The Impact of Special Educational Needs & Disabilities, Violent & Challenging Behaviour (SEND VCB)

Following on from my ‘SEND VCB: What is looks like for us‘ I thought it would be useful to talk a little bit about the actual impact of SEND VCB.

SEND VCB not only affects the individual who is in that heightened state or the individual that is sustaining the injuries, it sadly affects anyone and everyone that is close to or connected to those individuals in some way.

I have been careful not to use the word ‘victim’ or ‘perpetrator’, as this would imply that SEND VCB is in the same bracket as domestic violence. Whilst some may believe that it is, and if I’m honest for a while I felt like a ‘victim’, however these behaviours don’t stem from my daughter wanting to over-power me in the same way a ‘perpetrator’ wants to control and over-power their ‘victim’, it stems from her being in ‘fight or flight’ mode.

For me, I’ve experienced a whole host of emotions over the years, not least; from disbelief, to dismay, from anger, to frustration, from sadness, to self-pity and depending on the severity and frequency of the violence, this very much depends on how I feel and recover from it.

There are times, particularly when I have been really physically hurt, that I just want to be left alone, I don’t want to hear an apology and even though I know that my daughter NEEDS me, she needs to hear me accept her apology, the reality is I just want to be left alone to nurse my wounds.

There are other times when the VCB appears to come completely out of the blue and I am left feeling bemused and shocked. What just happened? Where did that come from?

Soul destroying

I’m not going to lie, I often feel soul destroyed when yet another item has been damaged/broken or there is yet another hole in the wall or something else that needs to go in the bin. I had worked so hard to make and have a lovely home for my girls and bit by bit it was being wrecked before my very eyes.

There are only so many times you can mend or replace things before you have to come to the conclusion of ‘what’s the point?!’ Having fairly recently moved into a newly refurbished house, this has felt even more soul destroying to see it already looking like our old house….broken.

Whilst I know this is often out of her control, this still doesn’t lessen these feelings.

Throwing in the towel?

When things have been really bad and the VCB at an all-time high, I feel helpless, alone, emotional, crushed and often defeated. There have been many a time I felt like throwing in the towel! ‘I can’t do this anymore’ is a phrase that is sometimes so intense that I can’t keep it in my head any longer and it comes out of my mouth!

However, and I am unsure where it comes from, but somewhere deep deep down, I find this inner strength surface and I pick myself back up, often from being literally on my knees, and think ‘I’ve got to do this!’, ‘who else has my daughter got?!’

Resilience

The resilience that comes with parenting a child with Autism/PDA and additional mental health issues is not to be underestimated. I truly thought I was a strong person before I had my youngest, but oh my goodness this is on a whole new unimaginable level! You somehow go from being totally broken to getting back up and just getting on with it.

The has been many a morning where I dread the alarm going off, still suffering from the injuries and the trauma of the day before. What would today have in store for us? I didn’t know! However, if we were in a particularly volatile phase, I knew exactly what was in store but I still had to drag myself out of bed and baton down the hatches whilst trying to keep a lid on anything that may ensue.

Questioning my own sanity and vulnerability

At one point I even questioned my own mental health. When you have dealt with, and just about got through, an incident where you have been bitten, kicked, punched, spat at and had various things launched at you and the house destroyed, you look around at the total devastation whilst your child has recovered and moved on, even asking ‘what’s for tea?’ I found myself answering this question whilst thinking wow did that just happen? It honestly makes you feel like you are going mad!

The hardest thing for me to deal with, now that my daughter is the same height as me and heavier than me, is I am sadly no longer able to see my little girl as a child in a highly anxious state who needs me to reassure her that everything is okay and that she is safe. These days all my eyes seem to allow me to see is a fully grown adult coming at me! This often leads me to feeling highly emotional and scared. Being scared of your own child is not a great feeling at all!

The impact on siblings

For her siblings there has again been a mixture of emotions over the years. It is so incredibly hard for them to see their mum attacked and physically hurt, but on the flip side of this this is their little sister!

My eldest daughter lives up North following her graduation from Uni and for her the biggest impact of the VCB is the fear that something awful will happen to me! It is being so far away and feeling helpless that worries her so much.

My middle daughter, who is still at home and has done throughout this VCB journey, struggles with the day-to-day volatility. She is often woken (she works nights) by the sound of my youngest screaming, shouting and swearing at me, to the sound of things being smashed and to the sound of me trying to prevent injury. This can anger and frustrate her, particularly when there is no obvious trigger, plus she is naturally less tolerant when tired!

There have been times where my older two daughters have been on the receiving end of the VCB and times where I have had to be referee! It is very hard as a parent to remain calm, particularly when you are being attacked, but it’s even harder as a sibling!

(to read more about the impact on siblings please see – (PDA and additional mental health – balancing the needs of older siblings)  

The impact on extended family

For my mum, this has been really tricky in the past and I recall several occasions where I have had to step in to prevent my mum retaliating when she has witnessed an attack on me. In her words, ‘I am her baby’ and my mum’s maternal instinct stops at me. I try to explain that ‘yes I understand that, but this is MY baby’.

My mum is old school and this again has caused tensions between us in the past, as I disagreed with her methods and she certainly disagreed with mine! We needed to somehow learn to agree to disagree. She also had to learn to just trust me on the management and parenting of my daughter.

The impact of VCB on my relationship with my mum was huge a few years ago. I didn’t see her as much as I fortunately do now and when I did I was often having to step in and remind her how to word things, what tone of voice to use etc to prevent this triggering a full blown meltdown.

It was only over a very long time that she started to ‘get it’, HOORAY, she had finally had that all important ‘light bulb’ moment! Or had she? Whilst she thought she had, it was only too easy to slip back into traditional ways and I needed to keep reminding her about the ‘light bulb’ moment.

It’s been hard though for her, I am her only daughter and this wasn’t the adult relationship either of us had expected.

For several years now, instead of being able to do the usual things mums and daughters do together, like enjoying spending time together, this has had to be replaced by everything being revolved around my youngest. Additionally, instead of being able to share good times, this has sadly been replaced with the constant worry for my welfare.

The impact on friends

VCB has also impacted on my friendships. Friends, the few that are left, also have a mixture of emotions (this is a common thread!). Particularly when witnessing a meltdown, they often feel helpless and whilst their natural instinct is to protect me, they also see a child in great distress and their maternal instinct kicks in. There has been many occasions where they have been present and just quietly tidied and picked up whatever has been launched and/or destroyed whilst calmly waiting for the storm to pass. Ready for hugs all round.

The effect on my relationships with friends and family has been dramatic. When you meet up you have fun, chat, catch up right? Well this is how I distantly remember it is meant to work? To be honest, it’s been that long I truly can’t remember, how awful is that?

For several years now, friend interactions have become all about my daughter, it’s gets boring when I receive a ‘hi, how’s you?’ text, only to be able to respond with ‘ummm not good!’. Maybe I should tell a white lie and say ‘hi, things are great thank you, been doing x,y and z’?. For some time now, ‘check-in’ texts are all about seeing if I’ve been hurt or whether they are needed to come round to diffuse a potential situation, this isn’t how I remember friendships to work!

‘Texting’ became the norm, not just with friends but family also as it became impossible to have a phone conversation without constant interruption or my daughter becoming volatile and me having to end the call anyway.

Even when friends come over, I am unable to have a conversation without constant interruption from my daughter.

I feel extremely lucky to have the few close friends that I have got, they ‘get it’ and have adapted to my life along the way. They have never questioned our friendship or been put off by this unique way of how our friendship is. That’s what you call TRUE friends. Do I wish it could be different? Selfishly yes, I would love to be able to accept an invitation to a night out or be able to go out for dinner, or to be able to finish a sentence, but sadly this isn’t the case.

Further impact on extended family

With regards to the impact of VCB on my extended family, it’s taken my little brother a while to accept that my daughter can’t help the way she is and more importantly it has taken a while for him to finally come round to allowing his children, my daughter’s cousins, to socialise with her. How upsetting is it when your own family ostracises you?

If I’m honest, I’ve not actually had the conversation with him about how he feels about what goes on for us or indeed whether he feels that it has had an impact on our relationship. I think with brother’s it’s different anyway in the sense that, generally speaking brothers and sisters don’t meet up as regularly as say sisters and sisters. That’s not to say that we aren’t close, we are, it’s just different.

I have an older brother too, but he has lived in London for many years so I don’t get to see him that often. There was a time when things were really bad at home that he kindly came down and stayed the whole weekend. He thought he could ‘fix’ my daughter, bless him, if only eh?!

The significant impact on my youngest

I’ve talked a lot about the impact on myself, my other daughters, my mum, my extended family and my friends but I have not yet talked about the massive impact VCB has on my youngest daughter herself.

I cannot begin to imagine what it is like for her. How do you emotionally deal with the knowledge that you have hurt and injured your mum? In reality the simple answer to this is, not very well, not very well at all!

She is often so remorseful that she is left in a sobbing heap! She is so upset with herself and her perception of herself is that she is a ‘monster’ and that she ‘deserves to put on the streets’! This breaks my heart to see her in such distress! What is even more heart wrenching is when she is feeling so low about herself and what she has done, that it brings her to such a dark place where she wants to kill herself! There have sadly been occasions where I’ve had to talk her round to handing me a knife that she is threatening to stab herself with.

Whilst, naturally, you want your child to be remorseful when they have done wrong (attacking their mum being well up there on the list of things not to do!), however you don’t want them to be so remorseful that they want to end their life! How on earth do you find a balance?!

The VCB has totally shattered her already desperately low self-esteem.

There are many occasions where she is feeling so bad about herself that she also self-harms; including gauging her skin, biting herself and ripping handfuls of her own hair out! It’s very difficult to comfort and console someone who truly believes they deserve to hurt themselves.

If you have never had your child plead with you to ‘put’ them ‘into Care’, let me tell you it is utterly heart breaking! This is something that my daughter has done on several occasions and when questioned why, thinking there was something I had done wrong to make her ask, only to be told ‘so I can’t hurt you anymore’. My heart shattered into a million pieces.

SEND VCB can have an unmeasurable impact on everyone

Whilst I have tried to put into words the impact that VCB has had on my family and those closest to us, I am pretty sure that the impact, sadly, is far far greater and will never be underestimated!

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