposes.  That, of course, is the important question.

So now I’ve stopped protesting and done something positive instead.

Taking my WordPressing skills to their limits, I’ve create a new blog to provide free – and freeing – resources to stressed teachers, disillusioned and worried parents and, of course, home educators.

I only started it last night and already have my first follower!

If you’re interested in ‘this sort of thing’, do head over and take a look.  It’s very small and modest so far, but I’m hoping to grow something lovely, as well as keeping the metafizzing going over on this site, of course!

Here’s the link.

 

 

Down with Education: Bring Back Educetion

No, it isn’t a typo.  There’s a subtle but world-changing difference, you see, in the vowel.

Education comes from the Latin educare – to bring up or train.

Educetion (which I’ve just invented, of course) is derived from the Latin educere – to lead out, to draw from.

See the difference?  In the first, we have malleable individuals who can be trained in whatever way those in authority prefer.  In the second we have innately wise people who, with a sufficiently nurturing environment, can develop and hone their own skills, perhaps in entirely new ways.

Let me give an example of educetion from my own childhood.

Long, long ago, I sat in in a grammar school classroom ready for the first art class of the year with Mr Sutcliffe.  Our group was studying art as a ‘relaxation subject’, timetabled in as a break from the many hours working towards academic A-levels.

Bob Dylan, Musician, Joan Baez, Singer, 1960S, ComposerMy classmates and I had, for the past couple of months, been vicariously enjoying the Summer of Love, via our transistor radios and magazines.  The times, as Dylan had foretold a few years before, were a-changin’.  We were sixth formers now.  We felt ourselves to be groovy and trendy and hip – yet Mr Sutcliffe was about to do something so shocking, so daring, so different, that we would walk out of that room as changed people.

No paints.  No pencils or pastels even.  Just Mr S at the front of the class, holding up a magazine advert for washing powder.

“Persil Washes Whiter!” he boomed.
We stared in confused silence.
“Than WHAT?” he demanded.
He seemed to require a response. We glanced at one another.
“Than – other brands, sir?” one boy suggested, nervously.
“Does it say that?” Sutcliffe snapped back. “Is there proof?”
“No,” we mumbled.
“No,” he agreed, his voice returning to its usual friendly, comfortable tone.
“No.” He sighed sadly. “And yet – just because of things like THIS,” (shaking the magazine page accusingly) “millions of people spend their money on this product rather than another.”

We sat, mesmerised, while Mr Sutcliffe went on to demonstrate, clearly and convincingly, how we – the unsuspecting public – were constantly duped by advertisers, politicians, the media and anyone else with a vested interest in manipulating our minds.  He showed us how colour, design and typefaces created a desired attitude.  He showed us how empty words and clever phrases would place ideas in our minds.  He entreated us to stop and think and avoid being led blindly into behaving as They wanted us to.

“You are wise, intelligent young people,” he said, his voice almost cracking with emotion.  “You have the wit and the ability to make your own choices, to decide whether or not you believe what you are being told.  Be critical.  Be wary.  Be sceptical.  No one has the right – or the ability – to tell YOU what to think!”

Mr Sutcliffe had put his job on the line – even back in those liberal, relatively unmonitored times.  He had not given us an art lesson.  He’d given us educetion.  He’d shown us that we were not empty vessels to be filled with facts and instructions, but autonomous people with the ability to make our own choices.  Such behaviour was unheard of in those days.  We were being trained to be obedient little consumers; that was how capitalism worked.  We were being trained to believe those in authority; that was how politics worked.

Today, of course, things are very different.  Advertising is (somewhat) regulated.  Conspiracy theories and debunking explode from the internet in every direction.  Students in schools are taught critical thinking skills and encouraged to form their own opinions… aren’t they?

Call me sceptical and cynical and so forth if you like, but I was taught by Mr Sutcliffe.  I’ve learned to smell a rat.

Exam, College Students, Library, ReadingThe tide is turning.  Times are a-changin’ again.  Our leaders – fearful that their authority, and even their purpose, are being eroded – are fighting back.  They are being very clever about it, too.

The British education system is being overwhelmed by Junk Learning.  It is imposed by the government.  It isn’t in the National Curriculum – that would be too obvious.  It’s in the tests they are imposing on our children.  If schools want to survive, they need good test scores.  To get good test scores, the teachers must teach what will be tested.  It’s no accident that there has been a sudden leap in the amount of difficult, obscure and downright pointless material primary school children – as young as six – are required to learn and regurgitate on cue.

A recent study found – unsurprisingly – that a group of university academics, even when they were allowed to confer, were unable to complete the tests being given to 10 and 11-year-olds this year.  Needless to say, the stress caused to teachers, parents and children is utterly unacceptable.  Thousands of English parents are planning to ‘strike’ and keep their 6 and 7-year-olds out of school next Tuesday to show their displeasure at the test system.

Man, Suit, Leave, Marker, Text, FontSo why is it there?  Well, I venture to suggest, there are a finite number of hours in the school day.  The more of those hours that are devoted to the rote learning of pointless grammar and complex arithmetic, the less are available for educetion.  Children who are not given the chance to develop their innate talents and creativity, not encouraged to consider alternative viewpoints, not allowed to have any choice in what they study or how they study it will grow up believing themselves to be successes or failures, based on their ability (at the age of eleven) to identify a prepositional phrase or a modal verb or to multiply a fraction by another fraction.

How much easier will it be to manipulate such citizens, broken by a harsh, unreasonable and destructive system, than those who have been empowered to think and reason for themselves?