Cheetahs In My Shoes

living with the imaginary menagerie and all that it entails



The Cheetah Keeper’s Sister gets homework from school every week.  It’s a weekend chore joy as we extend her learning from the previous week off to an extra dimension.  This is (obviously) in addition to her 10 spellings she needs to learn, her piano practice (which she loves and is also brilliant occupational therapy and physiotherapy for her finger and postural muscles) and as much gross motor skill physiotherapy as we can squeeze in.

The homework topics are varied – ‘numeracy’ (‘sums’ in old school speak), ‘literacy’ (yep, writing), drawing, researching and talking about stuff.

This term’s highlights have included finding out about her favourite animal, drawing it and making a fact sheet about it (sealions, obviously), talking about how to resolve conflict at home with siblings or with friends, researching then writing and drawing about the signs and symptoms of tropical diseases (yes, really – I left the death statistics out) and this week learning a tongue twister off by heart.

She doesn’t find any of these easy.  Her Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome makes holding her pen hard – it’s tiring and it hurts.  She has to work to make her eyes track together to follow what she’s doing.  She finds ‘sounding out’ words difficult because she has difficulty saying them in the first place and getting everything in the right order is a constant challenge.

She didn’t really talk until she was 3 and a half.  Her oro-facial muscles and her tongue weren’t strong enough to be able to form the right shapes to make the sounds and she stammered.  Speech and Language Therapy got things going and she now has a comprehensive vocabulary and is pretty easy to understand – unless she’s tired or ill when it becomes all a bit slurred and garbled.  The stammer returns when she’s trying to answer a complex question quickly.

We were discharged from the Speech and Language team with a letter that said that there were still issues that needed resolving and a subtext that there were other children far worse off and they didn’t really have the budget to deal with an Ehlers-Danlos related issue.   So we trundle on and at the moment are trying to ascertain whether her problems with sounding out words and speech are educational or medical.  Obviously neither party wants it to fall under their watch so much faffing is going on and not much progress is being made or support offered.  It’s down to me to keep pushing and liaising and chasing and applying pressure so that she gets the help she really needs.

Back to the homework – She Sells Sea Shells on the Sea Shore.

These are all sounds that she finds difficult to produce on a ‘normal’ day – let alone having to stand up and recite the full tongue twister in front of her class.  To me it shouts that her teacher has not considered her needs/underlying issues AT ALL.

Would you genuinely set a piece of homework that a child, with a named medical condition and a set Individual Education Plan would find nigh on impossible?  Do you expect them to ‘raise their game’ above and beyond what their body can do?  Or will you expect them to ‘perform’ like everyone else, stand up and humiliate themselves in front of their peers?

Alternatively you could think about the needs of that child and find an alternative tongue twister that meets the needs of the topic but doesn’t destroy that child’s confidence?

This week I’m not going to force her to complete her homework.  She’s got an extra art project tomorrow (fine motor skill challenge), a school trip on Wednesday to the Science Museum (uber exciting, uber tiring), her class assembly on Thursday (with lines to learn) and then allegedly to deliver her homework in front of her class on Friday.

IF her teacher says that she has to miss part of her ‘Golden Time’ (free play) on Friday because that homework’s not completed I will be up at school making my opinions very clear.  Fighting over not doing homework?  Yes.  If that’s what it takes.  Because sometimes you have to think around ‘normal’ to make sure everyone’s got an equal chance.

What would you do?

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Author: Jenny

Life, photos and recipes mixed with family life, additional medical needs and a whole load of imaginary friends

10 thoughts on “Homework

  1. Oooh Jen. Ehlers is a new one on me. Would you consider adding it to my Learning Differences Fb Page/Blog Tab? Will DM you details.

    Annnnyway, great post. Totally agree, and have to admit to getting really brassed-off reading soo many parents’ stories where they need to go into battle for their kids like this. I get frustrated where kids DON’T have a named medical condition and an IEP let alone for those that DO. I mean, it’s a no-brainer isn’t it? IEP + Supportive Parents should = A Win for the Child.

    My youngest doesn’t have a named condition or an IEP but is erm … unique! She has been on a behaviour chart since Nursery (so considering she is finishing Y1 now, that’s not really working then?) Her goal the other week was to “sit still on the carpet” – might as well ask her to scale the north face of the Eiger … have you MET my daughter?

    I’m “burning my bra” about this stuff over on LearningDifferences, so please dig out an old “thousand-wash-grey” one with baggy elastic, and join me! (Good luck scrum) x

    • Happy to help spread the word – there’s a load of stuff on the Links page on here if you want to link to that as well. I’ve been into school and had a word today – and was met with only understanding and support from the management team. It’s just so HARD (and I don’t want to alienate folk – hence a ridiculous amount of cake baking and piano playing for school goes on) – but you have to keep fighting, and fighting…. it’s taken until almost the end of Yr 2 to get her the Health Plan that she needs. Bra burning – yes, in between the meetings and the appointments…

  2. Goodness me, that tongue twister is a big ask for anyone let alone someone who has speech co-ordination issues. F’s speech is unclear for very similar reasons, he cannot get the mouth to move as he wants and also his tongue does not move other than out due to the muscle ataxia… I would consider it cruel if they assumed he should do it and god forbid they considered taking his ‘Golden time’ away for something he could not help! I dread homework. We struggle to get F to do reading at home, when he is too tired there is no point he does not try and figits and I hate having to tell school we have been unable to complete it – luckily his teacher is lovely and the seem to get his capabilities. So hope you don’t have to find your Mamma bear hat on friday!

    • I’m hoping that the quiet word I had today will help. It’s taken us a long time to crack reading with her – although the CK is getting there faster – as long as we tell him he’s being a word detective and has to solve all the clues to work out the story! Because she goes to be so early (6.30-7ish) and she’s so tired after school it’s a constant juggle to fit everything in – and whichever health professional we see will always want us spending more time on their discipline. We shall see what comes of it… xx

  3. I’m guessing that the teacher didn’t even think beyond ticking off the topic. So many kids have speech issues at this age that I doubt special consideration has been given to how excruciating such things can be for children, especially if they are conscious of how they speak. I guess the point of getting everyone to do tongue twisters is to prove how hard they are? Or is it just a memory thing? I’m sure Alice won’t be alone. I would give the teacher the benefit of the doubt this time (think of it as a learning experience), but after you’ve had a word, I would then expect consideration to be given if the situation arose again.

    As for fitting everything in, I play a delicate juggling act of lying about what I achieve and laughing when they ask me to fit something more in. You have to pick your moments so you still appear compliant, but you still have some life. Seriously, could you imagine if I attempted to do all Elliot, Lilia and Dominic’s therapies in the small amount of time that we have in the evenings… and that’s before homework, after school clubs etc etc. Having a life ranks just as high as achieving targets set by the various therapists x

    • you mean you don’t get all the therapies in every day 😉 ? oh how you disappoint me 😉 life is definitely winning at the moment and we shall see what happens after half term. I think I found this all a *bit* frustrating seeing as we’d only had a meeting the week before talking about speech and language and the sounds she finds difficult. There’s lots of other niggles festering at the moment – and I’m quite sure there are other children that this will affect – and I’m not sure it’s fair on them either… x

  4. But surely the teacher wouldn’t force her to do that, knowing that she will have problems with it?? If she does, then she’s incredibly inconsiderate. I’d have a word before Friday. But then, you’re always having to ‘have a word’ with someone aren’t you? Thank God she’s got a mother who is prepared to stand up for her!

  5. I know what you mean about having to keep going in and ‘having words’ sometimes you don’t know when to leave things alone, when you need to defend your child and when you feel you just might be rubbing them all up the wrong way and actually making the situation worse. I am constantly facing these battles with our school. I also find it incredibly frustrating because I know I can do this, and our school is, on the whole, very good and very supportive, but it must be awful for people who are not so able to advocate for their child or where the school is not so accomodating. I’m glad you had a word and they seem helpful.

    • It’s a really hard balance. Thankfully the words seem to have gone in the right direction and we’ve got a plan. I try to go in on the “I know there are 2 sides to every story” line and see where that takes me – but yes, for those without someone to advocate… it makes me sad xxx

Thank you for your comments! The Cheetahs and I really appreciate them.

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