A statement of special educational needs to include up to 6 hours of family counselling…

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I remember being told, “Your son is on the autistic spectrum, it’s in a milder form, however his speech, language & communication disorders, further impacts on his frustrations, anxieties, resulting in aggressive behaviours.”

I knew his frustrations resulted in aggressive outbursts, we witnessed up to eight on a good day and exceeded well over thirteen on a more stressful day, and just occasionally the whole day was one big melting pot of crying, screaming, hitting, biting, spitting, head banging, soiling and smearing and throwing whatever came to hand.

At that time my husband was struggling to understand or accept the situation. He found it difficult to bond with our son, even a trip to the park wasn’t straight forward, our little boy didn’t like swings and didn’t know how to interact with the other children. The other dads played ball with their children, but our son had no co-ordination or interest in a ball, and would prefer to spend his whole time chasing ducks, looking for squirrels and being in his own world. Our marriage slowly began to fall apart; I felt exhausted by the time he got home from work; I couldn’t be bothered to engage in a conversation; our evenings relaxing together had disappeared and was replaced with running up and down the stairs trying to settle our son to sleep, sleepless nights took its toll too; we became to tired to bother about each other and my focus was 100% on the children; I resented the fact that he could come and go at his leisure; he maintained his hobbies; I felt I was barely existing.

Family members struggled to understand our sons behaviours; I felt they blamed me, I felt everyone blamed me; all their unhelpful advice, all their comments, they didn’t know what to do or how to help. Friends from playgroups stopped seeing us because often our son became aggressive towards theirs or he would make a mess in their house.

At the time we had a dog, a springer spaniel called Harry, he barked endlessly whenever he was left alone, which of course irritated our neighbours. My lowest point, was a day I will never forget, its a bench mark for the rest of my life, when I’m feeling low I reflect back to that day and think to myself ‘Is this as bad as that day?’ That awful day when I was called into a meeting at my sons pre-school, they reported nine incidents in that one day, they had also contacted social services to do a home check because my son kept having bruises (he has a stiff gait in his left leg and constantly trips over and bumps into things); when leaving the meeting I walked past a child’s mother who was in floods of tears because my son had seriously hurt her son; when walking to the car he tried to run away from me screaming extremely loudly, “I no go car, get off get off” I had to wrestle him into the car, whilst many of the parents and children stared; when on that day I collected my daughter from school she wouldn’t talk, and later shut herself away in a cupboard claiming the bullies cant get her there; when we returned home that day my neighbour was standing waiting for my return, and hurled verbal insults at me because of Harry’s barking, I also found a note posted through my door stating that the police had been notified because of the noise; my son cried all afternoon whilst my daughter sat pale faced in a cupboard refusing to come out; later that evening my husband got home from work, he had had a good day and when I released upon him the carnage of my day, I could see in his face his regret at coming home, which broke my heart.

These days are much brighter, both of my children are doing really well, settled and averagely happy – My daughter thrived in a new school and has entered typical teenage life, we have a beautiful relationship. Obviously my son struggles on a daily basis, but he is supported, understood, loved and accepted for who he is. My husband is no-longer my husband, but has become my friend, he lives close by and has become a wonderful supportive father.

In this blog i’m trying to explain how isolated my life had become. I felt I had been sucked into a world I had no control over, a world where I spoke another language and no-one understood or heard me, it was a world against me from every angle, I felt attacked and alone.

Today I work as a counsellor for adults with learning disabilities. Part of the university requirements for my counselling degree is to have 25 hours of personal therapy a year. This made me wonder if my sons statement had included six free hours of person-centred free counselling, would the beginning of my blog read something like this:-

I remember being told, “Your son is on the autistic spectrum, it’s in a milder form, however his speech, language & communication disorders, further impacts on his frustrations, anxieties, resulting in aggressive behaviours. Our findings have shown that in some cases, families and even siblings find it helpful to talk about this with an experienced SEN counsellor. It may be hard for some members of the family to come to terms with this, or simply just to have someone to talk to about it especially if for instance, they are a single parent without a supportive network, they may find it helpful to talk through what options/dilemmas/worries this may present. A sibling might not understand, and wish to speak to someone other than their parents about what it means to them to have a brother or sister with a disability. We have even noticed that in some cases it has been beneficial for some members of the family to experience how it feels to have counselling; some feel it’s not for them, however others decide to use the full six sessions and then continue for further sessions.”

I initially thought counselling cant be for me, that’s only for people with addictions or suffering some kind of abuse or mental breakdown – How wrong I was!

I believe that counselling would have benefitted my family, myself, my husband and even extended family members, either in group family sessions and/or individually. I had pre-empted counselling for my daughter by discussing things with her school teacher, they offered her three sessions with a school counsellor, which she said really helped her being able to speak to someone outside of the family.

So back to wondering and my question, “When a child is given a diagnosis and a statement of special educational needs, would it be beneficial for that statement to include 4 to 6 hours of free counselling sessions?

I would be interested in your comments, as I will be doing my degree research project on this subject.

Thank you 🙂

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5 thoughts on “A statement of special educational needs to include up to 6 hours of family counselling…

  1. Benedicte Symcox

    What a wonderful idea! I have three children, all with special needs (two ASD, one medical and learning). It is so difficult to help people, professional and otherwise, to understand that the only way to truly help any of the children is to work with us as a family primarily. Family work, one way or another, acknowledgement of the fact that SEN impacts on all the family, can only be a good thing.

  2. Angela

    Definitely at diagnosis but diagnosis doesn’t equal a statement!, and convincing people is another matter, because like you say, you thought counselling was only for people with addictions or breakdowns. Those that have had counselling previously or are counsellors tend to know differently so maybe by getting the word out about the benefits of counselling would be a start.

  3. Caron Ward

    I definitely agree with Angela – at the stage of diagnosis would be so valuable – because you’re still feeling all those things you’ve described and in my experience at that stage you’re carrying all this extra stress, uncertainty, isolation, you might be at odds with your partner over accepting it, dealing with it etc…sometimes a statement is years off a diagnosis. I’m sure at statementing stage you’re well down the road of understanding a lot more about your child although it would still be a valuable option for all those involved (siblings, partners, grandparents even). I recently attended a series of ASD workshops run by the local council and it was good – one of the best things to come out of it is meeting up with other parents in the same situation – just talking to others going through the same thing is so valuable. But it always seems to be a long time in coming. After a diagnosis they send you off with a load of leaflets to read which isn’t always the most helpful and takes a long time to work through. The workshops I had to really hunt around for and keep hassling to see if there was any relevant help so anything like you’re suggesting early on in a SEN diagnosis process would be great.

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