Waiting to see a psychiatrist during the spring of 2009 was tough. During that time it became clear that our 10 year-old son’s state of health was connected with his school life which became particularly obvious when the SENCO visited us one afternoon. There she sat in my lounge trying to encourage my son to return to school but my son remained distant, uncommunicative and focused on the TV. Every now and then he would turn and look at me and gesture to me in such a way as to communicate that I had betrayed him by letting this teacher into our home. And I felt I had betrayed him. My son could not cope with visitors, not even family and friends, so to allow a teacher to come into my home was too much for my poor boy to deal with. After this futile visit, I therefore decided that we would not discuss school with our son and concentrate instead on building him up from scratch. This sounds quite extreme doesn’t it to say that we started from scratch but I felt I had to just concentrate on the basics such as getting him up, dressed and washed and eating at normal times. I felt it important to hang on to some structure for him, even if he did just spend his days lying curled up on the settee watching television. If lying on the settee would be part of his recovery then so be it for I had realised very quickly that whatever it was that was clinically wrong with my son would require a gradual and patient approach.
So this was the pattern of our lives by the time the psychiatrist visited us at home a few weeks later. The doctor did not put too much pressure on my son and was quite prepared to converse with me when my son refused to communicate. After asking me a series of questions, she concluded that my son was suffering from severe anxiety and agoraphobia.
As a result, it was decided that my son would require regular check-ups with the psychiatrsit but these, as I was told, would have to be conducted in the clinic, for home visits were only used in urgent cases. Whilst I can appreciate that there are more serious situations where someone’s life is under threat which necessitates an urgent home visit, my son was a 10-year old child with a diagnosis of ASD who was totally unable to leave the house. So I explained how impossible it was to even get him out of the front door and she reluctantly agreed to make a further home visit but suggested that for subsequent appointments perhaps my husband would be better able to get my son out of the house!
The lack of flexibility by CAMHS and the assumption that I, in some part, was prohibiting my son from leaving the house, placed an unacceptable level of pressure on us. Their attitude also made me wonder whether there was a sufficient understanding of my son’s disability yet alone what we were experiencing as a family. We could see how bad our child was and that to get him from the house to the clinic a few miles away was not going to happen straightaway. Of course I wanted my son to leave the house but only when he was ready, not because some doctor said so and in any case I could see my son would need gradual exposure to the outdoor world before managing a journey of a few miles.
Nevertheless, faced with such pressure as we were, we eventually did manage to get him to the clinic but not without a massive amount of coaxing and bribery and even then our son was a very frightened and tearful boy that could barely get through the door of the clinic. Was it right to expose our son (and us) to such levels of stress so soon, just because CAMHS could not operate a flexible service? As it was, though he got to the clinic, he was still unable to leave the house and go anywhere else for quite a period of time.
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