‘Having someone around who could witness the behaviour, his and mine, was also really useful.’
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.
This week my daughter will be writing the blog so she can share some of her views on fostering.
Friday 7th – Monday 10th November
It’s been a couple of weeks since I wrote my last entry to this blog, my daughter did it for one week and I have had a week off too, so what has been happening. Well, to be honest, it’s been a tough time and I’m not sure why completely but I will say that T and myself have been at loggerheads for much of it. Part of the issue was the school holiday because, even though T claims to not like school (like all kids I know), the rigid structure that it offers is more suitable to T’s autism than the more laid back approach that you get with holidays. Though they can be fun at first, no school to think about, no deadlines, it normally means that, as the week progresses, he ends up a lot more anxious and a lot less stable than he is when at school. We have tried to counter-react some of this, keeping to a structure during the break, but that is not always successfully or possible and this holiday has been tougher than usual. As a typical male I am not always quick to ask for help but I am very lucky that my wife noticed and intervened. We were seriously getting nowhere and there was at least one incident every day. Having my wife step in and offer support and opportunities for us to be apart was hugely valuable and also having someone around who could witness the behaviour, his and mine, was also really useful. Through talking together we were able to come up with new strategies and also to remind ourselves of what has gone on before and how we dealt with it. Part of my problem, I think, was complacency and thinking that we have nearly done a year now so we must be doing OK. And though it is difficult to say exactly what is going on with T I have been wondering whether T is starting to feel like a family with us, which could be a real mental struggle for him with his loyalties to his own family, and so is he challenging us and pushing boundaries as a result of him feeling like he is betraying his own family by liking us. This is speculative I know but I can imagine the issue that feeling safe and happy but not with your own family must cause someone. Does he sense that he is betraying his Mum? Does he think that he should not be so happy? Add that to the fact that I had become lenient with structure and started to expect him to be better and there is our tussle.
So what did I learn? Well, firstly this is a long term commitment and one I need to stay on my toes for through-out. There will always be the need for plans and structure so complacency is not going to help. Just because I have done OK up until now does not mean that we have succeeded. This will be a long journey with new issues coming up all the time so I will need to stay alert. Secondly, rather than confrontation, I am better off using distraction techniques or ignoring poor behaviour. If I can see something brewing then I can change the environment, introduce something else, say a game or a new plan and generally try to alter the situation rather than having it explode. And though ignoring is not nice there cannot be an argument if only one person is arguing. I have told T that if he is persistent with his moaning or grumbling then I will stop talking and do something else (it is important that he knows what I am doing). There is nothing like no attention to stop someone’s negative mood. So far it is working and T seems settled more and so do I. We are going to be doing this for another 8 years and I refuse to let it break down.
Anyway, back to this week, T went to KIDS today (a respite place for Children with disabilities), till Monday, so this is a time for me to relax and maybe for him to kick back too without our structure.
T came back on Monday happy and relaxed and seemingly pleased to see us. At KIDS he was very helpful and no bother at all. My message about making sure he is in bed earlier is still getting through and I think they are appreciating the improved behaviour because of that.
Tuesday 11th November
Today did not start to well as this morning T was very grumpy about his hair. He needs a haircut so I will book one today but there is not much I can do about it now. T has not told me there is a problem with his hair so this is the first I have heard about it so when he demands that I do something NOW it is almost comical and would be funny if not for the tantrum he throws. Finally we get sorted but he is late for the taxi so we are lucky that it is still there when we get out front.
After school I sit down and talk to T about his morning behaviour, something that annoys him as he hates talking about stuff that has happened but we feel it is important. Another thing that I have changed in my approach to fostering is to not make these conversations too long which is something that my wife and daughter had pointed out about me. It does no good when I talk to him for so long hoping that he will get it, and so instead I just tell him the facts and how it made me feel and ask for an apology. This way we are chipping away slowly at his behaviour rather than expecting sudden and huge changes which of course we will not get.
Wednesday 12th November
Again T was not ready in time for the taxi but luckily it was still there. One morning it will be gone and then he will have live with the consequences that he will need to pay either for another taxi or the petrol money to take him in. This seems a bit harsh I know but he can’t expect to hold everyone up with no repercussions if he is not ready in time. Part of me wants this to happen as I don’t think he will fully get it until the consequences become real.
After school I took T for a haircut which he was grateful for. The hairdresser was very impressed by him especially as he knew exactly what he wanted and while I was having mine done he sat in the massage chair and was thoroughly spoiled.
Thursday 13th November
Ah yes, now the haircut becomes important. When T has something new like clothes or a haircut it has to be perfect. So this morning, when he did not come out of his room for breakfast, I went to get him and ask him to get a move on. He came out of his bedroom still in his PJs demanding a comb. I do not own a comb or brush, except for the dog one, and so could not help but that was not good enough.
“You must have one. Get one now.”
“I don’t have one and so I can’t get one.”
“You have to. I want a comb.””
At this point I decided he was not speaking to me nicely so it was time to ignore him and so I left and went back downstairs. Quite a lot of shouting ensued and after waking everyone else in the house my wife found him and gave him a comb. For the next 15 minutes it was all about him getting ready for school in time. It was a mad rush and he was very rude but it was best to completely ignore him otherwise it would have gone downhill I believe. He did get the taxi but that was because they were stuck in traffic and were 15 minutes late otherwise I don’t think he would have made it. He is a lucky boy and he is on his last chance I think…