Friday, November 13, 2015

something new...

Now it has taken me some months to write about this, I think I didn't know when to start. Part of which is I needed to take the time to digest the new normal for us. For a long time I had this box of symptoms that didn't fit the diagnosis that we had already discovered about my boy. In the beginning I had thought it was all related to the anxiety and the impact that Selective Mutism had on his early childhood and how it had impacted his social, emotional and every type of development. But I had always mentally logged away certain behaviours and symptoms until they reached the point where I couldn't put it down to anxiety any more. It felt like we had gotten the anxiety to a point where it was somewhat managed that it wasn't as life controlling as it used to be, and that is where we began. 

Amongst the complexity, we hadn't even considered it until after discussions with our son's teacher made us think about it. You see at our old school we were kind of given the impression that there was nothing actually wrong everything we were experiencing was completely normal and we were trying to get our children help for which there was nothing wrong. A lot of the time it ended up that we were given the impression that indeed it was a problem with us the parents and we just needed to get more organised and there was really no problem at school we were the problem. Hence we weren't able to see the forest for the trees and got nowhere. 

Now in a new environment, it was easier to see things a lot more clearly. Firstly my boy was so much more relaxed and the symptoms that I had put down to anxiety didn't seem to fit the bill anymore and so we began. We spoke to our trusty psychologist about that we thought our boy had ADHD, after some intense testing, in itself was quite revealing. I needed to sit back and let my boy fidget, let him move not talk to him so that you can see what he was like for the purpose of the assessment. That was pretty hard, but it did make me think about how many times I needed to say something. However at the end of that session it was pretty clear that we had finally figured it out. After which we needed a questionaire from the teacher and then it was all collated. Then it was full steam ahead, we had the reports sent to our paed and the recommendation was that medication would be of benefit. 

Luckily we had an appointment booked for the following Monday, and it all fell into place. We actually didn't think anyone would actually agree with us, and then they actually did. To be honest it was a relief I knew who my son was, I knew his character, his personality and it didn't add up to what we were told eg. it was our parenting that was the problem. But then it meant it actually was something that was forever, till now we knew Anxiety could be something that he could eventually master to some degree, but this type of diagnosis was forever. It felt like our journey was only just beginning.  

Monday, May 25, 2015

what happens when the anxiety continues

It's been an extremely busy few months since I posted a little idea about what I was considering on posting next. As you know my son in his journey in overcoming has started medication and this has been an amazing help for him. Maybe I was naive or maybe just stuck in our situation I had always thought that when we finally got him to the point that he could speak then our struggles would be over. Much to my surprise he still struggles with anxiety, many would say he is suddenly cured. Nope he is not even though our local Community Mental Health group would say he is. It turns out it's not over yet, which was painfully evident when our son first suffered his first panic attack. 

So... we aren't at the finish line yet. I read this great article written by the Child Mind Institute on the subject of anxiety, "How Anxiety leads to disruptive behaviour".  They make some really good points a few that made me think. 

if your child needs to be spoken to by the teacher, we didn't realise how much of an issue this was until recently. He started speaking to us about the times he used to get told off for things that were related to his diagnosis such as shoelaces, going to the toilet that type of thing. We had changed schools and all these experiences come up. I had to chat with my son about how not everytime a teacher talks to you they are not telling you off and it is ok to ask are you telling me off. This was mentioned in article too that the boy who they were working with "He can't tolerate any—even constructive—criticism. He just will shut down altogether. This was an aha moment for me, that he struggled with even that as well. 
Anxiety manifests in a surprising variety of ways in part because it is based on a physiological response to a threat in the environment, a response that maximizes the body's ability to either face danger or escape danger. So while some children exhibit anxiety by shrinking from situations or objects that trigger fears, some react with overwhelming need to break out of an uncomfortable situation. That behavior, which can be unmanageable, is often misread as anger or opposition.

"Anxiety is one of those diagnoses that is a great masquerader," explains Dr. Laura Prager, director of the Child Psychiatry Emergency Service at Massachusetts General Hospital. "It can look like a lot of things. Particularly with kids who may not have words to express their feelings, or because no one is listening to them, they might manifest their anxiety with behavioral dysregulation.
anxiety presents either as an internalised response or can show external symptoms. The tricky part is unless a person is skilled at picking the symptoms it is easy for anyone including parents to miss the signs that their child or a student of theirs is struggling with anxiety. Then you also have the added bonus of each child will also present differently. When our son was younger we always knew he was anxious if he started acting out, behaving badly being upset or whatever was presenting at the time. It always confused us. But I know that he was very internal about his feeling but it showed in his behaviour.

continued from my March thoughts....
it's not over yet is a fearful thought for any parent who has had a child with Selective Mutism, it can still raise it's ugly head. A few months after I started writing this article I have come back to finish it. Still thinking on the topic of anxiety and how it is affecting my son in the here and now. I am happy to report that a new school has made the world of a difference for him, being in the right environment is one quick way to reduce anxious type behaviour and it seems it is not as in the foreground screaming at us as it did before. And this year he has only been on the verge of a panic attack just the once. So it seems our actions and also the right dose of medication is really helping right now. We are hoping in the near future we can reduce his dose and see how this goes

so what if your child is struggling right now? This is what I would say regardless of the origin of the anxiety as a parent you can be a safe place for them. Firstly NEVER ever downplay the issue it may seem quite small and silly at the time but it is important to validate them but then also teach them how to cope. A simple easy strategy that anyone can help your child with is breathing, slow deep breathing can really make a difference in an anxious situation. Another strategy starts with the safe place of your home,give your child the chance to have some quiet time if they are particularly anxious, turn off all the noise and let them have some quiet time. Books are fantastic in helping a younger or an older child understand their feelings. We used this a lot with our eldest and we still bring them out from time to time with our other children. There are lots of things we can do with our children to teach them how to manage anxiety (as stress and anxiety is a normal part of life) and overcome the feeling of being overwhelmed by those horrible feelings. And it is so healthy to start young so that they can be healthy well adjusted adults in the future.

It's been a few months since I started writing this post and I have been thinking a lot about this issue. In reality it was unrealistic to expect a miraculous recovery and for anxiety to simply disappear. But what we have learned is that sometimes our children's mental health can become a life controlling issue. It is not something we would ever want for our children. That is why we chose to use medication undo the damage that anxiety had done on him for most of his life and lucky for us this was successful and we are on the other side now of a tough decision knowing that it was right. 

So if your child is struggling with any mental health issue, do take the jump to get them treatment, use the psychologists, GP's, pediatricians and other professionals to equip and support you to help your child to get their mental health issues within an acceptable limit. Some children unfortunately will struggle for quite a long time and this is real, and others may go on to battle this for the rest of their life. It doesn't make you a bad parent nor does it make your child a bad child either.