Could Change be Coming?

It’s been pretty rough in the Safe House.  Actually it’s been like this since September if I’m honest.  That wonderful school I’ve blogged about this time last year in So Far So Good and Headteacher Calling decided, in their wisdom, to just put Biggey into mainstream school last September, without word or warning to me or her.

It all went off the scale then with lots of unpleasant phone calls and meetings and people thinking she “just needed to make the right choices” and she was displaying “chosen behaviour“.  With a meeting where I was advised that she “just needs to follow 3 rules”.   I can’t remember those rules now, she was never going to manage them anyway !!!!

I need to talk to you about her behaviour

I then spent ages giving them information about her background, how it affects these type of children, etc etc.  They cried.  It was all pointless, though because that meeting was followed by almost daily phone calls from a Head of Year saying “I need to talk to you about her behaviour”.  I responded with “she has a Statement of Needs for – BEHAVIOUR”.  It all got very difficult and tense so I stopped answering my phone to her calls, since they weren’t listening anyway and it was beginning to feel intimidating.  The result, was her exclusion!

More difficulties, yet in short, I got her back into the supportive unit in school, had meetings with Head, Deputies, SENCO, etc, etc.  A wide variety of people have been involved to be honest, and that’s a problem in itself.  The Ed Psych in Feb advised Biggey should have no more changes and some other helpful things.  They didn’t get passed on to the people on the ground dealing with her on daily basis (not very helpful at all).

We’ve had her making false allegations that I hit her (cos she didn’t want to come home and face me after a bad day at school).  We’ve had CAMHS involved, supposedly helping her with anger (nothing helpful or different to what I had already put in place and so no change in her at all).

Fight, Flight, Freeze

We now have school ringing or texting me every day with updates.  She is aggressive, she leaves school site frequently, or sits in classroom and refuses to move so they have to empty other pupils from the room!  Can you recognise the Fight, Flight, Freeze responses here? Yes?  Sadly, they can’t.

There’s been minuscule progress with school working with me using strategies, tactics and ways of speaking to her to begin to be helpful, but it is not consistent and across the board.  So every bit of progress we make, someone comes along and undoes it!  She is really struggling in school and, needless to say, takes it out on me at home.

This week, culminating over this weekend, we just haven’t been able to calm her down at all and my goodness she REALLY HATES ME!  She has definitely got me, Safe Mum, confused with the Birth Mum.

She wants to leave.  Just like many other weekends, bit by bit we cancelled everything that was going to happen this weekend.  It wasn’t much, horse riding for her, walk the dog, go out for tea maybe, buy some arsenic (just kidding).  We have pretty much barricaded ourselves in the house and dealt, blow by painful blow, with her fight response; all to no avail.

It had escalated to another level

Whilst hubby and I were both trying to do small tasks around the house, him gardening, me cooking and cleaning up in kitchen, she came at me with the floor mop and attacked me with it.  It was like gladiator games but it really hurt.    This was more than screaming, shouting, hitting, punching and throwing.  It had escalated to another level.

So this afternoon, I rang social services.  I’ve had enough.  If this was my husband who was being so violent and abusive I would have left him by now.  If I leave her I will be failing her as a parent.  If I let her run away, I still have to get her home and be her responsible parent.

Whilst the man at end of phone asked me what had been happening, I explained we had cancelled everything, all doors locks to prevent her running.  He said, “oh, did you have visitors planned or something?”.  “NO” I said.  “These days they only visitors we have are police and social workers.”

He laughed.

He bloody laughed.

I’d been quite composed til then.  I let rip.

“Did he really think that I was just some pathetic parent who’d had a bit of a rough hour here and there?  Did he stop to think that here am I, plucking up the courage, on a Sunday afternoon, to ring an Out of Hours provider, to ADMIT that I want and need help?  That I really want to tell people that my daughter is out of control, that she frightens me?  None of this is funny – not in the slightest.”

I demanded an apology and some reasonable amount of professionalism from him.

We have a social worker coming tomorrow – apparently.  We shall see (I bet they don’t respond that quick).  I wonder what they will do.  I wonder what they will propose.  What great ideas they will come up with or advise.  Maybe change is coming.  Maybe it’s a change she thinks she wants, yet has she any idea at all?

Biggey, still wants to leave ………..  She has packed a bag.

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I’m Proud of You

This is what my mum said to me the other day. What a lovely thing for any mum to say to her daughter. Yet, it didn’t sit comfortably with me; I didn’t feel any sort of good, warm, pride-like feeling inside.

Now, Mum pops round regularly to see me and the girls after school, she brings chocolate or sweets and we chat and catch up. It’s lovely.  The other day she was telling me about her time at her sewing group and there is one lady there who always asked about us and how we are getting on. The girls were there at this time so I guess mum’s answer was tailored to be appropriate to all ears, so she simply said I told her

I’m very proud of you

I just kind of smiled – maybe it was more a grimace – I’m not sure, yet it didn’t feel comfortable hearing that. Eventually I was able to say

It doesn’t feel like something to be proud of

Mum nodded, in an understanding way and at the time the conversation moved on and around to other things – because the girls were there.

Later I reflected on this. When I thought again about mum’s words and what was going on in myself. There’s an awful lot I’m not very proud of.

  • I’m not proud that the psychologist in the local CAMHS team told my daughter she is scared of me – because I was having to strong and firm and demanding to get my daughter’s needs met (It didn’t work though).
  • I’m not proud of the fact that we are on first name terms with local police, because my daughter runs away so often.
  • I’m not proud when I crawl the streets in my car, following my run-away, feeling like some sneaky stalker or a sleazy kerb-crawler.
  • I’m not proud that I have to sit on my children when they kick, bite, hit, spit, hiss in the throws of their traumatic fight flight response.
  • I’m not proud when I have to man-handle them into the car or tackle them to the floor in the middle of the street or in supermarkets just so I can half restrain half cuddle them to calm them down.
  • I’m not proud that my parenting very often feels harsh and restrictive, even though I know it’s what they need and what they can cope with.
  • I’m not proud that I swear so much
  • I’m not proud of having to be forthright and demanding of other people – like schools, teacher, social workers.

I’ve blogged before about wearing my stroppy hat and in that I said I wear it with pride, and occasionally I do, yet as with our children, there is only so many times I (and many other adopters) can continue to be knocked down without being left with the negative affect of it all.

I have to remind myself daily that there are things I am proud of – like the fact that I do keep them safe, I do advocate for them, separately and us as a family.

In my work I tell people that it’s important that we work on our own thoughts and feelings, that we are kind to ourselves and have positive self talk.  It’s very important I practice what I preach! (always easier said than done!!)  I do realise that we often spend so much time with our children’s issues we easily forget about ourselves.  Self talk is so important to us too.  So each day, with renewed vigour I will be trying to find something I have done that I am proud of.

I am proud that we are still together.   What about you?

Headteacher Calling!

Biggey has been doing well with her integration into the new school (her second secondary school since September!). She has been reasonably calm and composed each evening and each morning. The transition has been steady and without pressure on her (or me) to get her into school full time. I’ve been so glad that they agreed to this as it is important that this time her experience is a success.

She has been going into this small unit every day for the last couple of weeks for part of a day and in the last week she progressed to four full days and a big chunk of the fifth day! After Easter she has even signed up for an after school cookery club!

All in all I have been very pleased with how things have gone and my view of this school has not changed since my first meeting as detailed in We Have a Plan and even in later posts of So Far So Good.  However, forgive me for gushing, yet I have been (nicely) surprised and amazed yet again by this school.

On Friday lunchtime I get a call on my mobile.  It’s the Headteacher.

Oh God!  What’s happened?  What has she done?

Well that was the first though that went through my mind.  I mean, Headteachers of Secondary Schools don’t just randomly ring parents as a ‘nice to do’ on a Friday lunchtime on the last day of term.  Do they??

Well actually, yes they do!  OK I know I have been gushing about the staff in this school but still, pick me up with amazement all over again…..

He said he was ringing to say how well he though Biggey had settled in and that it was progressing much better than they had expected and he was wondering what my thoughts were and how I feel it was going.  Just a moment …. rewind … he was actually asking for my opinion and views???  I need picking up off the floor again!!

So, whilst trying to contain my delight and remain a bit like a focussed sensible adult, I managed (I think) to tell him some of things I think have been good and helpful.  I praised the two key members of staff who are having the most input to Biggey at the moment.  I was able to tell him the latest piece of information I had got from her just a couple of nights before.

She said she was with a teacher in DT working on a 1:1 basis.  The teacher asked why Biggey had moved schools.  Now in Biggey’s usual way, she didn’t really give correct information and had said it was because they didn’t help her with her dyslexia.   The teacher then apparently said “oh, so not for behaviour then?” So Biggey said

Well I don’t tell people if I don’t feel safe or if I’m struggling or if people upset me and then sometimes I take it out on other people

The teacher apparently just said “Oh thank you for telling me”.  I was, at this point listening with awe and unable to say anything for a moment.   Eventually I wondered aloud if my child had been taken away by aliens to which I was told

No. This is me when I feel safe and when I’m not feeling worried and not worried about being told off all the time. 

Isn’t that amazing!  I told the Head this and that it is indeed because she feels safe and accepted and comfortable enough to be able to do this and that I was grateful for the team they are providing around my child in addition to the effort I put in.

It was a 10 minute call, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but covers a lot of conversation.  I was positively delighted when it finished.

When I collected Biggey later that day, I took a moment to begin to mention to the two members of staff.  They said they already knew because the Head had sent them an email saying well done for the good work!  What a great way to finish for the holidays.

Illness and Insecurity

Littley has a vomiting bug. Whilst these are not nice for anyone – child or adult, it is interesting to notice the wider areas that are affected in our children. She sits near one or both of us and has a needs to chat (as ever); yet as we listen it is clear that she has a need to process what is happening to her. So we get questions that are sweet and funny and cute and also show how she worries and has regressed to a much younger age. Things like: Continue reading

Noticing … And More Waiting …

So whilst Biggey has been at home since 10th January it has enabled me to spend much more 1:1 time with her. Whilst this is quite positive it has also been very enlightening. Here are some of the things I’ve noticed.

She never starts a conversation. Ever! She only joins in with others or responds (sometimes) when I speak to her. Now, the reason I haven’t noticed this is because Littley talks non stop. It’s only been during this time of just the two of us that it has become apparent. I can walk into the room and she doesn’t look up or speak or acknowledge anyone is there. We can walk down the street and she only chats if I start chatting.

She always plays the same things.. If I say go and play she will go and colour pictures, never anything else. If I say play on the Wii she plays the same game. Again, if Littley is around then she chooses different games and activities so Biggey must have been following her with that. I knew Biggey struggled in this area and thought her lack of imaginative play was down to early neglect but now I’m not so sure.

She never brings me things to show me what she’s done. Never, ever! She will tell me she coloured a picture (after I’ve asked her) and still doesn’t show it to me unless I ask to see it. When I think about, she never has brought me work from school or those plastic bottle models or anything else.

She strops when asked to get changed or struggles with getting dressed. Now I know some kids do this this. She will also put on the same clothes all the time. Yes, all the time! I have to remove them from her bedroom. If I say put a clean top on, she strops. It’s a little odd. Littley is like a fashion show model on contrast – she would wear all her clothes (and some of mine given the chance) in just one day!!

She has lots of obsessive tendencies . Again, these have become more apparent now I see more of her. I keep finding her wiping down the kitchen surface (and it’s not that messy!). She tidies my cutlery draw! These are just a few examples.

She has an inability to change it adjust her language for different situations.. So if she hears a boy in the street shout and swear, she will come in and tell me about it, but she repeats in exactly the same way she has heard it, with same volume, same venom and no abbreviation to “f” word or whatever. She also uses ‘playground’ talk with grandparents (which is a bit embarrassing).

There are more things I’ve been noticing too so when I was my Camhs meeting the other day I asked for referral for her to be assessed for Aspergers or Autistic Spectrum. The more I’ve looked into this, the more I believe she is Aspergic. If so, it would go a long way to explain some of the reason for her having had so much difficulty making progress in certain areas. It would also be really useful to know if she is and what would help her to be able to settle better when we get a new school sorted. Apparently Aspergic girls are also very good at copying other children so that the condition can remain undetected. I believe the Biggey has been copying others at school, certainly in Junior school. Yet this will be much more difficult to do in the busy classes of a Secondary school.

There are often a lot of things which help Autistic kids and also help traumatised and attachment issue kids so the cross-over is understandable.

A letter came yesterday from Camhs. They are not making appointments for Autistic assessment because the waiting is to long. They may come back to us in around three to four months!! More waiting then ….

Still Waiting

The Local authority were supposed to come back to me by close of play Friday about whether the SEN panel decided to allow my request to change Biggey’s school. Guess what! I didn’t hear from them!

I sent an email after 5:30 saying that I am wondering what time their close of play is. Sarcastic? Hopeful? Naive? I’m really trying hard not to p!&& people off because I need them to do their thing. However more importantly I need my child in school!

Everyone (family, friends, colleagues) I speak to cannot understand all the difficulty we are having. Cannot understand that the school would not meet us, cannot understand that it is taking so long to get changes. Cannot understand that we are having to fight, chase, nag and do all of this on our own. People say you would think they would recognise this child needs to be in school and do whatever to help that happen.

Well, no. That’s not how it works. I and many others are not surprised that help is minimal, poor or non existent. Such a shame that this is what we (adopters) have to put up with.

This panel met on Wednesday, by the time there is action next week that’s another week my girl has been out of school, then half term is looming so nothing will happen during that week either.

I’m tempted to escalate the issue. I will do if I feel necessary.

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Reframing Christmas

Over the years we have done a lot to set up new traditions for our girls and our family and also to reframe their early experiences and expectations.  Seven years on, we are still carrying out some of these whilst changing some and adding new ones too.   Here are some that I am doing:

Picture advent calendar
Take pictures of lots of simple regular things that are included in christmas in your family.  I actually think the pictures I use are a bit naff however from a child perspective they serve as useful reminders!   The pictures we have include: making cards, sausages wrapped in bacon, a pile of xmas tree chocolates, christmas crackers, the christmas tree, some wrapped pressies, cards hanging on the wall and an advent calendar.

The first year I just wrote numbers on the back then stuck them picture side down on the wall with blutack. Then the girls turned over one each day.  In later years I’ve got  more organised so have got one of those plastic hanging picture pockets.  It comes out every year now and they still seem to need and welcome it.

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The Christmas Story
My mum bought us an Usborne Christmas book which not only had the proper Jesus story in it, at young child level, it also had a little card nativity model in the back of it.  Getting the kids to put this up each year has become a family tradition which they like.  I still keep reading the story to them.  It adds a tradition and good memories.

Of course, I also add in little anecdotes about how we can see that baby was so loved and looked after carefully; made comfy and warm in the manger; how all babies are so gorgeous and lovely that people have always wanted to come and see them.  I have found that this helps them because they believe or used to believe that they were bad and ugly when they were babies.  Such a shame but when mindful of the attachment cycle it makes sense and so I take every opportunity I get to reframe their thoughts.

A Christmas Activity
In town every Christmas there is always a little fayre with a helter skelter slide and a couple of other things.  It is only there at Christmas, so when they much younger I used to take them each year and let them have a go on that.  They began to remember that as something they do at Christmas.  Once they got bigger we changed that and I used it to explain and reinforce that sometimes in life some things stay the same and some things change.

Advent Calendars
My mum made my girls a fabric pocketed advent calendar so each year we put chocolates in the pockets and that makes them feel special and adds tradition of something which is their very own.

Santa
We learned the hard way!  Our very first Christmas was simply awful!  Full of tantrums, terror and trauma.  We very quickly realised that Santa had quite a lot to do with it and he was most definitely a bad and scary man. The best we could do was for them, that first year was to leave their presents in the porch (thank goodness we had a porch!!).  Over the years we discovered just what a bad man they think he is and what terrible things happened in their birth family. So he continued to be scary and we could not even put up cards with a picture of him or mention his name.  Therefore the truth about Santa and where present come from was revealed early on and he is now firmly referred to a “that bloke” and banished from our house for ever.

I never cease to be amazed at what will bother them.  This year, as well as “that bloke” we also had to deal with Herod!

My little J came home from school a bit upset the other day.  Through lots of exploring we discovered that in an RE lesson they had been learning about Herod.  She had a very disjointed idea of what happened and I can only surmise that she became so distressed that someone was going to kill the baby that she “missed” a good part of the lesson by being caught up in her own thoughts and worries.  So I needed to tell her (at an appropriate level, of course) the story of Herod and Jesus.  Needless to say, it included lots of “safe” words and ended with some comments about how Mary and Joseph were such safe parents that they did everything they needed to, to keep baby Jesus safe – just like we do for you!

Each Christmas-time does get better each year and so I firmly believe we are doing the right thing.  I wouldn’t want Christmas to happen more than once a year but I do feel it would be useful if we could have a few more chances to work on the reframing and re-learning!!  I often wonder what age my girls will be when we are able to have a Christmas without trauma.