Children’s names have been changed
How did you come across PowerWood?

I always knew that my daughters (now 7 and 9) were high-needs children. My youngest child in particular was very intense. I didn’t know how to stop her hitting her sister, and when she told me – at just four years old – that she hated herself, I knew I had to get help.
I had a few friends with intense children, one of whom had found PowerWood. She put me in touch with Simone de Hoogh, who confirmed that my daughters (and I) have OEs. We were away travelling at the time, but I had a Skype consultation with her which really helped.

When did you first notice your daughter’s obsessive compulsive behaviour (OCB)?

When we returned from travelling, Ella started to get really fixed on what she wanted to do and she’d have to do it lots of times. If she fed the cat she had to do it following the exact sequence that was (in her mind) the ‘right’ way – however tired she was. And she would obsessively count things, like the specks on a cracker, not allowing herself to eat the cracker until her counting ritual was complete.
We could see that Ella needed help but she wouldn’t – couldn’t – talk to us about what was happening. We felt helpless. I knew of another parent who’d sought support for her child’s obsessive compulsive behaviour from conventional channels, but that child hadn’t been helped at all – the problem had just got worse.
We remembered how helpful Simone had been in the past and we knew she understood intense children, so we contacted her about Ella’s behaviour.

How did PowerWood help?

Simone has a no-nonsense yet very gentle approach. It made sense when she described Ella’s behaviour as just another aspect (albeit an extreme one) of her intensity. I didn’t understand OCB – how it can be contained or what causes it to thrive. I didn’t realise that the more room you give it, the more it spirals out of control. As a gentle parent, I wasn’t sure where the boundaries were.
Simone gave me the information and tools I needed to help my daughter, and helped me understand what I had to change in myself in order for those tools to be successful. I began to see the effect my own anxiety was having on Ella. I’m very connected with my kids: they feel what I feel and vice versa. Through understanding this I began to see a pattern: when I was stressed, Ella would have an episode .
I was overwhelmed by the quality of the help Simone gave us. I felt safe with her; she had so much knowledge and understanding.
Once I’d dealt with my own stress and understood why my daughter behaved the way she did, I was able to talk with her about her behaviour. Ella told me that far from bringing her comfort, the OC behaviour was very scary for her. I explained that the compulsive behaviours were just Ella’s brain’s reaction to stress, in the same way that some people might have headaches when they’re stressed and other people get tummy aches. I began to gently take charge, stopping her when she began the OC behaviour and instead inviting her to sit on my lap and helping her do breathing exercises, for example. And we talked together about other ways Ella could help herself feel calm.

How has Ella been since?

Six months later we had another OCB incident. Although it was worse than before, this time I felt prepared. We got in touch with Simone straight away and together we quickly helped Ella. Since then I’ve worked hard on maintaining a positive home environment – by not over-scheduling us, and making sure we get plenty of exercise, for instance – to prevent stress building up. Ella hasn’t had a relapse since.

Interview by Lucinda Leo