When Jayden started school at the age of 5 years old everything was fine for the first few weeks. Then I started to get calls from the school about his behaviour. They told me he was being disruptive, shouting and using inappropriate language. Sometimes he would hurt himself by bashing his head on doors or slapping himself. It was really upsetting and worrying.
At one point I was getting phone calls from the school every day, if it got to 10am and I hadn’t had a call then I knew it was safe to have my breakfast but normally I’d have to go and pick him up. At the time I was pregnant with my daughter and it was exhausting. Just 3 days after I’d given birth I had to go and get Jayden from school because he was out of control. In the first nine months of school he was suspended 17 times.
At the time, I raised the need for some support for Jayden’s mental health as I was concerned as his dad had a history of psychosis and schizophrenia. Jayden would tell me that he that he had ‘an army in his head, one half was good and the other was bad’. CAMHS had said they couldn’t help but I pushed and pushed until eventually Jayden received therapy once a week. Yet I felt the focus was too much about our relationship and not enough on Jayden’s mental health needs. Eventually Jayden was referred to a children’s psychiatric unit and was finally diagnosed with ADHD (at the extreme end of the scale), emotional and behaviour disorder and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). This was when he started taking medication and I also had some respite care two nights a week.
At this time Jayden was moved to a ‘family school’ and he was there for two years but every week he was being excluded – it wasn’t working for him and I was very stressed as I was having to take a lot of time off work to attend joint sessions. I still felt a lot of the focus was on me, rather than recognising the extra needs he had.
By the time Jayden was 8 years old, he was onto his fifth school. For a few months everything seemed to be okay but then it started to go downhill again. By Christmas I was phoned and told he would be leaving the school – there was no discussion or warning. Jayden ended up out of school for a year. I was so worried for him as he missed so much and he wasn’t developing his social skills because he wasn’t with children his own age. He had no friends and he was very impulsive and would say inappropriate things. I felt so protective of him because although he could be aggressive he was also very vulnerable. He’s a very intelligent boy and I did all my research on ADHD and the other conditions and could see what worked with him during that time he wasn’t at school. But I was also exhausted by this point and worried about how he behaved towards his little sister. I could see he was rebelling more and it was getting harder as he got older.
When he was 9 years old Jayden started at a new special school. Again, everything was okay for the first few days but then he started to be excluded again. At one point the school had to call the police as Jayden had barricaded himself in a classroom with his friends. During the summer break, I worked with him and we did a lot of things together – I also wanted him to feel that I trusted him to do things independently.
So far, we’ve managed to keep him at his special school and although he’s 11 now he will stay at that school for another year until they feel he is ready for secondary school. I would love for him to go to a mainstream school where he has the right support in place so he can build the social skills he will need in the future. I have so many concerns. I worry that he won’t be able to enjoy a teenage life and that I will forever have to monitor and check on him. I have a lot of fear for his future, especially because of the difficulty he has controlling his anger. When he gets angry, you have to wait for him to calm down and that just won’t happen in the real world. My biggest fear is that he will go out one day and not come home.
I am very tired. I feel the system all the way along has focused far too much on me and not enough on diagnosing Jayden early enough and giving him the help he needs. I have my own health issues but everything has had to be put on hold so that I can focus on Jayden. I feel that I have been fighting for the right support since Jayden was five years old and it’s exhausting. If I wasn’t a strong person then I would have been broken by the system.