A thing happened this morning as I was vacuuming. Mr 3 came to me holding two large magnet tiles, and a pained expression on his face.
I've been a mum long enough to know that "HELP! I've got a body part trapped in something and I can't tell you, but you need to FREE ME!" face, so I dropped the vacuum, and found that he'd trapped the fleshy bit of his thumb pad inbetween the two magnet tiles. As I freed him he smiled and said "Thank you mummy." and happily went back to what he was building.
I continue with the vacuuming, and a million thoughts raced around my mind about how sometimes people can't tell you what they need - often because they don't know themselves. They know something is "wrong" and in this vulnerable state they need someone on their side to figure it out, and help them through it.
I think of our 8 year old son whose behaviour changes very quickly upon entering a shop. He becomes erratic, making noises, banging into me, grabbing at things he wants ... something is WRONG and he's desperately trying to fix it, to calm his overloaded nervous system. I've talked to him about it during safe and quiet times at home - asking him if he possibly knows what upsets him. Is it the lights? The smells? But he still has no idea. My only strategy at the moment is to avoid shops during busy times, to avoid going in to shops with too many of his siblings at once, explain beforehand so he's not dropped into the situation unexpectedly, and to wait until he matures and believe that he will be able to manage eventually.
I also started to think of one of the most vulnerable times I've experienced - giving birth. I've chosen to have people around me who know me, trust me, believe in my ability, and can figure out what I'm trying to communicate when the words go around my head but don't come out my mouth! I've supported a friend through three of her births, so have seen the other side of it too.
And then, I thought of people going through a situation, sometimes daily, where their stress and anxiety levels are so high that they barely manage. But for some reason, the next day they find the ability go on again. Think of a child struggling in an unhealthy school environment. There may be so many things triggering the sensory part of their brain, using up so much of their "coping" that there is little left for anything else. For many reasons they may feel hopeless, worthless, less than everyone else. But because their mind is so tied up with the stress and the coping there is very little ability to explain what they're going through.
A worried parent may watch their child disappear into themselves, start self-harming, develop worrying disorders, and ask them "What's going on? How can I help you?" but the ability to explain, the ability to find answers may be lacking. I feel really bad, and I know it happens often sadly, that the parent feels the need to be armed with bullet-proof "reasons" and "explanations" because THEY will be questioned by education or mental health authorities, family members or friends. And then even if they do have bullet-proof answers for "why my child is not managing in this environment" they may feel shot down if the authorities disrespectfully fob them off, or half-heartedly offer an alternative that they feel could possibly help if the child would just co-operate.
My aim here is not to run schools or medical professionals down, but to give a voice to the children who can't tell you why they're not coping, can't even begin to list in their head all the wrong things and feelings they're having. They may be too busy beating themselves up for not coping, for not achieving the way they think is expected of them.
The most support this family has had in relation to mental health and behavioural issues has come from people (like our GP, and our current behaviouralist) who respect our knowledge of our situation, and after I have managed to give a small slice of information, according to my ability on that particular day, they say "Ok - yes, I believe this is an issues, I'll do whatever I can for you."
When your 3 year old comes to you with their hand trapped in two magnet tiles, or their finger trapped in a peg, but can't tell you ... you figure out what's wrong and you can fix that.
When your school-aged child is vulnerable, but can't explain the fact that they should be taken out of the system - and needs you to fix it for them - YOU CAN. Get some support from outside the education system, validate your child's feelings, work out a plan of action - don't let them suffer a minute longer.