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All posts for the month June, 2013

We went to the zoo, zoo, zoo…….

Published June 30, 2013 by thefamilyof5

We went to the zoo today. They’ve never really been much of a hit in the past. Today was no exception.

Each animal/display/event was glanced at for no more than 3 seconds before a chorus of ‘I want to see something else now’ was heard.

However…..

We’ve all smiled, giggled and enjoyed being with each other. No one moaned about the heat, no one nagged or whined, no one got told off (well except daddy but that’s nothing new), and no one cried, ok well perhaps I secretly shed a tear or two in the car on the way home over my aching legs and sore feet and I sure daddy filled up when he found out how much we’d spent, but over all, even though the zoo was naff and the girls really had very little interest in anything other than the ice creams we ate, we’ve all shared a lovely sunny family day!

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Time for change……

Published June 29, 2013 by thefamilyof5

Well we’ve made a huge decision, we’ve decided to move the girls to a different school.

The girls go to a big school, one of the biggest in the area, it has the capacity to educate over 500 children. It has an excellent reputation.

Moving them is a decision we’ve been considering for over a year now and not one we’ve taken lightly. We first considered moving them in 2011, but then Ofsted put our school in to ‘special measures’ and most people ‘jumped ship’, so we decided to stay and actually thought the smaller classrooms and additional training the staff would receive would benefit the girls. But the new head master is just too good, he’s turned the school around and ofsted re-assessed several months later as ‘good’.

So the other parents are happy, elated in fact. Me however, I’m worried. The school is once again the best in the area. With the capacity to take over 100 more children and I’m sure those places will be filled quickly.

So what is my worry, you may be wondering, well I have many. There are many things that I’ve been disappointed with over the last 3 years. Out of date IEP’s, CAF meetings cancelled over and over, lack of understanding of the girls needs, not enough time to speak with me about my concerns, messages that never get passed on to teachers, confidential paper work that gets ‘lost’, the day they all managed to excuse themselves from class, issues with dinner time staff the list goes on, but the most important thing is that significant behaviours go unnoticed, and the girls know they go unnoticed, and subsequently don’t feel safe.

Its a big school, there’s a lot of children and like every school teachers have so much to fit in to each day that it doesn’t leave much time for anything else.

Baby girl is currently in a year group with many difficult children, many of them present the teacher with all manor of difficult behaviours every day. Baby girl is by far no where near the most difficult child in her class, or even her year group, but I won’t deny she is difficult, however, she is the most traumatised and this goes unnoticed.

Middle girl spends every day being helpful, smiling and being generally compliant. Her teacher is obviously grateful of her seemingly good behaviour, but I know its driven by fear, and that needs to be acknowledged.

Big girl is actually having a great year for the first time since arriving, she seems settled. So why move her, you may wonder. Well I feel her ASD diagnosis has played a big part in this as its a ‘title’ teachers know, and its largely followed by actually having teachers that ‘understand’ her and appreciate her struggles and make her feel safe. But what happens next year and the year after, she’s had 1 good year out of 3, her security shouldn’t depend on a lottery of teachers.

So now is the best time to move them, big girl has 2 years to settle and make some friends before she starts high school. Baby girl has 5 years left, and middle girl has 4 years left at primary school, that’s time for them to feel noticed, feel safe and make some ‘real’ friendships.

So we’ve chosen a tiny school, its a church school that is less than a 3rd of the size. The class sizes are smaller, there are less teachers, less rooms, less space, less noise! Its calmer and has a more therapeutic feel. They currently have an autistic child and a looked after child on their register and I’m confident their approach with the girls will be better suited.

Am I confident that this is the right decision, no I’m not. Am I confident that a smaller school is definitely what they need, no I’m not. But what I do know is that the current school the girls attend, isn’t the right school for them.

CAMHS – Is this the end?

Published June 28, 2013 by thefamilyof5

Today was session 8 of the 3rd phase of our CAMHS appointments. In total I’ve blogged about 26 sessions.  A few more took place before I started blogging so I’d say we’ve attended around 30 in total.

Phase 1 began February 2012 and we had 10 sessions with a family therapist, then he left.

Phase 2 began August 2012 and we had 8 sessions with a replacement family therapist.

Phase 3 began January 2013 and today was our 8th session with the replacement family therapist and also a psychotherapist.

Those of you that follow my blog will know that since the psychotherapist joined our sessions I’ve been feeling more and more unsure about the direction we’ve been moving in, quite often leaving sessions feeling confused and upset.

Today was no exception, in fact Im really not sure what happened today or where it came from. The psychotherapist appeared to have an agenda  for the session that I wasn’t privy to. The session started with them remarking how they felt I’d reached breaking point with the sleep issues we’re having with middle girl. I explained that it had been a bad day when they saw me last but that things had gotten slightly better. Early on in the session he said ‘I think we have some difficult things that need to be said’ and then he waffled on some more, all the time I was still waiting to hear these difficult things. Then he talked about middle girl and her sleeping arrangement’s. He clearly wasn’t happy with the arrangements, but neither am I. He said middle girl seemed to be lost and not knowing where her place within the family was and he knew I’d disagree. He was right, I disagreed and said that the only one of our daughters that may feel that way was baby girl.

He then became very confrontational, he said middle girl was clearly terrified to be sleeping in the same room as these two adults that she had no relationship with. Yes, those two adults he was referring to, are me and my husband! So now she has no relationship with us and is scared of us for some reason. I pointed out that whilst I agree’d it wasn’t an ideal situation, when we’d taken the very difficult decision to move middle girl to our room we had never envisaged it being for more than a few weeks, however 8 months later she’s still there. And there she will remain until our extension is built. I was then grilled, and yes I really felt like I was being grilled, about why the extension was taking so long. I explained that I wasn’t in the driving seat and that legal agreements were being drawn up and understandably legal clauses were being put in place by the Placing authority to protect their finances in the event of various circumstances such a marriage breakdown, house sale etc, all of which was taking time. I was further grilled about my feelings about the clauses.

He suggested we’re finding it hard to love middle girl. He said he felt I really didn’t understand middle girls struggles and he felt she was very switched on and understood everything. He’s met her 5 times perhaps, and he knows her better than me apparently. I explained that I understood she was struggling and how right from the beginning when we first asked for help from CAMHS I’d expressed my concern over her compliance. I explained that loving her wasn’t an issue, but perhaps ‘understanding’ her was because she is a very closed book. I also explained that I understood that middle having her own bedroom wasn’t going to fix things but it would get us in to a situation where we would be better able to support her. I also pointed out that I felt school played a part in middle girls anxiety’s and that her compliance in school, whilst a convenience for her teachers, wasn’t being seen for what it really was, fear. I then went on to explain how we’d taken the decision to move the girls to a different school. I didn’t get a chance to explain anything else before he abruptly interrupted me. ‘I’m not happy with how quickly you make these big decisions’ he said and followed up with a barrage of abruptly put questions ‘How have you prepared the girls, do they know, when will you tell them, where is the school, there is only 2 weeks left of term when exactly do you plan on telling them, why haven’t you mentioned this before.’ Feeling attacked I defended myself by informing him firstly that I don’t tell him everything, and in fact wasn’t sure when he’d have liked me to have told him given that the girls are usually present. ‘You could ring’ he said. Still unsure why he even felt I should be running my decisions past him, I told him that this wasn’t a decision we’d taken lightly, it had been on the cards for some time, over a year in fact, there were many factors involved (which I explained to him) but the biggest being that we didn’t feel the girls felt safe in such a big and busy school and more recently over the last month or so we’d decided that if we were to move them, now was the right time and we’d actually chosen a school today, that was a third of the size and offered a very nurturing environment.

He didn’t like my response. There was an awkward silence.

We’d been talking for only 45 minutes but he said time was up. The family therapist suggested a new appointment date and he objected stating he’d like to put things on hold for now and instead would be writing to the placing authority and us with a summary of his findings!?

I left.

I was furious, what had just happened. I felt like I was being accused of something but I really wasn’t sure what. I felt like I’d been attacked. I don’t like confrontation, its scary. And what on earth did he need to write to us about, never mind the placing authority?

I fought back my tears and not knowing where else to turn for advice on what I should do, I rang the placing authority. The social worker listened as I rambled on and empathised about how difficult it all sounded. I told her I wanted to withdraw from the service and she rightly suggested it was better to make such big decisions when I was feeling less angry and upset. We chatted for some time, well I chatted/ranted she listened. I told her about his plans to write to her, she was equally as perplexed about what. She gave me some advice on what my options were and what to do next and assured me she was always happy to help where she could.

My anger subsided and the tears flowed.

What sort of therapy, requires therapy afterwards!? I’m not sure if we’ll continue with this service the way things are or if we’ll ask for a change of therapist or even withdraw from the service altogether, but what I do know is, its not supposed to feel like this, is it?!

They say……..

Published June 25, 2013 by thefamilyof5

They say the more she pushes away the closer I should pull her in,
They say the louder she screams the harder I should try to soothe her,
They say I shouldn’t take her anger personally,
They say she’s hurting inside,
They say I need to rise above it,
They say I should love her harder, love her better, love her more,
But I just can’t do it!

The gap between middle girl and me is widening. The more she screams and fights sleep at night and strops through her tiredness all day, the more I withdraw. I know its wrong.

I tried the therapeutic approach, I soothed her, I made allowances, excuses, I pulled her close and offered her reassurances, love and more and still she pushed. We’ve been fighting when we should have been bonding.

I moved her bed to my bedroom so baby girl could get some rest. I knew it was a mistake but I had no other choice. Now its me who gets no rest.

I’m ashamed, I’m angry, I’m resentful, I’m sad, I’m worried and I’m frustrated. I can’t change the way I feel, I no longer have the energy to pretend, I’m beat.

Until this situation changes, I can’t change, I’ve passed that point a long time ago.

We’ve never needed this extension more than we need it right now. We just have to hang on a little longer!

CAMHS Part 3 – Session 6 & 7

Published June 25, 2013 by thefamilyof5

Today was session 7.

I didn’t write about session 6 because I came away feeling pretty bewildered about what was supposed to have been achieved, I thought it would come to me after I’d had some time to process the session…….it didn’t.

Todays session has left me feeling fed up, frustrated, confused and tearful. I really have no understanding of what these sessions are about or supposed to achieve.

I collect 3 stressed out girls from school, the journey there is full of nonsense conversations, when we arrive there is usually a rush to see who can get to the door first to open it, we sit in the waiting room, each girl chooses a book to look at whilst we wait, then they constantly compete for my attention to look at their books, all I hear is a constant stream of ‘look mommy’ from 3 different directions. Then when its time, they eagerly rush ahead to ‘the room’ where we’re greeted by the family therapist and psychotherapist. ‘The box’ is always on the table, they instantly open it and busy themselves with its contents ‘colouring’ ‘glueing’ and ‘cutting’ mostly. The psychotherapist talks the most, wondering if a sun is being drawn because they’re happy, or if they’re gluing the paper together because they feel things are falling apart, or if they’re cutting of the paper is significant in some way or if their choice of plastic animal relates to some bizarre feeling or emotion that’s not being met. Mostly the girls are just busy and ignoring him. 59 minutes later I take home 3 stressed out girls and spend the rest of the day calming them.

For me however, the sessions seem to mean so much more. I’m listening to him, I’m taking in everything he says. Is she gluing the paper because she feels like she’s falling apart? Does that plastic cow really represent a need I haven’t met? Is that black house she drew her dark view of our life? Is the fact that she sat in a different chair a sign of her insecurities? Did she draw food because she’s feeling empty inside? Am I missing this much? Am I really this inadequate and incapable?

Most of the things the girls do are just ‘playing’ I’m sure. I’m also sure that sometimes his random wonderings put idea’s in to their head. Like the day he asked, ‘I wonder if your thinking that the spare chair should be for daddy and where he fits in to all of this?’ Well I’m fairly sure they hadn’t even noticed the spare chair until he pointed it out and hadn’t even considered the idea that daddy might come to the sessions at some point. Most of his wonderings leave me feeling ‘rubbish’, and as though I’m missing so much, but am I really?

I’m not! I’m not missing it, I know the girls are struggling, I know we have problems we need to work through, we wouldn’t be there otherwise would we.

I just wonder when they’re going to stop telling me how bad things are and start telling me how to make them better!

Friends & Friendship

Published June 23, 2013 by thefamilyof5

This weeks topic for #WASO (Weekly Adoption Shout Out) is friends.

Friends is always a cause for concern for any parent, for me, the worries that keep me awake in the small hours are different for each of my daughters.

Big girl has always found friendships difficult, partly due to her Autism and partly due to her past. Big girl lacks the skills to make and keep friends. Her need for control makes sharing difficult and her communication issues make even conversations difficult. Big girl and I recently started an Adaptive Skills course. The course is aimed at teaching her new/better ways to make friends. We’re 3 weeks in to a 6 week course and so far we’ve covered ‘Greetings’ ‘Conversations’ and ‘Friendships & Compliments’. One of the practical exercises in our last class was for each of the 8 children on the course to pair up with another child and share what they do that makes them a good friend, and what they could do better. Big girl paired up with a boy and after her initial shyness, giggling and noise making I prompted her to begin the conversation. ‘What makes you a good friend’ I asked. ‘Im good at sharing, I listen and I play the things my friends want to play’ she replied, ‘and what do you think you could do better?’ I prompted. ‘erm…………….nothing’. The little boys conversation went pretty much the same way. At the end of the session the little boys mother and I had a brief chat. ‘They already think they’re great at being friends so I cant see how this course is going to help them’ she remarked, ‘I agree’ I replied. Big girl doesn’t have any friends, she’s never been invited to a party, she’s never had a play date and often spends break times by herself. Yet if you ask her, she’ll tell you she has lots of friends, but she’ll lie awake at night knowing she hasn’t. So I share this mothers concerns, how will this course help them, if they ‘think’ they’re already doing all the things they’re being taught.

During reception class and the early part of Year 1 Middle girl used to be so popular, she was always greeted on the play ground each morning with a chorus of ‘good mornings’ from a huge array of children, mostly girls. She’s been on play dates and used to be inundated with party invites. Lately however things have changed, now nearing the end of year 2 she no longer appears to be so ‘noticed’ on the playground, the girls that used to call her name now walk on by, these days, she walks across the playground shouting the odd ‘good morning’ to a small handful of boys, who barely acknowledge her. So what changed!? Her peer group grew up. The girls she played princesses with on the playground now want to chat, and talk about the latest pop group or share some dance moves. Middle girl has a speech and language issue which can make conversations difficult, her conversation doesn’t flow like that of her peers, its fragmented and often doesn’t make sense. Her desperation to please and fit in is just an added pressure to make ‘finding the words’ more difficult. So these days she plays mostly with the boys, she cant tell you there names, or what they play just that she plays with them. She hasn’t had a party invite for over a year now and the play dates dried up in year 1.

Baby girl has great social skills, she can be kind, she can listen and she can hold a great conversation. However the chaos inside her, craves more chaos which draws her towards the more difficult children. She’s drawn to the children that lead her in the wrong direction, the children that fulfill her need for chaos yet terrify her at the same time. Baby girl isn’t yet ready for play dates I feel, which is good because she’s not been invited to any, and the party invitations have dwindled. Its no surprise though, and its perfectly understandable, I’m not sure I’d encourage my child to play with a girl that was so disruptive in class and ‘known’  to be in so much trouble all the time. I know the other side to her though, I know inside she is a kind and gentle, frightened little girl that so desperately wants to find her place in the world around her. She’s lost, torn and confused by the love that surrounds her and the chaos within her. She’s not ready to lead just yet, so for now she’s being led.

Friendship According to Wiki

In childhood, friendships are often based on the sharing of toys, and the enjoyment received from performing activities together. These friendships are maintained through affection, sharing, and creative playtime. While sharing is difficult for children at this age, they are more likely to share with someone they consider to be a friend (Newman & Newman, 2012). As children mature, they become less individualized and more aware of others. They begin to see their friends’ points of view, and enjoy playing in groups. They also experience peer rejection as they move through the middle childhood years. Establishing good friendships at a young age helps a child to be better acclimated in society later on in their life (Newman & Newman, 2012).

Its hardly surprising my girls struggle, they’re busy putting all their emotional and physical energy into keeping themselves safe in school, they don’t have anything left for ‘Friendship’.

A proud moment…….

Published June 22, 2013 by thefamilyof5

I won’t deny I thought it was out of her reach. Having barely scraped through for her last (50mtr) distance badge I thought the chances of her being able to swim double the distance was optimistic at best. I was nervous about how she would react to the ‘failure’, her self esteem already low, another knock could set her back so far. So I kept reminding her that as long as she did her best nothing else mattered.

But big girl proved me wrong and got her 100mtr swimming badge this week!

Her technique was, shall we say, ‘interesting’, but her determination to succeed was faultless!

I think I’m more proud of her determination than her achievement, this is the girl that 3 years ago refused to even ‘try’ to achieve anything for fear of failure!

Very proud of my big girl!

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