When I started writing this blog I did it with the intention of being completely transparent and honest about my life. I didn’t want to hide behind a veneer of perfect imperfections – I wanted to tell the whole truth, no matter how hard it was to do. However with the post I am about to write I have gone back and forth over whether to write it. It contains quite painful and difficult moments from the past few weeks and has the potential to cause some upset or embarrassment for people I love. Yesterday I sat down with Nick to discuss my feelings and concluded that if I was able to read similar stories I might not have felt so helpless recently and so perhaps this post could help others going through similar things.
Like the rest of the country our school has been closed so I have had all three children at home, full time since the middle of March. For the most part we have coped pretty well. Rufus and Eloise are best friends, they fight sometimes but they sort it out quickly and have been great company for each other when their parents have been too busy/stressed/touched out to give them their full attention. After Martha got used to having to share me during the days she has now become a really sweet side kick to her siblings as they cause chaos in every room of the house.
Each child has had their ups and downs, Eloise misses her friends and school in general, Rufus doesn’t like to be taught by me (not that I’m trying to teach that much) and Martha has developed a ‘Hey Duggee’ addiction which is slightly disconcerting. However the last three weeks have seen a huge dip down for Rufus and that is what this post is about.
We’re pretty sure that Rufus has ASD (I even wrote a blog post about it) but we have yet to have him diagnosed as the system takes forever and as he’s high functioning, so he’s nobody’s priority. Part of his ASD is that he really needs structure, he also struggles to socialise at times, but his one ‘go to’ for socialising is helping people. At school he likes to learn alongside others and where he can, he likes to assist his classmates in their work. Rufus’s confidence is strongly linked to positive feedback on the things he knows he’s good at. He is also very rigid in his thinking so at some point he’s got the idea that he’s no good at art, so won’t do anything related to art. In fact the time from the moment his pen hits the paper until the moment he’s finished his picture is filled with a broken record of ‘I’m not good at art, my classmates tell me it’s not my thing, I can’t do this’ and so on. As he is now required to learn from me and rely on his positive feedback from a stressed, unqualified and distracted teacher (me) and this has resulted in him feeling truly awful. We’ve got to a point where the slightest criticism or suggested adjustment in his behaviour causes him to fall apart. With his rigid thinking he believes that he is either a good person or a bad person and when we point out less than perfect behaviour he starts really beating himself up. Below are a list of some of the things he has been saying:
‘I’m no good’
‘I should tape my mouth shut’
‘You should have killed me the day I was born’
‘I wish I’d never been born’
And the worst one – ‘I want to get a knife and stab myself’
He has even gone so far as to try to get to the knives with us having to get their first. The other night we had to tell him off before bed and this resulted in him talking about harming himself within earshot of Eloise. The following morning she came to me and told me how he had scared her and that she didn’t want him to die.
As you can imagine it is nothing short of heartbreaking and earth shattering to hear your child say these things, especially when they’re only 7. We’ve tried various strategies to help him, but we need support, we need outside help and right now the NHS does not have the capacity to help. So what did we do? We contacted his school. I immediately emailed his class teacher and the SENDCO who forwarded my emails onto the headteacher. That wonderful headteacher then rang me from his home on a Sunday to discuss how best to help my son. I cannot fault how the school have dealt with this whole situation. They have been supportive, responsive and assertive. I am so grateful in the general handling of it all but the way they have responded to our situation with Rufus has been incredible. Rufus was immediately offered a place in the make shift school that has been running for key worker kids, I also met with the SENDCO to fill out an application to CAHMS and Rufus’s class teacher began ringing him daily to check in with him.
When the 1st of June comes around we will continue to send Rufus into school (he’s done three days so far) and as Eloise is in Reception we will be sending her too. I know many parents who don’t feel comfortable sending their kids in yet and I completely respect that, but for our family, school is where they need to be. The slightly increased risk that will come from them going to school is far out weighed by the benefits it will bring to both my big kids, particularly Rufus’s mental health. The steps we have taken so far for Rufus have not cured him of these melt downs but every time he came out of school on those three days, he was smiling and bouncing and full of stories about the friends he’d made. When you’ve seen your kid so low that he can barely breathe, seeing him bouncing with joy is the greatest thing in the world.