Abbey and her son Michael* have been referred to us by the police. Michael suffers from Autism, ADHD, and social anxiety and has trouble controlling his emotions which often leads to flare ups between him and his mother, particularly when he is feeling anxious. Michael’s medication had recently been reduced and he was due to start a new college, both of which were adding to his anxiety. On the day in question, Michael and Abbey began to argue, which quickly escalated and resulted in Michael smashing a glass coffee table, at which point the police were called.
When the police arrived, Michael was upstairs and calm and, mum downstairs cleaning up the damage. Michael had a long conversation with the officer about his life and his worries and presented as a docile young man, but he clearly was struggling with his emotions. Michael and Abbey were not supportive of police action but wanted help. The concern was that there may be further escalated incidents and/or as Michael goes on to develop new relationships, he will have further problems through his life.
Police were considering other interventions or support that can be given to the family and as a result with the agreement of the family, a referral to Essex Restorative & Mediation Service was made.
Our facilitator, Stephen spoke to both parties separately on numerous occasions. It looked like there were several issues that both Abbey and Michael were not able to address without turning to destructive communication and each attempt of communication ended up with verbal abuse and destroying their relationship even more. After gaining more insight into both participants’ concerns, Stephen arranged to meet with both at their home to conduct a restorative conference with Michael’s father present as appropriate adult. After explaining the purpose of the meeting and explicitly advising that Stephen’s presence is not about pointing fingers at each other and deciding whether anyone is a good or a bad person, all three spoke about what happened and how everyone has been affected. Michael admitted smashing the table and explained that that he had been feeling very anxious as he was just about to start a college and felt overwhelmed with what the future might hold for him. He said he was ‘bottling his feelings up’ and he admitted that he feels annoyed about what happened, and he should have dealt with it in a better way. He also admitted that sometimes he finds it really hard to cope and he is not proud of what he did.
Abbey then spoke how frightened she felt after what happened. She was upset about what had happened and said that apart from smashing the coffee table, she was also verbally abused by Michael. She said that what Michael was saying, really hurt her and was degrading. She explained that she didn’t want to call the police, but she felt frightened not just for herself but also, what Michael might do to himself when he is lashing out.
Throughout the whole meeting, Michael remained calm and self-aware of his behaviour and spoke openly about the impact his behaviour might have on other family members. He admitted that sometimes he knows what he is doing, but not always. His mental health has a big impact on his wellbeing and his general behaviour patterns. During the restorative conversation, Stephen asked Michael what he feels would help him when he is anxious and Michael answered that he would actually preferred to be left alone to calm down on his own. Michael acknowledged that a lot of people has been affected by what happened and he remembers his father coming and sorting out the broken table.
When asked what could happen to make things better/different, Abbey explained she would like Michael to talk to her differently, with a little more respect and without abusive and hurtful comments. She explained that there are times she feels as though she is in an abusive relationship and all she would like is to have a non-toxic relationship with her son. Michael acknowledged what had been said and offered to make every attempt to change his way of communicating with his mum. He agreed that when he felt anxious, he would write down all the positive things that might come out from the event to help him see his source of anxiety from a different perspective.
The family discussed the future and how having a daily routine may be helpful for Michael. He is looking forward to beginning a car mechanics course in September and hopes a local garage will give him a job when he has learnt the basics.
Throughout the meeting, it became clear that Michael has got great support in his parents which he was surprised to realise. He mentioned that he doesn’t really talk to his parents about his life and he showed genuine surprise that his parents still care about him.
Both agreed that this has been a good and ‘long- awaited’ meeting.
When speaking to both a week after the restorative meeting took place, the hopeful feelings remained. There were no further incidents or degrading behaviour, and Michael and Abbey started a journey to re-build their relationship.