Case Study 5
Reason for referral
LM was referred to Cheshire Young Carers in September 2015 by her mother. She helps her parents to support her younger brother, who has ADHD and Autism and her sister, who is also suspected to have Autism. The family have recently had another addition to the family so LM now also helps care for her baby sister.
Young Person’s Background
LM’s home environment can be incredibly busy and stressful. As the oldest sibling, it is often her responsibility to supervise her younger sisters when her brother is having a ‘meltdown’. His difficult to manage behaviour often means that family outings get cut short or don’t happen at all because he gets over stimulated out in public environments very easily. Recently, her younger sister has been displaying similar behaviours to her brother’s autistic behaviours and the family are unsure whether this is learned behaviour or whether she too has Autism. This has been adding more pressure to home life and this was beginning to put LM under a large amount of emotional strain.
Issues prior to service engagement
Before LM began attending the fortnightly sessions run by Cheshire Young Carers she was very much socially isolated. She avoided having friends around to her house for fear of being embarrassed by her brother’s behaviour. She really enjoyed spending time with the whole family and when this gradually became less possible she began to blame her brother as it was because of his behaviour that they were spending less and less time together. LM has always been a high achiever academically and is well mannered and has a solid friendship group at school. For these reasons she is a perfect example of a young carer who would slip through the net and the fact that she was struggling emotionally would typically go unnoticed.
Support Offered by Cheshire Young Carers
The Link Worker was aware that LM struggles to cope with her sibling’s behaviour at home and noticed that LM was particularly emotional and teary and becoming easily angered during the fortnightly group sessions. This family is not currently on a plan and has a very busy household, so the Link Worker decided to initiate some 1-1 work with LM to alleviate her stress.
During the initial meeting, it was identified that LM was struggling to control her angry outbursts towards her siblings and some of the young carers at the fortnightly groups who displayed similar behaviours. She would often feel so frustrated with their behaviour that she would lash out, physically towards her siblings and verbally towards her peers. LM initially struggled to describe how she was feeling, she would ask ‘so what should I write?’ when responding to questions what asked her to think about her emotions and behaviour. One of the coping strategies that the Link Worker recommended was for LM to write a diary entry every time she felt as though she were going to lash out at somebody. The Link Worker also supported LM with this by providing worksheets which would encourage her to find the vocabulary she needs to be able to talk about her feelings. This would hopefully transfer over to conversations with other people (e.g. her mother).
During the second meeting, LM mentioned that she had a very negative perception of social workers and believed they only became involved with a family when the children were to be removed from the family home. When explored, the Link Worker discovered that this stemmed from something her mother had said to encourage her older brother to behave. Her mother had said something along the lines of ‘if you don’t behave yourself I will ask a social worker to come and take you away.’ LM had overheard this and had taken it literally, causing it to become an underlying anxiety. Following the session, the Link Worker contacted LM’s mother to suggest a conversation with her daughter, to relieve LM of this stressor. The parent had no idea that her daughter had taken this comment literally and was devastated that this was a major cause of her daughter’s underlying stress.
Cheshire Young Carers often discover that young carer’s refrain from talking to their parents about their worries because ‘Mum and Dad already have enough to worry about’. It is only through 1-1 support that the Link Worker was able to identify that LM’s negative perception of social workers was causing her a huge amount of stress. All it took was a phone call to the parent to make them aware of LMs anxiety and one conversation from parent to child and this issue was completely resolved. By the next session LM appeared far more relaxed and had included in her diary that her Dad had enveloped her in a hug and told her that she nor her siblings were going to be taken away.
Through writing the diary entries, LM learned how to formulate how she was feeling into sentences. This allowed her to process her thoughts and feelings properly and she immediately discovered that she felt much calmer after writing the entry. This exercise and the fact that she is now more able to vocalise how she is feeling encourage her to be self-aware and mindful, which alleviates stress.
In the final meeting, she reported that her mother had noticed a difference in LM since the 1-1 support began. During the initial meeting, LM had scored 3-4 when asked ‘how bad are things now?’. In the final meeting, she was asked again and she scored 5-6 (1 being poor and 10 being perfect). She was also asked how often she was lashing out at siblings at home and she initially said 5 times per week. By the end of the 1-1s it had reduced to 2 times.