This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Attachment Disorders vs Autism Spectrum

Clinical Observations of the Differences Between Children on the Autism Spectrum and Those with Attachment Problems: the Coventry Grid by Heather Moran (11/2/2010)

When a child has experienced a very difficult early life or serious abuse or trauma, it can be hard to tell whether the child has attachment problems or is on the autism spectrum or both. The problems they show may appear very similar on the surface.

The Coventry Grid discusses the similarities and differences between children on the autism spectrum and children with attachment problems and their response to interventions. 

The child's response to therapeutic interventions and strategies, can reveal whether or not the child's issues are ASD or attachment related, or both. The danger of misdiagnosis is that the child might be excluded access from services or interventions that might help. The diagnostic process is subjective and there aren't any definitive tests, so there will always be some children who are inappropriately diagnosed.

Differences noted by therapists - working with children on the autism spectrum and children with
attachment problems

Therapeutic Relationship
One of the key differences noted by clinicians was the way a therapeutic relationship was used by the child. Professionals described a much more ‘emotional feel’to therapeutic relationships with children with attachment problems and a more ‘matter-of-fact feel’ to therapeutic relationships with those on the autism spectrum.
  • Children with attachment problems
    Therapists reported that relationships with this group often developed quite quickly, but that they had to work hard to develop and maintain more appropriate relationships (dependence and maintaining appropriate interpersonal boundaries were very difficult).

    The children often emotional challenged the therapists and were resistant to the relationship boundaries the therapists were trying to establish and maintain.

    The children generally arrived with some ability to make a relationship with another person (although usually in an idiosyncratic and inappropriate way). Part of the therapeutic intervention was to directly address these issues:
    * helping the youngsters to understand their how they built relationships,
    * why the relationships may have become unhealthily skewed, and
    * how they might change things so that their future relationships could be more successful and healthy.

    The relationship between the child and therapist was the vehicle for therapy
  • Children on the autism spectrum
    Therapists working with youngsters on the autism spectrum described making great efforts to make the beginnings of relationships work in order to get the child to engage in therapy.

    The children needed the therapists' active assistance to make a relationship with a professional. This involved helping the child to view contacts as being relevant and useful to him or her.

    The maintenance of appropriate emotional boundaries was far less of an issue because the children were not usually setting out to test those boundaries. The issues were more focused on appropriate behavior for the room or for the situation.

    The task was to make therapy relevant, often by involving children’s interests or obsessions because the relationship with the therapist was unlikely to be a significant motivator in the early stages of therapy

The group worked through the symptoms of autism, identifying the day-to-day, real life problems reported by parents and carers. Then, the group considered how those symptoms presented in
children with attachment problems.

Eating Issues Example:
Problems with eating are often mentioned in regards to both groups of children with temper tantrums and rigid, obsessive behaviors around eating. However, careful evaluation of the nature of these problems showed considerable differences in how, when and where they occurred.
  • Children on the autism spectrumThe problems related to eating in children on the autism spectrum were often about the strong preferences related to physical sensations (such as texture and taste), the way food is organised on the plate, or its place in the child’s daily routine.

    Problems with food were pervasive, occurring wherever the child was invited to eat, regardless of who was offering the food and where it was being eaten. Denial of offered food seemed to be related to taste and texture preference and not to who was offering it.
  • Children with attachment problemsThe provision of food often had strong emotional significance and was associated with relationships. Problems were most evident in relation to parents or carers, with more typical eating habits in situations with other adults.

    Parents and carers often reported concerns about abstinence and gorging and these behaviors tended to be associated with deliberate (and planned) deceit such as throwing or giving away food, or hiding food and wrappers. Denial of offered food seemed to be with the intention of emotional hurt or emotional defense, something which requires an understanding of emotional relationships.

Differences between the two groups were considerable, even though the headline for both could be “obsessive and rigid patterns of eating behavior."

Both autism and significant attachment problems might be construed as developmental difficulties and both groups might be vulnerable to misdiagnosis, especially when they present with depression and anxiety or when they have very good intellectual abilities and relatively poor relationship skills.

Children with one or both of these diagnoses (on the autism spectrum or attachment problems) may look similar, but there are definite differences in the way their problems are expressed in daily functioning. 

These differences imply that different assessment and diagnostic pathways and different treatment styles may be needed for the two groups, although there may be some types of intervention from
which they would both benefit (eg the use of visual timetables to reduce anxiety).

Heather Moran - a Consultant Child Clinical Psychologist who works within a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) and other professionals in the West Midlands 11/2/2010

Click here for the:   (Revised Version of the Coventry Grid)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

How To Get Treated Like an Adult.


Kitty is always complaining that we don't treat her like an adult. Unfortunately, Kitty has no understanding of what an adult is, except that it's *our fault* she's not being treated like one.

She wants all of the adult privileges (driving, living in her own place, being able to come and go without telling anyone, getting a pet, handling her own money...), but is not capable of handling most of the privileges she wants, and discounts the ones she does get as her due. (Can you say, "entitled"?)

She also has no interest or actual ability in dealing with the adult responsibilities.

So I decided to put together a document on how to get treated like an adult, just like I've done with things like driving. I sat down and listed out things she needs to be able to do to show us she's ready to be treated like an adult. When I started the list, I was extremely frustrated, and focused on showing her concrete reasons why she was not ready to be treated like an adult.

I did something like this once before when she got the psych hospital staff to try to force me to treat her like the teenager she was physically, even though she was so dysregulated that she wasn't even able to handle almost any privileges at all, let alone ones that usually came with her physical age of 16 (cell phones, hanging out with friends at the mall, unsupervised dating...). So I came up with this document --  Chores/ responsibilities vs privileges

Here's the document I started.

How To Get Treated Like an Adult 

Be Proactive. Explore your options. Be honest with yourself about your strengths and abilities.

Plan for the future you want.
  • Discuss with others (therapist, parents) what it would look like. 
  • Write down the steps needed to get there - include a general timeline. 
  • Work your way through the steps one by one until you achieve your goal. 

Be flexible! If something you've planned is not working out, try to figure out why (ask for advice!). Be willing to change your goals!

Focus on your strengths! Instead of whining and complaining about your limitations and what you can't do, make goals based on your strengths and abilities. If you don't like a limitation or "weakness," find a way to work around it or change your goals.

Be positive and focus on working toward achievable goals. Don't dream the impossible dream, make it achievable!

Ask for and accept help. Do remember that while many people are looking out for your best interest, you should not expect it or accept it at the expense of their own. What can you do for them for helping you?

If you don't feel like you're being treated fairly, talk to the person upsetting you, or a trusted adult.

Be aware that it takes time for yourself and others to see, believe, and trust in any major changes. Please be understanding to all during that time.


3 Vent Rule

LOVING - Family Girl vs Adult Boarder



As you can see, I started by using RRHAFTBALL as an outline. I got about halfway done, and lost steam. Once I was done venting, I knew it was just as pointless to present this to her as presenting the level chart had been when she was a teen. (How the privileges vs responsibilities level chart worked out is at the bottom of this page)

Kitty's emotional development has progressed to about 13 on a (really) good day, and honestly? I believe this is about where she'll stay.

Which makes it even more frustrating that she will always feel that she deserves to be treated like an adult and hold it against us when we don't treat her that way. If we keep pointing out why we are doing this, it feels like criticism and shaming and reinforces her deep-rooted belief that she's unlovable, despised, and we and everyone else will abandon her for being imperfect).

She just doesn't "get it," and I don't believe she can "fix it." It feels cruel to keep saying you need to act like an adult to be treated like an adult.

I know she needs, and will continue to need extra structure and support.


I gave Kitty exactly what she wanted.

She wanted to be independent, but also needed to feel loved and supported or she felt abandoned. (Obviously these two things are pretty conflicting)

We let her move out.
Deep down, Kitty knows that she's not ready to live totally on her own, so she did the next best thing (for her). She moved in with biofamily, who she was convinced would let her do whatever she wants. People who actually live a life of adult privileges with very few of what I would consider to be the "adult responsibilities." This time she lived with them for 4 months before she came home.

Just like last time she tried this, the second she walked out the door, she was constantly calling me for emotional support. She went from hiding in her room all day, to calling me 3 to 4 times a day (we actually talked about this "grass is greener on the other side of the fence" tendency, and she acknowledges it).

We compromised (aka I bribed her).
Kitty wants to be independent, but I believe she will never be truly capable of this, and don't want to have to continuously have to pick up the pieces when things don't work the way she thinks they will, especially if one of those pieces is pregnancy.

What Kitty says she wants: 
  • To live independently
  • To be able to drive
  • To have a nice place to live ("not a crappy one bedroom trailer")
  • To be able to come and go whenever she wants
  • To have whoever she wants come over and stay as long as she wants them to (including sleepovers with guys)
  • To be able to cook and eat whatever she wants
  • To leave her place as messy as she wants
  • To make her own medical choices (as long as she doesn't have to: fill out a bunch of forms, take public transportation to get there, handle insurance, deal with any issues that come up, find new medical professionals as needed...)
  • To pay her own bills for whatever services she wants (Netflix, hulu, and deal with her own medical
  • To make her own decisions about how her money is spent (alcohol, getting her hair done, clothes and shoes from Hot Topic or online, eating out... )
  • To have no one "judging" her if she wants to stay out all night partying, have sex, drink...

What I want most is to be her Mom, and drop all the other titles/ hats. 
What I want:

  • For Kitty to accept her limitations and not blame and take her feelings about her limitations out on me. 
  • To not have to constantly run interference between Kitty and real life. (Most real life consequences would crush her)
  • To not be the "Dream Killer
  • To not be continually taking care of and cleaning up after her 
  • To not be her emotional support/ regulator for the rest of her life (I'm ok with this to some extent, but she currently calls and texts me at least 3 to 4 times a day, usually in full crisis mode)
  • To not have to raise her children
  • To not be her caseworker for the rest of my life (scheduling appointments, handling insurance, filling out forms, transporting her everywhere, handling her money, enforcing her budget)
  • To know that she'll be OK if something happens to Hubby and I

Residential Vocational School
I finally found a residential facility designed to teach independent living and job skills to young people with mild intellectual disabilities (which Kitty was recently diagnosed with). I also found funding for it (it's $7000+ a month). The program is designed to last 12 - 18 months. The majority of the students are like Kitty, needing independent living skills, but will most likely never be able to achieve full independence.

Of course when I broached the subject of the school, she was having none of it!

After much negotiation, and with the help of her therapist, these are the compromises we've come up with: 

  1. She will attend the Residential Vocational School for at least 3 to 4 months. I have agreed to this much shorter time on the condition that she keep an open mind about staying longer, and that she doesn't tell the school or her funding source (one or both of which might stop paying for her to be there and send her home early). Since we currently have no place for her to live, that would be bad!

    ** This gives us time for the family to move and to prepare her new place (we're downsizing now that Ponito is 18 and graduating from high school this year).
    ** She will have about $200 of her SSI money that doesn't go to the school. Minus the expenses that will continue while she's at school (cell phone, medical insurance, preparing her new place...), she will have some money to spend on things she wants. We purchased many of these items in advance so she will have them at school. She will be paying back the loan of this money.
    ** Items she purchased with her "advance":
    -- Laptop (which also allows her to see her therapist weekly via a Skype-type video chat thingy.
    -- TV that works with her lap top and the DVD player she got for Christmas.
    -- "Uniforms"
    the school requires business casual wear for when she's in class (Khakis, polos/ button down shirts...),
    -- Professional Hair Coloring - the school stated that since their focus was on getting her job ready, she could not dye her hair crazy colors or something like bleach blonde that won't look professional when it started growing out, so Kitty decided to wait on this until she returns home.
    -- Tablet - I'm waiting until Kitty is more comfortable at school (she's only been there a month) to tell her about this one, and I'm hoping it will allow me to negotiate her being there for 2-3 more months while we're getting the new house ready.
    When helping Kitty repack so that her stuff would fit in the car to go to school (ex. she had a large packing box full of nothing but hangers tossed in so that they filled the box, rather than neatly stacked allowing more room for other things), I discovered a tablet that I knew wasn't hers. She gave some lame excuses about where it came from, but I strongly suspected that it was mine that had been stolen almost 2 years before. I didn't allow her to take it with her to school.
    Hubby checked it over, and it is definitely mine, minus the $80 case it had on it, and plus a ton of stickers and glitter , downloads, and apps(and computer viruses). She absolutely knew it was mine when it went missing and we have evidence she's been using it, not just "discovered" it recently. 
  2. We are moving to a new place where she can have her own "apartment." With a separate entrance, a kitchen, and a bathroom. We've had to be flexible on what that would look like, since we have a LOT of criteria our new home has to fit or can be made to fit by renovating and/or adding to the house.
    ** fit in our very tight budget,
    ** has either: a set of rooms or a garage that can be converted (ex. by changing a window to a door for a separate entrance and either has a bathroom or can add a bathroom, can add a kitchenette), or a large enough property and no deed/ code restrictions to allow a trailer/ RV/ ADU (Additional Dwelling Unit/ Granny pod...)
    ** handicap accessible for my mother-in-law who uses a walker/ wheelchair,
    ** within walking distance of a bus or other transportation for Kitty
    ** the commute to downtown Big City where Hubby works cannot be too long
    ** space for Ponito and Bob when they are back from college during holidays and summers.
    ** preferably in a county that offers less expensive legal services for getting legal guardianship of Kitty
    Notice how many of those criteria are specifically for Kitty!
  3. We haven't discussed this one yet, but if she wants to change the boarder agreement so she can have male guests, especially if they spend the night. Then I want her to have an IUD. 
  4. Of course there are many other things we'll need to work out:
    - Budgeting (food, transportation, clothing, rent, entertainment)
    - Using the family wifi and common areas
    - Pets
    - Giving us a heads up about her plans so we know when to start searching ditches
    - Family Activities (is she always invited when we eat out or go to a movie or the lake or something?)
    - Health Code violations aka how much supervision for cleaning, food storage, garbage, clutter...
    - Respecting our electric and water bills

We had her first staffing at the new school. Of course she's doing great, she always does. What interested me most is that the school has an extension program for "transitioning students." After they've completed this program, they can live in an apartment on campus, work, and practice all the skills they've learned (budgeting, cooking, paying bills...). I've asked if they can give me information so that we can try replicating this program at home (they do already know she wants to return to our city instead of staying on for this program).

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Like Attracts Like - What Happens When Mentally Ill People Have Children

Like Attracts Like
I've always assumed this was the case, but this study actually shows that people with a psychiatric diagnosis "connecting" with someone with a psychiatric diagnosis was two to three times higher than for people without a psychiatric diagnosis. They also seemed to be more attracted to people with a similar diagnosis to themselves and are less likely to marry.

"Nonrandom mating is evident in psychiatric populations both within specific disorders and across the spectrum of psychiatric conditions. This phenomenon may hold important implications for how we understand the familial transmission of these disorders and for psychiatric genetic research."
This study from the famous Karolinska Insitute in Sweden examined over 700,000 men and women with psychiatric diagnoses and compared them to over three million people without psychiatric diagnoses. Swedish Study published in JAMA Psychiatriy
{Marythemom: We definitely saw this with Bear and his "Kleenex Girls."}

Increased Risk Factors
Many mentally ill people live in poverty and engage in any number of risky behaviors such as prostitution to earn money or support drug habits. Generally, the severely mentally ill lack the forethought and coherence of mind to actually take a birth-control pill every day, let alone the medications that help their mental functioning. Many abuse illegal drugs as a way of self-medicating.

Often, mentally ill adults tend to gravitate toward each other due to socio-economic status and behavioral habits. Mentally ill female patients are exposed to any number of dangerous situations which makes them vulnerable to rape and sexual assault. Thus, there are many pregnancies created out of terrible circumstances and often the father is not known.

It Takes Two
Psychiatric disorders are heritable, polygenic traits, which often share risk alleles - which means that if 2 people with similar diagnoses get together and make a baby...

For example:
Although schizophrenia develops in only about 1% of the population, having a parent with schizophrenia increases the risk to 10%. The odds increase to 30% to 40% if both parents are schizophrenic. Schizophrenic Risk Factors

What Happens When Mentally Ill People Have Children
Teen pregnancy rates among Canadian girls with major psychiatric disorders (bipolar, severe depression, psychotic disorders) was found to be three times higher than the average population.

Such girls were more likely to have more children following the birth of their first; “Services focused on counseling girls who already have delivered one child may also be important because the rates of multiple births are higher among those with major mental illness.”

Statistically, children of the mentally ill have a higher chance of becoming mentally ill themselves.
 Nature and Nurture;
Severe mental illness has a strong genetic factor.
Add to that the stress and chaos of being raised by a severely mentally ill parent, or the child being passed around to foster parents or group homes, and it creates the perfect storm for developing any number of mood disorders, behavioral problems, and juvenile delinquency, let alone the increased possibility of the onset of a neurological disorders such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

These conditions can lead the child to a life of illness, poverty, crime, and self-destruction... and future generations of mentally ill children. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Weighted Blankets

There are many options for purchasing weighted blankets. I've found many sites over the years. You can look at Etsy
Amazon -
Here's a list put out by - 15 Places to Find Custom Weighted Blankets and Other Products

Make Your Own Weighted Blanket - It's a lot easier than you think!

Here are some basic instructions I adapted for making a weighted blanket for those who do not want to purchase one at the ghastly prices some places are asking, want to customize the blanket, or just prefer to do it themselves.  

Determining Size - What Is the Blanket to be used for?
Calming tool - for the car, using TV/computer, at school (although a lap pad or weighted vest might be a better choice), in church, etc. -- Lap blanket (34" x 43")or a Wrap blanket (43" x 52"). These sizes are also a good fit for those in a wheelchair.
Sleep - blanket size depends on the height of the person using the blanket and /or the bed size. For smaller children, it is recommended that a weighted sleep blanket be made to fit on the top of the mattress  and not hang over the sides of the bed, this is not an issue for older children, teens and adults.  In most cases, a  sleep blanket should always have the weights evenly distributed throughout the entire area of the blanket (although it's not necessary to weight parts that won't be covering the body (like the parts over the edges of the mattress or if your child is only 40" tall, there's not much point in putting weights at the bottom of a twin blanket!) and NOT concentrated in one area, although people with Restless Leg Syndrome may prefer the weights to be heavier in the lower part of the blanket. 

What Materials Do I need?

Materials - Scissors, pins, thread, yardstick, a water soluble marking pencil/ marker/ chalk, and a sewing machine.  Fabric and Filler.

Fabric - How much fabric you need depends on what you want to use the blanket for!  You'll need 2 pieces of fabric the size of blanket you've chosen.  Almost any type of fabric will do.

For the inside part, you will want something pretty sturdy, especially for a heavier blanket and/or rougher textured filler.  This piece can be pretty basic, like a simple mid-weight cotton quilting fabric. You can make it two sided with different fabrics for each side.

You can also use something pre-made - like heavy bed sheets.
To make it water resistant (good idea for bed wetters), use a water resistant fabric like a shower curtain (the fabric part, not thin plastic that would tear when you sew through it), or a heavy vinyl table cloth (the kind that has a "fabricy" side). 
  • Crib/Toddler Blanket (36" x 52") 
  • Lap blanket (34" x 43")
  • Wrap blanket  (43"  x 52") 
  • Throw (50" x 60")
  • Twin size (43" x 75")
  • Full size (54" x 75")
  • Queen Size (60" x 80")
  • King (76" x 80") 
Ex.  For a lap blanket about 34" x 43" , your fabric should be approximately 45" wide and 72" long (you'll want a little extra width and height for seams).  

Duvet Cover

The duvet/cover is a great idea for blankets that are heavy/ difficult to wash.  The cover fabric can be anything you want, even fleece, and can be chosen for sensory properties.  You can even make it two sided with different fabrics

Fabric: If you want to make a duvet/cover for your blanket you will need 2 more pieces of fabric  - 2-3 inches wider and longer than the dimensions of your blanket.
Velcro (1/2" or 3/4" width)- Sew-on Velcro about 3/4 of the width of the cover, plus about 8 inches.
Ex. For a twin size bed this would be about 33" + 8" so 41" total.
(The extra 8 inches will be cut into five 1 1/2" pieces to help hold the cover in place on the blanket).
TIP: Make sure you get the sew on kind, not stick on, or you will muck up your sewing machine!  

Filler Weight
Weight Calculation  - Weighted Blanket standard formula is 10% of your body weight plus one pound.  This is recommended by most Occupational Therapists as a starting point.  

TIP:  Don't forget to subtract the weight of the materials when determining how much weight that you need!  Heavy fabrics can add a lot of extra weight! Weigh all the materials of the blanket, including the duvet cover if you have one, together with your filler - reduce the amount of filler needed accordingly). 

(Ex.  For a 100lb person the calculated amount would be:
10% + 1lb = 11 lbs calculated weight.  If the blanket materials are 1.5 lb.  The Calculated Weight would be 9.5 lbs.

What do I use for Weight?
  • Beans/ Rice - Beans are a good weight for the bulk, smooth and rounded to not wear on the fabric, cost effective.  Just the regular dried beans you buy in the grocery store work, Navy or Pinto beans are a good size and inexpensive.  Make sure though if you need to wash it that it is in cold, short cycle, and hang to dry. You will definitely want to consider a water-resistant fabric.
    1 pound of dried beans = about 2 cups of beans
    1 pound of dry white rice = about 2 1/3 cup rice
  • Popcorn - another good choice, but may wear fabric out sooner as the kernels are pointed on the end. Should also consider a water-resistant fabric.
    1 pound of popcorn kernels = about 2 cups of kernels
  • Poly pellets - more expensive, also a lot more bulk for the weight.  These work better for lighter/smaller blankets (like throws and child blankets).  They are Hypoallergenic and washable.
    1 pound of poly pellets = about 3 1/2 cup of pellets
  • Aquarium Rock - great if you can find it inexpensively. Check out thrift stores!
  • River Rock* – a pebble-like gravel found super cheap and in bulk at home improvement stores (rinse thoroughly several times to get rid of all the dust and grit), Can be rough so you might want to use a heavy/thick fabric to protect the skin and cover/duvet. Also, will most likely can't go through the washing machine so consider a fabric that can be wiped clean rather than washed, or plan to wash it in the bath tub or outside with a hose.
    1 pound of gravel, dry 1/4 to 2 inch = about 1 1/4 cup of gravel
TIP:  I've made several blankets with river rock.  It's super cheap, but can be a bit rough so I'd recommend a heavier fabric.  My husband likes that it doesn't retain heat, as he tends to sleep hot.


1.  Prep the Fabric (Add Velcro if using Duvet Cover). It is strongly recommended you wash then dry your all your fabric at least twice, three times is better, before measuring and cutting.  This will help you avoid shrinkage that will make the cover not fit in the future.
If you’re planning on using a duvet/cover, now is a good time to sew on your Velcro to the blanket.  
Attach Velcro. To keep the duvet cover on the blanket and hold everything together attach the fuzzy side of 1 1/2" long Velcro strips to one side of your blanket fabric (you'll attach the rough/ "sticky" side to the inside of the duvet cover later).  On the right side of your fabric, stitch a 1 1/2" strip in each corner (about 2" in from the corner) and one in the middle.  (see figure 1 - Velcro tabs go where the "X"s are located).





figure 1

TIP: When stitching Velcro, it's best to use a fresh machine needle in a larger size, like you would use for denim, or a size 14 or 16.

2.    Stitch the Outside Seam. Place fabrics right sides together and stitch the two pieces of fabric together with a 1/2" seam allowance along the edge of the two long sides and one short side.  Use a strong stitch like an overlock, or run a second seam close to the first for more strength. You will then have a rectangular bag, kind of like a pillowcase.

3.    Turn the piece right side out (you can trim the corners first), and lightly press the edges (unless you're using a fabric that can't be ironed, like vinyl!). 

4.    Determine number of needed sections.
        Width - Measure across the width of the fabric. Divide by 5 to determine the number of sections needed
Ex.  For a lap blanket (34" in width divided by 5 = 6) you would end up with 6 sections (each 5" in width) across.
For a twin (43" in width divided by 5 = 8), you would have 8 sections across.

TIP: If you are making a larger blanket (full, queen, king) , keep in mind where the body will be located, and rather than spreading the weight across the whole blanket, you might want to concentrate on where the body will be (could be more on one side of the bed or smack in the middle keeping about 8 sections, approximately 5" in width, concentrated on where the body will be. 

TIP: You can also make your blanket just this width and position it accordingly in a "pocket" in the duvet, rather than have the blanket be the full width of the duvet. This would also allow you to remove it from the duvet for washing and even use it as a throw or lap blanket. If two people share the bed, this would allow one of them to not be covered by the weighted blanket on their side of the bed, or for them to use a blanket properly weighted for them. 

        Height - Measure down the height of the fabric. Divide by 5 to determine the number of sections needed.
Ex. For a lap blanket (43" in height divided by 5 = 8), so you would have 8 sections down.
TIP: If you are making a larger blanket (twin, full, queen, king), keep in mind how tall the body is and add about 2 sections. 
Ex. For a 43" tall child you would want 10 sections (43" in height divided by 5 = 8 + 2).
For a person who is 5' or taller, you would want 15 sections (65" in height divided by 5 = 13 + 2). 

5.  Making the Grid. Now you will mark off a grid on the fabric.  Use a pencil, air soluble marker or chalk, draw the lines in lightly.
Take the actual width of the fabric and divide by the number of sections you just figured to determine exactly how large to make each section (this will vary a little depending on the actual width of your fabric, but each will be approximately 5" x 5).  Mark off and draw lines down the length of your fabric.
Ex. A wrap blanket is 43" in width and your fabric is 45" in width. Your lines across would be approximately 5 1/4" apart.
Measure the length of the fabric - subtract 1" to leave room to fold over the top. Divide the length of the fabric by the number of sections to determine how large to make each section.  Mark off and draw lines across the width.  When you are finished, you will have a piece of fabric with squares marked off on it like figure 1.  (Note - they won't be perfect squares, in any case, the length and height will be different, I just use the word squares to describe the sections we are creating.)

TIP: For bedding (twin, full, queen, king), don't forget to keep in mind the length and location of the body.  If this is a blanket for a petite person or child, it doesn't make sense to have the the weight distributed all the way down the bed.  
The bottom edge of your grid should stop at the number of sections you already determined above x 5",  plus the one inch at the top.

Ex. For a 43" tall child your grid's bottom edge would be at 51" (43" in height divided by 5 = 8 sections + 2 sections = 10 sections = 10 sections x 5" = 50").    

6.    Sewing the grid. Now, straight stitch along the marked lines that run from the open top edge to the bottom edge.  Stitch along the bottom edge. You will end up with a long row of channels, open at one end like this (the top edge of the fabric is open - sorry about the graphic making it look like it's closed on the first channel):
TIP: Use pins through both layers to make sure that the bottom layer doesn't shift while stitching.

7.  Determine how much weighted filler for each section.
Now to determine how much of the weighted filler to add to each grid square.
First, determine how many squares you have, then divide your Calculated Weight by this amount.
Ex.  Lap blanket is 6 sections across by 8 sections long (6x8) = 48 squares.
For a 100lb person the Calculated Weight would be 10% body weight (10 lbs) + 1 lb - weight of the materials (1/2 lb) = 9.5 lbs. So,  9.5 lbs / 48 = .2 lbs)
TIP: There are 16oz in a pound. So .2lbs is 3.2oz

TIP:  Once you have your gross measurement of weight, rather than measure or weigh each individual amount as you go, I recommend dividing it ahead of time.   I put each section's weight in a plastic baggie.

Options for dividing your weighted filler (using example numbers of 9.5lbs):
  • Using a kitchen scale - You can carefully measure .2lbs (3.2oz) forty-eight times (and hope you're right - due to a faulty scale I once ended up with a 30+ lb blanket!).  
  • Eyeball/ Approximate* - You can measure out your 9.5lbs then divide it in half (I just "eyeballed" it - approximated). Then divide the two halves in half (approx.), then divide those in half... until you end up with the entire weight divided into 48 sections.
    Ex. I chose river rock as my filler, which needed to be cleaned and rinsed first (it was dusty!).  I spread it on a sheet in my driveway and rinsed it off with a hose, then let it dry in the sun. I then “eyeballed” it, dividing the weight approximately in half, then dividing both halves into halves, and so on until I had 48 little piles, which I put into little plastic baggies.
    *My personal preference! 
  • How many scoops in a pound? Using a small scoop or measuring cup (a 1/4-cup measure cup works well).  If you are using beans for your filler, start with a 1 lb bag.  Measure out the entire bag with your measuring cup or scoop; find out how many scoops are in 1 lb.  If you are using something that comes in bulk, like the poly pellets, use a food scale to weigh out 1 lb and do the same thing.
    Ex. Using their scoop, they get 10 scoops per 1 lb of beans.  Then, multiply the number of pounds you want in the blanket by the number of scoops per 1 lb.  For example, for an 8 lb blanket it will take 8 X 10 or 80 scoops.  Then divide the total number of scoops in the blanket weight by the number of squares.  In this example, 80 scoops and 48 squares gives us 80 / 48 or 1.66 scoops per square.  (About one and two thirds.)  It's a little tricky getting 2/3 of a scoop, but it doesn't need to be perfectly exact,  it will all work out. 

9.    Filling the  Channels. In each one of the long channels going across, drop in the measured amount of the filler (or the contents of one baggie).  Shake it all the way down to the bottom of the blanket, below the marked grid line.  Once every channel in a row is full, then stitch carefully across the grid line to enclose the filler in that row of squares.

(oooo - represents filler)

Continue working your way up the blanket, row by row the same way.  Add the scoops of filler to each channel, shake it down, then stitch the row closed, until you get to the last row at the top.

10.    Finishing the blanket. Before filling the last row, fold down a half-inch or so and press well into place (if you can't use an iron on the fabric, then finger press it), then fold again and press well.  Open the folded area and fill each section.  Pin the fold into place over the filled space.  Work your way across, filling and pinning each section so nothing falls out.  Then stitch the folded section closed, removing pins as you go along.  Stitch again to make it very secure.
If you aren't making a duvet cover, at this point you are finished!




1.    Attach Velcro.  Spread the finished weighted blanket out with the side with the Velcro tabs facing up. Loosely lay the matching 1 1/2" strips of Velcro (the rough/ "sticky" side) on top of the stitched on Velcro tabs.

Drape one side of the duvet cover material on the blanket (right side up), and position it so the blanket is where you wish it placed inside the duvet (centered, toward the left side, near the top...). Be sure to leave at least 1 1/2" of the duvet fabric around the edges for seam allowance. Pin the rough side of the Velcro strips to the duvet fabric. Stitch the Velcro in place on the duvet cover material.

On the "bottom" short edge of the duvet fabrics, fold over and press 1/2" toward the wrong side of the fabric. Do this for both pieces of duvet cover fabric.

Lay the fabric wrong side up and center each side of the long strip of Velcro (3/4 of the width of the cover) on the folded "bottom" edge of the duvet fabric. The edge of the Velcro should be about 1/4" below the folded edge of the fabric. Stitch around the Velcro. Do this for both pieces of duvet cover fabric.

TIP:  If you choose a fabric with an obvious top and bottom (like flowers growing upward!) then make sure you leave your opening at the “bottom” of your fabric.  You want the Velcro at the bottom of your bed, not near your face!

2.    Stitch the Outside Seam.  Place duvet cover fabrics right sides together. Stitch the two pieces of fabric together with a 1/2" seam allowance along the edge of the two long sides and one short side (the "top" edge), leaving the "bottom edge" open, just like you did at the start of weighted blanket.

3.   Turn the cover right side out (you can trim the corners first), and lightly press the edges (unless you're using a fabric that can't be ironed, like vinyl!). 

4.   Finishing the "bottom edge" of the duvet cover. Press the long Velcro pieces together. Along the "bottom edge," from each corner to where the Velcro is attached, top stitch the two duvet cover fabrics together along the folds.

Open the Velcro strip, place the weighted blanket inside the duvet cover, match up the Velcro tabs and press them together.  Seal the Velcro strip along the opening.  That's it!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Structure and Caring Support

Guest Blog Post by Traci B, a fellow Trauma Mama

One thing my son said to me a while back,

"It's easier for me to be bad than it is to be good. 
I've always been that way and it's hard for me to change." 

This hit home for me. He really had no idea how to be anything different. His brain was wired to "be bad." We did not use those words. He did.

This hit home for me. I had to change his thinking and the way his brain was wired! 

This is about my adopted son and what we did to help him:

A little background - we got custody at 11 years 10 months straight from the psyche ward at a local hospital. He knew nothing!!! Walked out in front of a car in the parking lot. Never even looked! The behaviors were through the roof! Getting his some of his behavior under control and making him feel safe were our priority.

As I have written before, Nancy Thomas' book When Love is Not Enough helped with this and other stuff. Then we began working on changing his brain! This post is about that -

Concrete Thinking
To him everything to him was black and white. He could not think of other ways to do things. To him there was only one way!

 If I allowed him to do something one time then he used that other times by saying "But you said or you did" and then whatever it was. It was like just because I got him a drink one time he thinks I knew what he wanted and should just get it for him. Or I let him eat doughnuts one morning so he should have them every morning. I let him watch TV one day when it had been taken away because he was exceptionally good so he thought I should do this every time he lost something. The list goes on!

My son has never earned privileges or rewards. He self sabotages at every turn. He feels he does not deserve them. So rewards were in the moment only. I swear my son's brain/thinking was the total opposite of what you would think.

Changing His Brain
I started teaching my son to change his brain. Gave him toys he had to figure out or build (using his brain) and I'd help minimally.

He'd ask a question that I knew he knew the answer too, so I would not answer it but make him. If he chose not too then the discussion ended.

At times, I made him come up with at least two acceptable answers, even if they weren't ones I wanted or the correct answer, but would work.

I limited any electronics. Matter of fact, my son was not allowed any video games, cell phone, iPad, iPod etc up until two years ago and then it's very limited. The only electronic he was allowed was music and TV but also limited.

He would walk around bored so we made a list together of things he could do (108 Alternatives to Being Bored and Trapped in the House) and when he was bored he had to choose one.

To answer the question should you give him things he wants without asking. NO! 

He has to ask 
He was so manipulative and getting me to do stuff for him and using my brain.

So, we had him ask for everything for a while - to go to the bathroom, snack, what clothes to wear, to go outside, to watch TV and the list goes on.

If he did not ask then I'd turn the TV off until he did.
Make him come inside until he asked.
Put his clothes in my room so he had to ask.
Snacks locked in my room, and so on.
One day, I even locked the bathroom door until he asked although I made him use it first thing in the morning, afternoon and at night. He seldom was went more than twice a day so three was good!

Sounds mean, but he had to learn to ask. 
He had to learn that others will take care of him. 

I got his breakfast, made his lunch, dinner etc. He could ask for what he wanted for breakfast and lunch at times but mostly I chose for him. I had to take total control from him for a while.

Now doing this, I thought he would melt down left and right, and he did some at first, but then he seemed to be glad that he did not have to make any decisions.

Slowly, we added choices in - let him choose between two things for breakfast and so on. Let him get a drink of water whenever he wanted (had to ask for other stuff partly because he'ed drink it all), and use the bathroom.

Now at 17 1/2, he has his clothes in his room and picks his own out. He makes dinner sometimes. Basically, he has learned to use his brain a lot more and has a lot more freedoms.

We have lots of discussions, especially now, about behaviors that come up, his refusing, wanting to be independent and demanding (actually this is control issue which is increasing the closer to 18 he gets).

Taking Away Control
He had to be in control of everything, so we took control away to teach him he would still be safe, get fed, have clothing etc.

One major thing we did was not tell him where we were going (therapist appointments, ice cream, dinner, family's homes, no where!). He'd ask and we'd just say, "You'll see." And answer no other questions about it.

Again, we thought he'd rage/tantrum, but he did not. It even lowered his anxiety. Everything seemed to work the opposite of what you would think it does.

Opposite Parenting
So we learned to think {highly structured parenting}. Our first thought, we seldom did, but instead went with the opposite for the most part.

It's like you have to teach them how to use other parts of their brain because they only use the animalistic part (the reaction of Flight, Fight or Freeze**).

So, those are some of the things we did and it worked for my son. I hope this helps.  ~ Traci B.

** Fight/ Flight/ Freeze
Fight/ Flight/ Freeze - A child who is dysregulated and/or in fight/ flight/ freeze mode is “thinking” with the reptilian part of the brain (survival!). Their behavior is a purely instinctual response to what the brain believes is a life or death situation! The rational part of the brain just isn't online. Their eyes frequently glaze over, they are out of control, and it is like the child isn't "home." Afterwards they do not remember what happened just before or during an episode. Holding a child responsible for what happens when in a true fight/ flight/ freeze is pointless- it’s better to just move on after it's over and try to figure out what triggered it so you can avoid it in the future.

Structures and Support -
Children NEED structure and caring support to feel safe and start to heal.   This feeling of safety is often not based in reality – it is a perceived feeling of safety.

Hypervigilance/ Living in a Warzone
Kids of trauma are often easily triggered, extremely sensitive to emotions, unable to regulate their emotions... causing them to react as if they are in a warzone.  You can't learn and attach if you don't feel safe and you're living in a war zone!  Hypervigilance (obsessively monitoring their environment) is super common among kids with PTSD.  It relaxes when they start to feel safe, but probably doesn’t ever really go away.

Consistency - 
We learned the hard way that when we didn't stick to our guns, even once, then the child seemed to work even harder to get what they wanted again.
Ex. Let's say you don't allow dogs on the couch. You have a new dog that loves to curl up on the couch and sneaks up there all the time. 99% of the time you drag him off and tell him, "No!", BUT every now and then, you're just too tired to mess with it and you let it go. You have now guaranteed that dog will always jump on the couch in the hopes that this time it will get to stay.

When our daughter came to live with us, she knew that if she argued, fought, cried for long enough then the adults in her life would give in. I felt like the crappiest mom in the world saying, "No" to this poor little kid who'd had such a hard life, but we HAD to break the cycle or we would all be miserable.

When we back down - let our kids argue, intimidate and manipulate us into changing our minds, we are sending a mixed message to our child. That message is that we cannot keep our child safe.

If the child feels that they are in control instead of us then their world is not safe.

I said "safe" a lot. That's because I believe it's one of the most important motivators our children have. They do not trust and they do not feel safe. An insecure, scared child behaves in increasingly bizarre and scary ways to get control of their world. When they have control, instead of the adults, then they get more afraid and things cycle even farther out of control.

Caring Structure
It took me a long time to believe it, but my children actually craved caring structure. Their favorite teacher at school was a behavior staff person who always called them on their behavior - if they were acting like a turd, she said so, bluntly, BUT, unlike the teachers who let them do whatever they wanted, or were super strict, but didn't actually care, the kids knew that this teacher legitimately cared about them.

Low Tolerance/ Overwhelm
It is sometimes necessary to simplify a child’s life a LOT to lessen the feeling of “overwhelm.”  This can be like childproofing – avoiding and removing things and events that can be triggers.  This can be making their world smaller and lowering expectations. Level Chart post.

  • School - reducing or eliminating homework, getting the child in smaller class sizes, limiting or removing after school activities...
  • Age Appropriate Expectations - Expectations are reduced to the child's emotional age. Kitty may be 16, but when dysregulated, emotionally she'd drop to about 6yo. Her daily chores became super basic.
    We had a long discussion with Kitty about being emotionally 6 (still ticks her off to hear that), and that it wasn't fair to expect her to be able to handle certain things, and we felt it was cruel to dangle higher level privileges she couldn't actually achieve over her head. So therefore, I was going to stop "punishing" her for not being able to do things she wasn't ready for yet.

    It has helped ME immensely.  I'm less frustrated by her inability to do things that would be "normal" for a teen.  I do have to constantly remind myself "She's only 6!  She's only 6!  She's only 6!"
  • Chores
    • She has fewer chores and they are very simple and concrete.  
    • She does the same chores every day instead of rotating like the other kids.  
    • She gets to go places even if she'd had a fit recently, because I don't hold her accountable for her behavior like I would a teen.  
    • If I go places like the grocery store I take her with me.  Period.  The other kids frequently have the option to go, but you don't leave a 6 year old at home alone.
    • She can have "playdates," but they are well supervised.  
  • Room and Environment. At the therapist's suggestions, we stripped the child’s room to only a bed, one or two stuffed animals, a book, and not much else. In times of extreme stress, we moved our child's dresser to our room. The child had to bring dirty clothes to “check out” clean ones.  This helped with hygiene issues, and lessened the amount of overwhelm. It made cleaning the room easier for the child to do him/herself (if they were able to do it alone at all).

    Some posts on techniques for stripping/ decluttering the room:
    Adult Boarder vs "Family Girl"
    Maid Service

FAIR Club - This is the discipline method we used at our house.  The premise is that life is not fair, nor do we want it to be.
The FAIR Club is designed to provide boundaries and additional support while the child practices and gains (or regains) the ability to be RRHAFTBALL.  This involves removing a lot of the distractions and drains of life (like electronics, phone, friends, even where to sit) and adds ways of dealing with stress (earlier bedtime, spending time with parents who can role model, only going places as a family).


We stopped telling our children that we were putting them in the FAIR Club, because we discovered that they needed the structure and support of the FAIR Club 24/7. I do feel that the FAIR Club helped us and Bear work up to the stricter supervision that he obviously needed. He wouldn't have tolerated this level of structure and supervision when he first got here. By giving him the supervision when he got in trouble we were able to slowly introduce the stricter levels of supervision, and then not lighten up as much when he got out.

I know this sounds really awful and controlling, but Bear really did feel safer knowing we cared enough to pay attention to him. I sometimes think Bear acted out when he felt unsafe just to increase our level of supervision. {Now that he is an adult, he is in prison - one of the few ways to get the level of supervision he needs (jail/ prison is the biggest mental health facility in the country). Another option was the military, but Bear wasn't eligible due to his mental illnesses.}

  • Line of sight - Generally Bear was on line of sight supervision at all times unless he was in his room alone. This was a huge deal, and made Hubby and I feel like wardens, but he NEEDED it. We tried to make it feel more like we were spending quality time with him than that we didn't trust him.
  • Bedroom door and window alarms - while we did have window alarms (that prevented Bear from sneaking out of the house), I felt like we should have had a door alarm too (still not sure why it bothered Hubby so much).

    Bear often left his room in middle of the night - usually to steal food or some other item. I know many parents that had to worry about the safety of family members, and installed door locks on bedroom doors. Not to lock children in! But so they could lock their own doors and feel safe from their sibling.
  • Never alone - Bear was NEVER left without the supervision of an adult who was aware of his needs and issues. Since he was too old for childcare, this often meant hiring after school care providers or Grandma, having him in structured volunteer or extracurricular programs, us going to the mall and movies with him... we tried to give him at least the illusion of having his space (ex. when at the movies, we sat several rows away where he felt we couldn't easily see him), and we gave him as much privacy as we could.
  • Room and belongings searches - Bear frequently stole things and hoarded food and other items. Usually when searching his room, I gave it a good cleaning and removed all contraband and health hazards. While I usually did this randomly when he wasn't at home, Bear was aware that we did this for his safety, and rarely protested - even when I found contraband and gave him consequences. 
  • School - My kids required a LOT of structure at school. We often had to battle the school to get this for them (even filed due process once). Both Kitty and Bear ended up in a special program/ school for emotionally disturbed students. The staff were all trained in special education and behavior management. Most had worked in residential treatment facilities. The student to teach ratio ranged up to 8 to 1 at the most. Even when on his home campus, Bear received extra supervision - at one point even being escorted any time he left the classroom.

Rules, Routines, and Boundaries

Rules are like fences. Kids need them to feel safe. 

Children need rules, routines, and boundaries –Boundaries are like fences, they keep children safe.

Think of children as researchers. Some children are very aggressive researchers; they will continuously test the rules over time to see if they are still firm and clear.

Rules make children feel safe.

Only when a child feels safe can they trust enough to feel loved.

 There is nothing wrong with saying, “No.”  Provide lots of structure from the beginning.  Set up the child’s environment so that he/she doesn't hear a lot of "No"s.  There just shouldn't be an option of doing things that need a “no.”  Think of it like childproofing.

 Rules should be simple and few.  
Make sure rules and consequences are very clear and consistent.  Go over rules with the children often!  It only takes 2 minutes to tell the children (or have them tell you!) the rules, and the consequences if they are not followed.

Positive and Concise!

Try to keep the rule to no more words than the age of the child and phrased positively. 
(3 words for a 3 yr old, 4 words for a 4yr old...)

Instead of saying "No running!"
For a 3 yr old you would say, "Use Walking Feet."

Instead of, "Shut UP!  Why are you always screaming?!  You're making Mommy crazy!  Why can't you just play quietly for 5 minutes?!...."  Keep it short and simple, and quietly state "Inside Voices."

Instead of "Quit standing on the furniture!"  Try, "Chairs are for bottoms (not feet)."

When you tell a child “Don’t” you just increased his chances of doing what you’ve just asked them not to do tenfold.

Instead of telling a child what not to do, we need to tell them what to do.  

Create a positive picture.
The more enthusiastic and happy you are the more likely they are to listen!  Really!

Especially when delivering consequences, make sure your message is clear and direct.  
Be firm and FOLLOW THROUGH! 
 Stay calm and pleasant.  

Fresh starts
Fresh starts should be soon – a whole week is ineffective.  “I’m sorry you forgot the rule.  Tomorrow (after nap time, after dinner…) we will try again.”

Never give a child a choice you don’t want them to make.  Give them one or two options (both of which are acceptable to you).  If you ask a child if they want to get in the car or continue to lie on the floor and throw a fit, guess what they’re going to pick?!

By ending a statement with “Okay?”, you are asking their permission and sending them an unclear message. Drop Okay? from your vocabulary, okay?

Things to remember
Eye contact
Be Specific
Simple rules
Follow through

Setting Boundaries for Teens
I highly recommend a book called Stop Walking on Eggshells!

I LOVE it for setting boundaries with my attachment challenged teens and young adults (and it helped with the crazy early teen years with my neurotypical bio kids too). It made my Top 10 Things I Couldn't Do This Without list.

Technically it is for people living with someone with Borderline Personality Disorder (which is an "adult" disorder), but there are a LOT of similarities (Some people say that when a child turns 18, and technically "ages out" of being RAD, then it often becomes BPD. Kitty was diagnosed with "BPD Traits" before 18).

The first half of the book gives insight into WHY they act the way they do, which helped me with understanding what they needed and why, so I could better decide what to do about it. The second half of the book is actual PRACTICAL ADVICE! Which I found to be really on target.

It's a quick and easy read... except that it's hard to process. Everything hit home so closely, that I found myself reading it in small chunks. (I kept it in my car to read during the kids' doctor appointments, while waiting in line, anytime I had a minute alone. The second time I read it, I put it in my bathroom, and read it when using the potty, getting ready in the morning, and taking a bath.) I'm re-reading it now actually.

This book also made me understand why self-care was so important, and made me feel less guilty about prioritizing it.

Providing this level of structure is probably one of the hardest things I've ever done. So I can't say enough how important it is. I had to fill my bucket, because kids with attachment disorders are incredibly draining. Especially since others usually thinks you're "overly strict, overbearing, controlling...." I worked really hard at not needing validation, but it took a long time, and I still struggle often.

More posts about Therapeutic Parenting:
Chap. 1 Parenting based on Developmental/Emotional Age
Chap. 2 Discipline vs. Behavior Problems
Chap. 3 Structure, Support, Routines, and Boundaries
Chap. 4 Nurturing
Chap. 5 Discipline and Guidance
 Chap. 6 Abuse '
 Chap. 7 Misc.