4th July, 2023
When we met with Beverley recently, it was with the view to talk about fostering children who are living with learning disabilities. However, during the course of the conversation we were blown away by her parenting approach, she opened our eyes to how adaptive you must be when you are fostering a child who has experienced trauma while living with a disability.
Beverley tells us that she has always had an affinity with special needs children, having previously worked as a school SENCO. When her own children flew the nest, she wanted to do more.
That was seven years ago, her foster son who has a severe learning disability, has been with her for six of those years. Although he didn’t always have such stability in his life, when he originally came to Beverley he had already been through three fostering arrangements which had broken down due to what was deemed challenging behaviour.
But Beverley was not phased, and through her hard work she transformed his life.
From the start Beverley looked past what had been labelled, ‘challenging behaviour’. She saw that his nightmares were due to trauma, his constant screaming was a result of pure frustration from being unable to communicate verbally.
So, she went back to the start and gave him the early childhood he never had. Treating him like a baby, feeding and swaddling, taking him through early milestones that he had been deprived of. With hard work, and a lot of patience, he calmed and with Beverley’s guidance his speech improved.
They found other ways to communicate, Beverley introduced picture cards for times where the words don’t quite come, and his personality began to shine through.
“All I saw was a beautiful child underneath it all. He is the type of child that wakes up singing.”
While he is a happy young man, Beverley remains ever vigilant for triggers. Indeed, she tells us that one of her biggest pieces of advice for foster carers is to never shout.
Similarly, her foster son can become distressed if the fridge becomes low on food, triggering to a time in his early childhood when he was always hungry. Beverley put steps in place to ensure this never happens now.
If we could bottle Beverley and hand her out to new foster carers, we certainly would. She talks about the importance of throwing out your preconceptions of parenting when you foster. It is you who must be adaptable to the child in front of you and not rigid in your approach, especially in traumatised children their mental maturity might be affected by their experiences.
When you are met with a certain behaviour, look for the unmet need behind it and adjust your perception accordingly.
As for yourself as a foster parent, Beverley stresses not to forget about your own self-care, to speak to other foster carers. Also, to attain as much information as possible about the young person before they come to you.
For her foster son, the future is a much brighter one with Beverley at his side to help him find the right path. He is a great artist, with a love of drawing, woodwork and, of course, his iPad. At weekends he attends a special club where he can go bowling and the cinema with peers his own age away from school, giving him the normal life that he deserves.
If you’ve got any questions or would like to find out more about fostering with Capstone, fill out the form below.
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