Is there any help out there?

Over the past year, GG has started to struggle with her behaviour and it has become progressively more difficult. It has been incredibly challenging at times with full on meltdowns – and no, I do not mean a toddler type tantrum – I am talking about complete loss of control, repetitive aggressive / dangerous movements, screeching that must hurt her throat and an inability to be distracted at all. Occasionally GG is hurting herself despite our best efforts to keep her safe. Anything from 15 mins to an hour is typical and it breaks my heart.

 

Wrapping GG up into a huge cuddle, using deep pressure and singing repeatedly is the only strategy we have for these situations. It has a varying degree of success but at least keeps her safe and if I am honest the singing helps keep me calm too. However we are very aware that we won’t always be able to do this – already a tall 6 year old, for a child with low muscle tone and hypermobility, GG is incredibly strong when determined.

 

Of course where are my other kids when this is happening? Looking after themselves is the answer – the amazing big sister watching over the well behaved younger brother, both knowing that staying away is safest and so wonderfully bringing GG her favourite blanket and an apple that can so often provide a comfort – but at times is thrown back in their faces….how to explain that GG cannot help it? How to ensure that they know GG loves them and treasures them and in that moment she is not herself.

 

It is difficult to admit you need help with behaviours. I felt a failure that I could not manage a 6 year old, that GG who most people see as the truly adorable giggly girl she is, could prove such a challenge at home. I found this really difficult to vocalise. However we needed help and that is what I sought – rather unsuccessfully….

 

Avenue 1: School – Of course GG’s behaviour in school is impeccable, brilliant in fact. That means we don’t get any help with issues at home.

Avenue 2: GP – Try school. Umm did that. Oh.

Avenue 3: The amazing Swan networks – they came up with the most promising options, our Learning Disability nurse (doesn’t exist here), the challenging behaviour foundation – a fab website with loads of resources but you need a group of 10 to access any workshops. Educational psychologist – ah yes but they are attached to school – see point 1.

Avenue 4: School nurse – suggested CAMHS – we explored that option. The first questions were around drug use, alcohol abuse and underage pregnancy. Clearly not quite the right forum for GG.

Avenue 5: Paediatrician – suggested the school nurse and to look at the ‘Local Offer’ – this did lead to the discovery of a great resource online but nothing which fitted the bill (I’ll return to ‘the bill’ shortly)

Avenue 6: The Care Commissioning Group (CCG) – yes I resorted to meeting with the CCG team to try and understand where in the jungle of LA / NHS provision did learning disability behaviour support sit. The answer ‘we don’t know’.

 

In the end we racked up another impressive bill by seeing a private educational psychologist – money well spent as it has helped so much but it should not be necessary. A full and proper assessment of the extent of GG’s learning disability – it hurt to hear, I shed a few tears but it helped us to understand. We can now distinguish between misbehaviour and anxiety – we had not realised how anxious GG can be, reassurance and understanding has helped our gorgeous girl so much. Tactics for turning aggressive behaviour to her siblings into fun, enrolling GG’s siblings in how to do this proved a great move. This has started to really help life at home.

 

If you’ve made this far you might like to indulge in a little light relief – in a kind of, if I don’t laugh I will cry kind of a way – here’s my favourite selection of comments I have heard this summer….

 

‘You’re a bit big for that buggy’ (Random stranger in pharmacy) – that’s right GG up you get and walk!

‘The rest of us have to get our own kids to school’ (SEN transport team) – uh huh, not quite the same though is it, oh and BTW I get my other kids to school all on my own, grrrr.

‘But all kids have meltdowns – are you sure she isn’t doing it for attention’ (Another mum) – that’s right, in order to get attention my daughter needs to pull out her own hair…..

‘Have you tried the naughty step when she is in a meltdown?’ (Well meaning friend) – now why didn’t I think of that, next time GG is out of control clawing to get out of my grasp, I will sit her on the naughty step, that will fix it right?

‘Honestly – my (neurotypical) daughter is just like that’ (A less known parent) – no, really, just no.

‘So how are you coping Mum? It’s important to look after yourself’ ‘(GP) – silent screaming in my head as no practical help is offered.

 

Needless to say it has been a summer of wine, a ‘few’ G&Ts and a whole load of chocolate J

 

Dear Mrs May….

EU pic

Dear Mrs May…..Firstly I would like to extend my congratulations on your appointment as Prime Minister. I am of course aware of the significant challenge you are now facing in leading the UK through the separation process from the EU.

I am contacting you now, to ask that as part of this separation process, that the relatively small –  but very important – rare disease and undiagnosed community are considered.

I am the mother of a child with an undiagnosed genetic condition – one of 6000 unique children  born every year. There are many more diagnosed with rare diseases. The EU has made rare disease a strategic health priority, and its’ influence in this area has been significant.

You may already be aware that the UK is the centre for genetic research for rare diseases and I can only assume that we will lose this status in due course. These genetic research programmes are the hope we have for a future diagnosis –  which is our only chance of a prognosis, potential treatment and maybe prevention in future generations.

There is a high level of anxiety in the disability community, that is amplified in the rare disease and undiagnosed community, as we face the possibility of losing the significant EU investment in this field. For many of our community, we fear there will simply be too few affected patients in the UK to justify the investment required.

The key benefits of the EU focus in this area to date are:

  • Collaboration across borders and critical mass for an otherwise small population
  • Shared skills, resources and information – including access to niche experts across all countries
  • Research funding (otherwise cost prohibitive)
  • Medicine authorisation across the EU (otherwise cost prohibitive)
  • Innovation and knowledge transfer permitted by European Directives
  • Health benefits for those in the rare / undiagnosed community

I appreciate it is too early to begin to understand the full implications of Brexit. However if consideration can be given to protecting some of the critical work in this area, it would be of significant benefit to this community.

I, and many others, sincerely hope that you will give this full and proper consideration.

 

 

An Ode to a Special Dad

He’s the one she calls for, the Daddy she adores,

The one that she runs to, the minute she hears the door,

Daddy is her hero, he makes everything ok,

When he’s home, we’re altogether, she likes it best that way.

It’s not an easy job being Daddy to any child really,

But when they’re extra special, it becomes even more tricky,

The Dad is often the forgotten one, no-one ever thinks to ask…

How are you feeling? Coping? You always maintain your mask.

Behind the scenes you are vital, the one who holds us all together,

You’re the voice of reason, always there when I’m at the end of my tether,

You’re the one who calms us, makes it ok to just be,

But equally the Daddy who will fight every battle for his family.

How many times I catch you, that adoring look in your eyes,

So torn, so incredibly proud – holding back tears, trying not to cry,

Though she can’t quite say ‘Daddy’ – it gets muddled with her ‘blankie’…

It is with you, her hero, that GG is most happy.

BREXIT, DISABILITY AND BEING UNDIAGNOSED – WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

  1. EU pic

I am aware that this is an emotive and challenging subject and I may regret writing this post. However,  there is limited transparency about the impact of an exit from the EU  – probably, because no-one can really know. With a couple of weeks to go until the EU referendum, I am disappointed at the lack of clarity and scaremongering both generally, and in the disability community, from both the leave and remain campaigns. I have also struggled to understand the role of the EU in rare disease which in our case, with GG remaining undiagnosed, is particularly important.

I am no expert on this topic – this is simply a summation of the information I understand to be true, combined with a few of my own views.

So here goes….

WILL PROTECTION IN LAW REDUCE FOR THOSE WITH DISABILITIES?

This is tricky, technically our laws are domestic and not European, however as a member of the EU we have to comply with European Directives. In theory UK law does not change  if we vote leave, however the question is to what extent does the EU provide an extra layer of protection that stops the UK Government from weakening those laws.

Recent legislation including the Equality Act 2010 (which replaced the Disability Discrimination Act) is derived from European Directives. It is highly unlikely that these would change in the short term, in fact they could remain forever. However, being outside of the EU would give the Government the opportunity to move away from the principles established, and future UK law could move in a different direction. I want to say that I don’t think that would happen, but given recent cuts to basic services for the disabled, it is entirely possible that over time legal protection could diminish.

An important clarification is that the European Court of Justice and the Human Rights Act do not form part of the EU. The European Convention of Human Rights includes both non EU and EU countries, which means that leaving the EU does not mean abandoning these. The European Court of Justice decisions to date would remain valid in UK law, however it could change with time if the UK Government decided to.

In summary. probably not much will change in the short term and maybe not even longer term. However my instinct is that we are safer staying in – my experience is telling me that the EU is more likely to preserve and extend protections for the disabled, given their track record on social reform, than relying on the current UK Government.

WILL THERE BE FURTHER CUTS TO SERVICES FOR THE DISABLED?

In the short term there is no question that the uncertainty of a leave vote will cause an economic dip – the only thing both sides agree on. Whether this will be a full on recession or a short lived dip is impossible to know. Maybe in the long term, economically it will be better, maybe not.

One thing is sure – if the result on 23rd June is an out, we will see an immediate negative impact on the economy and I ask you this – can we stand by as there are more cuts to disability and carers allowances? Can we see more special needs schools fundraising for vital basic equipment no longer funded? Can we allow more parents to have to fight for the statutory provisions in ECH plans which Local Authorities and Care Commissioning Groups simply do not have the funds to provide? Can we take anything more away from the NHS? Can the undiagnosed community cope with an even poorer level of co-ordination of care? The answer has to be a no.

If I hear one more argument that Norway has fabulous health and public services and therefore ‘out’ is best, I will explode. The reason Norway has a fabulous level of service provision is simple. They pay on average 42% of all income in tax. They respect the fact that paying tax protects them and others, and evens out the imbalances in society, ensuring everyone has a good quality of life. We however live in a land where even our Prime Minister who has loads of money, dodged inheritance tax. A paltry £40k in his world – another teacher in a special needs school in my head. Fundamentally our culture is broken at the top and that is why damaging decisions on services are allowed to be made.

You only have to read the newspapers to know that cuts made over the past half a decade have disadvantaged the disabled more than most – 19 times more than the general public according to the UK Centre for Welfare Reform. Outsourcing of the NHS bit by bit, the Southern Healthcare scandals, the high level of avoidable epilepsy deaths – none of these is attributable to the EU but a further economic hit will increase the occurrence rates.

The undiagnosed community already suffer from disconnected and unco-ordinated services, the fact that we do not fit in a box makes it harder to access care and support. Further cuts will only make this harder for those lacking a diagnosis. Read here to find out more – Out of the Box

The other factor to consider is the widely debated impact of ongoing EU migration. A high proportion of EU migrants are working, fulfilling critical roles in our country and keeping our economy standing – a very low proportion are claiming benefits according to the DWP – although precise figures are unknown. This means that EU migrants are contributing through tax and NI so in theory the additional people are funding additional services. The reality is that money is being sucked up elsewhere and not invested in expanding the services to support this wider population. Migrants are easy to blame for all ills, personally I do not buy it.

Another hit to the economy, regardless of short or long term will lead to further cuts to services for the disabled. More cuts leads to less help, services that are stretched to breaking point and ultimately more deaths – short term or otherwise this is a worrying prospect.

WHAT COULD LEAVING THE EU MEAN FOR RARE DISEASE RESEARCH AND THE FUTURE HOPE FOR THE UNDIAGNOSED COMMUNITY?

This is where I become completely convinced that ‘in’ is best. GG like 6000 other children born every year without a diagnosis, will cease to benefit from a wide variety of EU mechanisms that are furthering rare disease research and ultimately leading to that much needed diagnosis.

The EU incentivises member states to undertake research providing funding to Universities, health care providers and private organisations working in this field. Under the umbrella of the EU, the UK is working across borders to research, develop and find treatments for rare diseases. The EU has listed rare disease as one of 23 health priorities stating that there is a need to incentivise and promote work in this area, which is otherwise cost prohibitive to individual member states and pharmaceuticals. The European Medicine Agency is based in London and its work helps to ensure that the UK is towards the top of the list for investment in drugs.

The framework of the EU allows researchers and policy makers to share data which would not otherwise be possible. It is only through sharing data that the patterns and trends which allow the identification of rare diseases – the diagnosis so many await. In some cases cross border treatments are made possible through the EUs work

The UK plays a key role in genetic and rare disease research. This work may not completely stop if we leave the EU however it will lose EU funding, the opportunities to collaborate and the input of all member states has to be better than just one. Our ability to influence rare disease policy and benefit from the EU approach will significantly diminish.

For GG, this would be catastrophic to step away from the one thing that gives us hope of a diagnosis, a prognosis and possible future interventions to improve quality of life.

THE IMPACT ON MOBILITY IN THE EU:

On every special needs parent forum, there are true and very distressing tales of disabled young adults, at the age of 18 years being moved away from their families. The law in the UK (and not the rest of the EU as far as I understand) currently means that at the point of becoming an adult, the family who have cared for their disabled relative since birth, are in the hands of social services often unfamiliar with the young person’s situation. Where the disabled young person concerned can communicate their wishes, this is also at times over looked.

Leaving the EU means that the ability for us as a family to leave the UK and move to another EU country, to ensure that GG can remain with us – for as long as we are able to look after her and for as long as she wishes – becomes more complicated. Probably cost prohibitive.

A COUPLE OF FINAL POINTS (NOT DISABILITY FOCUSSED):

  • Memories of the two world wars…..

I will not be alone in recalling the horrors of stories passed on from grandparents – this was not so long ago. I personally have always felt the EU provides a comfort blanket against a repeat of the horrors of the first half of the 20th century. An institution which was able to forgive, forget and rebuild, with collaboration at its’ core. Today’s threats come from both further afield and from within, and I cannot understand how standing alone against terrorism can possibly be better than standing together. Imagining the UK in the same situation as Paris and Brussels, I would like to think that unity will conquer.

  • The prospect of Donald Trump as US President….

The man is clearly bigoted against anyone who is not an able bodied, white, American male. I personally did not believe he stood a chance until New York voted for Trump – one of the most vibrant, diverse cities in the world and they chose him. The prospect of exit from the EU equating to closer ties to a US run by Trump is, in my view, one of the strongest arguments for voting in.

TO CONCLUDE:

Well done if you have read this far and thanks for sticking with it. I do not profess to have all the answers, however for the elements that are most important to the undiagnosed and wider disabled community, I cannot help but feel that remaining with the EU is best and at the end of the day what’s best for GG will always get my vote.

IT’S NOT JUST ANOTHER PTA….

There will be a special needs school near you with a PTA or a School Association that will welcome volunteers with open arms. WE NEED YOU!

 After a year on the equivalent of the PTA at GGs special needs school, I find myself compelled to put pen to paper and try to describe the difference between this and a mainstream PTA.

I have always been an active mum who enjoys playing a role on the various committees associated with my children and their schools. This coming weekend I have managed to rope myself into running a Lego stall at the Spring Fair at my eldest child’s primary. In two weeks I in charge of salad at a school BBQ – a daunting responsibility….!

When I volunteered to join the the special school fundraising committee, I figured that I knew the score. I could attend a few meetings, support a few events and go home with that glowing feeling of having done something useful. Having completed 3 years on a committee for a pre-school where the livelihood of the staff relied on our management skills, I was pretty unphased when asked to take on the role of secretary. Agendas and minutes I can do, plus churning out a few thank you letters as needed –  no issues at all.

The reality however is a world apart from my previous experiences. When you are faced with the decision of providing specialist seating for a child as the Occupational Therapists have run out of funds for this year vs. paying for IPads that will allow a child who cannot otherwise communicate in class to take part in lessons – you find yourself torn and reaching to your own pocket in desperation – in my case usually to find a snotty tissue and a few 5ps.

It is heart wrenching to spend months organising a school Christmas fair, to find that of the 40 odd families at the school, there are several children too ill to attend, parent volunteers dropping out at the last minute due to hospitalisations and in the end you manage to raise a few hundred pounds. I have never been to a meeting where the requests for funding are under several thousands. Just keeping the minibuses on the road costs £4000 per year.

I know I am in danger of stating the obvious here but if you think mainstream school staff are stretched – take a look at the special needs school staff. If you think mainstream parents are time poor – just read some of the many fabulous blogs about being a parent to a child with needs so complex, they attend a special needs school. Add those two together and you are left with the resource that has to fund vital equipment for a school that is desperately under-funded. The maths does not add up and it is soul destroying.

We are extremely fortunate to have occasional funding from the Rotary Club and other local fundraising groups. However when we nominate the special needs school to be charity for the local car rally or sports event, there is always a need to provide a band of volunteers and we simply do not have the numbers.

volunteer-652383__180

So my call to action for anyone with a little spare time on their hands – there will be a special needs school near you that would welcome you with open arms. Be prepared for some tough decisions but nothing matches the sense of satisfaction when you see the kids on the bus, off to their therapies and knowing you helped to make that possible.

Welcome to ‘No Man’s Land’ #Undiagnosed

No Mans Land

There is a well known essay called ‘Welcome to Holland’ that many parents of those with disabilities feel they can relate to. There is a link to ‘Welcome to Holland’ below for those who are not familiar.

http://www.our-kids.org/Archives/Holland.html

For those in the undiagnosed camp, it feels less like ‘Welcome to Holland’ and more like ‘Welcome to No Man’s Land’. Those in Holland set off on a journey that has ended somewhere definite – accepting that it is not Italy as they had hoped. Without a diagnosis, no explanations and no label, we have all landed in limbo, we are in No Man’s Land.

So what does it feel like in No Man’s Land? Well to begin with it is a very lonely place. We were supposed to go to Italy. Then we were diverted to Holland but Holland won’t let us in. We don’t belong, our Passports lack the correct stamp to enter the country. We are stranded.

It is confusing and there is nowhere to turn. Professionals are baffled at the lack of a box to put you in. They pop over from Holland and try to help but ultimately the country is not set up for those without a diagnosis. Service providers struggle with the lack of a name to put on the form. Geneticists review your conundrum of a child, they sometimes become excited by the challenge. They confirm that you do not belong in Italy and neither do you belong in Holland but they cannot tell you where you should go. There is no guide book.

As a parent, you research all of those diagnoses you can see over the border in Holland, sending the geneticist name after name of potential syndromes – only to find they have all been ruled out. It is unlikely we will find our answers on google but we try. We have no better options.

Then comes the ground breaking research programmes, the hope that these might give us access to Holland. We willingly give our samples and wait, hopeful of an outcome. For some there is success and they grab their passports and flee across the border to face a new set of challenges. For others there is no answer and we join the next research programme. We peer over the border and wish we could reach Holland. We wistfully dream of Italy and we share the ongoing pain of those in Holland that we will never go there.

In the meantime, we carry on with life. We battle to co-ordinate care for our little ones despite the lack of joined up medical records. We fight for services that are not geared up to cater for those without a label. We join with Holland to campaign for better services for all disabled children, whilst flagging the extra layer of complexity that specifically affects us in No Man’s Land.

We also after a while learn to live life and enjoy what we have. A diagnosis is the aim but in the meantime, we enjoy our precious children and the joy that they bring. The small steps forward are extra special as they were not expected – no prognosis means no limits. The beautiful smiles and giggles that melt our hearts and we are grateful for the richness our children bring to our lives – regardless of the country we live in.

We also meet a whole new group of people. Despite 6000 children every year being born without a diagnosis, we are a relatively small community.

Please support my campaign to improve the co-ordination of care for undiagnosed children. You can find further details here – Out of the Box

 Swan UK are the lifeline for those in No Man’s Land. We need this group and funding is at a critical junction with some big grants ending. My one request is to help support Swan UK to continue running and supporting the 1000 families already signed up, as well as reaching out to the 1000s of other families battling in isolation.

If you would like to donate to support the work of SWAN UK you can do so via the Just Giving page or our Virgin Money Giving page. You can also donate by texting SWAN11 £3 (or any amount up to £10) to 70070

Frustration, swearing and tears….

The biggest myth of all – the support for disabled children is good.  Adequate is a massive overstatement. Naively us special needs parents, anticipate that the care will we need is there. At the start – still in shock, we navigate our way through, expecting that at some point it comes together. It hasn’t happened yet.

frust

For us, physio was the first non-hospital based support we accessed. Not rolling, not sitting, can’t even straighten her legs, we need help. From referral to the first appointment it took 3 months. Let me say that again – 3 months. How old was GG? 6 months old. We spent one third of her precious life waiting for that first appointment.

At last the day arrived, we were optimistic, nervous but hopeful of some support. A 3 month wait and a very hassled and over worked physio spent 30 minutes with our daughter. Let me say that again – 30 minutes. After a 3 month wait. When we will see you again? The desperation in our voices, greater than in the famous song. Perhaps a month, maybe 6 weeks. Keep doing the exercises I showed you. We are flummoxed, novices, lost in a scary world with no help. Turns out that every 6 weeks would have been a dream, 4 times a year has been the average. We spend on average £1500 per year on private physio. Not everyone in the same situation can.

Weight gain is poor, solid food cannot be managed – all her peers on baby led weaning, I frankly want to swear. I do. Appropriately, Speech and language is the referral made (SALT in SEN lingo), they can help with eating. We wait for 2 months. Nothing. We self refer to a private SALT and are seen weekly for 3 months before we get an appointment. We waited 5 months. Our baby was not gaining weight and we waited 5 months for the original appointment.

Next was the Occupational Therapist (OT). We needed stuff – equipment, standing frames, special seats, advice on car seats – the physio said we needed stuff but we had to go back to the consultant for a referral. The referral was made when GG was just 2 years old. The first OT we saw was when she started school at age 4.5 years. By this point we were no longer surprised. Disappointed yes, but not surprised. In the meantime, we got stuff – we bought it from SEN sites, we researched car seats and found one that worked. Alone again.

Alone The common thread to all of these referrals was the lack of diagnosis. Every therapist asking us ‘what is the medical condition?’ – we don’t know. We have been told we may never know but we struggle to believe this. We live in the UK, post 2010, surely we will find out one day soon? More than 5 years into our journey and still no answers. It turns out that no label = more hassle. Professionals do not know how to deal with those who remain undiagnosed. Even at times told,further support will be looked at once a diagnosis is confirmed. We are in limbo.

It is incredible that we have to ask and fight for these services. Incredible that we were not referred at the first point of contact. Incredible that one therapist cannot refer to another and we have to start from scratch. Incredible that we have to justify our need for the support because we do not fit into a box.

For context, I have described 3 out of 24 non-medical touchpoints that we have or will need to access in the future. This is the reality of how unco-ordinated and under funded services are.

Out of the Box

The frustration, swearing and tears have eventually resulted in a pro-active and positive effort to make a change. 6000 children are born each year with no diagnosis. Many many more, with a diagnosis, will still suffer from the lack of co-ordination. Please support #outofthebox Out of the Box

 

#undiagnosed should not be a barrier. Please support @swan_uk who provide a lifeline to those with no diagnosis.

*Each individual therapist has tried their hardest to help. This is no way reflects on the individuals but the system. More training on #undiagnosed is needed to avoid delays in services because of a lack of a label.

Swan UK have provided a lifeline to all we have faced in the past 2 years. We need this group and funding is at a critical junction with some big grants ending. My one request is to help support Swan UK to continue running and supporting the 1000 families already signed up, as well as reaching out to the 1000s of other families battling in isolation.

If you would like to donate to support the work of SWAN UK you can do so via the Just Giving page or our Virgin Money Giving page. You can also donate by texting SWAN11 £3 (or any amount up to £10) to 70070


http://www.linkytools.com/thumbnail_linky_include.aspx…

An ode to the SEN school application process

Out of the Box

I was one of those parents who grumbled at the process,

the form filling and bureaucracy – it felt such an excess,

but the mainstream system is simple really, it doesn’t even come close,

to the time and energy required to get a special school place

 

First you have to demonstrate that your child has ‘enough’ challenges,

a heartbreaking process where you are forced to focus on the negatives,

writing it down on paper was just so hard to do,

it felt so disconnected for the gorgeous child that is you

 

Then the school visits started to allow us to ‘state a preference’

it was tough confronting the reality that a special school made sense,

the amazing staff, the lovely kids and fabulous therapies,

the emotional side was put aside, to seize the opportunity

 

But of course, it wasn’t straightforward, the school we decided on was out of catchment,

3 miles made all the difference to get agreement to our decision,

So even more paperwork and soul destroying forms,

But we knew it was right, the best for you and so we pushed on

The unexpected challenge was the lack of diagnosis,

Allocating a school place when there wasn’t a prognosis,

Was there really something wrong or was it all made up?

The added stress of no label, we did not fit in a box

 

The day the statement was agreed, we had a small celebration,

We did it, we got past the panel, they made the right decision,

but reading through the reports, hearing words like complex and severe,

it’s not what we see when we look at you – not what we want to hear

 

The time flies by and before we know it, it’s time to start at school,

you are excited not at all apprehensive – and we pretend we are cool!

We drop you off and wave goodbye and spend the day nearby just in case….

But no – you love it – no need to worry, a huge smile on your face

 

You have settled in fabulously, you want to go every day,

We could not be happier, you are making progress in every way,

It was definitely worth the stress, it’s an amazing place to be,

but did it have to be so hard? Please try and make it more easy…..

 

Please support #outofthebox – to help improve the services we access – #undiagnosed should not be a barrier.

http://wp.me/P58LFk-1R

Swan UK have provided a lifeline to all we have faced in the past 2 years. We need this group and funding is at a critical junction with some big grants ending. My one request is to help support Swan UK to continue running and supporting the 1000 families already signed up, as well as reaching out to the 1000s of other families battling in isolation.

If you would like to donate to support the work of SWAN UK you can do so via the Just Giving page or our Virgin Money Giving page. You can also donate by texting SWAN11 £3 (or any amount up to £10) to 70070

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING FORWARD #UNDIAGNOSED

look-back-forward-shot_1x

A year ago, on Undiagnosed Children’s Day 2015, I took my first tentative steps into the world of Twitter Takeover for Swan UK. It was a daunting as a newbie to the world of blogging and Twitter. The overwhelming support on the day resulted in a baptism of fire as #undiagnosed started trending, and the Swan UK feed was impossible to keep up with. It was a fantastic day, knowing that so many people cared, and that we reached so many with the message that #undiagnosed remains a significant issue in the modern medical world.

I continued to blog for a couple of months and through the year, hosted a few more Twitter Takeovers, but found myself struggling to keep publishing despite continuing to write posts on a regular basis. Partly this was down to everyday life. As with all families we have experienced ups and downs, the challenge and joy of 3 young children, with the additional complexities of a child with an undiagnosed genetic condition. Add to this some challenging work situations and I found myself eager to pursue the campaigning but struggling to find a way.

In the autumn, I was thrown off course by the ‘Almost Diagnosis’ (further details in a previous blog The ‘Almost’ Diagnosis) – so close yet so far from finding out the cause of GG’s challenges. Although the ‘almost diagnosis’ is still not ruled out, we are awaiting cardiology and orthoptic reviews, (8 months after referrals were made, grrr) – it remains an unlikely outcome. The ‘Almost Diagnosis’ did however prompt a key question – we know that GG suffers from a rare disease so what difference would a diagnosis make?

I accept that lots of things would not be any different – the constant seizure watch that has me sleeping with one eye open, focused on the video monitor. The addition of another issue to the list – uneven leg length. The myriad of appointments, the challenge of getting into school to meet with teachers and therapists and the increasing behavioural challenges to manage. Please don’t get me started on the battles to get GG into out of school activities – so simple for the majority and yet so hard to find acceptance for GG.

However some things would be different. The lack of diagnosis and associated lack of prognosis means that we did not anticipate a leg length issue, we were not looking for it, a diagnosis may well have told us what to watch for. The knowledge of whether this is a hereditary issue that could affect future generations, that could have opened the door for us to have another. A personal outcome I hope for, would reduce the guilt – I made GG in my body so I will always be responsible, however to put to bed those thoughts which linger in the early hours, was it the blue cheese I ate before I knew I was pregnant? Did I do something else to cause this?

In the past year, the continuous and repetitive assessments for support have continued – we do not fit into a neat box that dictates the support we need. We successfully negotiated our way through the transition from SEN nursery to SEN primary – a journey that was far from seamless. The battle that followed to secure appropriate school transport was another saga. The annual Disability Living Allowance review – often awarded for 5 years to those with a diagnosis – another 42 page form plus appendices. Even down to the box marked ‘medical condition’ to obtain a Queue Assist pass at a theme park. All would be easier if we had a name. As one wise and respected disability lobby group wrote ‘a firm medical diagnosis is hard to ignore’ – and the lack of one creates reason for doubt.

The one upside of no diagnosis is being a part of Swan UK. It is by far the best support group I have been a part of and I have tried a few. 24/7 support from others in the same position, always someone to listen, always someone to celebrate the successes, we are in this together. In the past year, Swan have ensured we are fully informed about the opportunities for diagnosis – incorrect info from professionals that we have been able to challenge – thanks to the knowledge of the staff and other families. We have met with other families, enjoyed an awesome day out together which would not have been possible without Swan UK.

Mostly though, Swan UK has inspired me to try and make a difference. Thanks to a bloggers workshop in the New Year, the collective brains and passion of those in the room gave me the impetus I needed to start a campaign for co-ordinated care. I have no campaign experience, I am a working mum with an incredibly busy home life but determined to try and make a change.

I have recently launch #outofthebox (Out of the Box) to try and improve care for those with #undiagnosed conditions. I have rediscovered my mojo, I have a purpose and I have an amazing support network who give me honest feedback and incredible input.

I will however finish with some positives in the past year, steps that are miniscule to most children but to GG have been significant. Firstly, GG is drinking more, still not enough, but we no longer battle to get tiny amounts of liquid into her. We now have c.80% success with daytime toileting, a phenomenal life skill to achieve. Gross motor skills have progressed well and GG has discovered a love of singing – the most beautiful sound. I have succeeded in finding swimming, horse riding and a Rainbows group that are now welcoming GG with open arms and recognising the contribution she makes to the class. Seeing GG swim independently with a woggle is my memory of the year.

So what next? In the next 12 months our hopes are to discount the ‘Almost Diagnosis’ (all fingers and toes crossed….) and be moved onto the 100,000 genomes project as the next leading research programme. Although likely to be a long lead time, it is the best chance we have of finding a diagnosis. We will battle the transition from ‘statement of educational needs’ to EHCP and we will get the support GG needs. I hope to make an impact with the #outofthebox campaign and influence policy makers to spend their money on care and not repetitive assessments. I plan to investigate therapies to help GG with sensory needs in the hope of helping with behaviours. I may even get brave enough to face the application process for respite care. Mostly I hope to continue to enjoy my fab family, my gorgeous GG and keep everyone as healthy and happy as possible.

Swan UK have provided a lifeline to all we have faced in the past 2 years. We need this group and funding is at a critical junction with some big grants ending. My one request is to help support Swan UK to continue running and supporting the 1000 families already signed up, as well as reaching out to the 1000s of other families battling in isolation.

If you would like to donate to support the work of SWAN UK you can do so via the Just Giving page or our Virgin Money Giving page. You can also donate by texting SWAN11 £3 (or any amount up to £10) to 70070

Happy Undiagnosed Children’s Day 2016!!


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