A Long Autumn Term
The fact that this blog has been left abandoned for a long time highlights the intensity of this school term. And it's been intense for a variety of reasons. Pip has started school, which was initially more of a challenge than I might have predicted. Katie is starting to go through puberty, which is an added layer of icing on the cupcake that is FASD, attachment (and all the other things in adoption world) and I've been busy with getting my holistic and administration business off the ground. By the end of the day I'm usually in an exhausted, emotional puddle on the floor totally unable to string coherent words together. There are times when the emotions are so big that you really can't find the right words or unscramble the jumble that is inside your mind. December is always a tough month in our house, as it is for many parents and most adopters, and every year I'm surprised by just how stressful it is. It's like I forget the level of intensity and stress. We need a break after a very long term but could do without the plethora of intense emotions that Christmas brings. Add another exhausted child into the mix this year and the recipe for disaster is being featured on Masterchef leaving me very at odds with the zen-like business I am trying to build.
My business has been the little light in a very long tunnel this term. Doing something that makes me feel happy is so much more needed than I realised. It's hard working getting a new business off the ground and it will be a slow process of new clients finding me. Spending my days giving Reiki treatments and Indian Head Massages is incredibly relaxing and and elixir amongst the chaos. I've just signed up to do Diplomas in Aromatherapy and Flower Remedies over the coming months, both things I love so I'm excited about where that will take my business in the coming year. My plan is to then also train as a Reflexologist so I can really offer a full holistic package. I've also dusted off old skills and am doing audio transcribing as well as another side to the business. It's nice to make plans and I realise now how I needed to find my identity again. It's a much needed buffer against family life.
For Pip this whole term pushed attachment and insecurity buttons. He was very anxious about starting school and the build up last much of the year. He's settled well in school however after a very shaky and worrying start and I'm proud of him for his bravery and his own emotional insights. The early part of his first term involved a lot of big, scary, emotions and a lot of conversations with his teacher about his behaviour. He threw chairs on the lower school roof and toys around the garden and generally struggled with his relationships. I met with his teacher and explained about attachment to her and she actually listened. They were concerned that he was following the TA around too much and wanted to discourage this because they were worried about the impact on the other children if he was glued to her side. I explained that he needed that security. I
begged asked them to ride it out, to trust my understanding of Pip, and let him build an attachment to her and explained that starting school was triggering massive anxiety and fear and he needed to be able to trust that he was safe there. We discussed a plan of action and kept in constant communication about it and slowly Pip started to settle. One day he announced to me that he was going to be good at school and not throw any more chairs on the roof. From that day he allowed some trust to form and things started to improve. That's not to say that he wouldn't be delighted to stay home if possible but he actually enjoys school and really enjoys learning. He has a curious mind and wants to explore and loves learning to read. He's making lots of friends now he's calmed down and seems to be a fairly popular class member. He's coping with sharing better as well which has been a massive flash point. It could have been very different if school hadn't listened to me and trusted my judgement though. Pip's teacher said she had no idea that attachment formed in the womb and how a fractured start in life could impact so heavily. As adopters we cannot comprehend how people don't know these things, especially teachers, yet there is much educating to be done. A school willing to listen and learn is so important.
Katie is generally a walking bag of prebubescent emotions. Pip reacts to her and she reacts to Pip (and I react to everybody). I don't think she knows what she wants from one minute to the next. The early stages of puberty are exacerbating her emotions and she is ridiculously oppositional and unbelievably rude. She's finding her pre-pubescent friends at school complex because their ever changing moods are hard to understand or predict. This is all an added layer on top of her struggled with sensory processing so she must feel so overwhelmed. Where Pip tells me about what he's learned at school each day, Katie recounts long and complicated stories about arguments amongst the girls. For reasons different to Pip Katie would also love to stay home. School is a daily assault on her fragile sensory system. She fights against the system, not at school, but at home where she feels safer. I'd like to say she's less stimulated at home but the ongoing arguments between Katie and Pip might suggest otherwise. I noted recently that if Katie had no expectations made of her each day then I think she'd be a lot happier, and easier to be around. Her bedroom is more than just a tip. Everything is on the floor and it's a real button pusher for me. Opposition and an underdeveloped executive functioning system make getting her room tidy on her own totally impossible. She can happily make a massive mess but is totally incapable of tidying it up. Her ensuite is being ruined by science experiments, making slime out of contraband shower gels, shampoos and toothpaste stolen from the main bathroom (despite being told that any experiments needs to take place downstairs). Her bed is littered with wrappers, the bin strategically placed next to her bed totally ignored. Toilet tissue discarded everywhere because she has used that to dry her hands rather than the towel provided. My heart sinks when I walk in her bedroom and she can't or won't follow the house rules. There have been some wonderful moments however this term including gymnastics medals and wonderful progress in her drumming which I will write about separately so they can get the attention they deserve. I have enormous pride for Katie that she does as well as she does despite her challenges. It's fair to say we weather the brunt of the storm that are her emotions though.
One thing that has really helped is our discovery of some duvets that contain magnets. I read a story on Facebook about a boy with autism who was calmed down in a few moments by being wrapped in a duvet filled with magnets. Intrigued I contacted the lady who had posted the post to ask for more information. She was quite local to me so we met up and she lent me a duvet for six nights to try out. The theory behind the duvets (and the rest of the sleep system) is that the negatively charged magnets and other technology in the system enable the body to return to a natural state, rather like a walk in the woods or beside the sea might do. I could immediately feel the difference as I wrapped myself in the sleeping bag, which is also available. I can only describe it as a sort of tingle that spread over my body and my muscles started to relax. Both children had a chance to try out the duvet and we noticed that both were able to fall asleep within minutes. Not only that but both slept deeper and through the entire night. Neither seems to fidget during the night since using the duvets and Pip rarely wakes up during the night now. We were so impressed that we bought the children their own duvets and I have joined the company because I think the sleep system might really offer something for children with sensory processing difficulties and overstimulation issues and I'm keen to spread the word. One thing that I really liked is that the duvets are a bit heavier than a regular duvet so they bring a feeling of being cocooned and safe. I think this is potentially similar to a weighted blanket but because the duvets aren't as heavy they don't need to be removed after a period of time. They also regulate body temperature leaving you feeling comfortable all night and aren't made with the chemicals that other sleep products are made with. I have bought an additional duvet for lending out but also am benefitting from using it myself. I'm even having dream recall again as my body gets deeper into R.E.M. sleep. I feel more awake in the mornings. I also purchased the sleeping bag which we've opened up and use to snuggle the children (and me) under when watching TV and I've been using the duvet and sleeping bag on my Reiki healing table for my clients. My friend's neurotypical son loves sitting under it as well and described how calm he feels when he snuggles into it. I'd love to invest in the whole sleep system for the children in time. Katie loves her duvet and says that she just feels calm and snuggly under it. The company making them is a Japanese R&D company who has developed the technology and sells the products via word of mouth rather than having showrooms etc. It's still quite new to this country but has a big presence already in Europe. Katie still needs her melatonin to ease her body into sleep mode but she falls asleep much quicker than she used to and bedtime is less of an issue for both children now (well quite honestly there is currently no issue around bedtime for either child aside from the usual resistance to actually go to bed). I'm really hoping that this might now be a product on the market that offers something really special to help our children. At least I know we're all sleeping well over Christmas and I am encouraging the children to wrap themselves in the bag when they're feeling angry or when watching TV. I'll write more about this when I can observe how they get on with those over the coming weeks. We've only had the duvets for a few weeks so it's still early days. Early experiences though are really positive. I'm planning on buying Katie the shoe magnets to slip inside her shoes to see if they help her during the day at school as well. I think they might just help her regulate a bit better which can only be a good thing. We might even get away with a magnetic bracelet too.
I have a feeling that families both adopted and birth can relate to December and the impact on our children. Believe me when I say though that when you have children with anxiety, sensory processing and control issues the constant interruptions to the routine that December brings can be disastrous. I pulled both my children out of school a day early because they reached overload and couldn't cope with even one more day. Thankfully once Christmas Day arrived and they could shed some of the excitement and anxiety build up things have been significantly calmer. We've kept it quiet with few visitors and lots of down time with iPads and TV and just chilling under our lovely duvets. Late morning starts and very few expectations have lowered the stress levels. The children seem to cope better if they are separate from each other when in this stressful state. They want to play together but explosions are quick to follow as Pip annoys Katie and Katie snaps back. Pip is very explosive in his reactions a lot of the time and throws whatever is closest to him. Katie will then respond. So when I say things are better I'd advise against visions of peace on earth and goodwill to all men and instead imagine a reduction in hostilities with intermittent outbreaks of fire on enemy lines. As adopters our level of normal or calm is very different from non-adoptive families but a reduction in stress is healing for us all. Hopefully another week off school and continued treatment with Bach Flower Remedies and their duvets will continue to help them (and me) calm.
Roll on 2018.....