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8 month progress report

Monday, September 22, 2008

I got a phone call this afternoon from the developmental psychologist. We've been busy this past month getting Maddie evaluated by Wyoming's version of Early Intervention. Today was the psychological review.
We talked about how Maddie was doing, how she had adjusted to the move, what her orphanage situation was like, the behaviors that she was displaying.
And then she mentioned attachment.
And that's when I realized...I haven't given you a Maddie update in a REALLY, long time!
I'm so sorry.
Where are my manners?
The last time I mentioned her progress it was June ...way before we even knew we were moving!
Maddie has been home for almost eight months now and is doing great, but as I look back on the attachment list there have been some changes. Some good, some not so good. Yes, she still has issues (marked in red), but there are so many areas where she has made remarkable improvement (blue) or have no issues at all (green).
I'm taking a lot of comfort in how far she's come in such a short period of time. Back in June Maddie's score was 19 positives out of 33. With only nine that were real issues. Not too shabby.
Today it is 21 positives with seven that are still issues, and some of the others we've made pretty good progress on.
(Sorry...the list is kind of long).

  • 1. My child teases, hurts, or is cruel to other children. No - thank goodness. She's pretty good with other kids. I was expecting to have some trouble with this after life in the orphanage, but since one minor incident VERY early on she has learned how to take care of 'babies' and in general plays pretty well with everyone.
  • 2. My child can't keep friends for an age-appropriate length of time. It depends on 'age appropriate'. Emotionally, she's not a four year old yet, although I would say she's getting closer. She's more like an early three and a half year old. And at that level she's doing pretty well. She'll play beside other children and with other children for increasing amounts of time, and she is only now starting to seek out playing with other kids.
  • 3. My child doesn't do as well in school as my child could do even with a little more effort. Don't know yet. She appears to be a pretty smart little stinker, but we're having trouble with her focusing on things. I believe it's an emotional age thing (which factors into so much of this).
  • 4. My child pushes me away or becomes stiff when I try to hug, unless my child wants something from me, in which case my child can be affectionate and engaging. No - again, thank goodness. She's been my hugger from the very beginning. She LOVES to climb up in our lap for some quality time. She is constantly bringing us books, pillows and blankets so we can curl up on the couch together. We love it! :)
  • 5. My child argues for long periods of time, often about meaningless or silly things. Not really. Even though the language still isn't where it needs to be, Maddie doesn't get too worked up about silly things...or worked up about much of anything. She's pretty laid back (so unlike the other three! ;>)
  • 6. My child has a large need to control everything. No...again, see number five.
  • 7. My child is hyper-vigilant. In June I had this category marked in blue. It was an area we definitely needed to work on. But now I can honestly say it's not much of an issue anymore. Over the last eight months, Maddie has slowly let go of a lot of her paranoia and is starting to trust us to take care of her. Do you remember the blanket incident? She LOVES cuddling with a blanket now. She's also doing much better with animals...as long as it is on her terms. She is starting to become more concerned as to where Shad and I are, especially if we're not in the same room, but it isn't all consuming. Maddie has made remarkable improvement on this part of the checklist.
  • 8. My child acts amazingly innocent, or pretends that things aren't really bad or a problem when caught doing something wrong. I'm going to leave this in the green category for now because I don't think its a real issue. I'll revisit it in a few months. Maddie is able to act innocent, even when caught in the middle of doing something she's not supposed to do, but once she finds out its wrong she almost never does it again. I just don't think she's able to reason what appropriate behavior is yet. We're working on it.
  • 9. My child does dangerous things such as runs away, jumps out of windows, or other potentially harmful actions. My child seems oblivious to the fact that my child may be hurt. No. She definitely feels pain.
  • 10. My child deliberately breaks or ruins his things or other's things. Nope.
  • 11. My child doesn't seem to feel age-appropriate guilt when my child does something wrong. I'm not sure on this one. I can tell when she's been found doing something wrong, but I'm not sure if there is real guilt.
  • 12. My child is impulsive, either unable or unwilling to stop doing something she wants to do. No. She'll stop if told to.
  • 13. My child teases, hurts, or is cruel to animals. Are you kidding me? She will barely even go near them! :)
  • 14. My child steals, or shows up with things that belong to others with unbelievable, unusual, or suspicious reasons for how my child got these things. No.
  • 15. My child likes to sneak things without permission, even though my child could have had these things if my child had asked. Yes. Especially food, but it is getting a lot better. Most of the time she'll ask for things, although occasionally we'll catch her sneaking a snack. This is where the breaking down of the language barrier has become a huge help. She's starting to understand food will always be there and we'll give her some (as long as it's not too close to dinner.) She's starting to figure out all she needs to do ask. Thankfully, she's not hording food...just sneaking it.
  • 16. My child doesn't seem to learn from mistakes, consequences, or punishments (my child continues the behavior despite the consequences). For the most part Maddie is doing MUCH better with this. I rarely have to scold her for the same thing twice - especially for the big things. The little things can be a different story...like running in the house and yelling. The big stuff though it only takes once and she's got it. (i.e. - pulling the wallpaper off the wall, pulling sink stopper out of the sink, ripping a page out of a book.) She is still doing way better than the boys with this, but I'm starting to realize (yea, took my nine years to figure out this lesson) that boys are going to by-and-large be that way. Attention span and all of that.
  • 17. My child makes false reports of abuse or neglect. My child tries to get sympathy from others, or tries to get us in trouble, by telling others that I abuse, don't feed, or don't provide the basic necessities. No.
  • 18. My child seems not to experience pain when hurt, refusing to let anyone provide comfort. She definitely feels pain and seeks comfort. Thank goodness. The first week we had Alek home from Russia he ran into the corner of our kitchen table, split his head open, fell down, popped back up and kept playing. (He now feels pain too.) I am SO thankful she can feel pain.
  • 19. My child does not usually ask for things. My child demands things. She's starting to ask more questions like, 'Where Daddy go,' and 'Doggy outside,' but still uses a lot of statements when she wants something. Kind of a type of asking without asking. We're still working on using please (peeeee) and forming a complete question.We try to model it for her, but using extra words right now is still pretty tough. She doesn't use a lot of words like a, an or the. She doesn't use adjectives at all. Still pretty basic stuff. I know it's because of all she has missed, but boy it sure makes it tough to follow what she wants at times. Not to mention the actual speech issues.
  • 20. My child lies, often about obvious or ridiculous things, or when it would have been easier to tell the truth. I'm not sure if she knows she's lying. I can't tell for sure if she completely understands what the question may be. We're treating it as if she's lying, but can't be sure of her intent.
  • 21. My child is quite bossy with other children and adults. This is one we've back-slidden on. She has suddenly become quite bossy. Of course the other three aren't taking it, but she's giving it a good college try. She's even tried being bossy with Shad and I. Unfortunately for her she didn't get the response she was looking for. In fact, she got more than she bargained for. I think she's given up on us.
  • 22. My child hoards, sneaks food, or has other unusual eating habits (eats paper, raw sugar, non-food items, package mixes, baker's chocolate, etc.) Here's another one we've back-slidden on. I've caught her three times in the last week with weird stuff in her mouth. Paper, a penny and oh yea, fuzz! Thankfully she's not hoarding food, but again, in reference to number 15, she still sneaks food at times. Time...I keep reminding myself that it takes time.
  • 23. My child often does not make eye contact when adults want to make eye contract with my child. Another area where we've had some trouble lately, or maybe I'm just noticing things more. We're working on it.
  • 24. My child has extended temper tantrums. I thought when I first mentioned this two months ago that I may be jinxing myself with this one, but Maddie is the only one of our children NOT to have a meltdown in the first few months at home. All three of the other ones did it. Especially Anya. Oy, her's were doozies!!!!! Maddie is incredibly laid back. She takes EVERYTHING in stride. Don't get me wrong. She crosses her arms and pouts when she doesn't get her way...and remember the fainting spells?! :) But she's never had a tantrum. (Sigh. I know I've doomed myself with this one!)
  • 25. My child chatters non-stop, asks repeated questions about things that make no sense, mutters, or is hard to understand when talking. HAHAHAHAH! Uh, yea. The question is...is it because of the hearing impairment or because there are some deeper issues? At first I leaned toward the former, but now I'm really starting to wonder. Yes the quality of her speech is affected by her hearing loss, but with the hearing aid (which she has had for four months) she is able to hear perfectly. Still, her speech hasn't improved. She doesn't put the endings on words, still doesn't even want to attempt some sounds and butchers words pretty badly. And she talks. all. the. time. Constantly. Incessantly. Without end. It's driving me nuts. She also asks a lot of questions which don't make any sense, however, this is probably still due to the language barrier. Sigh. I can't figure out how to help her.
  • 26. My child is accident-prone (gets hurt a lot), or complains a lot about every little ache and pain (needs constant attention). She's doing much better with this. She's not so accident prone now and doesn't overly complain about pain. I'm still handling the owies with a, 'Oh, I'm so sorry you got an owie, let me kiss it,' and then sending her on her way. We don't make a huge deal out of it, but she knows she can come to me with her owies.
  • 27. My child acts cute or charming to get others to do what my child wants. Not so much any more. I'm glad to say while she never really did a terrible amount of charming to get what she wanted, it seems like it has completely stopped. I think.
  • 28. My child is overly friendly with strangers. We're still dealing with this and we may be dealing with it for quite awhile. At times I feel like we're making progress and other times I feel like I'm spinning my wheels. If she could, Maddie would still walk away with absolutely anyone...without looking back. She is improving. She doesn't fight me anymore to get to strangers, and she isn't noticing other people as much. She seems content to stay with me as long as someone else doesn't have her attention. And yesterday for the first time, she shied away from someone. But that is RARE! Later yesterday afternoon she climbed up into the lap of a great-uncle she had never met before to play. Breaks my heart. Baby steps. Baby steps.
  • 29. My child has set fires, or is preoccupied with fire. No.
  • 30. My child prefers to watch violent cartoons and/or TV shows or horror movie (regardless of whether or not you allow your child to do this). She doesn't watch TV at all.
  • 31. My child was abused/neglected during the first year of life, or had several changes of primary caretaker during the first several years of life. Several caretakers...an orphanage will do that to you.
  • 32. My child was in an orphanage for more than the first year of life. 35 months to be exact.
  • 33. My child was adopted after the age of twelve month. 35 months to be exact.
The developmental psychologist has recommended an attachment expert in our town. She said she may be able to help us with some of these issues. We're considering calling her...not only for Maddie, but possibly all of the children, just to get an "attachment checkup".
It certainly wouldn't hurt.

13 salty messages:

jessy September 22, 2008 at 9:26 PM  

Good to hear that she is progressing so well. It is really wonderful considering how long she was in an institution and how relatively short she has lived in a family.

jessy September 22, 2008 at 9:30 PM  

Oh, and I'm curious about your list...there is good stuff here, but if I applied this list to Marina, there would only be a few that would not be in green, and I still feel as though we are not where we should be with attachment. Wondering if the problems we deal with at this point are more related to FAS?

Tina in CT September 22, 2008 at 9:35 PM  

Thank you for sharing. She is making progress which should make both of you feel good.

Your idea of the attachment specialist sounds like a good idea as a "check-up".

Tami September 22, 2008 at 9:41 PM  

Jessy...that's a possibility. The list came from a website (and right now I can't find the address) that talks specifically about attachment after an international adoption. Of course the more I review the list the more worried I become about some of the other kids. I just need to call that specialist!

Jill September 22, 2008 at 11:19 PM  

Wow...I'm worried about my kids that we're adopting...after reading that list...whew! It sounds rough!

DoveFamily September 23, 2008 at 6:17 AM  

She is definitely making progress, which is great news. Sounds like you've found a person who is proactive, cares, and wants to help - a rare find these days! Good luck!

Courtney September 23, 2008 at 8:15 AM  

The one thing I don't like about that list is that the last three will ALWAYS be red. That's not going to change. The last three seem to be more characteristics of risk of attachment problems, as opposed to symptoms of attachment problems. Make sense?

Courtney September 23, 2008 at 8:20 AM  

I think Dima and Maddie could be related. Sigh. We still have speech issues too, but his hearing (as far as the tests show) is normal.

While Maddie can hear perfectly, she has the same issues as Dima in that she hasn't been hearing these sounds for more than a few months. Her receptive sound experience is only about 6 months old, so you need to keep that in mind. Just because she can hear doesn't mean she knows how to pronounce those sounds yet. Also, I'm assuming you guys are doing speech therapy with her, but she'll most likely need quite a bit of training to understand what she sounds like making sounds. I.e., the same sound you make (that she can now hear) will sound different to her than the same sound when she makes it, because she is hearing herself internally and externally (before she could only hear internally). Does that make any sense?

Anonymous,  September 23, 2008 at 9:46 AM  

Sagebrush and Sunflower Seeds. That's a good one. It represents where you've been and where you are. It also makes me feel connected. Isn't it all about me? LOL There you have it. My opinion

Diana September 23, 2008 at 11:51 AM  

You are very wise in seeking an attachment therapist, Tami. Though this list is a good indicator of problems, it is not complete. It is also important to realize that attachment problems can vary along the spectrum. Just because a child doesn't do all these things, doesn't mean there isn't an issue there.

Just as there are several strains of the flu virus that ciruclate every year, there are also several different strains of attachment problems. Not everyone gets sick from every strain of flu or even the same strain...and different people will have varying degrees of illness if they do get sick. The same is true with attachment. Different kids will present with different symptons. Even if a child presents with only a few of the symptoms on a list like this, it could still indicate there is a problem. It may or may not be full blown RAD, but it is still something that needs to be addressed.

From one who'e BTDT and still doing it, I would strongly advise any parents who see even some of these symptoms Tami mentioned to address them with a trained professional. If you know the child has experienced some trauma (such as abuse, neglect, etc), seek out someone who deals in both trauma and attachment issues. Reality is that these issues can't just be loved away, they won't outgrow them, they can't be corrected with discipline, and honeymoons can last for quite a while (even a couple of years.)

Personally, I don't think that length of time spent in an institution is at telling of a risk indicator as some other things. Much more of it depends on the circumstances that put them there in the first place, the level of trauma and neglect and deprivation they experienced either before or during institutionalization, the level at which they were nurtured by someone during their first couple of years of life, particularly their first year, the bond the child felt with their caretakers, and the individual resiliancy of the child.

It is also important to keep in mind that attachment is a learned skill. Unfortunately, factors such as abuse and neglect can get in the way and change the hardwiring of the brain. This means the neuropathways of the brain have been phsycially altered. They can be changed, but it takes a lot of effort. The process often feels like turning around a runaway freight train. It isn't an easy task. But it can be done and new, healty tracks can be laid for that train to run on.

Troy and Rachel September 23, 2008 at 3:25 PM  

Thank you for this great update as it allows the readers to go mentally through the list also. It sounds as if Maddie is progressing well and seeing an attachment specialist sounds great for a check up! We can all use some extra help these days!

Christine September 23, 2008 at 4:28 PM  

Maddie is making progress. Thanks for updating us with such valuable tools for gaging our own children.

Kathy and Matt September 23, 2008 at 9:08 PM  

Great to read your list as it made me think through each one in relation to Leeza. Sounds like Maddie is doing really well and perhaps the attachment specialist would be good. We've thought about doing the same, but have not made an appointment yet.

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