It has been a while since I sat down and wrote a blog post. The Butterfly Room has become increasingly busy, and between this and my work within the NHS , I have not really thought about it. Of course life just simply gets in the way sometimes.
The main reason I am writing this post now is because , ironically, tonight I am killing time. My youngest, Noah is going through an intense separation anxiety phase and has also stopped sleeping, mainly through to being without his sleep meds for almost a month..however tonight we attempting to give them to him , and low and behold - he now won't take them.
Noah has begun to refuse food, drink and meds through fear of being sick. I'm not worried regarding food and drink - mainly because I know he won't starve himself. But the meds...I had high hopes for a night sleep after a month of surviving on 3-4 hours. The seperation anxiety means that if he wakes and I am not there he has intense panic attacks and meltdowns lasting for hours through the night; so I have been sleeping on his floor for the past 3 weeks. My back aches and stings daily now. I recently turned 30 and my husband suprised me with a trip to NYC and this week I realised that its a pipe dream to consider Noah managing me being away from him for 5 days ..so we cancelled the trip. So I needed a good nights sleep to bounce back.
And then this evening...I had been in bed all of half an hour when Noah woke just before midnight and I realised that I was in for another sleepless night I had another realisation. My eldest son will be having his first day of Christmas holidays tomorrow. He will be excited and he will be restless. But - I will be tired. I will be exhausted. As will Noah. So where does this leave me?
Without meaning too I began to compile and realise all the things that I have sacrificed since I started on this journey as an Autism mother and then with it, things I learnt to combat these or the little things that make it worth it. And then, I thought I would share it with you...
So now as I write this , its just turned 1.30am and Noah is happily watching Bing Bunny whilst the Christmas tree lights twinkle and he is at peace, He is cuddled into me, and has told me he is smiling because he is happy (he is a therapist's son after all so we practice lots of emotion recognition!) and that makes all of the above worth it. Knowing that I, and I alone am his anchor , in turn gives me peace. We're a team Noah and I. As we drove to the hospital today to pick up his medication I played Christmas songs loudly and sang along, Joshua and I did some great duets and talked about what Joshua is excited for, which made Joshua happy. Tomorrow it is my day off , as I am on annual leave from NHS for Christmas...so I will drink red bull , I have arrangements to collect Christmas treats from a local bakery, I will make gingerbread houses with Joshua like I promised and put Christmas lights around our front door because it will make the kids smile. And that's worth it. And that makes me happy. I will take time when my husband gets home to lock myself in the bathroom and have a hot bath and watch Netflix for an hour. I may take the time, when the kids are sitting quietly to call a friend and talk about our weeks for 20 minutes. I may even look into getting someone to treat my back pain.
We loose a lot of ourselves as SEN parents, as working parents, as parents in general. But its important to ensure that your doing little things to make it work. To balance the scale. So that we can still find the peace and happiness in the little things.
For a while now I have been thinking of other ways to support the children I work with. Over the past few months I have been seeing a large number of boys aged between 10 and 14 with ADHD who were all presenting with the same low self esteem, anxiety and challenging behaviour. I wanted to develop a safe place outside of therapy rooms, doctors appointments and nurses where we could work on this self esteem issue while promoting inclusion and allowing these kids to be what they are,,,,kids.
The statistics on co morbid mental health issues and ADHD/ASD are worrying. Currently around 75% of those with ASD will also experience mental illness, typically manifesting as anxiety disorder or depression. So I knew it was time to act.
I was lucky enough to be able to reach out to Goldmith Mancuso - a fantastic local company (http://www.goldsmithmancuso.co.uk/) and together Green Light was born!
Green Light Youth offers a safe, accepting and understanding environment for boys with behavioural disorders, we provide events packed full of fun and adventure for boys to meet other boys like them. This helps to build on their social communication skills, reduce social isolation and anxiety and at the same time increase their self-esteem and self-confidence. Many young people with behavioural disorders come into contact with many places where they are not understood or just feel that they are constantly being “told off”. Green Light creates an environment where young people are understood and accepted. All activities are designed to be fun and active and are run by experienced youth workers and myself. We are very proud and excited to be able to share the project with you all so please check out the website, facebook and twitter (all links below..)
I made the decision to specialise in ASD / ADHD/ ADD when working with children 7 years ago after working within the Child Development Team. Not only did the psychology of the specific impairments with these individuals interest me but I found myself in awe of these misunderstood children. I found that beneath the challenging behaviour and the anxiety ridden meltdown were the sweetest children with amazing talents. I thrived on working with these children and their families. I was empathetic to the families and I tried my best to understand what they were going through. I listened sympathetically, I supported Applications and applied for charity funding’s for the family. I patiently spend weeks working with their children on eye contact and choice making and forms of expression, enjoying the sense of achievement when I broke down the wall and helped the children express themselves. I completed research on the impact of family functioning whilst awaiting an autism diagnosis and paved the way for important changes in the ways the NHS works in relation to this assessment. I researched into sleep cycles of the ASD individual and developed sleep programmes and petitioned for local sleep services. I really thought I understood.
And then 2 years ago my youngest son was born. At 11 months old he was diagnosed with Global Development Delay, at 13 months a sleep disorder and non epileptic absences, at 18 months old Sensory Processing Disorder was added to the list and now at 2 and half we’re querying ASD. NOW I understand. I understand the pure exhaustion of a child that won’t sleep more than a few hours a night, I understand the sadness you feel as a mother when you see other children the same age as yours doing activities that your child just cannot do. I understand the way you feel when strangers look at you funny in the street because you’re having to stop every few moments so you can cuddle your son so he can get the sensory seeking sensation he is desperate for, or when you have to stop and let him touch every tree on the street on a walk. I understand that feeling of hopelessness when your child meltdowns and you cannot comfort them no matter what you try.
Not only does this experience give me insight I never had (although I thought I did) into the lives of the parents, it also makes me a better therapist working with these children. I have a passion towards helping these children that inspires me to do more, to research more, to develop more strategies. I understand the anxiety, the meltdowns and the anger. When I travel into London 3 times a year to train school staff, childminders and TA’s on working with ASD I have a passion to help these adults understand our kids and the best way to help. I understand the questions, the ifs and the desperation the parents feel in a way that no amount of training and work experience could give me. I’m one of you. I write this whilst my oldest child is at school, my sister had to take him as my youngest is still asleep and I can’t wake him. Why? Because he didn’t fall asleep until 8am this morning. I’m right there with you with the trials and tribulations of raising a child with complex needs. I’m fighting it with you.
For support I offer;
· 1:1 therapy for your child on a range of issues such as social communication, anxiety, anger and other forms of challenging behaviour.
· Social skills groups
· Sleep advice and programmes for ASD children
These past few weeks Children’s mental health services have been the talk of the government, social media and the news. From every direction people are posting, discussing and proclaiming that Theresa May has announced that childhood mental illness must become a priority and her ‘unveiling of plans to reform the mental health services’.
I see professionals getting excited at the prospect of awareness and aid to their services, parents feeling relieved that they may finally be able to get their child the help they so strongly need and deserve. The entire UK seems to have a positive outlook on this proclaimed priority.
I feel angered at these claims by Theresa May. Now as a children’s therapist who has devoted the past 7 years of my life in training and practice to work in this field that may seem strange. But let me break this down…
Theresa May talked a good talk and she got the country riled up in excitement. But let’s look closer; Theresa May did not discuss budget increase, she did not discuss the development of new services or the funded training to develop more job roles for the already over stretched services we have. She didn’t mention hospitals or outpatient services at all. She spoke about communities and schools. The problem there? I didn’t go through 7 years of training for nothing. It takes specialist training to be equipped to work with these children. Teachers do not have this training. They are trained to teach and although they provide much need pastoral support for our kids they are not responsible for their mental wellbeing. We are. The parents, the GP’s, the nurses, the Psychologist, Psychiatrists and the Therapists.
I am proud to have worked in the NHS for over 4 years before entering into private practice. I have seen the demands on the NHS and I have seen the amazing work the staff do. But I have also seen the strain. I personally researched into ASD diagnostic waiting lists within our NHS and found an 18- 24 month wait. Our children’s psychological services currently have a 9 month wait. So where does that leave these children? It leaves them without. It leaves their families without.
So I shall wait with baited breath to see the outcomes of the government’s new plans to promote childhood mental wellbeing. And in the mean time I will continue to work with these children , their families and their schools on the front line because if I can stop one child taking the wrong path, if I can stop one teenager cutting themselves or talk one pre-adolescent depressed child from taking their life, or if I can reduce the social isolation of our SEN children and if I can give my support to one family to give them a tiny glimmer of hope, then my training, the demands and the stigma attached to my role and research will all be worth every second.
I’m waiting RT Hon May….
I am very excited about today's post! In conjunction with Hertfordshire Therapy Centre I am going to be running a month on Confident Parent Workshop's!
Following feedback from my clients parents from my Social Skills Group I have designed 3 workshops to focus on the main area's that Parent's felt they needed help and advice with. The workshop's will be informal, with a chance for Parent's to gain advice and strategies to manage their child's behaviour whilst having the chance to meet other parents who are experiencing the same issue's and see what has worked / hasn't worked for them! The idea is to give parent's the confidence to put boundaries and strategies in place and give some support to the idea's you may have!
The workshops will run on Wednesday evenings 7.30 - 9pm and each week will have a theme. The first; on September 9th will be Anger and Anxiety , the second centre's around Sleep and the final workshop is just for the dad's out there!
Please contact me on email@example.com to book a place - places are limited and are beginning to book up!
The sessions are £15 each (£25 a couple).
As part of my role as a child therapist, I often work with children with ASD or social communication difficulties providing play therapy sessions to help build upon these skills. Although each therapy package is tailored to meet the child's individual needs I work on the same basic principles when working with this client group. Recently , one of the families I work with was kind enough to photograph and document one on my sessions so I could share with you all how I work!
Cars and Trains:
Within this session I used cars and trains and other vehicles to work on my clients turn taking skills and imaginative play. Luckily my client's little sister loves to play as well so we work on both children having turns with the vehicles, we narrate our play and I create themes such as trains falling off the track or the cars 'bumping' so we check the passengers are ok! And of course, when passing vehicles back and forth we concentrate on eye contact!
Following on from turn taking, using sensory balls are a fantastic motivating way to encourage turn taking skills, to practice following instructions and shared enjoyment !
Play Dough is great tool for explorative play, to work on sensory discovery and imaginative play! It encourage's children to choose (by giving different colour options) and confidence building!
Again, focusing on explorative and discovery play - sensory time is a great way to do this. Dependent on the child I use a range of different toys - with this client we enjoy searching for stars in lentils! This activity helps my client focus, follow instructions and explore different textures.
Bubbles and Balloons!!!
I always end my sessions playing with bubbles and balloons! We work on obtaining eye contact , following a point and requesting more with these activities , and mainly because its a fun way to end a session :)
If you think your child would benefit from therapy with myself then please do not hesitate to get in touch! I am currently fully booked for July but you can add your child's name to my August Waiting List.
I don't think I've ever met a child who doesn't like to play with Sand (of course excluding children with sensory difficulties). Along with being fun and bringing enjoyment Sand Play can also be a valuable tool when working with emotionally traumatized children. For children who are scared or too damaged to speak the non verbal atmosphere surrounding sand play can be incredibly therapeutic. A non directive approach by the therapist is undertaken; Using small world figures, toy animals, objects and marbles the child is free to explore and develop their expression of situations. make assumptions and make behavioural changes all in a secure and comforting environment.
For this reason Sand Play is valuable when working with children who are victims of neglect, abuse or trauma. It can also be used as a form of family therapy and with adults alike.
If you think your child would benefit from Sand Play, or would like more information then please get in touch. Also keep a look out for my child workshop summer dates coming soon!
I often see Children who are suffering with emotion regulation and angry outbursts. This is a problem area for both typically and atypically children alike. There are many great strategies to help children develop their own coping mechanisms when dealing with anger and today I thought I would share a few!
This is a fantastic way to show children how anger and emotions can develop and explode using fun visual aids! It is so simple, using food colouring, bicarbonate soda and vinegar - and children love to watch their 'anger' pop fizzle and bubble over! I find this works very well with ASD children who are typically very visual learners.
Bubbles and Balloons:
I often use bubbles and balloons to teach children simple breathing exercises and self control. Blow bubbles and ask your child to pop as many as possible and don't let them touch the floor! Excite your child and praise them for great popping - and then ask children to stay very very still and not to move....then blow bubbles at your child, letting them pop on their clothes and face! Praise your child for staying still and practicing great SELF CONTROL.
Simply slowing up a balloon is a good way to teach your child breathing techniques - It also helps to tell children that blowing up a balloon is a way to get 'their angry thoughts out'!.
Stop, Think, Go Traffic Light System:
For children who enjoy art, spend some time developing a traffic light system to help them explore their negative feelings. Red; to verbalise what is making them angry, Amber; to take a few minutes and think about a more proactive way to deal with the situation; and Green for when they are calm!
Please keep a look out for my Anger workshops I will be holding through out the Summer, I will post more details and booking information soon!
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SPACE! For parents with a child awaiting a diagnosis of ASD or who have gained a diagnosis in the last year......
So following on from my previous post which highlighted and discussed my research looking at the CDAC waiting list and parents experiences; I wanted to highlight a support group that developed through my research.