attachment

All posts tagged attachment

What’s plan B?

Published May 24, 2018 by thefamilyof5

I tweeted recently, wondering about how or where adopters can go for support if the relationship with their county’s post adoption department breaks down.

Peer support is great but realistically other than a listening ear from other mentally and physically exhausted parents experiencing the same difficulties, there isn’t much they can do to help.

Adoption UK is a great place for facts and sign posting, but they can’t help you access the adoption support fund or attend meetings or offer respite or therapy.

Someone suggested approaching a local voluntary agency, and whilst I’m confident they would like to help, realistically who would fund them to support an adoptive family that’s not on their books.

So where can we go, when the relationship breaks down with your local support service it seems there is no where else to go.

Our own county has 1 manager and 2-3 actual social workers who work alongside 2-3 family support workers. When the newly assigned social worker told us that child on parent violence was normal teen behaviour and we needed generic parenting training our confidence in her was lost. When their manager backed her up and agreed the issues we were experiencing didn’t fall with the post adoption remit, we lost all hope. When the generic local parenting support team that they referred us to said that the difficulties were experiencing were way beyond anything they could help with, we were left feeling abandoned by the very services that were meant to be supporting us.

So where do we go?! When we need someone to help school understand attachment and trauma (because we all know schools don’t listen to us measly parents), where do we go? When we need therapeutic advice or support services, where do we go? When you’re confident almost all members of your family are suffering some kind of ptsd, where do you go? When your children are experiencing difficulties managing their feelings, where do you go? When you need support for siblings, where do you go? There is no where.

The system designed to support us does so conditionally, there’s no plan B.

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Baby steps (part 2 if I’ve used this title before?!).

Published April 26, 2018 by thefamilyof5

Big girl comes home from school every day very ‘hyper’. This is an indication of anxiety. Every day I spend about 30-40mins talking to her as soon as she walks through the door, she tells me about her day, processes her thoughts and unloads everything on to me. She feels calmer afterwards and I can get on with making the dinner.

On quite a few occasions she’s come home more hyper than usual. For example, there was the day of her science fair, a Friday, she came home in such a state we almost called an ambulance or took her to A&E. It took 4hrs that evening to get her to a relative state of normal, but it took until the Sunday lunchtime for her to really be feeling ‘ok’.

Then there was yesterday, a change in timetable first thing in the morning and an extra long PE session with 2 potential new teachers was just too much. She came home very hyper/manic and again, it took me some time to calm her down and help to regulate her. This time, she was able to tell me why she was so hyper, usually she isn’t aware and we have to work it out together, she recognised that the PE lesson first thing in the morning had left her feeling anxious and overwhelmed all day. She recognised things that she had done throughout the day were because of her anxiety. She told me about jumping in class and generally being ‘silly’ all day. These are not behaviours that you would usually associate with big girl, unless she was anxious.

We talked about how hard it must be for her to feel this anxious all day and how it wasn’t healthy for her brain or her body to be feeling like this for long periods of time. We talked about what she thought she could do to help herself calm down once she’s recognised her anxiety levels. We came up with many ideas, such a leaving the classroom, talking to a teacher, going for a walk, using the sensory room, sitting and reading a book and a few others, none of these she felt would help her. The only thing she felt might help was being at home or with me. We talked about how maybe phoning home could be an option and she thought that was worth a try however, having the courage to ask a teacher to let her call home posed another issue.

It’s amazing that she has, for the first time to my knowledge, been aware, in the moment, of how she is feeling, it is also the first time she has been able to recognise that things she is doing ‘aren’t right’ and are because she is anxious. She said that when she was jumping around she was telling herself in her brain that she needed to stop and things weren’t ok. But she couldn’t.

What is exceptionally sad about all of this though, is that all of this information is in the Letter to Teacher that she gave to her teacher during her transition to school. It specifically mentions silly behaviour being a sign of anxiety, it talks about new faces and changes to routines being a trigger for anxiety AND it also suggests offering a phone call home as reassurance. Big girl is developing a new awareness about herself and how she feels, but she can’t do it all by herself. She needs help to regulate and feel safe.

We’re meeting with school tomorrow, I really hope that we’re able to help her teachers to really ‘know’ big girl and not just see the facade she allows them to see.

Big girls bag of worries.

Published April 11, 2018 by thefamilyof5

Big girls been struggling this half term, she’s very hyper, manic even, and not sleeping.

I managed to establish with her yesterday that she’s worrying about going back to school because she’s finding break times difficult. She often doesn’t have someone to talk to, or play with and finds being alone uncomfortable. She doesn’t want people to see her looking sad or alone so she finds herself running about, bouncing like a bunny (her words) and generally appearing busy. She tells me she doesn’t like acting like this (it is all very out of character behaviour for her, she’s not one for silliness really). She says it makes her even more anxious pretending to be enjoying herself and still worrying that people will be ‘looking at her’. We had a chat about it and I explained that I’ve been speaking to her teachers who will be trying to support her better at these times and also how she could go and stand by a teacher when she is feeling left out. We also talked about what she could do to feel less lonely and with nothing to do. She gathered a colouring book and some loom bands to put in her school bag and seemed happy with this idea. I thought, I hoped, that might be enough to reassure her.

After another sleepless night I suggested she spent some time really thinking about her worries. Breaking each part down and looking at what it really is about. I gave her some ideas on how to do this such a story, write a diary, design a poster etc. It really is something she needed to work through by herself. Big girl spends all day avoiding her thoughts by keeping busy and filling the quiet with noise. I suggested if she processed her thoughts and came up with some ideas and solutions that she felt might help, then she might do less ‘thinking’ when she’s in bed each night.

She disappeared, and reappeared about 20 minutes later looking pleased with herself.

Big girl: mom, I’ve just realised, if I can tell my teacher I have a pet hamster then I can tell her I have no one to talk too as well can’t I!

I really hope it’s as simple as that and she is able to remove her mask at school and let them see her struggles, or in the very least this simplified idea affords her some sleep tonight.

Splitting / Triangulation

Published March 15, 2018 by thefamilyof5

The honeymoon period was never going to last forever, I knew that.

Over the last couple of months big girl has been gradually withdrawing more and more from family life with her main and only focus being on school.

48hrs ago a minor incident at school that required us to have a gentle chat, instantly blew up in to something major. The minor incident was pushed to the side in place of control, aggression and violence and ultimately the rejection of any parenting beyond basic needs.

If I hear ‘shut up idiot’ much more, I may actually scream. Loudly. It breaks my heart to see her destroy the things she holds dear, family photos that she will regret having ripped to smithereens.

Big girl has always been skilled at splitting relationships, pulling the wool over people’s eyes whilst demonising another. Usually me. Its happened within the family, within the support services we’ve accessed, even a newly appointed social worker and of course, its happened in school.

It seems like its happening in school again. It can’t happen though. This school placement is big girls last hope, this families last hope, I fought hard to get her there, but she needs to feel safe there because the alternatives aren’t ideal.

So whilst school inadvertently take on the role of ‘rescuer’ and bandage her imaginary PE injuries and empathise with her difficult family life, they’re allowing her to play the role of the victim, which is playing straight into her hands and making her family the perpetrators.

Until this stops she will remain hostile and violent at home. Being able to control your teachers, doesn’t tend to make you feel very safe.

I found this great piece on triangulation and wanted to share it with you, I’ll add a link to the source as well.

Triangulation: This is one of the more potentially damaging hazards that teachers encounter with AD students. AD students are reliably on the lookout for other adults to playoff against their parents so as to make their parents look deficient in some way. Teachers are a favorite choice. AD students often present their optimal side at school, a side the parents rarely see at home. On the other hand, when the parents describe home behavior that the teacher has likely never seen, teachers are often incredulous. It is tempting, on the surface, to ascribe the difference to faulty parenting. With AD students, that conclusion is most likely incorrect. By adopting the perspective of blaming the parents, teachers step onto the Rescue Triangle. This is a dynamic that commonly occurs in human relationships, and it is always destructive. The Rescue Triangle has three participants. One is in the role of Victim, one is in the role of Perpetrator, and the third person arrives as the Rescuer. AD students usually place themselves in the position of Victim and then invite teachers to play the role of Rescuer from the Perpetrator parents. In attempting to “rescue” the child, the teacher unwittingly joins with the child as a co-perpetrator to victimize the parents. Now the initial roles have shifted. This is the nature of a Rescue Triangle. The roles are always shifting over time but nothing else really changes. No healing happens. No one learns anything. This same dynamic can develop involving only school personnel wherein one teacher is devalued (Perpetrator) while another is idealized (Rescuer). AD students always place themselves in the Victim position. It is essential for teachers to learn to recognize the invitation to enter a Rescue Triangle and decline it. In denying the AD student the role of “Victim”, the teacher will likely instantaneously become a “Perpetrator” in the student’s eyes, and may start to see behavior more reminiscent of the student’s behavior at home. This is the nature of the game at hand: any adult who refuses to support the AD student in the Victim role becomes a Perpetrator by virtue of their refusal. Instead of accepting the Rescuer invitation, teachers should suggest that the parents, teacher, and student all sit down to discuss how it is that the child’s behavior is so different at home vs. school. This breaks the Rescue Triangle for it requires one of the three roles to be absent at all times. If triangulation is not blocked, the teacher will become an unsafe adult in the AD student’s eyes- it’s just a matter of when, since failing at Rescuer is inevitable.

So it looks like I’m going to need to meet with school, emails just aren’t cutting it. Big girl is going to have to be present for some of the meeting, she needs to see we’re all working together to support her. She needs to see we’re strong and consistent and school need to see that we are not the perpetrators and big girl is only a victim to her own attachment disordered world.

Looking back…..

Published January 6, 2018 by thefamilyof5

Those of you that have Facebook will know all about the ‘on this day’ function. It’s a feature that reminds you of posts from ‘on this day’ over the years. Today Facebook reminded me of a photo I took of the girls at a family party, it was about 6 months after placement. They were settled, happy and attached so going to the party seemed a great idea. This party was our first big family gathering, we bought new dresses and shoes and were excited about being seem out as a family of 5.

I remember commenting on what a lovely time the girls had, they’d danced, enjoyed a buffet and smiled a lot. I remember the journey home, it was very late but none of the girls slept, they were just so excited I remember thinking. They were so well behaved the entire night. I felt so proud.

Then Facebook showed me a photo from the party. Their fake and forced smiles, the look of terror in their eyes, their body’s ridged and wary. I feel ashamed for now seeing it.

I realise now that even after 6 months of being their mommy, I didn’t know. I didn’t know their faces well enough to be able to truly read them, I didn’t know their body language enough to be able to understand it. I thought we were settled, attached and out the otherside. After 6 months of being a family, we were all still strangers, and they were still terrified, I just didn’t realise that at the time. 

That was over 7 years ago, we’re still getting to know each other today, they do now thankfully feel safe with us and we know them well enough to know when they’re not ‘ok’ and they know us well enough to know we won’t hurt them, but attachment, that thing that I naively thought we’d mastered in a couple of months, well, that’s still a work in progress. 

Let there be light….

Published December 1, 2017 by thefamilyof5

The second bit of good news from this week came yesterday in the form of a phone call.

Last year, when we were fighting to get funding for tuition from big girls ECHP, we built a really supportive and understanding relationship with a manager in the local authority SEND team. She really took the time to get to know us as a family and really heard us when we explained what the girls needs were. I’m confident if it wasn’t for her, taking the time to really listen to us, we’d still be fighting for tuition now. 

After visiting our local special school with that same manager from the SEND team this week, it was agreed that it wasn’t suitable for big girl. The upshot of this, is that the school we really feel is the most likely to be manageable for big girl, is now considered our nearest suitable school. This means that the local authority will provide transport! (If none of this makes sense, go back about 3 posts and all will fall in to place, I think).

The plan was always for her (and her sisters) to return to formal education, this is perhaps just slightly sooner than we planned, but it feels right and even more so with recent events.

Big girls attachment difficulties impact her ability to receive an education from me and inturn that can impact our schedule each day. Her autism makes socialising more difficult, and her attachment style means she avoids it. This really isn’t helpful for her, she needs friends, she needs  ‘no strings’ connections and social interactions with peers. I’m hopeful that she will eventually feel a sense of belonging at this school once she realises she is with children just like her, and who make no emotional demands of her (unlike family, inadvertently, does). Hopefully she’ll find herself.

So now we plan the transition. Big girl is still unaware of this plan, until we have concrete plans to share with her it’s better kept quiet, she’s far too emotionally fragile at the moment to manage such uncertainty. I’m hoping that we can start things pretty quickly, ideally before Christmas with a full time timetable implemented early January. 

I can’t fix everything for her, but I can do everything in my power to give her everything she needs to be the best that she can be. 

If only she knew how much she was loved.

Who’s to blame?

Published March 22, 2016 by thefamilyof5

I’m feeling really annoyed right now, REALLY annoyed, let me fill you in.

When we first heard about the girls we were told there were no developmental or learning concerns, we met with their school and nursery and were told they were ‘an absolute pleasure’, meeting all their milestones and learning inline with average expectations. Alarm bells should have rang in my head when Big girls year 1 Teacher couldn’t quite remember who her friends were or whether she wrote with her left hand or her right hand, or ate school dinners or packed lunches, ‘she’s a happy little soul’ we were told. Baby girl and Middle girl attended a nursery together and aside from lots of wishy washy information about how lovely they were and how pretty they were, they didn’t really tell us much either. Id never spoken to a teacher before that day, in fact the last time I’d been inside a school at that point, was as a student myself. I didn’t know what to ask, or what to look out for and none of the professionals supporting us gave us any pointers either, they were all too busy telling us how great it would all be. And we believed them.

We enrolled them all in school/nursery before we’d even met them, on the advice of the social workers that did know them. Apparently getting them in to a routine was paramount. No one suggested a period at home attaching to their new family, might be of benefit and I didn’t for one minute think it would be, why would I when I was surrounded by social workers that I believed to be experienced and far more knowledgeable than me about the needs of these 3 children, I hadn’t yet met. So they started school a few weeks after placement at the beginning of the school year in September with everyone else, apparently this was important to helping them feel they belonged. In hindsight, a year at home, attaching and building secure foundations would have been what would have really helped them feel like they truly belonged in this world, never mind in school.

It quickly became apparent that the reading that the foster carer had said big girl had been doing every day, was a lie. Turned out big girl did ‘read’ a book every night and she ‘got’ a sticker on her reward chart for doing so, but she read alone, in her head, with no one listening to her and apparently she never really got a sticker either because they didn’t get round to buying any (hardly surprising she finds it so difficult to let people know her needs is it). Big girl had become very skilled at being invisible, that’s why her teacher had been so vague, she barely knew big girl. She started year 2 at her new school barely able to read her own name.  The social worker and schools answer to this was to use a fund available for Looked After Children, aged over 5, for educational support to fund some additional tuition. So at ages 5 and 6 Big girl and Middle girl went off to a tutor for an hour a week for around 12 weeks (that’s all the fund would cover). Yes its true, I’m not making this up, and yes, I was stupid enough to believe this would be beneficial learning for them. Of course it wasn’t and had absolutely zero impact on anything other than the placing authority being able to tick a box. We plodded on. They fell more and more behind as their anxiety levels increased.

It was approximately 4 years before we requested the girls adoption files from the placing authority, they didn’t make it easy for us to access files and refused to share most of them with us. We discovered, along with some more alarming stuff, that Big girl and Middle girl had been in their nursery setting when the social workers arrived and took them in to care. No one thought to mention this, or how the impact of being taken away from their family, whilst in an educational setting, might impact their ability to feel safe in similar environments in the future ie anywhere away from home. I don’t know ‘how’ baby girl was taken, how traumatic that may have been, I guess that information is within one of the withheld files, given her issues with separation anxiety, I’m guessing it wasn’t pretty.

We battled on through primary schools trying to educate school staff about trauma and neglect and the lasting effects it has on children, whilst also trying to get to grips with things ourselves and navigate our way through an education system, with its confusing abbreviations that no one ever really explains to you; IEP’s, EYFS, EHCP’s, SENCO’s and SEN, with no one there to help us, or even guide us. There is no parent support school advisory service that is experienced, or even has a vague idea on the needs and rights of Adopted children. Hell, schools don’t even know this stuff. Your on ya own!

Here we are, 6 years later, battered and bruised, at our wits end and forced to Home Educate 3 traumatised children. They are all academically many many years behind their peers (despite cognitive results that say they’re more than capable of average progress, in fact baby girl should have been top of her class, not years behind), all completely unable to feel safe in a school environment, and at least 2 of which appear likely to be dyslexic. Its all now left to me to close those gaps, recap the missed EYFS, provide an education and do what schools have been unable to do with their loud busy unpredictable environments, oh and with zero help. Their entire future prospects now lie in my hands! No pressure eh!

Yes zero help, you did read that right! The girls are finally in a position whereby they actually CAN learn, their anxiety is at an all time low, they’re feeling safe in their environment and they’re finally learning! Our LEA have decided though that because we have ‘chosen’ to home educate, yes they feel its was completely our ‘choice’, that they are under no obligation to provide any support, not even via the EHCP that provided £1000’s of pounds worth of funding to school to support Big girls needs, or even a sniff of the £5700 (£1900 each) in pupil premium plus that schools got to support their needs, no, nothing, not a penny, no tutor, no help, no support what so ever. Because apparently ‘a school can meet their needs’. Pah!

Now is it just me that thinks that if a school could meet their needs then they wouldn’t have progressively fallen so far behind academically, that mental health wouldn’t have deteriorated to the point that Big girl needed antidepressants, just to manage school!? Does that sound like ‘school can meet their needs’ to you? No, I didn’t think so. It is in fact just a pathetic excuse for the LEA to absolve themselves of any responsibility for providing my already vulnerable children with the education they deserve and so desperately need due to not having had their educational needs met in school for the last 6 years!

So who’s to blame?

The placing authority for not being realistic about what my girls really needed in those early days?

The Local Education Authority for not providing a good enough education for my girls for the last 6 years?

The local authority for not helping us now?

Or me, for trusting them all?

I guess the real question is which one do I take to court first!

 

 

 

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