I wasn’t going to write anymore posts before Christmas, I still have so much to do, writing cards, buying the last few gifts, wrapping a mountain of presents!
But I just wanted to write this post as I get what I’m wanting to say flowing through my head all the time and it won’t go away until I’ve got it all written down!
At my local parents support group (that I help to run,) we had a meet-up on Thursday 7th December and the subject of ‘after diagnosis’ came up again. This is so relevant for us as a family currently, as our eldest daughter, Lou (5) was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) only 4 weeks ago. We had a wonderful guest speaker from Autism West Midlands attend the group and we got into the discussion of what happens after our children are diagnosed, that there is non-existent after care for parents, whose child has just been diagnosed with something that they will carry for life, it doesn’t just disappear. We all mentioned that it is usually the procedure that the diagnosis is sent via paper, the child will then be discharged from the Autism diagnostic team and maybe even their paediatrician and then sent on their merry way. Lou hasn’t been discharged from seeing her Paediatrician, (who is one of the only professionals that has seen Lou’s full traits,) because she will be assessed for ADHD around February/March time, as children are usually assessed after their 6th birthday.
I knew I’d read something to this affect before my child was diagnosed and it was a fantastic post written by a fellow SEND blogger: Faithmummy:
I can 100% agree with what Miriam (Faithmummy) is saying in this post, especially as Lou was first given an IEP (Individual Education Plan) at the age of 3, then given a support package including interventions to support:
- Gross motor skills (caller ‘Smart Moves,’) as she was diagnosed with Hypermobility at the age of 4.
- ‘Relax Kids’ to support with self-calming and regulation methods which can also be carried on at home.
- ‘Sensory Breaks’ given throughout the day in a specified sensory area with sensory toys and equipment to allow Lou to offload her sensory seeking needs. To avoid build ups and to prevent such a large ‘sensory overload’ when reaching home.
- Emotions cards- recognising and naming emotions to help Lou to identify how she is feeling.
This support package was working for Lou, even without an official ASD diagnosis. What’s happened since she’s been diagnosed is that this support is now non-existent. It is more noticeable that as soon as Lou reaches me at the end of the day, as her ‘safe person,’ she immediately ‘offloads’ to me, often right next to a busy road, we’ve often missed the local bus to take us home and then it’s taken us over an hour to get home, what would normally be a 20 minute walk as Lou is so frustrated and overloaded from a day of ‘holding it all in.’
I’ve currently done 3 different parenting courses in the past 3 years, all suggesting different methods, but sadly none working for Lou, as she displays a high amount of PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance,) although her diagnostic report states that she’s too young for this to be officially recognised as part of her ASD.
I still get comments regarding my parenting skills, even now Lou has an official diagnosis, I’m so exhausted with the fight to ensure that Lou gets the support she so desperately needs and deserves. My feelings on this are that it’s very much money dependent on SEND budget, and because Lou doesn’t cause trouble in class, she’s seen as ‘fine’ and just gets on with it. She would need to cause disruption in school and experience a meltdown/sensory overload in school to then get people to stop and recognise her struggles, but I don’t see why I should let it get to this point. The interventions she has been receiving are the sort that would benefit any class of children the same age. She needs support in terms of her comprehension and understanding, as in my own experience in school, I would nod and make it appear I was listening and understanding, but underneath I hadn’t got a clue what was being asked of me.
But what happens if girls ‘mask’ in school?
If girls on the autistic spectrum hide their ASD traits in school, it can cause long term effects in terms of their mental health, we have no positive experience with services such as CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service,) as Lou was referred to this service then they didn’t even observe her, and discharged her that same day! We were yet again given a whole load of ‘parenting strategies’ and sent on our way as we were receiving Family Support, which ironically, we no longer qualify for, yet our daughter’s needs are now much higher!
To me this simply doesn’t make sense! If you give yourself a ‘mask’ in school, this requires such a lot of mental effort and it leaves you mentally drained afterwards. I didn’t even realise I was masking my traits until I researched into my own difficulties, I didn’t even realise it was a ‘thing.’ So I had no awareness of why I was finding school so mentally exhausting.
You only have to look back into my medical records to see what has happened as a result of my masking in school and then into adulthood, several episodes of depression, one very bad (Psychotic Episode,) and regular reoccurrences of anxiety. I hardly spoke all throughout my whole school experience, I didn’t tell anyone I was struggling, I put my head down, made it appear like I understood and just got on with it, desperate to make myself seem ‘invisible’ and not drawn attention to.
This is what occurs when difficulties such as ASD aren’t picked up on and even if they are identified, when support is still not given. I find it so confusing as to why there are clear strengths and areas for improvement, and also recommendations on Lou’s diagnostic report, however none of these are being addressed. When we fought so hard for Lou’s diagnosis to be recognised and addressed via appropriate support. I was further knocked into the ground every time my parenting skills were mentioned.
There’s a question that’s hanging over me currently: “to EHCP or not to EHCP?!” Lots of fellow SEND parents have advised me to start the process myself. Lou I think is doing ok academically, her reading was taken back down to the first level, where she was at in her Reception class, when she had been moved up, there’s still a question over her reversing letters like ‘b’ and ‘d’ and words like ‘on’ and ‘no.’ She also didn’t meet her early years goal for writing at the end of Reception year, as she struggled to actually get her writing down on paper. It’s not only the academic side where Lou requires support, it is especially socially and emotionally where she struggles, and currently struggling with her self-confidence, which is worrying at not quite 6 years old. I have read that with an EHCP, it supports the child/young person until they are 25. Which I think would benefit a child like Lou, who may very well struggle more and more as the pressure of school mounts, e.g SATs and GCSEs.
For now, it’s December 12th 2017, I’m physically and mentally exhausted, I currently have no fight left in me. I need to enjoy the festive season with my family, then re- group and continue the fight for support for my girl, ‘Warrior Mum’ will have to return in January 2018!
Thanks for reading 🙂
Here are some more fantastic posts regarding ‘diagnosis’ from fellow bloggers: