My amazing son who I'll call J, is two and a half, and was diagnosed soon after birth with a relatively rare genetic condition. We don't yet know how it will affect him as he grows older, but so far he has battled an array of medical problems. One thing's for sure, our little family's life will never be 'normal'...
Like other toddlers diagnosed with a condition that causes delays, my son J has been assigned a teacher to come to our home every month.
I'm honestly not sure of her purpose - if it's to play with him, teach him anything or even just observe and engage with him, that doesn't happen, because every visit seems to be spent lecturing me.Most famously, there was the occasion, about a year ago, where I boasted to Patricia that J understood the word 'no'. I should have known she wouldn't congratulate him or feel my pride - but even I was amazed when she responded firmly: "Oh, you shouldn't be using the word 'No'. I don't believe in saying 'No' to toddlers."
My husband and I laughed about it afterwards - who doesn't use the word 'No' to a toddler? How could you stop them getting into all kinds of danger without it?
If I say J enjoys reading a certain book, she will tell me it's not something a child of his age is ready for yet. If I say how amazing his nursery for children with extra needs is, she tells me the staff there aren't teaching him the right skills. If she brings a toy for him and I know it's one he has and doesn't like and say so, she will insist on getting J to play with it.
The craziest part is that J cannot bear Patricia. In fact, she seems the first person that he really doesn't like. When she comes, with the toys that bore him and her shouty, bossy voice, he falls asleep in my arms (something he never otherwise does in the middle of the morning) or cries until she leaves.
This week's visit was a classic. Patricia had brought along a checklist of skills to assess J's abilities. She asked me to help her fill it in - could he build a tower of seven blocks?
Absolutely, I said, full of pride. I saw him do it all by himself just this week - exactly seven blocks.
"Ah, but I haven't seen him do it," Patricia said. "I can only tick the box if I see him do it."
The same bizarre logic went for J's vocabulary. Patricia wanted to tick the box that J could say 10 words. "But he can say over a hundred words, easily," I butted in.
"But I haven't heard him say that many," she replied. "I do think he would benefit from learning Makaton, so he can communicate with me, even if he speaks with his family and friends."
So we've now been posted the checklist which shows J cannot build a tower or say more than 10 words, all because like any child, J will only be confident and happy enough to speak all his words and build his big towers with people he's comfortable with - and I doubt Patricia will ever be one of them.
Even though she rubs us all up the wrong way, Patricia means well. What annoys me isn't so much the inaccuracy of the checklist but the fact Patricia has written at the top that 'Mum' helped compile it. Had I been truly involved, J would score far more highly!
So why are we putting up with Patricia's visits and assessments? Only in the hope that if J does need a statement of special educational needs, she will arrange one, and help him access any other support he may need in school or nursery.
Having cried throughout the visit, as soon as Patricia closed our front door behind her, J was back to his usual merry self.
"It's OK, she's gone now," I reassured him, and he started chattering away as he normally does.