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Sunday, January 18, 2009

I had quite a few questions pop up out of that last post, some of them related...some of them not, but all of them important.
You've provided the Q's...lets see what kind of A's I can come up with.
Rachel asked...

"I have been following your blog for a little while now because I am fascinated with the adoption process (particularly international adoption) and these precious children in need of families. I just got married so my husband and I haven't quite thought about children yet, but I feel like God might be planting a seed here. Who knows what His plan is?
Anyway, I read this post and was amazed that a child who is adopted at such a young age can have a residual language barrier several years later. I believe Alek was too young to talk when you brought him home, but it sounds like english is somehow his second language. Could you explain that for me a little further? If he has only spoken english how does that work? Did he understand his "native" language at such a young age?"

Hmm...Where to start? I guess at the beginning.
We brought Alek home at the precious age of 15 months. At that point he wasn't making many sounds, he would react to his caregivers, but wasn't saying much of anything.
I blame a lot of that on the fact that his orphanage was a pretty bad one
(Sorry, but I won't sugar-coat it). The kids were all horribly delayed, underweight and understimulated. Alek was the size of a nine month old, wasn't walking, wasn't talking, weighed next to nothing (the pictures of him are heartbreaking and breathtaking at the same time.) He rocked himself violently for comfort...refused to be comforted or held in a baby-like way...and had no reaction to pain or disappointment.
Alek was in a shell.

He didn't make ANY sounds
(other than crying) until we had him home for a couple of weeks. Then it was mimicking sounds...ba-ba-ba-ba, ma-ma-ma-ma-ma. No attempts at Russian words we could recognize.
Despite not SPEAKING any Russian, he obviously UNDERSTOOD it...so Russian was his first language, since given the opportunity he would have eventually learned to speak it.
At this point Alek didn't understand anything we said.
He learned 'No,' pretty quickly, but it was months before he would point to anything and call it something specific.
(One of his first words was, 'fries'. He loved McDonald's fries and would call anything he loved fries. Cars were fries, McDonald's was fries, balls were fries...cute, but confusing! :)
He was in transition...the move from Russian to English. In order to do that he had to stop trying to listen for Russian and start paying attention to the mumbo jumbo of this new language.
From scratch.
Most babies start hearing their native language in utero...or at the very least at the moment of their birth. Alek didn't start hearing English until he was 15 months old. He was at least 15 months
(possibly up to two years) behind other kids his age in hearing his 'new' language.
It took Alek about six months for him to really understand most of the basics of what we were saying.
There was also a 'quiet' period. A time where we noticed that he didn't talk much at all. He just seemed to be watching and absorbing. I imagine this was part of the transition as well.
Another factor is Alek is a very active kid. Speaking has always been pretty low on his list of priorities. He didn't start using two word sentences until he was almost three
(at which point we called in Early Intervention who said he was fine.)
You would think he would have caught up to his peers by now in his English language...Anya has (and she was older at adoption). But if you factor in the whole Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) stuff...if he's having trouble understanding what you're telling him, how can he pick up on new vocabulary?
Its going to be a lot tougher.
Its an incredibly frustrating process for our big guy, but he's a hard worker. He doesn't give up and that is going to take him places...which brings us to question 2.

Anonymous said...

"well i do agree that he does need help now,but he needs to be taught
how to cope with his APD. i mean even if you get it so that somebody looks out for him through jr.high and high school nobody is going to be there to hold his hand in college,and right now is the time while his mind is still forming to be taught how to deal with this, because the minute that you blink he will be in high school and he shouldn't have to depend on an IEP to get him through it. if it were my child by that time i would want him to be more self sufficent than that. that would tell me that he was ready for college. you don't have to agree but those are just my thoughts."

Actually, Anonymous I ABSOLUTELY agree with you.
That is EXACTLY what we're looking for. But unfortunately, without an IEP or a 504 plan, Alek will be left completely on his own as he works to make the transition.
Our goal has always been and continues to be, getting him the help he needs to learn how to COPE with this problem.
We WANT him to be completely independent of extra help as soon as possible...but we don't want him to be handed over to the middle school system completely unprepared. If he weren't in a Title I school right now he wouldn't have ANY kind of transition at all.
No one would help with develop the skills he needs to keep up...skills like note taking. How many 5th graders do you know that can take effective notes without a teacher putting them on the board?
I'm not just talking assignments here.
I'm talking about lecture notes, vocabulary he doesn't understand, learning to ask questions when he has gotten lost (incredibly intimidating for a child who is shy...not to mention afraid of getting humiliated in front of his classmates because he wasn't 'paying attention'.)
There are a myriad of things that go into this situation that Alek needs to learn to maneuver through. Something that as a fifth grader he's definitely not ready to navigate yet...he still needs help.
THAT is our concern.
I have done some homework though and have figured out a few things since last Wednesday's meeting...which brings us to number 3.

MamaPoRuski asked...

How can he not qualify for a 504? I'm thinking you need to get a lawyer and help them understand that they are failing to educate your child as required by law... Let me know if you need help! I can growl while you sharpen your claws...

Thanks for the support MamaPoRuski! I love you girl! I was thinking the same thing until I went back over the notes from the meeting...and the test results.
Guess what?!
According to the test results he doesn't HAVE APD!
Now I'm totally confused!
(And I'm going to have to confirm this with the special ed teacher) the help he has gotten in the last three years has improved his skills enough to take him to the 'borderline' area of the chart.
He's not showing the full-blown test results of APD anymore.
That's great...
and bad.
Again, if we weren't in a Title 1 school, he would be left behind.
I know my kid, and you can't tell me that a boy as bright as my Alek, just can't seem to remember what he reads simply because he's not capable.
I'm sorry...the boy can memorize Bible verses in a matter of minutes - and keep them for years!
He's smart.
Smart enough to remember what he reads.
There's something else going on.
Thankfully he'll be able to get the help he needs for the next year
(even though he'll probably be going to a different school than the other three kids - another long story that I'll get into soon...once I get through my overflowing post queue.)
After that, if he still doesn't show up on the APD chart as having a problem (which I plan to have retested before he leaves 6th grade), then we'll have to get a private tutor, I'm afraid.
I'm going to talk to the school about the Specific Learning Disability (SLD) testing to see if we can get that done.
Other than that, I'm not sure we have many options.
Let me know if I'm wrong.

And finally, FaerieMama said...

Tami! Off-topic here, but...I am loving your blog! And I love all your graphics, etc. Do you make them yourself? And the russian proverbs...wow! I look forward to reading thru your archives in the weeks and months ahead!

FaerieMama...I'm so glad to have you as my newest Sunflower Seeds junkie! :) And thanks for the great comments.
Yes, I do the graphics myself...well, sorta. I use ScrapBlog to make the header...and I'm working on learning to manipulate the background as well. If anyone wants any help with their headers, let me know. I'm finding it to be a great creative outlet! :)
The Russian Proverbs I came up with just by doing a simple G00gle search for 'Russian Proverbs'.
Enjoy going through the archives...and make sure you check out Finding Maddie too. Great story there...I can't believe its been almost a year since I brought Maddie home. Wow!

3 salty messages:

Bethany January 19, 2009 at 12:10 AM  

Thanks for the answers, Tami. Good luck figuring everything out and getting him where he needs to be.

Anonymous,  January 19, 2009 at 10:20 AM  

You do such a good job seeing the big picture with your kids and working on their behalf. Middle school is a hard transition for every kid, even more so for kids with extra issues. But I know Alek is going to do just great with your support and guidance.

Stephanie January 19, 2009 at 3:00 PM  

Your blog really touches me. My husband and I have been married for over 5 years now and have not had any success in bearing children of our own. While we are still working on that process naturally, we are and always have been open to the idea of adoption. I love to read your blog and learn about the whole aspect of international adoption. Thank you for sharing and for educating!

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