“The Damaging Snowball Effect of Professionals’ Words”

snowball-rolling-downhill Sometimes you get a sense of something being up with peoples’ reactions to you, without knowing what or why.  As a special needs parent you need to deal with a host of professionals along the way, going through assessment to diagnosis, getting your child’s educational needs met and potentially, ongoing health issues.  For an autistic parent this can be a veritable minefield.

Parents want to work in partnership with professionals, they want their expertise on their child respected, they want to be listened to and respected as equals.  You’d think professionals would be willing to offer this partnership working, it’s in the best interests of the child, as well as all concerned – isn’t it?

It may be when comments are made towards you, or you read a report stating that ‘mum’ is this, that or the other’ and you feel a burning sense of injustice and confusion.  It may be that nothing is said or written up front, but you feel that things are more difficult than they should be, inexplicably.  So you do a Subject Access Request to find out why.

A parent on the autistic spectrum won’t always communicate exactly the same as a typical parent might, despite their best efforts.  There is a shocking lack of autism awareness out there among professionals, even those who who work with autistic children, have a bizarre lack of understanding of autistic parents.  This means that the parent’s normal autistic traits are being misinterpreted and misrepresented.

So when terms like ‘anxious’ pop up unexpectedly on files, written by people who have never even met you, let-alone know you, it’s beyond frustrating.  It’s actively damaging.  Because those type of words are being used against parents, to criticise their parenting and in some cases, falsely accuse them.  It can also have a direct effect on whether a child is diagnosed or not, supported or not.  Because if mum is deemed “anxious”, she is imagining problems where there are none isn’t she.  And it usually is mum who is labelled this way.

The harm caused by one professional starting the snowball, can be enormous.  Professionals not only fail to question the accuracy of other professionals (especially if it suits their own agenda), but it can become like Chinese whispers where the original word gets added to and expanded, into an ever more exaggerated version.

An autistic parent may have some ‘cluttering‘ of speech, where they speak rapidly, or they may give a very detailed explanation of their belief or rationale for something.  This is just a difference, not a problem or failing.  The problem is, when there is autism ignorance resulting in a professional misjudging these traits as signs of “anxiety”.  Especially when they are unqualified to do so.  It’s so easy to write a word down, a value judgment or personal opinion on someone, recorded for posterity.  But it is being done without any care of the potential consequences of doing so.  And it’s impossible to get it removed once it’s there.

Parenting is judged at every turn, even without you having obviously failed in any way.  You will be picked over simply by virtue of being engaged with a system you have no choice but to be, because of your special needs child.  There is something about a clique of professionals when they get together, that becomes akin to the playground.  Posher words of course, jargon thrown in there, but there is a communication style almost like a code, borne of the policies and procedures they follow.  It seems to have morphed into an hive attitude, one that leaves them feeling superior to parents, as if they are the competent ones.  Mums are just mums.

Misjudging autistic mothers as “anxious”, in fact any mothers, has it’s dark roots in misogyny, insane asylums for disobedient wives and neurotic, hysterical women attitudes of yore.  And it’s an extremely convenient tactic for professionals who don’t like mothers persisting in having their children’s needs met.

So the snowball rolls.  It grows.  Until it becomes something every professional that has their finger in the pie, uses as fact, unquestioningly.  It rolls off the tongue, we don’t want to label the child but we sure as hell will label the mother.  Just because someone is different, that makes others assume and pass judgement.  There is never any more dangerous judgement passed than when you are a parent.  Because these days there is such a horrible culture among professionals of watching parents like a hawk, for fear they are abusers or neglecters of children.  And an even more horrible one of labelling parents as an agenda for retribution.

And being labelled as having any sort of psychological issue is enough to have you accused of abuse, deemed a parenting risk.  All on the say-so of a professional who has not assessed you for “anxiety”, or even being qualified to speculate that way, but chosen to term you as “anxious” nonetheless, because they simply regurgitate a label already wrongfully recorded.

The label or opinion may have started as simply “anxious”.  It may have inexplicably grown to “highly anxious”.  Or “anxious and depressed”.  Or “anxious, depressed and not coping“.  Or even worse, “anxious and projecting that anxiety onto the children causing emotional harm”, or that old chestnut MSBP/FII.  No matter how ridiculous and untrue, these professionals are on a roll and won’t stop.  Even the “anxiety” label itself, never mind the use of it by professionals, is a snowball. Anxiety-snowball.jpg

You can write requesting the records are amended, but they won’t.  At best they will add your letter to the file and highlight it to say you disagree.  But of course that just compounds the problem, because it looks like you are disagreeing because you are “anxious and unstable”.  So your records are sullied and incorrect for eternity.  And nobody will ever take you seriously again.

It would be so much nicer and better for everyone if these professionals took their negative value judgements and used that snowball in the opposite way instead.

kindness-snowball.jpg

The negative label snowball rolls on down the hill, even if it reaches level ground, it will continue in a circle endlessly and never fully stop growing.  The sad thing is, that the snowball is an enormous barrier to your child getting their needs met.  So when those professionals rolled the snowball, they failed your vulnerable children.

Do they do it to sidetrack families away from resources?  Then they need to wake up.  Because without early intervention, the children who the “anxious” mother seeks resources for, is going to cost the system more!

snowball money

Because a rolling snowball doesn’t just catch up more snow, it catches up people ~ and those people are impacted, real lives are affected.  And that’s on the heads of professionals.  Is that a mark they want to leave on the world..?

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“CAMHS and Autism – A Story in Pictures” Episode 2

camhs-post-2camhs-post-3  It had to be done.  Due to the popularity of the ‘first episode‘ I thought a follow-up was warranted.  Autistic children are suffering across the UK, from missed diagnosis, misdiagnosis and tardy and inept support from CAMHS.  So here be it (read it and literally, weep…):

camhs-post-7camhs-post-6camhs-post-4camhs-post-10camhs-post-14   camhs-post-8

camhs-post-12     camhs-post-13     camhs-post-11

camhs-post-5     camhs-post-15     the scream.jpg

 

 

 

Autism Unawareness

Lesser_hedgehog_tenrec_Echinops_telfairi Meet the “hedgehog” tenrec, which isn’t a hedgehog and is more closely related to the elephant.  It lives on Madagascan islands, where there are no hedgehogs – and if you saw a tenrec, your first reaction would be to think that it was indeed a hedgehog.  The tenrec is one of many examples the world over, of convergent evolution.  There are also a variety of creatures that evolve to mimic other creatures to avoid being eaten, and can naturally be mistaken for the real thing.  You may wonder why this subject is appearing on an autism blog, of all places.  It’s because of the widespread problem people on the autistic spectrum face, in being misdiagnosed and mistaken by health professionals as having mental illnesses.  It isn’t always what it may first appear to be and assumptions are dangerous.

I will give you some examples I have recently faced myself, with my (now ex) GP who had such abysmal lack of autism awareness it beggared belief.  I have always talked rapidly, not necessarily the whole time, but episodically.  It isn’t necessarily a stress reaction, sometimes I just have a lot to say and need to get it out before I forget what it was I was saying.  The perils of verbal communication.  Rapid speech is a known feature in autism.  And yet I was automatically considered mentally ill with severe anxiety with this trait being termed “pressure of speech” being used as justification by this GP.

Likewise, my habit of wearing earplugs on a cord around my neck, to protect my ears in the event of environmental noise due to auditory hypersensitivity (another known sensory issue in autism) this was listed as a reason for some sort of mental health problem.  This GP spent a long time falsely attributing my Asperger’s traits to mental health issues and circulating his opinion within a professional network.  This is a service failing of massive proportions.  Not only did he fail to understand my ASC traits as such, but he refused to provide me simple reasonable adjustments in accessing the surgery, in direct contravention of the Equality Act 2010 and the Health & Social Care Act 2008.  I did my best to educate him, by providing him with links and quotes regarding legal responsibilities on the practice, but it was ignored.  Instead of doing his duty, he falsely recorded details of consultations and misattributed my traits to severe anxiety.  This led to highly inappropriate and unwarranted referrals because he decided that as a parent, this meant my children were at risk, without any cause.

Both my children are on the autistic spectrum.  They are intelligent, extremely loved, very well-parented, clean and healthy children.  I had chosen to home-educate them for a period, before they were diagnosed as they were unhappy at school and the younger child was not coping there.  On the basis of me home-educating, (with, by my own choice, local authority approved provision) and without asking me any questions regarding how it was going and what we did for socialising opportunities, he jumped to erroneous conclusions, decided I was mentally ill with severe anxiety and whipped up a frenzy in the professional network.  I knew nothing at the time, only finding out much later when he telephoned me and accused me of exaggerating my eldest child’s school difficulties and of causing both children’s anxiety, ignoring documented evidence from my daughter herself and professionals she had reported it to, that it was her school causing her distress.  My eldest child hadn’t yet got her diagnosis, she had recently returned to school and was being bullied there and they were not supporting her anywhere near adequately, they were in fact reducing the level of support she got which was already only lip service.  She was having massive meltdowns every day after school, begging me to to remove her from the place that was causing her such distress.  In over 70% of autistic people, there are additional conditions, with anxiety being one of them.  This GP even asked my daughter herself whether I was causing her anxiety!  She said to me afterwards “It’s not you causing me anxiety, it’s the other way round.” in reference to me dealing with her frequent school-related meltdowns and supporting her.

In the meantime, this GP was calling multi-disciplinary meetings with professionals, again unknown to me at the time, citing potential for emotional harm from me to my daughter, because he was so determined to paint me as a neurotic, mentally ill person.  And bear in mind, that he knew that I had a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome.  Her persisted so much with this unprofessional, ill-judged and almost unhinged behaviour, that he was having an effect on other professionals who started to believe him, even with professional evidence available of what my daughter was going through at school being the cause of her difficulties.  The stress and trouble he caused for our family was enormous.  All because he was unaware about autism, and couldn’t think any differently from what his neurotypical, blinkered, text book mentality told him.  And all the time he was continuing this way, he delayed my child getting the right support because he had everyone barking up the wrong tree as to the cause of her difficulties.  Everything I was saying, was proven to be true because my daughter was telling clinical professionals what a terrible time she was having at school, and still I got no apology.

I subsequently found out he had made false recording on my health records when I got copies, and lied about his accusations against me.  He had even made false accusations against me of “hounding” him that he circulated to a network of professionals, because I sent him 2 emails on his NHS email address – which I checked with NHS PALS was OK to use and that it was secure.  I believe he had some sort of personality disorder to behave the way he did, which coupled with his autism unawareness was a recipe for disaster.  The shame and further injustice of it is, that I reported him to the regulatory bodies that ought to take action, and they refused – citing his “opinion” was not something they could challenge!  Never mind the lies he told, false recording he did and unprofessional comments to other professionals about me or his actions delaying my daughter receiving the right support.  And he has withheld some copies of records for the spurious reasons relating to his false interpretations of Asperger’s traits and trumped up safeguarding claims, because of his already disproven emotional harm accusations.

So you see, autism awareness isn’t just about people out there not knowing what autism means, when it’s professionals that have the power to wreak havoc on families and actually cause the very thing they are mistakenly attributing your autistic traits to – anxiety – it’s about huge injustices and abuse of power and something has to be done about this.  So my thought for the day is this:

the-greater-the-power-the-more-dangerous-the and I’ll throw this in for good measure: “Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” ~ Isaac Asimov