An emotional conversation with Dee Padfield, a mother to an intelligent son with autism and ADHD.
Dee talks very direct about the ups and the downs of living with her son. Whilst there are tough moments, there are lots of fun times too.
She tells you when she recognised difficulties and how she has adapted herself to maximise her sons potential.
We also discuss Dee's employer - Connect Assist, who help support people with mental health troubles.
Dee Padfield | LinkedIn
Home - All 4 Inclusion
Voiceover for intro and outro by Jennie Eriksen | LinkedIn
Music granted free of charge very kindly by Music: https://www.purple-planet.com . The track is called Hope and Inspire.
Welcome to this week's edition of the call for inclusion pod. My name is Scott Whitney, and today I am joined by Dee. Hello, Dee, how you doing? And do you mind telling us a little bit about yourself?Dee Padfield:
Yeah. Good afternoon, Scott. Firstly, thanks so much for inviting me on the All4Inclusion podcast today. I'm super excited. I hasten to add, it's the first one I've done. So I'm hoping it comes across as required. So my name is Dee Padfield, I'm the head of sales at Connect Assist, and manage the introduction of all new business and deliver the strategy for the commercial directors. Within the business. I am very new to the market sector. I've only been with connected this since February. But super excited to start learning new market meeting new people and being involved in what I believe are trustworthy causes around a third and public sector organisation. So yeah, super, super excited to be here today as well.Scott Whitney:
Excellent. So tell us a little bit to start off with who are Connect Assist and what do they do? Who do they help?Dee Padfield:
So Connect Assist are a specialist contact centre, business, they support public and third party, third sector organisations, charities, so we work with organisations such as Mind, Veterans Gateway, Royal British Legion, Turn To Us and their core mission is to deliver positive human outcomes. So there are within the context of 450 bums on seats. And we take calls from almost everybody who contacts us or in some form of distressed or crisis situation, whether that be through debt advice, management, whether that be mental health, emotional support, we signpost to not only our own partners, but to other organisations to give them advice and support and to help their mental health and emotional solutions. So yeah, it's it's really quite fulfilling.Scott Whitney:
And you must get a lot of calls. I mean, if you've got 450 People in the contact centre. Do you know roughly how many calls they handle in a week or a day?Dee Padfield:
I can tell you last year we answered when we're not actually just telephone. So we're an omni channel solution. So we take telephone, emails, web chat, chat boxes, so we take all method of communication, social media interactions, WhatsApp. So last year, annually, we took a total of about 970,000 calls. We took around 64,000 email interactions around I'd have to get the figures sorry, Scott, I wasn't. Yeah, there are, there are a lot of ways for members of the public service users to contact us. Yeah, so there's, there's quite a lot.Scott Whitney:
But I mean, if you look at just calls and emails, that's over a million, you know, just with that, and then you got you kind of social media and web chat on top of that. So it's, it's boosting up and I can imagine things like, web chat and tech services and social media actually, potentially being some of the more popular, if that's the right phrase - more commonly used methods.Dee Padfield:
Yeah, I think we've definitely seen a change in transition around the use of digital services, people looking to sofa surf, and do things, you know, not in the traditional method. So we're seeing a lot of people using chat boxes, web chat, live chat functionality, more technical solutions to engage in users and their behaviours. More frequently as we move forward in an I suppose a new world. You know, given where we've been, we've had to get used to, I don't know, using QR codes to go to the pub and buy a drink. So the use of technology going forward is becoming prevalent.Scott Whitney:
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, definitely. Definitely. So what made you apply for for the role?Dee Padfield:
It's a bit of a mixed response that so in a previous life, I worked for a big accident management organisation, a FTSE 250 business dealing with repairs and hires mobility solutions. And I used to work for a very lovely lady called Amanda Mullins. She was a great mentor to me, and she had some personal situations in her world that made her move on to do bigger and other different things. And she started working at Connect Assist. We stayed in touch and I suppose she was telling me about what she was doing, how she was delivering positive human outcomes. And given my personal situation, and I'm sure we'll move on to that very shortly. I felt a connection to be able to want to deliver something back, to be able to give back to people. And I suppose a sense of fulfilment for me. As I said, you know, linking that back to a personal situation that I have within my home, and I just felt like if I didn't take a leap of faith and move to do it, I would never know. But I'm absolutely loving it. I'm super glad I took the step. I did it, it was a big step to take. But yeah, I'm super excited to be doing what I'm doing now.Scott Whitney:
Yeah, I guess. I guess, you know, having that, sense of achievement, sense of fulfilment in and work. It just makes that that huge difference, doesn't it? Yeah,Dee Padfield:
Absolutely. It was time to start giving back and somewhere in the back of my mind, I'd always had, what do I do next? Where do I go after this? I couldn't possibly be a senior business development manager in the organisation I was with forever. And I've always had this sort of niggling in the back of my brain as to, what would I do? Where would I go after this? What would I do at a later point in time, in life? And so yeah, so I'm a great believer of things happen for a reason. And this came across my, my laptop, and it was just something that I thought, why not? Let's let's go do something good. For the world, considering everybody had struggled so badly during COVID. I talked to people every day within my working life, how they were struggling to meet sales targets, they were just about, you know, coping mentally every day, with the strain and stresses that the pandemic brought to them. And I suppose everyday just pushed me closer and closer to towards what Amanda was doing and what Connect Assist was doing and what they were achieving. So yeah, I took the leap of faith, and here I am.Scott Whitney:
Excellent. A lot of you said, links in or doesn't link in but resonates because of situation you've got at home. Do you want to tell the listeners what your situation at home is?Dee Padfield:
Yeah, so it's very exciting for me in a way, and refreshing to be able to talk about it, something I've not done for a very long time. But my son, Ethan, he's 10. And he was diagnosed very recently well, in the last sort of 12 months, with ASD and ADHD and sensory processing disorder. So he has combined type autism, which makes him impulsive, it makes him challenging at times, it triggers, you know, lapses relapses and everything else. So, so yeah, so, Ethan, he is an amazing young boy, very articulate. But it does pose multiple challenges daily. But he copes quite rather well in a mainstream school. So he's still attends a mainstream school, he does break out one day a week to a positive behaviour specialist. So he has that on Wednesday, which he is there today, actually. So I'm hoping he'll come home sprightly today.Scott Whitney:
And you said he's not long being being diagnosed really. So when was it that you kind of sense that there was something that that needed to be looked into a bit more?Dee Padfield:
So when he son was three, Ethan had I what I was saying would be anger as it portrayed itself, anger issues, he was very cross at the world. And he wasn't coping, he started infant school and into the ages of sort of four, five and six. He really didn't cope in infant school very well. He was very destructive. He was dysregulated. He didn't want to participate in class. He would very much hold the teachers to ransom in rooms, throwing things at them when they would come out. So he had a lot of anger. So we started putting him on the pathway have an assessment internally. And actually, it took me nearly five years to get a diagnosis from CAHMS for Ethan, but actually having a label or a letter associated with the behaviour didn't give me much satisfaction, what it actually enabled me probably to do was assign strategy. So I'm very strategic in my everyday working life. And there's no such thing as normal in my world. So actually applying strategies to Ethan, focusing on what he needed help with was really cool for me. So it didn't matter actually about the diagnosis. But for me, it was applying the strategies to help him and support him in those heightened moments. So there's a thing, there's a solution called flipping your lid. And what it enables people to understand is, before they flip their lid, what can we do to help them support them in the middle roll. And I know you can't see me using my hand, but I'm bent, it's bent over at the moment. And flipping your lid is where your hand points to the ceiling. And what we do is apply strategies with Ethan to try and stop him from flipping his lid. And that may be breakouts when at school or may be timeout at home. Lots of different positive behaviour strategies to help him cope. He doesn't like the word no, no children do. But in Ethans case No Is the be all and end all when it's meltdown. 101. For Ethan, so we don't use no in the house we use possibly not now, or can I come back to you in a minute? He knows that means no. But actually, it has a very different effect on his behaviour. And because he knows all I know, that means no. And I go, Well, it means so I'll come back to you shortly. And I walk away and will dismiss it. It'll never be spoken to again. But actually what that's done is enabled him not to get heightened, and enabled him just to what we call looser in the house, so he doesn't get scrambled egg in the head. Another another bit of analogy at home. Is how he describes when he's feeling confused, frustrated, so we call it scrambled egg head. So we can resonate with that.Scott Whitney:
I think languages is key because like, you know, to me, can I imagine scrambled egg? No, I have like brain fog. And you know, where I feel like, I've got less space in my brain maybe to do things. But that seems very different to scrambled egg. How would you describe it? Because I guess the thing is, you can't feel it either. So how would you describe scrambled egg?Dee Padfield:
So I suppose the reason Ethan explains it a scrambled egg is because he's all confused. He doesn't know. And scrambled egg is whipped at home. So it's all a bit of a mess. So he describes that as his scrambled egg. I don't know if I can decipher whether that scrambled egg is how we interpretated to get that being the same thing. I wouldn't know. But Ethan has become very familiar with the phrase and applies it to an action or a thought. So he's been able to, I suppose join the dots together. And I can only relate or resemble that he's been able to do that. So because he's been able to do that. I can then use the word to say look, if you've got scrambled eggs, you want to just go take five minutes. I believe it doesn't always work.Scott Whitney:
That's a very clever way of him being able to express it and use an analogy which which is something that you know, other people can kind of take on maybe not use scrambled eggs but use a different kind of phrase or terminology.Dee Padfield:
Yeah, well Ethan see things like you know, we go to a shopping centre. He doesn't see people walking around. He sees lots of flashing lights. He sees lots of noise. So in Ethan's head, it's all scrambled it's sort of carnage in the way in the way he visualises you know, he sees the world very differently to neurotypical people. I don't know if anyone is neurotypical, if I'm being honest, I don't you know, what is that? There's no such thing as normal either. But he sees things very differently. He hears things differently. He absorbs that information. But mainly with Ethan it's an emotional imbalance. Yes, he's very articulate at school, super clever. But actually, it's more about his emotional imbalance. He can't articulate happy sad feelings like we would assign them sad you would cry, sometimes he will act away but doesn't know why he's done it. And he physically can answer he has no response to why he behaved that way at that time. He can just say, it hurt my feelings. But he doesn't know what really hurt his feelings. He finds that part of using his words quite difficult. But he's very verbal Other than that,Scott Whitney:
yeah. And like you said, the kind of sensory processing and that kind of comes into the supermarket's because I spoke to someone. I asked someone quite recently why they find supermarkets hard. And like you said, bright lights, lots of colours on the kind of aisles and things like that, making it difficult. And I said that my impression was it was just a cramped space to many people in a closed area. So what what other ways does sensory processing effects Ethan?Dee Padfield:
So it typically smell, his smell is very heightened. He, my mum bought round a book that she'd found in her shed yesterday. She didn't say that, but she'd walked in and he went that's been in your shed, I can smell it. And it wasn't very particularly very close. So he has a heightened sense of smell. He can hear sounds that I can't hear. So my next door neighbour but two has a cat sensor detector in her garden. It's a very high pitched frequency that only cats can attune to. Ethan can hear that quite loudly, so much that she's actually now taken it out of her garden. Because it just triggers him off. Labels on his clothes. Oh, there are so many small, but really irrelevant things for him. Just down to the texture of a bedspread. So on his bed behind me, although there's a duvet actually two blankets underneath soft blankets, that he'll sleep one on and one on top of him, then he'll put the duvet on. So very particular about certain things it doesn't sensory doesn't have to be noise related. Can be touch. Can be smells, it could could be very simple, different things.Scott Whitney:
And obviously he's had this the sensory since he was young. And now you've been able to adjust things adapt things. So did you adapt things after he had his diagnosis? Or was you starting to adapt before?Dee Padfield:
I think I've always tried, obviously, you know, when your children say they don't like something you try to accommodate, don't you? So I think you know, I think I always try to make things easier for Ethan, but actually having his diagnosis made me understand better. Yeah, so I already knew some things were different about Ethan. And but I never really understood why because at that time, I probably wasn't researching enough or wasn't reading, and wasn't belonging to an ADHD and an ASD parent group. I didn't know this was happening. I didn't know why it was happening to us, or what these things were having his diagnosis to made me apply targeted strategies to help Ethan it made me investigate, it made me review it made me understand. It made me be able to give him more support in those areas that he actually needed to support in, not, you know, not sort of licking our fingers, stick it in the air and see what stuck, which is what we were doing previously, you know, when he didn't want food touching, didn't understand why necessarily, now we do. Because actually, knowledge is power. And the more we read, the more you understand. But there's also you know, other sides to having a child with disabilities or special educational needs. And because it's not all about just clothes and sensory. There are sad sides to Ethan to as particularly in around self harm. And only yesterday I was at the burns unit in Chelsea and Westminster because he thought he'd investigate with an in car cigarette lighter and see how it felt to put his finger on it. Once he had that triggered it off. It's safe to say he'll never do it again. But there's also elements of self harm that come into Ethan's thinking. His confidence is low, he has negative feelings, thoughts, he gets fed up. He wants to give up and wishes he wasn't here. Those are all the things that happened, or that Ethan experiences on a daily basis when he is sad, and he's upset and hurt someone he loves. So for instance, you know, like last night, he threw a chair at me. He had destroyed his bedroom only because he couldn't have a packet of Doritos before he went to bed. Bearing in mind is bedtimes at 830. And 829. He wants a packet of Doritos. He's quite clever thinking he wants to stay up later. And I'd said, it's probably I think, use the word no. I said, it's probably not a good idea. You go to bed now maybe you can have a bigger breakfast in the morning. You've just eaten you hadn't long had his dinner. He wasn't hungry, as such, but the answer was not right now. But he didn't like that, because he knew that meant no. And off, he went and the bedroom got destroyed. And he had thrown a chair at me but then later on, he said, I'm an awful son. Why do you want to keep me you should have left me on the hospital floor and you wouldn't have had all this, these issues. So there are really negative sides, unfortunately to ASD and ADHD children and children with complex that are not neurotic neurotypical. And it's not all about sensory and emotional imbalance. It's, you know, they do self harm, and it's quite sad to see and watch.Scott Whitney:
Yeah, yeah. So how often does does Ethan go to that level, like you went to with last night with the chair.Dee Padfield:
So he's, he's becoming older now. So there used to be a lot more. So actually, I probably say, once every fortnight now used to be daily. So when he was in the infants, up until the ages of let's say, when was the seven now not 10 years seven, and eight. That was almost daily. I was at school every day, if he wasn't doing it at home, he was doing it at school. But actually, now he has a Senco worker, he goes to a separate school one day a week, as I was saying, he's now had targeted strategies about learning to cope in those moments. Actually, they've become fewer and far between. So we're down to one every two weeks, but actually, the severity of them has become greater. Yeah, because he is bigger. And they hurt a lot more. And I you can hear my laughing around it. But I don't take it lightly. And you have to as a mum. Carry on every day.Scott Whitney:
Yeah. You know, that's got to be obviously hard for you. And you know, your other people sort of close to you as well.Dee Padfield:
Yeah absolutely it effects myself, my partner, my partner's daughter. She also has very similar traits to Ethan. So she has autism, ADHD, but she's the flip side of Ethan. She doesn't have the she doesn't have the emotional imbalance. She's very withdrawn and very in so she's very calm, very quiet doesn't have much to say she's very different to Ethan. So there's, you know, it's chalk and cheese in the house when she comes to visit. Yeah, it does affect my it affects my relationship with my mom as well. My mom's my son's primary carer. So she picks him up from school. She's 77 she is like a super gran. But she does have him and she goes through exactly the same challenges. But she's probably the era that doesn't necessarily understand as much as well. You know, they were highly strung children in those days. So it's very difficult for her to accept his challenges as well. So we do have barriers there. She says, you know, he'll grow out of it. No, he won't. When he gets older, no, he may learn how to manage it better, but he won't grow out of it disappear. She'd like to think it does, but unfortunately, it doesn't. Yeah, so we we have to cope.Scott Whitney:
Yeah, I guess like, you know, when he grows out of it, and I'm making speech marks with my hands. The growing out of it is actually the masking of it. And the masking of it, and then you know, that period can be hard for Ethan and yourself as well. So just before we we wrap up, what advice have you got for, for parents that haven't got a diagnosis yet. But they, that they feel that there is something that needs to be investigated.Dee Padfield:
I would say don't give up. I would say, stay strong. However difficult is for us as parents to receive the challenges, I can assure you it is 10 times harder for them. The challenges they go through the way they see the world. It's no one's fault. But don't give up. You just have to stay strong. Getting the diagnosis or understanding your child better to be able to help and support them has to be a key because that's what we're here for as parents. We're here to live and serve our children. And that's what that's what you have to do. So yeah, don't give up. You know, just, yeah, stay strong.Scott Whitney:
Just keep going. Keep going. Yeah.Dee Padfield:
It will help you in the end. It will help them in the long run. Yeah, but but they need us.Scott Whitney:
Excellent. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, everyone. Thank you everyone for listening today. And that's the end of this week's All4Inclusion pod. And, and I hope you'll be back next week. Feel free to rate us on whichever, wherever you're getting your podcast too and share it with anyone that you feel would would benefit from listening. But that's it for us. So thank you very much, Dee.Dee Padfield:
Thank you. Thanks, Scott. Thanks, everyone.