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Family Matters & Asperger's Syndrome

(18 Posts)
huskymum27 Fri 21-Feb-14 22:29:08

Hi!

I received the news a week ago that my daughter has Asperger's Syndrome. She has trouble with feelings & emotions and communicating them and also struggles with change in routines, although not in all circumstances (e.g. she moved school 8 months ago as we had moved house & we were walking 5 miles to school and 5 miles home-we did this for 6 months before she got a place at a school just around the corner-when she moved school she was fine with it, settled in very well but could be because she had had a long time to get used to the idea and it also meant we no longer had to get up at stupid o clock to be at school on time lol)

My real question/argh (and what I'm requiring advice on even if it's just people's personal experience) is how this will affect family court. My daughter stopped seeing her father when she was 2 as he emotionally abused her. He took it back to court and in September 2012 he was given access rights (supervised) It took just over 1 year (until October 2013) to progress to unsupervised contact (so as you can see it was very slow going based on my daughter's needs) however, in December 2013 court decided that it should progress from 4 hours unsupervised to 8 hours for the month of January, 1 overnight for the month of February progressing to 2 overnights in March & continue at that pace (every 2 weeks)

My daughter 'accepted' the 8 hours as much as possible, she wasn't happy about it, wrote homework saying it was making her sad etc and told her father she did not want to stay overnight. She started becoming violent, unsettled, wouldn't sleep, destructive, withdrawn etc etc. I therefore cancelled overnight & said I would take it back to court to have it reassessed because in my mind, this is no good for her to be that distressed and I stated at court it was too much too soon but nobody would listen.

I have now been told her father is going for residency stating I am "emotionally harming" her. I have in the past been blamed for the slowness of progress & a report was written saying if it didn't progress residency should be looked at. They said they would not take into account possible Asperger's hampering the progress because at that time there was no diagnosis (although she was undergoing the assessment) and therefore it must be me emotionally harming her and telling her not to go (I would like to add I have never done this. I have always encouraged, to the best of my ability, the contact and always encouragedmy daughter to do what she can manage.)

My real question is, does anyone know/have experience of court proceedings such as this? Her father has refused to accept that it could be the Asperger's stating he is doing what is in my daughter's best interest (by trying to force overnight stays) however, my daughter is adamant she will not even go anywhere near him if she thinks she will not return home the same day.

She has never slept over anywhere alone (please note this is not through lack of trying!!) she won't sleep at her grandparents/aunties/anywhere (people who she has known and been with her entire life) and I have made court aware of this but they would not listen. Could this be a side to the Asperger's (refusing to sleep anywhere I am not) ? I don't know that I have done the right thing by fighting this battle, I am terrified I will lose the residency battle purely because nobody seems to understand that pushing and forcing a situation will not make it happen any faster but instead may hamper!

I feellike I'm stuck between a rock & a hard place, I'm glad the diagnosis has come through as my daughter will get the support she needs in the area she struggles however, even though I understand Asperger's, I do not think anyone else involved in this case does and that worries me sad

OnTheCoverOfAMagazine Fri 21-Feb-14 23:56:01

Hi,
Are Cafcass involved yet? Your daughter will be able to communicate all of her wishes and feelings to whoever is assigned.
You must have Camhs involved? Does your daughter have a consultant? Ask for a letter from consultant setting out the diagnosis. If you explain all of this to whoever you're involved with at camhs, they may be able to help further in terms of demonstrating your abilities to work with professionals/put child first etc.
What about school? Your daughter must have a senco (spec ed needs)? They could also write a letter to "back you"? State her attendance is good - you obviously have shown commitment to previous school with the long distance you travelled daily - could they help?
Try the National Autistic Society too, they are absolutely brilliant and again may have resources to help.
Are you representing yourself or do you have a solicitor?

Have been through very similar with ex. I have 2 children with Aspergers so I know what you're going through.

huskymum27 Sat 22-Feb-14 07:48:52

CAFCASS have been involved, it was them who wrote the report about the "emotional harm" (I have complained several times about the officer because her reports always say I am terrible & he is perfect despite the fact that he does not provide food for my daughter!!)
CAHMS are involved, I have explained to my daughter's father that given time the situation will become easier but to giver her 1 month to get used to the idea was ridiculous. CAHMS have said they will offer support in all areas but obviously these things take time & he is expecting miracles overnight.
It's been determined that SENCO will not be heavily involved with my daughter (as she is exceptionally bright) and the things she does/struggles with do not affect school massively but they are aware of the situation (except the residency as that only happened yesterday!) But I am sure they would be happy to confirm that school etc is no problem.
Also, I have a solicitor, but up until yesterday she has blatantly told me I have to do everything the court say whether I agree or not. She also said I have to "prepare" myself for losing because it is me breaking the court order and because of the report from the CAFCASS officer. I told her at the end of the day I have to do what is right for my daughter & if that means I have to fight residency then so be it, she wasn't happy with the situation & tried to force me to take her overnight but I refused sad This is why I am so worried :'(

balia Sat 22-Feb-14 14:30:17

I have been through the court process (not a sol) and I have worked with Aspergers children. IME, it would be extremely unusual for the court to rule against the Cafcass report. You need to think very carefully about where this is going. You have put yourself in a very precarious position in breaking the court order, when it is clear that the court already feel you are not supporting what they have decided is in your DD's best interests. You really should listen to the solicitor.

Unfortunately, the professionals involved do not agree with your approach/opinion about what is best for your DD. Your options are therefore either to accept the order or to risk a transfer of Residence; I don't think, at this stage, you can continue trying to get them to accept that her diagnosis (which doesn't affect school) means that it would be better for her not to have overnights.

Whilst an Aspie child may well struggle with changes to the structure of their day, there are masses of things you can do to help and support rather than simply say they can't have that experience, whether that be a school trip or stay at a relatives. I think you'd get more support from the court if you try to plan for improving the contact for your DD, rather than using it as another reason to delay.

huskymum27 Sat 22-Feb-14 15:13:10

I have asked my daughters father to work with me on approaches to make the sleepover more comfortable however he laughs at her and me when I say she needs time to get used to the idea and at how distressed she gets

I have tried to get her to have sleepovers at grandparents countless times (more than I can remember) but it has never been achieved

There is no longer a CAFCASS officer involved, she stepped out of the case stating that she didn't feel it was necessary she was involved any more, the judge showed absolutely no willing whatsoever to change residence (even though that was in the CAFCASS report) and clearly stated at the hearing that if it didn't work father would have to be patient because these things take time. It's the insistence from her father that he will not do anything to put measures in place to make it more comfortable for her that worries me. He will not put a routine in place, he will not even spend time with her. Whilst she is at his flat he works o a computer game he is designing & my daughter is left to play with toys by herself that she has brought from home because she has nothing suitable at his flat. Her father does not feed her, she is not comfortable in his presence enough to go to the toilet (she holds in for 10 hours between leaving home & coming home) which is not healthy for her.

As a parent would you be able to sit back & watch your child work him/herself up into a frenzy over the sleepover? Would you be able to sit back & watch as your child can't walk the 10 minute walk home because she is that weak because she has not eaten since 7am that morning? Because I can't sad To ignore her signs of distress, in my opinion, would make me a bad parent.

LauraBridges Sat 22-Feb-14 16:43:03

You could send her over with some food. You could buy some food and give it to her father to give to her.

balia Sat 22-Feb-14 18:02:36

Certainly I wouldn't ignore signs of distress in a child, but that doesn't mean that every time a child exhibits any distress a 'good' parent would abandon whatever it was they were attempting. I think practical strategies, as LauraB suggests, would immediately have an impact on the situation.

If your DD has never slept away from you, despite your best efforts, how can you confidently assert that things will get better with time?

However, you can now show the court that she has a diagnosis. You asked for advice and I gave my opinion based on the experience I've had. I don't think the court will support you in denying overnights forever/until some misty date in the future on the basis of Aspergers. But you can try to make a workable plan that would make it easier for your DD to cope with extended contact and they might well give you extra time to put that in place. You could ask for a specialists report to support your ideas, although it would be very expensive.

huskymum27 Sat 22-Feb-14 19:01:55

I have sent my daughter with food...he refuses to allow her to eat it.

As stated, I have tried to get him involved in progressing but he will not do it. His opinion is "I want it now and I will get it now"

balia Sat 22-Feb-14 19:19:48

If the Cafcass Officer has ignored evidence that he is deliberately starving your child then you should indeed complain.

huskymum27 Sat 22-Feb-14 20:26:52

i have complained 4times and every time I am told he doesnt do it intentionally ad therefore shouldnt be blamed for it

OnTheCoverOfAMagazine Sun 23-Feb-14 03:08:13

I'll be totally honest, and I'm sorry if this sounds harsh - but every professional involved in your case can't be wrong. They all seem to be saying the same thing. Whilst you might not like it, or you may not agree with it, it does seem like cafcass and the court have agreed that it is in your dd's best interests to have this contact. To make a Court Order, the Judge has to be satisfied that he/she has adhered to the Welfare Checklist and ensure this is best for the child.

Could it be at all possible that your DD is picking up on your very clear feelings about this? Aspies can be very astute - my eldest is. If you're honest - could that be an issue?

You have said your ex "emotionally harmed" your DD. Can you elaborate at all? Were SS involved? Who decided he had "emotionally harmed" your child? SS? Because that will have a massive bearing on residency.

In terms of the Aspergers, believe me, any Judge will take it into account, but it can't be used as a reason either to stop overnights or to sway the Court in relation to residency.

Sorry, I know it's not what you want to hear.

huskymum27 Sun 23-Feb-14 10:32:24

The doctors & CAHMS decided that the emotional harm had been there & that she should not have contact with her father, the CAFCASS officer removed the notes from the doctors files (I have the full files but did not get them until after the court hearing so the judge looked at what CAFCASS provided) and said I had lied & my daughter had never been to the doctors or even see by CAHMS (Again after the court hearing I could prove this to be a lie but I was self-representing & in honesty,e it has been the whole way through that anything I say is ignored, at the next court hearing my solicitor provided the evidence but the judge disregarded it saying he had already passed that the doctors notes proved that there had been no visits to the docs/CAHMS & he was not interested in any more doctors notes)

SS have been involved, because my daughter was not seeing her dad (based on docs & CAHMS) they decided at that time no further action was needed. They were involved again (the GP asked for them to be involved because my daughter cut herself with a knife on purpose and the doctor wanted them to be involved to try & offer support for her & myself) & they decided that neither of us were a risk and they would not provide support (at this time contact was 2 hours & as such no food was required to be provided)

CAFCASS are a shower of... they have fabricated evidence (again I have complained about this BUT CAFCASS complaints refused to act on it because the court case is progressing and that is what CAFCASS are there for-to make contact progress (It was my belief that CAFCASS were there for the child and I made this point known but they said that wasn't the case)) they have refused to put in the reports about the fact my ex does not feed my daughter, I asked my solicitor to raise it in court but she said she would not stating that he had been told by CAFCASS verbally it needed to change and "that would be enough" and it clearly wasn't.

Therefore strictly speaking the only "professionals" involved are CAFCASS (who the court listen to) and, I don't know if you have any experience personally, but Google them and you will see that the way they work is very often criticised-they take one side over the other, even SS stated that. My first complaint took 2 YEARS to deal with because they had "so many complaints to get through it was taking 2 years to do so" I think that speaks volumes.

I do have reservations. I have never denied that. Had someone abused your child then you had been forced to make your child see said person again you would naturally be anxious as well that anxiety will never go away & it certainly is not helped by the fact that my daughter returns with unexplained bruises, she comes back so hungry she can't walk, that she comes back in tears and I'm told she has been crying for hours and he didn't know how to stop her/understand why therefore just left her alone to cry for hours. If things were going smoothly then I would be less anxious, but when he cannot give her lunch/allow her to eat lunch that is provided, how can it be expected that he will feed her lunch/tea/breakfast/lunch/tea (overnight) and when he will not understand/put in place routine & try to help her be more comfortable with sleepovers because he doesn't want to because in his head "sleeping over is not an issue" its very difficult.

He has been threatening residency for a very long time, however has never done it, he usually threatens & then because he has threatens gets his own way ad therefore drops the issue because he has got his own way. He uses it as a threat when things aren't going his way. If he got residency my daughter would be moved 100 miles away from everyone & everything she knew, she would have to change school, remake friends (which is difficult) would have no family-as his family have never met her (there choice) and would know nothing and nobody.

balia Sun 23-Feb-14 10:36:26

I'm a little confused - how old is your DD? I thought the court process had been going on for 18 months but this now seems to have been a much longer process?

huskymum27 Sun 23-Feb-14 13:15:21

She has been seeing her father for 18 months, the court process started 2.5 years ago. My daughter is 7 but CAFCASS needed time to get the "evidence" together & also did a life story book to reintroduce father slowly & it started with unobtrusive contact (letters) before moving to actual physical contact

wellcoveredsparerib Sun 23-Feb-14 15:43:30

I agree with Onthecover, you need to be careful that you are not seen as being obstructive and disregarding the court. You need proof of what you are alleging about your ex. There has been a recent case where the judge ordered 2 boys be removed from mothers care against the boys stated wishes because mum was seen to be implacably hostile towards contact.

huskymum27 Sun 23-Feb-14 17:56:06

I'm not "hostile"towards contact, I have concerns yes but I have repeatedly said I have no issue with contact, it is the fact they tried to push from 4 hours to 3 days in onemonth &it was too much too soon it's a matter f making it more manageable.

huskymum27 Sun 23-Feb-14 17:59:51

I'd also like to add that myself & my ex made an agreement to slow it down to the 8 hours, in writing and then he changed his mind without informing me and he said if he cannot have overnight he will not see her until he has residency...I offered the 8 hours as we had agreed and he chose not to do it & no contact

Frogbyanothername Sun 23-Feb-14 18:05:24

wellcovered Have you got any details of the case you mention? It might prove useful, thanks.

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