Saturday, January 02, 2010

Ahren and Progress

I did a lot of reading before Ahren came home. I hoped I wouldn't need most of what I read but I also wanted to be prepared. For anything. To be able to be the best parent to him I could be.

And then he just melted into our family and acted as though he had always been there. I kept waiting for the honeymoon period to end, but it didn't. At least not for a very long time. Oh, he had some issues. He was almost 3 years old and still on a bottle every four hours. He couldn't do anything for himself. His muscle tone was extremely low. He was in orthotic boots and couldn't walk well. But, he ate like a champ, slept all night long, and learned english amazingly fast. He was a miracle angel boy.

Then little by little I began to see odd, unusual behaviors pop up. He began spitting when he got mad. He bit. He screamed. He regressed at stressful times. All of this seemed pretty normal for a child his age. Then the constant chatter and questions started. I have experienced normal questioning by kids. The why's, the wonder at what they see, the curiosity. This was different. he would ask the exact same question 30, 40, fifty times in a row. He would ask nonsense questions. He would chatter non-sense non-stop for hours. And he demanded a response to everything. He began to obsess over his shoes. As soon as he woke up he began demanding I put his shoes and socks on him. I would explain and explain that he needed to get his pants on first, be actually putting his pants on him, but his anxiety level just kept rising until he had his shoes on. He would end up in a complete rage, out of control and crying so hard he choked and vomited if he didn't get his shoes on fast enough. Okay, not normal.

After he was potty trained he would go through periods of wetting and soiling himself on purpose, then wanting to stay in the dirty clothes. He would lie and say he wasn't messy and avoid being discovered. Not because he would be in trouble (we never punished him or scolded him) but because he wanted to stay in control of it. It was HIS mess.

Then the nasty talk started. I still don't know where he heard these words. I hate you. I don't love you. You are not my mommy. He never said these things to anyone else. It was all directed at me. (Telling, huh? That is exactly how Ashley was. It was always me who was her target)

So this past couple of weeks, as his behavior escalated and he began to fall apart, I tried a few things. And much to my surprise, they are working. The last three days have been really good.

Here is what I tried:

1) I began sleeping with him. I moved Levi to our bed and I sleep with Ahren in their bed. I don't get a lot of sleep, but he is much calmer.

2) He has been getting an enforced nap every 2 to 3 days. He gave up naps a long time ago, but he needs this extra sleep right now.

3) Many times a day, I kneel down on the floor and look him in the eye and tell him I love him, he is my son, and I am so happy to be his mommy.

4) No outside activities. Nothing special. Nothing unexpected. Even if it is wonderfully fantastic, we do not do it. It's boring routine around here.

Next week we are all back to work and school and things should calm for a bit. Then, unfortunately, Ahren has to have a surgical procedure to correct a minor issue. It might be minor but I expect major fallout. This time we are prepared as best we can be. We will batten down the hatches, prepare for the rough seas, and arrive on the other side of this storm. I know we will.


Angie said...

Wendy, there is also "something" wrong with our Dalaney. SHe has the asking question thing, she forgets very quickly what I have said to her, and there are other things about her that just seem off. I had some blood work done on her, but nothing showed up. I will be taking her back for a follow-up soon, so if you find anything out, let me know. I shake my head in wonder every day, cause she does or says things that are so off. I worry about her. She is our 7th child so you would think I would know this, but I haven't a clue.

Diana said...

I am SOOOO glad you recognize this for what it really is and are taking proactive steps to calm the storm. So many others in your boat never do recognize the real source of these issues and aren't willing to listen or to even acknowledge that there are other issues going on - and that what they're dealing with runs much deeper than just being "difficult" or having "strong willed" kids.

For the benefit of others who may be readiing and wondering what could be causing this, these are pretty typical trauma/attachment related behaviors. I'm not a professional, but I am a mom raising trauatized children and see this kind of stuff every single day. We also spend a lot of time with therapists and other professionals working on ways to undo the damage of trauma.

What many people fail to realize is that even when the adoption looks perfect, adoption is still highly traumatic for any child. This is especially true with older children, and doubly so for those who were adopted internationally. The adoption alone leaves a deep hole of loss - loss of everything and everyone familiar, loss of their birth language, and every sight, sound, smell, taste, and texture are suddenly different than anything they've ever know. And then we have to consider what we DON'T know about their real past - as in what went on during all those days and weeks and months and years before they were our children. In most cases, the information we do get about our kids is superficial and on the surface at best. But what happened day to day and when no one was looking, we really don't know.

It isn't uncommon for kids to "honeymoon" for up to a year or more before they start showing their true colors. It sounds like that's what may be happening here. Even though we knew right off the bat that our kids had issues, and knew that PTSD was one of them, it was still over a year before we could really tell that Matthew has RAD and even longer before we could see it with Joseph. I'm not saying that Ahren has full blown RAD, too, but his attachment most likely isn't as secure as once thought and/or there's likely some other trauma related stuff going on as well.

Keep doing what you're doing. You're on the right track. And, you're not alone. :-) (((HUGS!)))

Lisa said...

Diana always has the most insightful comments. I could only say ditto. You've made great changes. Awesome!

Wendy said...

Diana, I believe Ahren does have RAD. Not nearly the end of the spectrum that some kids exhibit, but still issues that we need to be aware of and deal with. I read a new article recently that said that Vision Therapy is helpful in treating PTSD. I was so excited! they are using it on soldiers returning from war. It's not a big leap to see it helping kids like ours too. How could it not be traumatic to have spent almost three years of your life, your whole life in one family, only to be sent to a new country, new language, new bed, home, family, sights, sounds, smells. Everything! I guess that it is a good sign Ahren is beginning to act out since that means he is now comfortable enough to do so. It's not easy but it is sooo worth it.

Stacie said...

My son has been home with us almost two years. He was 8 years old when he joined our family. He is always asking the same thing over and over I sometimes think it's a form of OCD. He drives his teachers and pretty much anyone around us "nuts" after just 15 minutes. After he was here about a year his behavior is very up and down. When it's good it's good and when it's bad he goes all out. It's been hard, but I just deal with it the best I can. He also steals, lies, and sneaks food. We have been to two therapist, but I wasn't really happy with them, because they had no experience with children whom were adopted.
We all love him so much and just have to be very consistant and loving and hopefully some of his behaviors will subside in time. I figure it's going to take several years to undo the first 8 years of his life. It's difficult having a strong willed child that's for sure!

Reba said...

Thank you so much for sharing. There are days I am completely baffled by our adopted daughter's behavior (she has been home for over three years). And we never even had a "honeymoon" period. Some days are really good; other days I am wringing my hands wondering what to do. It helps knowing I am not completely alone and to hear everyone's suggestions.