Hello everyone, I wanted to talk about SEN (Special Educational Needs), and the name doesn't just mean children who need extra help educational wise, it also refers to the child in the home, not just in school.
I'll start with my background, with my son Owen who is now 11 years old. Before Owen was 1 year old, I remember saying to the health visitor that something just wasn't right with Owen, I didn't mean it in a horrible way, but as a parent you know when something isn't right, and one thing I've learned is TRUST YOUR PARENTAL INSTINCTS! A lot of the time they can be right, and if they aren't, its ok to check anyway, thats what part of being a parent is all about. Well the health visitor just laughed at me and said no he is fine no problems, and being a first time parent with post natal depression i thought it must just be in my head.
So as owen was approaching his 2nd birthday, he wasn't even babbling or making eye contact, and didn't like being held close or cuddles and kisses, which broke my heart.
One day out with my sister and Owen, we stopped for a coffee, and sat outside, Owen was on my knees looking at people walking past. I started talking to him from behind his head and had no response, my sister also tried too, so I decided to go right up to his ear and talk, nothing!! no reaction. Well that was it, I had already diagnosed him as being completely deaf, and that was the reason for everything that didn't seem right! That's another thing us parents do Self diagnose, but this time I was wrong.
The health visitor arranged a hearing test for him just after his 2nd birthday, and afterwards the Doctor who performed the test gave me the results, his hearing was perfect! not even slightly deaf, no glue ear, his hearing and his ears where perfectly fine. But during the time we were there she had performed some other little tests, and told me that she that she was referring us to the hospital as she thinks he may have some learning difficulties. HUGE shock, upset, but in a way a relief that non of this was in my head.
The next few years we had assessments and hospital visits, occupational health, speech and language therapy and more I can't remember, and at first it was suggested Owen might be Autistic. He had a severe language delay, not only in speech but in understanding what was being said. In a sentence he would only hear and understand 2 words that were said, and a perfect yet terrifying example is when we were walking to the shops, I said to Owen "Owen hold my hand we're gonna cross the road", so he stepped out into the road in front of a car, luckily the driver stopped in time, but he had only heard and understood the words "cross" "road". So with guidance from SALT (Speech and Language Therapy) we broke down sentences to 2-3 words, "hold hand" then when he had done that "cross road", and it really helped.
Throughout the following years we were told Owen wasn't autistic but that he was on the spectrum, and he was also diagnosed with moderate learning difficulties, ADHD, Dyslexia, visual problems and processing difficulties.
If you have children with any kind of difficulty you might know what i mean by a Meltdown, a sensory overload. This would happen every other day for Owen, more so when out shopping or in parks, or in the house when the tv was on, food cooking on the hob, people talking, the cat meowing, the tap running etc, this list could go on. These small things that you and I can deal with became too much for Owen, the volume of those noises would be x100 for him and cause him to crash/meltdown, and during a meltdown I learnt the worst thing to do is to try cuddle him and comfort him, I learnt this hard whilst out shopping one day. The best way would be to let him stay were he was, be it in Asda for example, and not touch him, make sure he was safe, and if I can offer some advice that would be to ignore the people shaking their heads, and accept help if someone offered it, that offer of help came lots, in the form of would i like a drink, do we need a blanket, or someone diverting people away so they don't stand and watch. It was hard and i knew the best thing would be to try get him to calm down get him in the car, and home, up to his room were he had his "Safe Place" - a Tent.
A safe place was mentioned to me quite a lot from professionals involved, and support agencies who help children with these kind of difficulties. Owens safe place was his tent, no other person allowed in it, he chose which cushion he had in there, which toys that calmed him down, and fairy lights, and an hourglass timer, not sure why he chose that but that hourglass helped him alot. In the house, whenever i could foresee a meltdown approaching fast I would take Owen upstairs, and he would go into his tent and have his meltdown, and I felt happy that he was safe, and i knew he would want to stay there throughout.
Now Owen's meltdown could sometimes last up to 45 mins at worst, but at home we could reduce that time down to between 5-15 minutes, and i believe that's because he felt safe in his little tent, no one was watching him, he was surrounded by the things he chose, and he had shut the world out while he was inside. As he grew older he spent less time going in there as he and I learned more strategies to avoid meltdowns.
He is 11 now and his meltdowns have turned into typical teenage ( though only 11) moans, he still disappears to his room for quiet times when he is feeling overloaded.
This is all from my personal experience as a parent, and a reason I love the Teepees that i show you all. Over the next few months i'm going to look further into sensory difficulties, as it's an area I would like to gain more knowledge of, for myself but so that i can also help others.
I would love to hear from others who are in similar situations with their children, and how they have coped, have you got a tent or something similar that you use to help them?
Well thankyou all for taking the time to read about a small part of my journey, sometimes the smallest basic things can help people so much.