Coronavirus: Coping with behavioural issues during lockdown

hands Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Abbie says she has had to learn to "cope and to reflect" in lockdown

A mother coping with a range of complex behavioural needs in her family says lockdown is "just a test" she is determined to pass.

Abbie, from Suffolk, has five boys under the age of 16, some of whom have special educational needs.

She was herself diagnosed with Asperger syndrome several years ago.

"I have no choice with my family but I am very strong-willed," she said. "I am a fighter."

She said the announcement of lockdown in March "put panic in me", although she has managed to keep the boys in school "to maintain routine and a sense of balance".

She said sometimes behaviour could be "unpredictable", "hard to manage" and could get very "serious", but also that one of her sons was "the most loving, cuddly, clever little boy".

Her own personal diagnosis has helped her relate to her children's needs, she added.

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Image caption Abbie says the family has had to adapt to a new routine

"I like to be in control - which I know sometimes comes across as control over everything - but it's not, it's just the reins of my life.

"I can be very literal and precise - I have to know the ins and outs of everything and I can't settle unless I do.

"But routine is everything. Changes can cause meltdowns.

"During this process I've had to learn to cope - and to reflect."

Weekly visits to a close friend and family have become video calls - or waves through windows.

But her love of exercise as stress relief has gone from three classes a week - to none.

She said her greatest fear at the moment was how the children would cope "when this is all over" - and the routine changed again.

"I find it hard to imagine that there are other families out there like this. But we can't be the only one this size and with this many issues.

"I think to myself - this is a test. It's just a test for all of us. And I want to pass it."

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'There is support'

Annie Clements, of the Suffolk charity Autism and ADHD, says Abbie's story is unusual because of her personal diagnosis, but she is not alone.

The charity supports the families of thousands of children with complex behavioural needs.

"Being a parent to a child with special educational needs is challenging, firstly understanding your child and then fighting the system to get them the best education and financial support," she said.

"Lockdown will have devastating effects on some families: anxiety, money, disruption to the normal routine. Their relationships, with each other, with school, can shift - the sense of being restrained.

"Often we don't realise there is support out there until we need it. That's when we 'see' each other".

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