hurting children CAN develop empathy (adoption/foster)

empathy

If your child was diagnosed with RAD, attachment disorder, PTSD, oppositional defiance disorder, or if there weren’t any diagnoses, but your child was neglected or abused, you may feel they won’t develop empathy. Heck, you may have even been told that your child will never show empathy.

It’s not true.

I know I brag about my daughter, Payton, in different posts, but there’s a reason. She was diagnosed with numerous disorders at a very young age, but she has come so far, she surprises us continually. I write about what she’s like to give parents hope. By sharing the attributes Payton possesses,

my hope is that you would see the positives in your children. 

Payton consistently shows empathy for others. She cares when I’m not feeling well (but my health isn’t good, so it’s nothing different when I’m feeling poorly). She regularly shows compassion for her brother, who has Autism. She understands and has empathy for all he is unable to do (for the most part, he is unable to communicate his desires, likes, and needs).

Once in a while there are situations that happen outside our home that really stand out and show her ability to empathize with others. The other day, Payton shared something that happened to her friend at school. The teacher asked Ashley* to get up in front of the class and point to the helicopter in a picture. Ashley pointed to buildings and people, everything EXCEPT the helicopter. Payton said, “Good job,” while the rest of the kids laughed. Throughout the day this took place, she mentioned it a few times, saying she was sad the kids had laughed at her friend.

There is hope that your child will care for others and not be self-consumed.

focusonpositive

Focus on any positive behaviors you notice, capitalize on them, talk about it with your child. As I say often, there is so much negative in your child’s life (their mind is consumed with it; anxiety, will these parents leave me, I’m not good enough, I’m bad, I can’t do anything right) we need to

fill it with positives.

What positive things has your child done lately? Have they done anything unexpected? Did you share with them how happy you were to see it?

*Name has been changed to protect privacy.

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just my opinion on “labels”

Diagnoses have a negative reputation, and they’re often referred to as “labels.” Maybe there is critical thinking when it comes to diagnoses because of how people have used them, abused them, and criticized the diagnosed person. It may also be because some use a diagnosis as a means to get a child medication (in some cases those medications are needed, and in others, they aren’t). The disapproval of diagnoses is probably a combination of all the reasons listed above, and more.

While looking at my website, Facebook, and Twitter, you will see diagnoses such as Autism, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD), and Mood Disorder. Wow, that’s a lot of diagnoses, or as some people would refer to as “labels.”

I don’t see a child through their disABILITY or disorder, nor does their disABILITY or disorder define who they are in my mind.

In my case, I am very thankful I had some diagnoses for my kids because it helped me understand what they were dealing with (in all cases they were hurting either internally and/or externally) and how to help them.

When we first had a Speech Pathologist and a Developmental Therapist working with our son they were extremely reticent to mention the word Autism or move forward to get a psychological diagnosis. I understood the diagnosis part, they wanted to be absolutely sure. But what bothered me was when they said they work with all children in the same way, and no child is treated different because of a diagnosis.

But wait. There are specific therapies used for Autism that work to help them function better. It’s the same with Sensory Processing Disorder. If you don’t know how to treat it (I don’t mean with medication), then you’ll have a terribly uncomfortable, agitated, and angry child with a lot of behaviors you can’t combat without meeting specific needs. It’s the same with all the other disorders I listed.

Knowing what my child is dealing with also helps me be more compassionate towards them. When I understood that my daughter and son had attachment issues because of their past neglect and trauma, it relieves a large majority of the rejection I felt when they wouldn’t hug me of their own volition, or when they denied my attempts to love them. When I understood that my daughters rages, need for control, and bad behavior stemmed from her past, which then resulted in several diagnoses, I was able to have empathy for her and meet her with a calmness instead of anger and impatience. I know that many of her behaviors weren’t an attack on me personally, they weren’t born of my bad parenting (okay maybe a few were), they were caused by her trauma.

If more people would educate themselves about Autism and what it looks like, I believe people would be more understanding. They wouldn’t see a child misbehaving, they would see a child that can’t sit still because their body is irritated and they need movement. They wouldn’t see a child that’s rude, they would see a child that doesn’t understand society’s rules. They wouldn’t recommend spanking an Autistic child because they would know that it would only confuse the child, and the child would like it because they crave intense sensory input (they hit others, things, and themselves because of how it feels). When used correctly, a diagnosis can bring tremendous insight to a child’s behaviors.

Another concern some have about diagnoses is that it will follow a child for the rest of their lives. In most cases, I believe this is only true if the parents/caregivers or the diagnosed child purposefully carries it with them.

Parents also express concern that the child’s school will know of the diagnosis, but the only ways this would happen is if the parent/caregiver notifies the school, has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for their child that lists the disABILITY or disorder, or signs a consent for the doctor to release the medical records. In our case, our daughter’s school will not know of her diagnoses because her behavior has improved so significantly in the past year that I doubt we will have to mention anything. Whereas before, we divulged some of what she dealt with (adopted, trauma, attachment issues, the “whys” of her behavior, and how to handle it, but no diagnosis shared) with the Preschool and Kindergarten teachers.

A friend of mine recently wrote an article about parents labeling their children. Parents will sometimes say, “My RAD daughter, Kylee,” or “My ADHD son, Marcus.” I don’t think this is okay. I think when it’s absolutely necessary, it’s acceptable to say, “My daughter, Kylee, has RAD.”

So, I don’t see diagnoses as being a bad thing. If truly needed, they can often help us understand what our child is dealing with and how to help them in ways that will be beneficial and not harm them.

If you feel someone else would benefit from this information, please feel free to share.

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