D has always been a complicated young man. Now I don’t mean that as a put down, merely as an observation. I have said on more than one occasion that he was born middle-aged, and that isn’t saying he isn’t and has never been child like, it is just saying the way his brain is programmed means he has always come across as being beyond his years.
D was a beautiful baby, with a mass of hair, and has grown into a beautiful young boy, still with a mass of curly hair, although these days it is more ginger than the black he began with. He fell very easily into the second child role. Everything his older brother could do, he believed he should be able to do, and therefore his development seemed much quicker than it had been with M – having spoken to other parents, it seems it is not uncommon that the second child has the motivation of the older sibling being their role model. It also meant he became quite frustrated at finding something’s he wasn’t yet able to do.
When M was 4 he was going through assessment for autism, something no parent wants to put their child through, but when you know there is something different that may need help, you have to do it. D is just 18 months younger than his brother, so they are close enough in age to mirror each other. When D started behaving “badly” we believed it was attention seeking, as his brother was getting a great deal of our time as we came to terms with his diagnosis. His behaviour continued to be trying – that’s putting it politely, so we spoke to the health visitor – D was still pre-school, so she was our first port of call. She suggested the Triple P programme. It is a really informative programme about positive parenting, to try to calm situations before they grow arms and legs. As we tried to implement the things learned, his behaviour did not improve. I think as a parent, you just feel a failure when you have a child who is constantly defying you, to the point of rudeness, The health visitor was really supportive, and did some one on one sessions with him, but he was so well-behaved during these, it wasn’t achieving much. He was at nursery by this time, and doing well, although he often complained about being bored when he was there. We spoke to the teachers and they reassured us he was doing fine. He started not wanting to go to nursery because he felt playing wasn’t the best use of his time! One of the teachers agreed to give him more task driven structure to the time, while the other teacher felt we were just pushing him. While he seemed happier at nursery, his behaviour at home wasn’t improving, and so we decided we had to go to the GP. Asking for help should be the easiest thing in the world when our children need it, but it isn’t. You know by putting them into the system, you are subjecting them to all sorts of pressures that they probably don’t need, or want. You are however doing it for the right reasons, and it is to help your child, and that is what you need to hold onto.
The GP referred us to child mental health at the children’s hospital. Waiting for the first appointment, you go through so many things in your head, questioning your decisions, and your parenting, wondering if you have done the right thing. Then during the first meeting, you feel even worse, as you are interrogated – that is how it feels, about the life of your child, from pregnancy to the decision to seek help. It is horrible. It was easier with D, having already been through the system with M, but at the same time I think that made it harder also because of thinking where we imagining things. I think the hardest question was why had we chosen that point to get additional help. The obvious answer is you don’t want to believe your child isn’t “normal” – I hate that word but I hope you understand my use of it here, then you explain you think his behaviour may be learned from his brother. You tie yourself in knots trying to talk through your thought processes to a total stranger. The psychologist D was under was lovely, she listened without judging, and then talked to D. She wanted to see him again. Your mind races at this point, because you want to be told that you just have a naughty child, and there is nothing else but, no, more assessment is required. Meanwhile, a huge questionnaire is sent to us to fill in, and also to the nursery – I felt lucky that it went to the teacher who had seen his needs more. The second appointment at the hospital, was one we thought was going to be just D doing things to be observed, so I went with him, no Hubby. It took just 45 minutes to be given a diagnosis for him. It was shocking, as you feel your world collapsing around your child. He was given a diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome on the Autistic spectrum. I was numb.
When I asked D if he understood what had been said, he admitted he wasn’t really listening, so I told him that she had said he had a special brain, like his brother. His response to this was so calm and measured that I just wanted to hold him tightly, as he shrugged his shoulders and said, ” Oh I have autism then!”
That was then end of intervention from child mental health. Here is your diagnosis, go away and have a nice life. There is no help or support given, and it is difficult. I know we went through this when M was diagnosed, but it doesn’t make it any less difficult when your second child faces the same. The one positive was, and still is, that D achieves well at school. He is a sponge for information with an inability to accept things at face value, and always needing and wanting to delve as deep as possible.
At home though it is a different story, with wild outbursts. He is a big lad, and his strength is becoming quite challenging as he openingly defy you. He can be both verbally and physically aggressive, to the point that I often have to hide in the kitchen so as not to let him see me cry! We have tried calm, we have tried shouting, we have read so many books about managing behaviour that I feel quite well-informed, but nothing seems to work. There are obvious triggers that we try to minimize. He has very high expectations of himself, and not reaching them can be devastating to him – you or I would get annoyed, but learn from failure, but for him, failure means he is rubbish, and useless and as many negative things you can think of to call yourself. It is sad to see him put himself down like this.
For ages Hubby and I have been saying we should thinking about talking to someone. It is however something you put off and put off. Do you really want to subject your child to once again having to judged by societies bench marks of normality? We have probably ummed and arhed about this for coming on 6 months. Eventually after quite an upsetting episode I picked up the phone and made an appointment with the GP.
The end of last week saw us heading to this appointment. I reassured D that he wasn’t in trouble, we just needed some help to try to keep him from being so upset all of the time. The GP listened to my concerns. He asked D if he knew why we were there, and he matter of factly stated it was because he gets angry. When asked if he knew why this happened, he said that sometimes it just came from his brain and he couldn’t stop it. I wanted to cry. The GP asked what we wanted him to do. I asked if there was someone we could talk to for help with managing D’s behaviour. He has therefore referred us to the psychiatrist department at the children’s hospital. It is a scary though, but I think it is the right thing. He needs help to learn to deal with his emotions before they spill out in an environment other than the home. We need help to be able to support him.
Asking for help the first time was hard, but to ask again, was probably the hardest thing I have ever had to do as a parent. I am scared about the path we are walking, but I am also realistic that the first step to finding solutions is to admit there is a problem, and while this will take time, and maybe not have success, if we rule things out we will hopefully find a few things to help.
D can be the most loving, most charming wee man you could ever wish to meet, and I am proud of the fact that this is the side of him that most people know. I just want to support him to find strategies to make the rest of the time less stressful for him.