Anxiety, Autism, Getting ready for school, Health, Mornings, parenting

Managing severe anxiety and school refusal? A method from the heart.

Unable to get my son Hunter out of bed I try every trick in the book. I make tea, fizzy vitamin C and pancakes. I rubbed his stiff and sore muscles. I suggest how better he will feel once he is up moving around. I remind how he will feel proud of himself for going in on time. The covers are whipped off. The radio is put on. The alarm is left on by the pillow. I beg and plead. I begged. I begged. I leave the room to cry. The covers are back on. His back faces me. I put my hand on his shoulder.  Here we are again I say inside. I make the phone call.

“Hunter will not be in school today. He isn’t feeling well.” Again. Every day.

Anxiety is invisible. It is hard to spot from the outside. It can be hard to name what it is when you have it. The reason for having anxiety can be a multiple and varied. It can take over everything and leave the person affected unable to function.  It leads to people feeling suicidal in extreme cases. Anxiety is complicated, emotional physiological response to fear and uncertainty with very real physical symptoms. Hunters’ included tummy cramps, trouble breathing and migraines. My own includes sweating profusely and my mind going totally blank when asked questions.

These symptoms of anxiety can not be controlled by the sufferer. You can’t stop sweaty hands or tummy cramps. They are just there. A physical response to pressure. What matters is whether of not they over power our whole lives to the point where we can’t function. This happened to Hunter. His anxiety was so severe he couldn’t get out of bed. He couldn’t attend family events. He couldn’t attend school.

Sometimes anxiety looks like laziness. My son certainly appeared lazy. He was staying up late. Then all night. He was unable to sleep so was self soothing by reading or watching his favourite anime’s. Everyone said I wasn’t being tough enough. I should do more. Take away his internet. Take away his computer. Take away his weekly rock school if he didn’t go into school. I should allow him to fail.

“But he is failing,” I said in his Team Around the Child meeting, “Everyday!”

I knew there must be a better way than punishing him further. I just needed to find it. Besides we had tried the reward positive behaviour and

Anxiety creeps in and possibly never leaves. But it is possible to overcome it. Although it may never go completely. We have done it together. Here’s the method I followed.

I realised I couldn’t go on with this situation, neither could my son, neither could his Dad. His younger brothers were missing out on a relaxed family home. The only method that made sense was the following.

Come from the heart.

Hunter needed support. It was clear that he was is a very bad way. He struggled to speak to me about what was going on. He would answer questions vaguely. He told me he was depressed and he had anxiety. He said it was so bad he couldn’t even get out of bed. Slowly I was able to piece together how severe it was and that the main cause was the school environment.

Reduce expectations.

A few years before the problems had come to a head Hunter had told me our expectations of him were too high. I replied it was only because he was so damn talented and capable. But I noted it inside to reduce some of the expectations. Listening to our children is vital. But it wasn’t enough to change our expectations at home.

School life came with demands that he struggled with due to sensory over stimulation and poor organisational skills. Hunter had always struggled with completing home work through primary. At secondary school I am sure it was his inability to organise himself to do home work on time that started the refusals as students at his school receive negative codes if they don’t hand in work. Hunters solution, just don’t go.

Take away the cause of the anxiety where/if possible.

It took us a long time to decide to Home Ed, over 2 years of refusal which became steadily worse, and it wasn’t easy to let go. But as soon as we had done it we saw improvements. During the following weeks and months our son relaxed. He played with his brothers, he ate more, he pushed his long hair out of his eyes and best of all he smiles and laughs with us.

Provide something positive to build confidence.

We needed Hunter to want to get up and go out even though he wasn’t attending school. We wanted him to have social experiences that were enjoyable. Luckily we found some amazing music experiences that have completely changed his life through giving him the confidence to be out and with other people. He has been composing music with 14 other young musicians thanks to a fantastic programme locally. He even went to Birmingham to perform the song they had written together. He also spoke about his anxiety and how playing music with this group helps him to feel better on our County radio station.

After over a year of unschooling at home and lots of music activities Hunter is currently attending sixth form college and his attendance is steadily improving.

He still gets anxious but he is able to manage it because he is living his life on his terms.

I am incredibly proud of him.

*My son chose his own online alias Hunter.

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ASC, ASD, Autism, Dental Health, Health, Recipes, Sensory

Recipe to support Oral Hygiene and Halt Teeth Decay

I have struggled to keep Bears teeth healthy since he began eating food voraciously. One place he has always struggled to have any touch is within his mouth. Every night he would lie on the floor and I would torture him by attempting to brush his teeth. At some point he could stand up and I would brush his teeth and even more recently he has been slightly more independent in terms of doing a little brushing himself. You might have thought he would prefer to brush his own teeth if it is such a sensory overwhelm for him but the routine of me pinning him down lives on. It was that bad I guess. He even sometimes lies on the floor before we start.

His teeth have suffered. Mainly his back teeth. I kept taking him to the dentist but none of them helped as they were more concerned about him in their room than helping him. I did get to tell one of them off recently. Which I have to admit gave me pleasure. He had metal caps put over his decaying back teeth age 4 and 5. He nearly had 4 teeth out age 4 but I managed to get him to see a Specialist Dentist. A dentist who could manage him immediately and he because of that he now sees the family dentist locally.

So we went to see the local Childrens Dentist because one of the metal caps was damaged. We had to see her and not the Specialist because they have changed the whole system of referrals….sigh. She started saying how she doesn’t recommend the caps herself. And I was very quick to point out that I knew that because she had sent my son age 4 to have 4 teeth removed. The same teeth he still has inside his mouth thanks to the metal caps. That shut her up. Anyway I have drifted off the point. I just wanted to explain how big a deal tooth health is to our family. To explain how it can relate to sensory issues and that often you need to fight for better health care. In case I haven’t made that last point clear I believe I took Bear to see the dentist 4 or 5 times in a year and a half, some appointments he didn’t even manage to sit in the chair before we left, before I managed to get a Specialist Dentist appointment because I refused to let him have his teeth taken out that easily. Age 5 he had four metal caps put on and we could finally start brushing his back teeth. Because the pain had reduced.

I have always used Aloe Dent Sensitive Toothpaste believing it to be the healthiest option available. I never even considered making my own. But I changed my mind when researching dental products for George (this is my pseudonym for Bears Dad. I don’t know why but today that’s the one I choose). He had terrible gum pain and taste in his mouth. After researching everything natural on the market I found an oil product, called Glacial Blue, that I couldn’t buy in the UK, but that had the best reviews of all the products I found. When I discovered it’s ingredients were just a carrier oil and peppermint and spearmint essential oils I decided to make our own. Wow. It is brilliant. Georges pain has receded, he has had some amalgam fillings replaced with ceramic so that could also be a major factor but I have recently read that some ingredients in any shop bought natural toothpastes are really bad for our dental health.

Take glycerin one of the main ingredients in many natural toothpastes. It apparently contributes to de-mineralisation and can prevent re-mineralisation. Glycerin coats the teeth which can lead to decay over time as the teeth need to be able to absorb the minerals in our saliva to strengthen them.

So here it is. The simplest tooth oil recipe that not only cleans our teeth and leaves them feeling fabulous, but is also safe, natural and supports our dental hygiene.

Tooth Oil Recipe

50ml Almond Oil

15 drops of Peppermint oil

15 drops of Myrrh Oil

Dropper Bottle

Add all of the ingredients to the bottle and shake. It’s ready to go.

Here is where I chose to buy my oils. NHR are organic and food grade which is essential when using essential oils that are likely to be ingested.

I chose to use Myrrh oil instead of the spearmint in our recipe because the qualities of spearmint are very similar to peppermint.

Peppermint oil is freshens your breathe and whitens your teeth as well as removing any film coverings to the surface of your teeth. It has anti bacterial properties.

Myrrh oil can help aid gum health by promoting the flow of blood to tissue. Myrrh oil has some amazing healing properties that are perfect for dental health including relieving toothache, gingivitis, and mouth ulcers, and also freshens your breath.

I just created a new version of the above recipe where I supplemented the almond oil (which is runny so does drip from the brush) with coconut oil (which is solid+ no drip) and trialling it on Bear tonight he said,

“Tastes exactly like Coconut. I’ll have the rest.”

So he did. I didn’t initially use coconut because the other 2 (as Bear would call his brothers) don’t like the taste of it. Boo. But Bear does and I do so it can be our special paste. No more drips for us!

Our boys have adjusted really well to our homemade tooth oil. I even use it after brushing as a final conditioning rinse.

I am keen to see how our dental health adjusts over the course of the next year. It seems to be positive so far.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on dental health and any DIY recipes you’ve tried and tested. Please comment below.

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