All Change!

Yesterday morning at work, I got the telephone call that I have been waiting for,  for a couple of weeks : our social worker rang to tell me that our choice of adult respite provision has been approved by panel. I knew that it was being heard ten days ago but since then, there had been silence and so I was beginning to fear that it had been rejected and that we would have to go through the painful appeals process.

But no, the decision was made and actually approved a week ago. So now we are free to begin the introductions process apparently, so that there should be no gap in provision. When Joshua first went to his current provision, we had a lengthy induction process with him staying longer every month : the first month we took him for tea and stayed with him, then a month later we dropped him off for tea but left him to it. Then the following month he stayed a full Saturday and we picked him up after tea and then, he stayed for a full Saturday, both day and night. So it was only in month five that he stayed for his whole weekend. This phased introduction was to give him the chance to get familiar with the place and staff and for them to learn more about him. When we had the assessment at home, I had explained that Joshua was very laid back and that he handles change well and that I had never known him pine for me or get upset when I left him somewhere, such as nursery or school. But they had a set routine for phased introductions for every child.

This time, now he is an adult, I am hopeful that we can condense his introductions into a shorter period and hopefully use the Easter holidays to get started with some daytime visits. Joshua still does not pine or get upset when I leave him but he is certainly more aware than he was 3 years ago, nowadays. When he first began at his current provision, their main challenge was the fact that he was asleep all the time. They had to plan activities in the day for when they thought that he might be most likely to be awake and he was often curled up on their settee asleep. He rarely sleeps in the daytime now as his nighttime routine is so much better, so he is much livelier than he was back then and he needs more managing and entertaining.

The two downsides of him being more lively are that:

  • He has developed attention-seeking behaviours , such as kicking walls and doors, to ensure that he is not ignored and that he gets his own way. Unfortunately he occasionally also kicks people’s shins or ankles, particularly if they have their back to him or if they are talking to someone other than him!
  • He is more aware that he is being left somewhere new, with new people. In the old days, he was too sleepy to object or probably notice that we were leaving him somewhere. But now he is more conscious of change and while he will not object, we have seen a more timid side to him, He will hold my hand tightly when we arrive somewhere and he will be quieter than normal, while he processes what might be going on.

But on the positive side, he will be able to express if he is not happy in the new provision now, he votes with his feet, whereas in the past he would not really have had the energy or awareness to object. So his feedback will be invaluable in those transition days, as we have chosen where we think he will like best and where suits us for its convenience, now it is over to them to make him feel welcome and  to him, to give our choice his seal of approval.

Joshua is much better at change than I am, he does not look back ever, once he has moved on. So he loves his current respite provision and staff but he has shown that he moves on well, without a backward glance. Joshua is about the here and now. I have known teaching assistants that he has been really close to at school , so much so that you cannot think that he will tolerate a new one. But within days, he is hugging the new TA and blanks the previous one in the corridor, much to my embarrassment. I guess it is a useful survival technique to focus on the here and now and once something or someone is gone from your life, do not mourn their loss, but make new connections instead. We certainly have interesting times up ahead and I am so grateful that our choice has been approved.


Breathing Space

The countdown to Joshua’s 18th birthday is well and truly on and one of the things that was still unresolved until yesterday, was whether or not his current Children’s respite would be able to offer him an extension, while we got organised with his Adult provision. I knew that OFSTED had to authorise Joshua’s presence there, as strictly speaking, he will be an adult staying alongside minors. The request had been made by our social worker earlier this month but I had heard nothing, in fact his key worker had emailed my last week to ask me when his last weekend would be as she wanted to ensure that she said goodbye to him. I explained that I was still waiting to hear but that everyone had suggested that a short extension would be permitted, so long as we had named his adult provision and that we had a date when we planned to begin that service.

I had had no response to my emailed enquiries yesterday, so I called the manager , from a queue on the motorway, to ask her what was going on. Although she had not yet requested the extension from OFSTED, she promised that she would do so. There was an email waiting for me when I got home from work, to tell me that Joshua would be granted three more weekend stays ,by which time he will need to be ready to move facilities. This is great news, such a relief, and it gives us some much needed breathing space. It will give us an important opportunity for a proper goodbye and thank you party, rather than just fizzling out, which he was in danger of doing if his final weekend had been in February. It will still be very emotional to move on, but now  we have a final deadline in mind and a new destination, that will be much easier to do. I hope that we can plan a party for his final weekend in May,  that we can attend too, so that we can say our thank yous and goodbyes. Having this respite provision has given my husband and I  so many opportunities and they have shown Joshua so much love, care and fun, so all three of us have a lot to be grateful to them for. They made the search for an Adult replacement very difficult, as they have set the bar very high, but it meant that they enabled me to know what I was looking for and more importantly, what I did not want for grown up Joshua. I am sure that we have made a good choice, but they have a very tough act to follow.

Second Viewing

After school yesterday, we returned to the first Adult respite provision that we  had looked around last summer. We wanted to ask some more questions, see how it was now that it was more established and to introduce the staff to Joshua and observe how they interacted. The manager greeted us at the door and she passed the first test as she looked only at Joshua and welcomed him first. Joshua responded with a smile but he was definitely uncertain, trying to work out where we had brought him and why. He  was suspicious and kept giving my bear hugs while we were talking.

There was only one young lady there over this weekend and so we  said hello to her and her carer, then sat around the dining room table talking with the manager, while Joshua roamed the ground floor. He explored and paced but was not interested in viewing a variety of bedrooms. We discussed how they would handle Joshua’s epilepsy more than anything else. We looked for something to amuse Joshua and he enjoyed playing a keyboard in the lounge. He sat next to the carer and stroked her long hair for a while and then he curled up in an armchair for a nap – he is usually worn out by the time Friday comes around. We talked about the next steps if this was to be our choice of Adult respite and how transition would be handled. While it does not have the established buzz of his current children’s provision, maybe no Adult place is as lively as that. This certainly felt more like a home than an institution, which I liked, but in reality it is the staff that make somewhere fun and warm, not the building.

We woke the dozing Joshua and promised him Donalds for tea to get him moving, so we said our goodbyes and left with plenty of food for thought. As ever sleepy Joshua passed the Donalds test, he got excited at his favourite fast food restaurant and he ate all of his chicken strips and chips and drank a full orange juice , before we headed home. I made a note to tell whichever adult provision he ends up at, that a trip to Donald’s would make any stay complete.

Home alone

For the first time that I can remember for years, I am home alone, with only the dogs for company. Joshua is still at respite until later today and my husband has set off on an overseas business trip, just for the week. So last night I was able to please myself and so I had a long, lazy bath as soon as my husband set off, then I had something to eat and settled down to watch ‘Call the Midwife’. Once I had enjoyed my weekly weep at the drama, I called to see how Joshua had been. I always call around 9pm so that I can speak to the afternoon staff who have worked with him and so that he will be tucked up in bed – in theory.

I could hear him awake in the background of my call saying ‘I like you!’ and as he was still up, they tried putting him on the phone to talk to me, but as ever he did not speak but held the receiver to his hear to listen . When they wrestled the telephone back from him, I heard how he had taken himself to bed around 8pm but had recently reappeared and he did not sound in the least bit tired to me.He had enjoyed a good day and he too had gone to the seaside, where we were the day before, and he had run on the beach then eaten sausage and chips. There were a few incidents of ankle-kicking, but a much better day in terms of behaviour, and they were combined with stories of a bear hug and gently patting his short keyworker on the head, with affection.

So I was able to report better news to my husband and then to enjoy an early night and sweet dreams. Hearing Joshua’s happy voice on the telephone, made me miss him more and I am really looking forward to him breaking my peace when he gets home from school, tonight. One night home alone is plenty , thank you very much.

Playing away

Joshua is not at home and I slept last night for almost 7 hours, which is pretty rare these days.I waved him off yesterday morning, with his overnight bag, and I told him that I will see him on Monday. I am pretty sure that he will not understand what that means but his respite stays are usually three nights long, so I am hoping that once he arrived there, he will settle into the weekend routine. I called last night and he was happy , but had grabbed a few naps and had rejected the meal that they had prepared and chose instead to eat 6 fish fingers and a slice of chocolate cake,  which doesn’t sound very balanced but it does sound delicious.

He had also shown some “cheeky” behaviour, which had involved trying to lift the female staff’s tops up! I had had to ask what ‘cheeky’ meant and it was an interesting choice of word. She told me that she was being diplomatic, but I replied that he was not being cheeky, rather he was inappropriate. They had started by trying to ignore him , as we had agreed, but he thought it was a game so was spoken to firmly about it.

This behaviour makes me sad : I want the staff there to like him, to want to be with him, and if he is behaving inappropriately then there is a risk that they will not. When he has smacked my arm, I have pleaded with him not to hurt the people who care for him. I have always been relieved that Joshua is popular and can win hearts with his hugs and twinkly eyed grin. I love that he is known for being cheeky, affectionate and smiley; I would hate for that impression of him to change to someone who has to be ‘managed’ and disciplined. So I am hopeful that last night was a one -off ,  that he was just ‘trying it on’ for his first night away and that today he will settle down. This is his penultimate weekend stay and so I would like this and the next one to go well, without incident, but to just be full of fun.

Fits and starts

Joshua woke up lively yesterday and came downstairs at 6.45, with no apparent side effects from his seizures or his  dose of rescue medication, much to my relief. He was pleased to see me and Yorkshire Grandma and was full of beans, so he had breakfast as usual and I got him dressed for school. Although I sent him off for school, with a note in his diary to explain what had gone on, I still had an uneasy sense of anxiety all day at work that I may be called by school at any moment to hear about more seizure activity. I jumped each time the phone rang and I was never far from my mobile, just in case they needed me to leap in my car.

The worst calls that we have had in the past are when the emergency medication has been given,but when it has not worked and so an ambulance has been called. That is a terrifying call to receive and on several occasions we have had to meet Joshua already at A&E and then, even through his post-seizure, drugged-up state, the relief on his face to see us,his parents among a sea of strangers’ faces, is visible. That must be a bewildering time anyway, coming round from a daze, to find yourself in a hospital bed, would be terrifying. The trouble is that at A&E, the doctors do not know Joshua or his epilepsy, and so they are working blind. In trying to establish if he has recovered sufficiently well to discharge him, the medical staff ask him questions that he could not answer on a good day, let alone post-seizure. In the end, they tend to ask us, as his parents, if he has returned to normal, normal for Joshua that is.

This will be yet another thing that will change after March, he will be classed as an adult and so will no longer go to the relatively pleasant environment of Children’s A&E, he will have to fight his corner with other adults. I was told that once he was 18, there would be no provision to  stay overnight with Joshua in hospital, should he be admitted onto a ward. I will have to fight that battle if it comes to it, but even as an adult, Joshua would need a chaperone , someone with him to be his voice and someone there to keep him safe too. I suspect the nurses would be begging us to stay with him to try to keep him in bed, to reassure him and to take care of his needs. Joshua would not be the first adult with learning disabilities to require a hospital bed, so there must be precedents.

But thankfully, on this occasion, the emergency medication did its job and there was no re occurrence of the night before’s seizures and he has promised me that he will also try to keep them at bay this weekend while he is away, in respite.

Welcome Back

We left our holiday accommodation, all tidy and sparkling, at 11am and we finally arrived home at 6pm, with one ferry crossing and three train changes later. It was a fun journey and the dogs behaved like angels all of the way, mostly curling up under the seats and going to sleep.They took strangers in their stride and were even calm when either of us got up to go and buy coffee from the buffet car. I could not have wished for better behaved pets, particularly given that Kevin is just 5 months old. He was wide-eyed , taking all of the new experiences in and only occasionally would he forget himself, as he let out a little bark, more in fear rather  than bravado.

When we arrived home, Joshua was upstairs in his bedroom getting changed, as we called out that we were back home. He squealed with delight and ran to the top of the stairs, where he grinned , posed on one leg like a flamingo and shouted in a high, excited voice ” I like you!”. We brought him downstairs where he could do himself less harm and he continued to shout for joy.  I received several bear hugs and I heard stories from Yorkshire Grandma and I read in the school diary and his respite diary too, so as to get fully briefed on events. I enjoyed a quick cup of tea and then it was straight upstairs for an early bath. Joshua remained excited and animated all night, he was clearly delighted that we were all reunited back at home.

Joshua has just four more days at school for 2018 and I have just two more days of work. I have booked tomorrow off on leave too, in order to attend Joshua’s school Christmas play. which will be fun I am sure. I am back at school on Friday morning for our final Parent Coffee Morning of 2018 too, on the last day of term so I need to find some baking time before then. This can be a mad, busy time of year which gets bogged down with shopping, wrapping and parties but Joshua reminded us last night that all he wants for Christmas is everyone to be at home together. His Christmas wish will be granted, plus some bonus family appearances from Granny for Christmas and his Aunt, Uncle and cousin, with her boyfriend, on Boxing Day.

So as he counts down the last few days of term in 2018, he can look forward to the year when he turns 18 years old, the year when he becomes adult in the eyes of the law! During next year, many things will change, but not, hopefully, how excited he gets when he sees his parents after a separation of five days, as I do not want that ever to alter.