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Child with attachment disorder - is this right?

(207 Posts)
joblerone1 Sun 16-Mar-08 20:52:29

(Sorry, long.)

I hope someone can help me. I am trying to find out more about attachment disorder and whether or not my sister is doing the right thing, or potentially damaging a very disturbed little boy even further.

Her 7year old stepson came to live with them 10 months ago. His mother was about to put him into care. He has been diagnosed as having attachment disorder and is very difficult to live with. At worst, he exhibits behaviours such as standing in the bathroom all night, wetting/soiling the bed/himself, ignoring direct questions, avoiding eye contact, screaming in swimming lessons, not putting his clothes into the wash, losing his glasses, lying about it, etc. He gets told off a lot for things which, I feel, as a teacher of 7 year olds, are part and parcel of being a child – most of my class do some of the things she describes. She insists it’s his way of gaining control, and nothing to do with being a ‘normal’ child. She gets periodical respite care (twice a month?) and our parents look after him and/or her two other children regularly. I live more than 2 hours away, so cannot help much.

She feels so much at the end of her tether that she is intending to take the rest of the family away on holiday while he goes into respite care for 2 weeks. She wants time to ‘regroup’ as a family and spend time with ‘her girls’. Although I recognise her acute stress levels and the need for regular respite care, I can’t help thinking that 2 weeks in respite while the rest of the family are on holiday (in a caravan, which he loves) can only reinforce this child’s feelings of rejection, separation and worthlessness.
My parents have offered to look after him for the whole two weeks, but my sister says he needs firmer boundaries, and that they are too nice. They regularly look after him at weekends, or if he is home ill from school, and for 45 minutes after school one night a week when the whole family comes for tea.
Have since found out that they've said to him previously that if he didn't behave himself at swimming then he wouldn't be allowed to go on holiday - and now he's not. They are not calling it a punishment, just respite for them, but if they've used it as a parenting tool then I think it is son wrong to withdraw it.
I have read some AD websites that actually warn against the overuse of auxillary services, but feel unqualified to comment. What do people think?

ghosty Sun 16-Mar-08 21:02:49

Oh the poor little boy sad
I don't know anything about this really but didn't want to ignore your post. Keep bumping it and I am sure someone who knows more will come along.

mamazee Sun 16-Mar-08 21:05:14

this makes me feel so sad joblerone.
IMO putting him in respite for 2 weeks will surely compound it all.
Although it is hard to judge as it must be totally exhausting for your sister he probably is feeling deeply rejected..first his mother and then your sister. what does his dad think ?

my guess is he probably feels very alienated anyway.
does he get on with his step dd 's ?

bless your parents for such a sweet offer smile can they not work with respite care and see if 2 weeks of undivided attention and work on his behaviours may actually help in the long run ??

i , too am unqualified to comment but felt so sad that someone so young is having to deal with so much.
it must be so hard for you watching it too sad

Smurfs Sun 16-Mar-08 21:10:16

Oh the poor little lamb sad

He must feel that nobody wants him and at such a young age it is heartbreaking.

Your parents sound amazing and are giving him so much.

I have no experience of this but hope somebody can help you smile

peacelily Sun 16-Mar-08 21:18:48

I'm not an expert but I do work as a therapist in CAMHS.

The stress on your sister must be enormous and I can empathise with her decision to want to regroup with her dds. On the other hand the message to this little boy will be that he's unlovable and not worthy of a holiday and may contributr to his feeling of displacement from the family and the world in general.

I think 2 weeks with your parents strcit or not would be lovely for him and promote a sense of family for him.

Does your sister have much support with this? Does she have inpit from CAMHS any individual/parenting input? It's very hard to go it alone but the right sort of input at this age can reap HUGE rewards for the future and 7 is the right time to start.

edam Sun 16-Mar-08 21:19:06

None of those things sound that terrible or out of line for a perfectly ordinary 7yo, tbh. Apart from the bathroom thing. But I'd be prepared to bet that's actually the result of the way he's been treated, poor little love.

What small child doesn't lose things, lie to get out of trouble sometimes (esp. if you are always in trouble) etc. etc. etc.? For heaven's sake, who decided that 'not putting his clothes in the wash' was somehow a symptom that he is not the same as other children? Plenty of grown men don't do it!

Absolutely appalling that they are punishing him by excluding him from the family when he's already been thrown out by his mother.

mamazee Sun 16-Mar-08 21:21:06

what does his dad think ? it seems really important that he has not been mentioned ??

avenanap Sun 16-Mar-08 21:21:46

I agree with smurf. A happy child is one that feels secure and wanted. If he is being passed between various people he will not be feeling this way. He will be picking up on the fact that he is being treated differently and is probably using his behaviour as his way of expressing how sad he feels inside. If he does have any kind of attachment disorder the very last thing that she should be doing is going on holiday without him. Some of his behaviour is normal (losing glasses, lying etc), others are more than likely a result of how he is feeling. Children that wet/soil themselves are often very anxious and unhappy. He's not trying to get control, he's showing how unhappy he is. He shouldn't be told that if he misbehaves he can't go on holiday, this is too much for a young, unhappy child to cope with and he will forget. It sounds as though the behaviour isn't something that he can control very well at the moment and this threat was unrealistic. The family despirately needs some family therapy, this child is very unhappy and will at some point start to show problems with his mental health if this continues. He is not feeling loved, he needs nurture and care, not discipline. Let me know how things go.

blueshoes Sun 16-Mar-08 21:24:49

Feeling very sad for this boy. 7 is way too young to be written off. It is possible to reach out to him. In a few years, I fear it might not be so easy.

How much support is your sister getting from her husband (whom I assume is the boy's bio parent)?

peacelily Sun 16-Mar-08 21:27:49

I agree totally with Avenap, she's out it very articulately. The exclusion from the family holiday however it's dressed up is far far to harsh a consequence even for a much older child.

His soiling is probably down to anxiety and this will be contributed to hugely by multiple carers/placements. Consistency and a secure loving environment will usually have a beneficial outcome for this type of anxious behaviour.

His risk of developing MH probs in adolescence is big, as well as condust disoreder/personality disorder/substance misuse problems and contact with the criminal justice system. Multi-systemic therapy can be very effective with children and families in this situation.

Danae Sun 16-Mar-08 21:31:28

Message withdrawn

joblerone1 Sun 16-Mar-08 21:32:15

He agrees with my sister, in fact the holiday without his son is apparently his idea.

peacelily she has had input from CAMHS; she is a special needs teacher and knows which agencies to access. She insists that the 2 weeks respite is completely normal and something that happens all the time when working with special needs children.

mamazee Sun 16-Mar-08 21:36:01

OMG danae that sounds horrendous sad
joblerone i think your answer is in danae's post. however much your sister or any of us think we know danae has BEEN there.
what about the step sisters ? what do they think ?

avenanap Sun 16-Mar-08 21:37:40

shock. Respite is used by the parents of children who mostly have profound special needs so that their carers have a chance to recharge their batteries or to spend time with their other children as the needs of a special needs child can take up all of their time. I've never heard of it being used because a family is pissed off with a child before. Hmm (not in a good way!)

Smurfs Sun 16-Mar-08 21:38:15

Can I ask and I please note I am not intending to upset you at all but do you think that your sister is just not very keen on this little chap?

She has girls and boys in general terms are noisy, messy and generally a lot more to handle. Which is what I adore about them smile I do also have a DD who is just fantastic! However I have seen friends who only have girl children recall in fear when my DS goes bounding towards them and wants to play. Could it be that she has little experience of what boys want or need and finds it too much?

Also what is the relationship like with the little chaps mum - is there some resentment towards her at all i.e. she had a life with your sisters partner/husband before so history she is not part of.

Again I have no experience but just trying to 'clear a path' through this so to speak.

CarGirl Sun 16-Mar-08 21:41:07

would your parents go on holiday with them to help make it a better holiday for all of them?

It sounds as though the adults are placing the cause of all their unhappiness in life on the stepson and if he weren't there then all it would be happy and wonderful again................

KristinaM Sun 16-Mar-08 21:43:46

Your sister sounds like a wonderful person, to try and help this little boy. reactive attachment disorder is one of the most difficult problems to work/live with - in fact most consultant psychiatrists will not even take referals for children with RAD shock or even conduct disorder. sadly there are very few specialist services here in the UK

It must be quite hard for you to judge the siutaion when you are over two hours away and (i assuem ) that you dont see them much. i also am assuming that you have never lived with a child with RAD.

It sounds to me that your sister is very very stresed about this and is on the edge of giving up (i am not surprised). Given this, i think that any well meaning advice or opinions you might offer would just make things worse for her.

She is absolutely right - the wrong type of help for a child with RAD makes things worse. She needs help and support from family and frineds who are willing to " get with the programme".

Do you think your parenst could be persuaded to work with her to help her DSS, rather than doing their own thing with him?

Perhaps you could offer her soem practical support too - 2 hours is not too far to , say, babysit once or twice a month????

blueshoes Sun 16-Mar-08 21:45:15

joblerone, I would tend to agree with smurfs. I am rather disappointed in her dh. He should be speaking up for his son, not allowing him to be marginalised, demonised.

Smurfs Sun 16-Mar-08 21:46:15

This is so so sad. I have just read what you have written joblerone most recently.

It makes me so cross that boys nowadays are so quickly labelled as having x, y znd z.

Fundamentally all this little chap needs is a stable home life, to feel loved, cherished and important to his family. He is not getting that and I am crying as I type this. sad

Danae Sun 16-Mar-08 21:46:36

Message withdrawn

joblerone1 Sun 16-Mar-08 21:49:26

Must stress, the respite isn't being to my step nephew as a punishment, but they have said to him at least once in the last few weeks that if he didn't behave they wouldn't take him, so I agree with danae, this is how he will see it.
Thank you for sharing your story, danae, thanks also for all your replies so far. I may email her this link.

They have no contact with his mum - she wanted him put into care as she had never bonded with him, and it is documented that she is the cause of most of his problems (up to now.)He doesn't want to see her at all; he had a horrendous life with her and his stepfather.
My nieces are 7 and nearly 2. The 7 year old resents him being there and the time he takes up. Yes, smurfs, the boy thing could be right. And as I may post this to her I won't comment on whether or not she is keen on him - but it is very interesting that you reached your own conclusion!
Am trying very hard to be fair to my sister and struggling - she feels very hard done by.

joblerone1 Sun 16-Mar-08 21:50:19

isn't being presented to him as punishment

KristinaM Sun 16-Mar-08 21:51:32

danae - you need to google it - there are loads of sites out there - you will be reading all night

you are right, there will be a difficult history there. the child is obviously very disturbed, sadly teh prognosis for children with RAd is very VERY poor sad

he needs very specialist therapy NOW. and his wonderful step mum and dad need all the support they can get. she sounds very switched on but very stressed

CarGirl Sun 16-Mar-08 21:52:29

presumably your sister didn't ever envisage taking on her step son when they got married but to say no and send him into care would have not been an easy choice either. I guess she had her dreams and they have gone up in smoke!

I was a step mum, I couldn't handle it, I left and I will always regret the things I got wrong with my DSD far more than the mistakes I've made with my dc

KristinaM Sun 16-Mar-08 21:53:58

i didnt realise that your younger niece was 2. that makes it ever harder as children with RAD can be very violent to younger children and pets

you dont mention it so i assume its been ok so far

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