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!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Katharine Leslie seminar - Object Permanence (cont.)

This post is a continuation of this one.

There are tons of ramifications of missing out on those early childhood milestones - ones that effect our kids for the rest of their lives. Piaget was one mentioned by Katharine Leslie that I remember from my college days. She quoted a lot more recent studies of the developmental stages too. (edited to add: Apparently most of what I quoted here was Piaget)

I mentioned some of the issues with not acquiring the basic building block of object permanence - the inability to attach to or trust someone who disappears the moment they step out of sight, but there are more long-range consequences to this as well, including the ability to reason.

Infants don't have access to their emotions or logical thinking. All of that is done in the fore brain which they don't have access to yet. They operate on the "Sensory Motor" level until about age 2. This means they use their 5 senses to create meaning - smell, hearing, vision, touch and taste. They rely on your brain to tell them what's going on and how to respond. They can sense your biorhythms and can tell you're lying.

From 2-6 they're in the "Pre-operations" stage which means they create meaning through fantasy.

Ex. 1 If you show a child a man and ask if he is a man or woman, the child will correctly identify him as a man. However put the same man in a wig and a dress and the child under 6 will say it's a woman. Over age 6 the child will correctly identify him as a man.

Ex. 2 Katharine Leslie's daughter refused to wear boy's underwear because she thought she would automatically have a penis - which would disappear when she removed them.

From 7-11 they're in the "Concrete Operations" stage which means they create meaning through reality. It's not until age 12 through adulthood that we are able to create meaning from thought without needing sensory input ("Formal Operations"). Blah, blah, blah...

So here's the example that hit home for me. Kids with arrested development at the Preoperations stage (which is common for children of trauma), are not able to understand how we can infer things without seeing them. If you can't see it Mom, it didn't happen. You can't know.

  • Two-year-olds hide behind the couch to "make a stinky"... how did you "know" their diapers weren't clean?!Italic
  • Your child's face is covered in chocolate, but you weren't there to see them eat it. You can't know they did it. You weren't there!
  • Let me say that again, If you can't see it, you couldn't know! They are very visual and must touch or feel everything.
  • Your child feels that you are persecuting your child "illegally" if you figure out/ assume/ intuit/ put together... anything.
  • If you know that your child is the one who usually steals, is the only one who had access to whatever item it was, and you found it hidden in the suspected child's room (or in their hot, little hand!) your child literally does not "get" how you could accuse them... their brain does not work that way so they don't understand yours.
  • Not Me and his cousin Ida Know live in our house. My children know that it wasn't themselves who did it so it must be Not Me or Ida Know. The reason they know is that Mom couldn't have found out because she wasn't there to see it
  • Added to this is "wishful thinking." Kids can want something so badly that they believe it, so it is true. I firmly believe that they could pass a lie detector on this. It becomes their reality and I don't think they even remember that wasn't how it happened. This is HUGE in my house. I think because Kitty (and possibly Bear) are stuck in this "Pre-operations" stage.
It is believed that the reason so many children of trauma are stuck in the pre-operations stage is because it allows children to fantasize that they are omnipotent and invulnerable which alleviates the stress of being traumatized. Humans feel the need to be certain (to resist stress) so they try to make sense out of what is not sensible - I think of dreams as a good example of this. Most of the time a dream is a series of images that need processing. We try to put those images into a "story" or something that makes sense.


For a child stuck in pre-operations stage, if you are out of sight, your instructions won't stick either.
To get the child to do something they need to be told in black and white. "I want you to bring me a glass of water with two ice cubes," not just "do it" or "bring me a drink." They forget what you ask them to do and/or don't remember how you like things, so they bring you what they would want. Instead of a glass of ice water you might get orange juice full of crushed ice.

This is mindless intentionality. The child is doing what comes naturally, not deliberately defying you on purpose.

This child has brain damage. If we put effort in early on, it will slowly get better, but we can never assume it is "fixed." Effective treatment doesn't mean the behavior stops. The goal is to limit/ contain it until we can live with it. We need to shift our parenting paradigms from issues of intent and control to issues of brain dysfunction.

We're not dropping our expectations, we're just changing them. We have to change how we think about them and give ourselves a chance to mourn the loss of our idealized child. We have a right to say, "I hate this kid."

To help a child with object permanence you can try memory games and other things that build concentration to help them move through this stage. Attachment is not possible until they "get" this.


Another problem for our kids is that they often adopt belief systems or world views that make them feel "in the know." These beliefs can be quite wrong, like thinking errors.

The following is the list of common beliefs that Katharine Leslie put in her book, When a Stranger Calls You Mom. I have to say Bear definitely believes most if not all of these. Kitty believes a lot of them.

  • Those who love me will hurt me.
  • It is safer to get my needs for closeness met by strangers or those who are not important to me. (Can you say, "Kleenex girls"?! I knew you could.)
  • I have to look out for myself, cause nobody else will.
  • I have to hurt others before they hurt me.
  • I lose myself (I will die) if I become who you want me to be (like you).
  • I might as well lie, no one believes me anyway.
  • I'm forced to lie when people ask me questions.
  • People should stay out of my business.
  • If I want something than I should have it.
  • If I see something I want I should take it.
  • People make me mad.
  • When I'm mad I don't care who gets hurt.
  • People deserve what they get.
  • If I don't get what I want you are to blame.
I swear it's like she's living in my house.


Sharon said...

Question for you, but first a little background information: In the "workshop" I'm attending at the moment, it has been mentioned that the amount of time it takes to really change behavior, is 3-5 years because it takes that long for the neurons in your brain to carve new pathways so they don't use the old pathways. Until the new pathways are carved and are the "norm," the new behavior has to be a conscious decision or the neurons will choose the old pathways out of habit. The analogy of the new pathway is like when you learned to drive a car, at first you had to pay attention to every little detail, but after a while, you don't even realize what all it takes any more. Okay, now my question, do you think it could possibly be the same with your kiddos in learning this skill you are talking about? If you diligently keep helping them train their brains through the ways you mentioned, will it be possible to bring them "up to speed" so to speak, in 3-5 years?

By the way, I'll be home this weekend, Thursday night actually, but don't tell the kids. I'm surprising them. Then heading back Sunday for my last week.

jwg said...

Interesting post. But give crfedit where it is due. The theory you are citing was developed by Jean Piaget many years ago and is, interestingly enough, the basis of many good Early Childhood curricula. I never thought about it in terms of your kids, but it makes a lot of sense.

GB's Mom said...

Piaget was the foundation of a lot of child development theory. As we have developed more sensitive instruments, it has been found that infants process a lot more, a lot younger than we believed. Some infants have object permanence as young as 2 months and by 5-6 months, most have developed it.

What does it mean? I am not sure. Maybe, just that the damage starts a lot younger then we tought. said...

she's not living in your house, or mine, just with our kids!

Lulu McCabe said...

This is super helpful! I wish there were ways to speed up the carving of new neural pathways a bit! :)

Kerrie said...

Wow. Wow. Wow wow wow wow. I came through Christine. I know Piaget, of course, but never saw it put quite that way. The object permanence deal sounds just like my Princess. She will swear up and down with such conviction that she did not do something that I will begin to doubt my OWN self even when I am 110% sure she's done it. I started to wonder if she just lies so much that she's started to believe herself, but this makes so much more sense.

Now I just need to figure out what to do with it.

marythemom said...

Sharon - I'll comment more on this in another post, but it's more like wet cement. At first it's fairly easy and malleable, but after it hardens it is VERY difficult to change. It requires not just effort, but strong will, motivation and determination - and when under stress the child will revert back to that paths formed in childhood.

jwg - Thanks for pointing this out. I edited my post. Katharine Leslie mentioned LOTS of other studies and theorists, but apparently I happened to focus more on Piaget's stuff.

Lulu - you and me both!

Kerrie - yup! K.L. really does give LOTS of practical advice on how to deal with stuff like this, particularly in the Coming to Grips book.

Kerrie said...

I will go find that one ASAP.

Shan said...

Thank you. That IS really interesting information on brain behavior. My little one is seven. Got him at not quite two but he is clearly in this category. I love knowing there are people blogging what they've learned about these complex kiddies. We so love their little brain damaged heads!! :)

The Accidental Mommy said...

Thanks for the summary! Last I looked on Amazon they were out of her books. Is the coming to grips her best or main book?

Anonymous said...

I feel a need to mention Neural Reorganization here (after all, that is where I met you!) Note: I have not done this, I just read the Yahoo list ...

With younger kids, it appears to be possible to re-wire the brain. It involves "going back to the beginning" and having the child do patterning, sensory input and movement - daily, for years. Because the brain is built in layers based on experience, reproducing the early experiences gives the brain a chance to re-wire.

There are only a handful of therapists in the US, but they travel regularly. Money commitment isn't that high -- it is the time and devotion commitment that is.

It sounds unbelievable -- until you read some of the success stories.

Search Yahoo groups for NEUROnetwork.

marythemom said...

Yes, this is a good place to mention NeuroReorg. Katharine did mention it, but said she didn't know much about it. What I know about it (from reading the list serve) agrees with Struggling To Stand's assessment.