Introduction to Oslo
I don’t have much free time to look round Oslo, but there’d be no shortage of possibilities if I did. Galleries, museums, Vikings, the Edvard Munch museum, the Nobel Peace Centre, they’re all here – along with the home of the Norwegian Storting (parliament) and a royal palace that seems almost ridiculously available to the public compared with UK security levels. You can walk up and look into the windows, for goodness’ sake.
Of course there’s also the fjord, and a castle, with the most glorious sunset the first day I was there.
And while I’ve been away, Christmas has arrived: classy department stores are offering spicy biscuits as I walk through the doors, the windows are decorated with God Jul greetings and fir trees. There’s a fresh chill in the air and the lights have a bit of added sparkle. Apparently snow is forecast for next week.
I’m really sorry I’ll miss it.
Wednesday 11 November
Icy pavements this morning, which comes as a surprise: I didn’t expect that in a built up area. Bright sunshine though.
I’m on my way to Ullevål Sykehus (the university hospital) to meet people at NevSom – the national competence centre for autism, ADHD, Tourettes and narcolepsy. They are fairly newly combined into one centre, and still feeling their way, but are responsible for advising the Norwegian government on practice and policy around these conditions. I’m met by Sylvi Storvik. who has many years of experience working with autism and Asperger’s, and Knut Halvard Bronder, a specialist in ADHD. They explain the background to the centre, where alongside research, staff work “on the ground” with service providers and parents’ organisations. As the merged teams settle in it’s hoped collaboration and shared awareness across each condition will benefit them all.
I’m sorry not to meet Michael Lensing, my contact here who has been so instrumental in supporting and shaping my trip, but Sylvi and Knut are excellent deputies. And I have no doubt I’ll meet Michael eventually, in Scotland or – who knows? – back in Norway.
My second meeting is with Tor Grønvik, director of information for the folkehøgskole or folk high schools: I won’t say much about this, as I’ll write more in a few weeks. But Tor is enormously helpful in explaining the background and ideology of the folkehogskole concept and its place in the Norwegian experience of transition from childhood to adulthood over the years.
For good measure I’ve fitted in a third meeting today, with Elin Svendsen of the Technical Assistance team in Trondheim. She wasn’t there when I was a few weeks ago, but I’m seizing my opportunity while she’s in Oslo.
If you’re like me, technology is a bit of a closed book. But it’s one of Elin’s passions, and by the time we’ve finished talking, I think it could become one of mine too. There are so many developments, from apps to planning tools to smart houses, and as Elin explains how they can transform life for people with conditions like Asperger’s, ADHD and Tourette’s I find myself sharing her enthusiasm. A lot can be achieved using equipment many young people already have, and training in how to use these more effectively can be a huge support to living more independently.
My first day in Oslo has been very full, but what a lot of good things!
Thursday 12 November
My last day in Norway. I can hardly believe it, although when I think back to the first few days in Trondheim it feels like I’ve been here for ages. I’ve met so many people, gathered so much information and gained so much, personally and professionally, from this trip.
I head out in the morning fog to a hotel near the airport, where a conference of the national Tourette’s association is taking place. In fact it sounds like a series of mini conferences over several days, as Liv Irene Nøstvik, the association’s CEO, and chair Anne-Line Gausdal have already been here for most of the week and will welcome families and young people at the weekend.
I spend a few hours with Liv Irene and Anne-Line, who as well as being knowledgeable and passionate campaigners are also a lot of fun. They make a good team. One thing that comes through loud and clear is how often they, like we, find it’s those who live with conditions that know far more about the latest research, therapies and practice than many of the professionals who are their gateway to advice and support. That isn’t to the professionals’ discredit: as Liv Irene says, the average family doctor or even psychiatrist will only encounter a small number of young people with Tourette’s, and no one can be an expert in every condition.
But, she says, if that’s so, why is it so difficult for associations such as hers to be taken seriously within the health and education professions?
She’s right, of course. You would think, confronted with an unfamiliar condition or situation, any professional would include those with the most experience of it in their discussions around appropriate action.
One more meeting in the afternoon, this time with Tove Olsen and Eldri Essen Ytterland of Autismforeningen Norge, the association of parents’ groups, and my trip is all but over.
I travel back into central Oslo on the metro and join the commuters on Karl Johans Gate. I decide to treat myself to a meal in the nicest restaurant I can find. Churchill would have approved, I think.
Postscript: Friday 13 November
Clouds. I never get tired of them.
It’s been a packed schedule for the last 3 weeks but I don’t feel tired in the least. If life was like this all the time I’d be the happiest bunny in the burrow.
The hardest part will be pulling it all together. What do I include, and how? What do I leave out? How do I do justice to the people who have met with me, talked to me, given me their thoughts and opinions, and shared their personal stories?
I’m a firm believer that nothing is ever wasted. Everything is there, and at the right time it will all find its place.
So thank you, but not yet a final thank you, to everyone who’s supported me this trip and I’m looking forward as much as you to seeing what comes out of it!