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.
In the previous weeks school meeting we had been told that our chances of getting an Educational Health Care Plan (EHCP) were extremely slim, it would also take a long time (hence the school’s push towards a PRU). Anecdotally I had heard the same over the years and knew it would be a battle. EHC plan’s replaced the old statementing system but basically amount to the same thing; your child gets funding for support in school that can be either devolved to the family directly or to the school. The support usually takes the form of the school finding a learning support assistant who works alongside your child, crucial if you have a child with extreme behavioural difficulties and problems self-regulating.
The school SENCO agreed we should try and go for it and so she set the ball rolling for EHCP application and an educational psychologist came in to asses Buster. Operation; we will get an EHCP, began. A note to the wise: if you have a looked after or adopted child keep absolutely EVERYTHING you can in terms of paperwork that would ever support a claim your child has difficulties; luckily we had. We had kept every doctor’s report, CAMHS assessment, Ed Psych, Speech and Language Report, pediatric assessments, nursery and school reports, exclusion letters, hospital letters… you get the idea. We had boxes and boxes full of letters and we sifted the most relevant and attached them to our application.
There are several organisations around that can help fill out the form (which has ridiculously tiny boxes for vast amounts of info, I attached 14 appendices ;0 ). The free agencies out there to help are : http://www.familylives.org.uk/ http://www.sossen.org.uk/ https://www.ipsea.org.uk/
We received stellar advice that helped us put together a very convincing case for our son to receive a fully funded EHCP. All we had to do after the hard slog of putting together our application was wait.
So, we are 2 Mums and 2 boys living in South London. Biff came to us at 8 months, he is now 8 years old. Buster came to us aged 2 and he is now 5. Our boys are unrelated by birth and have very different backgrounds and histories. This blog is intended to give a snap shot of life in our adoptive family, salient points from our journey and hopefully some insight and advice for potential and current adopters and their families.
Oh and I’ve also published a couple of children’s books for LGBT families called
Two Dads and Two Mums and a Menagerie– available on Amazon. Click on the book titles here. Also available in most bookshops.