Sunday, October 7, 2007

Our special needs grandson's difficult journey to adulthood

We have been raising our special needs grandson for eight and a half years now, since he was eight years old. He has had severe learning and behavioural problems. He was brought to us by our national welfare agency - CYFS - for an emergency placement with us.

Nobody would listen to us about his condition, despite being assessed by his paediatrician at the age of six years. He was assessed with ADHD and comorbid conditions of conduct disorder and oppositional defiance, a minor intellectual handicap which was enough to, according to his doctor, knock him off balance, and severe learning difficulties. He was prescribed, and used Ritalin until he was 14 years old. He cannot read and write at the age of 16 years. His numeracy is much better than his literacy.

He was finally suspended from school at the age of 15 years. He showed aggressiveness - he was physically prevented from leaving a room and reacted accordingly. He was actually a victim of the professional arrogance of senior teachers, a rigid educational system and a reluctance of politicians to grant an increase in the educational vote to special education in New Zealand.

He and school are finally parted now- senior teachers woud never accept what we told them in relation to his learning and his behaviour. They claimed he was fully responsible for his actions, - and I knew he wasn't! However his teachers aides were more sympathetc and helpful, but of course could never directly challenge the authority of the senior teachers.

Early in 2006 he suffered a psychotic episode and wound up in an adolescent psychiatric unit for four weeks. Naturally I won't discuss the reasons why here, but he has been on medication ever since. It has been reduced to a very low dosage, and his ADHD symptoms, which had been suppessed by his medication, have returned, but not to the levels of his younger years. His medication should be permanently stopped in a few months providing there is no relapse.

We now have a young man of 16 years, going on 17 years to help onto his next stage in life. We won't be handicapped by arrogant senior teachers or other know-all's impedng his progress.

After a number of meetings in recent months with various health, welfare and community agencies, our opinions and beliefs have been vindicated, and we can now move forward knowing we all sing from the same song sheet. This can be only good for the young man in question, our grandson.

Since I originally wrote this post on another site, our grandson has had another psychotic relapse and is a very, very ill young man. We wanted him admitted to the youth centre at Rangatahi, but sadly he had to spend two unfortunate weeks at the adult mental health unit at Hutt Hospital. He is getting the best possible treatment at Rangatahi now, and undoubtably will be there for number of weeks.

He has been home again for some time and is being treated by a local doctor and support group. We anticipate a better deal all round. An official complaint has been lodged against Hutt Valley health's CAFS Department.


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