Emma’s Fostering Blog 

Swimming

At home Family life is centred on Dan’s needs as he is unable to care for himself as other peers of the same age and he relies on us for all his day to day needs.

He has ASD and displays obsessive rigid thinking which means he can’t get thoughts out of his head and he often sees things differently to other people.

Dan gets very emotional and overwhelmed with films, books and in Social settings and he definitely doesn’t understand sarcasm and he’s very literal so reading emotions can be hard for him. It’s pretty annoying and upsetting for him because sometimes he may do, or say something wrong and his peers don’t really understand and laugh at him. Sometimes for Dan the smallest things are very challenging and he does lack confidence and concentration on certain things, and when his friends find the same tasks easier this really frustrates him. At home we use social stories as this helps us both with communication as this is a two way process and therefore the social impairment is a difficulty shared by both of us.

Young people such as Dan with complex needs, need to be helped to prepare for the differences they will encounter as they become older and they become to notice they are different from their peers.

We are at this stage with Dan, so for some time now, and it’s not been easy! Alongside his Social worker we have been helping him to understand that the autism related behaviours are simply part of how he was born, not something bad, weird, or broken, focusing on his strengths. Explaining differences as just that, ‘differences’. Explaining that those differences are part of how his brain is wired and just that his brain works differently.

At first he would become overwhelmed or even angry, especially when he learned that his differences have a name, and that name is part of the Autism spectrum. We have used social stories and the web to help with this, I’m not entirely sure of how much he understands at the moment but he is now able and ok with explaining when he needs to, that he has autism. Dan has been going to swimming lessons for just over two year now and has really struggled, making little progress.

Finally on Friday to our amazement he swam a length and when he realised he could do it, he swam another three. I asked him what was different tonight and he said ‘I just told myself I can do it, I won’t drown I just need to be confident.’ It was so emotional being part of his great achievement and when something like this happens it makes it all worthwhile.

My thoughts are by putting a name to the difference this has been hugely positive for Dan and has helped with reinforcing his individuality and self-confidence rather than undermine it. 

Emma – A Blogging Foster Carer – I Love What I Do!

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Pigs and rotas

Alice – Fostering Blog

Friday.

I am not sure why I thought getting pets for the children was a good idea – I guess I thought it would teach them about responsibility of looking after something. A couple of years ago I thought it would be a great idea to get the girls guinea pigs for Christmas. On Christmas day, we surprised them with a hutch as a gift and then took them the day after Boxing Day to go choose a guinea pig each. They were super excited about their new pets, but the the novelty soon wore off and Lauren was the only one who really took an interest.

This wasn’t too much of a shock – as it had been Lauren who had been asking for a pet for years.

We set up a rota for Lauren and Annie to clean them out each week – but as you can guess, I was left to sort them out the majority of the time. One of the errors I made was to let them each have their “own” guinea pig. That meant when Lauren’s got sick last year and eventually passed away, she was left without a pet. Despite this she has still loved and cared for the other two.

Today we found Annie’s little pig stiff as a board at the bottom of the hutch. There had been no sign that she had been sick – and they had only been cleaned out yesterday. We broke the news to the girls. I was surprised how sad Annie actually was about it. Lauren, who had already experienced the grieving when hers passed away last year, was very kind to Annie and told her she knew how she was feeling. Alice – who was now the one left a guinea pig she did not care for by any stretches of the imagination, went into complete meltdown. She wailed and cried and said how sad she was because she missed Annie’s guinea pig so much. She was inconsolable.

I’m pretty sure she was not that sad about the guinea pig. I can’t even remember the last time she even took the slightest interest in them. I don’t mean to be cynical, but it definitely felt like she didn’t want Annie getting any of the attention over this. I am sure there are also some attachment issues going on around loss too – so we tried to be sensitive. After Charlie did a little ‘funeral’ for the pig, we buried her and planted some bulbs. I then took Annie and Lauren out for a hot chocolate. I thought it would be good to let them have a bit of time away from the drama Alice was creating – to give them a chance to say how they felt and process it all. I also thought Charlie could spend some one to one time with Alice and try to help her be a little bit more empathetic toward Annie.

Empathy is not something that comes naturally to Alice – so we try to teach her by modelling it. Modelling behaviour is one of the strategies our fostering agency advocate. It can sometimes feel a bit fake and over the top but we have seen some positive results of using this over the years. When I returned home with the girls, I was pleasantly surprised to hear Alice offering genuine comfort to Annie. This was a huge turnaround from when we left the house just over an hour earlier. Charlie definitely earned his brownie points today!!

A Less Ordinary Fostering Family Blog.

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Emma’s Fostering Blog. Dinner

September – Charlie is 7 and I’m beginning to establish a good routine and boundaries, but I am finding the attention seeking, ‘in your face’ type behaviours difficult to ignore. He is constantly ?dgety and anxious, he is overly charming; he knows everyone’s names, their business and likes to help whenever he can, even if I don’t want his help.

October – Charlie seems to be settling in well he is responding to the boundaries and enjoys getting rewards. November – Charlie is managing his drama club and now looks forward to going every week. December – Almost daily, I am being spoken to about Charlie’s behaviour at School; he is being disruptive and rude, spoiling other pupils work. Charlie had a Christmas contact with his parents, he was excited about going, he had gifts from them then after a couple of days he destroyed them. Now we seem to be walking on egg shells with him, today we went to see Father Christmas, in hindsight, I wish I hadn’t, Charlie told him that he wasn’t real and he was a F*****g liar.

Christmas morning – Charlie is super excited, but this seems false, as if overshadowed by some horrible incident. Rapidly opening his presents, a quick glance, declaring several times ‘how lucky he is’ and ‘his favourite things ever’. Christmas dinner – we saw a very different Charlie – ‘I’m not eating this F*****g Shit’ then throwing the plate across the table he became louder, and very controlling, as if two people, in and out of character.

‘Triggers’ sounds, smells, tastes, things he saw, emotions he felt, reminders of trauma. I really wanted this day over and I was upset at his actions, my extended family were great, really supportive and despite everything they made him welcome. On reflection the gift from a particular family member had triggered anger, pain and loss; he had witnessed domestic abuse and was acting out the behaviours, ending up in disruptive and challenging behaviour. There’s lots of pressure to have fun, it can be difficult to cope. If things go wrong, they often go spectacularly wrong, so it’s very important to have an extra layer of support around this time of year.

It’s the most difficult time of the year for some children – Adam, care leaver once told me about his early experiences of Christmas with us, ‘I hated the emotions it stirred in me as we sat at the table together, there was laughter and a real family sense, but for me it felt like a physical pain in my heart because this is what it should have been like for me at home, it’s the dread of feeling that way because I felt so heartbroken’.

My thoughts are Step out of the box- think and plan in advance, you can have a happy Christmas; you might just need to tweak your routine or traditions.

Emma – A Blogging Foster Carer – I Love What I Do!