DDP sessions 11-16. Using ASF.

  

We have had a little break from writing about our DDP sessions as the fall out has been huge after each one and we had a few weeks off over Christmas. Also I’ve been ill so I’ve missed some of the sessions, therefore I am passing over to my lovely husband again to fill you in on how we are getting on.

Hi there! We’ve had some sessions lately that have been really hard work – bringing James to some of his big brother’s appointments has made it difficult to keep them both settled, and it hasn’t helped when there has been a particular therapeutic toy that Little One snatches away!

I’ve been to two sessions on my own, which we had originally intended as “parent sessions” so we could feedback and discuss things with Dr. E. The first offered a chance to look at some things Tom had started doing recently. He’s always loved stories and building narratives, and has started spending lots more time ‘being’ someone else – normally a superhero but also a puppy, a baby or a ‘big’ Tom.  We were aware that a desire to be babied is sometimes helpful in therapeutic parenting, but found his insistence on maintaining the character difficult; he would refuse to respond to his name or direct questions, which started me worrying about him distancing himself from his real life. Dr. E reassured me that it was developmentally typical, and possibly evidence of him thinking more about his traumatic past by trying to ‘rewrite’ it. 

Then we had our last session before Christmas, which was really hard. Tom was doing well initially (Dr. E tries to set things up so he’s sitting with Louise or I before we get into hard stuff) but when she began gently exploring how he felt about ‘mummies,’ including a mention of Tummy Mummy, he became very anxious and hard to manage. We can normally see how Dr. E is using PACE techniques in the sessions, but for whatever reason there wasn’t much of it on this occasion. Tom was really angry and upset for days afterwards – lots of hitting, screaming, banging, all the old habits came back. We found it hard to deal with after moderate success in other visits, and were genuinely concerned about breaking up for Christmas with things as they were. 

Then, as she’s mentioned above, Louise was really ill over all of Christmas. From Christmas until last week she was exhausted with a chest infection and problems from endometriosis. Fortunately I was off work so was able to look after the boys (gratefully reinforced by grandparents and aunties!) and was worried that Tom especially might feel really rejected. In fact he was brilliant, he was really concerned about Mummy and made sure she got lots of sleep and tea. When she was resting on the sofa, he would snuggle in for hours with her, and one night was worried and suggested that we pray to God for Mummy to feel better. This was astonishing as he’s never liked the idea of praying before, despite some good work that school and our church crèche have done. Since then he has been much more playfully affectionate with her, and much less scared by the idea of having a Forever Mummy. Perhaps because he was feeling more secure at home, Tom did well to come with me on several visits to extended family and manage it all happily (James was fine as food was provided…). This was a real boost to both of us, considered how worried we were before Christmas. 

So…with all that behind us I had another ‘parent session’ just after New Year. This was really helpful, Dr. E suggested a slight change of approach. Previously she had been simply focusing on helping Tom feel safe with us; now we are going to be exploring (very gently) feeling safe while talking more about birth family. This is probably going to be hard going, but following on from last year we’ll be spending more time keeping him regulated as we do so. It’s needed as Tom is now talking a lot more about (his largely imaginary memory of) birth family. We showed him some pictures of his birth sister recently, with lots of discussion – he seemed to find it helpful but now has more questions. His brain never stops!

Our most recent session seemed to go well; James stayed with Grandma while Louise, Tom and I went in for some play. He was more focused and did less scribble-drawing (though he slightly dismember some stretchy toys), probably because Dr. E had a big pirate flag to play with! This formed the basis of a long period of Captain Tom directing First Mate Mummy and Deck Swab Daddy to steer the ship (chair) and take on various adventures. He loved this and came up with some very elaborate orders! It also seemed to help him to play as part of the same imaginary unit; we may need to watch The Incredibles again! Dr. E calmed him down at the end with a mindfulness exercise. In this case, we each had a slice of orange  which we had first to look at (slowly) then smell, touch and finally eat, all while thinking about how exactly it feels etc. This seems like it might be a good tool for some occasions, although multiple spare fruits are required as the first one just gets consumed instantly! (Dr. E made the mistake of doing this with James in the room once, we were all still contemplating our first raspberry as he wolfed down the rest of the pack!)

We’ll see how things go from here; Tom is now thinking more about his birth family, and will need to trust us in looking at it all. On a positive note the local authority have finally contracted someone to help sort the boys’ Life Story books (you remember, the ones we should have had more than a year ago…) which if done well should be exactly what Tom needs to build up that narrative of himself. 

DDP parts 9 & 10. Using the ASF.

  

Here is the latest update on our ongoing DDP sessions funded through the Adoption Support Fund, you can read about previous sessions by clicking on the DDP category at the bottom of the page.

Today Nick is taking over the blog so I will pass you over to him …

We have had two more appointments since last time we wrote; one without Tom and last week’s with him.  When Louise and I had our visit together, Dr. E pointed out that she had noticed how Louise tends to pull back from hugs with Tom when he runs up.  This, we concluded, was a response to his tendency to charge in with accidental head butts. We spent some time over the next few days helping him see how running at people might end up in bumps, and he was happy to practice slowing down for his ‘final approach’ for a hug. This paid off when we had family to stay over the weekend, but we still have work to do on respecting personal space!

With Tom’s occasional mealtime issues in mind, Dr. E also suggested finishing a meal with something with a thicker texture. Louise whipped up a banana smoothie, but he wasn’t really interested and we haven’t taken it any further. 

Tom had a sleep on the way to his most recent session, which he hadn’t done before and which seemed to help with a more relaxed start to the time.  After a while he started banging on the base and shade of a lamp with a pencil, which helped him to stay regulated. When Dr. E asked questions like, “is it hard to think about loving this Mummy?” the rate of banging instantly sped up, so between us we used it as a clue to how he was feeling for a few more questions. 

At this point he picked up a puppet he had played with earlier, and ‘the puppet’ began poking angrily into  the faces of the three of us. Dr. E asked what would help the puppet feel safe and not cross – Tom replied, “he’s hungry and wants a hug.”  When we had fed the puppet some pretend food and Tom had given it a cuddle, both puppet and Tom really settled down and engaged more readily. After more talk about love and Mummy, he cuddled in to Louise and let her rock him and sing a lullaby – he doesn’t often let us baby him in this way. 

We learnt this week that both our boys really, really like fireworks!  James will very seriously intone “Boom! Boom! F’works!” at the slightest mention, and Tom kept getting out of bed to watch for them from his window.  Their incredible excitement at a bonfire night with friends had us pretty nervous, but they both loved it and slept brilliantly all night!  I’m not sure we should recommend fireworks as a tool for regulation, but it definitely works for Tom!

In general this last fortnight has been really positive; Tom seems to be making some big leaps in attachment, with lots of talk about ‘my family’ and extra hugs. We have progress.

DDP part 8. Using the ASF.

  

This is a continuation of our “diary” on how we are using the Adoption Support Fund to access DDP. You can read about previous sessions by going to the DDP category at the bottom of the page.

So this update is a little late, the last few weeks have been difficult for a variety of reasons which I won’t go into here. Our latest session was quite different to the first one we took Tom to the week before.

On arrival Tom was clearly unregulated and spent the whole session bumping into walls and did not stop moving for a minute, it’s exhausting just to watch when you are in a confined space. Dr E tried to engage him in various activities but he was angry, he spent quite a bit of time drawing aggressively and then deliberately breaking every colour pencil in the pack, he climbed on every bit of furniture and hid behind chairs, it didn’t go well. Eventually he asked to look at the cards of the bears with different emotions he’d looked at the week before, again he spent some time talking about what the bears were doing and how everything came back to the angry bear. Eventually I managed to scoop him in a blanket to sooth him before we left, it worked well. We also did a lot of hair blowing and stroking with cotton wool to calm down and reregulate before negotiating the journey home.

I came out exhausted, however the psychologist found it really useful in showing how he clearly has sensory and anger issues and that our techniques and the ones she’s shown us do work if he is ready to engage. I also had a revelation that what I thought was an “I need a wee” dance was actually him trying to regulate himself (he gets really angry if you ask & he doesn’t need a wee).

The regulating techniques we’re using currently are:

  • Wrap in a blanket, hold / squeeze as appropriate
  • Stroke with hands or cotton wool
  • Blow mummy’s hair 3 times
  • Blow cotton wool to each other
  • Rocking side to side in my arms (forwards and back seems to help him push up and headbutt me)

Some of these we found out ourselves, some came from Twitter and some from psychologist but I have no idea who suggested what now, but what matters is this is helping us regulate at the moment. My fear is he is getting bigger and stronger and it won’t be long before I can’t ‘contain’ him on my lap, there are times when I need to step away.

Tom has really responded to looking at the picture faces of emotions and we are going to explore making some picture emotion cards to carry around and help him and us identify how he feels.

From next week our sessions are changing slightly, we see her ourselves one week and bring Tom the other, therefore I will only be doing a blog update alternate weeks, it also gives me a chance to blog about something else in between if I get the chance.

I do think it’s been helpful to talk etc. but after 8 sessions I really want some more strategies to manage the harder times, we will get there eventually.

DDP part 7. Using the ASF.

  

This is our continuation of therapy through the Adoption Support Fund (ASF). You can read about our earlier sessions by clicking on the DDP category section at the bottom of the page.

We have entered what we think of as stage 2 (hence the change in picture), we have spent lots of time talking with the psychologist now Tom has entered the arena.

Obviously there was some anxiety about how he would find it and how we would prepare him. Dr E had advised we get Tom to bring a toy with him to help start the conversation, the clear choice was one of the many dinosaurs in our house. We explained to Tom that we were going to talk to a lady about what it was like to be part of our family, he quite liked the idea of talking all about him and how much everyone else in our family smells! 

So we arrived late (he wasn’t ready when I picked him up from school) but I think this helped as we went straight in and didn’t have to negotiate the waiting room. Tom spent the first 5 minutes running round roaring with his dinosaur and jumping on all the furniture. It was very strange to watch, normally I would tell him to stop but I felt a bit like an observer and not sure how much to say or do, he spent most of the session on his feet jumping, clearly he wasn’t sure about being there in a strange room.

Dr E got Tom to write on a piece of paper who was in his world (slight flaw in that he can’t write much yet) but he relayed his list:

Tom, mummy, daddy, James…..Tummy mummy and the other daddy and pirate parties.

There were a few things that I found interesting about the list, mainly that he had mentioned his birth family and given them “names” but also that he didn’t mention his brother and sister (who aren’t with us) or his foster family. I know from experience that sometimes the names of his other siblings and foster family can be too painful for him to say. After seeing all these things written down Tom did get quite angry and started trying to draw on the carpet.

One of Tom’s other tasks was to look at some flash cards of bears with different expressions on their faces, he picked up 3 initially; sad, hurt and angry. Dr E asked him why one of them may be feeling that way, his response was “he (A) is angry because he hurt him (B) and he (C) is sad because he (B) is hurt”. Now I don’t think either myself or Dr E expected such a detailed answer from Tom, Dr E tried to talk to him about if he felt angry if he hurt people but got very little response.

Overall it was a strange experience watching your child with someone else, Tom was as expected agitated in his new surrounding but did manage to show her some of what he’s thinking. We haven’t had any feedback yet but I hope she got some understanding of how he thinks from this short encounter. I am strangely looking forward to next time, curious about what we will learn about Tom. 

DDP part 5 & 6. Using the ASF.

  
Continuing our roundup of how we are using the adoption support fund (ASF) here is how we got on in our latest sessions. I have combined talking about these last 2 as they are not that exciting as session 5 was the last with Dr S and session 6 the first with Dr E. If you want to read about our earlier sessions they are here:

DDP part 1. 

DDP part 2. 

DDP part 3&4.

Our fifth session was our last with the current psychologist (Dr S) in the current venue. Knowing this made for a strange session, it was more of a review of what we’ve been doing so far with our current psychologist and a chance to meet the new one (they work for the same company so can share notes etc. which makes things easier!).

It was helpful to review how far we’ve all come since the boys moved in and remind ourselves of the importance of some us time and to use the mindfulness tips we were given. Now to be honest I don’t think we came out of this session with anything new except a desire to finally get round to some face to face input with Tom.

Our sixth session was again just us but with the new psychologist (Dr E) and 30 minutes from our house, the difference this made was obvious from when we first sat down, we didn’t bring with us all the baggage from a 90 minute journey with 2 small children and lots of road works. 

Again this was not a ground breaking session and did not offer us anything new, however it was a useful summary of where we were and where we are now, listening to our story of progress and filling someone in on everything from the beginning was quite emotional.

Now this is a very boring blog post but I didn’t want to have a gap in our reporting of the input we’re receiving, also they did help us with a time of reflection.

The outcome of the last 2 sessions has really been a time of reflection and of hope that we have changed, the boys have changed and we’re all still here in one piece.

Just to give an update on where Tom is:

He screams but only for a max of 20 minutes.

He will hit out but say sorry and take notice of other people’s reactions.

He is angry about not understanding his life before us.

He has settled into school but still needs lots of regulation input once home.

He is responding well to our very predictable daily routine.

Next week the psychologist will finally meet Tom! After our initial cry for help in April someone other than our SW will finally see what he is like. We wait in anticipation.