Existing.

  
The blog has been a little neglected of late for a variety of reasons (mostly illness) so I thought I would put some ramblings down.

One of the side effects of therapy (DDP) is that a lot of time is spent discussing the past and making sense of where we’ve come from and where the boys come from, however I feel that sometimes we miss the current. I haven’t blogged an update on our most recent sessions as I currently disagree with the therapist and I’m not sure what to put down without making it too identifiable!

We have lots of hopes for the future, hopes that we won’t be screamed at, spat at, hit etc but also the hope of being a family who can go on holiday or even just change our routine without consequences. My fear is that by spending so much time looking back and dreaming about the future I may miss some of the good stuff right now.

So, some good bits:

  • I have an amazing childminder staring after Easter who is perfect for James.
  • We are trying to move house and so far Tom has been really positive about it, compared to last time we tried and the violence escalated and he urinated on the floor a few times.
  • Tom is progressing at school and starting to make one good friend, he even managed a party today after school without too much fall out, this is amazing considering we haven’t even managed a play date yet!
  • I haven’t been hit for a few days.
  • About once a week I manage a shower with the boys alone downstairs in front of Octonauts without anyone getting hurt or screaming (this is so amazing I sometimes get very emotional having a shower).

The last 3 months have been difficult as I have had lots of chest infections and lots of sick days, it’s meant I haven’t had much energy to interact with the boys (or Twitter), despite this they have been very loving towards me when I have been at my worst. It has been a hard time and I’ve had to rely on family, especially my husband, to get us though. We had expected Tom to struggle with me being ill so much but he seems to love having time to sit snuggled on the sofa, though he is frustrated by my inability to run around in circles constantly. 

As a family we seem to be going forward despite the illnesses and I am enjoying being a mum, I just need a few days without feeling ill to fully enjoy every aspect of it.

I really feel that we have passed through our “existing” phase and are starting to actually live as a family.

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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. 

Starting school.

 

So we have completed our second week of school and I wanted to share a few things about how we got on.

The first day:

In my dreams hubby would have had the day off and we would have taken photos etc. but we knew that would just make it really hard for Tom to leave us so we made as little fuss as possible and hubby went to work as usual.

On the Sunday we did our last drive past the school and talked through what was going to happen, he was nervous but excited. He went to sleep the same as any other day.

On the Monday we got dressed and went with minimal fuss (except the parking). It was easier than I thought, he just took it in his stride. 

When I picked him up at lunch all he talked about was the mash potato, he didn’t seem fazed by this significant change. While I was waiting to pick him up the head teacher popped out to say hello (they all seem to know who we are, maybe they heard about all the prep I tried to do for the teachers and thought it best to play nice). The head teacher was lovely, she asked questions about how we were feeling and gave some good advice- the kids do really well the first week or so and then they start to struggle when they realise school is a long term thing. It was great that she acknowledged this and gave me hope for when we do have our expected wobble. 

School achievements:

Now this heading sounds silly but here are some highlights from his first 2 weeks.

1. The teacher said he plays well with other children and likes asking them questions, they were very impressed with this as other children apparently don’t ask many questions of their friends; we did give him a question to help him talk to other children “I’m Tom, what’s your name?”, however this has transpired as “I’m 4, who are you?” but it seems to work for him. Previously the feedback was always that he didn’t know how to interact with other children or play together so this is huge for us! They even said he seems more socially advanced than most of the other children (I’m proud).

2. He has managed to play without adult prompting during play time. Again a massive step, we expected play time to be impossible but he’s just got on with it (I watched through the gate one lunch time).

3. He has shown empathy! Most of you will understand this is amazing. The teacher sent me a text about it saying this “well done to Tom who showed what a kind friend he is today by looking after an injured child. We are very proud of you”. (The school do lots of communication by text). Apparently another boy really hurt his face and Tom was very caring. I was so pleased to see yet another massive area of growth and especially pleased that his teacher (knowing the problems he has) took time out during her day to text me. He has never shown that level of empathy before, again I’m really proud.

So in summary my boy is amazing and school seem to love him and he’s settled amazingly well.

The difficult bits.

So all is great then…… I wish, he has sensory and attachment issues so despite school being great, home is worse.

He isn’t sleeping great, he was up 7 times Thursday night with nightmares and has been clingy on and off. 

He’s been aggressive when we try and get him ready for bed and fighting us to stay up saying he wants to be with us (heart-breaking).

He’s been getting home and is clearly hyper stimulated and literally bouncing off the walls and trying to hurt me (sadly I have been on the end of more violence again). I have started doing an hour of sensory regulation as soon as he gets home and this has helped the last few days, but is hard work especially with his brother around.

We are still mixing full days and half days trying to build up to a full week soon and I’m working on my range of sensory regulation tools to help with the come down after school.

I am hopeful for the future, the school are responsive and we are seeing huge improvements in his behaviour generally. I feel if we can get the regulation right at home we might just get through the next 13 years of school.

Chill out time.

  

We are currently waiting on a diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder for our eldest: while we wait for SW, PASW, CAMHS etc to sort themselves out and work out who will assess and potentially treat my boy I turned to the wonderful world of Twitter for advice.

As usual the amazing people on there came up with loads of suggestions which make so much sense.

After some research and a bit of a dive into Pinterest I decided to try a sensory box. I created a sensory box for home and 2 pencil cases (1 for nursery bag and 1 for my handbag). I didn’t really know what to expect or what I was doing. I tried to include things he could scratch and fiddle with in a focused way, things I knew would hold his attention, they are a random mix of things if you look at the picture above. The box for home include a sensory ball and sunglasses among other things. We named them the “chill out box/bag”.

I have started by offering the bag / box when I feel he he is becoming hyper-vigilant or hyper-stimulated. The first time I used it was when he was playing with Grandpa and I could see he was over-stimulated, I offered the box and gave him a space away from us but where he could see us and turned the sand timer to 10 minutes. I was amazed. He sat with his glasses on and scratched and fiddled away for the 10 minutes. Afterwards he told me “it was amazing” he seemed brighter and came back into the lounge a calm relaxed boy who was able to carry on playing with his Grandpa (I’d had words with my father-in-law about not doing rough play or tickling).

I was shocked, this was our little boy who previously would be unable to stop and would likely escalate to violence and screaming, we had averted the crisis and he came out of it really happy.

He has asked for the box / bag several times and has always been keen to have it when we have offered it. It came in very handy when we were away with family last weekend. Obviously it doesn’t solve all our problems and we still get seemingly random acts of violence, but it helps him regulate and prevent the escalation we were becoming used to.

As usual we’re not sure what we’re dong and making it up as we go along with a little help from our Twitter friends!

What’s in a name?

  

Tom is fascinated by peoples’ names, whenever we watch CBeebies Bedtime Stories I have to make sure I know the name of the person telling the story as he will always ask. He sees names as an important part of identity, interestingly all soft toys are called by their creature name, above is Doggy, we gave him to Tom with our photo book we gave him before intros.

Tom has become upset on several occasions when he has been unable to remember his siblings’ names, we try to engage in meaningful conversation about them but we are still waiting for his life story book! (7 months since placement).

Today we were on our way to see a close friend of mine, we’ve seen her alone before with the boys and today we were meeting her with her children. Now I hadn’t thought much about this, we had told Tom the day before but this morning started our usual more detailed prep of what we’re doing today. It was at this point I realised a problem, her youngest has the same name as the boys’ other brother, the one Tom was very close to and loves dearly, the one he is confused about not being with. We put so much effort into planning and structure it hadn’t occurred to me about the names (it’s not a common name). 

We spent some time discussing the name and how this is a different boy not his brother, he sat and listened, asked questions, then we asked him if he was ok with the meet up up, he was calm and said “I think I’ll be fine”.

To his credit after some hesitation when we introduced them he was amazing, we had a fantastic morning.

To me a name is a name, I don’t give them much thought. To Tom they are so important, he wants to know everyone’s name and remembers everyone’s name and attaches an emotion to certain names (positive and negative). I expected today to be difficult because of a name but my precious boy showed me how far he had come in trusting us.

Tom introduces himself as Tom X, part of ‘Team X’. He loves his new surname and says it with pride, he loves hearing about names, to him there is a lot in a name.