CAROUSEL OF CONFUSION

Attachment or not attachment that is the question…

We are on diagnosis number six for Buster. So far in the roll call we have: ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder), FASD (Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) Neurodevelopmental delay, mild autism and separation anxiety (more commonly known as attachment disorder).  These various diagnoses have come out of paediatric and CAMHS assessments.  We are utterly confused as to the best way to parent and what this all means.

CAMHS initial treatment was to put us on a parenting course called “The Parent Child Game” which was in equal parts patronising and unhelpful.  “Extreme ignore” is a session I never want to repeat as it ended in a full scale meltdown which had me and Buster in tears in front of a two way mirrored audience.

So the picture that emerges for us is; it’s complicated. Buster has a myriad of issues that require a myriad of strategies.  There isn’t a silver bullet/gold standard parenting style that will help. We have read heaps of books and attempted dozens of strategies but none work in isolation. Bits seem to help.  But the problem is, a child who becomes so easily dysregulated  has poor impulse control and school especially aren’t able to cope with his outbursts.  All we know is: he’s scared.

We still believe that attachment disorder underpins a lot of his behaviours because they are, without fail, much worse when we are not around.  He spends a lot of time in a state of high anxiety and we are the best ones to soothe him when he gets overwhelmed. Some of the triggers that set him off  we are aware of (busy spaces, loud noises and either one or both of us being away) but a lot of the time it’s educated guesswork.

Traditional parenting really doesn’t work. Lots of carrots and a couple of sticks does, sometimes.  Taking things away simply reinforces his already low self -esteem. He is occasionally motivated by sticker charts but soon disinterested in them. I think the biggest shift for us is in recognising that when he does have meltdowns, it’s because he is petrified and we can learn from him what it is that scares him. We recently attended a Great Behaviour Breakdown course and I have never heard so much sense spoken about our children. Fact: early trauma and loss has a profound effect on our children and the more we understand trauma, the more we can help our kids and our struggling families. 20160501_144255 (1)

SINK OR SWIM

After the school meeting I went home and collapsed, not in a heap on the floor, I mean emotionally and mentally caved in. I walked upstairs, closed the bedroom door and wailed like a bans20151028_123923hee for over two hours. I didn’t even recognise who I was and felt incapable of anything like rational thought.

I spent the following day in a miasma of worry and fear but over the weekend  my thoughts cleared  and something else took over; I began to feel angry. Really, really angry. I was furious at the schools intractability, lack of empathy and disregard for our vulnerable little boys’ well-being.

Sometimes anger is a good thing and in this instance it became a huge motivator for me.  First things first…there was no way we were going to be pushed into any decision over whether or not our tiny son should be placed in a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU)/special school within the 48 hour time frame the school had given us. Secondly I made the decision that he would go into a PRU over my dead body.

After teaching for over twenty years I was well aware of what PRU’s were used for. I believe they are effective and in many cases help children with social and emotional issues re integrate back into mainstream school. However many of the children in PRU’s have a host of behavioural problems that I believed would influence Buster in a negative way.

Also…he was only FIVE YEARS OLD! With only one term in mainstream school and a history of neurological and emotional needs around attachment disorder and ODD why on earth would we consider putting him in an environment that would make him even more anxious?

I rang the school at 8.30 on the Monday morning and told them we wouldn’t be attending the proposed “decision meeting” for that day. In fact we said we would contact them with a new meeting time once we had prepared what steps we thought should be taken next.

 

A TROUBLING YEAR

Last school year was without doubt the WORST experienceimg_1727 of being an adoptive parent thus far and the reason behind no blog, in fact no ‘anything creative’ at all. Buster started mainstream school. He moved up from the nursery (where after five terms he had just started to settle) into reception class.

The initial weeks weren’t so bad as a very staggered start meant only partial days and nipping back at lunch time. By week four the teacher reckoned all was fine and we breathed a sigh of relief. However things took a steady turn for the worse in late October, after the mid-term break.  First there were red slips (for bashing other kids) then came the meetings with the class teacher (for  lack of compliance and generalised odd behaviour) and finally, in November, he got his first exclusion.

By January things had deteriorated so badly (three more exclusions) that we were hauled in for a multi-disciplinary meeting and told rather bluntly that his mainstream education career was just about over. The options handed to us were either a sideways move into the local Pupil Referral Unit or a further afield special school, or to stay as we were with guaranteed further exclusions leading to, in the schools eyes, an inevitable permanent exclusion. Dazed and confused I sobbed my way through the meeting. He was only five years old and had only just one term of mainstream education under his belt. Surely, I argued, they were jumping the gun? No, they replied his behaviours were the worst they’d encountered in years. He had spat at adults, over turned tables, hit other kids, thrown things at teachers and other kids and it was clear, the parents of the other kids were far from happy.

We were shown colourful graphs of incidents and detailed breakdowns of all his minor and major offences.  We were told they had done everything they could think of to support him with pastoral care from in-school emotional support service, some 1:1 ad hoc in class help and interventions from SENCO.  Surely, I argued, we should attempt getting an EHC plan funded before going to the extreme lengths of placing him in a PRU or special school?

The meeting closed on the Friday afternoon with a weekend to make a decision; PRU/Special school or the rocky road to permanent exclusion.