Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Challenging Behaviour

For me what has been the toughest - C’s Autism or his severe learning disability? Neither it’s his behaviour that is so challenging because of sensory distress that has shaped both our lives.

What struck me very early on in Cs life was the injustice/stigma he has had to face on so many levels because of his behaviour that has challenged and people don’t see that he is a person first doing the best he can.

I found this recently that I had written describing C’s early years. By C proofing the house, early specialist intervention and continued support, C has come a long way since then. It hasn’t been easy for either of us but I hope my blog is testament that you can get to a place where even with ongoing challenges life can be enjoyed.

Its 2.30 am. I am woken by the sound of head banging. He’s awake, I’d better take him down stairs before he wakes everyone.
I climb over the stair gate to be hit by the stench of smeared faeces. I trip on the ripped carpet, the curtains are on the floor. The woodwork is chipped from thrown objects and teeth marks. There are holes in the walls from his head.
How do I get him down stairs? If I pick him up I am I danger of being hit, kicked, bitten scratched and my hair pulled out. I go and get a biscuit and lure him out.
Now what do we do in the long dark early hours. He does not watch TV or play. I had better take him out for a walk – but that means I have to somehow get him dressed. I’ll have a cup of tea first. I’ll have to drink it standing up as if I sit down I am attacked.
Everything in the house is locked, hidden, stuck down or tied up. Anything he can lift is thrown, kettle toaster etc etc. I cannot take my eyes off him for a second. But I do to pour the tea. CRASH. My husband won’t be happy, it’s always my fault. He has put his head through the safety glass on the TV. I had better put his helmet on. I bend down in front of him – he knocks me out cold with a single head butt.

My son is only 3 years old.

I can’t take him to the shops or other people’s houses. No one comes to see me anymore. Neighbours cross the street when they see us coming. I am given respite but that doesn’t last long as they can’t ‘contain’ him.
He goes to an SLD school. They call me to pick him up as they can’t cope. They start restraining him.

My son is only 4 years old.
Using ABC charts (which is a bit of a pain, but did help me to understand) and Positive Behaviour support we were able to listen and help C a lot in those early years. And I learnt not to reinforce his behaviour with biscuits!! Or to kneel in front of him to put his helmet on. I found a specialist school for C with good SALT support as communication is the key. But C in his wisdom chose not to learn PECS or any signs as his head banging works so well for him. But sometimes he takes it too far and knocks himself out. So this we are still working on. And now as an adult a good PCP is the key.

"It is not a matter of what causes self-injury or what causes aggression or what causes stereotyped or repetitive movements but for each of these difficult forms of difficult behaviour, what does it do for the individual, what purpose does it serve for them in their life?" E. Emerson

I recently spent a couple of days with The Challenging Behaviour Foundation and met other parents of young people around C’s age. And even though their diagnosis varied they were all SLD with severe CB, the experiences and impact this had had on our lives and the paths we took interestingly were very similar. And most of our children had been subject to restraints both physical and chemical. Exclusion and seclusion, not only within the system that is there to try and support them but from family and friends as well. Despite all this what shone through was we all had a great sense of humour even though we were tackling a very serious subject.

The other thing that gelled us together is we had learnt to ‘play the game’ through networking (for me I sat on committees) and empowering ourselves with knowledge. (wish I had had the internet in those days!)

The Challenging Behaviour Foundation is expanding and doing some very important work and hopefully will be reaching more families and professionals. They offer a range of information and support . They have a very useful set of 4 DVDs which would benefit anyone who is starting on the challenging behaviour road. . You can phone the CBR helpline as they give these DVDs free to any families caring for someone with severe learning disabilities.
Their UK number is 0845 602 7885



C is still settling in well. He has had 2 months on his own in the home which has given the staff and C a good chance to get to know each other. A young lady has now moved in and as his routines are now established he hasn’t seemed to mind. However he still won’t let anyone near his nails, but I think when the day comes that he does, is when I know he has truly settled in.