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"I wouldn't go so far as to call it an attachment disorder..."

These were the words that came out of the mouth of the specialist Paed. I took Erik to see today...

How funny, me, the attachment parenting mum, hearing these words used to describe her first born...

Now before everyone jumps to mine or Erik's defense, I need to say, I agreed with everything the Paed. said. The 45 minute appointment we were meant to have, ended up being 1.5 hours long. He didn't rush it at all. First he talked to me about why I was there (while Erik played in another room), then he brought Erik in and had a chat with him about school and what he liked about school, and didn't like, and what his teacher was like, and what his friends were like and so on... Then he did some measurements of height and weight, and palpated Erik's stomach, and listened to his heart, and tested his BP, and then he sent him back out to play and we talked some more.

He noted that Erik is very intelligent, very sensitive, a visual thinker (all things I already know). He also said that from the little he spoke with Erik, he did note some anxiety, but that it was child level anxiety, not adult level (so Erik wasn't anxious about world events, but rather about personal events)... He said Erik was quite mature for his age, but that the maturity was patchy, intellectual, but not emotional, and that emotionally he was still very innocent (which he noted was a lovely thing to see in a child)...

Having spoken a lot with me about Erik's toddler and child behaviour and some of the circumstances Erik experienced when he was younger (leading up to the stealing and lying), he said that Erik fit the profile of a particular form of anxiety that usually occurs in sensitive children who have experienced a primary carer (usually a mother or father) who has suffered depression (I had bad PND in the wake of Luey's birth), and also experienced a trauma - which for Erik would most likely be the time he witnessed me having a seizure (complete with biting my tongue and bleeding) and being carted away in an ambulance. Because I was in Bendigo at the time, and was flown down to Melbourne, he didn't get to see me until the day after. The Paed. doesn't know this, but he was still being breastfed at the time...

So, basically these sensitive kids who have had their relationship with their primary carer disturbed by depression and then a trauma, take on a role of needing to care for the carer, of being on guard for their relationship being at risk again. They basically live with the anxiety that they will be seperated from their carer and to stem that anxiety they will engage in a socially challenging behaviour, such as stealing food - it gives them a sense of control, I guess (my words, not the Paed's)...

There is no quick or clear solution to this problem. The Paed. has said to combat the social insecurity that Erik feels (where he will bend over backwards to be socially accepted but also finds it difficult to know how to maintain social relationships) we need to get him into a social club or some sort, a community group like scouts, or a church youth group (we don't do church, so not an option), or something like that... As well as this, we need to get him into some form of sport - he suggested tae kwon do because it also teaches self-discipline, healthy living, and gets the kids to do stuff like recite poetry - so is somewhat spiritual as well...

WRT food, he said we should start to really structure all meals and snacks in our house, set rules like always sitting at the table, using a plate, not watching tv, everyone eating together at the same time, etc. This will help him to see food as something other than a passtime anxiety placator or boredom killer...

WRT stealing, he said to remain very firm on the fact that stealing, even from the food stores at home is just not ok, but not to punish him for doing it - just to keep putting the message out that it's not ok, and also to keep keeping temptation out of his way as much as we can (which we do already)...

We're seeing him in another three months times...

If we feel Erik needs more support, he is willing to do some counselling, but he said the kind of counselling would not be cognitive behavioural in nature, but more psycho-analytical, and so it might not lead to a change in behaviour but might help Erik to understand why he behaves the way he does...

This Paed. was so so nice, and said his son is a lot like Erik in many ways, and he seemed to genuinely like Erik (most adults do, actually)... It was good to talk to someone who just didn't fob me off as overreacting to "normal boy behaviour", instead he agreed that Erik's issues are probably too subtle (he is very highly functioning) for "outsiders" to recognise as issues at all, and that it would be something only parents who see the child every day would pick up on - as well as professionals who have encounters kids like Erik before...

Comments

Stitch Sista said…
That sounds like a really great appointment Sif. Must have been so good to have someone understand and acknowledge some stuff, and to also give you some tips for dealing!
Leah said…
I am so pleased you found such a great doc to help you all out!! It must be a massive relief to have somewhere to start, and also some acknowledgment rather than fobbing off. I completely agree he is a lovely boy, very personable and charming, and what you've described with the stealing completely baffling - you'd hate to think of a problem going unchecked and affecting his adulthood despite his parents striving to address it both with your understanding and seeking appropriate help but not getting any ... so this is great :) Feel really excited reading this, you've picked a winner :)
loz said…
Sounds like a great appointment and I hope it will create some positive influence on the things you have been going through with Erik. Yay for someone listening and actually hearing what is going on.
katef said…
So glad you got to see someone who was respectful and helpful - even if there are not quick fixes (not that you'd think there were) it must feel good to have somewhere to start and to have someone who understands and is willing to work with you.
Here's hoping things start looking up for you all.
HipbubbyMama said…
Oh Sif I am so happy for you that you've found this Dr! He sounds absolutely awesome, and wise and..just great! I've really felt frustrated on your behalf with all the fobbing off that's gone on. I agree that Erik is an absolutely gorgeous boy, but being lovely doesn't preclude having anxiety type issues, which I have been certain Erik has. Also, a big thumbs up from me on doing martial arts-it has really helped Liam a LOT doing karate-any type is good IMO-and as we've both noted E and L are quite similar in many ways :)
Lots of yays!!
Sif said…
Thanks guys :)...

That is so true, Jayne - I was actually thinking the other day how strange it was that it hadn't occurred to me that the stealing might be a symptom of anxiety, when you'd mentioned Liam having anxiety and I'd so often said that Liam, in many ways, is a slightly younger version of Erik (without the stealing, obviously, because each child reacts in their own way)...

It's funny how having someone say, "there is a logical, non-sociopathic, reason for this behaviour" can suddenly make everything seem not so bad... This has actually allowed me to worry a little bit less about Erik becoming a criminal, and be more compassionate about what drives the stealing behaviour...
Nalin said…
Sif I'm so glad you had such a positive experience with your appt, and that it has led to you feeling more at peace with what's been happening with Erik, and to understand it a little better. It is so wonderful when you feel truly heard by a health professional, and when you walk away having truly benefitted.

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