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All posts for the month April, 2013

Sleep Therapy – Big Girls Turn

Published April 29, 2013 by thefamilyof5

For many months now I’ve been meeting with a sleep specialist from the organisation that diagnosed big girls autism.

They’ve checked out her room, inspected our reward system, asked about our bedtime routine and scrutinised the many many weeks of sleep diary’s I’ve completed for them.

Today big girl came to meet the ‘sleep lady’ for the first time. She was very nervous, the conversation in the car on the way there was all orientated around her birth family and adoption which are always her instinctive thoughts when she’s anxious.

The meeting went quite well, the ‘sleep lady’ talked to big girl about the benefits of sleep, the effects of not getting enough sleep and how big girl must feel pretty fed up of struggling to sleep every night and being tired.

She then told us she was going to teach us a relaxation technique, it was your typical ‘tense and release each limb’ kind of technique and she asked big girl and I to sit back, close our eyes and give it a try. It was probably one of the most amusing moments big girl and I have ever shared. Neither of us could keep our eyes shut and we both kept secretly smiling at each other and giggling whilst the ‘sleep lady’ sat with her back to us talking through the instructions of what we were supposed to be doing.

When we left big girl got in the car and said ‘mommy I’m quite tired now I feel like I might need a snooze’ I too felt sleepy, so giggles and smiles aside, it had certainly relaxed us!

Tonight big girl complained of a headache, she also hinted at feeling tired but declined my offer of an early night. I gave her some paracetamol just before bed and reminded her of the new technique we’d learnt to help her sleep. She randomly decided tonight that she didn’t want a pillow.

I don’t know whether it was the head ache, stress of the day, awful nights sleep last night, no pillow or the new technique, but she fell asleep within 30 minutes of being in bed tonight which is considerably better than her usual 2.5hours!

What with big girl and middle girls sleep issues, I’m going to be a fully qualified sleep expert soon I’m sure! ūüôā

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Photographic Memories

Published April 29, 2013 by thefamilyof5

I love to take photo’s, I take so many that its a major operation to sort through them and choose the best ones for the albums.

Last night as I trudged my way through the 1000’s of digital images on my hard drive I was reminded of the loss that we as an adoptive family have endured. The ‘friends’ and ‘family’ that chose to walk away when things got tough. The faces that were once photographed and cherished enough to go in to our albums, are now faces we see no more.

I love photo’s, they’re a wonderful reminder of who and what’s important, even if a little sad sometimes too.

Baby Steps

Published April 28, 2013 by thefamilyof5

It was almost 3 years ago that we travelled across the country to meet the girls, amongst many other memories I distinctly remember how baby girl clung to me like a baby monkey on that first day and whimpered in to my ear ‘when can I come to your house?’ ‘When am I going with you?’.

Over the next year or so she impressed everyone with her independence, her ability to dress herself, fold her clothes even tidy away her toys, there were no supermarket tantrums, no nagging for things endlessly, no whinging and whining. Her first day of nursery went without a tear or tantrum, unlike the other children she didn’t cling to her mummy and beg her not to leave. Instead she confidently walked past her crying class mates and went off to play. ‘She’s so well behaved’ people would say. ‘Too well behaved’ I would think.

It didn’t take me long to realise my girls were not ‘well behaved’ they were ‘compliant’, too scared to show themselves to us and the world around them.

(Extract taken from Adoption Voices Magazine)
‘For the compliant child the situation can actually be devastating. As a compliant child who is either not causing problems or actually well engaged and visibly successful, she is not seen as having any problems at all. Parents see this child as well adjusted to life, including being adopted, and with no outwardly troubling signs of concern, this child is often overlooked and not given any form of counselling or assistance in dealing with life or emotional wounds. It is difficult for anyone to see that the child who is often referred to as, ‚Äúmature for her age‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúpleasant and articulate,‚ÄĚ is actually in equal distress to the child who is acting out. Both are hurting, both are devastated by the trauma and both have no way to articulate, understand, contextualize or grieve the loss they have endured’

More recently baby girl has been testing some of the boundaries, she’s argued her point, sulked and even stamped her feet. She’s expressed her needs of hunger and tiredness, she’s told me of the foods she doesn’t like and asked for the foods she does. She’s asked for things in a shop, almost nagged for them in fact. She’s expressed her ‘need’ for the latest toy craze that her friends at school have and she must have now! She’s left her toys out and moaned at having to tidy them away, she’s chucked her clothes on the floor and forgotten how to dress herself. She’s left the bathroom without washing her hands and she’s even sometimes come out of school having forgotten something. She’s protested at having to brush her hair and sprayed my perfume all over the floor. You may be reading all of this and thinking ‘well she’s 6, this is what 6yr olds do’ and I’d totally agree with you, however for the last almost 3 years, she hasn’t done any of these things. There is still an element of compliance, its a work in progress for whilst she may protest at doing things, she generally protests whilst doing the very thing she’s ‘refusing’ to do. Baby steps!

So is this regression? Is she going back to being the stroppy lazy 3yr old that she should have been when we first met? Or is this just her feeling safe enough to relax now?

Either way I love it, I’m embracing the fact that she is starting to show me some of her true personality rather than the fake robotic compliance she’s given me before.

However I must try to remember how wonderfully normal this expression of defiance really is, when she next stamps her feet and rolls her eyes at me ūüôā

My blog can also be found alongside some amazing blogs at The Weekly Adoption Shout out¬†#WASO this weeks theme is ‘regression’.

The Educational Psychologist – 2nd appointment

Published April 26, 2013 by thefamilyof5

Back at the beginning of February I met with the Educational Psychologist at school to see if she was able to offer support with the girls, after much discussion it was eventually decided that as she was only in a position to address the needs of one of the girls, she would look in to baby girls needs.

Sometime within the last 3 months she has observed baby girl in her classroom setting once for around an hour. We met on Wednesday with the SENCO to discuss her observations.

She remarked that baby girl seemed very excited to have a visitor in her classroom, and was even more excited when she also joined her in her small phonics group. She said baby girl was confident, happy and eager to please, so eager in fact that during her phonics group she put her hand up that many times to answer the questions (always correctly might I add) that her teacher encouraged her to let some of the other children have a turn. She remarked that she saw baby girl doing a drawing as part of her work that morning. She said baby girl was clearly putting in lots of effort to create her masterpiece, but that it was so teeny it was barely recognisable. There was talk of her posture and sitting position which her teacher apparently assured the Ed Psych that she is aware of and regularly reminds baby girl to sit ‘properly’.

Being the sceptic that I am, I sat thinking quietly to myself about how her teacher was great at telling people what they wanted to hear, just like she did when CAMHS offered to support her with baby girl last year and she told them baby girl wasn’t an issue and she was managing her quite well (even though she was telling me she was at her wits end and running out of idea’s). I also listened to all the comments about baby girl trying to impress the educational psychologist with her art work, phonics ability and good behaviour and all the while I was thinking to myself that, of course she would be doing all these things, there’s a stranger in her classroom, she’s going to want to impress them and not only because she’s compliant, and not only because she thrives on positive attention, but because keeping the people around her happy is how she keeps herself safe. But I don’t expect that someone who’s met with me once and seen baby girl for 1hour to really understand that.

The meeting moved on to talk about my thoughts on baby girl and what improvements it was that I wanted to see. I talked about her mood swings and the things I felt could trigger her stress. I mentioned how she seems to get very distressed by certain types of noises, how she has a fixation on smells and is obsessed with food. I talked about her fascination with other peoples ‘hurts’ but how she can also become overly distressed and distracted if a child is hurt or crying. I talked about her behaviour when she’s stressed and how it is different to her ‘normal’ behaviour. I talked about her inability to regulate her behaviour herself and how I help her to do this. I mentioned her unpredictability and shared my concerns about possible ‘sensory’ issues.

The educational psychologist suggested some work around helping baby girl recognise her own stress levels by perhaps using some sort of 1,2,3 style gauge similar to those used in ‘anger management’ techniques, and that her and I could use it to communicate her mood. I was happy with this suggestion but a little disappointed that there didn’t seem to be any suggestion of this gauge being used in school, or even for them to help prevent her becoming stressed in the first place.

I manage baby girl quite well at home, I prevent her becoming over stimulated because I know she can’t cope, and I recognise when she is unravelling and I help her to calm by pulling her close and giving her a cuddle. I commented that whilst I had sent baby girl in to school that morning having had a great nights sleep and appearing to be in a good mood, there was always the chance that a loud noise, a crying child, or a funny smell could change that in an instant and someone else needed to recognise these triggers with her and help regulate her instead of allowing her to remain dysregulated for the entire day.

But there was no talk about how her teacher could help to keep her calm by keeping her close through the day, or school being able to offer her any support/reassurances during unstructured times, there was no mention of her teacher becoming more aware of the triggers and being able to reassure baby girl that she was ‘safe’ and was ‘ok’ in order to calm her. There was only talk of her helping herself by recognising her own emotions and stress levels. This made me feel quite sad, she’s 6, she needs to know she is being looked after, she needs to know the people around her will ‘see’ her and keep her safe and meet her needs. Taking care of herself is something she had to learn within the first few weeks of her life, she knows how to do that!

I later learnt that whilst we were in this meeting talking about how her teacher is apparently managing her just fine and I was expressing my concerns about this, baby girl was sat in her classroom, at her table, cutting her school dress and cardigan with scissors, again.

CAMHS Part 3 – Session 3 – Hurting

Published April 22, 2013 by thefamilyof5

Today was the day the girls met the new child psychotherapist.

It was awful, from my perspective anyway. I’m sure it was very ‘interesting’ to the psychotherapist and family therapist we met with.

My head is a mess so forgive me if this is a jumbled blog post. There was baby talking, silly noises, scribbling, waving scissors around, manic laughter, flitting and dashing about and tears, the tears were all mine.

The girls and I attended a 9.30am appointment, there was a brief introduction period when we arrived and shortly after they were presented with a box of paper, pens, scissors, glue and small animals, a toy phone and a few other bits (I couldn’t see inside) they were encouraged to explore its contents and play with what ever they wanted too. Whilst they played the psychotherapist did lots of talking about their play and what it ‘might’ symbolise, he did lots of wondering out loud and labelling of what they were playing with and doing.

Big girls behaviour was typical for a camhs appointment, she was being silly, childish and flitting from one toy to the next, laughing manically and not really making much sense.

Middle girls behaviour was also typical, she sat back and observed quietly before joining her big sister in the silly behaviour and manic laughing.

Baby girls behaviour was less typical, usually she would just involve herself with a toy and pay little attention to the rest of the room. Today though she noticed her sisters manic behaviours, she heard their crazed laughter and incessant chatter and it made her feel anxious too. Perhaps she noticed it all because she’s older now, perhaps it was because she’s no longer a tornado of tiredness, perhaps it was just because she was ‘ready’.

It was difficult to see them all struggle but of all the girls, baby girl seemed to be struggling the most, her laughter was manic, she was making odd noises, her drawing was just scribble and she was covered in pen because she wasn’t really aware of what she was doing, she was even snipping scissors manically in the air at one point and demanding an orange pen whilst waving one in the air.
The psychotherapist all the while commenting on what they we’re doing and wondering out loud possible reasons that they may have ‘chosen to play with animals’, or ‘decided to feed the babies’, or ‘write their names on folders’, and ‘talk in to a toy telephone’ etc.
He remarked that their anxiety was understandable as they hadn’t really been told what to do so they didn’t know what they were ‘supposed’ to be doing. I told him that I understood that feeling as I too didn’t know how I was ‘supposed’ to respond to them during the session. Should I be doing what I usually would if they became anxious or was I supposed to allow them to free fall so the therapists could observe. The family therapist looked at me sympathetically and asked me what I wanted to do. I fought back the tears to tell her that I wanted to pick up baby girl, I didn’t wait for her response, I couldn’t, it was hurting too much to watch her fall apart, I wiped away my tears and I pulled her up from the floor where she was manically laughing, she fought my pull but I managed to get her to my lap and cradle her in my arms, I held her tight and told her it was ok, I stroked the bare skin under her t-shirt on her back and whispered ‘its ok I’m here’.

The psychotherapist then began to remark how the other 2 might be feeling left out now, as they also might have wanted to sit on my knee and have a cuddle. He then commented on how big girl then appeared (I didn’t see what he was referring too) to ‘look after’ middle girl. His comments made me feel rubbish, it was as though he was pointing out that I was neglecting big girl and middle girl in order to meet baby girls needs. I guess he was just adding validation to their thoughts and feelings, but non the less it left me feeling pretty inadequate.

Once baby girl calmed she went back to ‘playing’. They soon tired of the box and its contents and explored the various cupboards in the room and started to get out other toys. The psychotherapist tried to refocus them on his activity but they all pretty much blanked him. Still unsure of what I was ‘supposed’ to be doing, I allowed them to ignore him. I allowed them to get out the toys he was trying to take them away from. For a little while anyway, and like the sheppard that I sometimes feel I am, I rounded them up and reminded them that someone was talking to them and they should listen, so they did, well they pretended to listen anyway.

At the end of the session I peeled them down from the ceiling and herded them in to the car, where I calmed them. I reassured them that it was all ok, I did some wondering out loud of my own and encouraged them to tell me how they were feeling, by tea time they were almost back to ‘normal’.

Today has been one of the most difficult CAMHS sessions we’ve been to, and they haven’t even started ‘therapy’ yet!

CAMHS Part 3 – Session 2 – Eh?!

Published April 15, 2013 by thefamilyof5

Eh?! Is exactly what I was thinking as I walked across the car park back to my car after today’s session.

Today’s session was me, the family therapist and the psychotherapist. They started the meeting by asking me how the school holidays had gone. I was glad they asked this as I’d wanted to ask them for some advice on how to handle big girls recent increase in self harming.

It was then that my brain started to become confused. The psychotherapist abruptly interrupted me shortly after I started to ask for their advice and he began talking about, well to be honest, I’m not really sure what he was talking about. He talked about me responding to her behaviours rather than addressing under lying causes, he said something that sounded like ‘but your not seeing big girl just her behaviour’. He said at one point, ‘I know I’m being tough on you’, was he? I didn’t really understand anything of what he was saying, was he criticising me? he also said something about my job as a mum of 3 being a particularly difficult one, so was he praising me? At the end when he said ‘before you respond did you understand that’, I said ‘no, I seem to have completely missed your point?’. I really hadn’t a clue what he was talking about his comments seemed fragmented and seemed to flit from one topic to another, yet all the time I was aware that still no one had given me any advice on how I should react when big girl hurts herself.

So then the topic changed to how they thought our sessions should go moving forwards. The family therapist plans to offer support to me and my husband with the psychotherapist working with the girls. I quickly pointed out that my husband wouldn’t be able to attend lots of appointments due to his work commitments, there was talk of him using annual leave to which I pointed out that we like to keep that for ‘family time’ as we like to spend time doing things as a family as much as possible as we felt that was important. The psychotherapist appeared irritated by this and pointed out that he felt the work they were proposing to do with us was important too. I’m not sure if he was actually irritated but his tone certainly made me feel as though he was and in turn I became defensive and felt I needed to justify our decision to use my husbands annual leave for family time.

I know therapy is important and I know the girls, and us as a family, need this support. But at the same time, we have to try and be a normal family, and do normal family stuff in order to maintain some level of normality, our lives shouldn’t all be about trauma, adoption and therapy, should it?!

So anyway, I suggested that we had the occasional late appointment that would enable my husband to attend without his boss seeing him as an unreliable employee that needed lots of time off. The psychotherapist remarked how he thought it was interesting that I’d started off by saying how difficult it would be for my husband to attend regular sessions, but after he’d applied a little pressure I’d relented and said we could manage some late appointments. Again, I missed his point?! Was he saying I was weak and feeble? Or was he saying I was flexible and accommodating?

There was more talking by the psychotherapist, about what I couldn’t tell you, he rambled on and I barely made sense of any of it. He did at one point say something about big girl not allowing herself to trust that I will take care of her. I picked up on this, I agreed with his comment and tried to talk about the girls reactions to a recent surgery I’d had (I’ll blog about this another time). He hurried me along and then stopped me mid sentence to tell me we were out of time.

I left the office 59 and a half minutes after arriving, feeling confused about the content and purpose of the entire session!

It may take me some time to make sense of today.

Next week I’m to take all 3 girls, I hope he doesn’t confuse them as much as he did me!?

School Trips, Talent Shows & Stress!

Published April 12, 2013 by thefamilyof5

The School Trip

Big girl struggles with all things related to school. At the¬†beginning¬†of the year there was a 3 day residential trip. (I dont think I’ve blogged about it, but please forgive me for repeating myself if I have). As soon as I found out about the trip last year I had reservations about whether big girl would cope. She’d never spent a night away from us since she came home and I certainly¬†didn’t¬†think 2 nights away with school would be her ideal first sleep over, but still, I kept an open mind. The letters came out several weeks before Christmas. ‘please can I go?’ she asked. We chatted, I told her that I was worried that she¬†wouldn’t¬†like sleeping away from home and would be awake all night and then feel anxious all day. I suggested that we dropped her off and collected her each day so that she could sleep at home. ‘I really want to go, please can I go?’ she begged and pleaded until in the end¬†I agreed that if she really wanted to go and felt it was something she could handle, then she could go.

A few weeks later I wrote the cheque and put it in an envelope and left it ready to take to school. I popped to the shop that evening just before bedtime. Big girl spotted the envelope on the unit just before bed and asked Daddy what it was, so he told her it was the money for her trip and off she went to bed. That was a Friday night. From Friday to Monday she had around 12hours sleep in total. Every night that weekend She struggled to sleep, I’d go up to her room to ask her if she was ok and each time she would say she was fine. By Monday morning she was a jibbering mess and was crying and unable to tell me why. I’ll cut a very long and distressing Monday morning of missing school short, to tell you that in the end she blurted out that she actually¬†didn’t¬†want to go on the school trip afterall and had been worried about it all weekend. Needless to say that I reassured her that she didn’t have to do anything she didn’t want to do and I would book her the 3 days off school as holiday. And I did. I might add that until the actual day of the school trip came, and passed,¬†she didn’t fully trust that I would keep my promise, but when the day arrived, she sighed a huge sigh of¬†relief. ¬†And so did I.

The Talent Show

A few weeks ago big girl came home from school with a letter to enter a talent show, ‘Please can I do it?’ she asked. Here we go again I thought. I was right, everything that happened with the school trip happened all over again, she begged, and pleaded, I told her of my concerns, she pleaded some more, I relented and signed the form. The talent show was/is to take place some time after Easter half term the letter said. Over Easter half term ¬†she was stressy, stroppy, tired and irritable and the self harming habits returned. ¬†After many nights of no sleep and many many difficult days, she finally blurted out that she¬†didn’t¬†want to do the talent show afterall.

Big girl so desperately wants to fit in at school.

Next time she presents me with something I don’t think she will cope with, I will go with my gut reaction and say no.

 

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