Seven-year-old Sam is an only child and his Dad serves in the British Army. The family have moved home five times since Sam was born, including a two-year posting overseas.
When Sam was two, he was involved in a traumatic accident which led him to develop severe PTSD. Four years later he still has night terrors and experiences severe separation anxiety if his Dad goes away with work. It also means Sam doesn’t like sudden changes to his routine, which is difficult as a military family.
Sam moved back to the UK when he was five and found the move incredibly difficult and distressing, especially because it did not go smoothly. The family arrived to find the house they had been allocated wasn’t in a fit state to march-in and they had to live in a hotel while it was sorted. It was another six weeks before the family’s furniture and belongings were shipped to the UK and they could start to make their house feel like home. During this time, Sam was clearly very anxious. His night terrors got more extreme and during the day he was prone to angry outbursts in between being distant and detached from his parents.
Not only was Sam struggling to settle into his new home and missing his friends, he also had to get used to a new culture and way of life. At his overseas school, formal education did not start until children are seven, so Sam found it hard to adjust to the more rigid expectations of the UK school system, where he was asked to sit at a desk for long periods of time.
Sam’s old school had suspected he had ADHD and created an education, health and care plan (EHCP) for him, but this couldn’t be carried over into the UK system. Sam’s Mum thinks that this made it even more difficult to settle Sam into his new school, as his new teachers didn’t initially understand his needs or connect his disruptive behaviour to his previous experience of being in a child-led environment.
Eventually, Sam began to settle into his new school and was receiving pastoral support from his teachers to support his suspected ADHD and PTSD. Then, Sam’s Dad received the news he was being promoted and the family would be moving home again, just one year after their move back to the UK.
Sam’s Mum knew that the move would cause high anxiety and disruption for her son again, so she applied to the Little Troopers Therapy programme. Within a month, Sam was assigned a therapist who visited him at home six times in the lead-up to the family’s moving date.
Using bespoke materials and activities that are specifically about military life, the therapist was able to talk to Sam in-depth about what it’s like to be a military child and move home frequently. Each week Sam and the therapist would work through fun activities and exercises such as mapping out the physical journey of the move, making lists of things he would miss and things he was looking forward to, and writing goodbye cards to his friends.
Sam’s Mum explains: “I was amazed by what the Little Troopers Therapy Programme provided and I can’t fault any part of it. It made such a difference at a challenging time in our lives. Having a safe space to talk about his feelings, worries and questions with someone outside of our family was exactly what he needed. The sessions were completely tailored to Sam’s needs and went at his own pace. The therapist did an excellent job at thinking about things from a child’s perspective and explaining the moving process to him in a way that he really understood.”
“When the moving day came, he was still sad, but it was manageable and I have no doubt this is because of the therapy sessions. He settled really quickly into the new place and I think it was the Little Troopers Therapy Programme that made all the difference. The therapist left us with activities and handouts to keep for future house moves and we will definitely use them again.”
*Names have been changed