Sunday, 20 November 2011

Getting Through

Having a conversation yesterday morning about the upcoming 'Austerity Christmas' we're going to have.

My eldest daughter has high-functioning autism (not an Asperger's diagnosis, but she has no learning difficulties other than the anxiety/behavioural issues which prevent her accessing the curriculum on a regular basis). She's almost 14, and capable of quite sophisticated and nuanced discussions about current affairs (apart from those times when all we can elicit from her is a torrent of expletives and slamming doors when we say something she doesn't agree with*).

We discussed with her the fact that I have given up work to ensure that she can maintain her mainstream education, which has pretty much halved the family income over the last 2 years, and that with her dad employed by a local authority, our one income has been frozen for the same period. Next year, he will also lose several thousand pounds due to a job evaluation which downgraded him because he doesn't "deal with the public", which is clearly more important than, say, collating all the data which ensures the authority draws down the correct funding (Me, I'd have thought both functions have equal value, but that's what happens when local authorities buy in to the 'service economy' model - style over substance). As a result, we told her, we will have to be a lot more careful with our expenditure.

M: "You need to get a job, mum"

Me: "I'm trying to get a job, but there aren't that many around and I can't get a job if I'm going to be called out on a regular basis because there's a crisis at school. I'm no good to an employer if I'm always having to take time off or leave work at short notice. It needs to be something that's home-based, so I can work around you, and it needs to be term-time only, as there's no viable childcare."

M: "Well, I'll start to behave, then."

Me: "But you can't always help your behaviour; it's your autism, and it's unpredictable. 

[We did both work full-time during her primary school career, and it nearly broke us. Despite a family-friendly employer and remarkably supportive managers - at least before I was outsourced to the private sector - it was incredibly difficult to sustain. I came to hate Caller ID - seeing the school's number come up brought me out in a cold sweat. It still does, but at least now I don't have to go cap in hand to a boss and ask for permission to disappear - again.]

OH: "There have only been 3 days in the last 2 years when your mum hasn't been available, and on 2 of those, I've had a call from school and have had to leave work to come and take you home. Do you see why it's so difficult for mum to find a suitable job?"

She didn't. Sometimes it's like trying to have a reasoned argument with a government minister.

Hey! Maybe instead of stacking shelves in Tesco on unpaid workfare, there's a future job opportunity for her as an ATOS assessor - she has at least as much knowledge of her medical/psychological condition as they do and has the necessary rigidity of thinking. She probably has too much empathy, though.

* On re-reading this post, I think she could also have a career as a politician - that sounds very much like Cameron response.

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