7 Year Itch

Apologies for the loooooong absence. After seven years of fighting, trans-atlantic travel, lawyers, phonecalls, emails and Facebook stalking, I finally got divorced! Granted on the basis of no defense from the opposition… aka, as soonas I even mentioned they might like to consider some financial support for the child they so desperately wanted to remain in contact with, you couldn’t see them for dust. They just stopped instructing their lawyer.

If only I’d thought of that seven years ago.

Regardless, now that the metaphorical dust has settled, I’ll return to blogging the experiences Twig and I have had! Thanks for all your support and encouragement everyone… the future is looking far brighter.

 

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Diagnosis > Apocalypse

Well, one large mug of coffee down and I think I’m semi-coherent. Despite Spongebob chattering away in the background. The actual show, not a codename!

It seems as good a time as any to explain the saga of Twig’s diagnosis, or lack thereof, before the jitters set in and I’m forced to track down cigarettes to balance it out. I’m very health-conscious, as you can see..

So. The first real inkling of anything amiss actually came from a surprising source; Shovel’s mother. Let’s just call her Miss Ellie. If you ever saw Dallas on TV, that might give you a sneaky insight. She decided, in that authoritative way that only nosy mother-in-laws seem to truly possess, that Twig had autistic tendencies. And my reaction? I couldn’t say if it was typical, since I’ve no real point of comparison. But I was immediately, guns blazing, on the defensive. How dare she imply there was anything ‘wrong’ with my baby?

The situation didn’t improve when she took him to her family practitioner, without my knowledge. Though he agreed (supposedly), I didn’t put much stock in the claim. That woman could strongarm Saddam Hussein into a needlepoint class, if she felt the need. She’s that scary. Plus, she has a tendency to hear what she wants to hear, which usually manifests itself as agreement.

Twig was just about to turn two, at the time. Despite our predicament (I’ll dicuss that in another post) he was a happy child. He made eye-contact appropriately, he was affectionate and empathic. Alright, so he wasn’t showing much interest in verbal communication. But frankly, neither did I. We barely saw anyone else, and we understood each other perfectly well. Yes, obviously that’s now a source of ‘mommy guilt’. I never stop looking for them.

By the time our mute muse was two and a half (funny how those fractions are so important, when it’s a child), he and I were back in Europe, outwith the influence of the Shovel family. I had expressed some concern to my own doctor, who emphatically discounted the idea of autism. But he organised an assessment, agreeing that something certainly wasn’t quite right.

Said assessment involved a team of experts in various fields assessing him over the course of a few hours. Speech therapist, paediatrician, physiotherapist, you name it. And all in all the results were fairly depressing. ‘Yes, there’s something wrong. We don’t know what, or if it will improve. Oh, and by the way, your kid’s currently operating at roughly the level of a child a year younger than his actual age.’

Spiffy. So now what?

Fast-forward a few months. Twig’s enrolled in Music Therapy, and Speech and Language Therapy, and has his own Play Tutor doing home visits. Music and Play, great. Whether it helps or not is anyone’s guess, but he enjoys it and that’s the main thing. It introduces him to new situations and experiences, with people who know how to handle the meltdowns. Speech and Language Therapy? Not so much.

I had to give that particular lady the boot. Not only was she stalwartly refusing to listen to me, but she also didn’t seem to grasp the fact that Twig was different. Her standard methods didn’t apply, didn’t work, and more to the point they ended up distressing him.

Better than the group therapy, mind you. When he had a meltdown there, they left him sobbing in the corner for twenty minutes (half the session) so they could focus on the ‘well-behaved’ children. Disturbing how much that could actually teach him about society.. be ‘normal’, or be excluded. Charming. As you can imagine, I did not deal with those so-called experts very politely, after that.

Another year or so down the line. After some horrendous experiences ruling out physiological aspects of his condition – sedating him so blood samples could be taken, for example – we were still no closer. Nothing seemed to be actually wrong.. it’s just something wasn’t right. And though I saw improvement in him, almost on a daily basis, he wasn’t where he should be on the all-powerful spectrum of development. So what gives?

As it turned out, the initial observation team had managed to overlook some crucial points. He still sat in the ‘W’ position. He likes running and crashing into things. He never sits still. Those might seem trivial things, but it’s eventually been noted and brought to our attention. Not by some miracle doctor in our health system, but by a family friend. Who just happened to be certified in Pediatric Neurodevelopmental Therapy.

Here’s a couple excerpts from the report she wrote up for us.

A very distressing sensory processing deficit for any parent is the area of touch. The difficulties seen in Twig’s profile include low thresholds for grooming, being messy, having others stand near him. He is greatly bothered by normal physical interactions such as having his hair or nails cut. These must be done while he is asleep to avoid screams. He hates to be physically messy – food or dirt on his body. He demands it be removed immediately. He is bothered by being touched by others and may rub the area. On the other hand, he has a high threshold for learning from touching objects and people – he does this more often than children with integrated tactile processing.

Twig’s behaviors seem to be explained by a poorly integrated sensory system that is inhibiting his efforts to learn about his world. Children demonstrating similar behaviors describe various environmental stimuli (sensory input) such as light touch or even clothing tags as burning, hurtful, scary, feeling like “fight or flight”; deep touch as comforting, more easily felt.  Sometimes they may say they don’t notice what you or I may be intensely annoyed by, such as intermittent background noise. Adults who suffer with this issue say they “wish their skin could be removed”.  Children learning to function without innate integration of environmental stimuli operate with definite deficits. They are aided by a predictable world so learning, play and socialization can take place without the need to seek or avoid input.

Why didn’t someone else pick up on this?

Anyway, as it turns out, our health system refuses to provide us with further help, not even contacts for local groups.. because I have chosen to home school Twig. Of course I have, there’s no way he’d cope with starting school right now. Let alone the fact that the nearest placement turned out to be less than suitable. We were assured that Twig could have his own aide, during classtime. Further investigation revealed that this person was entirely unqualified, just some Joe off the streets.. which to me implies their job would be to keep him out of the way, again, while the ‘normal’ children got on with their edcuation.

That’s not the experience of the world I want him to have.

To him, every day is an adventure. He doesn’t worry over what happened yesterday, or what might happen tomorrow. He doesn’t get self-conscious, or embarassed – you should hear him laugh – and everything is treated with the same amount of awe and wonder as it was last week. Now tell me.. if your kid was that happy, without fail.. would you conform to the demands to force him into the cookie-cutter ideal of ‘normal’?

D Day

After 3 years, countless court appearances, numerous child welfare hearings, several shouting matches down the phone and too many tears shed and beers drank to keep track of..

My divorce has been granted.

A lot of those ‘self-help’ guides I’ve seen warn that you might go through some odd emotions, once you reach this milestone. I can only count one, even if it’s hard to describe: gut-wrenching relief.

Miss Ellie and Shovel have spent thousands of dollars on this case, thrown everything they can think of at me, changed lawyers many times because they didn’t like not being in full control. And, in the end, it’s gotten them nowhere at all. Well, that’s not entirely true.. it’s gotten them so far beyond my circle of trust ™ that they’ll never ever be back inside. And while I’m sure some of you out there may disagree with my point of view, they will never see Twig again.

They can afford the costs of putting us through hell every 6 weeks, but can’t muster the funds to visit? I shouldn’t be surprised. They apparently couldn’t muster the funds to send the kid a birthday or a christmas card, either. Ever. Not once.

Way to prove you care, guys.

It was always about winning, and Twig was just useful leverage. But no more! Finally life can move forward, outwith the sayso of those people.

Gut-wrenching relief, indeed.

Life as we know it

Fool’s Paradise

It often irks me how certain situations are handled by legal systems. How is it, that in a case that centers around the welfare of a child, they can be detached from the emotional and psychological effects of the decisions they can make so candidly according to the clear-cut, bulletpoint lists in their precious ‘book’? One circumstance cannot be weighed against another, just as the quality of a parent or their importance in playing any role can be. Read the rest of this entry

With respect

Apologies for the delay in posting, folks; the world has been a hectic place of late. My thoughts and condolences are with those of you who have a loved one in Christchurch, NZ, and of course the families there who have been affected by this tragedy.  – Cake.

http://christchurchearthquakeappeal.govt.nz/

Emotion (currently out of stock)

Kicking back with 2 litres of room temperature Dr Pepper, I decided to have a flick through the articles on singlemommyhood.com. Firstly, what a fabulous site! It’s refreshing to see a forum for single parents (yes, Dads too) that approaches the day to day trials and pitfalls we all face with a no-nonsense, best friend telling you off over a cup of coffee attitude. One particular feature caught my attention, though. Read the rest of this entry

Thunderbolt

The actual beginning is pretty far back, now that I think about it. And as unremarkable as you might expect. Girl meets boy. Girl likes boy. Girl gives up everything and moves from Europe to the US to be with boy.

Boy turns out to be a manipulative, controlling bastard.

Now, before I go any further.. boy also happens to be the son of a well-respected member of the US Government. And, seeing as they never directly helped him in systematically ruining everything, I’m not going to name names. So, for the purpose of my ramblings, I’ve given everyone very deep and meaningful codenames. Read the rest of this entry

Up, up and.. get me the hell on a plane

It’s hardly a revelation, but I’ve noticed that the very best ideas are formed by the coming together of two things.

Friends.

And Jaegermeister.

(I’m less of a fan of the latter, today.)

Anyway. During a terrible, disjointed conversation, intended to be a summary of the last few years of my existence for a friend that had somehow missed out, it was pointed out that I am really, completely and utterly hopeless at keeping things ordered in my head. And that perhaps I should *gasp! Behold the infallible drunken logic!* write it all down.

Long story short.. well, you’re looking at it. I am now the proud owner of a shiny new blog!

Without coming off as an ego-maniac (though let’s face it, everyone who writes their deepest darkest thoughts up on the internet has to have a little bit of a stroking issue), I’ve never met anyone with such a complex backstory. It’s the stuff made for tv movies are.. well, made of.

I’m a single mother of a child with learning difficulties. I’m still not divorced after three years of separation. I’ve been a lot of places and seen a lot of things.

And I’m going to start at the beginning. Tomorrow. Once my caffeine levels have dutifully balanced the lingering ‘Jaffa-Cake flavored shots!’ effects.