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How to prepare my son (ASD) for fathers 6 months tour

(16 Posts)
Pebbles69 Mon 12-Nov-12 13:40:29

Hi Everyone
I am fairly new to mumsnet and wondered if i could please ask for some advice.

I am a mum of 5 children one of whom is hfa, my husband who is in the army and due to go on a 6 month tour of afghanistan soon after christmas and I was hoping for some advice on how to prepare and support my children and especially my son for another tour. My hubbie went last year and we all found it a struggle especially my asd son.

I dont live on an army camp (chose to buy our own house after the 13th house move was just too much for children) so dont really have contact with other families with members on the same tour and our army families welfare officer was of no support last time so not expecting any help from Army.
My Husbands family live over 200 miles way and we arent very close and I cant ask for help from my parents as my mum is caring for my father who has parkinsons.

Last tour I felt completely isolated and left alone to struggle and it all felt too much both the emotional and physical demands of bringing up a family with hubbie away.
We have both told the children of the upcoming tour but I wondered if anyone had suggestions how i can make this one better for us all especially my son who was very upset and angry last time his dad went and found it difficult to sleep and cope without his Dad.

mumof2turds Mon 12-Nov-12 13:45:14

Hi pebbles my dad was in the forces and I hates him going away so must be very hard for your son. Can you find out if there are any events going on in the main base? I know you said you don't live on base but are you able to go there and find out if they are doing any activities for kids etc? I know we used to do a lot when our dad was away. Have you explained to him about writing to hos dad and stocked up on blueys yet?

Pebbles69 Mon 12-Nov-12 13:54:56

Thanks for your reply mumof
last time myself and children wrote him a letter each week and packed up some small gifts including pictures the kids had made and photos, we also skyped when ever possible so the kids could see their dad was ok as my hfa son kept having nightmares and one day blurted out that he fought his dad has been killed and we were hiding it from him.
last year there were a few trips arranged for the kids on camp but after an hour and a half drive to camp then a day trip and then the drive home I felt would be just too much for us all. Alot of the trips were to places i feel my son would struggle with i.e indoor play centres and trips to the cinema etc.

mumof2turds Mon 12-Nov-12 13:58:43

Aww the poor lad must've been scared and worried. Yes that could be problematic then with regards to day trips. I would try and arrange some activities yourself to keep them busy. Even a picnic in the park on a nice winters day doesn't have to be expensive. I'm sure if you could arrange something every other week to do even craft activities etc and keep them busy this will keep minds off it. Maybe have special calendar with date he's home and all the things you will do in between. Sorry can't think of anything else, must be tough

EllenJaneisstillnotmyname Mon 12-Nov-12 17:22:05

Pebbles, that must be tough for all of you. How old is your DS? Does he remember his dad's last tour? What worked well, the skypeing and letters? What can you do that is guaranteed? Email everyday, or every week on a set day or will that be too tricky for your DH? I think you need contact to be as often and consistent as possible, maybe with a calendar to mark off days between skypeing or emails etc. Be careful not to promise anything that can't be fulfilled, though.

My nephew has been out to Afghanistan 3 times and his wife isn't on base either. Do you have any friends locally, from the DC's school, maybe? Can your DS's school offer any advice? Most schools have someone in a similar situation or someone who has been in a similar situation, they may put you in touch for a bit of mutual support?

Hope the 6 months go really quickly. Hang around on MNSN, we'll hold your hand and offer brew and cake. Xx

Pebbles69 Mon 12-Nov-12 20:52:49

Thanks Ellenjane for your reply.
Yes my son can remember last time and is already upset when the upcoming tour is mentioned. We try very hard not to mention it too often but feel it should be discussed occasionally so we can deal with the practical and emotional problems and so it is not just sprung on the children.

Unfortunately we can not be sure when hubbie will be able to skype and even if it is arranged weeks in advance sometimes things happen that means plans have to change so last time we didnt tell the children when we were expecting a call or skype session as I didnt want them worried if it didnt happen.

Thank you for the suggestion of seeing help from ds school, I have a very good relationship with the schools Senco and I think I will request a meeting so that we can discuss ways we can help ds.

I will hang around on here as although I havent really posted here much I have found MNSN a great source of info and comfort in the short time I have been on here x

madwomanintheattic Mon 12-Nov-12 21:09:18

Don't forget to use forces sweethearts as well. Lots of mil families have kids with sn of all sorts.

Are you anywhere near a garrison at all? Lots of them have pretty decent sn support groups, especially major garrison towns. Hopefully you have good civilian support in place from choosing to live 'out' though.

If you aren't already a member, you need to be on the ssafa additional needs and disability forum, on the list to receive their newsletter, and attending their (used to be annual, think every two years now) families with additional needs conference. It is a truly brilliant resource which gives people lots of ideas about deployments etc, whilst dealing with the practical issues about having a family member with a disability whilst serving.

Unfortunately families tend not to bother/ don't get to hear about it, and it is a truly amazing resource for military families dealing with an.

Don't forget CEAS if you need help with school - but tbh if he is settled and school are aware when dh goes away, they should be set up to cope. School can also approach CEAS if they need specialist support for advice in dealing with/ supporting ds whilst dh is away.

Pebbles69 Mon 12-Nov-12 21:19:29

Thank you madwoman,
I was not aware of ssafa additonal needs and disability forum so will defiantly look into that and also never heard of CEAS so you have given me plenty to look into.
Once again a very big thank you

madwomanintheattic Mon 12-Nov-12 21:28:28

Children's Education and Advisory Service - based in Upavon, Wilts. All sn children of forces families should be registered with them. Usually they help with postings/moves and educational matters (porting of statements, etc etc) but they should be able to help static families too.

If you are anywhere near Aldershot (I can't imagine why anyone would be, out of choice, but you never know) do try the coffee, chill and chat, or whatever it's called now. Set up by a couple of sn mums who have subsequently left the service, and open to both mil and local community. Lots of support, signposting, and frequent events.

The newsletter (when you get hold of a copy) also lists all of the sn groups run at military hotspots, as well as specific disability-type orgs run by folk with a military friendly ear - some serving, some not.

If you can get to the conference (usually held in London) it is well worth it. And indisputable proof that there are gazillions of sn families in the mod, however ordinarily invisible.

EllenJaneisstillnotmyname Mon 12-Nov-12 21:49:25

Ooo, great advice from Madwoman! Isn't MN wonderful? There's always someone who knows what they're talking about. smile

frizzcat Mon 12-Nov-12 23:01:47

Have you tried NAS - to see if there are any appropriate clubs that your ds can join in your area? Just thinking if he has an appropriate for him place to go -if he enjoys it then it might just take his mind off it even for a little while. Is he a facts fella? maybe he could look at some Afgan facts (obviously not the tribal wars over the years) things like, afghan terrain, population, cities, wildlife - just thinking these are safe facts that might make him more secure? Also thinking that, that might give him an element of control as you mentioned last time he thought, dh was dead and you weren't telling him??
The previous posters have given some great pointers, so hopefully they'll have stuff for all your dc. Also ask if you can get direct payments or other funding to help pay for some of the activities.
As to you, I was going to say take time where possible for yourself..... But from your post it sounds like that's not going to happen much. As you say family are far away and base isn't always appropriate. So I'm going to tell you be kind to yourself this is doubly stressful for you. Stick here and come shout scream and kick when necessary, you're not on your own.

Pebbles69 Tue 13-Nov-12 10:09:49

Thank you Frizzcat,EllenJane,Madwoman and mumof. I am overwhelmed with the wonderful suggestions and will be looking into all of these in the next few weeks.
I can honestly say I already feel more positive about the upcoming tour with all these fab ideas and of course when things do get too much I will come out to here to vent or get advice, I only wish I had found MNSN sooner

Nigel1 Wed 14-Nov-12 15:57:36

You should have a SAFFA worker attached to the camp. If not ask the Families Officer for the address. Get in contact with them. Get them to do the digging for you . They are the army social workers and they should do your running around. The fact you live off camp is nether here or there.
I very much doubt that you are the only Army Mum with and ASD child so there must be a plan somewhere. Get here to do the leg work.
How old is the child? If of school age then get the school to contact the EP for the school and say that you are worried about the effects on him and home and the impact on his schooling.
If there are any issues with the school during this time then speak to Services Education and get them to intercede with the school/LA. It may be that he needs to be prepared very thoroughly by going into camp and seeing the PPE kit etc so it can reassure him.
Might be possible to get extra phone time to support the family for this reason as well.
Story book the whole thing as much as possible. The Int Cell should have some Afgan base photos etc to help remove some of the anxiety.
Hope this helps. If you get stuck then come back to me via email off forum.
Im sure that everyone here wishes him Gods speed and safe return.

Pebbles69 Thu 15-Nov-12 17:51:25

Nigel1 - Thanks for your very helpful reply. You have made some great suggestions and your help is very much appreciated.
There is now a new families officer since the last tour so I am very much hoping to have better support this time and now thanks to all your help I now know where to get it.
I have now arranged a meeting with the schools senco and will be contacting the families officer to see what can be arranged to start preparing my son ( 7 years old) for the tour I will certainly mention some of your suggestions.

Nigel1 Sun 18-Nov-12 22:07:15

I have some experience in this area and if there is any problem then please IM me and I am sure that we can sort it out for you.

BeeMom Mon 19-Nov-12 14:30:23

When I was in the Forces, I worked with the Family Support Centre (that was in Canada, but I am sure you have an equivalent) in my spare time (this was pre-DCs, I "medicaled" out after a spinal cord injury). Even if you do not live on base, it would be good for you to avail yourselves of the services there. As well, contact as frequent as possible once he ships out is important. Your DCs can draw pictures, record messages, write private letters or dictate them if they do not write yet etc. To be honest, that is as important for the individual who has shipped out as it is for the family at home.

I know this well, and your family are in my thoughts.

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