Monday, 26 May 2014

The lows

Fostering, like anything is full of lows as well as highs. It's easy to feel guilty when things aren't going so well because overall Peter's making such fantastic progress, but it's important to be realistic. We recently found out that our close friends and family have no idea what our life is like on a daily basis because whenever we speak about Peter we're so full of our love for him and pride in his achievements that they assume everything's fine and dandy at home.  We're still relatively new carers - we need to learn how to use our support network so that they can actually support us!

Peter is extremely full on from around 4am when he wakes, to 6.30pm when he goes to bed. His volume dial is always turned right up and both Esmeralda and I carry earplugs to wear to take the edge off when it gets unbearable. His attention span is very short, and he cannot be persuaded to engage in something if he hasn't chosen to do it himself as he has a meltdown. At the moment there's a big discrepancy developmentally between his brain which gets over-stimulated with very little, and his body which needs high activity levels to burn off energy. There are many things that are completely out of the question for us with Peter for now, such as going out for a meal, going to a playground with more than one entrance, anywhere with a pond, river or lake, going on an aeroplane, staying in a hotel, going to any organised group activity (where there are any expectations to stay in one area/room or follow even simple instructions), staying anywhere more than a couple of hours, having more than one or two visitors at a time. Visiting someone's house is hit and miss - with careful planning we might be able to stay an hour. We can't browse around shops, go to the supermarket, a museum, stately home. We go to church, but sit in a side room as he can't cope with sitting in the congregation. He doesn't play with other children or have friends, so we don't do play dates or birthday parties. We can't use a crèche or leave him with anyone. We can't go anywhere we might need to queue. We have to plan days in advance based on how we think he'll react, but he's very unpredictable so there's a fair chance that we'll have to turn around and drive home 20 mins after we get somewhere. Thankfully we haven't had to take him to the GP as he would have to be pinned down to be examined and it would be traumatic. We have to micro-manage his food as he can't tell us when he's hungry, thirsty or full, grabs any food he can see regardless of whether it's on someone else's table/plate, stuffs his mouth until he chokes and would eat until he was sick.

He needs constant supervision, has no concept of safety or rules, cannot be reasoned with and doesn't understand even simple explanations like "it's closed". He has no comprehension of good/bad behaviour or rewards so things like star charts would be pointless. Due to his size and level of understanding it takes both of us to keep him safe and organise the day, so whilst he's awake neither of us gets much of a break.

There are loads of things he enjoys and can do of course, and we have great fun together, but it takes a lot of energy to "manage" Peter's time and anxiety levels so that we have as many successful days as possible. Cutting Peter's school hours down was absolutely the right choice for him and we can see the benefits, but it's intense and we're all tired. This weekend tempers have been somewhat frayed, so today we veged at home and watched DVDs together.

We'll be speaking to his social worker this week about finally arranging the respite that we were promised before he moved in, but which seemed to fall off the list of priorities once he was placed. He's 5 - we're not going to send him away for the weekend, but we would appreciate Children's Services funding the odd Saturday at a special needs playscheme, or approving a qualified babysitter so that we could have a meal out after he's gone to bed. Eight months is a long time in any job with no time off.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Birthdays and waiting again

I'm not sure whether it's because we knew we were in this for the long haul when Peter moved in, or whether it's due to his age or additional needs, but even though we're now in our eighth month together it still feels like early days in many ways. In contrast, Jack Jack lived with us for only nine months before he was adopted and it felt like a lifetime. We've been thinking about him quite a lot recently as it so happens that Jack Jack and Peter's birthdays are within a couple of weeks of each other. We're looking forward to celebrating Peter's fifth, but it's reminding us of last year when we were planning Jack Jack's first.

We had a catch up with our social worker Jane recently and have officially been put back on the lists so are waiting for the call for a second placement. We know the right child is out there, and it feels like it's coming at the right time for Peter as his attachment continues to progress and he's settled so well with us. We still haven't decided whether an older or younger child would be better for Peter as there are positives and negatives to both, so it will be much easier to receive a call from the duty team and assess whether we think a child is the right fit for our family based on their specific needs rather than an imaginary set of needs based solely on age. Peter has only really been interested in playing with/near other children for a month or so, so it seems like good timing - I think he'll love having another child around once he gets over the initial shock of having to share our attention. It's quite exciting passing the spare room, glancing in and wondering who will be living there in the next few weeks or months.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Full of surprises

Peter is amazing us every day at the moment - he seems to have decided to teach himself to read, armed with his weekly ration of Cbeebies, a couple of Vtech talking toys and a shelf full of picture books. He knew all his letters before he moved in with us but we've kept it very low key since then - a few matching games here and there if he showed an interest, but all based on letter names, not sounds. (I clearly hadn't read the "Jolly Phonics" handbook…)

We received a report from school recently that was very positive, detailed and descriptive in all areas of Peter's development, although they seem to think that he only knows the letters that make up his first name and isn't fussed about the rest of the alphabet.

Imagine our surprise when out of the blue a few weeks ago, Peter tips a pot of foam letters into the bath, plucks out c, a and r, sticks them on the side of the bath and says "car". He played it cool after this, but earlier this week followed it up with "weel", after a thoughtful and considered process of sounding the word out phonetically (hence the missing "h", but interesting that he put in a double "e".)

He's also started recognising a bizarre selection of whole words - so far it's been "warning", "sky" and "moo", all out of context so not recited as part of a story or with any clues of particular fonts and colours. It's fascinating!

We've bought some resources to start helping him along, but are taking his lead. As school are finding out, our boy isn't a performing monkey, he's very bright but on his own terms. We're so proud of him!