Friday, October 23, 2009
Talk Slowly but Think Quickly
Remember that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
I received one of those ‘words of wisdom’ e-mails with the above statement in it.
It also said, “Talk Slowly but Think Quickly.” It just started me thinking about how those ‘words of wisdom’ have applied to my parenting a child with RAD and a serious chemical imbalance.
I have learned to talk slowly, to be slow to my word choice. But … to think fast on my feet. When I first came to think that Miss M might have RAD I was freaked out, naturally. When you see names like Adolph Hitler, Jeffery Dahmer, Charles Manson associated with the disorder that your child seems to have feeling freaked I would say puts it mildly.
I had read about RAD prior to our adoption of Mr. C, since he was coming from an Eastern European Institution. I knew about the kids with Swiss cheese holes in their brain from neglect, extreme neglect. But I had not really dove into the deep end of attachment disorder reading and study. Frankly I didn’t see how my children could have such a thing, especially not Miss M.
I had visited her every 4 to 6 weeks during our 6-month adoption process. She was stuck to me like Velcro when I was with her. I had not noticed any odd behavior that I felt was out of the ordinary for 1.) a toddler and 2.) a toddler who had lost their birth parent, family and all that they knew. To say nothing of the fact that she was malnourished and so duh had issues with food. It seemed reasonable to me that could be over come without much difficulty because kids are resilient. That’s what I had always heard and believed regarding children.
I’m comfortable around children. I have yet to meet an infant who I can’t comfort and calm. So I felt confident that I could help any child attach to me and overcome whatever they had been through prior to me.
Wrong. W.R.O.N.G. Wrong. Anttttt oh so sorry, thanks for playing but you be WRONG.
During our homestudy process of course we were told that any child could come to us with ‘undiagnosed special needs.’ I heard those words. BUT…I also checked that box which said, “no special needs.” So I thought we were all good and that for sure I would not be the one to end up with a child with special needs. I mean I clearly checked the box.
I’ll be real honest here when I thought ‘special needs’ my mind went to physical special needs dealing with physical health issues. Mental illness as a special need in a child, a toddler, a teeny tiny child – did not register. I never even thought about children having mental illness. I know, duh. But I didn’t.
So when we first realized there was something REALLY wrong with Miss M and that we needed some kind of professional direction we went to a child psychologist who we knew, respected and trusted. She specializes in autism spectrum disorders and had done the testing and diagnosis for Mr. C. She told us that what we described sounded like Reactive Attachment Disorder or Bipolar Disorder or maybe both. Wasn’t her field of expertise and she recommended where we should go next.
We then headed to a seminar with Nancy Thomas who just happened to be in our area the very next week. Our eyes bugged out of our head the entire two days as everything that was discussed applied to our daughter. The only thing we did not have going on was fire setting. Honestly. And she was four. And I was having trouble getting the point? Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.
We got in touch with an Attachment Therapist who had been trained by attach and was listed on Nancy’s site. I talked to her on the phone and for the first time I felt relief that I had found someone who ‘got it’ and knew what to do about it.
We were in her office with in days and went through a lengthy evaluation process – me, Dad and Miss M. At the end of the evaluation it was determined that Miss M did in fact have RAD and ‘pretty significantly for her age’ because of the behaviors she was displaying in the home.
Money was an issue because our insurance would not cover the AT who was out of network blah blah blah. But this therapist was a Godsend, truly.
She had been a therapist prior to adopting a child who had RAD. She did not know that the child had RAD nor did she focus on RAD in her practice. The therapist husband was also a therapist, that’s right they were BOTH child therapist and this kid was KICKING THEIR BUTT! That led to the therapist specializing in Attachment Therapy.
She for sure was the right person to help us. She had also foster-parented one of her clients who was in crisis and the family had no options. She set us up on a therapeutic parenting program to help Miss M. To help us know how to help Miss M.
I learned a lot. I learned how to teach Miss M that her behavior equated privileges and consequences. Not that I always had to dish out a consequence because natural consequences work so well. “How’s that working for you?” “Bummer.” “What do you think you will do about that?” It just wasn’t the way that I naturally talked to my children. I was more like, “Well honey if you had not done X then Y would not have happened and what you needed to do is ……”. That’s how my Mom talked with me and I got it. That’s how I talked with Big Sis and she got it so apparently my brain said, “Just keep at it this way and eventually she will learn.” I think I had entered into Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity. I kept doing it the same way and some how expected that at some point things would change, that this little child would change.
But I have learned a great deal. I have learned patience for one.
I by nature am a direct person. I might not always tell you what I think of you or what you are doing or have done because I am also (at times) polite. But if I feel the need to tell you then make no mistake you won’t be clueless as to what I think, you’ll get it.
Miss M seeks to feel in control. She’s 6 and so it isn’t reasonable for her to be in control. It isn’t safe. It isn’t in her best interest. But… I have learned to Talk Slowly and Think Quickly.
The one asking the questions is in control of the conversation. Answer a question with a question.
I have heard so many parents with children with RAD relate the same experiences. The child can’t buckle a seat belt that they have been buckling for 3 years. The non-since questions like “Is this my school?” The child has been attending this school for 6 months. Looking at their plate of food for dinner they ask, “Do you want me to eat this food? Is this my food? Are these peas on my plate? Are we having chicken for dinner?” (When the child is looking at a piece of pizza on their plate.)
It came natural to me to answer the ridicules question and then to feel irritated about it. Especially when the darn questions come at you by the hundreds.
Am I wearing shoes?
What do you think?
I had to learn to answer questions with questions. Eventually Miss M started asking and then answering the question before I asked my question back at her. I guess I was taking all the fun out of it.
F is for friends who do stuff together.
U is for you and me.
N is for anywhere and any time at all down here in the deep blue sea.
Who watches Sponge Bob? Sing it with me.
I have also heard so many other RAD parents say that no one person or professional or method has been the magic cure. We take little bits from here there and everywhere and come to find what works for our child. Little by little bit by bit day by day minute by minute we find our way.
We started with help from a Psychologist, which lead to help from an Attachment Therapist (AT). And our daughter’s physician was always on board and supportive.
We included help from a Psychiatrist because it was clear that medication help was needed. That was a trial and tribulation all on it’s own but we did finally find the right medication combo that helps regulate our daughter and because of that she is better able to work on the RAD stuff.
The Psychiatrist wanted a Certified Behavior Analyst (CBA) on board. He has not had “the answer” for Miss M and in a lot of ways she is out of his realm of expertise. But … having a professional come into the home once a week proved to be of great value for covering our behind, because we have a “professional” who was at least witnessing her behaviors in the home.
His expertise in Crisis Prevention Intervention (CPI) was a huge blessing and kept our daughter from having to go to a psychiatric facility until her meds were regulated and therefore her rage better under control.
Funny how that one e-mail with that statement, “Remember that great love and great achievements involve great risk” have lead me to think about so much this morning. I would have NEVER chosen to parent a child with these issues, this trauma, and this damage. But great LOVE and great ACHIEVEMENTS involve great RISK. And I guess I did know that, not the way I know it now.
Not too long ago when Big Sis was feed up (and rightly so) with Miss M’s stuff I sat her down and we had a talk. She is a child that benefits greatly from the Mom Talk and I love it. I said to her that mental illness can strike anyone at anytime.
We have a dear friend who is now mentally retarded because of an asthma attack that was not treated properly by the hospital involved. She went 8 minutes with out oxygen and so a great deal of damage was done to her brain. She was an intelligent woman and she and her husband were best friends. That day his role in life changed. He became his wife’s caregiver and knew better than most what “for better or for worse” can really mean.
His intelligent, beautiful companion is not as bright as or capable as my 3 year old and he has to have a female available to take her to a public restroom because she can’t toilet without direction and help. She doesn’t know if she just ate or she needs to eat. She isn’t sure if she knows me or not so she just says hello to all as if she knows them.
Her husband quit work and became his wife’s full time caregiver. They are both in their 30’s.
I used this example from our personal life to help Big Sis see that indeed mental illness can befall anyone at any time. And that if it were her that suddenly became a person who raged and lied and did things that were wrong and that did not make since because her brain no longer worked the right way, how would she want us to treat her?
She looked at me with eyes of understanding and so I said, “Treat your sister that way. She is a little girl who was hurt in ways you can never imagine and her brain does not work the right way.”
Great love and great achievements involve great risk and sometimes we are better for the experience.
Talk Slowly but Think Quickly.
(art work by Robert David Bretz)