I am not sure what I thought would happen the first time I had an appointment to take my children to the paediatrician. I guess maybe some basic physical checks like height or weight or maybe some referrals on to other professionals or departments. I naively expected that appointments to help my children would indeed help them and not impact on their mental health years later.
That first appointment was my first introduction to the ‘system’. For anyone not familiar with how things work in the world of special needs parenting we are given appointments where we are expected to take our children along while strangers smile at them, perhaps say a few remarks to them, and then they are expected to sit quietly while the adults discuss them.
Even when my children were just toddlers this never sat comfortably with me.
My children may have complex needs but one thing is certain: they can hear perfectly well.
So for years I have taken them to paediatricians, specialists, therapists, neurologists, nurses, educational meetings, had social workers in my house and they have even been taken out of class at school to attend school meetings about them. In every single one of these situations, for years and years, they have heard adults discussing their diagnosis, their difficulties, and their struggles, all the time while they have had to sit there and listen!
Is it any wonder so many of our children with additional needs go on to be diagnosed with anxiety and mental health problems?
Why are we allowing children to hear such negative talk about them all in the pretence of ‘support’?
I tried to keep it positive but it backfired. By saying how well my child was coping and praising their achievements professional support got withdrawn quicker than the weather changed!
I realised I needed to be honest about the struggles my children had in order to secure the right support, but this has come at a high cost: my own children’s mental health.
Years of hearing everyone around them talk about them like they don’t exist, years of hearing their autism spoken about like it is a thing to be disgusted, years of all the adults who should be inspiring them criticising them instead, years of hearing their own parents highlighting nothing but their weaknesses takes a toll on them.
I hate what the system has caused.
We ought to know better. Research has proven so many times that children (and adults) need encouragement, positivity and belief instilled in them. They need adults around them to see them as valued, precious and wonderful. That IS how I see my children. Yet in order for me to secure any services to support them I am faced with an awful dilemma of having to talk about my children’s struggles while they are in the same room and can hear every word.
The system, designed to support our most vulnerable, is in actual fact making our own children ill.
Please don’t think I haven’t tried to protect my children. I have tried all sorts from technology with headphones, to arranging care so they can leave the room, to even asking for meetings and appointments without my children present. The latter very rarely happens and my children are not daft. They know we are talking about them regardless.
I understand there are times medical professionals, education staff and social workers do need to physically see my children but could this not be done separately to protect young hearts and minds? Apparently this is not common place at all, well at least not in my area.
So 8 years after that first paediatrician appointment what has changed? Well we have had literally hundreds of appointments. Both of my children have long lists of names of professionals who have met them, talked about them or treated them. I have drawers full of paperwork. I still have a diary full of appointments. Yet what is the hardest of all to cope with is that I have two children who have anxiety, mental health struggles and low self esteem and they are not even ten yet!
What concerns me more is that my children are just two of millions.
We must do something now to change this. Children should not be sitting playing while adults discuss their difficulties EVER. It is unprofessional, cruel and causing long term mental health problems.
What sort of society are we when the system mentally damages the very children who need our support most?
While you think about that I am busy trying to rebuild my babies.