‘This, I think, is his chance to be part of a community and know that he is staying with it.’
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 26 September
Friday started off well and T was off to school with relatively no fuss. After school T comes home and wants to play outside which is fine by me. The more time he is outside playing with local friends and getting fresh air the better I think. Sometimes I worry that he is not out enough and he is not mixing with other kids too well but I read recently that people with Autism are often much more content on their own and the carers should not worry so much. It seems that I may be projecting my own feelings of loneliness on him because I like to be with people. Still it is good when he is out and playing with friends.
When it comes to nearly dinner I go outside to get him in and he is nowhere to be seen. While I was making dinner I had regularly checked that he was on the green outside the front of our house but now there is no sign of him. We have a rule that T can go around the block as long as he tells us first so that we know where he is so because he has not told me I assume he is still out front. We think it is important that we give him some kind of freedom and responsibility but there are rules to that. I tell my daughter that I am going out to look for him and that she needs to keep him inside if he returns. It does not take me long to find him but I am not happy. I explain it to him, about trust and about him being safe, and he goes off on his defence that his chain fell off but the truth of the matter is he has not told me that he is going. Sadly this is a lesson he will need to learn and so there will be restrictions for the rest of the weekend on where he can play which means he probably won’t go out but it has to be done.
Saturday 27 September
Today is an interesting day. Ever since T has been with us I have been trying to arrange a time when he can meet up with his last foster family because he really wants to see them. This has got to be important as the foster families of Children who are Looked After become part of their personal history and you want to encourage that. And he did live with them for one and a half years, which was a sixth of his life before he came to us, so it has to mean a lot. Anyway, this has taken several months to sort out but finally we are here. We are meeting up for a walk in a local park in the afternoon.
In the morning T is quite horrible and unmanageable and it is not until my wife points out that it could be because of this meeting that I get it. He is, quite obviously, anxious about this and when he is anxious he plays up. I suggest we take the dog along as he will be a useful distraction but T says NO and that actually he does not want me their either. I did not see this coming but I suppose it is understandable so I contact the previous family and ask if it is OK if I come with the dog and then leave them all together so he can have some personal time with them while I walk separately. Thankfully they agree and so we set off to meet them. And to be honest it all goes really well. T is a bit tense at first which manifests itself in telling me what to do, where to drive and, rather irritatingly, how to drive. Bite my lip time because he is a bit stressed. When we get there I leave him with the family, I have met them a few times so they are not strangers to me, and take the dog for an hour walk. We agree to meet at a café and have coffee and after that T asks that I don’t join them again while they have another 45 minute walk. Oh well, don’t take it personally and at least the dog got a good walk and, most importantly, T was absolutely fine for the rest of the day so all’s well that ends well.
Sunday 28 September
Today T had his contact with Mum and all went well. They went to a theme park which had been organised for the summer but had been rained off so Mum had asked if I could pick him up at 7 instead of 6 so they could make the most of their day. This is fine with me but I make sure that she knows that it can’t be any later as this is a school night and I also go through with T what will happen after I pick him up so that he knows it is bath and bed. This all works out fine and they all had a good day. The more I can keep T in the loop of how a day will go the better. Change and surprise are not always good but structure and knowing in advance is. Of course that is not always possible but the more I can do it the better.
Monday 29 September
Over the weekend I have been asked to cover in a LSU, Learning Support Unit, at a local college. They are very low in numbers and because I have worked there before and I am DBS checked (Disclosure and Barring Service – which is the new way of checking that people are suitable to work with vulnerable people) I can start right away. I don’t know if this will work with T but I have a meeting this morning to discuss it. What I do know, having worked in a LSU before, is that much of my fostering training is transferrable to this kind of work. And although it does not pay very well if you add to the fostering income it can be very useful. Anyway I have the meeting and agree to start tomorrow on an initial contract up till Christmas but with the option to leave at any time if I find it does not work with T. I will work Tuesday to Thursday, 9.30am till 3pm, which seems perfect. That leaves two days to keep up with the fostering paperwork and I can also continue to attend my fostering training workshops. Let’s see what happens…
Another important thing happening today is that I will be taking T and his Mum to a Secondary School Open Evening at my local comprehensive. This is a chance for the two of them to see the school that I think would be best for him. It is mainstream but like all schools has a good Learning Support team (this is where I worked previously) and I think it is the best place for T as the kids he plays with in our street either already go there or will be going. This, I think, is his chance to be part of a community and know that he is staying with it.
During the Open Evening T is brilliant and is very friendly. We have a meeting, which I have organised, with the Deputy Head Teacher so that we can all get a gauge of the potential opportunity. They seem to really like him though the Deputy Head does say, while T is off at the toilet, that he “was not as bad as I thought he would be” which I believe was a little bit inappropriate. I did not question this though as Mum was there and I don’t think she had noticed and of course we all make mistakes. On the way home T cannot stop talking about the school and Mum seems really up for it too. T has also been invited into the school for a day on Friday too as part of a taster day which will be very useful. Let’s see how that goes before we make decisions.
This was another late finish and I got T home after we dropped off Mum by 7.15pm which also meant a quick bath and bed which I had explained to him. Sadly this did not go so well because after the bath I was folding his towel and noticed it was not wet. I asked him about this and he basically fibbed again saying he had had one. I left it there but when I tucked him into bed I told him that I thought that he had fibbed about the bath and that I would give him some time to think about it and that tomorrow I would ask him again and that he ought to think very carefully about how he answers.
Tuesday 30 September
T was up early and ready for school with no fuss. Is this because of the bath because if so then it is a good start. After school I make sure we have done homework before I discuss the bath and he comes out and tells me that he did not. He was worried because he had run out of time and did not know how to tell us. I told him that I was pleased that he told the truth and that I was not angry and though there will still be consequences they will not be as far ranging. And I am pleased that he has told the truth and though I don’t want to take this any further I also know that he needs to learn this lesson and so there will be NO TV on his own till Monday. If someone else is watching and he has time then he can but he will not be able to come down at the weekend and watch on his home. That is one of his favourite things so I hope he learns this time. Personally I hate being mean but I know that fibbing to get out of trouble could create many problems for the future and so we are better stopping it now.
Wednesday 1 October
T was great today and made a good effort. For some strange reason he came home from school and started reading a book. This is an absolute first. It seems that the book had grabbed him at school and he had read about 9 chapters by the time we got to dinner. Of course it was a scary book and he had trouble sleeping at first but well worth it. A boy doing independent reading, bring it on.
Thursday 2 October
It’s the day before T’s taster day at Secondary School so I took him to the local shops to get him some clothes that will help him blend in. He will be the only year 6 in the school as his Primary School is not in the catchment area and so they have not been invited in. I believe the more he feels part of the school the better it will be and the more positive the day will be. He is so excited, not that nervous at all, which is great to see and I hope it translates into a good day tomorrow. I get him in bed early which he is happy to do so that he is as fresh and as up for it as possible in the morning.