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Week in the life of a male foster carer 3rd October – 9th October

‘Understanding money is a life skill and we believe he is learning from this.’



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 3 October
Today T had his taster day at the local Secondary school so he was up early, all excited and ready to go. As his Primary school is not one of the feeder schools he will be the only year 6 child there. He seems fine with that whereas I am quite nervous. I have made sure he has similar clothes and they will provide a sweatshirt so he blends in well. Though they know he is Autistic I have not told them anything else about him as I do not want to prejudice their thoughts as I know that just the label ‘Autistic’ is enough for people to make predetermined decisions. But he will have two buddies with him all day and I have been promised an LSA will be in each of his classes. I am really hoping this day works out as I believe mainstream schooling and going to the local school will be the best for him in the long run.

What he is looking forward to most though is not having to leave for school so early because even though the school day starts earlier he does not have to get a taxi and so it is only a 10 minute walk in. He is also finishing earlier as today is Friday and the school day stops at 2.05pm. For him this is great. A much shorter day for me but that’s ok. When I drop him off at reception he is very happy and in that wonderful way that he has he sticks his hand out and shakes the hands of the 2 buddies. They are not too sure what to do but respond well. And off he goes. When I pick him up he is truly happy. “I want to come to this school” is the first thing that he says and the teacher I have been corresponding with tells me that the day was fine for them too and that T will be perfectly able and he thinks he should go there. Brilliant! And I believe Mum will be happy too. I only just discovered that Mum’s main reservation about this school was that she would not be able to visit the school like she does at Primary, like sports day etc., as it is too far for her to travel, but when I explain to her that you don’t get invited into Secondary school in the same way as Primary school she is fine with it. I tell her that all events open to parents take place in the evenings and that I would pick her up and take her if she needed it.

Saturday 4 October
So after yesterday I wrongly think that we will have a decent weekend because he is so happy. That’ll teach me. Today T is at his obstinate best (or should that be worst) with a real poor attitude to being helpful and considerate. It seems that he does not want to do anything today to help out and is expecting to be waited on all day. This starts at breakfast and continues right through the day. Here is an example. We needed to get him some new clothes which he had been asking for so I take him to the local shops. We choose a few pairs of trousers and some shirts in the first shop and he goes off to try them on. When he comes out this is how the conversation goes:
“They look good and they fit well shall we get them?”
“Yeah OK”
“Excellent. Now try on the others”
“No”
“Why”
“They’ll fit fine”
“How do we know that?”
“’Cause these do”
“But the others may not”
“I’m not trying them on”
“Well I am not buying clothes if you don’t try them on”
“For Goodness sake! Why do we have to? Just get me two of these then”

And so on. This went on for about 10 minutes in a crowded dressing room with people waiting. Eventually he did try the others on and they did NOT fit and so we had to go and choose some more clothes and go through the process again. Gosh, you need a thick skin with this sometimes. I wonder how many people thought my parenting skills were poor. I have to admit that since T came here I have seriously changed my attitude to other parents because you just don’t know what is behind a situation. Mine looks simple enough sometimes but it is far from that most days. Needless to say the day continued in this manner until T ended being sent to bed early. I do not know why the day went like this. Maybe the anxiety of a new school was held back until the day after.

Sunday 5 October
And this morning is not much better either. After a few episodes in the morning and some time out in his room we sit down and have a chat and though we do not get to the bottom of his mood we do get to talk about some other things. I asked him if he thought I was unfair in the way I was with him, did I treat him fairly, because I believe that he is sometimes unfair with me, especially with the way he blames me for things that are his fault, for example, getting side-tracked in the morning when he is supposed to be getting ready for school and then shouting at me when the taxi starts phoning in saying he is late. And do you know what comes out. He tells me he is not happy with the way I manage his money and neither is Mum… Interesting I thought, so I take on board what he is saying and write some notes. This is them summarised:

• When T arrived it was Christmas and he got a lot of money as gifts. He is 9 and this was a lot of money. So we decided that rather than him just spending it we would use it to teach him a valuable life skill. Understanding money is very important. He already has every toy going but wants more so we thought it would be a great idea to teach him how to save. If he saved pocket money we would also add to it some of his Christmas money and then he could get what he wanted. We used charts so he could visualise it and it worked really well.
• We also used the money as a reward so if he wanted to buy something we would say something like, ok, get 5 good reports from school this week and we will take you. That also worked well.
• In an ideal world it would all go into a savings account but as I do not have a passport or birth certificate then I cannot get one.

Like I said, understanding money is a life skill and we believe he is learning from it. He once came to me with a proposition because he wanted to buy something and so negotiated a plan. It was wonderful and showed he had started to learn that you don’t just get things, you earn them. So I will take the notes I wrote and talk to Mum next time though I have told T I am quite happy for Mum to have the money and dish it out but he has to realise that he is only with Mum for one day every two weeks and in between with us he will only have pocket money to spend. So if he wants things he will have to save up anyway and they won’t be as big either. I am not sure he wants that…

Anyway the rest of the day was much better.

Monday 6 October
I often write this column and it seems we swing from crisis to crisis as each day passes but that is not strictly the truth. Mostly the incidents are isolated and because I just write about them it may seem that having T is a constant battle. I do try to be positive as well but let’s be honest raising any children is a challenge full of obstacles that need negotiating. So it is hard work indeed but it is also very rewarding and to prove that today was excellent. Nothing to report…

Tuesday 7 October
And to be honest today is also a great day. He is up and ready for school and when he comes home he is happy and all smiles.

Wednesday 8 October
I am not sure why but today T does not get ready in time for school. He is up early and chatty and smiling but as soon as he goes to his room to put his uniform on everything stops again. I gently nudge him through the door, I can’t go in as that would be a safeguarding issue as he is meant to be dressing, so I wait outside but something is stopping him getting ready. Is he playing on the DS or something? Who knows? Eventually he comes out and when he realises the time he yells at me and turns into the horrible boy, the one who blames everyone else but himself and so I ignore as much as I can and get him in the taxi. When he gets home from school we discuss it and he says sorry and we move on.

Thursday 9 October
But today is the same. Again he is up early but as soon as he gets to getting dressed it all goes pear-shaped. After he has gone I check to see if there is anything obvious in his room but find nothing. I talk to him after school again and like before he just says he loses track of time and that is why he is late. This time I tell him we may need to try something different if this continues, some kind of reward system, maybe if he gets ready on time all week then he CAN get up and watch TV on Saturday morning like normal, reminding him that that is a treat and not something he is entitled to. I don’t think he wants that to happen so let’s see what happens tomorrow.