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Will SN eventually be picked up?

(44 Posts)
DetachedandDepressed Mon 25-Feb-13 11:13:56

I'm not sure if I should be posting here, but I have had some advice on the Step-parenting board after venting my frustration and the responses I have had have led me here.

My DSS (age 9) doesn't seem to be developing in line with his peers and some of his behaviour is having a significant impact on the whole family. It has been suggested on my other thread that DSS would benefit from being assessed for Aspergers. (full explanation here)

My DP's solution is to accommodate all DSS "needs" no matter how inconvenient, while at the same time, he doesn't seem motivated to seek support or additional help - he just seems to accept that "that is the way that DSS is" and will continue to go out of his way to accomodate DSS.

I have two questions.

The first is, if DSS's obsessive, and rigid behaviour is the result of a special need, will it do him any harm in the long term to accommodate all his "needs" at home whatever the impact on others? I worry that it will make it harder for him to deal with real life as he gets older because not everyone will accommodate his "needs" like we do.

My second question is whether, if DSS does have a special need, will it eventually be picked up by professionals in his life? Are special needs always picked up outside the home eventually? Although both his parents accommodate DSS unique behaviour (often at the expense of themselves and other family members) they don't seem motivated to seek professional support. They seem to have decided that it's nothing to worry about or in any way of concern, and that it will resolve itself in time.

MareeyaDolores Thu 28-Feb-13 23:35:08

Btw, I dont mean 'can do' meaning has the underlying ability. I mean can do right now in this particular situation. So for ds, when overloaded, it's not even 'go and put your shoes on' but more 'lift your foot please'

MareeyaDolores Thu 28-Feb-13 23:33:19

What might happen if you spent the next three visits giving him lots of instructions that he can do very easily,

or giving him a set number of requests that he's allowed to make of you, unless they're totally off the wall (eg 3-4 per hour, or morning) and once they're used up, any further demands have to wait till the 'afternoon ration'

DetachedandDepressed Wed 27-Feb-13 07:42:53

mareeya I'll try and hunt that book down in the library - it looks like it could be useful.

It's made me realise though that DSS isn't considered or described as spirited or difficult by anyone who knows him - if anything, he presents himself as a victim who tries to do as he is told but can't . He endeavours to be compliant and his subdued and unhappy demeanour seems to be a consequence of his failure to do so. He is increasingly unhappy when others don't comply with his requests/demands that they fulfil the tasks that he is unable to.
I've never seen him cross, or angry - he's never tantrumed - but he can easily withdraw and refuse to engage with adults for hours at a time; avoiding speaking or even eye contact - while at the same time, continuing to respond to direct instruction, all be it often with the response that he 'can't' do that.

MareeyaDolores Tue 26-Feb-13 23:15:27

this approach is non-stigmatising and just might be something everyone can acknowledge?

MareeyaDolores Tue 26-Feb-13 23:11:06

By the end of 4 years (48 months) many children are able to:
use 5- to 6-word sentences
follow 3-step commands ("Get dressed. Comb your hair, and wash your face.")
cooperate with other children

By the end of 5 years (60 months) many children are able to:
say own name and address
attempt to please and be like friends
count out 10 or more objects
understand the difference in fantasy and reality

Your dss (for whatever reason, 'official SN' or no) just isn't functioning reliably even at this fairly basic level, according to your posts. Wanting him to, telling him to, even nicely encouraging him to simply won't work, your understandable aim to get him to 'act his age' is set way too high (for now anyway). If you modify it to get him to 'act 5yo, or 6yo', you might have a chance

MareeyaDolores Tue 26-Feb-13 23:03:24

If he does have asd (or adhd or auditory processing problems, or dyspraxia), three commands within a string are probably too much (genuinely). Try simplifying, breaking them down, use visual clues

Or best of all skip number one by handing him the tissue and then saying "first clean the water then put your book down"

DetachedandDepressed Tue 26-Feb-13 16:28:05

In a spooky coincidence, I've just had a link to a relevant an internet article emailed to me in the Empowering Parents newsletter:

www.empoweringparents.com/how-to-stop-doing-too-much-for-your-special-needs-kid.php

This is exactly what is happening to my DSS. Diagnosis or not, his primary carers (Mum, Dad and Grandma) are reinforcing to him that he "can't" do things, because they take over and do them for him.

Of course, it makes me the wicked step-mum if I give him clear directions to achieve something himself - such as get a tissue from the box on the side and mop up the spilt water on the table before he puts his homework book down; his response is to tell me that his "brain doesn't work like that" and to put his book down in the wet patch!

TimidLivid Tue 26-Feb-13 10:54:57

The thing is an occuptational therapist could really help withthe feeding and self care advice and special cutlery that's teaches them hope to hold it correctly so eventually they don't need it. The poor boy if it is hard for him becuase of sn writing can be painful and laborious , my son has flat feet as part of this and insoles from an orthotics referral help him to walk more efficiently and make walking far not painful. Sometimes asd affects the whole person not even just their behaviour if they have low muscle tone hypermobility too, this was a shock to us that we didn't see until he was eleven

zzzzz Tue 26-Feb-13 10:23:24

I think table manners are an issue because they can make socialising difficult. There isn't really such a thing as a "sn child", some need firm rules and some respond better to a more sneaky approach.

Focusing on using a knife and fork. I don't think it's necessary to be cutting up your apple with a knife and fork but fish fingers and peas?? I think doable for most. (Nb my boy can't use a knife very well at all, but we will get there in a few years). Your problem is his parents thinking he can't, and possibley him feeling it too. Chocolate fondue (ie bar of dairymilk, melted into small pot of double cream) works a treat, get everyone good and hungry fork each, bowl in the middle, strawberries, bits of bread and banana chunks to dip. Try to get him to demonstrate to his Dad that he can do it. My Ds does much much better with light cutlery with a rounded plastic handle.

Cutting with a knife is fun to learn with craft projects or cooking. The trick I think is to get the skill really well practiced before you try it at table.

Why don't you try and focus on one thing and help him to learn more Detatched friendly behaviour. You will feel so much better about it all if you feel a bit more in control, and I think his parents will be very different to deal with if he makes progress.

The Mums(and Dads) on this board are brilliant at coming up with strategies for overcoming or morphing behaviour.

Lay a plan, follow it, reap the rewards.

PolterGoose Tue 26-Feb-13 08:49:37

Just wondering whether a better approach may actually be to focus on the physical developmental stuff, the very visible things he struggles with that age-wise he shouldn't? So, instead of suggesting to your dp that he may have a neuro or mental health issue focus on how he may benefit from a professional looking at some of the physical and motor things that are difficult, eg through referral to physio or OT?

Eg ds had an OT session just looking at cutlery use, practising with different types to work out how to help ds and what type of cutlery he should use.

DetachedandDepressed Tue 26-Feb-13 08:00:05

timid The knife and fork dexterity is a really good example - because either DSS has special needs and can't learn to use them in the way NT children can, or, if he is NT, then he is choosing not to use them.

Parents of a NT child may push them to 'make the effort' and even apply sanctions if the child persistently uses fingers rather than the tools available; but I'm assuming that approach would be counterproductive for a SN child?

Of course, that particular example isn't a critical life skill - the consequences of not being able to use a knife and fork as an adult are minimal. Other skills, such as personal care, hygiene etc are more critical though - I imagine DSS will be significantly disadvantaged both physically and socially as an adult if he doesn't master those skills as a child.

TimidLivid Tue 26-Feb-13 00:33:09

he may have trouble using a knife and fork adn cuttiin food if aspergers or autistic as they can often have low muscle tone/ hypermobility and this can affect their handwriting too , they cannot help it ti is hard to coordinate movement adn then it is hard to pput pressure on the cutlery/pencils pens correctly.

MareeyaDolores Mon 25-Feb-13 23:26:14

The fact that no stepmothers on the other thread are saying 'my step-dc are like this with me too' may be cause for some alarm bells about possible neuro-developmental differences. Which can of course co-exist with emotional issues.

You might want to look at this in the library (if having a copy at home will cause problems)

My other thought is that if dss is very like your dp, then no wonder neither he nor his mum are first in line to discuss a possible 'problem'. And what youve been told about the approaches used by dss's mum and gran may be quite a garbled version of the important facts. It's probably an impossibility, but the ideal would be for someone (does dp have a sister?) to bypass dp & his mum in favour of a series of frank chats with dss's mum and/ or the other gran about 'What could/ should SM do to make things work better at the other house?'

zzzzz Mon 25-Feb-13 22:11:28

I have skimmed your other thread but am not really sure what you are looking for. I agree with Mareeya that regardless of what the cause is ( poor parenting/underlying neurological difference) his needs are not typical. He is at best very immature and controlling.

If he had ASD for example, but was functioning at school such that his teachers could say he was fine, what would be the outcome of dx? He might get a social skills group at lunchtime. You don't mention friends, so this might help him. In other schools it might mark him as different. You might get recommended to keep to a routine, use visual prompts and time tables. I suppose you could say to dd that we let ds do that because he has ASD, but it is not a great message for either of them (I have 5 children, 2 with sn, so I do understand but wouldn't go down that road).

I can see you think I would be better to stagger their weekends. You can do that anyway, you don't need to justify it any more than by saying you feel it out do them both some good. I think it sounds sensible.

Random thoughts,
Does he take turns, lose games with grace?
How does he cope with play dates/friendships?
What is his diet like?
Does he have obsessive interests/aversions?
How are his self help skills?
How is he academically?
You say he holds hands to go to school, does he have road sense?
What happens if you not comply with his needs?

My gut feeling is that he may be too able to get much support at all.

DetachedandDepressed Mon 25-Feb-13 22:00:20

mareeya That's a brilliant summary, thank you!

I'm not sure I'd be comfortable replicating all the routines that DSS has with his mum/grandma - dressing him and co-sleeping doesn't seem appropriate really and if he wants an adult to eat breakfast with him at the crack of dawn, then that will continue to be DP because I'm not giving up my one lie-in a week!

But other things that Mum does we could do - reduce our expectations of him (cutting his own food, for instance) and maybe we should no longer try and involve him in decision making and family discussions - all things that he has said that he 'doesn't have to do' at Mums as if he finds them a chore. DP has been quite focused on giving DSS choices as he gets older, on the advice of a family support worker - but DSS often says he finds choosing 'tricky' and doesn't like it; preferring to be presented with a single option. Circumstances mean that he doesn't have the same level of choice at mums or grandmas which he seems a lot more comfortable with.

MareeyaDolores Mon 25-Feb-13 20:44:37

He obviously does have SN in the broader sense: his needs aren't typical, he's needed professional input, and 'normal' step-parenting methods aren't working. But neither of his biological parents, nor his biological grandma want to discuss or consider any oddities: again, very common. And you're going insane with the frustration and worrying that his sibling is suffering... also very frequent.

Not all SN are 'diagnosable', and some are even the direct result of anxieties, family traumas etc. Even for the diagnosable type, a label for the problem is only useful if used as a pointer towards appropriate help (and most of the time it's only parents who do anything useful anyway).

So if, for the moment, we assumed that he a) has an ASD and b) would be correctly diagnosed by CAMHS, who would benefit from the diagnosis.

You would, as you want to know how to help him better, and whether it's a good idea to accommodate his eccentricities
Your DD might, as you could explain 'why' her DSB is how he is
His mum, dad and grandma wouldn't, as they're quite happy with the status quo

Your DSS would be helped a bit by your increased knowledge and understanding, but hindered by the misunderstandings and hushed voices talking about whether or not he's 'normal' before it erupts into an almighty row in which you're the chief villain, aided and abetted by 'those doctors who don't know what they're on about, nothing wrong with him'. The school would carry on as they are at the moment, because not much is offered by schools unless they feel like it (and regardless of whether or not a dc has a particular diagnosis). And your DD would be piggy in the middle.

And if he doesn't have asd (or if he does, but never gets assessed so it's unofficial forever), you can still accept that he has some autistic-type quirks which needs special handling, and you can give consistency by copying his mum's house. Cos she definitely isn't going to copy yours, no matter how much better you feel your home's routines are for your DSS

Practically speaking, I wonder if the long-term solution is to approach cafcass and/or your DD's dad with the situation, and see if your custody /access arrangements can be modified to allow her to have more time without her DSB.

DetachedandDepressed Mon 25-Feb-13 20:11:28

That's the point, isn't it zzzzzz?

If his Mum and Dad are right and he doesn't have SN, then he is being pandered to and spoilt because for whatever reason, they accept his behaviour and assertions that he 'can't' do things a different way, fit in with family life or take the same level of responsibility as his peers. If he doesn't have SN, then his parents are failing to adaquately prepare him for life as he gets older and creating a situation in which he influences everyone else's behaviour.

Whereas if he does have SN, then he will benefit most if all adults are supporting him in the same way, surely? Depending on what he needs, be it routine, cue cards, advance warning of activities. The little I do know tells me that he will benefit most if all adults buy into it - not ridicule a solution that one household is implementing because the other parent doesn't believe it is necessary, for instance.

Dinkysmummy Mon 25-Feb-13 19:33:17

I think you are doing what you feel is right by your dss.
Maybe have a look into aspergers, autism spectrum disorders and so forth. See if any of those fit your dss. Some people can't see what is right in front of them with out seeing it in black and white. If you see loads of flags for aspergers for instance, print off some bits and highlight what you have noticed and bring it up with your DP. (I would be cautious though some people don't want to think their DC has a SN. I know I didn't.)
It took for the school to pick up on something, for them to make 2 and 2 equal 4.2 and for me to try and find out how to get to 4!

I wish you the best of luck

zzzzz Mon 25-Feb-13 18:02:26

detatched it sounds like you feel he is spoiled rather than has sn?

"Coping" is a long way from "swimming", but may be all he is capable of at the moment.

What sort of intervention do you feel might be appropriate/offered?

PolterGoose Mon 25-Feb-13 17:41:30

But is he exhibiting all those signs of anxiety everywhere or just at your house?

DetachedandDepressed Mon 25-Feb-13 17:33:16

It's also possible that with the support he gets at home he is coping just fine

But in my (admitted inexperienced and unrelated) opinion, he isn't "coping just fine". He displays physical anxiety, withdrawal, unhappiness, and a lack of enthusiasm for life.

If he is actually unhappy despite the fact that everyone (at least in our household) is bending over backward to accommodate everything he says he needs, then presumably, we aren't actually meeting his needs - just what he thinks he needs, in other words, what he wants.

PolterGoose Mon 25-Feb-13 17:30:22

Did you read all of my post? I was trying to be helpful confused

How old is your dd?

zzzzz Mon 25-Feb-13 17:23:23

I'm sorry my response was the sort of comment you feared. I wasn't suggesting your partner had lied to you shock. What I was suggesting was perhaps they had discussed it and felt the method of support they chose was the appropriate response. He obviously has discussed it as you now say he has talked to both GP and teachers about his sons differences.

It's perfectly possible that the child juggling two households with different expectations and additional step family members with their own needs IS struggling more than he was. It's also possible that with the support he gets at home he is coping just fine. Dx won't change any of that. There is only really a need to dx if it will help the child involved.

Consistency is important for all children, as is acceptance.

There is no reason why your daughter should feel she comes second, or that her needs should be marginalised because of her step brother. The vast majority of the parents of sn children on this board also parent nt children, it is different than having a family without a disabled member, but not less.

LimboLil Mon 25-Feb-13 17:11:20

ps I do get what you say about it being awkward with your dd. I only got diagnosis for my son very recently but life was getting increasingly awkward before that and he is only 5! At least I can now explain to my other son why life isn't always fair. He still moans about it, but he does understand a bit better!

LimboLil Mon 25-Feb-13 17:07:58

Hi it must be frustrating but I think all you can do is wait for the parents to see it. I have a friend with a little boy same age as mine. I am pretty sure his is aspergers and school did have a word with her in the beginning as they did me about my son. My son is now diagnosed and we are moving forward with statement etc and I'm so glad we went through with it, it's quite a relief to know for sure. My friend's son isn't affected as much as mine, he doesn't have meltdowns etc, but I think his differences are going to become more apparent as he gets bigger. I'm not sure if she is in denial or not, I don't try to influence her about getting him checked and I don't really talk to her about my son either anymore as it seems to turn into her comparing hers against mine and concluding that her son isn't! You could on the quiet read up on some strategies that might help when he is at your home and even explain to your child that he struggles with some things, so that it doesn't become a cause of resentment for her.

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