are Autism behaviors annoying?

Are Autism behaviors annoying
An interesting conversation arose between me and a family member about Autism. I’m sure whether you are Autistic or have a child with Autism, you’ve had some interesting conversations yourself. This exchange began with me talking about my son, Jeremiah who is four-years-old, has Autism, and is nonverbal. I said, ”I had a dream that Jeremiah could write letters and say them.” Joan* responded, “I pray that every day, that he’d be able to do those things and more.” I said, “I would love for him to be able to communicate and not be irritated.” To which she added, “…and annoying.”

I interrupt this conversation to talk about this first point, “…annoying.”

(More was discussed beyond this, but I will save that for another post.) So, annoying, yes certain aspects of Autism are annoying, especially when the child can’t communicate. But heck, aren’t we all annoying at some point to everyone around us? Doesn’t something bother you about each person you know? Okay, probably not, but we each have our unique personalities and can, quite frankly, be annoying. I’m not, but hey, you need to work on your issues. 😉

Now, Joan wasn’t saying Jeremiah’s annoying in a mean way, she loves him, but she knows that when I’ve had it up to my eyebrows with everything in my life, including moments with Autism, she will watch the kids (she runs an in-home daycare) a little extra for me. She knows that some things Jeremiah does can bother others. He bothers her too, and she has a LONG fuse. But, I’d say 98% – 99% of Jeremiah’s “annoying” behaviors are the result of him not being able to communicate, coupled with his sensory needs.

Jeremiah’s a REALLY good kid other than he exhibits what we see as negative behaviors when he can’t communicate and when his sensory needs over or underwhelm him.

For example, when Jeremiah doesn’t have his PECS* card for “food” available, he opens the dishwasher to climb on the counter to get his snack. He doesn’t open anything else, he doesn’t make a mess, he simply gets out the goldfish, and is usually found out before he opens the package. Getting him off the counter is “annoying” to me because I have to lift him off the counter, and I have back problems, so it hurts, and doing this consistently on “bad” days, coupled with other behaviors, is hard. But, we can see that he’s climbing on the counter because he’s hungry (always) and wants to eat, but wasn’t able to communicate his need in a timely manner, if at all.
there is a purpose behind the Autistic persons behaviors

Another example would be when he screams (happy screams) at THE TOP OF HIS LUNGS when he’s inside the house. Can you say, “ANNOYING!!!?” Yeah, it is, to the extreme. Why is he screaming? We don’t know. I would bet it has something to do with sensory issues and communication, depending on the moment. Problem is, he doesn’t stop if you ask, he may for a moment, but he’ll do it again. So, he’s trying to communicate excitement, sharing that he likes something that’s going on, or a way he feels, he may like the way it tickles his throat, it may be his only way to say, “I’M RIGHT HERE PEOPLE, HEAR ME ROAR!!!” He’s a boy after all. 🙂

Those things that annoy some of us are our child’s way of saying something: they’re get excited when the sun is shining, they want to play at the playground you just passed by, flourescent lights irritate them, they hear humming in their ears, they’re saying “hi” (Jeremiah does this by hitting – we’re always teaching him to be gentle, but we need to acknowledge that he’s saying “hi”), and so much more.

Really so much of what I want for Jeremiah is based on two key things I’ve talked about here, I want him to be able to communicate and I want to help him with his sensory needs, or for him to know what to do for himself. And in the end, I want Jeremiah to be happy. That’s my desire for him.

In the beginning of my Autism trek, I was surrounded by people with more of a “poor us” mentality, parents want to “cure” their child, people who wanted to know how we could “fix” Jeremiah, it wasn’t so focused on the positive attributes of Autism.

I’ll be discussing more of that mentality next week, because the conversation I had with Joan moved into the area of “fixing” or “getting rid” of Autism.


*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

*PECS stands for Picture Communication Exchange System which uses photos as a way to communication.

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why Grandma & Grandpa’s parenting techniques don’t work with adopted/foster kids

In March, Rebecca Vahle of the Adoption Perspectives radio show interviewed me. In the interview below, we discuss why “normal” parenting techniques don’t work with adopted and foster children. We went over things such as:

  • why it’s okay to give a child attention when they’re acting out
  • why people want us to parent differently, and why it doesn’t work
  • why time-in is better than time-out
  • where our children come from and why time-out is harmful
  • why raising a traumatized child looks different than raising a biological child

Get out your iPod, iPhone, Android and listen in the car, while you’re doing laundry, or listen on the web:

Have you used time-out with your foster or adopted child? How did it work? Have you tried time-in? How did it work?

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we are what we eat: food and its effects on Autism

we are what we eat food and its effects on Autism
*Please be sure to read the note at the end regarding the words “managing” Autism before making any assumptions about my stand on this issue. Heck, just go read the note no matter what, it’s a point we all need to consider.

Katherine Reid of Unblind My Mind says, “We are what we eat, but most of us don’t know what we’re eating.”

Katherine’s daughter was diagnosed with Autism, and she says, “She was a child in her own world. There was no eye contact, no interaction with others, no bonding…playing with other children.” Katherine’s family tried several interventions including Applied Behavior Analysis (you can see my thoughts on that here), play therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and Auditory Integration Therapy, but nothing seemed to be making a difference.

Using her background in biochemistry, with a focus on nutrition, Katherine began changing her daughter’s diet in three phases (including adding supplements and removing foods and additives). Each phase created a change in her daughter, which she talks about in the video below.

The transformation in her daughter is astonishing after Katherine made these dietary changes. I only say this because, if you watch the video, there were some intense feelings her daughter was struggling with before the modifications.

We’ve made dietary changes with our son, Jeremiah, and we’ve noticed a remarkable difference in his behavior, attention, eye contact, and ability to follow simple directions. Here are some of the adjustments we’ve made:

  1. ProEFA Nordic Naturals (specialized fish oil)
    A friend of mine has a grandson who takes this formula that blends EPA and DHA from cold water fish [from Norway] with GLA from borage oil. The omega-rich blend supports…brain function, positive mood,,,and supports a healthy immune system.”
    This ProEFA oil has been shown to help children talk. My friends grandson has Autism and was nonverbal. Within two weeks of taking the supplement he began to make an effort to approximate words for anything and everything. Within a month, he could say all words for things he needed or played with. Language began to explode once he was able to verbalize and realized the power his words had. Within about six months he knew and used all words needed. His ability to communicate led to less meltdowns and behavior issues.
    Because of the testimony from my friend about ProEFA, we began giving it to Jeremiah every day (we do two capsules a day) and we saw marked improvement. When he’s taking the ProEFA, his eye contact, behavior, and ability to calm or stay calm are better, he is less irritated and he’s happier.
    When we don’t give Jeremiah his ProEFA it’s obvious. He hasn’t started talking (although we’ve heard words here and there and a few short sentences, but nothing sticks), but the other benefits are worth the expense.
    People with Autism can be particular when it comes to food, so you may wonder how to get this oil in your child. First, this oil don’t have the strong fishy taste of other fish oils, the flavor is lemon, but it’s not an overpowering flavor either. When you mix it into food or stronger drinks you can’t even taste it.
    We poke a small hole in the capsule and squeeze it into whatever Jeremiah’s eating or drinking at the time (apple juice, pancakes). The one we purchase is the 180 count on the top left of the screen I gave the link to, you can begin with the 90 count to try it out (it’s the one on the top left).
    *I am not a doctor and I’m not prescribing anything.
  2. Removal of casein (milk) proteins
    We had Applied Kinesiology and a detox (sounds odd, but I swear by it) done on Jeremiah and the doctor found he’s allergic to dairy. The night of the detox Jeremiah was crabby, but the following day we saw him do things he’d NEVER done, like wave bye and say, “ai” (bye) to his teachers. That day in class they noticed a marked difference in him. That month he started responding to his name for the first time.
    Since then he’s been able to eat eggs, but no cheese, and didn’t like milk anyways. We add a high quality Calcium Lactate powder to his gluten-free pancakes to give him the calcium he’s missing out on.
    When Jeremiah eats cheese it’s obvious and it’s not good. His hands break out red and extremely itchy, and more impactful than that is how it affects his brain. When he eats cheese, he is unable to follow directions that he knows and follows every day. Normally when we tell Jeremiah to sit down, he does, but if he’s eaten cheese he ignores or isn’t able to process directions given. He’s much more hyper and unsettled too.
  3. Partial removal of gluten and switching to organic foods.
    We haven’t been able to go completely gluten-free because of what a picky eater Jeremiah is. We do as much as we can and continue to move toward that goal of gluten-free.
    We also try to purchase almost all organic foods. I’ve read so much about pesticides, antibiotics in our meat and produce, growth hormones, and more and do not want my family ingesting it, Autistic or not.
    If you are interested in learning more about how pesticides, antibiotics, and GMO’s that are in our food affect us, www.mercola.com is a great website.

 

Beginning a new way of eating can be overwhelming, especially when your life is already full taking care of a child who has Autism. Your child may be a picky eater (for good reason), and you think a diet change is virtually impossible. I encourage you to at least look into it.

Some people stand firmly in their opinion that you have to remove all gluten and casein all at once if you’re going to do this diet change, but I disagree. For some, it sounds like a daunting task to jump in and make such changes, for some families this is a lifestyle adjustment, so I think it can be accomplished one. step. at. a. time.

On Katherine’s website, Unblind My Mind, she doesn’t just tell you what you shouldn’t eat, but gives many options of what TO eat. She gives recipes and brands of foods that taste good (because if you’ve tried this before, you know that not all gluten-free, dairy-free foods are created equal).

*All of the changes (including detox, which was a big one) we’ve made with Jeremiah make a difference.

*Please note the word “manage” is used by Katherine. I, in no way want to cure my son’s Autism or make it go away. It seems odd to say this, I don’t want it completely managed either. I love who Jeremiah is and his personality which is largely formed by his Autism. I feel that if I were to take away his Autism he would be an entirely different person, and that’s not what I want. However, I do want to help him alleviate some effects of Autism that make his life difficult e.g., self-injurious behaviors, sensory sensitivities when they become overwhelming, I would love for him to be able to focus better, calm, listen better, and communicate (I’ll take any type of communication).

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7 reasons why time-in NOT time-out (adoption/foster)

timein2

Experienced parents often want to share with foster and adoptive parents how to raise their children, they may tell you to put your child in time-out, spank them, and offer a plethora of other solutions. Problem being, a biological child thinks very differently than a child who’s worried about where their next meal will come from, if someone will come when they cry, if that someone who comes will hit or kick them. Raising a hurting child looks different, and that’s okay. Because it looks so different, I am here to give you solutions that do work. So, here are some reasons

why time-in is better than time-out for a hurting child.

1. Sending a hurting child to their room causes them to feel fear.

Many of our children lived in fear before they came to us. They were left alone, or felt lonely before they came to us. They had to provide for themselves, they worried for their life, their safety, their siblings safety. They lived in fear (even infants). Bryan Posts says,

“There are only two primary emotions: love and fear.”

By placing our children in time-out we are sending (unintentionally or not) them back to that fearful place. By keeping them close in a time-in, they don’t feel alone and a need to fight for their safety. Or at least with consistency, they will learn they don’t need to fight, flee, or freeze.

2. Hurting children don’t have the ability to self-regulate.

Hurting children are unable to regulate their emotions, and they need our help. Dr. Bruce Perry says, “When infants and children are incapable of meeting their own needs, they depend upon the external regulation that comes from attentive, caring adults.” When a hurting child is sent away from us to a time-out they are not regulated, and this will send them backwards, healing won’t be taking place. By keeping them close in a time-in we are able to help them regulate their emotions. Or, if they are dysregulated, we can be near them so they can learn we won’t abandon them.

3. Being alone doesn’t heal.

Was your daughter in an orphanage before she came to you? Was your son neglected before you brought him home? Are you doing foster care? Did your child come from foster care? All of these children have been alone. Even infants who went through a tumultuous time in utero can feel alone. Keeping your child near you will aid in the healing process.

“Loneliness is the most significant disability of our time” ~ David Pitonyak

4. A hurting child can’t calm the chaos on their own.

A hurting child’s brain is chaotic and they’re used to the chaos. The trauma your child’s been through has created a brain that looks drastically different than the brain of a child who has been raised with loving and nurturing family members.

A traumatized child tries to recreate that chaos in their real world because the calm makes them uncomfortable.

5. Time-outs don’t build trust.

When we send a child to time-out, they don’t know if they can trust us. A hurting child has difficulty trusting caregivers. Why? Because they have been let down by someone, and those first trust bonds were catastrophically broken. When we keep our child close, they learn that we can be trusted and we won’t send them away for negative behavior.

timein

6. Time-outs don’t build relationships.

Think about a marriage relationship. If a couple is in disagreement about something, it doesn’t usually help if one partner leaves the situation. Neither does it work if the two don’t talk about the issue. In doing so, the problem may go away for a short time, but will surely resurface again.

It’s very similar in your relationship with your kids. Sending them away will not build your relationship, it will put a great big pause button in the middle of it. The Child Trauma website says, “Relationship brings safety, comfort, and soothing.” Relationship is the key element of attachment.

7. The lack of feeling safe makes our kids want to control their    environment.

Your child’s fears stem from their life prior to meeting you. Those fears don’t leave because they have a new family. As I said earlier, trust has been broken, and it will take a long time for trust to build back up. You will need to provide an environment for the assurance of safety and love to grow. What better way to show them they’re safe than having a time-in for negative behavior? Placing them in time-out only capitalizes on their fears of not being safe, and they will then seek control in any area they can.

“When they [traumatized child] sense something is wrong (that the body is stressed), they activate the brain’s alarm systems. These stress-response systems then acts to help the body get what it needs.” – Dr. Bruce Perry

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In the post, Why Consequences and Rewards Don’t Work, I give some other ideas on what to do about discipline. I want to reiterate what I said in that post; consequences and rewards won’t make a big difference in your child’s behavior until they have bonded significantly. Yet, it’s still very important to kindly let your children know they aren’t in charge. If your child feels they can do anything they want, they don’t feel safe; boundaries are essential. You can implement some consequences and rewards, which will set a foundation for the future and begin teaching them how to function in a family.

It’s also very important to understand that many times negative behaviors come about because your child is trying to communicate.

Look at what your child is trying to say, are they hungry, tired, frustrated, emotional because something else happened, lonely, wanting one on one attention? Do they have sensory issues? Is their body irritated by their clothing, are the lights bright, is the room noisy, is their chaos? There are so many factors to look at, so try journaling behaviors to see when they happen and what transpired before them. We don’t want to simply discipline our children, we want to find out why they’re acting out. The article How DoYou Support People with Difficult of Challenging Behavior gives great ideas on how to look for the “why” behind a persons behavior.

Time-ins can be accomplished with the child in your lap or if you must complete a task while the child is in time-in, they can be in close proximity. Some of you may question having the child in your lap as a consequence, but as you read above, our children came from different circumstances, so different techniques are used to help them heal. Being in your lap is not a reward, but does keep relationship in play.

I hope this helped explain why time-ins are better than time-out. If someone in your life repeatedly suggests that you put your child in time-out or that your kids need more discipline, feel free to share this with them, maybe it will help them understand your child.

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does your child like their therapist? (adoption/foster)

 

liketherapist

*These tips are for those who use therapy to help their children, I am not recommending that all parents take their children to a therapist.

In We’re Our Child’s Best Therapist, I wrote about how, well, exactly that, we’re our child’s best therapist. Why? Because we know them best and we are with them more. This doesn’t mean every family who has a therapist on board should chuck them out the window, that’s not what I’m saying. However, it’s imperative to take home what you learn in the therapy office and implement the techniques at home. You can ask your child’s therapist what they suggest you do to follow through.

They may have you ask your child questions in a different way, look for triggers that upset your child, or provide sensory activities for your child. (All of these recommendations are great initiatives even if they aren’t recommended by the therapist.) You are an essential component to your child’s healing, the more you can help your child outside of the therapist’s office, the better they’ll do.

You will also need to use your intuition. Intuition comes in handy throughout all aspects of adoption related issues. Always keep your antennas up when introduced to new advice coming in. Weigh it and decide whether you’re comfortable with what you’re being told (whether you’re reading it in a book, blog, or website, or hearing from a friend, relative, or professional), or what’s being done with your child.

Our experience with an attachment therapist taught me the importance of listening to my Mommy Intuition (Dad’s also have this intuition if they’re involved with their kids). Not all attachment therapists are like the one we met with, but it’s important to be aware of what the therapist is doing with your child. If, at any time you feel they are doing anything harmful (emotionally or physically) you have the right to stop it immediately.

This may be embarrassing for some of you, and you may be in a situation where you think if you wait it out, it will get better. Understand that you are your child’s voice, younger children may not say anything if they’re uncomfortable, or know how to express what they think or feel. If your older child comes from a neglectful or abusive background they may not say anything either.

The therapist we took my daughter to didn’t hurt her physically, but it two visits she made it very clear to Payton that her behavior was her fault, without even getting to know her. She told Payton how horrible she’d been to us. This is true, but Payton wasn’t acting out towards us, being belligerent, controlling, and manipulative because she wanted to, it stemmed from her early childhood, and blaming a child does not heal them.

The second therapy session took it even further. She didn’t physically harm Payton, but it was traumatic for her. I made a HUGE mistake that day. When you have a child that is so out of control, and you’ve worked with dozens of kids and had great success, you’re at a loss for what to do when it comes to your attachment challenged child. What I didn’t realize like so many others is it takes time + consistency + compassion + dedication + so many other ingredients. I thought this attachment therapist could help. I was wrong. There are therapists who can help hurting kids, she just wasn’t the one.

Another therapist, Scott Chaussee, had been available to us through the Department of Human Services. We’d only utilized his services on a couple occasions. (He’s the one who taught us the healing benefits of rocking and helped us with Payton’s sleep issues.) We hadn’t talked to him in a few years, but he called days after that therapy session that went completely wrong. Go ahead and tell me there’s no God and I’ll give you dozens of instances such as this.

Scott wanted to do a brain scan on Payton (Dr. Bruce Perry had trained him – how awesome is that?), and while he was in our home we talked about the attachment therapist. I wanted to get his opinion since he was familiar with attachment and was of the same opinions as Dr. Bruce Perry. In the end, he said that if someone doesn’t like their therapist, adult or child, then he doesn’t see how therapy can take place. He also said he feels play therapy works best for children who come from traumatic backgrounds.

On the first point, I definitely see what Scott is saying. If I was supposed to talk to, open up to, and receive direction from someone I didn’t like, therapy would fail. Scott is right, it’s the same for our kids. If our child doesn’t like going to therapy, what benefit is it? If the relationship between therapist and child is stressed, how will meeting with that therapist help your child heal? I don’t think it will.

You’ll have to be careful and use that intuition I mentioned earlier, because if you have an older child or teen, they may hate therapy, because, well they don’t want to be there. They don’t like talking and it’s hard for them to delve into the past where the pain thrives. You will need to decide whether it’s the child making a ruckus because they don’t want to attend therapy or whether it’s a founded opinion. Listen to your child and validate their opinions, they may not be correct, but they have the right to be heard if they can share them appropriately.

If your child attends sessions alone and they share what’s going on, and red flags are raised, talk to the therapist. Ask your child if they would mind if you attend therapy with them for a while.

It’s also important to remember that older children may have been to therapy while with their bio parents or foster parents. You may not know what that experience was like for them, in fact there’s probably a considerable amount of their past you don’t know.

We can learn about our children, we can help them by listening to them and letting them open up to us (you can read how to do that here). Help your children by listening to your intuition, and be in contact with the therapist at all times.

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give negativity a noose (adoption/foster)

original photo by anitab0000 via sxc.hu
original photo by anitab0000 via sxc.hu

You can view the first post in this series: negativity is contagious

You know who had a right to be negative, angry, opposing, and downright contrary? The Giving Tree. You know, the children’s book by Shel Silverstein? The Giving Tree is just that; giving. His owner, however, is selfish and takes everything he can from the tree to make his life better. The tree gives freely, never denying a request or complaining about its loss. In the end only a stump remains, and the boy comes back old and weathered, and sits to rest on the tree’s trunk. In the end, both were happy.

If we are to be like the Giving Tree, it doesn’t mean that we allow our hurting kids to pummel us into the ground, there are consequences for inappropriate actions, there are times when we say no, there are boundaries, consistency, and routine, but in the end it’s relationships that are of utmost importance.

“The capacity to care, share, listen, value, and be empathetic – to be compassionate – develops from being cared for, shared with, listened to, valued, and nurtured.” ~ Dr. Bruce Perry

If you are consistently sucked into a world that is negative, it’s nearly impossible to care, share, listen, value, and nurture regularly. If you have a hurting child who isn’t attaching and bonding, it’s because they didn’t receive that reciprocal, caring relationship Bruce Perry is talking about. It’s now up to us to step in where others dropped the nurturing, and to do so we need to stay out of Negative No No Land.

To do so, we need to know where negativity comes from:

  • Negative attitudes can develop because parents tire of the horrible behaviors, the lying, the potty training issues, the control. They want it to change, and they want it to happen now. When it doesn’t, they become pessimistic, and that pessimism can stop our child’s progress.
  • Negative outlooks expand when we fail to see our child’s possibilities. Jon Acuff said, “Fictional regret often cripples us from factual action.” I would like to change the second word in that phrase so it applies even more to parenting a hurting child, “Fictional [worry] often cripples us from factual action.” When we worry and feel negative about what our child’s future (even their tomorrow) looks like, we forget to live in the moment. And, this moment is the one that will help your child move toward healing; the hug you’re not giving, the praise you’re not sharing, the play you’re not engaging in, the interest you’re not showing because negativity is taking away moments you could be using to help your child heal.
  • Negative mindsets grow when we’re in community with others who constantly complain about their life. This can be people who speak disapprovingly about everyone and everything around them or a community of adoptive/foster parents who complain about their children. I do see a place for groups of parents who’ve adopted or are fostering. I think it’s great to have a place to vent our troubles, but with Facebook and places like Cafemom, it’s become all too easy to get sucked in and focus only on the unfavorable qualities of our loved ones and others.
  • Negativity can come from our own guilt, thinking we don’t do enough for our hurting child. Some parents constantly question whether they’re doing the right things with their child who struggles. (To put your mind a little more at ease, take a look at this: We Are Our Childs Best Therapist.
  • Negativity can creep in through others perceptions of us. A family that has a hurting child functions differently than the typical family. Friends and relatives don’t understand why you live the way you do. You are excluded, questioned, and sometimes scorned.

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Negativity can come from anywhere and everywhere; as an avalanche of boulders or as pecking stones. In turn it can cause us to be negative, and the way you feel as a parent is always projected onto your child.

Our negativity about our children affects:

  • The way we feel about them.
  • The expectations and hopes we have for them.
  • Our ability to empathize with them.
  • What we say to them.
  • What we say about them.

As Dr. Bruce Perry said, our kids need US to be the catalyst for positive change. Our children CAN heal, but not without our help, and we can’t offer them all of us (think Giving Tree and remember why you adopted in the first place) if we are full of negativity.

The question now is what do we do? Well, I struggle with negativity, so I feel less than qualified to tell you what needs to be done. However, I can share with you what helps me have a more positive perspective.

#1, and MOST important: When dealing with a child’s Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD), attachment issues, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a mood disorder, and my son’s Autism, I had to focus on the positives in my children.
Find the good qualities in your child. Is your son a good artist or ball player? Does your daughter like to be around you? What’s one thing your child does without a fight? Does your daughter do great with younger children? Find that positive attribute, even if it’s only one, and focus on it.

  • Remember where your children came from. Dr. Bruce Perry also says that by age four, your brain is 85% the size it is when you’re an adult. How much did our child’s early life affect their brain? Significantly. ADD LINKS How long will it take for our children to heal and form healthy relationships? More than a few months, more than a year.
  • Praise your children when they’re doing well. Be specific and tell the truth.
  • Focus on any progress your child has made. Think in small increments if needed. Did your son clear his plate off the table today? Did your daughter unplug her curling iron before leaving the bathroom?
  • Find joy in your everyday life. That post is a must read if you feel there’s no joy to be found. We don’t have the same struggles, but I’ve found it difficult to find the joy too, my friend.
  • If there is something you wish you were doing with your child, but you’re not, do it. Then throw away all the guilt.
  • Forget about all the negativity and misconceptions coming from family and friends. This is your family and they’ve never lived your life.

There, that should make you feel better! Actually, what would make you feel better is some hot chocolate, a good book, and a warm bath, but I can’t hand that to you over a blog, or as my father-in-law would say, the World Wide Web.

I hope this helps you see where negativity can come from, how it invades our existence, and how it affects our kids.

Do you see areas of your life that are full of negativity? Maybe just a little? What can you do to change your view?

If you would like to see more posts like this, be sure to check out all posts on the Content page. If you would like to receive each post made here on Lovin’ Adoptin’ you can subscribe on the right side of this page near the top. For more helpful information and links, you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Have a great day, evening, afternoon, or morning wherever you are!

the importance of consistency & routine (adoption/foster)

consistency&routine

I looked up “quotes on consistency” for this post. What I found was in direct contradiction to what I was looking for. Oscar Wilde says, “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” Aldous Huxley said, “Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only complete consistent people are dead.”

For the sake of being a rock in the shoe, let’s address the latter point. My in-laws are the most consistent people you will ever meet; dinner at five, dinner at Dollar Scoop Chinese on Friday nights, small group every Thursday night, spaghetti for lunch on Wednesdays, and grocery shopping on Tuesday nights. Point is, they are consistent, and they aren’t dead.

Both quotes are made by writers. It surprises me that writers would reference consistency in this way, as most would say they have the same routine every day to accomplish their writing goals. Most inconsistent writers aren’t writers, they are wannabes.

I also wonder how consistency is contrary to nature. Don’t Monarch Butterflies migrate to Mexico every winter? Don’t deer follow the exact path each time they go to the water source, and isn’t that why it’s called a “game trail?” Don’t Salmon swim hundreds of miles back to their hatching grounds to spawn?

If nature is so dependent on consistency for it’s survival, wouldn’t humans need some of the same?

What about children who come from neglectful, abusive, and traumatizing situations where they didn’t know if they were going to eat again, who was going to take care of them, if they would be going to school not, or if they would celebrate their birthday.

Our hurting kids worry excessively, and the above mentioned scenarios are only a clip of their life movie. We can take action to relieve much of that anxiety.

Consistency and routine are two important aspects to helping our children feel safe and know what to expect.

By implementing consistency and routine in our children’s daily lives, we build trust, and trust is another key element in helping our hurting kids heal and attach. If a child cannot trust their primary caregivers, they will feel their life is spinning out of control.

If you spin around until your world becomes tipsy, what are you likely to do next? Probably look for something to stabilize yourself. You are going to try to gain back that control you lost. It’s the same with our kids. They want consistency and routine, when they know what to expect, it will cut down on the worry, the questions, and the behaviors that stem from not knowing what will happen next.

When our children don’t know what to expect, they will feel the same way they did in their neglectful and abusive situation.

They weren’t able to trust their previous caregiver, nor will they be able to trust you if they don’t know what’s happening day to day. They will feel lost and out of control. You can help them stabilize by providing a consistent environment that incorporates plenty of routine.

Here are some ideas on how to implement consistency and routine:

  • If you say something, do it. This will require giving thought before you say anything, whether it be a plan you’re making, or a discipline you’re going to put into place.
  •  Keep daily and weekly routines as consistent as possible so your child knows what to expect each day. IF events in your week are going to be different, let your children know well ahead of time. Also, calendars are great ideas, something simple like a printed list of days and what happens on each one.
  • Stick to bedtime and waking routines. This will also cut down on behaviors because they know what to do and what is expected.

Do you have consistency and routines in your every day life? Does it seem to help your kids? If you are a fly by the seat of your pants type, is there an area that you can begin to incorporate more consistency and routine?


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thankful therapy

thankfulnesstherapy

I thought the post I wrote last week would be the last one until after Thanksgiving, then I began thinking about just that; Thanksgiving, and what it means.

If you’re on Facebook, you’ve seen people posting daily about what they’re thankful for. Awesome idea. But it’s hard to be thankful when your children are hurting, acting out, and life is not what you expected. Some of you have kids who wrote the book on strong will. Some of you sacrifice your life daily for your child’s needs. Some of you have angry children who are attacking your world constantly because they’re scared. Life is hard, and the last thing you feel is thankful.

Yet, ask yourself where your children came from. Are they in a better place than they would have been if you hadn’t adopted or fostered? Adoptive and foster parents tend to get stuck in this idea that says, “I didn’t save my child or rescue my child,” in fact they can get downright angry when someone says this about them. But I love to ask if your child is better off with you. Would your son be sleeping in a comfy bed, enjoying family meals with people who love him if he were in an African orphanage? Would your daughter be well fed and warm at night if she was on the streets in Russia? Would your son be safer with a mom who’s doing drugs, and has different men over every week, and doesn’t take care of his needs? I doubt it, and I doubt you are saying yes.

Since this is where you are, and where your child is, you can be thankful for your kids. You can also be thankful they are safe. No, it’s not easy, but can you find things to be thankful for? I would encourage you to find attributes in your child that you can be appreciative of. Your child won’t fit into every category here, but ask yourself the following: Does your child…

  • follow directions?
  • eat veggies?
  • do school work without arguing?
  • enjoy creating art?
  • get along with siblings?
  • have manners?
  • think of others?
  • like to read?
  • follow the morning routine well?

Your child may not do any of these well, or at all, but there is something positive about your child, even if you have to dig to find it. They do have worth, and if you can build on those positives, it will help your relationship grow, and that’s the main goal.

Why is being thankful important? I clearly remember the Thanksgiving after we adopted Payton from foster care. It was only days after her adoption was finalized and we were standing in a circle with family members telling what we were thankful for. Someone (left to be unnamed as to avoid great controversy) said they had nothing to be thankful for. I was quite angry because my precious daughter was now in our arms forever and it was the most thankful I had ever been (we knew she was now safe and a year of fearful anticipation was over). I also saw that the thankless person was miserable. When we can’t find anything in our lives to be thankful for, we dwell on all the negative, and that list can be great. If we focus on what we are grateful for, we have a fuller more joyous life.

Why do I care if you are thankful? I care that you find something to be grateful for because I want your family and your kids to thrive, not just survive. I don’t want this to a Thanksgiving and Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate) that you try to get through as fast as possible, I want you to enjoy it.

Our hurting kids are hurting, and there are days when there aren’t positives to be appreciative of. So what else in your life can you be thankful for? I am truly sorry if there isn’t much, but my hope is that you can find something. Maybe it’s something simple today, like rain or a warm house, maybe tomorrow will bring something else.

I am thankful for all of you who have chosen to care for the orphan, foster child, abandoned and neglected. Without you, they wouldn’t have much to be thankful for. Thank you for all you do! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Here is another post that might help: finding joy

the comfort priority (Autism)

When speech and developmental therapists began working with our son in our home, they recommended creating a safe place (a place of comfort, a place to getcuddle swing away) in our home for Jeremiah. They recommended putting up a tent in his room, or a cuddle swing (pictured at right). Before we purchased anything, we realized his go-to spot was his bed. It was a place he liked to go and hang out.

His bed is a converted crib, so it has three slated sides and is open in the front. When Jeremiah used to throw longer tantrums (I couldn’t hold him because he was hitting, kicking, and holding him didn’t calm him, even after a few minutes) I  would calmly carry him to his room and place him in his bed (I left his door open), and he would calm down in less than five minutes. He was able to calm down in this space because it had already become a safe place for him.

Your child’s safe place needs to be comfortable. It’s important to recognize that  comfort for your child may be different than what it is for you. Sensory issues usually coincide with Autism, so this comfort is paramount.

When creating a comfortable space for your child, consider the following:

  • Noise level – Does your child like silence best, or a continuous quiet noise? Would she like quiet music playing in the background?
  • Textures – Does he like several blankets, or just one? What is the fabric like on the hammock, chair, or bed that is used as a “comfort space” or for sleeping?
  • Temperature – Consider what temperature your child feels best in. Warmer or cooler?
  • Lighting – A natural light or soft light is preferred to harsh bright lighting.

comfort priority

This idea of comfort takes itself into many scenarios with our kids. Because of those sensory needs, comfort is always to be considered. If it isn’t, your child may display negative behaviors or elope. Children who have Autism have a tendency to elope (run away, wander), it’s actually very common.

Sometimes when a child elopes, it’s because they’re uncomfortable. Jeremiah has escaped from his Grandma’s daycare a few times. Seriously scared the #@$$ out of me! After putting security measures in place (well not much “security,” but at least a plan), I had to look at why he wanted to leave the house. The conclusion I came to was, he wasn’t comfortable, and sometimes when our Autistic kids aren’t comfortable, they aren’t safe. They elope, as in this instance, they harm themselves, or they can display those negative behaviors, and we want to avoid these.

Because my son is nonverbal, I wasn’t able to ask him why he wandered off, and even if I could, I’m not sure he would know the exact reason why. So, we have to investigate (which we have become very adept at) and take in what we know about the environment. Here are some things that could have been bothering him: it’s really warm in her house, sensory issues plague him and Grandma doesn’t know how to deal with it, it can be loud with all the kids running around. I have a feeling one, or all of these played into his desire to leave.

As mentioned in the daycare scenario, comfort plays an important role when outside the home. Another example of this was when he eloped from my parents house. It was a holiday, we were all sitting around the table after a meal, and I asked where Jeremiah was. He had walked out the door to the garage, out the open garage door and off down the open field surrounding the back of their house (no fence!). I would imagine that because he was out of his normal environment, he didn’t fell comfortable. Poor guy!

He was only two or three at the time, but later during that same visit with them, he was able to show us where he did feel comfortable. He grabbed his dad’s hand and took him to our car. Justin lifted him into his car seat and that’s where he was content to hang out for quite a while.

If we want our child to be safe and at peace, part of the puzzle (it’s complex, I know) is to keep them comfortable. This includes meeting sensory needs, keeping routines, etc., but it also means having a place they can go where they aren’t overwhelmed. They need this at home and when we’re on the go.

Think of what your child may need to help them in this area. As I was writing this post, I saw an awesome play-set/bed for a kids room on Facebook. I thought it would be awesome for Jeremiah’s room, but it was too big. When I showed it to Justin, he pointed out the cuddle swing/hammock and said he wanted to put it in Jeremiah’s room. First I had to remind him that I’d shown him one of those a couple years ago and he had no interest (that’s just my job as his wife right?). Then someone commented on this awesome play-set saying that we couldplay set for bedroom incorporate just the sections that Jeremiah would benefit from, meaning it wouldn’t have to take up ALL the floor space in his room. We are still working out how to do this while in the middle of a house remodel/addition, Autism, and life, but the point is always to try to work it out. If you feel like something doesn’t fit your life, your space, mold it so it does. Nothing is out of the question, that’s why Jeremiah has a swing and a mini trampoline in his room! Just like anyone else, when Jeremiah’s needs are met, he’s more content, and the family as a whole can function better, it’s more peaceful environment for all of us.

*After learning more about Autism, I would say children also wander because they are in search of something (water, or something they like to do). Here is a post about wandering and the risk of drowning: 4 reasons why you should teach your Autistic child to swim.

*You can purchase the cuddle swing pictured above here.
*The bed can be found here, but I am not sure how to purchase it. If you love it, you just might have to build it. 🙂

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putting the HOPE in HOPEless (adoption/foster)

You may wonder why I write this blog, why you should listen to yet another person who thinks they have an answer to helping hurting, traumatized kids. Why am I here? Because of what my daughter has come through, the great progress she has made.

I try not to flag my faith here. My faith in Jesus plays a pivotal role in my life, and sometimes it’s difficult to avoid talking about it. I don’t wave it in front of my readers because I want to welcome EVERY adopter, every foster parent, every parent of an Autistic child. I don’t want someone to read that I am a Christ follower and feel they will be judged or that what I say doesn’t apply to them, because that couldn’t be further from the truth. I welcome everyone here.

Why did I just go on a rabbit trail about my faith? Because I cannot attribute my daughters healing to anything other than God giving us wisdom in how to help her. I can’t credit the progress my son has made to anyone but God. Did He send down divine miracles that culminated in instant healing? Well, we’ve witnessed several miracles in our journey from fostering to adopting and beyond, but no, when it came to their psychological and physical selves, it was a process. A process that took our hard work and dedication. Sometimes God sent the answers quickly, and other times we were banging our heads, falling on our knees, asking Him to show us what to do. And He did! That’s the awesome part, the journey to healing.

I’ve mentioned my daughters diagnoses before, but for the purpose of helping you see where we’ve been, here they are: Reactive Attachment Disorder (please see my opinion of that HERE), PTSD, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Failure to Thrive (emotionally), and mood disorder.

We’ve had monumental success with our daughter, Payton, despite this LONG list of diagnoses. We have a really amazing daughter! We always have, but many times it was difficult to see her positive qualities amongst the screaming, raging, defiant, controlling behaviors. We had glimpses of how wonderful, sweet, thoughtful, and smart she was, but in the beginning they were viewed through a window thick with grime, and as we moved forward the grime fell off (well, we actually scrubbed it off with massive amounts of elbow grease). We now have several weeks at a time when we experience life with a sweet, cheerful girl.

Payton is thoughtful of others, she goes out of her way to share food (which is a big deal for a child who’s had food issues) and toys with others. She’s a mini therapist with her younger brother, Jeremiah, who has Autism. She pushes him on the swing, she gives him what he needs, she notices the little things he says and does that are new and exciting (a word or a movement). She does all of this of her own volition. She has empathy for others when they are sick or hurt, or just feeling down. She’s very intelligent and enjoys learning new concepts, in fact her favorite free-time activity is teaching and reading to her animals. She’s a really special girl, and I love spending time with her.

There was a stretch when I looked forward to the times when she went to her Grandma’s daycare for an afternoon, but now those times are extremely rare, I want her around. She plays well on her own, we have interesting conversations, and I like doing things with her. We have truly seen a turn around in her behavior, attitude, and her psychological makeup.

I’m not sharing this to brag, I’m telling you so you can have HOPE. Your child CAN overcome. You won’t be battling this forever. Does this mean it’s easy to get where we are? No, it takes hard work and dedication. However I’m here writing this blog to help you do exactly what we did. My hope is to help you help your child.

Recently, one of my readers was discouraged by my post on detecting attachment issues, she thought her son was getting better and attaching, but when she read the list, she wasn’t so sure.

My response to her was that our kids can heal from much of what they suffer from, but there are some behaviors, attitudes, and emotions they may carry with them the rest of their lives. Although their brain can heal, they will have certain personality traits that stick around because their early life was so formative.

For example, my daughter will probably always be hypervigilant. Her early life taught her to watch out for herself and take care of herself because no one else would. She will always be aware of her surroundings and others, but now the worry is gone from her demeanor. Payton has leadership qualities (notice I say, “leadership,” not “controlling behavior”). She has a need to be in control of other kids. This works well with her brother who has Autism, because she mothers him and is helpful, but it can create problems with friends. I think as she gets older, this will become less of a problem as she learns how society functions, and we’ve already seen some great improvement in this area. We need to focus on funneling her desire to be in charge in positive directions. These are a couple of the traits that may stay with our kids. If they’re truly healing, you will see most of the others fade drastically, or completely disappear.

Besides those formative months and years, we also have to consider their biological beginning. That beginning can influence them inutero or through their biological parents genetic makeup.

There is great HOPE for our children. If we put effort in, there is a gorgeous rainbow at the end of our long road. It’s not a fix that will happen over night, but it can happen. God did not make us so we can’t change. God didn’t bring our children out of hardship so they could be miserable for the rest of their lives. He gives us HOPE. We have fallen, and if we are worth being picked up, then so are our children.