Maxine & Martin’s story

Maxine & Martin have been fostering for 15 years and they are the latest Jay carers to be awarded our Carer of the Month. When we visited their home to present their award, we talked to Maxine about how the couple had come to foster.

“Martin & I had been thinking about fostering since we married, two years earlier. It was something we were interested in as we had always wanted to have children in our lives and had not yet had our own.”

“Did you have any reservations about fostering before you applied?”

“Yes, more apprehension than reservations and then there was excitement too. I recall the nervousness of our very first open evening and the information overload, that took a while to digest. We applied to our Local Authority to start with and went through, what was then, a lengthy process, although it is much quicker these days.

And then, surprise! I became pregnant with our first child – we were shocked but so happy!”

“Maxine, what did you do before you fostered?”

“Ha ha – here goes! You’ll wish you never asked!

I’ve had a variety of jobs throughout my life ranging from full time overlocker, to shoe maker, a fresh meat packer at the cattle market and a chambermaid abroad. I’ve also waitressed in restaurants and worked in food factories. I was even a part time model – this raised some eyebrows!

We moved to our new house in a small village and I changed my job, as the travelling was too far, and gained employment at a label manufacturing unit, I then worked in an office as an admin assistant.

I left this job on maternity leave and after giving birth became a Community Carer (young and old service users) and trained as a classroom assistant.”

“And Martin?”

“Martin trained as an electrician, worked in a food factory (this is where we met) progressed onto an Electrical Engineering Manager which he is still is today, as well as well as my support as a foster carer. Definitely a team effort.”

“What skills do you feel that you bring to the role of a foster carer?”

“Our job roles in the past reflect organisational skills, good time keeping, listening and being of a kind and caring nature. Following the company’s rules and policies. Being peace maker, being hands on when it comes to tasks and good all round “people person” with children and adults alike.

I also didn’t feel my upbringing as a child was one of the best. We both wanted better for any children around me in the future.”

“What is the most enjoyable thing about fostering?”

“Making a difference to a child/young person’s life. Giving them a chance to fulfil their true potential that we could see was lacking previously.”

“What has been the most difficult part of fostering?”

“Dealing with really unruly behaviour at times and watching my own children’s reactions to that type of behaviour; things like swearing, real defiance, absconding, being destructive to themselves, others and property too at times.”

“What support do you receive from Jay?”

“If there is a problem, Jay Fostering has always been there for us as a family, as well as the child in placement.

Our meetings with our Supervising Social Worker are friendly and informal, mostly times that suit our circumstances and the child is seen in placement too.

Training is invaluable and although considered necessary, it’s also very enjoyable. I also like social side of training, where foster carers come together and share their experiences without being judged.”  

“Would you recommend becoming a foster carer to anyone else?”

“Yes, as with us it works with our family lifestyle. Time is precious these days and fostering incorporates being together and traditional family values.

We have three teenagers in our house at present, one of which is a foster placement, and they are all in full-time education. Fostering gives us the flexibility to complete reports for the agency, attend meetings with the Local Authority and school too. I can also socialise with other foster carers, friends and family within school hours. We are then able to give our teenagers our full attention out of school hours, doing activities, helping with homework, attending health appointments, visiting friends and enjoying life in general.”     

Thank for sharing your fostering journey with us Maxine & Martin. You are passionate and committed foster carers and we all enjoy working with you! – Jay Fostering.

What Are Autism Spectrum Disorders? Autism and ADHD Explained

Autism spectrum disorders affect around 700,000 people in the UK, meaning that over 2.8 million people have a family member on the autism spectrum. It’s a lifelong condition that affects how people interact with others, and it can be mild or serious depending on where the person sits on the spectrum.

For families with an autistic child, everyday life can be a real challenge. Autism affects how children see, hear and feel the world around them, and different people will need different support depending on how the condition affects them.

Because autism is a spectrum condition, every child experiences it differently – and this can make it challenging for those who care for them. Foster carers can sometimes find it difficult to offer the right kind of support to autistic children in their care due to their different needs.

But, small changes and a better understanding of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) can make a big difference for foster carers supporting children with autism. That’s why we’ve put together this guide on ASD – giving foster carers the help and information they need to provide the right kind of support to an autistic child in their care.

Quick Links:

What is Autism and How Is It Defined?

Autism spectrum disorder is defined as a developmental condition that affects how people view the world around them. It’s a lifelong condition that children have from birth, and, because it’s not an illness or disease, it can’t be cured.

Autism is very common, with 1 in 100 people on the autistic spectrum. Signs and symptoms of the condition vary from person to person, which is why an early diagnosis is so important for children with ASD.

For many autistic children, the condition causes the most difficulty when they’re interacting with other people. Everyday interactions can be overwhelming, and they can struggle to build a rapport with those around them – even their closest friends and family.

Diagnosing ASD early is important to ensure children get the developmental support they need from a young age. However, because it’s not a physical condition, autism can be very difficult to spot, and many people often mistake the signs for behaviours that a child will grow out of.

Diagnosing autism is very complicated, requiring many tests to define where the child sits on the spectrum. Depending on the outcome, autism specialists will suggest strategies to help the child live life to the fullest.

What Are the Most Common Signs of ASD in Children?

While children exhibit ASD in many different ways, most autistic people share common behavioural traits. As a foster carer, understanding these traits could help you identify autistic behaviours in your child.

Here, we look at the five behavioural traits which children with autism may exhibit.

Social Communication

Autistic children can find it difficult to interpret both verbal and non-verbal communication, such as tone of voice, hand gestures, facial expressions, humour and emotions. They may also struggle to communicate verbally or non-verbally. For this reason, autism specialists often suggest sign language or visual symbols as a way of communicating clearly with very young autistic children.

Social Interaction

Given the communication problems touched on above, many autistic children struggle to interact with others. They can easily misinterpret another person’s feelings, meaning or intentions, and can appear insensitive. They may seek time alone and become ‘overloaded’ by social situations, or may talk at length about their own interests, dismissing customary forms of conversation and interaction.

Repetitive Behaviour and Routines

Because autistic children can find new situations stressful and overwhelming, they sometimes enjoy a set daily routine. This helps them avoid unpredictable scenarios in which they can become confused and anxious. Even simple things like requesting the exact same breakfast every morning could indicate autistic traits.

Highly-Focused Interests

Many autistic children develop highly-focused interests from a young age – it could be music, drawing, animals, or a particular colour. Often, the interest may be unusual, and this can cause problems at school or make it difficult for them to make friends. As with repetitive behaviour, children often become fixated on a particular subject because that’s what makes them the happiest and most comfortable.

Over or Under Sensitive

Autistic children may experience sensory sensitivity, in which they grow over or under-sensitive to taste, touch, sounds, light, colour or pain. The most common type of over-sensitivity is sound, in which quiet background noises become overwhelming and difficult to block out. Whatever they become sensitive too, it’s important to avoid this where possible as continued exposure can cause anxiety or, in some cases, physical pain.

Remember, children exhibit autistic traits in many different ways, so it’s important to make a note of any behaviour you find unconventional and seek a professional diagnosis if you are concerned.

Support Strategies for Foster Carers, Parents and Guardians

Caring for a child with autism can be challenging. There are, however, several recognised strategies that can help you provide the right help and support to your child – and we’ve touched on a couple of these below.

SPELL

SPELL is the National Autistic Society’s framework for responding positively to children on the autism spectrum. It stands for Structure, Positive approaches and expectations, Empathy, Low arousal, and Links. Basically, SPELL emphasises the need to change our approach to autism, so that we can provide the right support, help, communication and interaction to everyone on the autism spectrum – whether they have ADHD or Asperger syndrome.

TEACCH

Like SPELL, TEACCH is recognised by the National Autistic Society as one of the most positive strategies parents and carers can use when interacting with an autistic child. TEACCH stands for Teaching, Expanding, Appreciating, Collaborating, and Holistic, and it prioritises building understanding around the ‘culture of autism’ and the use of visual structures to aid development, learning and communication.

Social Stories

One of the newest coping strategies recommended by the National Autistic Society, Social Stories is a series of visual stories, created by Carol Gray, which aim to help autistic children understand social situations through visual learning. Since they were released in 1991, Social Stories have proved extremely helpful in developing greater social understanding for autistic people, and families are encouraged to create their own comic strips and storyboards to help children develop their social skills.

Helpful Resources

There are lots of resources available online offering advice on how to provide help and support to children with autism. Here, we list our recommended resources for foster families:

  • National Autistic Society – The UK’s primary autism charity, offering a broad range of information and advice, as well as a confidential helpline.
  • Resources for Autism – A registered charity which aims to provide practical services for children and young people with autism.
  • Child Autism UK – The UK’s largest dedicated charity for children with autism, offering a range of support guides and advice for children and their families.
  • NHS autism support groups hub – The NHS’s autism support hub, which can help families find support groups and services in their local area.

At Jay Fostering, we provide complete training and support to all our foster carers, so they can provide an effective and supportive home for children with autism.

For more information on how to foster with us, register your interest here or call us today on 0800 0443 789  .