She is 13 this month and is blossoming into a lovely young lady who is happy and much more settled in her new life. So much has changed, so I shall tell you about a few of those things.
At her first review meeting after a couple of months, there were people from school and residential and the meeting was quite lovely to witness, with everyone keen and enthusiastic about Charlotte, telling me what they were doing, and how they were going to work together to encourage Charlotte to achieve more. They listened to everything I had to say, we shared anecdotes about Charlotte's behaviours, funny quirks and particular talents. They were very keen to share information and take on board any ideas which would improve things for her, I felt that they were fitting themselves in around Charlotte rather than expecting Charlotte to fit into what they expected of her. It feels great to know that this is the general attitude, Charlotte is only able to learn and thrive when she is entirely settled and happy and this is taken into consideration the whole time.
It hasn't all been plain sailing of course, Charlotte had to get used to her new place, new school, new routine, and it hasn't been easy for her. Neither was it easy for us at home either, getting used to her not being around much. She comes home most weekends and for a time it was pretty horrendous, she completely refused to leave her bedroom and get dressed for whole days at a time. It was a distressing time, she was obviously having to come to terms with a great deal, and it felt like perhaps we were causing more problems by having her home, if she hated it so much that she didn't want to come out of her room then it started to feel like perhaps we shouldn't have her home so often. But, with persistence and close contact with residential, we managed to adjust things little by little until she became much keener to get dressed and join us downstairs.
Her fun and mischievous personality is really showing at residential too, they told me how she loves to dance in the sitting room, she sneaks into other kids' bedrooms to get their DVDs and she loves to go for walks, especially on the beach. They talk of her with great affection, which is lovely, it's good to know that they genuinely care. They have also seen Charlotte's challenging side, but they deal with it in such a caring, knowledgeable and professional manner, and they are more than willing to share ideas and tips with me on how to cope, they're always keen to do the best for her.
During the early summer, they told me that they had bought a house and that Charlotte would be moving into it later in the year, once it had been done up to suit the young people who would be moving in. There are 4 young people moving into this house, which is a fantastic move because it means that they can become part of the outside community more than they were able in the larger residential home. I have been to see it and it's almost ready now, just a few more tweaks and some official inspections, then the transition can begin for them. Charlotte's room is beautiful, it's painted in a lovely lilac colour with pretty lilac bedding, and I sent some bits and bobs to decorate her room, so she has some lovely big wall stickers of flowers, puppies and kittens. The house is beautiful, spacious and stylishly decorated, with a lovely conservatory which will be a sensory room, a lounge and kitchen/diner. Once she is in the house they will be able to work with her and the other youngsters on things like cooking for themselves and other self help skills, and she will be able to go out in the community more often to socialise as she gets older.
I was over the moon to find that she has made a friend! R is a few years older and also has autism. It began when Charlotte would be sat doing jigsaws or playing with toys, and R would go and sit nearby and just watch. Now they often sit together during social times quite happily. It's perhaps not the type of friendship which we are normally familiar with, but it works for them and I'm overjoyed! R is also moving into the house with her, which is lovely, so I said that they could share Charlotte's wall stickers if R would like them for her bedroom, which is the brightest pink I've ever seen!
It hasn't all been plain sailing of course. The dressing issues are still ongoing and she has been getting more obsessed by them again recently. This time it was a particular type of vest, and she wouldn't wear anything over it, which wasn't such a big deal in the summer, but it's far too cold now, and we needed to overcome the obsession before it got any worse, like it did before. So she is back on a dressing programme designed to encourage her to wear more different articles of clothes again. It's such a relief not to be expected to do all the work on my own this time and that her carers are working hard to help.
Her overall development is coming along really well, she is so much calmer now that she has a more regimented routine and it has really made a difference to her learning ability. She is much more understanding of verbal prompts and a little more able in her communication abilities, which is a step in the right direction. She is learning about looking after herself and they have even encouraged her to try a few tastes of different food. She comes home at weekends, and on the whole she is a joy to have around, her aggression has lessened to a huge degree and we don't have the major showdowns that we used to have on a regular basis, it's so lovely!
As for me, well, I realised a dream this year and went to Glastonbury festival!