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baby steps

Friday, October 23, 2009

I don't know if we've just endured another time of testing...or if this is just the calm in the middle of the storm.

Thanks everyone for the supportive comments and virtual hugs. You all are awesome! :)
Some of the things you wrote about we've considered...others we hadn't. All of it was read, mulled-over and ingested.

We are so blessed to have such a great group of adoptive parents and wise friends surrounding us who have been there, dealt with that.
We still have a lot to consider in how to deal with Maddie in the coming days and weeks, but I am happy to say things have settled down in the last couple of weeks.
I'm not sure exactly why yet.
I don't know if we've just endured another time of testing. You know...the two steps forward, one step back thing. Or if this is just the calm in the midst of a storm.
The last two weeks things have been incredibly quiet on the school front.
No late afternoon phone calls. Great reports from the teachers when I call. My informants kids say she's settled down.
And so I'm confused.
I'm hoping its a permanent change. I'm imagining she's learned she's not going to get away with all of these negative behaviors.. I'm thinking the praise she received from her daddy and I about how good she's been behaving the last couple of weeks is working.
But I'm also not naive enough to think that it is over...whatever it is.

I'm seriously leaning toward this being just a time of testing. Trying out old behavior to see how it works in a new environment. Or maybe it was a temporary slide back into the orphanage. A bit of a post-traumatic response. I keep reminding the teachers that school can be very reminiscent of the orphanage to these kids.
Fifteen to 20 kids, all the same age, all crowded into a concrete block type room for a long day with only breaks for a few recesses and communal lunch.
Sounds awful familiar to me.
The teachers seem to be getting it. Really, they do. Her kindergarten teacher is awesome. So patient and understanding of Maddie's history and special needs. She's the one who is starting to wonder if the constant stream of extra teachers is contributing to Maddie's behavior. We're considering cutting back on some of it and will talk to Mrs. B again on Tuesday at the parent-teacher conferences. Maddie has a long list of teachers including a special needs teacher - which I'm not so sure she needs. This teacher offers more one-on-one instruction, which is nice, but Mrs. B says Maddie is doing great academically. Right on track with the rest of the class. YAY! :)
She obviously needs her speech help...and the teacher for the deaf - at least for now. But there's also a person to help keep an eye on her at PE (a teacher's aide). I'm not sure that person is needed either.
So we're considering it.
And then there's the lunchroom.
During her IEP meeting a few weeks ago (which I still haven't blogged about and which I am still working on) I mentioned the lunch room may be too loud and that may be why she was acting out so much. The teachers actually came up with the idea of having her eat in a quieter setting, possibly with a couple of friends (different ones each day), so Maddie could work on her interpersonal skills (having conversations, developing friendships, etc.). It is supposed to be a part of her final IEP - which I was really excited about. I'm not sure its been implemented yet, so I'm going to check on it.
Another thought...one of the behavior modifications that the teachers had put in place was a reward system based on gummy bears. I put the kibosh on that immediately. There is still a behavior modification in place but it has absolutely NO food attached to it now. Thankfully.

The teachers were mortified at what they may have done in using food as a reward...seriously - one of them used that word later on. Again, I'm thankful for the teachers we are working with here. (Notice I'm saying teachers...just keep that in mind, okay?! ;)
So, for now, we're going to continue at the status quo. Things are going well. All is quiet (quick...someone find me a piece of wood) and Maddie is showing signs of making permanent behavior changes.
Its not that we're out of the woods completely, but I have to say Maddie seems to have attached pretty well. Extremely well, considering where we were a year ago.
She comes to us for comfort...
Seeks us out for approval...
Absolutely never mommy shops anymore...
Will seek us out if she can't find us...
There's no more bullying of other kids - at least not in our family circle...
She's treating animals with affection now (instead of absolute fear) - well, at least ours...
She responds appropriately to discipline and affection...
And will occasionally climb into someone else's lap for a second, but then will look at me and then come over and climb up in mine.
Leaps and bounds...
Millions and millions of miles...
Heads and shoulders of improvement.
And that's what I need to keep reminding myself. Isn't it? Baby steps. Keep an eye on the improvements...and keep working on helping her grow, learn and adjust..
Sure. We still have a ways to go...but we're getting there.

5 salty messages:

Elaine October 25, 2009 at 6:58 PM  

So glad to hear things seem to be calming down (for now, anyway). She has made so much progress, as you've said, so you know even if there are setbacks, things will keep getting better.

Tina in CT October 25, 2009 at 7:58 PM  

Oh, I am so happy to read this post about things being better and brighter. I sure hope these baby steps continue on for Maddie and that she continues to grow.

Things must be a lot calmer around home now too which makes for a much happier family and home.

Diana October 25, 2009 at 11:01 PM  

So glad to hear things are improving. It is often hard to see the progress kids are making on a day to day basis. But, the changes are amazing when we look back and see where they were compared to where they are. Yeah. Maddie! And a big yeah, too, that you've got the school on board with you. Sometimes that is half the battle right there!

I've heard coutless parents say the exact same thing about their kids being attached. I'll be honest...those statements scares me to death, too!! More often than not when I read those types of declarations, there are all sorts of flashing red sirens and bells and whistles going off in my head. I don't know if it's because they're not seeing something I am, or because I'm reading more into it than is really there, or if the parents are just too terrified or embarrassed or too whatever to admit that their kids aren't as attached as they want people to think they are (that last one is incredibly dangerous, by the way, both for kids and parents.)

Maddie may well be fully attached, or she may not be. All we know is what you write on your blog. My caution, however, would be not to be lulled into a false sense of security with it. She's making progress, and a lot of it. There is no doubt about that. And yes, indeed, everything you mentioned is very good and are indicators that yhere is at least some attachment happening and that bond is continuing to strengthen.

But, the behaviors you outlined with her are so characteristic of a still very insecure attachment (as well as PTSD) that it's simply too scary to blow off or minimize. The earlier one can intervene and treat any trauma related issues (RAD, PTSD, etc) the more effective and long term the treatments really are. The sooner you can change those neural pathways and get them running in the right direction, the better it is for everyone. It is FAR better to treat or even over-treat them now (not really possible unless you're practicing some wacky form of "attachment therapy" which I wouldn't recommend for anyone under any circumstances) rather than keeping things status quo now only to realize that the issues are glaring you in the face when the kids hit that beautiful change of life and become teenagers and you can't do much about them.

There is also a lot more to attachment than just mommy shopping and reciprocal affection. It's part of it, but it's definately not all of it. My youngest is very affectionate, both on his terms and mine, he's learned to love a good snuggle, he doesn't mommy shop too much anymore, and is basically about where you just described Maddie. But, he also DEFINATELY still has RAD. Again, not saying Maddie does too, just that my son does, even though he's all those things you described.

So, I guess that's really where my plea comes in. Before you either discount it completely or declare a clear victory over the monster, will you please, please, please put my mind at ease and do some in depth research on the subjects of attachment (including what healthy attachment looks like as well as insecure attachment and RAD)? A heavy review of PTSD wouldn't hurt, either, especially since it wouldn't surprise me if she's leaning more heavily in that direction.

Even if she is, though, it is so often very hard to tell where attachment issues end and PTSD begins (or vis-versa.) And truthfully, it doesn't really matter a whole lot either. They're both most affectively addressed pretty much in the same ways and through the same therapeutic parenting techniques...techniques that often fly in the face of conventional parenting techniques and models, but do work for helping hurt kids heal and progress.

Keep hanging in there. You're doing a great job with her, even if she does keep you on your toes!

Annie October 26, 2009 at 9:13 AM  

Sounds like Maddie is improving, but perhaps the school staff is improving more. :)

That many "assistants" would make ME crazy!

Funny how the "specialists" can sometimes make things a heck of a lot worse. A friend has a daughter with some learning disabilities. She had a speech and Language pathologist, a Title One person, an aide, people coming in from the district office for diagnostic purposes, and on and on. Each of these people wrote out a list of things that "mom and dad should work on at home" each night. All of these things, my friend figured out, even WITHOUT the regular homework, would have taken over TWO HOURS - and that was for a first grader! You have to speak up because the specialists don't always "get it".

Anonymous,  October 27, 2009 at 7:49 PM  

I think she (and your family as a whole) is doing incredibly well. It's so hard to see it when you're living it day in and day out.
Whatever the reason, I'm glad Maddie is doing well again - hopefully you guys "passed" that test and won't have to take it again!!

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