‘We believe in bath, story and bed because routine is best.’
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 9th January
Not a bad day but T did moan (and when I say moan it normally ends up in a full blown tantrum with him screaming the house down) about not being able to go on the computer when he came home from school. We have a deal that if he has a positive day at school then he can go on the laptop, PlayStation or DS for an hour which recently has been mostly the laptop. Today I was working on the laptop after school with some work and so he could not use it. The PlayStation was available as was the DS but that was not good enough and so we had an incident. What is tough is that there seems to be a lot of incidents at the moment where he has a full blown tantrum and so we are wondering if this has something to do with too much contact over Christmas, ie, getting into bad habits and being spoilt. Also there seems to be an issue in him managing his anger as he has recently raised his fists to me and tried to kick out. We will monitor this and I will talk to my supervising social worker if it gets any worse.
Saturday 10th January
Odd little day today, with T in a very difficult mood first thing, and then coming round all fine in the afternoon. He just refused to do anything at all. He would not dress, would not do anything to help and also spent a lot of the morning complaining at whatever he could find to moan about. And there was another huge tantrum with him ending up in the bedroom, his choice, trying to make as much noise as possible. I can’t even remember what that was about.
My wife and I are out to lunch with her Mum and Dad and so my daughter is going to look after him. Maybe this is why he is in such a mood, because it is new to him, but I’m not so sure. I think he is just in a bad mood and trying to push boundaries which he has been trying to do since Christmas contact to be honest. Anyway we finally get him together and then have a lovely lunch with only the occasional text parenting support. My daughter does well and does not allow him to push her around. It’s funny because it is hard to explain to T that he will not be treated the same as my daughter and not because he is not our son but because he is 10 and she is 18. He just does not get it. He expects an equal footing so the same privileges, the same size dinners (he is a bit overweight so we have to watch this) and the same kind of freedoms. I wonder what he will expect when he is a teenager.
For the rest of the day T is fine and it is a pleasure to be with him when he is like this. One of our tasks as foster parents, we believe, is to maintain the way we work with him, gradually chipping away at his poor behaviour, until he develops a more balanced approach which will in turn help him to grow into a likable adult. At the moment he is at risk of not being liked because of his stubbornness and controlling nature.
Sunday 11th January
And so begins another day of ups and downs! The day started well because he had his TV time and so got on with watching ‘Top Gear’, not to my taste but it is his TV time. I have to watch it or be up because we still can’t be sure he won’t hassle the dog. Anyway it all goes mad before breakfast because suddenly what we have to eat is not good enough. He can choose from toast, cereal or some kind of egg (we have no bacon) but today that is not good enough. He wants something else that we don’t have (he does not know what either) because all of a sudden the cereal is not to his liking, it’s too cold, and neither are the other choices. This comes out of the blue but that is of course irrelevant because we will not drop everything to suit him. That may happen at Mum’s but not here. So T spends the next 90 minutes, yes 90, rolling around on the sofa complaining. During that time everyone else gets up, has breakfast and gets dressed. I don’t know where this stubbornness comes from or whether it is part of his condition but give him his credit he can keep it going for some time. Sadly, though, it does wear us down, everyone’s breakfast is spoiled because there is a very irritating boy constantly moaning, and he is eventually told off which ends with stomping off to his room, crashing about a lot, before finally coming down, saying sorry and having an egg. What was the point we ask him to which he has no answer.
Later in the day I take him out to buy new wellies. Yes, I know, I said I would not shop with him anymore but I want these for him so we can go out and walk the dog which is a good source of exercise and his wellies are too small. Blimey this boy grows fast, by the time he is 14 he could be my size the way things are going. And as I have also said he is the fussiest of shoe shoppers and so we traipse around every shop to no success. Granted he does it very amicably but none of the wellies are comfortable enough which of course is true and is why you wear them with thick socks. In the end I have a brain wave, ski boots, waterproof and thick and warm and cosy. He loves them, running around the shop with a big smile on his face, even though, in my mind, he looks a bit silly and they cost quite a lot of money, but that is his choice. Job done then, yeah… Uhmmm yes, well that’s what I thought too!
Back home and suddenly they rub and are not comfortable. OK, we say, we can take them back and change them. Oh no, I want these, and so we have another 30 minutes of moaning until again I tell him off for being so ungrateful and for complaining and also for spoiling people’s eating (lunch this time) again. Another tantrum, another load of banging around, but this time I have had enough and so, because I need space, I walk the dog on my own. And that is why I wanted the wellies for him in the first place. I feel that I have achieved nothing all day. He is not happy with this and is screaming when I leave but when I get back all is calm again and he apologises for his behaviour for the whole day, my wife has worked wonders while I have been out, and we are done. And thank God the rest of the day is fine but as I said his tempers are getting worse.
At bedtime he asks if we can walk the dog straight after school tomorrow to which I reply yes. Great, I have been trying to get him back into the dog walking habit. And then he says “when I get home can you be ready to go, with your wellies on and the car keys in your hand so we can go straight away.” Obsession! Because he has new wellies and he wants to use them. He will probably dream about them too. And I am sure he thinks when he goes to school I do nothing but wait for him to come home!
Monday 12th January
So today was OK. Phew! T was ready for the taxi and got off to school fine. He had another good day at school with very little trouble, mainly just answering back and acting like he knows best, just like home really. After school we went for the dog walk and no, I was not stood ready to go with the keys in my hand, mainly because I knew he would take ages to get the ski boots and be comfortable with them. But the walk is nice and we get to chat and he tells me over and over again how much he loves his new boots and I get some exercise in him which keeps him calmer for the evening.
Tuesday 13th January
Most of today was good too but T did explode at bedtime because he spent so long fussing about and then wanted to do something on his DS, which is always a no no with us as we believe in bath, story and bed because routine is best. So he goes to bed yelling and banging about and calling me all the names he knows which included ‘stuck up’. Tomorrow I will ask him what that means because if he knows he will see that I am a long way from that.
An interesting aside and useful here because sometimes I feel that I only stick the poor things that T does in this blog and miss some of the learning and improving he does. And there has been even though sometimes it feels like it is going very slow. My wife has just come home and reminded me of this conversation.
“Let’ make sure we don’t have any arguments tomorrow morning when you are getting ready to go to your Mum’s, like breakfast, so let’s choose that now. And what else do we argue about?”
“Brushing teeth, that’s one.”
“Oh, we don’t argue about that anymore.”
“Are you kidding, we argued about that this morning.”
“Oh I know, but I know I won’t get away with that anymore. I end up brushing my teeth whatever.”
Which is very interesting because we believe that T is starting to understand that our boundaries, our rules, are fixed and that at least he knows where the edge is; a kid with no boundaries can be tough to live with but a kid with defined boundaries can be happier and easy because they know what’s what.
Wednesday 14th January
But some boundaries don’t stick with him all the time and for some reason he thinks it is a good idea to fight against them which is probably why I have so much trouble after school today. In our house we do homework and that is that. T knows that and accepts it, after a very brief moan, each time. Myself, my wife and my daughter openly do it in front of him so he knows that it is not just him. Maybe today’s reaction is because it has been a holiday, maybe he thinks if he shouts enough it will go away, who knows really but he is not happy tonight and he constantly complains from 4pm till 5.40pm. It was only about 20 minutes of homework but because of the way he acts it lasts this long. Through this he managed to insult me several times, have a major tantrum with all the bashing about and finally end it by managing to hit himself in the mouth with his cast. What a wonderful time we had. When it was finished I asked him if it was worth it and of course he said no but I doubt that will stop him. But I will speak to my supervising social worker about managing his anger because it is important for him to learn and also one day he is going to be a big lad and someone like that who can’t control his temper could find themselves in a lot of trouble.
Thursday 15th January
So did the week end OK? Well not as good as it can be. We had another major tantrum today and because of that I now have an appointment with my Supervising Social Worker next week to discuss our options. And also to see if we can get a new assessment done as it has been a long time since the last one and we could really do with knowing more about his condition to see what can and cannot be changed in him. There is no point us trying to change certain behaviours that he can’t do anything about and so a new assessment and the opportunity to talk to a professional would be a real asset to us and T’s future.