every child is worth it: adopting an older child

I came across this heartwarming video on Facebook and just had to share it with you. It’s a must see.

The girl in this video breaks my heart. She’s overwhelmed by the news that this family’s adopting her. She’s waited years, and now she has a forever family. I can’t imagine being a teen and not having a family. All those struggles youth go through, and then to do it without any support and while carrying extra weighted pain.

This father is right. His “foster” daughter deserves a forever family.

I’ve been asked, “Why would you adopt a child who has special needs?” (I’m working on an article detailing my response, and I’m hoping a magazine will pick it up, if not you’ll be able to see it here at a later date.) Interesting question, yet I feel it’s one many ask silently, if not out loud.

The answer: Because he deserves a forever family.

I bawled while watching this video. So much of what the father said, I feel, even though I didn’t adopt a teen. I did adopt two children who began life without me. I adopted two children who had to go through the pain in this world without me by their side to carry those burdens for them. I cry because I wasn’t there.

And then people ask why we did it. WHY? Because children are worth it. This teen is worth it. The child with Autism is worth it. The teen with cerebral palsy is worth it. The baby with a congenital heart disease is worth it. EVERY child is worth it.

Have you adopted an older child or a child with special needs? How has it been worth it for you?


You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, you can do this on the web version. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

rocking: a simple first step to bonding, and it doesn’t just apply to infants (review – adoption/foster care)

Rocking_ a simple first step to bonding
(This post originally appeared on Lovin’ Adoptin’ in May 2013. I feel with all the new visitors I’d share again, plus a little reminder never hurt any of us, right?)

Have you found that discipline and having consequences for negative behavior doesn’t work with your hurting child? As one mom phrased it, “They don’t care.” So, our first goal is to focus on creating a bond. As you work on making connections with your child, be sure to keep in mind that this is a process. Our children’s previous circumstances have played a major role in re-wiring their brains, and it will take time and consistency to help them see us as safe adults, who they can trust.

Before we can implement directional techniques with our children, we have to begin working on the bonding process. Reason being, if our children are not attached to anyone, they will not change their behavior. This is why, until a certain point in the bonding continuum, consequences and discipline mean nothing. Simply put, our children who have attachment issues don’t care.

It’s also extremely important to remember that bonding will take time,

so will your child’s awareness that their negative behavior isn’t acceptable. Your child will take steps forward, and steps back. At first the steps forward will be much smaller than those going in reverse, but always look at those advances because those are what will keep you going.

Part of the reason our children are so difficult is because they are strong, and they’re extremely intelligent. In Chris Cleave’s book, Little Bee, he sums it up so simply.

“You are not dumb, Yevette. All of us who have got this far, all of us who have survived – how can we be dumb? Dumb could not come this far.”

Our children don’t want to change, and how well does it work to manipulate someones behavior when they are against it? It’s a no go. Their brain has literally been wired to distrust, and to protect themselves at all costs. We will have to change the patterns in their brain so they can bond with us, then we can help them with their negative behaviors. Bruce Perry has done some research that has scientifically proven that when a child is neglected, or has been through trauma, connections are not made in their developing brain. The neurotransmitters are not connected. A neglected/traumatized child’s brain looks different than a child’s who has been loved and accepted. This brain connectivity begins in-utero!

Rocking (rhythmic movement) has been proven to connect these neurotransmitters.

Brain scans were taken of children prior to rocking and afterwards, and the results were visible. Physical healing takes place when a child is rocked.

When we implemented rocking with our daughter we were surprised by the results. Prior to rocking, Payton had major sleep issues, not all of them were solved by rocking, but many were. It was a tremendous first step. You can see a previous post about how rocking helped us here. Before we began rocking, Payton would yell at me without thinking. She had a temper and was unable to control herself. After only a couple days of rocking, she yelled at me, caught herself, and began talking to me nicely.   This was a tremendous turn around, one that I had never witnessed with her. We still had behavior issues to work through, but many were taken care of with rocking.

You might be thinking, “Rock your child and they’ll begin to bond? But what if my child isn’t an infant, I have a seven-year-old.” The answer to the first question is, yes! The answer to the second is found in an amazing story I heard about a nine-year-old by who was not attached to either of his adoptive parents. He had been in their home for more than four years, and he had a disdain for his adoptive mother, and could barely tolerate his adoptive father. A therapist recommend the dad begin rocking the boy daily for a minimum of fifteen minutes per day. He did this, and the boy allowed him to do so. After rocking for a while, the young child began to make eye contact with his mom, which had never happened before. He finally allowed his mom to rock him and he bonded with both of them.

Try rocking your child by holding them facing you, it is recommended that they be rocked a minimum of fifteen minutes per day. You want rocking to be a positive time together, remember the goal is attachment. If you have a child that throws tantrums and fights you on everything, you can try Paradoxical Parenting to get them to rock. If you can tell that your child is completely uncomfortable rocking, you can begin with Floortime and Parallel Play which I lay out in my post, Tips on Bonding with an Adopted or Foster Child, and move to rocking as your child feels more comfortable with you.

rocking chairsYou can also begin by rocking your child for two minutes, then add a minute every day. If you have an older child that understands rewards, you can tell them they will get a small reward for rocking. I wouldn’t recommend candy, as I try to stay away from connecting food to behavior, whether removing it because of negative behavior, or rewarding with it because of positive behavior. I say small reward because you will have to continue it every time you rock for a while. Maybe they can play an educational iPad game when they’re done, or they can pick out a stuffed animal to sleep with. Also remember that for some of our children even rewards don’t matter. I can’t tell you how many “special” things our daughter has lost over the years. Until our daughter made a connection with us, rewards and consequences didn’t have the outcome we were looking for.

The study done on bonding wasn’t specific to rocking, but to rhythmic movement. Although, it is my opinion and the opinion of others that rocking makes a quicker connection between a parent and child – you are holding them close, you have bodily contact, you can make eye contact if your child will let you, and you are doing it together – there are other ways to get rhythmic movement into your child’s daily routine. You can use a trampoline, they even have smaller indoor ones (both of our kids LOVE the trampoline), swinging (you can even use aboy swinginghammock and rock together), or swimming. Friends of ours adopted their daughter from foster care when she was twelve-months-old and once they started her with horseback riding lessons, she never stopped.  Her family believes this is the rhythmic movement she craves and has helped her deal with issues that arise in her life.

I hope you can try rocking, and until your child is able to rock with you, or is far too large to rock, try rhythmic movement of any kind (can be combined with rocking). Let me know how it works, I would love to hear about it!

*Note: I shared the link about our children’s hurting brains looking different. This does not mean our children aren’t intelligent. It can actually mean that our children do possess a great intelligence, you can read more about it in, The Intelligence Behind a Hurting Child.

Following are some more posts related to attachment:
attachment in adoption and foster children: the first things we need to know

- tips on bonding with an adopted or foster child

play = bonding time

You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, you can do this on the web version. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

inclusion vs exclusion: special needs in the classroom

inlcusion vs exclusion- special needs in the classroom
Are there benefits to having special needs children in the mainstream classroom? Are there benefits for the typical students? Are there benefits for the special needs students? Should children with special needs be secluded in their own rooms?

If you’re wondering what inclusion is, there’s a great article over at Special Needs Resources, called, Inclusion: What It Is and What It Isn’t. The author, Karen Wang, has provided an excellent photo to explain what inclusion is, and what it isn’t.

Inclusion has innumerable favorable outcomes:

  • Inclusion reduces bullying. When typical children are around children with special needs, understanding will go far to reduce bullying. Our school makes great efforts to educate children on special needs, it’s part of the curriculum. They show videos of the special needs children and explain to all students what behaviors they might see and how to handle them when they see them. They have photos on the wall of famous people who have special needs and explain each disability. An inclusive community is an accepting community.

  • Michael Emmons*, a Professor of Special Education, comes to our children’s school to facilitate the staff and students in including the special needs students in the regular classrooms. He’s had over thirty years of experience in special education, specializes in inclusive education, positive behavioral support, language, literacy, and communication. Emmons has shared some situations with us about special needs children who benefitted profoundly from being in an environment with other “typical” students. One was  about a girl who has Autism. The school she attended was in the beginning phases of inclusion, she walked through the school screaming, and ripped the papers hanging in the hallways. Now, she’s fully included in the regular classroom, with “typical” peers, and she’s doing great.
  • The benefits for typical kids are innumerable. For kids to accept and understand how to interact with the special needs community is priceless. When typical children feel comfortable around those with special needs, and understand the capabilities of a person who has a disability, it’s invaluable. We can’t teach any of this in a classroom where there are no special needs, this won’t happen when children are polarized. These life lessons will be with them forever, making them better people.
  • Children learn from their peers. If children are only exposed to others with special needs, meaning similar skill levels or having like behaviors, that’s what they’re learning. It’s essential to have children interact with others who have comparable abilities, but they also need opportunities to grow, which happens when they’re around others who are more advanced developmentally. In the article Special Needs Children Benefit from Mainstreaming, Rick Naurert says, “Researchers have found the practice of educating children with special needs in regular classes helps to improve the language skills of preschoolers with disabilities.”
  • I highly recommend the book, Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. It’s a story of a girl who has cerebral palsy, she’s nonverbal and when she’s finally included in the regular classroom, and given the opportunity to communicate, she astounds everyone with her vast knowledge.

  • Children with special needs have feelings too, inclusion makes them part of the community.

There are negatives to exclusion:

  • In special needs classrooms children can have the same teacher each year, this could mean several years with the same educator. And what if that teacher is  dissatisfactory? What if they don’t treat special needs children as typical kids who have feelings, thoughts, and abilities? What if they don’t talk to them as though they are able to understand? What if they read baby books or work on number recognition when your child is capable of so much more?
  • Abuse can take place when teachers and aides are alone with kids who may not be able to, or know how to, express what’s going on.
  • In the article Special Needs Children Benefit from Mainstreaming, Laura Justice says, “The biggest problem comes when we have a classroom of children with disabilities with no highly skilled peers among them. In that case, they have limited opportunity to improve their use of language.”

*********

I’ve said it before, but our kid’s school rocks. They’re inclusive. The principle, Mary Biagini decided to go full inclusion four years ago, and they’ve made great progress. The school partnered with Listen 2 Kids Productions last year to create the video, I See Your Ability, which discusses inclusion from both the students and teachers perspectives. This is only a preview of the video, but you can purchase it here.

In the video above you hear children talk about helping those with special needs, it’s an every day occurrence, it’s part of everyday life. One child came to the school as a third grader and he’d never seen a special needs child before. He didn’t know what to do, if he should talk to them or not.

Children in the school admit they are different because they’re in class with special needs students, one says that he has a lot more patience and acceptance than he would normally have.

Here are some quotes from the video:

One child makes it very clear what inclusion means: “Martin Luther King worked to end segregation from whites and blacks, and if you’re a principle and you only want [typical] kids, no special needs kids, you are no better than the people who wanted to segregate blacks and whites.”

“I can see how much [the special needs kids] love playing with us, and when we’re not there, they’re sad.” – Student

“I really don’t see the needs of the gifted and talented or the higher end learners being compromised.” – School Counselor

“Inclusion is not just about getting kids in regular educations classrooms, it’s about creating belonging for students in regular education classes.” – School Psychologist

Not only is it essential for special needs parents to promote inclusion, but we need parents of typical children to step up and speak up. It’s the parents of typical kids who are worried about the special needs students being included in the regular classroom. We need parents who’ve witnessed a change in their children to come forward and advocate for special needs children.

Please share with others to promote inclusion of special needs students in general classrooms.

If you’re looking to incorporate inclusion in your school (this means parents too, as you’ll be the most influential advocates), know that it’s a process. This doesn’t happen overnight.

You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, this can be done on the web version. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

will they adopt me? adoption from a childs perspective

adoption from a childs perspective
She’s so sweet. Oh, he’s so adorable. I just love his smile. The first day I visited the orphanage, she ran to me and gave me a hug. 

These qualities are what draws adoptive and foster parents. It makes sense, but it breaks my heart. It wrecks me to think that children aren’t worthy of love because they aren’t attractive, don’t smile like another child, or they’re hurting inside so they act out with behaviors that are objectionable.

Society, for the most part, wants perfection, or something close to it. People don’t usually settle for “less than” in any area of their lives, and this trickles over into adoption and foster care. I felt this bias strongly when our children came to us through foster care.

We have two beautiful children. No, I didn’t choose them. I didn’t look through photo listings and pick out the one with the longest eyelashes or the one with jet black hair, they landed on my doorstep after a phone call and the answer, “Yes, bring her/him.”

When friends met our daughter we felt the expectations of what’s acceptable were met. They were surprised such a beautiful child would be in foster care. Although we all know foster care knows no race, color, beauty, intelligence, or eye color, there seems to be a stigma that surrounds it.
adoptable vs unadoptable

One of our friends, when told we were going to adopt from China (because that was our first plan, you can read more about that here), was shocked, and said, “But you two would have such cute kids!” Well, really nice sentiment, BUT…we just don’t feel the need to populate the world with more gorgeous beings such as ourselves. ;) And, gee, look what we ended up with (even though we didn’t reproduce ourselves), two really stunning children, if I must say so myself. Other than that, they aren’t quite perfect. Justin and I always say to each other, “It’s a good thing she’s cute, because…”

Love Without Boundaries interviewed children in a Chinese orphanage, and it’s clear they understand what it takes to be “adoptable”. As orphans are adopted out, the others who aren’t, notice who goes and who stays.

In this Love Without Boundaries video, children are asked about adoption. Some of their answers are, “If you’re obedient, you get to go away for a good purpose,” and “Because if they’re obedient, do well in school, get good grades, then they get adopted.” Notice the second answer isn’t in first person, he probably doesn’t feel what he said applies to himself – he is still in the orphanage. At about the 5:24 mark, the interviewer is brought to tears by one orphans sincerity in wanting to be adopted.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6h_RkZw9W8

There are families all over the world who adopt hurting children who struggle in school, have developmental obstacles, or special needs. The world is changing, but these ideas that children need to be a certain way still exist. My hope is that all children would find forever families who accept them for who they are, not what society wants them to be.

You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, you can do this on the web version. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

tips on bonding with an adopted or foster child

tips on bonding with an adopted or foster child
When our daughter, Payton, came to us, she was young, but she was completely broken. Naive people have said to us, “It’s a good thing she was so young when she came to you, she won’t be affected by what happened.”

 

That’s the generally held consensus isn’t it? If a child is removed from a neglectful or abusive situation soon enough, it won’t affect them. Wrong. Sure it’s better for them, the hope is that it doesn’t take them as long to heal, but they are impacted as much, or possibly more than an older child.

In Bruce Perry’s book, The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, he says, “The fact that the brain develops sequentially – and also so rapidly in the first years of life – explains why extremely young children are at such great risk of suffering lasting effects of trauma: their brains are still developing. The same miraculous plasticity that allows young brains to quickly learn love and language, unfortunately, also makes them highly susceptible to negative experiences as well.”
myth- young children aren't afffected by abuse and neglect

Payton had emotionally shut herself down because of the neglect and trauma she suffered. She would bang her head on the floor, or on a piece of furniture, but no sound escaped her lips. Never having been around a child with a traumatic past, this shocked me. She had learned early on that no one responded when she cried, so why put forth the effort?

We didn’t have any specific training in how to deal with this or many other issues that came our way, so I did what came naturally. Every time she fell, or bumped against something, I picked her up, held her against me, and said, “It’s okay, Mama’s here.” (At the time she was in foster care. Her bio mom called herself Mommy, so I referred to myself as “Mama.”) After a couple months of consistently showing her that I would rescue her when she was hurt, Payton began following me around the house! It was more of a curiosity thing, she was making a basic connection that someone cared. True bonding would take years to develop, but we had a base to begin from, and I was excited!

During this same time, I was on the floor with her a lot. How did I do this? In my years of parenting a child with attachment issues (actually she was diagnosed with RAD, you can see my opinions on that here) and one with Autism, I have come to see the benefits of a small house. I’m in close proximity to my kids. (If you don’t have a smaller home, you can use baby gates to keep your kids close.) My husband and I also drastically changed our daily routines. Our focus was on our new little girl, who needed as much of us as she could get.

I spent as much time as I could on my daughter’s level.

She hadn’t learned the basics of play, not even as an infant would. It took a long time for her to learn to play, and even longer to use her imagination. But, she had noticed I was there. She moved from following me around to mimicking me (I have a photo of her at eighteen-months loading the washing machine), and eventually moving on to sitting on my lap, etc.

This technique can also be called “Floortime.” I implemented this (in a way) with my daughter before I heard about Stanley Greenspan’s Floortime. We were introduced to Floortime much later when my son was diagnosed with Autism. The approach is not specific to Autism, and can be extremely helpful in the bonding between a child with attachment issues and a parent or caregiver. 

“Floortime meets children where they are and builds upon their strengths and abilities through interacting and creating a warm relationship. It challenges them to go further and to develop who they are rather than what their diagnosis says.” www.stanleygreenspan.com

The Developmental Therapist who works with our son uses a mixture of Floortime and other therapies, which I’ve discovered are a foundational component to bonding. We have to return to this cornerstone of Floortime because many of our children don’t know how to play, no one taught them how. Sometimes their brains can’t calm down enough to engage in free or imaginative play.

One reason I really love Floortime is because, as quoted above, “…it meets children where they are and builds upon their strengths and abilities through interacting and creating a warm relationship.” Why is this so great? Let’s look at key elements in the statement above.

  1. “…it meets children where they are.” – Our hurting children are not at their actual developmental age. We have to meet them where they are so they can climb the ladder of social, emotional, and physical development. There’s no time limit, there is no rush when looking at the developmental age of our hurting children, it will take time. And always remember bonding takes precedence over development in any other area.
  2. “…[it] builds upon their strengths and abilities.” – This is encouragement that our children need. They are constantly bombarded by negative, both from the outside and from within.
  3. “…through interacting and creating a warm relationship.” – What could be better? This is what our ultimate goal is for our children with attachment issues. We want them interacting with us (by the way, that begins with constant effort on our end), and we want to create a warm relationship. Some of you who have a child that struggles day to day may not think a warm relationship is possible, but it is! Your connection with each of your children will look different, but you will be amazed at the gem you find beneath the hurt, anger, and fear your child is holding onto.

Now that we have seen the benefits of Floortime, let’s find out how to do it. There will be a progression of steps. After you feel your child is comfortable with one of the steps, move to the next one. How will you know your child is ready for the next step? They will share smiles, engage you by handing you a toy, open discussions with you, they might make eye contact for the first time, or for longer periods than they have before. If you move on and you notice they are moving away from you or avoiding you, return to the previous step and work through it some more.

At any of the stages you can begin touching your child on the back or arm. See how they respond. If they squirm away, try again the next day. Don’t force it, but don’t avoid it either.

Step 1: PARALLEL PLAY

You will begin by sitting next to your child and engaging in parallel play. (This can also be done with older children, which I will touch on in a moment.) “Parallel play is a form of play where children play adjacent to each other, but do not try to influence one another’s behavior…the children do not play together, but alongside each other.” www.wikipedia.org For our purposes, this will be done between an adult caregiver or parent and a child. We’re going back to those fundamentals they never learned and have difficulty with.
Sit next to your child and engage in a similar activity. Don’t talk, only mimic what your child is doing with your own toy/book/body. It may feel goofy at first, but trust me, it works! If your child is pretending to drive a car, do the same with your own. If your child is looking at a book, sit quietly next to her reading one of her books. This will lay a foundation to build on. Be sure that you are engaging in something they have found interest in. You will do this every day if at all possible. The more you work on it, the faster bonding will come. I would begin with short sessions, around ten to fifteen minutes.

  • Older Children (including teens): It’s the same concept as above, but obviously they will be more advanced. If your child enjoys coloring or drawing, sit next to her and do the same with your own paper. Whatever they enjoy doing, do it sitting next to them. Get involved with them at a basic level, being quiet, and letting yourselves exist in the same space.

Step 2: INTEREST PLAY

Next you will begin talking about what you are doing with your child. If your child has a difficult time looking at your face, bring toys to the bridge of your nose, so your child will look at your eyes. If your child looks at you say, “Thank you for looking at me,” in an excited voice. For a very young child who is beginning to talk, you describe what you are doing: “I’m driving the car. You’re driving the car.” Praise a child of any age when they do well (be real, they’ll know if you’re lying). Don’t say anything negative at this time.
“Play is the work of children. It consists of those activities performed for self-amusement that have behavioral, social, and psychomotor rewards. It is child-directed, and the rewards come from within the individual child; it is enjoyable and spontaneous.”www.healthofchildren.com

  • Older Children (including teens): Talk about what you are doing with them. You can ask them some questions, but keep those few and brief.

Step 3: INTERACTIVE PLAY

Now you can begin interacting more, andJustin & Jeremiah 2012exchanging in play. You can begin to play with their toy with them. You can read a book to them, invite them to sit in your lap to read a book or sing a song. If you have a girl that’s interested in doing your hair (come on Dad :)), take turns playing salon. This is a great opportunity for your child to practice taking turns, caring for someone, and appropriate gentle touch is always positive.

  • Older Child (including teens): If you have a child that likes sports, you can play ball together. This exchange is a great back and forth play, your child is facing you, and they may also open up more and want to talk. Embrace what your child likes. Involve yourself by interacting and being interested.

These are some pivotal steps that will help your child bond with you. “[By using Floortime and] staying within [their] focus, you are helping [them] practice basic thinking skills: engagement, interaction, symbolic thinking and logical thinking. To master these skills requires using all these senses, emotions, and motor skills…”www.stanleygreenspan.com

When raising children with attachment issues (and for me, having an added child with Autism) it can get quite discouraging. You try something, it doesn’t work, so you try again, and again it fails. Keep trying. I have often put something on that back burner for a long time because I tried dozens of times and failed. Then one day I would try it again, and suddenly it would work! Be persistent and eventually your child will be ready for that hug, or respond to that “thank you,” or whatever you might be wanting your child to do to show connection.

You can bookmark this post to refer back to as you work on bonding. You can also receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, you can do this on a web version. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

contradicting the norm: autism on the playground

contradicting the norm - autism on the playground
My favorite vacation spot is Ouray, CO, and I’m lucky because it’s only two hours away. It’s dubbed “Little Switzerland” and has gorgeous majestic mountains surrounding the small valley town.

I absolutely love the views and slow atmosphere in this quaint town. When myIMG_1164 husband, Justin, and I go on our weekend getaways once a year, we sit by the pool and I describe it like this; we read, we look up at the peaks, we look down and read some more, we look up at the peaks, repeat. We soak in the quiet, we soak in the beauty that fills our souls, we eat at unique restaurants, we RELAX.

But what do we do when we take two kids ages four and six, and one with Autism? Makes it much more complicated.

Our life is planned. We have a way we do things, we’re all fairly Autistic, or maybe Justin has conformed to Jeremiah’s and my quirks. We have places we like to eat, we know what we can do with the kids, we know what works…for the most part.

We used to love this park by the hot springs, but that’s been crossed off the list because Jeremiah LOVES swimming, and now that he’s understanding more, he notices the pool and only wants to get in. Don’t really blame him. So, thankfully the last time we were there we found a secluded little park away from the pool. Perfect.

Sunday we went to Ouray. When we arrived we grabbed food from our favorite deli, Backstreet Bagel, and headed to the park. Beautiful day,  stunning views, yummy food, who could complain?

Going to the park has always consisted of us chasing Jeremiah. He’s a runner, an eloper, a wanderer, whatever you want to call it.

He’ll walk right out of the house if we’re not extra cautious at all times. So, we’ve always needed to be within arms length or like a fit police man on steroids, ready to pounce when we’re in a public place. Anywhere other than a park, we hold his hand, or put him in a contraption.

We were expecting the norm this weekend. Except guess what? It didn’t happen! Yes, I’m screaming on the inside. Jeremiah stayed in the vicinity of the playground most of the time. Several times when we called his name he responded and turned around, and there was an occasional testing of the boundaries, but that was toward the end and we’d been there for about two hours. Yeah. Awesome!

I thought it would be years before we could ever go to the park and enjoy it as a family instead of being hyper-vigilant about Jeremiah and where he was. When he comes down that slide is he going to bolt? What if he walks around the side of the play set and jets, will we be able to catch him before he reaches the road? Okay, you set up post here and I’ll go around. Although we still have to be very aware, and reading a book or looking at our phone while at the park are impossible, I’m relieved to see that outings might be morphing.

Another cool thing was this: Jer obstacle course

Yes, he’s breaking the law, but if you can look past the CAUTION tape, you can see Jeremiah making his way through an obstacle course. Something he would normally stare at and avoid (usually the only equipment utilized at the park is the swing set). I was “cautious” at first, and in fact told Payton to stay off the steps, but when Jeremiah began traversing the wayward yellow strands, I zipped my mouth and watched. (I’m learning to do this more as it teaches me quite a lot about my child.) He scaled up and down those steps, and over and around the tape several times. I’m thinking our next project will be an obstacle course since he isn’t really fond of the ginormous play-set we spent a ton of money on and several weeks putting together this spring. Some stupid simple yellow tape and some steps, got it covered.

J & J swingingOur park adventure so contradicted the norm that Justin was able to relax and played with the kids (actually we both did). It was so fun to let down our guard (a little) and play! Justin climbed on the rainbow bars with Payton and even convinced himself he should try out for American Ninja Warrior. ;) That’s all it takes.

I hope this gives some encouragement to those of you who have runners. Yes, once in a while Jeremiah still tries the door handles at home. No, I don’t trust that he won’t run into the street (he still has no concept of the danger that lurks in the road, commonly known as cars). But I have hope. I see that he’s changing, he’s understanding more. This is something we can build on, or at least for the moment it is.

Wishing you a great day and some fun park adventures before summer ends.

Thanks for stopping by. If you know other parents who would enjoy Lovin’ Adoptin’ please feel free to share. You can receive every post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, you can do this on the web version. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

attachment in adoption & foster care: the first things we need to know

attachment in adoption- the first things we need to knowThis is a post I originally wrote in April 2013. Many of you are new here, so I thought I would bring back some of the basics in the following weeks. Hope you enjoy.

*************

In Chris Cleave’s novel Little Bee, he writes Little Bee’s thoughts, “Take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means I survived.” This makes me think of our adopted children who struggle with attachment issues because they have scars.

A scar also means they’ve been through a traumatic experience. Our child may not have wounds that mark their skin, but they have scars, usually many, that are revealed in various ways. One of the ways our children deal with their hurt, or scar, is by not attaching to us.

TRUST HAS BEEN CATASTROPHICALLY BROKEN AND THEY ARE EXTREMELY AFRAID TO RELY ON ANYONE.

To help our children with attachment issues, we need to first understand the basics of what it is, and why our children are not forming a bond with us.

The website childtrauma.org says, “The attachment bond has several key elements: 1) an attachment bond is an enduring emotional relationship with a specific person; 2) the relationship brings safety, comfort, soothing, and pleasure; 3) loss or threat of loss of the person evokes intense distress.”

I believe that attachment issues are on a spectrum. Here’s a graph that explains:
attachment issues spectrum

No two people are alike, and the same goes for adopted children. Some may not exhibit any signs of an attachment disorder, yet it’s very important to be aware of your child and look for signs that they are struggling in an area. Behaviors that you think are positive; Johan eats everything on his plate at every meal, or Lily is a leader, in charge and always trying to help everyone around her, may be indicative of a much larger problem.

Now to address Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). The ever helpful Wikipedia says, “RAD is one of the least researched and most poorly understood disorder in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).” I agree. When we hear the word RAD, a bit, or a whole boat load of fear settles in our heart. Often the stories we’ve heard about RAD are the scariest. We hear about children with RAD setting fires in their home, chasing their parents with a knife, or hurting their siblings. These scenarios areextremely rare, yet so many children are being diagnosed with RAD. (Note that my daughter was diagnosed with RAD.)

The Mayo Clinic lists the following scenarios as increasing the chances of a child developing Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD):

  • Living in an orphanage
  • Inexperienced parents
  • Extreme poverty
  • Postpartum depression in the baby’s mother
  • Parents who have a mental illness, anger management problems, or drug or alcohol abuse
  • Forced removal from a neglectful or abusive home
  • Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
  • Prolonged hospitalization
  • Extreme neglect
  • Frequent changes in foster care or caregivers
  • Institutional care

www.attachmentdisorder.com adds a few more to this already lengthy list of causes:

  • Traumatic experience
  • Maternal depression
  • Undiagnosed, painful illness such as colic, ear infections, etc.
  • Lack of attunement between mother and child

Attachment issues are difficult, both for the one suffering, and for the parent who is pouring their life into their child. But, let’s remember how Chris Cleave so eloquently phrased it,

they have scars because they survived.

So, let’s treat our children as survivors, remembering their suffering, but gently guiding them to wholeness and out of pain. Let’s help them heal their scars and bond.

Here are some links to simple strategies that will help get your family on the track to healthy attachment.

rocking: a simple first step to bonding (and it doesn’t just apply to infants)

let’s bond already: creating attachment with an adopted child

play = bonding time

You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, this can be done on the web version. You can also follow me on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.