Child Protection for the Autistic Child - A Resource
I recently heard a description of myself, "I was told you were too traumatised after all that has happened to cope with this now’’ when I asked one professional what she had thought about my initial non-engagement with her, that stopped me in my tracks. It was so unexpected and yet in some ways seemed to fit as a description given by one professional to another, to explain without judgement, my initial non-engagement with a situation where I really should be engaging.
On reflection (and it has taken a bit) I think ‘too traumatised’ is not a good phrase to use in many contexts. There are lots of possible reasons for non-engagement. Often, in my experience, non-engagement reflects badly on the way, in the past, services have interacted with the individual who is not engaging. Sometimes interactions with professionals are very brutal for whatever reason and there are only so many of these interactions you can take before you become adversely affected by them.
I had also been ‘trained up’ in acceptance of my powerlessness since our son entered care and I needed to unlearn this, without any warning. I did’ent really understand that I had to engage and in many ways I needed to ‘drive’ the process of what happened next. People within services care but they have lots of calls on their time. Usually no-one cares more than a family member and often that is what people within services respond to. I needed to be that family member. No-one explained that to me or if they did they were speaking in 'code' that I did'ent understand.
I also had big issues around trust. Why should I trust anyone within services that this time it would be different? All seem to have the same world-view and the same constraints. Frankly having to plead for information about our son’s wellbeing ( Is he well? ) is humiliating. So much humiliation to so little effect takes its toll. I'd met all kinds of professionals with different approaches but nothing fundamentally changed. They had power to make life-changing decisions and I did not. They worked with rules I did'ent agree with although some were a lot kinder and more understanding than others. Now our son was a careleaver, they were losing their power too. Why should I engage to find myself back dealing with the same issues that no-one else saw as a problem, no matter who I was dealing with or what the situation was?
And yes I was traumatised. The experience of what happened before and after my son entered care was the worst thing I've ever had to deal with and my recovery from these life-changing events has been slow and uncertain. I've been lucky to have had help and to have very good 'wrap-around' support, unlike many other who really need it during very challenging times. 'Not knowing' had been oddly protective too because I had decided that, in the absence of information, I would believe that everything was going very well. Evidence to the contrary and my inability to help would be very difficult and potentially destabilising for me emotionally. Who would voluntarily go there and that seemed to be what I was being asked to do.
So this is what I’d say to professionals. Trauma flowing from extremely challenging life events is understandable – trauma is not in itself incapacitating although working with traumatised people is unlikely to be easy or straightforward.
People, in my experience, often find an un-guessed at strength when tested by significant adversity. Perhaps what many traumatised people need most is understanding and support around finding that strength rather than being described as 'too traumatised' to cope?