Annie has foetal alcohol syndrome. This means she displays some quite difficult behaviour which are linked to sensory issues.
She’s a bit all over... she can’t cope with noise when we leave the house. She’d be all smiles in public but when she got home she would just explode - it was like a top coming off a bottle of Coke which had been shaken up. It’s when she’s home, where she feels safe, that she starts screaming and head-banging. And then she won’t sleep.
But we recently accessed an occupational therapist (OT) through the Adoption Support Fund (ASF). It was the best thing we’ve ever done - for both Annie and myself. It has massively improved our lives. It has helped me to understand how Annie’s brain works and what she needs. She’s a very clever child but the outside world doesn’t work for her. Going to the supermarket was almost impossible for us so we were getting quite isolated. Annie was also exhibiting extreme self-harm for a two year-old and at the time I had no understanding of what was needed to help her cope.
Fear of meltdown
The OT initially carried out an assessment – that was really insightful as it was able to breakdown where her sensory issues were. The OT has since helped Annie learn how to adapt to the world around her. Annie still doesn’t sleep properly. But she used to be awake for five or six hours through the night, trying to climb out of her cot whereas now she’s calm when she’s awake in her cot, rather than wild and hyped. She’s still not a big believer in sleep though.
The OT, who works with Annie every week, does lots around her core muscles as she was struggling with strength and dexterity as she has developmental delay and low muscle tone. She wasn’t able to get a spoon into her mouth. I hadn’t realised this before working with the OT because all of my energy and time was being taken up with trying to help Annie to cope with noise.
Going back a few months, we didn’t really go to many places like toddler groups or anywhere that was busy. This was because of the fear of Annie having a meltdown - but now I have coping strategies to help manage Annie. It doesn’t always work but I now know what I should be doing.
Annie has come on so much with her language. She was so delayed. But the OT has taught me how to get her in her best state. If I sit her in a swing she can learn language a lot more effectively. Annie’s also much more able to engage in conversation now.
I still have big problems with her getting stuck, or repeating words or behaviour. Once she repeatedly said the word ‘computer’ for six hours. It went on all day. I’m not a therapeutic parent when it’s like that!
The sessions we’re having with the OT cost more than £1,000 in total so I honestly do not know how I would have paid for them without the ASF
Annie is still very indiscriminate with people and she’s not safe walking but our social worker says she’s not the same child as she was prior to us accessing the ASF and so much of that is through the OT.
It’s so disappointing to think that if I lived in Scotland, which is just an hour’s train journey away, I would still be sitting here in the house going stir-crazy as we wouldn’t have been able to access the ASF. The Scottish Government needs to catch up on this as adopted children in Scotland would do so much better if they received the support they need to help them thrive.
Luckily for me, as an adoptive parent in England, I was able to access the ASF so Annie and I are now able to do everyday things with manageable consequences. Annie’s school will also be able to apply for Pupil Premium Plus to help her, which again isn’t available in Scotland.
The sessions we’re having with the OT cost more than £1,000 in total so I honestly do not know how I would have paid for them without the ASF as I took redundancy in order to look after Annie full-time. I can also keep accessing the ASF so I’m sure we’ll undergo other therapeutic support in the future.