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Susannah Cook: Mothering a vulnerable child really matters


We adopted our son Ben nearly five years ago. He is seven and a half now. Eighteen months ago Ben was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, borderline learning difficulties and a moderate speech impairment. During his first two and a half years of life he was severely neglected as well as being physically and emotionally abused. As a result of this he also has attachment problems and requires a calm, unthreatening environment as much as possible. Ben is a truly wonderful little boy who we both adore.

We adopted our son because we felt we had much to offer him, and because we wanted to be with him. The thought of him in ‘wraparound’ care is both heartbreaking and terrifying. I still feed Ben, dress him, and help him on the loo. It’s not that he is altogether lacking in these self help skills but more that he needs intensive nurturing!

From what I gather from Ben’s fantastic Play Therapist, if a child does not get the necessary nurturing from the beginning, you can’t just skip it and hope for the best. You still need to go through each developmental stage, so feeding a nearly eight year old and singing him nursery rhymes is, I believe crucial.  I’m positive that it is aiding his healing process.

Ben just loves being at home. He loves his bedroom, his house and most of all his Jack Russell terrier. He has two good friends who he adores, they are very frequent visitors here, but Ben rarely goes to their houses, saying “I only like playing at home”. I’m so grateful that I can be here to enable him to come home after school.

School is desperately hard for Ben, who gets distraught every morning before school. When he started in Reception he was sent home frequently, I still feel I am on constant standby. It’s been a long, hard battle obtaining a Statement of Special Needs for him, and in getting the school to meet his needs. The amount of meetings I have often feels like a job in itself.

Attending appointments for Ben is a full time job. Occupational therapists, speech therapists, play therapists, various hospitals they are all important and generally very useful, but there are very frequent!

So…what do I do? Just look after my son who has additional needs. Not terribly valuable from what I hear on the radio. I don’t contribute to the UK economy. I know though, when I look at the little boy who looked like a tiny ghost and who couldn’t speak when we met him at the age of almost three, transformed in very small steps, into a happier, healthier and more confident little person that I am doing something valuable. I also know I must stick to my guns, my career can wait, my child’s development and happiness cannot.


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