Halfway Day (or Schedules, scones, and screaming)

Today marks the halfway point of the summer holidays for us: it’s day 20 of 40. It feels like much longer. The words I’m seeing from other adopters are ‘relentless’ and ‘incessant’. These words are used all year round, of course, but the summer seems to amplify those feelings because culturally it is supposed to be a holiday. It isn’t. It’s six weeks of dysregulated children being given nice things and days out and not appreciating any of it and telling you what a horrible person you are. All. Day. Long.

halfway-day

There are those parents who look forward to the summer holidays as a time to frolic in the sun with their little cherubs, picnicking on home-grown houmous and organic mini-quiches, unfettered by the constraints of the school run. Good for them.

I am not one of these parents.

As I have mentioned ad infinitum, I have a schedule. This is what keeps us all on the right side of sanity. (Just.) Anything remotely unfettered causes meltdowns for them and more stress for me.

Screaming: a day in the life

This weekend we tried the frolicsome picnic thing – well, as near to frolicsome as we get. We took our picnic to a National Trust place with huge grounds, headed straight for a picnic bench and got started on lunch. Barely two bites into her artisanal organic roll pizza bread, Joanna started a strop, saying she wanted to live on her own in the woods (a favourite idea of hers when she is overwhelmed by the idea of family). We had no idea what had triggered it, so I put down my quinoa salad pork pie and took her aside for a chat.

She continued. Suicide threats. Wanting to see what children’s homes are like so she could think about living there instead. Hating her sister. Being extremely jealous of Charlotte’s new second-hand-from-eBay bed. (Joanna was given a brand new desk at the same time, something she has wanted for ages. This was not enough, obviously we love Charlotte more, etc.) I listened and let her get it all out of her system. I didn’t have anything much to say apart from a bit of PACE-esque wondering about why she thought she’d be better off without us and what she thought that would be like.

Once she’d finished, we rejoined the others, and the meal continued, with regular ‘sensory breaks’ – ie sending them to run around a tree, push against a tree, do press-ups, etc. That worked really well for Charlotte, who is unable to sit still for long. But not Joanna. She was determined to stay angry.

Stopping and listening

After the picnic – which was curtailed after another dose of insults from Joanna – we carried on. The plan had been to do a ‘Gruffalo trail’ which was set up all around the grounds. But following someone else’s route and activities was not to madam’s liking, so we abandoned that for a while to let them run off and make dens in the hedges while we had a sneaky cream tea. Hurrah.

Eventually we finished the trail and got them into the car, where Stephen Fry’s reading of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone worked its magic on them again. This has been one of the successes of this holiday. I thoroughly recommend trying Audible if you haven’t given it a go yet.

The Harry Potter books are particularly good value via Audible because they’re so long – on a monthly subscription each credit is £7.99, so it works out much cheaper than buying them without a subscription (and you still get to keep your books even if you cancel). The first one is nearly nine hours. The second one, which I bought today, is more than ten hours. HELLO, calmer journeys and mealtimes. I am sold.

(Yes, this is an affiliate link. To – if you choose Harry Potter – at least NINE FREE HOURS of audiobook. You’re welcome.)

The schedule: does it help?

There are a few places where we’ve deviated from the schedule – mainly because of the weather, which has meant swapping some of the days around – but otherwise it is working well. My definition of ‘working well’ means that the activities are happening and at least one member of the family is deriving a modicum of pleasure from them. (See how my standards have fallen!) The girls are used to consulting it to see what’s happening, and if that saves just a handful of meldowns and ‘Muuuuuummmm’s then it’s worth the effort. So yes, it helps.

What’s next?

This week we have five days of childcare, one day scheduled for shoe and uniform-shopping, and one initial visit to Joanna’s new psychotherapist (more of that anon).

Next week is a hodgepodge of days out with grandparents, bribing incentivising the children to help clean the house, a sprinkling of sanity-saving activities, and packing. On the Friday we are Yorkshire-bound for our ‘holiday’.

For the last week of the holidays we will be based in the Dales, where I will be spending a couple of days at self-care camp (exciting!) and the rest of the time with Pete and the girls. They usually find being away from home hard, so I anticipate plenty of dysregulation and stress all round. There should just about be time on the Sunday to squeeze in a transition visit to school before they go back on the Monday. Aaaaand breathe.

How is your summer going? Can anyone report back from the new school year and tell us it’s going to be OK? 😉 Let me know in the comments.

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6 sensory activities for summer

The end-of-term transition anxiety has kicked in here this week. The dysregulation has moved up several notches. Both the girls are tired. There have been lots of tears and slammed doors and shouting about how terrible we are followed by apologies and more tears and cuddles and a bit more wailing and then calm (more-or-less). Time to break out a few more of my tried and tested sensory activities to see us through to the end of term and into the holidays.

6-sensory-activities-for-summer

Note: this is an update of a post I wrote last summer. This stuff works really well for us, so I’m sharing it again.

Around here, as in many adoptive families, holidays are hard work, especially the first few days of adjustment to the different routines. Joanna (8) and Charlotte (7) both have sensory issues caused by their early experiences: Joanna’s are primarily aural (oversensitivity to sound and a fear of loud noises), while Charlotte’s are mainly oral (she likes to chew things – toys, clothes, books – and is very fussy about food and will not countenance the idea of a raw tomato within five feet of her plate). Both are also quite fidgety and love to fiddle with things – to self-soothe because of attachment-related anxiety.

Enter the list of sensory activities to help them stay regulated, happy little sausages during the holidays. You’ll note that all of these are of the uncomplicated ‘buy it and get on with it’ variety, rather than Pinterest-worthy creations that require you to spend a week crocheting the shoelaces of elves first. The only one that requires any advance preparation is number 4, but that’s just putting some stuff in the freezer overnight. Job done.

1: Beads

The beads are a great calming activity – the sorting and threading and concentrating works beautifully to help them stay regulated. Seriously – it’s amazing. I have rarely seen them so calm! As long as there are enough of each type to go around and sibling rivalry doesn’t kick in, all is well. This particular set was £6.00 from Tesco and has kit for four necklaces with lots of beads left over. I haven’t been able to find it there this year but there are similar kits on Amazon (try the WINOMO Alphabet beads or Melissa and Doug Deluxe Wooden Bead Set).

2: Playdough/Plasticine/FIMO

An oldie but a goodie – give them a supply of dough, cutters and rolling pins and let them do their thing. (All you have to do is watch it get trodden into the carpet.) Nice and tactile for those who enjoy that sensation and/or the creative possibilities. Alternatively, our OT recommends the gloop made by mixing cornflour and water. It’s great for making fingers work harder and giving that feedback their muscles need.

3: Baking

Basically an edible version of the previous idea – adding an extra sensory experience into the mix. Use a simple biscuit recipe and let them go mad with the cutters, or for a treat try my chocolate cake recipe. (This cake is EPIC and also completely foolproof.)

chocolate-cake-small.jpg

4: Frozen archeology

A great idea for hot weather. Take some of their plastic toys and freeze them in a big container of water (with food colouring or a bit of orange squash in to hide the toys if you want), then give them a spoon to perform their archaeological dig! This activity provides new tactile experiences to keep sensory-seekers interested and can be combined with playing in a paddling pool for extra entertainment! Joanna and Charlotte love this.

sensory-activities-for-summer

5: Water

Charlotte completely lights up with joy when she’s in a swimming pool, and it’s a full-on immersive sensory experience, so our girls have a fortnight of swimming lessons every summer. But if that’s not an option, then a middle-of-the-day bath can work, especially if you colour the water with food colouring. In hot weather, the classic run-through-the-sprinkler game reliably produces a lot of shrieking and giggling in our garden. In hot weather we sometimes peg out a tarpaulin on the grass and squirt washing-up liquid or bubble bath on it. We then put the hose at the top end (our garden is on a slight slope). The girls love to slide down the slope and get covered in bubbles, then rinse off in the paddling pool. (Don’t have a tarpaulin? Grab one from camping shops or from Amazon here for under £6.50.)

Our garden bubble-slide.

6: Masking tape racetrack

This one needs a roll of masking tape (washi tape works well too) and some Matchbox-type cars. The first time we did it I designed a course for them myself, but Joanna added her own modifications. I like to include plenty of obstacles to make it more of a sensory experience. We have cushions to drive over, maybe a beanbag mountain, a cardboard tube tunnel, whatever we happen to have in the recycling box at the time. I find that the girls’ attention span increases when they can use the tape themselves after I’ve done the basic layout. They also enjoy using lots of props (e.g. people, trees and buildings from their train set and toy farm).

Racetrack

An early prototype

I hope you find these helpful during the holidays. If you you have other sensory play ideas I’d love to hear about them. Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Headspin: an update

How do other adoptive parents juggle all the stuff that we are expected to cope with? How does anyone cope with all the advocacy and admin and energy required for parenting two or more children with additional needs of any kind? This week I am really feeling the resulting headspin. My brain has way too many tabs open – too much stuff pending. Too many forms, and emails, and meetings, and phone calls.

headspin

As we hurtle towards half term (how did that happen? It was only Easter ten minutes ago), here’s what’s going on with us.

SEBD school visit

As I’ve mentioned previously, Joanna’s needs are not being met in her mainstream primary school, and she needs an alternative placement. Following the EHCP review, we visited our first SEBD school. I asked most of my questions. The school was good – lots of evidence of good strategies in place for helping the children with self-regulation, lots of breakout spaces for children to use to calm down, staff whose job it is to track children around the premises and help them to return to where they are supposed to be, that sort of thing. The OT facilities were particularly impressive. We liked the headteacher. But I had an uneasy feeling, and I haven’t quite put my finger on the reason.

The boarding dilemma

Part of it is about boarding. We’ve said we’d like to consider weekly boarding. I’m still torn about the boarding side of things – we need the respite, it means fewer transitions and long car journeys for Joanna, but she is still only eight years old, and I don’t want her to think of it as a rejection. When the person showing us round the school said ‘And here’s where we teach them to do their own laundry’ I had to take some deep breaths as I thought about what is in effect someone else parenting my child during the week and her learning all those little steps towards independence from someone else. Once we’d left the school I may have had a bit of a cry about that. Trying to put my feelings aside and focus on what is in Joanna’s best interests is a bit harder than I thought. Turns out I feel pretty horrible about asking for respite when it means my little girl living somewhere else. I need to get over not being able to meet all her needs myself, however much I’d like to. That’s hard. I don’t understand my own thoughts and feelings about it all. How can I be jealous of someone else getting to do that stuff with her and for her and yet at the same time be asking for respite because I am finding it so hard myself?

So. We still have at least two more schools to visit, but I haven’t booked them yet. There’s so much processing to do; so much else going on; so much psyching myself up for it all needs to happen.

Risk assessment

A few weeks back, as well as scaling a 7-foot wall and escaping from school, there was an incident where (a) Joanna ran away from home, (b) we tackled her to the ground in the park after 40 minutes of not-quite-chasing her; (c) a couple saw us grab her, heard her scream and assumed we were abducting her; (d) said couple called the police; (e) I pre-emptively emailed  school and PAS; and (e) the police came round to talk (supportively) about it all. PAS subsequently came out to do a risk assessment to help move things along in terms of the support they can offer. The idea is that by illustrating the constant need for us to be risk-assessing all the possible moves the girls might make, the CPV, the risk of various types of self-harm and putting themselves in dangerous situations… they can justify providing us with respite and putting pressure on the SEN team to speed up the school placement business.

Occupational Therapy

Meanwhile the OT has started working with Charlotte. (A full year after the OT assessment was done, but let’s leave that rant for another day.) Today she is in school talking to the teachers about both girls. She’s also doing an observation of Joanna as part of her assessment. Said assessment will form part of the paperwork for the EHCP review, which should support our case to get appropriate help for her. Obviously the funding isn’t yet in place for the OT to work with Joanna as well, but apparently PAS are working on it.

CAMHS

Joanna is still on the waiting list – that’s 8 months since her assessment. Charlotte is on the waiting list to get an appointment to be assessed. Not even a date for the initial consultation yet. Don’t hold your breath.

Alternative psychotherapy

Joanna’s previous therapist (whose funding didn’t get renewed in the LA handover debacle) has recommended that Joanna have EMDR therapy which sounds a bit strange at first but seems to get great results. An ASF application for funding went in two months ago. PAS are supposed to be chasing it and/or funding it themselves. Again, no news.

FASD assessment

We continue to pursue an FASD assessment for Charlotte. The paediatrician has bounced it back to the GP with a permissions form for us to complete. Sounds straightforward, but they expect us to sign to say that we’ll accept the panel’s verdict about what happens next, which could mean Charlotte actually seeing the paediatrician, but could be them sending us on a parenting course. That is one of the options they can prescribe and if we sign the form, we’re saying that’s acceptable, which it isn’t. Obviously. I’m very much up for any course that is FASD-specific, but not as an alternative to actually seeing a medical professional who can make a diagnosis. So we haven’t signed, and the school nurse is having a conversation with the GP about it all. Again, no news for a week or so. I’m expecting a call any day.

The book

After a ridiculously long hiatus which we’ll put down to ‘dealing with life’, I’m resuming work on my self-care book. (Hurrah.) This week I’ve completed a first draft of the first chapter and have sent it to some agents I’m meeting next month. (If I say that quickly it doesn’t sound as scary.) More details will follow, and there will almost certainly be more requests for people to be case studies for various aspects of self-care in the weeks/months to come. Watch this space.

Self-care

I between all this, I have my now annual self-care week – a solo trip to soak up some restorative mountain views, sleep, practise my excruciatingly poor German language skills, shut down a few of those headspin-inducing tabs for a whole, and generally be Hannah, not just mum. That’s coming up in a couple of weeks, or to be precise (not that I’m counting…)

I. Cannot. Wait.

Peace! Sachertorte! Mountains! Strudel! Maybe the occasional yodel… I am so thankful for the airmiles that Pete clocks up with work.

So in the next 24 hours I’ll be sticking my Teach Yourself German cassettes on again (‘Ist der Garten schön? Ja, der Garten ist schön…’) and battening down the hatches for half term. I hope yours is a (relatively) peaceful one.

PS I’m sorry if you’re sick of seeing this on Twitter. But I’d be so grateful if you could spare a minute to vote for me in the #BiBs awards if you like what I have to say about the importance of self-care for adoptive parents. Thanks.


BEFORE YOU GO…

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30 questions to ask SEBD schools

Having started the fight to get Joanna into a specialist school in the last couple of weeks, we’re keen to keep up the momentum and arm ourselves with plenty of first-hand knowledge from Actual Visits so we can make the best possible case to the SEN panel. And here is where it begins: my 30 questions to ask SEBD schools.

They want paperwork, they’re going to get paperwork. I’m going to write a masterpiece comparing and contrasting the various options. Bring it on.

30 Questions To Ask SEBD Schools

To recap: we’re looking for a specialist SEBD (social, emotional and behavioural difficulties) school for our eight-year-old daughter, Joanna. Her current mainstream primary school can’t meet her needs or cope with her dysregulation and violence. We are struggling at home  with both girls’ CPV and fighting each other. (Read more about our CPV experience here.) There have also been a couple of running away incidents lately – one from school and one from home. Arrrgh.

We’ve just had an EHCP review (brought forward after a rash of exclusions for violence last term) and although we had a good argument for a particular school based on a lot of Googling and scouring of websites, we agreed that we also need to visit the three schools under discussion in order to make an even more informed choice.

30 questions to ask SEBD schools

We’re going to see the first school (our current first choice) this week. I’ve been thinking up questions. Here’s my list so far.

The home–school relationship

1) How do you keep in touch with parents?

2) How frequent are communications – not just about academic progress, but behavioural and general comments in what’s going on for her?

3) What does the partnership with parents look like in terms of consistent strategies around behaviour to make sure Joanna receives the same messages at home and school?

Academic issues

4) How does the transition from mainstream work? What would that look like for Joanna?

5) What would the year 4 timetable look like for Joanna?

6) How do you measure academic progress?

Therapy and behavioural issues

7) What therapies are available on site?

8) Are class teachers/TAs trained in issues relating to early trauma?

9) What proportion of the pupils come from a similar background?

10) Would she miss lessons for therapy? How does that work?

11) Is therapy delivered 1:1 or in groups?

12) Joanna has been working happily in class for 90 minutes and is then given a maths question that she can’t immediately work out. Her self-esteem is threatened and she suddenly becomes angry, shouting, throwing a chair at someone and running out of the room. In your school, what happens next?

13) Do you have much sensory OT work incorporated into the classroom?

14) What are your expectations of her? What happens if she fails to met your expectations?

15) What measures do you have in place to stop her running away?

Boarding

16) What is in place for keeping in touch with Joanna during the week? Can she call us?

17) What routines are in place in the mornings and evenings?

18) Who would be looking after Joanna in the mornings and evenings? Can we meet them?

19) What happens if she’s ill?

20) Can we see what the rooms are like?

Social skills

21) What help is available to Joanna for developing social skills, building friendships, etc?

22) What are the male/female ratios in her year group? In the school overall?

23) Are there any extra-curricular activities available (eg football, chess, drama)?

24) Joanna really struggles with transitions. What do you have in place to help with different types of transitions (on a daily basis, between school years, and from primary to secondary)?

25) What behavioural issues is she likely to learn from other pupils? What are the main issues they face?

Securing a place

26) If we really want Joanna to come here, what are the arguments you’d recommend us putting to the LA in the EHCP review paperwork?

27) What’s your relationship like with the LA’s SEND team?

28) Do you have any other advice for navigating the system?

29) How competitive is your admissions process?

30) What do you think is the school’s best selling point?

More questions

These 30 questions are just a starting point. I’d love to hear other people’s, especially if you’ve navigated this process already or are doing it at the moment. Is there anything you think I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments or on social media (see below).


BEFORE YOU GO…

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  • You can also sign up here to receive my monthly newsletter. It contains my recent blog posts, my favourite adoption-related blog posts by others, and relevant resources from around the web.
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How to find an SEBD school: the fight begins

Where on earth do you start when you realise your child’s behaviour has reached a point where you need to accept a label of SEBD (social, emotional and behavioural difficulties) or SEMH (social, emotional, and mental health) issues and start to find an SEBD school?

This is where we now find ourselves.

The latest fight for the right support has begun.

How To Find an SEBD School

Monday: transition planning

On Monday, we had an INSET day. It’s now an established routine for us to visit school on the last day of the holidays to help with the transition back, so we did that. The girls took their PE kits in and hung them on their pegs, reclaiming their spaces. We traipsed into the classrooms and said hello to the teachers.

And then the teachers kept them occupied for half an hour while we talked to the head about the transition back, particularly about how Joanna was going to handle it after her three-day exclusion for violence at the end of last term. We explained that she was not in a good place mentally, because her learning support assistant is changing to a job-share arrangement with a second person; she was worried what others in her class would say about The Incident and her exclusion; and she had heard a rumour that her ‘boyfriend’ (yes, they are only eight years old) was now pursuing the girl in her class of whom she is jealous. (This girl is clever. She’s calm. People aren’t frightened of her.)

And then we discussed the forthcoming EHCP review. The head had sent us the paperwork a few days before, and we took our draft in to show her. Her comments on the form had included the question of whether her current (mainstream primary) school was able to meet her needs. In other words: they are not coping. Joanna is only in the class half the time; the other half is spent elsewhere with her LSA, either trying to head off a meltdown they have seen brewing, or calming down after they didn’t manage to stop it. They don’t have the space or specialist training to handle her level of violence. It’s just not safe. More of this in a moment.

Tuesday: the latest incident

They went back to school. Pete went off to work. I started on my own work. And then at 10.30 my mobile rang. I always have a sense of dread when I see that it’s school.

‘Hi, it’s Amy from the school office. Joanna’s just jumped over the school wall [which has a 7ft drop the other side] and we think she might be heading home – could you walk this way and keep a look out for her?’

Gaaaaahhh.

It’s a ten-minute walk to school that is pretty much field all the way. This is all very bucolic and safe in theory, but there are little copses of trees and a river and plenty of child-snatching opportunities for those so inclined. I walked our usual route with my eyes on stalks. As I approached the school I saw Joanna’s LSA. I called out ‘Do you know where she is?’ She shrugged and gestured around the corner. It was at this point I did start to seriously worry. I went in that direction, doing a full circuit of the school before getting back to the school gate.

And then I finally saw Joanna, in the school garden, shouting and screaming at the headteacher. I’ll take that over being run over or kidnapped.

I went in. I got screamed at too. Joanna was full-on dysregulated. She threw a bucket at me. I caught it. She threw a handful of grass cuttings at the head. I could read the head – she wanted me, ‘the Joanna expert’, to take charge. I could read Joanna. She needed me to. So within ten minutes, I had got her from full-on rage to sitting at a picnic bench doing Lego. The staff all went inside, and Joanna and I had a chat. I did some Lego too, sitting beside her, deliberately not making eye contact and trying to look absorbed in what I was making.

‘So, I see something’s been really difficult for you this morning. I wonder what that was.’

‘The classroom’s all different. They gave me a SPAG test and I’d already done it before and it was boring. And I had Mrs X [the usual LSA] and they said it was going to be Mrs Y [the new one]. That’s why I’m cross.’

‘Yeah, that’s not what I was expecting today either. I’m not surprised you’re cross. I understand.’

And then after a few more minutes of Lego, I walked her back to her classroom. The head and deputy head were waiting. We went to the head’s office and the head started asking her questions. ‘What happened? What can we do you help you?’ Joanna squirmed on my lap. This was too much for her.

‘It would help Joanna if we could talk in statements rather than questions at the moment, please. Questions will be too overwhelming for her.’

The others took this in. I explained what Joanna had told me outside – all the unexpected things that had upset her. They nodded. Then Joanna piped up that she needed a printed timetable, like she’d had in Year 2. (I thought she still had this. Why do they remove stuff that’s working?) They nodded. I asked Joanna if she still had her mindfulness colouring book that helps her calm down. ‘No, I finished it.’ I whipped out my phone and she chose one from Amazon on the spot. (I tried not to do my ‘look, it really is this easy’ face. The head showed me the list of half a dozen children who Joanna had injured during her meltdown. I was already picturing the lynching I was going to get at the school gate.

After a bit more discussion about what helps her, I took her back to her classroom. Her LSA was nowhere to be seen, so I stayed with Joanna in her maths lesson for 45 minutes until she reappeared. And then I walked home, calling Pete en route. Not quite the restorative day of peace and quiet I was hoping for.

Wednesday: the debrief

Pete and I dropped the girls at school. We went in to see the head and discuss Tuesday’s events without the presence of small ears. She said she was desperately concerned about her ability to (a) keep Joanna safe if she was intent on scaling walls, and (b) keeping the other children safe is Joanna was going to start attacking them when she became dysregulated (previously she has always gone for staff, not children). She asked us for ideas. We said we’d told her everything we knew already.

Thursday: the sensory assessment

Joanna’s sensory assessment at 10.00am. For which we received seven forms to complete at 7.00 am. I managed two before the OT arrived. This was fine. The OT was amazing. She took a brief rundown from us and then had Joanna crawling through a Lycra tunnel, throwing a ball at a target, and drawing a picture of herself. She picked up things that no-one had spotted before, such as hypermobile joints in her hands which would make writing harder work than average (which would explain why she finds English frustrating, as her super-creative brain is streets ahead of her ability to write for long periods of time).

Friday: the EHCP review

And then the day we’ve been anticipating for a few weeks. The EHCP review. We’d already spent upwards of six hours on the paperwork and the research. Everyone assembled: us, the headteacher, the class teacher, our social worker (well, technically it was our social worker’s manager, but we see more of her these days because we are those parents who advocate loudly), an SEN officer from the LA, and our EP’s manager (because our EP doesn’t do Fridays).

We did introductions. I put a framed photo of Joanna on the table in front of me and Pete. There was half an hour of general waffle to start with. I wanted to cut to the chase. I brought up the issue of school not coping and the head’s suggestion of alternative provision. Boom. Let’s get this going.

The head then spoke about Tuesday’s incident and her fear that Joanna was going to seriously injure herself or another child. The concern that she is really bright and still meeting her targets despite missing half the lessons, but how she could be achieving so much more with the right support. And then the issue of other schools was in play. Bring it on.

How to Find an SEBD school

It was Joanna’s former therapist who suggested a specialist boarding school. We had considered it before in a moment of ‘it’s this or disruption’, but having it suggested by a professional made it feel like it was something we were officially sanctioned to investigate. So I came home from our meeting with her and Googled ‘boarding schools for violent children’. Bingo.

Straight away I found one that sounded amazing. They had lots of looked-after and formerly-looked-after children there. They understood about early trauma and the reasons behind behaviour like Joanna’s. All the psychotherapists and OTs and facilities were available on-site, and these were an integral part of school life. And they took both day pupils and boarders on a weekly or termly basis.

When we had the meeting with our current headteacher on Monday, I gave her a printout of the school prospectus. Pete and I spelt out all the reasons why it looked like a great option for Joanna. The head agreed, but named two other state-run SEBD schools that the LA would be bound to prefer, primarily on cost grounds.

We went home and looked those up too. There was a lot of scouring of websites, learning of the SEBD jargon, reading of policies and comparing and contrasting. The LA-run schools don’t really compare. One has a behaviour policy with which children must comply. Um, hold on. Where is the mention of trauma-informed care?

The non-maintained school is closer, despite being outside of our LA. It is more specialist in terms of understanding early trauma. It takes boarders, which is a big deal for us as it would give us some respite from Joanna’s violence (though we’d still have Charlotte’s to deal with) and allow their needs to be met individually instead of as a package deal. This would also be great for Joanna, who finds transitions really hard. And one of the key selling points for us: this school take pupils from primary age right through to 18. So we’d avoid yet another transition to secondary school.

The EHCP again

We presented these arguments at the EHCP review. Alternatives were suggested. We’d done our homework and explained why the alternatives were not as good. Obviously, people mentioned the issue of The Cost. I played my trump card: a marvellous piece of research: the NASS cost comparison report. What a beauty.

This document (honestly, I could kiss it) examines the cost of non-maintained special schools against equivalent packages of support when provided by the LA. And it comes out in favour of the non-maintained schools, which offer a holistic approach, take out the stress of patching together a package of support, and are often cheaper than LA provision, especially when weekly boarding is weighed against the cost of daily transport.

And, to our immense frustration, the conversation suddenly finished when the SEN officer stood up and said his car was parked at Sainsbury’s and he had to go. What, is our daughter not worth the £1.60 it costs to park in the public car park right outside? Me and Pete were Not Pleased. Anyway, he left and the lovely EP manager told us exactly what we need to do to get the SEN board to agree to our choice of school. She’s been on very similar boards and knows the system.

#win. Take that, Mr SEN Officer. .

What next?

Mrs EP Manager has told us to visit all three schools under discussion. Great. We didn’t have time to do this before the meeting, so our analysis was all based on the websites. But lining up a few visits is no problem. Then she advised us to write a thorough comparison, based on our visits as well as our reading. It carries more weight if we write from that perspective. It’ll also help if Joanna writes something to submit, explaining why her current school isn’t meeting her needs. (This will be tricky to do without telling her we’re looking at another school, but I’m sure I can work it out.)
How To Find An SEBD School

Meanwhile school need to gather evidence from every possible source. Behaviour logs. Therapists’ reports. Social work reports. A letter from the GP, perhaps. The letters of complaint from other parents (not sure I want to see those, thanks). And then we send it all off to the SEN panel and they decide. Obviously the next panel is this coming week and we have no chance of getting everything together in time.

And the next one after that? It’s not until OCTOBER. So realistically, we’re looking at January at the earliest.

Honestly.

But we’ve started the process, at least. Our girl is worth it. And so the fight begins. But we’ve started the process, at least. Our girl is worth it. And so the fight begins.


You might also like to read 30 questions to ask SEBD schools.30 Questions To Ask SEBD Schools

 

 

 

 


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Thank God It’s Monday: adoptive parenting at the weekend

It’s another of those things that separates me from the other parents at the school gate. On the rare occasions that I find myself engaged in a conversation outside school and not ducking in early to retrieve Joanna after some misdemeanour, someone will inevitably pipe up ‘nearly the weekend’, with a sense of joyous anticipation.

I don’t share it.

‘That Friday feeling’ for me is one of dread.

Welcome to adoptive parenting at the weekend.

Thank God it's Monday: Adoptive Parenting at the Weekend

Them and us

For them, the prospect of a weekend conjures up mental images of fun, relaxed family time. A spontaneous day out, perhaps, or a kickabout with a football in the garden.

For me, being kicked about is closer to the mark.

I wonder what the weekend will bring. Not what Pinterest-worthy craft projects we can do together, but,

Coathanger‘How intense will this weekend’s meltdowns be?’

‘Will this be the weekend the patio doors get a stone thrown through them?’

‘is this going to be the day she succeeds in bashing a hole in our bedroom door with a wooden coathanger?’

‘Will the stuff she throws at me – or worse, one of the others – from across the room cause a serious injury?’

‘What are the triggers going to be this time? Dare I ask her to brush her teeth? Or tidy up after herself? Or might that be the thing that provokes a rage?’

It all depends

In our family, weekends divide between Saturdays with childcare and without, and Sundays where we make it to church and those when we don’t have that fight. (See ‘Adoption and the Church Thing‘). We usually book the childcare several months in advance. The Sundays tend to be a bit more tentatively planned, and sometimes we abandon our plans in the face of a meltdown like this one.

Two types of Saturday

On the Saturdays we have be somewhere at a certain time, a violent outburst about getting dressed/brushing teeth/etc is more likely, but the bonus of a day’s respite childcare is like an oasis for us. The girls often go to a playscheme for children with disabilities, for which they qualify because of their sensory issues. (Naturally it wasn’t post-adoption support who told us about this possibility, but other adoptive parents.)

On the Saturdays they’re not doing that, we will usually try some combination of activities usually including time outside (in dry weather) or screen time (in wet weather). These are the most reliable ways to help them stay more-or-less regulated for an hour or more. There will still be meltdowns. It’s a very unusual day that doesn’t include one. Days out rarely fall into the category of ‘family fun’ – there are the fights in the car, the bickering over activities, the transition meltdowns when something is over, and again when we arrive home… exhausting doesn’t really cover it. It’s relentless and overwhelming and horrible.

The Sunday Dread

I’ve already talked about Sundays,  which are either filled with church, or a film, or an outdoor activity, or some combination of those, interspersed with a bit of door-kicking and eardrum-splitting screaming (when Charlotte explodes) or shouting and stamping and sulking and muttering (if it’s Joanna’s turn). It’s unusual for us to have childcare on a Sunday, so Sunday is the one that has to be faced pretty much every week, with that conversation at about 8.30am:

‘Are we going to try for church today?’
‘I suppose we should…’

Which isn’t really the way I want to feel about churchgoing.

How do we change it?

Ah, there’s the question. if only there was a nice neat answer. If another professional asks me if we’ve done any parenting courses I may reel off a list of exactly how many specialist courses, workshops, seminars and books I have absorbed over the last six years. I mentally wrote this list in the shower this morning along with a snarky diatribe about exactly how much of my time is spent (a) practising; (b) researching; (c) writing about and (d) discussing therapeutic parenting techniques.

I thought about printing out some of my book reviews to have on hand for such occasions. Then I could thrust them huffily at those who ask this question without thinking that the person they are addressing sounds like she might have a brain, possibly a degree or two. Do they not therefore think she might have acquainted herself with all the possible avenues of support on offer? Or that they are the first person to suggest parenting violent children might require a bit of extra learning?

More Saturday childcare is one answer, but it’s not a very satisfactory one. I adopted because I do actually want to parent my children, not just clothe them and make their packed lunches. The childcare gives us respite, but it doesn’t solve the problem of family time being a complete rollercoaster of giggles and reading books one minute, and door-kicking and threats to kill us the next.

To be continued

We don’t want to disrupt. We want help to continue to parent them. But the crux of the matter is that if we are not allowed to restrain them, eventually someone is going to be seriously injured or killed. Pete and I cannot provide the level of care they need without being trained and supported in the use of restraint: it is not something we enjoy but it is a necessary part of parenting violent children.

And so, though the thought makes me feel as though I am failing them, we are seriously considering asking the LA to fund at least one  place at a specialist boarding school which caters for exactly the needs our girls have. Including violence, sensory issues, FASD, and the impact of early trauma. Yes, there is actually a place that can provide all this support and an education. An outstanding one, if you care about what Ofsted have to say about these things. But that is a story for another day, and doubtless a protracted battle for funding if we do pursue it.

Meanwhile, if you’ve been in this position, I’d love to hear from you. And if you have positive things to say about boarding school, please do leave a comment.


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Eye contact in adopted children: attachment, FASD, or autism?

Charlotte (age 7) is struggling with eye contact. And therefore so are we. Is it an attachment issue, FASD, or even autism? How concerned should I be? And should I be starting the fight for yet another assessment? Where do I start to find out? What information is there about eye contact in adopted children? Here’s what I found out.

Eye Contact In Adopted Children: Attachment, FASD Or Autism


Not today, thank you

It’s hard to know what Charlotte wants at any given time, as she changes her mind a lot. Sometimes she demands that we look at her, other times she screams at us not to look at her. Sometimes she wants to look at us, other times she refuses to. On extreme days, our children even scream at us for looking in the car’s rear-view mirror while driving. Not because we are looking at them, just because we’re using it to drive safely! Argh.

Possible diagnoses

I’d like to find out what this problem is about so that I can respond appropriately. Is it primarily an attachment issue? Is it part of FASD? Could it even be a sign of autism? Without a diagnosis it’s hard to know where to start. Is the advice for dealing with eye contact within each of these diagnoses the same or different? I did a bit of research to find out.

(Disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional. What follows is based only on my own experience as a parent and a bit of Googling.)

Eye contact in attachment disorders

John Bowlby (Mr Attachment Theory himself) lists eye contact as one of the critical factors in healthy attachment. His view is summarised by Psychology Today:

‘If the caregiver is responsive to the child’s signals and interacts with sensitivity, a secure attachment will be formed, reinforcing the child’s own positive emotional states and teaching him or her to modulate negative states. Deprived of the mother’s gaze, the area of the brain that coordinates social communication, empathic attunement, emotional regulation, and stimulus appraisal (the establishment of value and meaning) will be faulty. Such children are likely to develop “insecure attachment” along with all sorts of subsequent losses in self-esteem and feelings of belonging.’

So for Charlotte, whose birth mum wasn’t able to provide this for her, attachment looks like a possible contender. She probably didn’t have consistent doses of eye contact in her first few months of life. As a consequence, it may just be too threatening for her now.

Side note: though we were taught as prospective adopters that attachment theory is basically gospel truth, I am increasingly hearing of respected professionals calling it into question. I’m hoping to cover that in a future post.

Eye contact in FASD

It was harder than I expected to find good information about eye contact in FASD. One helpful resource is produced by psychology students at McMasters University in Hamilton, Ontario. They have a blog, ‘Live and Learn with FASD‘. There’s also an associated YouTube channel on which they have a series of videos for young people with FASD to help them improve their eye contact. They say:

‘It has been shown that some children with FASD experience problems with maintaining eye contact, and will typically look elsewhere on someone’s face when they speak. Their amygdalas, which play a role in processing emotions in the brain, tend to be less dense than in children without FASD. … While individuals [with FASD] tend to look at the centre of a picture of a face that is not moving, when a person’s face who is talking appears they tend to look at the mouth instead. This is because when the mouth is not moving, the eyes are more of a stimulus than the mouth in general, but when the mouth is moving, the mouth is a more important stimulus for the proposed pathway along which the information is processed’.

Eye contact in autism

Eye contact is well-known as a symptom of autism. An article from the charity Autism Speaks, ‘Why is it so hard for someone with autism to make eye contact?’ explains:

‘The act of making eye contact is extremely stressful for some people affected by autism. There are many books and articles written by adults with autism who describe the terrible stress they felt when well-meaning parents and teachers tried to force them to make eye contact during conversations. In many cases, they describe being further distracted and unable to focus on the conversation because of this insistence.’

This does sort of sound like Charlotte at the times she screams ‘STOP LOOKING AT ME!’ She has a few other behaviours that I’ve seen described as autistic traits, too. She loves pretending to be a dog, she likes lining things up, and she has sensory issues, especially around food, which can lead to massive meltdowns. Tomato on her plate? Salad leaves? She’ll scream, push the plate away, and either hide under the table or leave the room, slamming the door behind her and shouting. However, there is also a lot of overlap between FASD and autism, which leads to the question…

Which is it?

This helpful printable chart summarising the overlapping behavioural characteristics in FASD and other diagnoses indicated that FASD and autism are both possibilities. (I took this to our GP and it was a really useful tool to discuss it.) As Charlotte’s behaviour ticks all the boxes for FASD, I think it highly likely that she has it. Autism, though? Though I occasionally wonder about it when she exhibits certain behaviours, I don’t think so. This chart from MOFAS (below) is helpful in explaining the differences.

Differences Between Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and Autism

Source: Dan Dubovsky MSW SAMHSA, FASD Center for Excellence

FASD Autism
Occurs as often in males as in females Occurs in males 4 times as often as in females
Able to relate to others Difficult or impossible to relate to others in a meaningful way
Restricted patterns are not commonly seen Restricted patterns of behavior, interests, and activities as a core area
Verbal communication may be slow to develop but is not commonly significantly impaired Difficulty in verbal and non-verbal communication
Difficulties begin at birth Difficulties may begin after a period of normal growth
Difficulty in verbal receptive language; expressive language is more intact as the person ages Difficulty in both expressive and receptive language
Spoken language is typical Some do not develop spoken language
Spontaneously talkative Robotic, formal speech
Echolalia not common Echolalia-repeating words or phrases
Stereotyped movements not seen Stereotyped movements
Ritualistic behaviors not commonly seen Ritualistic behaviors
Repetitive body movements not seen; may have fine and gross motor coordination and/or balance problems Repetitive body movements e.g., hand flapping, and/or abnormal posture e.g., toe walking
Social and outgoing Remaining aloof; preferring to be alone
Difficulty with change and transitions Inflexibility related to routines and rituals
Can share enjoyment and laughter Lack of spontaneous sharing of enjoyment
Can express a range of emotion Restricted in emotional expression
Funny; good sense of humor Difficulty expressing humor
Microcephaly more common Macrocephaly more common
Considered a medical disorder in the ICD.  Not in the DSM-IV Considered a mental disorder in the DSM-IV

I’ve added colour to indicate where Charlotte’s behaviours fall definitively on one side – and that is mainly on the FASD side. She does have some language issues, such as becoming non-verbal at times of stress, using a made-up language and babble, and often preferring to communicate through grunts. (Some might say that sounds like a typical teenager.) But in other areas her social skills are generally OK. Yes, her level of empathy is a bit lower than I’d like. But she certainly prefers to play with others rather than alone, and she is very, very talkative. She also has a fully-functioning GSOH. Hmmm.

Conclusion

Problems with eye contact in adopted children are not desperately unusual. People have discussed the topic in a couple of threads on the Adoption UK forums, for example. It could ‘just’ be a consequence of early neglect. I’m aware that neglect in the first 18 months of a child’s life has a massive impact. (This was the age at which Charlotte was taken into care.) But my gut feeling is that it’s more than that. This is partly because I have Charlotte’s sister Joanna to compare her to.

Joanna was in the same birth family for even longer (nearly 3 years). Eye contact is occasionally an issue for her, but not to the same extent, and with Joanna it is almost always shame-related. Charlotte’s seems to be fuelled by something else: I get the sense it comes from overwhelm of some kind.

Meanwhile, we’re pressing on with trying to obtain an FASD diagnosis, and I’ll ask these questions when I’m finally face-to-face with someone who knows about this stuff. And as I find out more, I’ll update this post. If you have other sources of information on this topic, please leave them in the comments.

Further reading

I recommend these two books about FASD, both of which contain very practical advice and strategies, including a bit about eye contact.

You might also like to visit:


Have you experienced eye contact issues in your child? What are your thoughts? Please let me know in the comments.


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Hello, goodbye (part two)

img_5720

(If you missed it, or want a refresher, read part one.)

Note: there are lots of sets of initials in this post, so there’s a glossary at the end if you need it.

Hello again, Joanna’s therapist
You may recall that as part of the long saga that was our still-not-fully-resolved battle with PAS in the autumn of 2016, PAS fell out with Joanna’s therapist (who was a fantastic advocate for our family in the face of their unpleasantness). They refused to apply to the ASF for continued funding of her CBT, which the placing LA had put in place a year earlier. The lovely therapist continued to see her for free for a couple of months, but that eventually wound up and Joanna has been without therapy for two months, not to mention distraught at another goodbye, having built up a good relationship. We expressed our extreme dissatisfaction with this outcome and they are finally in talks with the therapist to see if they can come to some agreement. And so we wait and see.

 Goodbye, counsellor
This week I had my eighth and probably final session with the counsellor I’ve been seeing since the start of the year. As I’ve said before, it wasn’t really going anywhere, but she has helped me clarify some of the things I’d been thinking about, namely that

(a) I love my work and it is OK to prioritise that as part of my self-care and life outside of parenthood; and

(b) PAS are likely to continue being a bit rubbish and it is going to be better for my sanity to stop trying to get them to do their jobs better and get on with finding and funding support privately, regardless of my strongly-held belief that this is unjust and wrong.

PAS offered to pay for my counselling sessions at a meeting in mid-January, but obviously haven’t, and the poor woman needed paying, so naturally I paid her. PAS are now moaning about how they don’t reimburse parents and they need to pay her directly, etc. Whatever.

Hello again, GP
Our GP is great. I went to see her again about the FASD assessment for Charlotte which was previously rejected by the paediatrician who clearly didn’t understand the difference between FAS and FASD. Argh.

This time I went armed with letters of support from school and PAS saying this is what needs to happen. She is going to apply again, and has asked me to supply any other evidence I can lay my hands on, such as an annotated version of the FASD behavioural symptoms chart, details from Charlotte’s CPR which point to the likelihood of birth mum’s drinking during pregnancy, etc.

I also told the GP about the increased CPV from Charlotte and showed her the door video. She got it. Really got it, in a way that PAS just haven’t. I asked about what help was available for us locally. She asked what support we had in place. I talked about Twitter and my friends whose children have autism. She asked what official support we have. I said none. She was appalled. She’s investigating what support there is for parents experiencing CPV. I’m looking into getting to an FASD Trust meeting (as usual with such things, my nearest is an hour away).

We finished the appointment with a discussion of our options if we were to pay for therapy of various kinds, what with the waiting lists being horrendous and PAS being somewhere on the scale between hopeless and abusive. She has recommended a local team of psychologists, including trauma specialists, who sound amazing. Their website claims they’ll get back to you the same day with an appointment for an initial consultation within a couple of days. Just like that. I still feel like it is a betrayal of my left-wing soul and I can’t easily reconcile it all, but nor can I do nothing when my children are suffering, Pete and I are dealing with the consequences, and all that stands in the way is some cash. (Don’t ask how much. I have no idea yet but the GP said ‘It’s not cheap’. The bank of Mum and Dad is on standby – sometimes being an only child of generous parents is Very Useful.)

Hello, new OT
Having been on the cards since the assessment was done in May, Charlotte is about to start seeing an OT regularly. It’s another one of the things that got shelved due to the handover between LAs when our three years post-AO was up and they decided they needed to do another assessment of our support needs, we told them what our needs were, they ignored that, faffed about telling us off, etc. Anyway, six months later, the funding is in and it’s happening. Joanna’s being assessed too. The word is that this OT is really good, so we’re hopeful that she’ll help us understand some of the sensory-seeking stuff and how to help the girls get what they need in the right way (ie not chewing blu-tack and toilet paper, for starters).

And so we wait a bit, push a bit, pursue things for ourselves a bit, and see how it all plays out. But after a pretty horrible six months, there are glimmers of hope.

Glossary
AO – adoption order
ASF – adoption support fund
CBT – cognitive behavioural therapy
CPV – child-on-parent violence
FAS – foetal alcohol syndrome
FASD – foetal alcohol spectrum disorder
LA – local authority
OT – occupational therapist
PAS – post-adoption support


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9 favourite toys for sensory seekers

When you mention that your child is a chewer and a world-class fidgeter (in polite company, a ‘sensory seeker’), there are a lot of people queuing up to advise you how to handle that.

So this post isn’t that. It’s just a list of the things we use around here to help the girls (mainly Charlotte, age 7) with their sensory issues, with links to places to get hold of them if you’d like to try them yourself.

(1) Some parents and OTs talk about the Chewbuddy as though it is magic. It’s a silicone chew that comes with a lanyard so it can be worn around the neck. We tried it, but Charlotte doesn’t like the texture of it all that much. I don’t blame her. It’s basically like a dog toy, very rubbery and not satisfying to get your chops around. It squeaks on your teeth which might disturb people who are bothered by that kind of thing. You can do a fun trick with it though: tuck the legs inside the head and wait for it to uncurl and jump in the air. It’s strangely compelling.

(2) The Cubebot is a fidget toy which we thought might help the girls to concentrate on whatever it was they were supposed to be doing in class. Um, no. He is very fun to play with, and I quite like having him on my desk when I’m writing, but I think he was thrown in the classroom and was generally not a welcome addition at school.

(3) The Tangle toy is available in a variety of colours and textures and is another great fidget. It’s probably not recommended for chewing because it breaks into sections and pieces could be swallowed. I suspect Charlotte sucks on it more than chewing it – I haven’t yet found any bite marks! It’s very fun and tactile, and another one we’ve sent in to school with her. Again, I like playing with it too if it finds its way onto my desk.

(4) When Charlotte had her sensory assessment, the occupational therapist suggested a body sock would help to provide the proprioceptic feedback that Charlotte needs. You can buy them online, but we made ours (thanks, Mum) from Lycra fabric and elastic. It’s probably a bit bigger than is ideal, but she loves it. We call it the calming-down bag. She gets in and we call out the names of objects and she makes their shape – banana, tree, football, star, etc. We encourage her to hold the large shapes which require her to stretch against the resistance of the bag for a count of ten.


(There is a child in there somewhere.)

(5) Not a sensory-specific toy, but one that has a a texture that Charlotte enjoys using. We used to call them Sticklebricks when I was a child, but these Bristle Blocks, along with Lego, encourage fine motor skills and visual planning.


(6) Another chew toy – this bracelet is a slightly more discreet wearable option. The disadvantages are that they can flick saliva at people sitting nearby (ask me how I know), and that they are very easily dropped on the floor and then put straight back in the mouth (nice).

(7) A solution we use most days at the moment is this combination of a safety lanyard and hard plastic chew. I should make very clear that these chews are intended to be sewn inside fabric toys, not to be used on their own as we do. However, we examine them frequently (every day or two) and replace them as soon as they are starting to reach a point where small bits of plastic might come off and be ingested. Use this with caution and take note of the safety warnings.

(8) In an attempt to make the cuffs of her school uniform less attractive as a chewing option, we gave Charlotte a box of cotton hankies for Christmas. They have her initial embroidered with flowers on one corner, which she loves, and they’re much cheaper to replace than school jumpers, can travel with her to school or live under her pillow at night, be sprayed with my perfume if required, and generally provide a soft chewing option.

(9) This teething chew has been a long-lasting favourite. I found ours in Sainsbury’s but you can also get them on Amazon. It provides several different textures and is one of Charlotte’s favourites (she likes the squishy green section best).

Do you use any of the same toys, or do you have more recommendations? I’d love to hear your comments.


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You Baby Me Mummy

 

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Rage and me, the human sponge

Adoptive parenting: sometimes it feels as though you live in a parallel universe. I don’t think most people realise that this is our reality: frequently dysregulated and violent children; a lack of support; and after having tried everything you can possibly think of, still feeling helpless to make anything change for the better. And still they rage.

beware-children

‘Beware children’ by David Howard on Flickr. Creative Commons licence.

The door

This was our bedroom door at 9.45 this morning (Saturday). We were locked inside. Charlotte (age 7) was on the other side.

The trigger

We’d just told her (after the usual five-minute warning) that her TV programme was over and she needed to get dressed. She went from calm to this in about 20 seconds, and none of the recommended calming strategies made the slightest difference. We’d tried kneeling down on her level, using very calm and quiet voices, offering cuddles and labelling her frustration, rocking her like a baby as she was obviously regressing… but she wasn’t having any of it. After receiving a particularly painful pinch in the chestal area (yes, OW), I gave up on the therapeutic approach for a bit and just locked the door, because I was very much on the verge of becoming dysregulated myself.

I only filmed one minute, but this lasted 40 minutes. It then took another 20 to get her from curled in the corner of her room, nonverbal, to calm enough to dress her (while she stayed under a blanket).

The aftermath

And then, slowly, gradually, we started to get on with our day. But although I felt some relief in my having remained regulated (just), prevented any breakages, and come out the other side, there was – is – still a deep dissatisfaction with the situation in general and how we are equipped to handle this.

The analysis

Is this really the best we can do for her? Is this really the best PAS can do for us as a family? Just telling us to walk away while she rages? It doesn’t sit comfortably with me that there isn’t anything else we can do to help her. No therapy. Not even a diagnosis yet, despite my firm belief that this is ARND we’re dealing with and there ought to be some professional help available.

The effect

I feel like a human sponge. All jaunty and squishy when looked at from afar, capable of absorbing all the rage the children throw at me, soaking up Pete’s grief and frustration at not having the family he envisioned because this is not something he can fix with firm boundaries and refusing to give in. But I am at capacity. I can feel it leaking out. I do a lot of crying when I have the house to myself. Or in the shower. Or wherever else I feel I have ‘permission’ to show it. I can’t keep on mopping up everyone else’s stuff unsupported.

‘See it as a game’

I have a counsellor. I’ve had five sessions with her now. She’s very friendly and everything but I can see that what I tell her about our reality shocks her. I was hoping she’d be more robust. I don’t really feel I can fully offload there, either. So it’s stuck. Is the solution another counsellor? Perhaps. But is the energy I’d expend on the search likely to be worthwhile? I’m hoping, as she gets the measure of it all, she’ll move on from saying ‘Try seeing it as a mental challenge to get what you need from post-adoption support – a sort of game you can enjoy’ to ‘Let’s look at ways you can avoid having to deal with them at all and get your family the help you need within the next six months rather than the ridiculous cycle of requests, funding applications, waiting lists and rejections.’

It’s not a game, though. This is our life.

To be fair, I did start to have this conversation with her this week. I said it would be easier to swap my freelance work (which I love but isn’t especially regular or well-paid) for a part-time job with a regular salary in order to reliably fund the therapies our family needs and avoid the need to engage with the LA’s gatekeeping of the ASF cash (and, ideally, avoid our hopeless PAS full stop). I hate the fact that I have to choose between going private (which as a lefty, I have fundamental objections to) or sacrificing my family’s wellbeing and waiting for the state services to kick in – if they ever do. That’s a whole other blog post. But for now, I am job-hunting. I’m hoping that this way lies sanity.

Note: if you found this interesting, or have your own CPV experience to share, you might like to visit my new CPV stories page.


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