This is a personal piece about what’s been happening at home to do with my daughter. It’s something I’ve asked if it’s okay to write about, and wanted to get off my chest. I’m not interested in doing an ‘oh you poor dear’ piece, it’s just a venting exercise, and maybe it might help someone else going through a similar time.
It’s been a bit of a difficult year in many respects, but the hardest stuff my family has had to go through is to do with my eldest daughter, Keira. She’s nearly 15 now, and has always been hyper intelligent, and aware of everything going on, but was never brilliant with social stuff.
It all came to a head at the beginning of the year. Keira’s anxiety issues started to result in panic attacks and dark thoughts on her part, and we sought out counselling for her.
It’s difficult to state just how horrendous that period of time was, and just how much I wanted to be able to make her happy, but she couldn’t get past it, couldn’t see anything but misery and pain. It was a difficult time for not just Keira, but her mum and me, and her two younger sisters.
Keira went to counselling about being angry all the time, about how she didn’t believe she was good enough, about how she was certain there was something wrong with her. She was getting stressed at school through the amount of pressure she was receiving about her progress in school.
You see, Keira was one of the top two kids in her years for her SAT scores in year 6. In fact her score was so high that she was predicted A and A*’s across the board for her GCSE result. Exams that she didn’t have to take for another 5 years. So for the last 3 years, every single time she’d taken home a report, because she hasn’t met that predicted grade, the school has been forced to mark her down as underachieving.
It’s been incredibly frustrating for her. She could be getting an A in tests at 12, but because she was predicted an A*, she’s considered underachieving. No matter how much the school have explained that these things are meaningless, 3 years of her having to put up with constantly being shown as underachieving when she’s one of the top children in the year, took a toll on her confidence and made her start to hate school.
Thankfully, we think she’s started to understand this. Her grades never suffered, her behaviour at school didn’t change, but she was constantly anxious and suffered from panic attacks during school time. It was difficult for her. Her mind works in logic, and she couldn’t figure out why her brain didn’t work the same as everyone else’s.
She started a counselling course 2 months ago that finished last week. The clinical psychologist in week 2, gave my wife and I, and Keira’s school forms to fill in because she’s convinced Keira has Asperger’s.
The change in Keira since hearing that is dramatic. There’s finally a reason. There’s finally a way forward for her. There are reasons why she’s so smart, but doesn’t understand social cues, and finds normal teenage behaviour to be almost alien to her. She doesn’t understand why people would anyone would say one thing and do something else. But now she understands why her brain thinks this way.
She’s happier. Happier than I’ve seen her in a while.
Asperger’s is harder to detect in girls as they’re so smart and can hide it from the world, but as Keira got older, and as she went through counselling, her ability to hide these things broke down the more comfortable she got with certain people.
It’ll be two years until Keira is assessed (at least), and there’s no guarantee that she’ll be formally diagnosed with Asperger’s, despite a clinical psychologist stating that she saw zero chance she didn’t have it. Despite going through the list of aspects of Asperger’s and ticking them off one at a time.
None of that really matters to her, because that diagnosis is in the future, and right now she has a way to move forward, and an understanding of why her brain works so differently to everyone else.
This year has been hard on Keira, on all of us because we didn’t know how to help her, how to make things better. There’s no magical cure for anxiety, and she still has it, she will possibly always have it, but having her be able to understand is a massive step forward, and I hope that one of many.
As a parent there’s little more terrifying than knowing that something to do with your child is out of your control, but seeing Keira deal with the problems that confronted her, and move through them has made me incredibly proud. She faces new challenges now, but she’s a much happier teenager for what she’s discovered this year, and right now that’s pretty much all I can ask for.