To my daughter’s amazing LSA

Things have been up and down with the girls’ school this year; some great moments and frankly some dire ones. One thing that has been consistently wonderful this year is the support from the Learning Support Assistant (LSA) in Small’s class this year. Without her Small would not have got through the year. This lady met Small every morning and patiently chatted to us until Small was ready to leave me and go in, whether that took 5 minutes or 20.  And then end of the day she always took time to let me know how Small had been during the day. She understood Small’s needs better than anyone ever has in school and could tell how she was feeling just by how hard Small bounced against her in the morning! She tried to be there for my girl as much as she could (though we could have done with her all the time!) and gave her vital emotional support as well as sensory breaks which she introduced herself after reading up at home:)

At the end of the year I sent her some flowers and wrote her a card. What I wrote isn’t amazingly poetic or beautiful, because that’s not who I am, but it was heartfelt.

 Thank-You

To Mrs X

If I say you’re one in a million you will think it is a cliché but I actually mean it. We both know Small would not have survived this year without you.

Thank you for giving my little girl what she needed when I wasn’t there to do it. Thank you for listening to her, squeezing her, dancing with her and bouncing her. Thank you for gently reminding her of the boundaries without shaming her and thank you most of all for instinctively knowing what she needs and making sure she gets it. You have made it possible for Small to come to school this year.

We will miss your kind and intuitive support for her.

Thank you!

 

The quest for access to the ASF

We had an initial meeting with therapists at the beginning of March 2016 after which a series of recommendations were sent to me and my LA. In essence the report highlighted the high level of risk in our family due to the girls’ complex needs and the urgent need for intervention. The Post Adoption Support manager agreed that we should proceed with applying for funding from the Adoption Support Fund (ASF).

Since the end of March:

I have tried to ring over 25 times where the PAS manager’s phone has not been answered and there is no opportunity to leave a message.

I have sent 7 emails which remain unanswered.

I have managed to speak to him twice, both times where he evaded answering the one question I would like answer to:

‘have you applied to the ASF for our assessment funding?’  

The last time I spoke to him after 1 minute he said he would ring back in an hour. I’m still waiting 3 weeks later….

I recently read Rachel Wardell’s excellent blog post on the ADCS website Relationships, Relationships, Relationships in which she talks about how important relationships are in social work and emphasises the power of good communication with clients. It really struck a chord with me and you won’t be surprised to hear that I wholeheartedly agree.

equilibrio[1]

As an adoptive parent I feel I am walking a tight rope when dealing with post adoption support. If I don’t keep trying to make contact then we won’t get the assessments we need and therapy will be delayed indefinitely. But if I annoy or upset him he can make things very difficult for us and even block access to the Adoption Support Fund. I’m finding it incredibly stressful trying to work out what the magic formula is.

I want to build a positive relationship with the PAS team for the benefit of my children.  I know they are extremely busy, underfunded and under pressure.

I have been full of empathy and understanding up to this point. I’m not some bitter adopter lashing out without thought or consideration against social workers.

I am a mum who needs help and support for her children NOW.

I’m shouting out for help for the girls and I’M NOT BEING HEARD

What does Acceptance actually mean?

I blogged about acceptance before, in fact you can read my blog here. That was 2 years ago now. And I think acceptance for me is changing.

Recently I had a break from social media for a few weeks to give myself time and space to think. I wanted to be sure that I am able to manage the girls long term. And I am. I know I am. My lovely GP has been helpful in talking through these issues and making me realise that I am doing a good job and I should stop putting pressure on myself or allowing others to do so. FullSizeRender

Parenting Small can be draining. The older she gets the more pronounced her difficulties seem. She is clingy with an insatiable need to be near me or on me. Her sensory issues, inflexibility, need for control and obsessions all seem to be getting steadily worse. I am accepting that this is just the way she is, and it’s ok for me to find it a little claustrophobic sometimes. I know how to prioritise my girls’ needs and do what is best for them. But I need to do the same for myself too.

But perhaps the biggest part of acceptance for me has to be learning to accept the status quo with my eldest. Many kind adopters have messaged me saying that it is fear that stops Eldest from showing love to me, that it will come in time if I persist with therapeutic parenting, that parenting children with trauma is a long game and if I keep it up eventually there will be a breakthrough. All those things are true for many adopters and many children. All those messages are sent with love, care and a desire to give me hope.

But what if it isn’t true for my family? What if Eldest does not have the ability to develop love or empathy for anyone? What if, in her eyes, people are like are objects or possessions, and she just isn’t able to develop beyond that? And what if she is unable to modify her negative behaviours in any significant way? Then all I am doing is putting pressure on her with my expectations. And pressure on myself too. I believe that is the case for us. There are a few who know us well who think I may be right.

I am still parenting therapeutically. I know we can have happy times, and I can make positive memories for us as a family. But I am no longer waiting for that elusive magical breakthrough with Eldest. I am trying to accept her limitations and love her for who she is and accepting that this is who she will always be.

I’m not there yet on this journey to acceptance but I’m getting there. I feel generally at peace and that can only be a good thing.

 

My Mum My Hero

My mum is amazing. I aspire to be like her. I have always wanted to be as successful and respected as she is. As good and honest a person as she is. To be as good a mum to my children as she was and is to me and my siblings.

Since I have adopted my mum has blown me away with her capacity to understand and show empathy both for my girls and for me. She has read up on attachment and has an admirable understanding of the impact of the girls’ past. She has shamelessly button-holed professionals she comes across in her voluntary work to quiz them on the intricacies of developmental trauma. She has driven miles not only to attend meetings with me but also to make valuable contributions in those meetings.

I know I can ring my mum and talk things through with her. She never gets tired of me repeating the same fears and worries, never offers unsolicited advice, she backs me up when I need it. Especially as a single mum it is amazing to know I can offload on someone who won’t judge me. She constantly expresses her belief that I am a good mum to my girls. She never makes me feel like a failure.

Circle of love

I have a very strong memory from my childhood of sitting on my mum’s knee and being comforted by the feel of her hug and by her distinct smell. It was a feeling of safety and security; being enveloped in her love. There’s nothing quite like that memory for me. My mum still has the ability to do that for me now even at my age. Just thinking about her makes me feel better!

Everybody should have somebody like my mum in their lives but I am convinced that she is one in a hundred million. My mum is definitely my hero!

Guilty as charged

I fight hard for my eldest daughter. I battle with professionals to get her what she needs. I take her out on day trips with her younger sister and we all have fun and make good memories. I go up to her room at bedtime to chat to her about the good things from our day and then tell her I love her and kiss her goodnight.

I use PACE a lot. I’m pretty good at wondering with her about what is going on under the surface; what’s driving her behaviour. I plan activities, structure our home lives etc. I try to parent her in the very best way possible.

At the moment I’m doing an attachment parenting course. Last week the psychologist running the course asked me if I thought the emotional connection was there for me. It was asked in a supportive way. Not in any way to criticise. And I answered truthfully.

Rejection1

How does a parent remain emotionally engaged after 4 years of rejection?

I’m sure there are parents who do. I try. I try very hard. But I guess if I’m honest then the answer is probably no.

I’ve thought about this all week. I do know that the fact she isn’t able to love me still makes me cry. So there must be something there.

I hope and pray she doesn’t know how much I struggle with this. I’m guessing the professionals would say that she must know.

What does this make me? Human? A failure? Unworthy?

I don’t know

 

In Praise of an Attachment Aware School

Slowly but surely I feel my girls’ school are beginning to understand them. Things are going pretty well this year!

school_building_colorful

Though it is such an individual thing, I have thought about the top 5 things that have made a difference to us as a family.

1.The number one for me has to be an excellent Senco (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator) that respects me as a knowledgeable parent, listens to me and works with me. If I make a suggestion she trusts that I’m doing it for the best of reasons. She welcomes me into the school to support the girls for trips or activities they may find too challenging. And agrees that we are all on a journey to learn how to help the girls and we need to do this together.

2. All school staff also had training in developmental trauma and attachment from an outside provider last year and I feel this has made a huge difference for obvious reasons.

3. Communication scores highly for me. Each day I drop each child with their own key worker and each afternoon I collect them from the same people. This way we can communicate about what has happened at home or during the school day. That regular open sharing of information is so important. Once again because I know the school support me as a parent I can discuss our home life without being blamed for the girls’ difficult behaviour and I have the same blame-free approach to the teachers. On days when I can’t do the school run there is a home school communication book so we are all on the same page.

4. Personalised approaches to the girls’ needs are critical. My youngest is overt in her need for support. She has her box of sensory items in the classroom and she has free access to them. She uses the LSA for emotional support, whether it’s holding her hand, sitting next to her or on her knee. And if she doesn’t feel able to do something she feels safe enough to say so. Unfortunately my oldest girl is still not able to express any of her needs yet. This makes supporting her very difficult. However her teachers try their best by ensuring she is sitting near them and with her back to the wall and they try to stick to a firm schedule of activities so things are predictable. They are working hard to raise her poor self esteem with a caring patient and positive approach. However she needs to know they are firmly in charge if she is to feel safe – it’s a difficult balancing act!

5. Neither of my girls are subject to the school behaviour system. Put simply, traffic lights, smiley/sad faces or sunshine/clouds are never going to help my girls modify their behaviour, so they are not used. I know many schools are resistant to accepting this so I’m pretty relieved this is one battle I’ve never had to have at this school.

Things still go wrong sometimes.Both children have had changes to their routines sprung on them this year and of course the tremendous fall out is always saved for home. The difference is now I feel I am believed when I explain what has happened and staff try to learn from it. My eldest girl often comes out of school dysregulated and it is virtually impossible to help her calm down once she has got to that point. This is something I know I need to discuss further with school but I don’t think there is an easy solution with my tricky big girl.

I guess the thing that strikes me is that the most important things for us don’t cost money; trust, knowledge, communication, flexibility, care, support, empathy….they’re all free!

Back to school – an adoptive mum’s perspective

Lots of parents are getting their children ready for going back to school. Some children will be excited, some nervous, some happy and some sad.  For my children going back to school is complicated. They are not nervous. They are not scared.

THEY ARE TERRIFIED

The girls have known too much change in their lives, too much loss, too much fear and too much rejection. Going into the unknown can only fill them with all consuming fear. Of course we adoptive parents know that exposing our children to these experiences develops some resilience. They will survive and know that they survived. But to see how they suffer to get there is tough for me as their mum and even tougher for them to experience.


So what have I done to help them? I gave the new teachers pupil profiles for each of my girls detailing their behaviours and suggesting ways to deal with them. The girls had lots of extra transition work before the holidays. They also did extra visits to their new classrooms and met their new teachers several times. And I had a long planning meeting with eldest’s new teachers.  Youngest was given handmade presents from her key teachers. Over the holidays we have had postcards and letters from old and new teachers.  They have had transition books to look at over the holidays with photos of the new teachers and classrooms. I have gently talked about school and what will be the same and what will be different. We have thought about the nice things at school. And we have talked about what their bodies are telling them about how they are feeling.

And so we are here. Tomorrow they go back to school. You can imagine what the last few days have been like. We have had the full range of behaviours and emotions. I won’t share the details but they certainly have been struggling with all those big feelings and I am the only safe person to direct them at.

Today I have been quietly packing their bags. There seems to be a lot of stuff! Between the two of them they will be taking back:

Transition books

Weighted lappad

Transitional items – Small has my teddy with her at all times in school. I’ve slept with it all summer so it definitely smells of me!

Photos of me and grandparents

Visual timetable cards which school lent me over the holidays

Chewigems and spare Chewigems

Fiddle toys

Spare underwear and socks as both wet in school

Emergency snacks – the girls keep a snack bar in their books bags at all times so they know there’s always enough food for them

Notes in coat pockets – telling them I love them

I think that’s it! I’ve done all I can to prepare them. I hope that school are equally as prepared to play their part tomorrow and that the girls have some positive experiences on ther first day back.