I found it very scary how one word, one judgement call could have such a dramatic outcome for Steven and me.
As part of the fake transition home plan, Steven was allowed to come home for four hours on a Tuesday evening. I tried to stick to our normal Tuesday routine - so we had a takeaway and then did a marathon music dvd session. Steven was always accompanied on these visits by one of his normal support workers and a member of staff from the Unit.
You may recall that the Unit cancelled our holiday two weeks before we were due to travel. This Tuesday visit took place in the week that we should have been away. Steven was very upset and it was a difficult visit. He kept asking to go to Somerset and got more and more agitated that I had to keep repeating that we couldn't go.
The social care records for this visit read:
"Steven's behaviour was challenging from the moment we arrived. His speech was very repetitive and he tried to hit his father. Mr Neary was intimidated by this and twice left the room in an attempt to calm the situation. We decided, for safety reasons, to cut the visit short and return to M House".
In court, Hillingdon's barrister picked up on this report and asked me repeatedly whether I was intimidated by Steven. Of course, I wasn't, and am not, intimidated by Steven - he's my son - I know how to handle him when he's having a meltdown. But the barrister kept plugging away on this theme, using only the incident and the Unit worker's words from that evening to back up his position.
I eventually got upset and said that the reason I left the room was that I went to the kitchen for a private cry. It was distressing to see Steven so distressed, all because his holiday had been cancelled. By now, I knew that the Unit worker's purpose on a Tuesday evening was to collect evidence to support Hillingdon's position, so I was upset at the inevitability of this evening.
Thankfully the judge saw what was happening and described my evidence as "reasonable and very moving".
I was intimidated every Tuesday evening. Not by Steven. But by having someone sit in our living room, rarely engaging in the music session but recording every interaction that took place between me and Steven. Needless to say, in the Unit's model of ABA there was no mention of the cancelled holiday as a possible antecedent for Steven's upset that evening - that had been airbrushed from history.
But back to the start - I find it terrifying how one person's judgement call of how another might be feeling - intimidated - can have such disastrousus consequences.