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All posts for the month October, 2015

What You See – Guest Post by Grey Street

Published October 29, 2015 by thefamilyof5

What you see, is sometimes not the whole picture. This is a great post from Grey Street!

“On the outside he seems like a pretty typical kid – a happy healthy boy who is learning his way in the world, is active, asks lots of questions, wants to know how things work and loves to play. I see that too, but, there’s also underlying behaviour and patterns that I see.”

Extract Taken from: What You See  written by Grey Street!

 

 

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Guest Post from ‘Life with Katie’

Published October 24, 2015 by thefamilyof5

Then and Now……

by Gem at Life with Katie

 

 

Long before we adopted Katie and Pip I trained to be a counsellor and I soon found myself specialising in working with teenagers. I worked for a newly developed government initiative called Connexions both in secondary education and in the community. If a young person was struggling in school, usually with behavioural or emotional problems, they would be referred to me for support. Over the 8 years in the role there were a great many challenging issues that I worked with and helped young people through.

In my profession there is often a lot of literature to research to enable professionals to understand and support young people with specific issues. At that point there was nothing on adoption. I had training in attachment as part of my counselling training but it really focused on the mainstream attachment types. As a result I often feel I let my adopted clients down. There was much I didn’t know. I didn’t understand for example that it makes no difference at what age you’re adopted as to whether you may have an attachment disorder or not.

Like many professionals I didn’t understand those things. Don’t get me wrong I think I was very good at my job. I really tried to understand my clients and do my best to help them. I researched the support available for them and explored with them their feelings to the best of my ability. Now I would be asking very different questions to understand both the emotional and physical responses. I would work closely with adoptive parents with far more understanding of their pain and frustration and not just see them as a potential part of the problem. I often think of the mother of an adopted teen I supported. She seemed to be one of the most ineffectual parents I have ever met. She didn’t engage well with me and mostly seemed emotionally disengaged to everything I was doing. I judged her harshly for that although I recognised she had been experiencing challenges with her son since he was 6. Now I see she was exhausted from years of trying to get help for her son who was diagnosed with ADHD which I now suspect was actually had Reactive Attachment Disorder and she was suffering from secondary trauma after years of the family home being smashed up when he was angry.

What’s brought about this change in me and how I view this particular situation? What makes me feel I let my adopted pupils down?

Well I am that parent now. I am the parent of adopted children. I am the parent of an adopted child who is nearly 8 and has the most horrendous temper tantrums like a toddler. She is often very emotionally regressed at home. She talks in baby talk. She spits. She swears. She hits me and my husband. She kicks us. She rages inwardly and out. She has OCD. We suspect she has Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. She experiences difficulties with learning anything to do with numbers. She is the most beautiful girl who is very loving and kind and compliant at school and away from the home but at home her behaviour is unpredictable and sometimes quite violent. Because she is so compliant outside of the home people often don’t believe that she can behave this way. My own sister didn’t believe me until a few months ago when she experienced Katie have a meltdown in her car after an attempted sleep over went wrong due to Katie’s anxiety. She then watched me struggle for over half an hour to help contain and calm her emotions down again. It took a long time before Katie’s school would accept that we had a problem. They provided some support but it was clear to me that they didn’t really comprehend the situation I was explaining to them initially. It took a very special supply teacher to listen to me and who took the time to piece together in the classroom what I had tried to explain to her the previous year. The intense relief I felt on the day when she told me she could evidence Katie’s hyper-stimulation in class was amazing. She was the first person who agreed that it wasn’t just that she needed to “improve her concentration”. She was able to evidence that Katie just doesn’t seem to understand numbers and to put one-to-one support in place for her (whilst also noticing how Katie was unable to perform well if she moved the classroom they were studying in unexpectedly). Thanks to her observations we were able to start building targeted support in school.

I currently consider myself (and Katie) very lucky. She recently moved to junior school. She was terrified about the move. We knew this because the 6 weeks holidays before the move were horrendous at home. To say it was tough would be an understatement. We had a plan in place to support her. She had a book of photographs of her new school to look through. She had had extra visits to the new school but she was still terrified. I’ve never seen her like that. Not only was she anxious about changing schools but the move triggered all her anger and fears from moving home to us when she was two years old. I was pushed to emotional limits I didn’t even know existed. For adopted children and their adoptive parents any change can trigger an extreme reaction. An unexpected change in teacher without a full explanation can trigger anxiety at a PTSD level for some children. This sort of anxiety is becoming more understood in children with autism but is less understood for adopted children. The subject matter in a book or classroom discussion can trigger an adopted child and our school curriculum is full anxieties for the parents of adopted children. Personal timelines and discussions about wartime evacuated children to name just two. Noises in a school can trigger memories of scary times for children who have experienced abuse or witnessed domestic violence.

I met with Katie’s new Head Teacher early in the new school term. We talked for nearly 2 hours. I opened myself up and was honest with her about Katie’s behaviour at home. I have trusted her with that information. I have trusted her not to judge me as a ineffectual parent because I struggle to control my daughter’s behaviour at home. I trusted her to hear about our challenges and methods for supporting our daughter and to understand the high levels of anxiety my daughter experiences when she comes to school. So far my trust in her has reaped rewards. She met with all Katie’s teachers and TA’s and they worked out how they would support Katie in class. She also set up one-to-one maths support and also ELSA sessions to help Katie with her friendships. The outcomes can be evidenced in her workbooks with a massive improvement overnight in the work she is producing. Katie’s teacher has noticed that when they start a new task Katie will ask to a) go to the loo; b) wash her hands; c) have a drink or d) sharpen her pencil. She has recognised that this means Katie is anxious about starting the new task for fear of getting it wrong. She handles Katie in exactly the right way and things are working well. Katie recently received a Learner of the Week certificate and school are happy with her progress. They know though that a good day at school can mean an awful evening at home. The evening after Katie received her Learner of the Week certificate was horrendous because Katie didn’t want to win the certificate. She was embarrassed at being singled out and didn’t want anyone to think she was good at anything because that doesn’t match her inner dialogue. She thinks she is horrible and fat and can’t do anything. She told me she would never win that prize again. I gave this information back to her teacher who was surprised to hear this but sought to be understanding and supportive of how Katie felt.

My experience isn’t that of a lot of adopters. I hear the stories of adopters being forced to remove their children from mainstream education because the children cannot cope within a school environment. I listen daily to stressed and angry parents who feel that they are being blamed or stigmatised in school because they are trying hard to enable the school to understand and support their child or children but feel they are viewed as overly anxious or neurotic parents, yet they are just parents who want the best for their children. They want their children to live as normal a life as they possibly can whilst understanding that, for their child, fitting in at school might take every ounce of energy their child has to appear to be well behaved. They understand that their child is terrified that someone will beat them up if they are noticed or if they do anything wrong so they appear incredibly compliant at school. They know, like I do, that people look at their child and cannot comprehend how a child who is so well behaved and willing to learn in school can physically turn a house upside down in anger because that is the only place they feel safe enough to express how they are really feeling.

I consider myself to be very lucky that my daughter now goes to a school that listens to us both. We have supportive teachers. Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and let people into our world has helped my daughter at school yet they might be surprised to know that every morning Katie pretends to be ill so she doesn’t have to go to school. There can often be a war waged just to get her dressed and out of the house yet that war ceases the moment she steps out of the car at school where anyone else can see her.

If I were a professional now, I would listen as closely to me as our Head Teacher did to me. I would seek to understand. I would have a lot of empathy for a parent who lays herself or himself emotionally bare to me so that they can access necessary support for their child and I would understand how terrified that parent is of being judged as a bad parent. One thing I do know is that any parent who is prepared to do that for their child really isn’t a bad parent. They may be a parent who is anxious about their child’s daily experiences in school. They may be a parent who is terrified of what awaits them when their child comes out of school. Who is suffering from the secondary trauma that often goes hand in hand with parenting a highly traumatised child. That isn’t a bad parent. That is an incredible parent who is parenting at a parenting plus level. That is a parent who deserves all the support that is available towards a common goal. The best care of the child.

 

 

I am a trained Counsellor and Reiki Master Teacher. I have been married to TCM for over 20 years and live in the south of England. We adopted Katie aged 2 in 2010 and her brother Pip in 2013 aged 7 months. The blog “Life with Katie” was born when we were matched with Katie and documents our family life. (Gem)

Welcome!

Published October 23, 2015 by thefamilyof5

It seems I have some new readers, which is always nice!

Sadly it seems that some of those new readers have come with an agenda, it isn’t the first time and I’m sure it wont be the last, it is shameful a shame that people feel they can try and use my blog against me. I’m sure time could be better spent giving me less to write about!

I’m going to remain quiet for a *while, not because I don’t want to upset anyone, and certainly not because I have anything to hide.  Instead I’d like to encourage my readers, old and mostly new, to explore my blog, click some of the links, read some of the other blogs that I’ve recommended, share what you read, learn and stop assuming I’m neurotic enjoy!  You’ll see a lot of rants about school similarities and familiar themes I’m sure.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to invite my fellow adoption bloggers, and adoption **experts to write a ‘guest post’. I’d like you to support me by allowing me the honor of sharing your stories and spreading your word on all matters ‘adoption’. You can email me at familyof5@live.co.uk if you’d like to write a ‘guest post’ or just get in touch.

 

*probably wont be long, I find writing hugely cathartic and feel strongly about sharing our story.

** adoptive parents are the experts

Mummys – Written by The Family of 5

Published October 22, 2015 by thefamilyof5

Mummys – Written by The Family of 5

Mum I’d like to tell you, just how much I care,
but something inside stops me, so instead I stand and stare.
I want to reach and touch you and let you stroke my hair,
but you see I’m not like other kids, I have a cross i bare.

My birth Mum let me down a lot, she failed to keep me safe,
the mother that I’d trusted and invested all my faith,
didn’t do the Mummy job and so I had to go,
and its hard for me to understand why I have to miss her so.

From that I learnt from early on that Mummys arnt that great,
so when I pull away from you, and prefer to hug your mate,
please don’t cry and feel so sad, its not to make you mad,
i really do like being with you, but you see, your a Mummy too!

Recipe for Adoption – by The Family of 5

Published October 22, 2015 by thefamilyof5

Recipe for Adoption – by The Family of 5

We became the five of us
One hot and sunny day
Our beautiful big family
was not formed the usual way.

We took a pinch of love
And mixed a little fight
We added 3 scoops of beauty
And baked with all our might.

The mix is rising steadily
And soon it will be done
We’ll always feel so proud
Of how we did become.

I’m ONLY the mom!

Published October 19, 2015 by thefamilyof5

So things are not really going to plan at High School. My big girl is finding it very difficult and school are finding it very difficult to see past her fake smile and provide the support she so desperately needs, which is mostly free I’ll add, just a little bit of empathy and lot of understanding and a little forethought is really all she needs, We’re not talking laptops and 1:1 staffing here. She’s coming home tearful and sad and feeling inadequate, I preferred it when she was angry I think, at least she still seemed to have some fight left in her. In just under 6 weeks of big girl being at high school, communication between home and school has become quite strained. I’ve been labelled as the neurotic parent that makes shit up. Its all in my head it seems!

So, there is a meeting that’s been arranged by the Senco at high school. Its a very important meeting. Its a meeting to discuss how to support my girl I’m told. Everyone will be there, all the professionals. A lot rests on the out-come of this meeting. Among the lucky attendees will be the autism support services, the head teacher from primary school, our post adoption social worker, even someone from the local authority SEND team is going. Its going to be a big meeting I expect, they’re going to need a really big table, lots of chairs to I expect, probably someone on hand to make tea and coffee and serve the odd biscuit. Everyone will sit around together, work together and discuss my girl, her needs and how they can work together to best support her. Id imagine someone will take minutes, which is a bloody good job really because according to the Senco, I’m not invited, apparently its a meeting for professionals and as I’m ‘ONLY’ a parent, he feels it wouldn’t be ‘appropriate’!

Happy National Adoption Week Everyone! #NAW2015

Dear Teacher

Published October 11, 2015 by thefamilyof5

Dear Teacher,

I want to tell you about my girl, she grew up in an environment where the adults couldn’t be trusted, but you know this because I told you. She learnt that the best way to keep herself safe was to always be ‘OK’, remember, just like when I told you how she likes to always appear ‘ok’ even though she isnt?? She learnt that from a very early age ‘smiling’ all the time kept her safe, when she smiled no one bothered her, but when she cried, or needed a nappy change or even just some food, the adults weren’t always too happy about this. So she smiled, it was the safest way to be, you know, just like I told you.

The thing is, her smile switch gets stuck when she feels scared, the same as it did when she was small. She cant turn it off, she doesn’t even know how to. She really wants to, she finds it so frustrating to not be able to frown, cry, ask for help. She really wishes people would help her, but she just cant let herself be anything less than ‘ok’. Her ‘smile switch’ gets stuck when she’s at school. Remember when I said I needed you to help her even when she looked ok?

You’ll have noticed the lack of anything other than ‘happy’ from her I’m sure. You probably think its strange that a child that received so much support in Primary school is seemingly happy and settled after only a few weeks in high school with very little support. You may have even noticed how little she needs, how helpful she is, and of course the smile she wears, every day, without fail. I’m sure you will have, because these are all the things I told you about before she came to your school.

When she’s at home her ‘smile switch’ gets un-stuck, she no longer feels terrified, she feels safe. She tells me about her day sometimes, how scared she has felt and how hard it was. She tells me its her fault that no one helps her, she tells me that she thinks she is stupid for not telling you that she needs help. She tells me about the times that she really tries her hardest to show you, but all she can manage to do is to tell you, smile intact, that she has a headache. She tells me how disappointed she feels when you still don’t realise that she needs your help. Then, she shows me the only other emotion she’s learnt. Anger. She learnt this one early on too. She saw the adults around her get angry a lot. She learnt all about fear and anger, in fact they’re probably the only 2 emotions she is really familiar with. She’s just as good at showing ‘anger’ as she is at showing ‘happy’.

So I’m wondering why, when I gave you all of this information about her, when I told you all about the signs to watch out for, the smile, the helping, the facade. Why is it that you are still unable to believe me when I tell you that she is feeling un-safe in school? Why is it that you are still not supporting her? Why is it that you are even sometimes careless about the things you say to her or the work you set for her? Why is this so difficult for you to understand?

Perhaps its because you don’t live with a child that has lived a life similar to the that which my girl has lived, perhaps its that you have never even met as child as scared as mine, or perhaps its just that it is too hard for you to think about, too hard to consider that you don’t know how to help her and support her, maybe its just too hard to believe that I know her best. Well you don’t need to worry. Because I’m here to tell you everything you need to know about my girl so that you can help her feel safe in your school. I know my girl better than anyone so your rather lucky to have my insight, but I seem to remember telling you all that before as well, do you remember? It was just before you promised that we could work together to support her. I’m so glad we had all those meetings. I’m so glad that I trusted you to support my girl just liked you promised you would.

Kindest Regards,

Pissed off Parent!

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