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Week in the life of a male foster carer 10th October- 16th October

‘A nice end to the weekend that started so poorly. Bath, story and bed, job done!’



Background

T has been with us for about 6 months. He is 10 years old and is diagnosed with ASD though it seems quite mild. Some of his symptoms that are attributed to ASD could also be just down to the fact that T is a 10 year old boy. In general he is a very happy lad but one who has moments of anxiety and has some problems dealing with his emotions. Because of his condition he does get fixated on things so he has a strong passion for cars and certain movies and TV programmes and at the moment he has a sometimes unhealthy obsession with Loom Bands (tiny little elastic bands that the kids make into bracelets).

I am married with three children, one at home, one at University and one living just down the road, and I am the main carer as my wife has a full time job as an Assistant Principal at a Sixth Form College.

Friday 10 October

I am not sure if I have spoken about this before but just in case here it is again. We have been having problems getting T ready for school in time because he seems to lose focus, get involved in something else, and then ends up getting behind in time and so things gets a bit stressed in the house, especially if the taxi is outside waiting for him. We have a chart so he knows what he needs to do but we don’t have one to help him with time. And he hates me telling him the time. So because he is late again today we decide to try a new plan from next Monday. And it’s simple. If he is ready on time he can have 20 minutes of Saturday morning TV. Normally he gets 90 minutes which he loves to do in his PJs but this way he will earn it (and a bit extra if he does well all week) by doing something we know he can do. Let’s see how that goes. I will tell him over the weekend as I would never broach a potentially difficult situation in the morning. I need time in case he decides to throw a wobbly.

The rest of the day was fine and T was even happy to get the first part of his homework done straight after school.

Saturday 11 October

So today is contact, and tomorrow, so it’s an overnight, and the reason for that is my son and his girlfriend are going travelling for a year and we all want to go to the airport tonight and see them off. As I think there might be a few tears and a bit emotional, and it will also be a late night, I thought it would be better if T was with his Mum. All the goodbyes have been said and so it should be fine.

But it’s not. And I don’t know what’s wrong with T or more to the point I don’t understand his behaviour because it is terrible. Suddenly he will not do anything, get dressed, help with breakfast, answer basic questions, he is rude and insolent, you name it he does it. Maybe he’s a bit sad because my son is leaving, though he does not live with us and we don’t see him that much. Or maybe it’s because of contact because sometimes he will play up before contact and though we don’t know why exactly I believe it is in part due to him feeling guilty as he likes living with us and therefore could be feeling guilty with his feelings for Mum. It’s guess work as he does not tell us stuff like that as he is only 10 but we have to try to understand. Anyway the morning is full of tension and a cross little boy. And then it goes a bit pear-shaped because at one point we find him head first in the dog’s bed which is enclosed under the stairs. This is dangerous. The bed is the dog’s refuge which he often takes when T raises his voice, he had his face right in the dogs face, and to top it off he was blocking the dogs exit. ALARM BELLS…This has to be dealt with, we need to discuss this, and it will need to happen before Mum’s but he is not happy about talking about it. So I send a text to Mum and tell her that we are in a situation which needs to be resolved and then we will come over. And this is why I work so hard on keeping Mum on my side because she answers instantly and tells me it is fine and she will see us when she does. Brilliant! So this is what we say to T:

“We need to talk about the dog this morning so it is your choice. We will either do it now before you go to Mum’s or we will do it with Mum when we get there. Have a think and let me know what you choose?”

And we leave it there. It did not take long as he did not want this to happen in front of Mum and so we talk. And to do this we act out some role play. For some reason T has suddenly got a fishing net he wants to take to Mum’s so I ask him to hold it and then I get him to sit in the corner of the sofa and then I surround him, box him in, and ask him what he would do if he was angry and I was surrounding him like I was. Obviously he says he would hit me and so we ask him what would a dog do in the same situation and he says bite someone and so we explain that that was what he was doing to the dog and that the dog was a bit stressed due to T’s shouting. Does he get it? I don’t know but I do hope he learns from this as this is very important.

And now it’s off to Mum’s and it seems all is well…

Sunday 12 October

T had a lovely time at Mum’s and came back happy and relaxed, as was Mum when I picked him up, so this is a nice end to the weekend that started so poorly. Bath, story and bed, job done! Oh and by the way we did get a chance to talk about the mornings and T’s new chart, 20 minutes TV time per day, which he seemed happy with. Let’s hope he gets his quota.

Monday 13 October

T had a good day at school. And in the morning he was up, dressed and ready to go bang on time which was great and so he earned himself 20 minutes of TV on Saturday morning.

Tuesday 14 October

T got ready for school with plenty of time (another 20 minutes of TV for the weekend) and had another good day at school and although he had a bit of a moment in the evening, about going to KIDS which is not for nearly 4 weeks, and stormed off to his room he did come back and sort out the problem which was excellent. Positive days make me smile…

Wednesday 15 October

The day started well with a supervision meeting with me, my wife and our Supervising Social Worker. This is a great time to talk through some things regarding us and not specifically T and to check that we are on the right path. It is very useful to have these 6-weekly meetings, to get things off your chest, to remind yourself of what you have achieved and to generally put things in to perspective.

At about 3.30pm I received a phone call from the school. Basically I was told T had had refused to get into the taxi and I had to pick him up. This bothered me a bit because I was worried that they were setting a precedent, that he could get out of the taxi journey whenever it suited him, who is in charge there I said to myself, the kids or the staff. I was worried I would be picking him up more from school and so to be clear on my position and in my head I called my Supervising Social Worker for advice. This was useful as the 5 minutes that it took to talk allowed me to put it all in order, and gave me time to calm down and also gave me suggestions of what to ask when I got there. And when I arrived it turned out more serious and nothing to do with the school at all. Lucky I was calm. T, they said, had a full meltdown in the school corridor and the taxi driver was not allowed to take him in such a state. The school had not got to the bottom of what had happened so I said I would talk to him at home. At this point I was a bit worried as it sounded like he had been hyperventilating which I had seen once before when he got really upset, after being particularly rude to me, but no-one at the school could suggest any reason for this behaviour.

At home we talked it through but T would not say much as he thought he was in trouble but eventually, once he relaxed, he described it as everything getting on top of him, his Mum, his Granddad being ill and generally feeling low. I can’t say that I had noticed this behaviour previously but it did remind me to pay more attention. Maybe I was missing something. I know he has problems dealing with things emotionally but this is a bit more than that. Still we got to the bottom of it. I wrote a letter to the school telling them what I had found out so they would be clearer tomorrow.

Sadly though that was not the end of the day’s events as later T stooped down and hassled the dog in his bed. So he wasn’t listening and he is not learning. Ok now we have to be serious. I tell him that from now on he will not be allowed downstairs without an adult as he cannot be trusted with the dog. This does not go down too well but it is a must. There is no good outcome if he treats the dog like that. I trust my dog but I will not forget that he is a dog.

This is turning out to be day and bit later, after tea, T went up for a bath and when he had not come down for 30 minutes I went up to check that he was OK. From outside I could hear him on his Gameboy DS.

“T, are you playing with your DS?”

“No, I’m on the toilet.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“I want you to really think about what you are saying and get yourself through the bath.”

Less than 2 minutes later he is out of the bathroom and claiming he has had a bath and done his teeth and all of it is a fib. Oh what to do? I understand that he has had a tough day but this is unnecessary. Have your bath as told and definitely don’t fib to me. He confesses all in the end when he comes down but we decide that sorting this out now, just before bed, won’t work so we decide to talk after I have had a chance to find some stuff out, maybe talk to my Supervising Social Worker or do some research. We’ll talk Saturday.

Thursday 16 October

Thank heavens today was alright though he did not get ready in time in the morning and so did not get his 20 minutes of TV. There are days when I/we feel that we are being mean but I also know that fibbing and not being safe around the dog are serious things and I would not be doing my job properly if I let them slip.