Category Archives: Parent
**Four years ago to the week, this was my first post on Hypervigilant. Ah, memories…
Ever notice the words “adoption” and “insanity” have the same number of letters?
Coincidence? I think not.
It’s been almost three years since the Wednesday they arrived, dropped off by another foster parent. At the time, we didn’t know that a Social Worker was supposed to be present to “facilitate” the situation. The kids had no idea what was happening. Neither did we. Married ten years, with approximately 20 years of “kid experience” between us, we thought we could handle it. The kiddos, then 5 and newly-turned-7, had met us and seemed to like us. Surely, this would be a breeze. They were so teeny and adorable..like baby jackals.
Surely you’ve heard the phrase, “Wednesday’s child is full of woe.” That Wednesday evening foreshadowed the next two years of our lives with fair accuracy. We took them to a church spaghetti dinner. During the course of the meal, they ate pasta and sauce with their hands (unwilling to use apparently foreign utensils), spilled six (count ’em, six) cups of pink lemonade – including a huge trip-fall-splatter that involved about a third of the floor space, and the five year old ate a napkin. Ate a napkin.
Well, ate might be exaggeration. He stuffed the napkin in his mouth, and despite (or because of) our exhortations of “Oh, honey, don’t…don’t do that.” “No, that’s not food. Take it out.” “Spit that out right now.” “SPIT. IT. OUT.” he continued to chew the paper with a “make me” glint in his sweet blue eyes. Finally, Hubby said, “Fine. Swallow it. It’ll probably stop you up and you won’t poop for a week.” The game was no longer fun. He swiftly deposited the mass of wet fibers onto the floor.
We arrived home past bedtime, exhausted, but bathing could not be skipped, as the kids were literally covered in sauce. Imagine all the cute photos of your friends’ infants eating pasta for the first time. Super cute, that tomato-basted babe. Fast forward five or seven years. No longer super cute.
We wanted to get them into bed quickly, so I started the shower, made sure it was warm, then helped the 7 year old remove her saucy outfit and step into the tub. She gave me a little smile. Then…she collapsed, screaming, on the floor of the tub. In my panic to find the problem, I left the shower running. “Are you hurt? Did you slip? Are you okay? What’s wrong?” She continued to scream. Hubby, who had been entertaining the five year old, opened the door slightly. “What in the world is happening in there? What did you do?” More screaming. What did I do? Clearly, I lost my mind and brought an insanely scary spirit-possessed child into the house.
Finally, as the decibels reached somewhere between ear-piercing and drum-bleeding, I regained my conscious mind and turned off the shower. Screaming stopped, immediately. No explanation. “Are you okay?” Nod. “Are you hurt?” Shake. “Did the shower scare you?” Another negative shake. “You have to get clean; will you take a bath?” Nod. The child then washed the remnants of dinner from her hair, calmly and apparently in her right mind.
We didn’t attempt another shower for the next year. Then, the younger one spontaneously decided he’d rather shower. Not to be outdone by her little brother, our girl braved the shower the next night, with no complications. Oh, how I love sibling rivalry.
Approximately six hundred showers later, she said casually. “Hey, remember that time I was screaming like a crazy person in the shower, on our first night here?” “Oh…um, I think I remember.” Yes, I remember. My eardrums spontaneously tremor at the thought. “Yeah, Mama…I was just freaked out about being in a new house. Sorry about that.” Freaked out, indeed. “Oh, sweetie, don’t even worry about it. That was a long time ago. I barely even remember it.” Liar, liar, pants on fire…
My mom says she doesn’t remember the hours of childbirth because the joy of seeing the baby’s face “erased the memory.” If you’re lucky, birth happens in hours (or if you’re unlucky, days). Adoption, especially with behaviorally challenged kiddos, is a little different. Labor pains happen every day for years.
And believe me, I remember every single minute.
Good thing we like a little insanity around here.
Dear Miss Othmar,
You are about to become the third most important person in my son’s life.
You will spend more waking hours with him for the next nine months than his dad or I.
Your encouragement, understanding, creativity and enthusiasm for learning will impact my son’s life forever.
My son is intelligent, wise beyond his years, interested in learning about almost everything and unbelievably creative. One-on-one conversations with him will leave you amazed at the depth of his thoughts.
If you connect with him, if you play to his strengths, if you feed his love of science, math and reading, you will find he’s your most dedicated student. He will be your most loyal supporter. Your truest pupil.
His ADHD, high-functioning Autism (what used to be called Asperger’s) and traumatic background sometimes interfere with his ability to show others who he really is.
He hears every little tick, hum and buzz in the building as though it’s right behind his ear. The fly most kids easily ignore will capture his attention like a tractor beam.
Transitions may leave him confused. Keeping himself organized is an almost insurmountable task. Writing assignments in a planner takes him much longer than other kids, thanks to his sensory and motor difficulties.
Attempts to connect with his peers sometimes leave him reeling.
He craves—but doesn’t always understand the best way to procure—acceptance. He thinks making kids laugh is the same as being liked, which means he may act out to get a giggle.
Perceived unfairness blows his mind; he has difficulty ratcheting his emotions back if he finds himself or others being treated in a way that “does not compute.”
In an environment where he feels secure, encouraged and safe, many of these quirks minimize naturally.
Here are some suggestions for a smooth ride this year:
Be firm, fair and calm.
If he freaks out, give him a minute to calm down in a quiet space. Ask him how the situation could have been different—and what he can do in the future to avoid the situation.
Give him advance notice for transitions. “Five minutes until we leave for lunch. Have you finished your paper? What do you need to do next to get ready?“
Find creative ways to get him involved. Ask him to master a concept so he can help teach someone else.
Notice his interactions with others. Feel free to “interfere,” to take him aside and make recommendations for relating.
When his attention wanes, stand by his desk, tap his page, put a hand on his shoulder…small connections to bring him back to earth.
Encourage him to take notes and write down his assignments, but please text me a picture of the assignment board.
Be firm, fair and calm. (This is really the most important.)
I am so thankful for your dedication to a wonderful education experience for all the kids in your class. I fully understand that you don’t have extra time to dedicate to “special” behavioral needs.
One last however:
With this kid, an ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure. If you can find a few extra minutes to pour in at the outset, the rest of your year—and his—will benefit. If you make a connection with him, he’ll be motivated to make you proud.
Thank you again, in advance, for everything.
I just read a post by a mom who hopes to stop using an IEP for her special needs son.
Read her article (here) and then add your thoughts below.
Here’s my response:
I see your point, but I think I’d have to side with your hubby IF your boy is like ours (and the description is all too familiar). Here’s my reasoning: I’m not looking for legal protection against bad behavior; you’re absolutely right about consequences. Kids need to experience cause and effect.
However, the IEP forces people around him to consider his differences and be more understanding. I’ll give you an example.
At a theme park, I waited in line with everyone else to get my food. A young man (late teens) walked up, pushed past me, grabbed the food he wanted and pushed me out of his way again on his way back. He didn’t apologize; instead, he called happily to his mother, “I got the last one before anyone could take it!”
His mother, looking mortified and frazzled, told him to apologize. When he just stood there staring at the plate, she said, “I’m really sorry. He doesn’t realize.”
Having personal experience with Autism, I was fairly certain of the situation. Without that experience, I would have seen an incredibly rude young man whose mother obviously did not rear him with manners.
BUT his mother’s reaction confirmed what I suspected. Instead of being annoyed, I felt very happy for her that she could bring her son to a place like amusement park. So many kids on the Spectrum would be too overwhelmed to function in the chaos.
Of course, an IEP won’t help in public, but it will release some of the pressure in other settings. Asking people to treat a kid with differences as Neurotypical is unfair to all parties. He needs at least one safe place where people will attempt to understand.
My boy has made great strides but any teacher who expects a model student will be disappointed.
Unmet expectations = frustration.
The IEP allows reasonable expectations.
I don’t excuse inappropriate behavior and our school staff members know that. But there’s a difference in motive to be considered: a belligerent kid snapping pencils in half vs. the overwhelmed kid trying to deal with too much sensory input. Both look the same on the outside.
An IEP gives the teacher extra insight regarding whether this kid who refuses to stop snapping pencils should be sent to the principal or given a few minutes in a quiet corner away from chaos.
So anyway…that’s my two cents.
What do YOU think?
I’m not the most dedicated blogger in the world, mostly because I am a perfectionist and like to get my posts just right before I post them (which takes a loooooong time).
I think Stirrup Queen’s Microblog idea might help.
What is Microblogging? Click the link to find out. 😉
I’m also pretty bad at consistency, so this might be my only one.
Short and sweet blog post, once a week with up to eight sentences. Maybe you should try it, too!
As an adoptive parent, here’s my main goal: Try not to screw it up. When the kids first arrived, I read every parenting or adoption book I could find. Nothing worked. Intuitive and log…
Looking for some new ideas? Check out the blogs here on Roberta’s post—and add your own! 🙂
Sometimes his behavior makes me want to slam my face into a wall, but I have to tell you…when my kid prays, it’s unbelievable.
Dear Jesus, thank you for helping us in our struggles. Thank you for Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. He was such a great man. He did so many good things and I’m sorry that someone hated him. He did so much for us. Without him we might not be able to be friends, black and white. Thank you for him.