Kaddour’s parents have always taken the beatings and bites of their non-verbal autistic son without flinching.
“We suffer, it’s true, but it’s nothing compared to his suffering,” describes Salah Labsari, the father of the 13-year-old boy who also has an intellectual disability.
When the teenager is at school, they can take a breather.
But in March 2022, the management of the establishment announced to his parents that he could no longer attend it full time.
Her tantrums had become too much to handle.
He threw his desk, his chair, everything he had at hand. He was biting. He was knocking. He was pulling everyone’s hair. He was also self-harming.
It was dangerous for the other students, for the staff and for himself.
He ended up not going there at all.
Kaddour’s parents have somehow become prisoners of their apartment with an out-of-control son.
Because there is no question of letting a single parent – except for rare essential outings – manage crises. “We need two, sometimes three, to master it,” explains the father.
The family is on their fifth television set, the target of the teenager’s anger. In his room, there is no furniture apart from a box spring and a mattress, to avoid any risk of injury.
Neighbors complained about the noise and shouting, causing the family to fear that they would be forced to leave their apartment. Again.
Because it has happened to them before. In the midst of a housing crisis, finding a large, affordable apartment for a family of five – Kaddour is the youngest of three children – is an almost impossible task. They certainly don’t need that extra stress.
“I was desperate,” sums up the mother, Meriem Bendounane.
“My wife was exhausted,” adds her husband, Mr. Labsari.
Specialists at home
If the family speaks in the past tense, it is because Kaddour’s behavior has recently improved thanks to intensive home intervention by a new team from the CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l’Île-de-Montréal.
Created in the fall of 2021, the Serious Behavioral Disorders Prevention team supports families and different environments – including the school the child attends – in order to prevent school disruptions and requests for accommodation in an institution – between others in the youth center, underlines its head of rehabilitation, Caroline Vallières.
Made up of ten specialized educators, the team currently supports 27 families like that of Kaddour. So many families whose child has a moderate to severe intellectual disability or an autism spectrum disorder and who can represent a danger for himself or for those close to him.
The follow-up is very intensive. The specialized educator visits the child three to five times a week for two years. If necessary, the team has access to various health professionals (kinesiologist, speech therapist, sexologist, nurse, psychoeducator).
Last July, therefore, Kaddour’s parents were at their wit’s end. But they didn’t want to place their son in an institution.
This is where “Mme Sophia and Mr. Jean” came into their lives.
“They are our guardian angels”, insists the dad welcoming The Press in his six and a half north of Montreal on a cold February afternoon.
“Mme Sophia”, it is the specialized educator Sophia Maisonneuve, who is the pivotal worker in the family.
“Mr. Jean” is Jean Charbonneau – specialist in clinical activities in support of the team’s specialized educators.
“Don’t move anything, otherwise Kaddour is going to have a fit,” says the dad to the photographer who is having trouble getting around the living room because of the dozens of cars and Paw Patrol characters lined up on the floor.
Same warning when you enter the teenager’s room. We see that the room is bare except for a box spring and a mattress without a sheet on which are ordered dozens of packs of trading cards.
The fewer objects and furniture there are, the less risk of injury there is.
Reduce the risk of serious injury
The approach of the educators is very concrete.
The CIUSSS has equipped the mother with a protective helmet – to prevent hair pulling –, a blocking cushion – think of the one used in martial arts – and a huge inflatable Omnikin ball – the one used to play kinball. Parents can put the ball between themselves and their child. Thus, it is the object, and not the parent, that absorbs the blows.
Initially, physical interventions should be minimized to avoid injury, says Ms.me Vallieres.
By working on the feeling of security, we increase the speed of the return to calm, adds Mr. Charbonneau.
A very elaborate system of pictograms has been designed and prominently displayed in the accommodation. It was also reproduced at school.
Because Kaddour’s life must be predictable down to the minute. A sock that has to be put on at 7:58 a.m. cannot be put on at 7:59 a.m. Otherwise, there is a crisis.
Footage shows him what he shouldn’t do – pulling his hair, for example – and offering him alternatives – hitting the big ball, for example.
“Mme Sophia” has also produced a large binder where photos of his needs are recorded: the few foods he accepts to eat (bread, Doritos, juice and crisps, essentially), the places he likes to go.
The more Kaddour manages to express himself, the less he gets angry, sums up the specialist educator.
The special education teacher also convinced the school to take him back on a full-time basis last September. The establishment wanted to reinstate him on a part-time basis only.
“Mme Sophia” goes there as needed to support the teacher.
In six months of intensive follow-up, the teenager went from four to five attacks per day to three to four attacks per… month.
“It’s a great miracle,” says the teenager’s mother, very grateful.
It’s not a miracle, the special educator told him kindly. The adolescent has improved his behavior because the family integrates all the tools offered to him.
When a family does not collaborate, the results are not as spectacular, specifies the specialized educator.
The other day, Kaddour said the words “juice” and “chips”. This is the first time in 13 years that their child has made a clear request. At school, he started participating in physical education class. And he sings – “he sings”, repeat the parents, flabbergasted.
Their angel with “broken wings” finally takes off, illustrates the mother.
“Superheroes” who need a break
At the time of our visit, Kaddour had not yet returned from school.
“It’s better that he doesn’t see you,” the CIUSSS team told the representatives of The Press. This could cause a seizure. »
Before meeting any new person, the teenager must have seen them in a photo. Otherwise, it reacts badly. This is how the CIUSSS workers were introduced to the family.
Today, for the first time in years, Kaddour’s mum plans to take a week’s vacation without her son.
Mme Bendounane dreams of visiting her father – whom she has not seen for a very long time – on the other side of the Atlantic.
“Mr. Jean” encourages him in this direction.
“You and your husband are Kaddour’s superheroes, you take good care of them,” he told her. We will work so that you learn to take care of yourself. »