One of the main difficulties that boy number two has that is associated with his condition is linked to his communication. Whilst he understands a good deal of what is said to him (we can tell this by his responses and reactions), his communication can be limited. He is making good improvements and is beginning to form many clear words and is much more confident in putting sentences together, but is still experiencing significant difficulties in communication. I suspect it will be a long road to a clear pattern of speech for him. He needs time and and patience from those around him to fully express himself. He generally does quite well and can make himself clear. He struggles to express himself well in a pressured or unfamiliar situation. He also finds it very difficult to express his emotions.
Put together, his difficulties with expression and communication, especially in social and emotional contexts, can cause some anxiety for him.
Discussing this particular area of his needs brings my mind to a particular incident in December 2015… picture if you will…
Boy number two had just completed his first term of full time schooling, as every parent and member of school staff know, the end of the Autumn term is a little bit unroutined and exciting. It is filled with preparation for school plays instead of regular lessons, there are Christmas decorations everywhere, there is much excitement and anticipation in the air.
For those schools and families who participate in the Christmas celebrations, the excitement cannot be avoided. It’s at school, it’s at home, it’s on the tv, it’s in the shops. There are extra family visits, the thought of a present and chocolate in the morning! This can be a testing time for any child that does not have any additional needs. For those who have extra things to deal with in their daily lives such as emotional needs, learning needs or disability, this extra set of processing or stimulus can quickly sap their tolerance and concentration levels and tip them from coping to not coping in one fell Santa hat.
With hindsight, my decision to go to the shoe shop to purchase new shoes with boy number one, boy number two and an 8 week old boy number three was not the best inspiration I have ever had. I will blame having a newborn and lack of sleep for my serious error in judgement (face in hands emoji).
Boy number one’s shoes had fallen apart so I found a spare morning on the first week of the school Christmas break to go and buy new ones. We walked in the shop which is located within a larger store and took our ticket to wait our turn.
Boy one and two were quite fidgety whilst waiting, and all of my usual distraction techniques were being exhausted rapidly! When we were seen, boy number three decide it might be a good time to cry about needing to be fed. Boy number one needed new shoes, which was fine, and he put his old shoes in the shoe recycling bin, following this up with lying and rolling across the seats.
Boy number two had his shoes off ready to put in the recycling bin too. It took a great deal of persuasion to tell him that he couldn’t put them in the bin before he had his feet measured. He did have his feet measured, and much to my delight (as shoes cost a small mortgage!) he hasn’t grown and didn’t need new ones. This was not to his delight at all! An emotional meltdown ensued. He found it very difficult to understand that he could not put his shoes in the recycling bin and have new ones like his brother.
As I was trying to calm down boy number two, ask boy number one to stop rolling around the chairs and felt the need to feed boy number three, I could feel the pressure building! I had my mum with me on this occasion and I asked her to distract boy number two by looking around the rest of the shop whilst I paid and sorted out boy one. At this, boy number two ran out of the shop. As part of his condition is physical unstableness, and excitement and stimulation is a trigger, he became very unsteady and ran face first into a shop display.
So at that moment in time, I had a very excitable boy one, a hungry boy three and a boy two that had given himself a grazed face and nose bleed!
I think it is safe to say that this occasion was one of the most stressful shopping trips I have ever made.
After the event I have reflected and thought about what the professional me would tell the parent me, and I have concluded that beyond reminding myself that boy number two has communication difficulties and these are extremely heightened by stress and stimulation, I would remind myself to never, ever go shoe shopping in the first week of the school Christmas holidays!
I have since been shoe shopping at the same shop. I asked if they do appointments for children with additional needs at quiet times of the day and they told me that they would not only make an appointment, but they would take him into a side room where it is quiet if the shop is busy. This would be an amazing service for a child who finds these things very anxiety provoking.
The lesson I have taken from this is to always ask if there is a reasonable adjustment that can be made if the situation calls for it- and shoe shopping in the first week of the school Christmas holidays is utter madness! It was a shopping trip I will remember for a long time, and hope never to repeat!