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!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Jesus gift - hope!

Just wanted to share a positive story for once. On Christmas Eve we celebrate Jesus' birthday by giving Him gifts. These are spiritual gifts (kind of like New Year's Resolutions) that we know He would want for us (like spending more time with our family, going to church more, having a better attitude...).

This was going to be the first Christmas since Bear came to live with us 7 years ago, which is when we started this tradition, that we were going to celebrate without him. Bear called just as we were getting started, and was able to tell me his (amazing) Jesus' present.  To summarize, he wants to come home, take his meds, get right with God, stay off drugs... I know not to put all my faith in this, but when he moved out almost a year ago, I thought we'd lost him and nothing we'd done had made a difference. Apparently I was wrong!

My Jesus gift:

Dear Jesus,

My gift to you is to get to bed earlier and support my family cheerfully and tolerantly.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Letter to Bear in Prison

Dear Bear,

Everyone here is doing OK.  I've enclosed the pictures you wanted, including the family Christmas pictures.  It seems so weird not to have you in them.  Hopefully next year!  (I was tempted to PhotoShop you in as you mentioned!).

I want to apologize for not writing you sooner.  Part of the reason is that I'm not a letter writer (I prefer e-mail), but also because we talk to you on the phone often, so there's not a lot left to say.  I'm going to try to write you as soon as I receive your letters from now on.  I hope you will write more often now that you have money for letter supplies. {I'm enclosing a money order I've been meaning to send for months} We're going to have to request that you only call in an emergency.  We just can't afford to keep paying for collect calls.  I'm really sorry about that, Sweetie, but money is really tight.  That's another reason I'm promising to be better about writing.  I want to hear about how you're doing and what's going on in your life.

I'm pretty worried about you.  I wish you were back home so I could help you get the services you need - medication, but also therapy.  I've always felt that while it was really good that you were finally on the right meds, but it made for a lot less pressure to work on the trauma and emotional issues you also needed to work on - so you could have close relationships with women and family, and not run away when people get too close or there was a conflict/ argument.

I strongly hope that you'll take the advice of your neuropsychologist and commit to staying "home" for a couple more years, especially now that you've tried being on your own for awhile.  You don't have to live in our house (although you are invited!), but you need somewhere structured while you get back on your meds and therapy and rehab.  Once you're stable I think Gary Job Corp might be good.  I know you don't like the rules and restrictions, but you do so much better when you have them.

Bear, I love you very much.  You are a smart kid with a lot of potential - you just need a little more time before you try to do this all by yourself.  The reality is that God designed humans to need each other.  When we try to be totally independent and self-sufficient, that's when we stumble.  EVERYONE needs other people.  Even now I still go to my mom for support and advice, and so does your dad.  We love you and want to be there for you!

Love,
Mom

Kitty's IEP meeting


A commenter asked me:


"Just a thought, how stable is she really if life is so hard with her and shes still so... Walking on eggshells emotionally? How could the school district deny she's effectively disabled like this...
Isn't there anyway to get her more stable than that or is it mostly because her personality disorder makes her character under what the medication controls unstable? "

The reality is that Kitty is stable... as stable as she can be.  Her medications seem to be controlling all they can control (specifically the bipolar disorder).  Which means her personality disorder and the brain injury (which effects her emotions in addition to her memory and processing) are what make her still emotionally volatile.  This is why the psychiatrist and treatment centers are willing to say she needs legal guardianship, even though her IQ is over 70 and she probably has enough life skills to live an "OK life" - despite therapy and medications she continues to show signs of instability.

As to why the school doesn't see it?  They don't want to... and she can control it to some extent when she wants.  Also, in public/school her instability primarily shows in socially acceptable ways.  She shuts down.  She gets quiet.  She's extremely compliant.  Her immaturity means she's not interested in experimenting with the type of trouble (sex, truancy and substance abuse) as other kids her age. In other words, she's exactly what the school WANTS.  Of course keeping all that stress and anxiety locked up inside means she has to let it out sometime... and she chooses to do that with us.

**********************

We had an IEP meeting recently with a new principal of the special school who really seems to get it.  Kitty was ecstatic with the results, because I decided to trust the principal and let her try vocational classes at the high school next semester.  I don't think she realizes how little time she'll actually be spending at public school, and I hope I'm making the right decision.

For awhile I was thinking that since she's so happy that she's getting what she wanted that maybe we don't have to do the legal guardianship thing right away (her next annual IEP meeting won't be until next December), but the school quickly made it very clear that we did.  They had her sign paperwork that she understood that as soon as she turns 18 (in April), her parents would no longer be voting members of her IEP team, although they still would be invited to meetings.  We knew this, but the problem is that they plan to call an IEP meeting at the end of the school year - in April - to determine her schedule and the plan for the next school year after we see how things go with the vocational program.  I don't think the timing is on purpose, but we still can't take that chance.

Somehow we're going to have to come up with the cash for the attorney.  It's too bad we don't live in a state where you can file the forms yourself for just a few hundred dollars.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Entrenching Deeper into Distorted Reality


It feels like we're stuck. At a recent therapy session, we spent the entire session talking about Kitty's relationship with Hubby (or lack thereof).  Kitty's distorted perception means she sees him as being hyper critical all the time.  Hubby's parenting style tends to be a bit quiet, a little sarcastic, a bit authoritative, and very laid back.  He tones it WAAAAYYYY down with Kitty, because she can't handle it at all, but she still sees all interactions through this skewed filter.

For Christmas last year, Santa brought the kids a Wii system and a couple of games.  Honestly the kids don't play it a lot (they say it's because of the limited game choices), but partially it's because it's set up on the main TV screen and if you want to play, then no one else can be watching TV.  In the car, Kitty started complaining that Ponito was playing Wii in the mornings so she couldn't watch her shows.  Hubby said something along the lines of, "Heaven forbid, someone doesn't get to watch TV!"

Kitty took this to mean that he thought she was self-centered, and for the next two days ran around to her teachers and family asking them if they thought she was self-centered (they of course all answered no, of course not).  Of course the reality is that she IS self-centered in a totally oblivious to the wants and needs of others kind of way (not so much that she thinks the world revolves around her). Immediately after the incident though, she just shut down and spent most of the rest of the day in her room.  Honestly, this is so typical of her usual behavior that we didn't really notice.

At one point in the evening, Hubby told her she needed to come out of her room and join the family.  At first she hid in a nearby room and read a book.  At therapy a few days later, she told me she'd decided to come out and deliberately torment Hubby by babbling at him while he tried to watch TV.  She was very successful although Hubby didn't realize she did it deliberately, because she does it so often.

I hate that it's so hard to live with her.  I want to feel that she's maturing and becoming easier to live with, but the reality is that while she is maturing in some ways (she didn't rage about this!!), she's not becoming easier to live with at all.  It feels like she's entrenching herself in this defense mechanism.  I see the Borderline Personality Disorder ("I hate you!  Don't leave me!") becoming a stronger part of her personality.

***************************

Kitty seems to be getting something out of holding Hubby and I at a distance.  Of course I understand why she is afraid to acknowledge that she is attached to us; she feels like it gives us power over her.  Plus, she really doesn’t have the relationship skills she needs to be able to have a healthy relationship, but how is she going to get those skills if something doesn’t change?

Bear went through something similar when he realized he was going to have to leave home soon (his perception, not reality of course).  At 15 ½ he finally started relaxing enough to attach and let us get close, but then suddenly he freaked and decided he had to leave home at 17 so he started pushing us away (irrationally he also seemed to blame us for abandoning him).  At 16 ½ we finally convinced him that being able to move out at 17 was an urban myth, and we wouldn’t allow him to leave at 17, but he was already thinking ahead to 18.  We tried to nip that in the bud too, but were ultimately unsuccessful.  He’d rejected us before we could reject him.

So here’s our dilemma:
We can go with status quo and continue to suffer Kitty’s verbal abuse, tiptoe around her impossible to contend with hypersensitive reactions, and allow her to continue to distance herself… and “enjoy” 20 years of this crap - knowing she loves us, and waiting for her to someday decide, maybe, to acknowledge it and treat us accordingly.  At which point there still might be some time to start working with her on how to have a real, loving relationship, that doesn’t involve hurtful “teasing,” revenge, and fight/flight or freeze responses.

Part of me wants to tell Kitty again that we plan to get legal guardianship, which means she no longer has the excuse of leaving in 1.5 years, so she NEEDS to learn to have a relationship with us.  Let her know we’re tired of being treated like crap, and won’t allow it anymore, but that we’re in this for the long haul and nothing she can do will push us away.  Hopefully alleviate the abandonment fear and avoid the sour grapes stuff that Bear did for so many years before he finally left (I know you’re going to leave me, so I’m pretending I never wanted you anyway, and I’ll prove it by leaving you first… and it’s your fault).

Another part of me worries that instead of relieving the pressure of her fear of abandonment, she’ll focus on seeing legal guardianship as a prison sentence… that we’re controlling her for the rest of her life, and her ODD will kick in and she’ll push us away anyway, and the next 20 years will be even worse -if that’s possible.  Plus she’ll STILL be miserable because she really does love us and need us and now she can’t let herself admit it.

I wonder if there’s a way to achieve the same goal without using the apparently triggering “legal guardianship” words.  Possibly wait until after her ARD next week, when she sees us fighting to get her what she wants and needs at school (assuming she chooses to see it that way), since school seems to be the biggest reason she’s mad about legal guardianship.  Maybe give her the ultimatum about not treating us like crap, but without the net of legal guardianship (assuming that doesn’t trigger her fear of abandonment).

Suggestions?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Kleenex Girls

"Do you ever wonder about the IQ and development of girls that would choose Bear as a boyfriend? Do you think it's fair to call them Kleenex girls? Would you want someone calling Kitty that? I don't mean to call you out, it's your blog and all, but it's a little mean. By the way you describe Bear and the violent crime he's been charged with, I feel a little sorry for those girls he's been with."

A recent commenter suggested I was being mean by calling Bear's girlfriends "Kleenex Girls," and I wanted to clarify.  I don't call them Kleenex girls to say anything about the girls themselves, although I do believe they probably have serious issues themselves to tolerate Bear's issues. I call them Kleenex girls simply because Bear goes through them like Kleenex. Believe me I feel sorry for the girls and occasionally I try to warn them off (but don't always feel it's my place).  

Bear's relationship pattern is that he meets a girl, immediately tells her he loves her (and expects the same from her), and starts a brief, intense relationship with expectations that no one can actually live up to.  He fully believes they will live happily ever after, until the girl falls off her pedestal (in Bear's black and white world a girl must have no outside interests but him - no homework, no friends, no family... nothing can be more important than him) OR she does devote herself to him and BEAR freaks out at the closeness and pushes her away.  


Bear had been engaged at least 3 times that I heard of before he turned 19 years old.  His average relationship lasted 3 weeks (hence the name "Kleenex girls" - because he goes through them like Kleenex), and he usually has a "Back-up girl" ready and waiting before the relationship even ends so that he is never alone.  Occasionally he'd have a long-distance relationship that lasted a little longer (because he felt less pressure), but he was usually involved with someone local at the same time.

Recently Bear asked me to contact his most recent Texas girlfriend, and tell her where he is now.  He's hoping to get back together with her when/if he moves back to Texas (he's had time to idealize the relationship).  Maybe this wasn't the right way to handle it, but I do feel sorry for these girls.  This was her response.


"thanks for tell me this... i have so much to ask you about why is he in there... we really didt talk about him going to oklahoma and it kill me bc i didt want him to go and when he got up there we really didt talk we fighting alot but i was thinking he didt care or just didt want to talk.. this is crazy... JUST WANT TO KNOW WHY HE IN JAIL :("

I know this girl and her mom gave Bear a ride to the bus station and loaned him some money when he left.  He'd mentioned proposing to her (but I don't know if he did).  He's been gone long enough that he's idealized their relationship.

This is the follow up comment I sent to her:

I want you to know I'm telling you this information, not to hurt you, Bear, or your relationship, but because I think you should know.

Bear is seriously emotionally disturbed and mentally ill (no matter how much he wants to deny it).  Because of his childhood he also has a severe attachment disorder.  Off his meds he is even more emotionally volatile, making even more bad choices (he stopped taking his meds in March).  He also has an addictive brain and tends to gravitate toward drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, among other things.  He has recently admitted to using all of these since he moved out of our home in February.

You seem like a nice girl, so I'm going to tell you that I know Bear is not capable of making a long-term emotional connections.  When people get "too close," he finds ways to push them away.  He picks fights with them or pushes them until they leave him.  Mostly he runs.

He craves relationships, but he's just not capable of maintaining them.  He wants to love and be loved, but that part of him is seriously damaged.  This is true of his bio family and adoptive family too.

When Bear ran to Oklahoma, he wanted the ideal.  He wanted the relationship he craves, but can't maintain.  He hoped to find that with his grandfather.  Now that he's away from you, he's idealized your relationship, and when he gets out of jail, he wants to come back to you, but the reality is that what was wrong in your relationship when he left is still wrong.  Nothing has changed in him, and he's still not capable of having a real relationship.

Bear has been engaged before, it seems to be his last ditch effort to try to fix a relationship, and they still don't last.  I know he has had at least one "serious" girlfriend since he moved to Oklahoma.  He is in jail for ___________________________________.  This is a first degree felony, and if the courts decide not to take his low IQ and mental illnesses into account, he could be in jail for 30 to 40 years.  The charges could also be dismissed and he could be out in a couple of months.

Again, I'm not saying this to hurt you.  I am not trying to be mean or hurt Bear.  I love him.  This is just who he is.  I'm sorry.

Again, feel free to e-mail me if you want.

Mary

********************************

So how far would you go?  Who would you protect?  Bear?  These poor young girls with their own issues?  Should I stay out of it?  Most of these girls have been under 18, I hate to see them victimized.


Friday, November 23, 2012

Transition Good News! Bear Update


I am reeling! We met with the new principal of my daughter's special school for emotionally disturbed kids. We've been dealing with this school for 5+ years (Bear went there too). This guy GETS IT!

We've been fighting the transition (from high school to real life) battle (and losing) for years, one big reason Bear is in jail. This guy backed me up on our complaints about the school encouraging unrealistic vocational goals (Bear wanted to join the military despite being on massive psychotropic medications with severe mental illness), and as you know, Kitty wants to be a preschool teacher (bad idea for similar reasons). The school has been encouraging them to "be whatever they want to be" despite the fact that they both have low IQs (74 and 79), memory and processing issues, severe emotional issues and take large amounts of psychotropic medications..

Currently transition plans are written with the child and either a case manager, or, more likely, a "transition specialist" who has never even met my child and has no access to their files.  This specialist "interviews" my child and writes their answers to questions like, "What kind of place do you want to live in? (apartment/house/city/with a roommate"  "What kind of job do you want?"  "What skills do you have to get what you want? (can do laundry, budgeting, cook...)"  "What education/skills do you need to get this? (junior college, electives in high school, math classes...)"

The person writes these "brainstormed" answers with different colored markers on big white sheets of paper they've posted around the room (which they give to the child when they're recommendations are written - and the child promptly throws them away).  So if my child says she wants to live in a mansion and become a brain surgeon, then the recommendations might include taking extra science courses and doing volunteer work as a candy striper, with lots of deadlines and assignments for individuals on the "team."  (Mom will give her more chores.  The guidance counselor will get her a copy of the electives for next school year.)  No thought as to whether or not this is a realistic goal.

The new principal said, not only will he help us write a realistic transition plan, but he will be RECOMMENDING SHE STAY IN SCHOOL PAST GRADUATION NEXT YEAR, despite the fact that she'll have all the required credits for graduation! I'm so excited! Now if only he'll follow though...

Since the annual IEP meeting is in only 2 weeks then the principal had better hurry!

***********************

Bear has been going back and forth about what he wants to do when he gets out of jail.  He's bored and struggling with his PTSD, depression and the return of his night terrors so he's not willing to let the lawyer do a continuance after all (the lawyer's original plan was to put off the court date as long as possible in the hope that the plaintiff would just want it to go away, and not show up for court - in which case the charges would be dismissed).  He's struggling and there is apparently no alleviation for his mental health issues until he goes to court.  Which he doesn't qualify for unless they get the charges reduced to a "non-violent" crime.

The court is also doing nothing about paying for his LSI (mental health testing to see if he qualifies for mental health court), and if friends or family pay for it, then we jeopardize his indigent status and he could lose his free court appointed attorney.

Sometimes Bear says he wants to come back to Texas.  He wants me to contact his ex-girlfriend here and tell her he hasn't contacted her because he's in jail (which is bs - he'd already dumped her and moved on to new Kleenex girls before he was arrested).  Sometimes he's willing to go to Gary Job Corp.  Sometimes he talks about going to live with bio family (for the whole 6 weeks that would last!).  Sometimes he talks about a "fresh start" in Georgia because they're "nicer to convicted felons there" (I've pointed out that he HAS TO HAVE the support of family and he has none in Georgia).  He's still talking about going to trade school (although we've mentioned our concerns about this).

We're trying to be pretty realistic about his options.  I've told him that moving to another state where he has no one willing and able to help him get the services and support he needs is pretty stupid.  He can't live in our home anymore, but he can go to the Gary Job Corp that's not terribly far away.  So far the only thing he's consistent on is needing to get back on his meds.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Co-conspirator Dreamkiller

Kitty had an intake interview with DARS (Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services - now called Texas Workforce Commission), a vocational rehab program which helps people with disabilities get what they need to be able to work.  This might be as simple as finding funding for hearing aides or other technology, getting them set up with a job coach or job training program, even going with the person to job interviews and helping them fill out forms. We used this program with Bear, and they got him involved in the job training program and helped him Kitty will be eligible when she turns 18.

For some reason the DARS person answered in the body of my letter, even though she knew I wanted to use her letter as outside confirmation of what I'd already sent.  I took what she wrote, separated it, and sent it to Kitty's school case worker to be included in the vocational information.  Anyway, here's "our" letter.  I only forwarded the first highlighted section to the school.

Hi {DARS intake person},
I enjoyed meeting you the other day.  The following is a letter I recently sent to Kitty’s school caseworker regarding transition plans.  Your comment regarding medications (she pointed out TO KITTY that Kitty takes a LOT of serious medications and has been hospitalized very recently, and therefore should focus on other vocational options) was a very valid point that I did not include in this letter, but I will be from now on!  Thank you. 
I truly believe if she were to reveal her disability or the medications that{she} is taking to a childcare provider, they would not hire her. Although this could be considered discriminatory, employers do it all the time. Also, they would send her for a drug screen and the combination of these medications would be detected in that screen and she might have to disclose to the employer if there were questions. Also, DARS would not be able to support placing her in a childcare situation based on the vast amount of psychological information and medical evaluations received showing she has a history of poor anger management, aggression, and some violent history. She has also had numerous hospitalizations, despite medication intervention, and is having to participate in a sheltered academic program where she receives maximum supports to help alleviate anxiety. I do not believe that childcare nor preschool worker (and/or training) is realistic for her at this time. I highly disagree with the school’s goal on her IEP, and I would be happy to discuss this with them once I come back from maternity leave.  I believe placing Kitty in a childcare situation would pose a safety risk to HER, first and foremost. There are very stringent rules and ramifications to working in a childcare facility, as well as legal ramifications if she were to become overwhelmed, vacate her position, accidently forget a child in a vehicle or outside, etc. etc. I am thinking about the welfare of Kitty, and I believe there are other employment positions and training programs better suited to her strengths and NEEDS :)
I don’t suppose you know if she would have the same issues with medication and driving? Yes, I do, as discussed on the phone.  
I checked out the driver’s license application, and she certainly doesn’t meet the criteria now without a doctor’s note.  I don’t think she should be driving, but the people who did her latest neuropsych refused to state unequivocally that she should or should not be driving.  All they would commit to was that at the least, she should go through the driver’s ed offered by Texas Neurorehab, but to start that program we’d have to help her get her learner’s permit. I  think she MAY be be capable of driving once her processing difficulties and reasoning abilities improve. This is something DARS may consider down the road. Right now she is in extended evaluation and DARS could not support this goal.

I gave Kitty a copy of the Driver's License Application (which is also used for Identification cards), and told her she needed to fill it out.  Will be interesting to see if she notices (and understands) that she doesn't meet this qualification, but for once I'M not going to be the one to tell her.  I've done enough Dreamkilling this week.

DRIVER LICENSE APPLICANTS
Answers to 1 through 7 below are for the confidential use of the Department.
YES NO MEDICAL HISTORY QUESTIONS
1. Do you currently have or have you ever been diagnosed with or treated for any medical condition that may affect your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle?
EXAMPLES, including but not limited to: Diagnosis or treatment for heart trouble, stroke, hemorrhage or clots, high blood pressure, emphysema (within past two years) • progressive eye disorder or injury (i.e., glaucoma, macular degeneration, etc.) • loss of normal use of hand, arm, foot or leg • blackouts, seizures, loss of consciousness or body control (within the past two years) • difficulty turning head from side to side • loss of muscular control • stiff joints or neck • inadequate hand/eye coordination • medical condition that affects your judgment • dizziness or balance problems • missing limbs
{This is the one Bear was told very clearly at his last neuropsych evaluation he had serious issues with - if he gets upset/angry it seriously impairs his judgement and abilities to the point he should not drive.  Our biggest concern of course is that when he's upset he tends to make poor, impulsive decisions, and he's MORE likely to drive.}
Please explain and identify medical condition:
2. Within the past two years, have you been diagnosed with, been hospitalized for or are you now receiving treatment for a psychiatric disorder? 
{This is the one that Kitty would NEVER pass.  She would need a doctor's note and I don't think her doctor would sign.  In reading this, I realized Bear would NOT have to answer "yes" to this one!  He was diagnosed more than 2 years ago, has not been hospitalized in 4 years, and was/is not currently receiving treatment for a psychiatric disorder (although he SHOULD be).}
3. Have you ever had an epileptic seizure, convulsion, loss of consciousness, or other seizure?
4. Do you have diabetes requiring treatment by insulin?
5. Do you have any alcohol or drug dependencies that may affect your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle or have you had any episodes of alcohol or drug abuse within the past two years?  
{I explained to my kids that the massive doses of medications they take would be included in this - as they are dependent on them. Most of them warn against operating heavy machinery, dizziness... that effect the child's ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.}
6. Within the past two years have you been treated for any other serious medical conditions? Please explain:
{Do I even need to comment here?! lol} 
7. Have you EVER been referred to the Texas Medical Advisory Board for Driver Licensing?
NOTICE: The information on this application is required by the Texas Driver License Act, Texas Transportation Code Chapter 521.
Failure to provide the information is cause for refusal to issue a driver license or identification card, and in some cases, cancellation or withdrawal of driving privileges. False information could also lead to criminal charges with penalties of a fine up to $4,000.00 and/or jail.

Other posts about our kids and driving:
What We Expect Before You Begin Driving 
Driving Rules and Contract

Thursday, November 8, 2012

DreamKiller Letter to Kitty's school


I expressed my concerns about Kitty's vocational choice to Kitty's case manager in preparation for her annual IEP meeting next month.  The case manager was disagreeing with me, so I offered to put my concerns in writing.  I'm going to send this soon, so anyone having any input, just let me know.

Dear Case Manager,

Kitty would never deliberately hurt a small child, but she has very little empathy, can't multi-task or prioritize, and can't make quick decisions when things go wrong.  So why did I let her work in my friend’s home daycare?  Because we have no proof until we let them attempt it, right?   I'm constantly getting pressure to allow her to get job-related skills, especially in areas she's motivated in, like preschool teaching.  Plus, I thought that since the home daycare was owned by a friend, this would be a controlled enough environment and a good assessment of whether or not we should try to find another direction for Kitty while we still have a little time.  

Despite my expressing my concerns regarding leaving Kitty unsupervised, my friend kept leaving Kitty alone with the kids while she talked on the phone, changed a diaper, went to the restroom... so this ended up being a pretty accurate assessment (although less safe for the children) than originally expected.  I don't think my friend really believed me because Kitty is ssooo conscientious and helpful.  She LOVED having Kitty there, and the kids loved Kitty too.  It went from being a few hours twice a week, to every afternoon.  Kitty loved it, although she did find it very draining.

I was the director of a large private preschool for many years, I have run a home daycare, I have worked in church daycares, I have over 30 years working with children in this industry.  I do not believe that Kitty has the skills, abilities or personality to work in this highly stressful job that is often literally life or death, especially when she has so many other options.  This Summer we will be working with DARS (Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services) to try out their vocational skills program.  I’m asking for your help.  I need EVERYONE to be encouraging Kitty to be looking for viable options.

Reasons for wanting Kitty to look into alternate vocations.

1.    1.    Daycare Environment – Kitty needs a low stress, non-chaotic environment (why she’s doing so well at GOALS compared to McNeil).  This does not describe childcare! 
·         Large numbers of children - even as an assistant she will be left alone with large numbers of children  for extended periods of time (TX allows one teacher to supervise alone – 11 potty training two year olds, 15 three and four yr olds, or 30+ five year olds… classrooms are frequently combined and you often do not know the kids)
·         Toddlers and preschoolers can DIE!  Unlike almost every other job, mistakes in childcare, including a moment of indecision can lead to death, serious injury, and irate parents.
·         Parents of preschoolers are often not rational about things that have happened to their precious child.  Especially if they’ve had a bad day.  Usually it is the assistant at the end of the day who get to tell parents about things that happened to their child during the day -  lead teachers usually go home hours before.
2.      2.   Multi-tasking/ Prioritizing/ Emergency Situations – this is something Kitty struggles greatly with at all times, and which would be worse in a chaotic environment (in a chaotic environment her processing ability/IQ drops to the 50s).  Kitty does well handling routine situations, but has limited skills in what to do in an emergency.    She takes direction from adults easily, but without an adult supervising she is easily flustered and makes impulsive decisions.
·         Kitty went to break up an argument between 2 preschoolers, laying down the baby, next to a toddler on the couch, and the toddler pushed the infant off the couch. 
·         On another occasion, Kitty was briefly left alone with a baby, toddler and two year old.  The two year old ran out in the street, and Kitty didn’t know what to do (chase the two year old and leave the younger children alone) so she froze.
3.       3.  Stamina/ Easily OverwhelmedKitty was at a playdate with 3 yr old triplets, and a 6yo.  The children’s mother and I were both nearby.  Kitty begged to leave after an hour drained and with a raging headache, because most of the children were demanding she play with them.  3-4 hours working at the home daycare always left her totally drained.
4.       4.  Emotional regulation/ Limited understanding of children’s developmental capabilities.  Kitty has great difficulty with empathy, understanding other’s developmental capabilities, and regulating her own emotions when she gets stressed or overwhelmed.  She’s good at playing with kids, but shows no ability or interest in helping them grow emotionally.   When a six year old was picking on his little sister, Kitty came home wanting to “punch him in the face because he was being mean to a little kid.  She didn’t understand that at age 6, he was a little kid as well and didn’t know better.  She often came home often talking about how the older kids deserved to be punched in the face.  While I don’t think she would deliberately hit a child in her care, I worry about her impulses.  She has hit her younger smaller sibling (he was about 10 at the time), because he’d roughly pushed her out of the way so she felt he’d “started it” and instinctively punched him in the head.   
5.       5.  Social Skills – Because Kitty is emotionally immature (approximately age 6) she gets along well with young children, but has difficulty following the lead of the child (empathy), guiding play in appropriate directions, or mediating disagreements between children.  She has mentioned several times she doesn’t know that to do with or feel capable of handling a child who is being oppositional or children who are misbehaving.  She has expressed herself inappropriately to parents, casually telling them about their child being in dangerous situations or even injured through what could easily be perceived as negligence on her part.
6.       6.  College – Kitty wants to be a preschool teacher, not an aide.  To do this she would need a minimum of a CDA (Child Development Associates Degree).  This means she would need to attend junior/community college to make up the fundamentals not covered because she was in special ed, and then start classes for her CDA.  Assuming she is capable of handling the academics, Kitty has already acknowledged that she cannot handle the large classroom environment.  We are currently looking into online courses.
7.       7.  Out Classes  – assuming Kitty continues to have an interest in child care or any other field that the Special School cannot accommodate, then she would need regular ed out classes.  We firmly believe that her current stability is due to the Special School environment, and are not willing to jeopardize this stability for a non-viable career option.
8.       8.  Legal GuardianshipKitty will most likely live at home, or in a group home, for the rest of her life, because she probably will never have enough of the skills and abilities she needs to be able to live and work independently.  Kitty’s psychiatrist has already agreed to complete the necessary documentation, and we are working on getting a lawyer.  This means that we will continue to be an active part of Kitty s team even when she turns 18 in April.
9.       9.  Part-time /Volunteer work – Kitty will needs to receive SSI benefits when she turns 19, which requires her to make less than $700/month or be in danger of losing her benefits (including Medicaid).  Her medications cost approximately $2K a month so losing her benefits would be a big problem.  Any job she takes would therefore need to be part-time.
10.   10.  Driving – We do not foresee Kitty having the skills and abilities for driving any time soon.  This would make work as a nanny very difficult.

Kitty’s dreams of being a surgeon were not such a big deal in elementary and middle school, but we allowed her brother to continue his unfeasible dreams (joining the military, professional football…) well into high school and he graduated high school with few  practical job skills and abilities, including some key life skills, and a desperate unmet need for structure and support.  He now has the only job/life he's qualified for... prison inmate. 

Unfortunately the school did not back us up when we finally had to tell Kitty that being a surgeon was not a viable option (until the very end), so she chooses to place the loss of that dream entirely on my shoulders (despite hearing the rationale).  Kitty’s dream of being a preschool teacher seem innocuous enough, but it means she’s not looking at alternatives and trying new things.  Plus, as the only person telling Kitty my concerns and that she should keep her options open, her attachment issues cause her to believe that I’m the ONLY one who believes this is true and she hears it as criticism, because it is coming from me, her mother.  She needs to hear this information from others.  Right now she chooses to deny my concerns.  I hate having to hurt her while trying to protect and help her.

How do you encourage a child to have ACHIEVABLE dreams, so they won't feel they've failed?  Someone once asked me what Kitty is good at and enjoys doing...  I couldn't think of anything (besides reading anime and watching Annoying Orange on YouTube).  It would be different if she loved something so much that she worked hard to overcome any obstacles, but she doesn't really like much of anything (she only wanted to be a doctor so she could make lots of money and buy a no-kill shelter, but when I tried to encourage her to do something along the lines of working in a shelter or with animals, she refused). 

Thank you for reading this lengthy e-mail.  Please let me know if there is any other information I can provide, or any other way I may be of assistance.


Mary 

Friday, November 2, 2012

LSI invoice

So much for blogging every day!  Sorry, I'll try harder. :)

Recently we received an invoice in the mail for Bear's LSI assessment*, which is required to determine whether or not Bear can go to mental health court..  Bear had told us to expect some paperwork from the person doing the assessment, so we were expecting a questionnaire or requests for documentation regarding his diagnoses... NOT an invoice!

I immediately called the CADC (certified alcohol and drug counselor) who'd done the assessment and sent us the invoice, and asked her why it was being sent to us (Bear is legally an adult and money is tight for us right now).  She said Bear had no way to pay for the assessment (true) and generally the family pays for it.  I asked what they normally do when an indigent person needs the assessment, and she said, if the person didn't have family that could pay for it, because they were dead or something, then the person just sat in jail.  Can you say major guilt trip?!!When I asked her again, she said sometimes, the lawyer might pay for it out of their own pocket, if there's no one else.  She then made it very clear that the LSI would not be submitted until the invoice had been paid.

We had a tough decision to make.  A big concern was that even if we did pay for the LSI, that Bear would still not be able to attend the mental health court because a first degree felony cannot be considered a "non-violent" crime.  Bear says the attorney thinks they may be able to get the charge reduced, but who knows.  We decided to talk to Pre-Paid Legal and get some advice regarding our options.

We were connected with a very knowledgeable attorney in the state where Bear is incarcerated, who told us that we had no legal obligation to pay for the LSI (which we knew), but more importantly she told us that if we paid for the assessment then there was a serious chance that the court might decide that Bear had access to someone who could pay his legal bills and he could lose his indigent status and therefore his court appointed attorney.  In other words, if we or any other family member paid this 75 dollar invoice, Bear could be on the hook for 75 thousand dollars in legal fees.  I need to make sure biofamily is aware of this and doesn't pay this invoice either.  She assured us that the court would pay for the LSI.

She also mentioned a very recent addition to Statute 21 regarding mental health care for detainees.  Apparently a detainee did not get the mental health care and medications he needed and he ended up seriously harming himself and died.  She suggested we mention it Bear's attorney, since Bear has been in jail since the end of July and still hasn't received any mental health care.

Our attorney suggested  some wording for what to say to Bear's court appointed attorney (I faxed it since he doesn't return my calls).  This is what I sent:



Dear Mr. Attorney,
I have tried to reach you by phone several times, but continue to receive no response, so I have decided to fax you this information.
Recently we received an invoice from Ms. B. S., CADC in the amount of $75.00 for Bear’s court-ordered LSI assessment.  I contacted Ms. B. S. to question why we were sent the invoice for Bear’s assessment, and was told that if we did not pay for the LSI she would not submit it, and Bear would be forced to sit in jail indefinitely until the invoice was paid.  We are not able to pay for this or any other testing.

Bear is a legal adult and was recognized as indigent by the court, which is how he received the services of yourself, a court-appointed attorney.  I’m asking that you use your advocacy skills to seek payment for Ms. B. S. through state funds as well, so that the LSI assessment can be submitted to the court.
I am also concerned that Bear still has not received any medical attention or medication for his well-documented mental illnesses.  I understand that a new statute regarding detainees with mental illness went into effect recently, and I hope this will help Bear get the mental health care he requires.  Please let me know if there is any additional documentation that I can send you to speed this process, as I am very concerned about his safety and ability to handle himself in court and jail.
Please contact me with any questions and for any needed documentation.  Attached is a copy of the invoice we received.
Sincerely,

Mary Themom




*The LSI-R™ assessment is a quantitative survey of offender attributes and offender situations relevant for making decisions about levels of supervision and treatment. The instrument’s applications include assisting in the allocation of resources, helping to make probation and placement decisions, making appropriate security level classifications, and assessing treatment progress. The 54 LSI–R items are based on legal requirements and include relevant factors for making decisions about risk level and treatment. Probation officers, parole officers, and correctional workers at jails, detention facilities, and correctional facilities complete the semi-structured interview with offenders. They then use the interview together with collateral information to complete a QuikScore™ form. The results are converted to cumulative frequencies on a ColorPlot™ Profile. Users have the option of profiling the Total LSI–R score against the Canadian norms or the U.S. norms.

LSI–R scores are proven to help predict parole outcome, success in correctional halfway houses, institutional misconduct, and recidivism. This predictive validity is partly a result of the method of its construction. The item content was developed to reflect three primary sources: recidivism literature, the professional opinions of probation officers, and the social learning perspective of social behavior. Scores can then be used in conjunction with professional judgment to arrive at valid placement decisions.




Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Shameless neglect

Sorry I've been neglecting this blog!  I've been swamped trying to get stuff done.

In preparation for starting my sewing business, I'm designing and sewing custom dresses for both the girls and myself for this year's Christmas pictures.  Bob's is done, but I ran into HUGE issues with my dress.  I'm trying a new, uber complicated pattern and it has to be significantly altered to accommodate my "generous cleavage" so I made a mock-up dress... and it's very unflattering.  So now I'm making a second mock-up before cutting into the fabric I've chosen for my dress.  I also plan to use the left over yardage from my dress for Kitty's dress so I haven't started her dress until I know what I have left (which is making her crazy).

We don't celebrate Halloween around here because it seems to be a big trigger for Kitty (she usually starts with the high stress and psychiatric hospitalizations around this time, and it goes through her birthday in April - some years later).  This year we're going to watch a movie and eat pizza and candy.  I did invite Ponito's girlfriend and her mom to come over... so I'm on my computer instead of cleaning house.  *sigh*  It's really disgusting too.  Oh well, they won't be here until after 6 so the kids have 2 hours to help me clean house.

I've also been editing the book of one of Hubby's coworkers.  It's supposedly been "professionally edited," but she should ask for her money back!  I meet with her tomorrow with the sample of my work, and I get to tell her that I think the book needs a lot of rewriting... not looking forward to that.

I'm really excited about the weight I've lost.  17lbs so far.  I've dropped 2 dress sizes.  I never get rid of my old clothes as I change sizes, because I do tend to fluctuate a lot, but for some reason I couldn't find any jeans in my "new" size.  Luckily my neighbor has gained some weight recently and had some jeans in the old size (I traded her for the jeans I just... hmmm, not sure what the right word would be here... not "outgrew"... I guess "outshrunk"?  OK, so I made up a new word!

Going to try to commit to blogging every day of November, so wish me luck!  I'd love to see some topic suggestions in the comments!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

More accusations of Dreamkilling - Legal guardianship

In therapy I finally told Kitty that we are planning on getting legal guardianship.  We were having yet another "conversation" about out classes at the high school, and she was complaining to the therapist how unfair it was that I wouldn't allow them.  "Out classes" involve being bussed from the special school to her home campus for 2 or more classes, usually ones that aren't available at the special school.  Kitty hates that she is the only one in her history class at the special school and says that's why she wants to go back to her home campus.

Kitty and I'd previously had a long conversation about why Hubby and I don't want to allow out classes.  Almost all of which involve the fact that the school never agreed that she needed to be at the special school (despite all the documentation we presented), and only allowed her to go because we filed due process (like suing the school).  When we were fighting to get her into the special school, we were stuck with status quo whenever we disagreed - which meant that Kitty stayed where she was - on the regular campus.  Now that she's at the special school, status quo is finally the special school.

One thing we learned the hard way with Bear was that if he had any out classes then the school could give him more out classes without having to ask our permission or hold an IEP meeting (because it wouldn't change the number of hours of special ed).  Most of the time he would act out and they would reduce the number of out classes again, but it took some pretty severe behavior.  His senior year they just moved him to the regular school full-time, despite our concerns.

Kitty wants to "try" a couple of classes at the regular school, and if she can't handle it then she expects to be able to go back to the special school full-time.  I've explained to her repeatedly that aside from the fact that she's finally stable and I think that's got a lot to do with the lesser amount of stress at the special school (and a med change), the school district NEVER acknowledged a reason for her to be in the special school in the first place, therefore she wouldn't be able to convince them that she can't handle it and needs to be back at the special school full-time.  Right now we have status quo on our side.

Kitty aka Cleopatra (the Queen of Denial), doesn't want this to be true, and as usual prefers to believe I"m just being mean.   At therapy she started talking about how she's going to talk to the IEP team (her annual meeting is in December) and tell them this is what she wants, and when she's legally an adult then she'll get it.  I tired of trying to convince her that it was not in her best interest, and finally just dropped in the thought that we were pursuing legal guardianship, which we've touched on in the past.


She exploded.  She yelled, cussed and told me she wanted me to die... not anywhere near the worst meltdown though.

The therapist helped me get her calmed down.  We finally got out of Kitty that the guardianship itself wasn't what bothered her (although she definitely didn't like us having the control over her).  No, most of what bothered her was that she wouldn't be able to have any out classes.

Once she was calmed down enough to hear me, I pointed out that she wouldn't be able to have a vote at an IEP meeting until she turned 18 which is not until April (when the school year is almost over).  That wouldn't make a big difference to this year's History class (she really hates not having anyone else in the class with her.  I assured her that at the December IEP meeting we were already planning to discuss other options (that didn't involve out classes), like asking for a schedule change for the next semester.  I also told her I'd consider out classes next school year (it's her senior year so they can't force her full time that quickly).

She was still a little mad at me, but dissociated from it.  It hasn't come up again.

We also talked about Bear's letter to Kitty, but I'll save that for another post.




Thursday, October 18, 2012

Attachment therapy



Facebook post by a friend of mine, and my response.

"The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children convened a task force on Attachment Therapy/Parenting because of the numerous high profile criminal child abuse and death cases associated with these practices. The task force found (in the journal *Child Maltreatment* Feb 2006) that the parenting method that Nancy Thomas promotes is "inappropriate for all children" and recommended child welfare workers investigate where it is used as "suspect abuse." (Thomas is mentioned by name in this report.) The American Psychological Association adopted the APSAC task force's recommendations and findings. ...The mental health profession, as well as the general public -- to say nothing of our court system -- knows that using abusive "therapy" and parenting methods *never* helps a child. There also have been numerous criminal cases of abuse and even death, where people have used Attachment Therapy parenting (aka Nancy Thomas parenting).A child with RAD, as described in the DSM-IV, can be challenging, but not overwhelming. Their problem is being either very withdrawn or overly friendly with with unfamiliar people. While there is no science-based treatment for RAD at this time, most legitimate professionals advise gentle, consistent, and patient parenting. RAD is rare, and so it is likely that you aren't parenting a child with RAD either.What Nancy Thomas and other proponents of Attachment Therapy talk about is an unrecognized diagnosis ONLY used by Attachment Therapists called "Attachment Disorder" (AD). AD is a catch-all "diagnosis," meaning all adopted/foster or other children can potentially get this diagnosis if sent to an Attachment Therapist. The critera for AD are so broad as to be useless. For example, even "good behavior" characterized as the child "stalking his prey."Any child diagnosed with AD (or "RAD" since the two are conflated by Attachment Therapy proponents) does not have a good diagnosis. And it is necessary to have a good diagnosis in order to proceed to the next step of treatment. So it is fair to say that children caught up in this "therapy cult" are not getting the help they need.Dismissing critics because they might not have lived with a difficult AD ("RAD") child is often just an attempt to inoculate "awesome moms" from charges of child abuse. What you're really saying is: "If you lived with a horrid child, you'd use abusive methods, too."Attachment Therapy and its parenting methods have been around for four decades, having treated thousands of children. Where are the success stories of Attachment Therapy/Parenting? Where are all these grateful children-now-adults? Where are the happy families created by this highly authoritarian parenting method? What we see is lots of divorced families. And the survivors of Attachment Therapy are severely wounded young adults, alienated from their families, with horrific stories to tell:
http://stopchildtorture.org/survivors-index/
http://childrenintherapy.org/victims/victims.html


.... I'm sorry that you don't comprehend what I have written. You are saying that the RAD diagnosis in the DSM-IV is inadequate, but it has been developed from research. In over four decades, Attachment Therapists have failed to show that their AD diagnosis is valid. Actually, they haven't bothered to change the definition of RAD because their version is laughably absurd. The RADQ, however, has been shown to be a dud for helping therapists to diagnose anything.From what you say, your children appear to have been diagnosed with "AD" (not RAD), and that is no diagnosis at all.What makes the AD diagnosis laughable? AD is a patently a quack diagnosis, and typical of all quack diagnoses, it includes *all* behaviors, developmental and speech problems, and even normal behaviors. That's what I meant by catch-all.AD was especially designed to ensnare foreign adoptees. For example, Attachment Therapists claim that lack of eye contact (on the parents' terms!) is a major sign of AD, although many foreign adoptees and children raised in subcultures within the USA have been taught that looking an adult in the face is a sign of disrespect.Worst of all, the AD diagnosis demonizes adopted children. That snarky Nancy Thomas is great at this, claiming these "little pukes" are each a Ted Bundy in the making, and that she doesn't even allow them to pray because she can't be sure who they aren't praying to! Are you defending an attitude like this?Several mothers who stopped Attachment Therapy and its parenting told me that everything gets so much better immediately for both the child and the mother. Unfortunately, it appears few mothers do stop it.I don't mean to be personal here, but I have a lot of questions about this "therapy." Why are the parents so amazingly loyal to a model of parenting that routinely mocks children and treats them harshly? Why are their no second thoughts when professionals call this parenting "child abuse"? Who lacks attachment here anyway -- the parent or the child? What loving parent would treat children like that bully Nancy Thomas professes to do? And why is there this incredible craving by the "awesome moms" for universal and unquestioning approval? Is this a cult? Typical cult mentality....no one else can have a valid opinion unless she is an "awsome mom". Do you realize that Nancy Thomas continues to defend the death of Candace Newmaker by stating she had an undiagnosed heart condition? The child's autopsy did not indicate this, but a paid witness for the defense said it was a possibility, based on pure fabrication. According to Nancy Thomas, a fetus "knows" if he/she is unwanted, and, even if the child is to be immediately adopted as a much wanted child, the child has RAD. She believes that most children in foster care have RAD. The quality level of writing and logic NT exhibits is a measure of her professionalism and creedance. Blind faith following of this person's absurd teachings appears to be cult-based as success is anecdotal and no true scientific based data supports it. Nancy Thomas' concepts are dangerous. ...This line of argument is a tactic to divert blame from caregivers for using a form of "therapy" and parenting that others, such as grandparents and teachers, see as highly abusive. Often children caught up in this "therapy cult" are consistently good students, with no behavioral concerns by other people in the community; and only the "Awesome Mom" claims they are the are wicked.Nancy Thomas says she got the term "Awesome Mom" from the Old Testament, claiming that this is an adjective used for Jehovah. The intent, she explains, is to make the child fear their adoptive mother, just as Christians are supposed to be God-fearing. Thomas and her follows might be said to have a bit of a god complex, i.e. women who say they should never be questioned, even by their spouses.Regarding valid therapy: for the official Reactive Attachment Disorder diagnosis, there is currently no scientifically validated therapy, but many professionals suggest that consistent, patient, and gentle parenting is the best approach.Holding Therapy, on the other hand, is literal "torture" using any of the various definitions of the word. Only if there was research that showed the benefits of Attachment/Holding Therapy outweighed the risks could it possibly be considered. That evidence doesn't exist. Moreover, the fact that many children have been harmed by it means that it would be unethical to use children as research subjects. There is also evidence that Nancy/Beth Thomas parenting is ineffective, causing the Awesome Moms to escalate the abuse.Curiously, Holding Therapists threaten children they restrain with abandonment by their adoptive parents. Is it really the children who are unattached, or their parents?For my part, I think that there is entirely too much beatification of foster parents by foster parents. You don't need to abuse a child to know child abuse when you see it. And you don't need to by a psychotherapist (which I am not) to know a quack diagnosis when you see it.... Why is the "Attachment Disorder" (AD) diagnosis quacky? For a few things, it includes contradictory signs. It is also not age-dependent. (Some of the signs are appropriate for certain ages.) It is hung up on eye contact (from the days when Attachment Therapists claimed they could cure autism). Kids are dx'ed as AD whether they make eye contact or not -- both are considered signs of AD. Even good behavior is interpreted as AD (the child's motives are assumed to be malevolent, such as "stalking their prey"). Curiously, treatment for this bogus diagnosis includes threatening the supposed unattached child with abandonment by his adoptive parents. It would be a curiously funny diagnosis if not for the fact that it has the potential to do great harm. ... You can't imagine what it takes to parent these kids unless you actually do it.---This is a statement often heard by proponents of Attachment Therapy and Nancy Thomas parenting. It is nothing but a cheap attempt to deflect criticism and rationalize child abuse. ...I sure wish I had a dollar for every time a proponent of Attachment Therapy/Parenting (AT/P) attempted to deflect the issue of child abuse with the "you don't know what they're like" excuse. Child abuse is child abuse. Health care professionals (such as myself) are trained/required to report suspected child abuse to the authorities. And AT/P even meets the definition of "torture" as defined by the UN Convention on Torture. So there are no subtleties here.Attachment Therapists will tell you guys that heart surgery is also hard to watch, but heart surgery has research behind it so that surgeons can gauge the likelihood of a beneficial, even life-saving outcome. We know from years of good research on child development that the type of practices used in Attachment Therapy/Parenting are potentially harmful, depending on the resilience of the child. The likelihood is that parents who use these practices will be estranged from their children when they are adults, and the AT/P people themselves admit that the divorce rate is high among parents who engage in AT/PAT/P exists for the benefit of the mothers and the greedy, sadistic therapists. The practice is marketed to the "awesome mom" and is specifically designed to appeal to you. Let's take a look at this program: 1.) Dad's role is to always support mom; 2.) friends and family should pamper the moms with gifts, massage, etc; and 3.) the children should be gratefully and unquestioningly obedient. Many Attachment Therapists have spoken publicly about how much parents enjoy seeing the therapist get rough with their child from behind the one-way mirror. It's for the mothers' benefit, which is why the mothers stick with the program no matter what."
http://www.amazon.com/Dandelion-Butcher-Beneath-Personal-Problems/dp/0970352522/ref=cm_rdp_productr the moms with gifts, massage, etc; and 3.) the children should be gratefully and unquestioningly obedient. Many Attachment Therapists have spoken publicly about how much parents enjoy seeing the therapist get rough with their child from behind the one-way mirror. It's for the mothers' benefit, which is why the mothers stick with the program no matter what."
http://www.amazon.com/Dandelion-Butcher-Beneath-Personal-Problems/dp/0970352522/ref=cm_rdp_product


****************


I agree that Nancy Thomas' techniques are tough.  Since our RAD kids were much older when they came into our home (11 and 13) we never even attempted her techniques, but after a few years of living with RAD teens, I saw that my kids responded best to "tough love."  Teachers and people who hold them accountable, demand respect, and call them on their bad attitudes and inappropriate behaviors, while obviously caring about them, had my children's  respect and they did better with/for them.  People who try to love and nurture them, give them lots of second chances and a blank slate every time they misbehave... are walked on, patronized, triangulated and manipulated...  I started out trying to give them all the nurturing, unconditional love they missed, and they drained me dry, didn't learn anything, treated me (as the representative of all mothers and therefore an evil abandoner) abusively, drove a wedge between me and the rest of the family, and STILL felt unloved because they believed I wasn't strong enough to keep them safe.  Luckily after years of attachment therapy with my daughter I was able to be stronger and provide them the structure and discipline they need.

With the "poor little me" attitude fostered by well-meaning adults and a belief that all adults are stupid and there to be manipulated, my son is struggling in "real life" - where no one gives a crap that he had a tough childhood.  My daughter (chronologically 17) is emotionally and socially only 6, and struggles with emotional regulation (she often needs me to do it for her, and has had to be placed in physical holds to keep her from hurting herself or others as she calms down.  Even after she was calm, she often needed continued holding afterword to allow herself to rebuild our connection) and while her RAD is healing it caused extensive neurological and emotional damage.  She now has emerging borderline personality disorder in addition to her other mental illnesses.

My son who was "too old" for attachment therapy never really attached.  To outsiders, the strict structure and rules we gave him often looked abusive and we found very little support from all but those who knew him very well, BUT every time we or the school "lightened up" because he was doing well, he would act out until the structure war reinstated.  He finally succumbed to the opinions of others who said he "should be"  independent and moved out.  He stopped taking his medication and went back to drinking and doing/dealing drugs.  Within 6 months he was in jail for a first degree felony.  NOW he realizes that he needed the structure and support we provided.

I agree that some attachment therapy is abusive, "rebirthing" for example, BUT I don't think we should throw out all attachment therapy as evil... ESPECIALLY if you don't have something to replace it with!  Because I can tell you that attachment disorders are VERY real.  Every child and family dynamic is different and what works for one kid and his/her parent(s) most likely will not work for another.  Parents of kids with attachment disorders need to be given LOTS of options to find what mix works best for their family.  NO ONE else knows exactly what will work for me or this child.

I don't do "strong sitting" with my children.  I don't demand they treat me like a queen.  I also don't have children who are trying to kill me (although I have friends who do).  I don't use attachment therapy because it appeals to me or because it's to my benefit - it's NOT!!  Therapeutic parenting is the hardest thing I've ever done in my life.  My children direct much of their rage at me as the representative of the primary caregiver, so yes, I do need Hubby to provide back up and support.

I'd much rather hug and love on my adopted kids, but that's not what they NEED!  They NEED to learn how to have a reciprocal relationship.  They need to learn that mom's can keep them safe and provide what they need - often that means taking the control out of their hands and putting it in mine (which is NOT part of my personality which makes it HARD).  They need to surrender control and trust that we'll take care of them.  That's HARD for them!  It feels like life and death.  They fight it!  If it doesn't happen though, they will NEVER be able to have a relationship - that means loving another person, nurturing their own children, holding a job, living with a roommate... these are skills with which my children's disorder causes them to struggle and fail.

*********************************************

My adopted children didn't receive a lot of ("care, kindness, dignity, affection, trust, respect, generosity, love, forgiveness, honesty, support, encouragement, admiration, and empathy") in their early lives and cannot accept it now.  I'm trying to teach them to trust/ respect/ accept, things they consider themselves unworthy of (like love), because they KNOW they are horrible, unworthy, stupid, ugly... They KNOW that if they trust people to see the real kid inside, then those people will abandon them and/or use it against them.

How do you teach someone that they are worthy and loveable?  How do you show them they can trust you when their perception of reality is so distorted?  I have had to remove so much and make their lives so simple, because more overwhelms them.  They live in a war zone (entirely in their own heads) and those early years when they didn't get what they needed (positive interaction, a consistent caregiver...) led them to have permanent brain damage.  Their world is full of people who are out to get them.  Even when people give them these things (kindness, trust, love, generosity...), my kids distort and deny it.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Confessions are Good for the Soul?

Bear tends to confess about misbehavior after he feels that there will be no longer be consequences or that he might even get kudos for dealing with it.

Examples:


  • A year and a half after Bear lived with us, he confessed that during his first few months with us, he was smoking mariju*na.  We'd strongly suspected (thought I smelled it in his room), but didn't have any proof at the time.  Not totally sure why he told us, but do know that since he was no longer doing it, and it had happened so long ago, he was sure there was nothing we would do about it.  I'm assuming it's part of the brain damage causing him to not "get" cause and effect, that he assumes not having a consequence is the end of it.  He never has been able to understand that the true consequences is that we don't trust him.
  • While in residential treatment (6 months after he came to live with us, Bear went into psychiatric residential treatment for 6 months), Bear went to the staff and confessed that he'd been dipping (packing his lip with chewing tobacco), and gave them his supply.  Since he hadn't been caught with the tobacco, he got praise for confessing.  Does it say anything about us that Hubby and I both looked at each other and asked, "How much was left in the container?"  We were right, it was almost empty and he had no way to refill his supply.


During a recent telephone conversation, Bear told Hubby that after he moved out he began taking and selling drugs, in addition to some other illegal behaviors.

We'd already mentioned to Bear that Kitty was upset with him because he'd sold drugs to her friends.  He denied it immediately of course, but I'd made it very clear at the time that I wasn't asking him if he did it, or even accusing him of doing it, and didn't want to hear his denials.

This is how we deal with Bear's lies.  We don't ask him.  We don't put him in a position where he can/will lie.  We simply ignore his attempts to lie, keep his life as structured as possible so he is not in a position to get into trouble, and present him with consequences without asking for his side of what happened.  In short, we assume that everything he says will be a lie and that he will break the rules if given the opportunity.  It's beyond guilty until proven innocent.  It's guilty or didn't have an opportunity to do it... yet.

It sounds horrible doesn't it.

In the phone call, Bear told Hubby that he wished he hadn't left the special school (where there was a LOT more supervision). He wished he hadn't moved out (where there is a LOT more supervision).  From what I've learned from Bob, we're pretty sure that he didn't start drinking, smoking, doing drugs and "fooling around" with girls, until he moved out.  He needed the structured environment we were providing.

I understand "typical teenage rebellion."  My mom was pretty strict, and in some ways, I was a pretty sheltered child.  I got into some trouble while in high school (occasionally drinking and not where I said I would be, but no drugs or sex), but generally I was a "goody two shoes."  Like most kids, when I got to college, I got a little wilder (lot of cussing, but never drugs).  Within a couple of years, I went back to my "core values" and eventually became the mature, responsible adult that I am today... (obviously I wasn't struck by lightening - it's safe to resume reading!)

When people realize how structured we keep the lives of Kitty and Bear, we hear a lot about how anyone would rebel.  That we should be preparing them for "real life"  by allowing them to take chances and make mistakes while still in the safe environment of our home and/or have the legal protection of being under 18.  Even his psychiatrist said we should let him try "real life" and pick up the pieces afterward.  We tried.

It took us a long time to get here, but I now believe that our kids will never be "typical teens."  I don't believe that Bear has the "core values" to go back to when he gets the "teenage rebellion" out of his system.  I know he doesn't have the cognitive ability to make responsible choices anytime soon.  His last neuropsychologist's recommendation was that he stay at home longer and mature before he is ready to take on "real life."  Unfortunately he is legally an adult now and we couldn't make him follow our and the neuropsych's recommendations.

Now that he's coming to grips with this idea, I don't know where to go from here.

I do find it interesting how much it bothers him that Kitty is mad at him for this.  He seemed very upset that she even knew about the drugs.  Bob knew too, but Bear doesn't seem interested in her.  Don't know if this is because Kitty is his bio sister or because she's actually expressed her feelings about this and Bob hasn't.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Dream Killer strikes again - study skills

We were having an unusually peaceful therapy session today, so toward the end we talked briefly about what would happen after high school.  Kitty mentioned that she'd thought about taking a year off of school, because she "needed a break," but her sister, Bob, had told her that people who took a year off of school tend to never go to college.  Her therapist asked if she'd planned to get a job during that time, and Kitty said she hadn't really thought about it.  I casually pointed out that to live in our house you had to be in school or have a job, and pointed out that if she wasn't in school or working, and wasn't living at home, then she'd have no way to support herself.

We switched back to what she needs to go to junior college, and Kitty was able to hear and contribute to our conversation regarding the fact that without accommodations she didn't have all the skills to go to college yet (study skills, note taking, handling large class sizes...).  We talked about other alternatives, like technical school, but Kitty had no interests other than teaching preschool.

We talked about how the school wasn't doing a lot to help Kitty get the study skills she needs (whether that was because they weren't bothering to try anymore after several failures or surrendering to fact that Kitty's brain is damaged and unable to learn this).  So Kitty's therapist started talking about how to get study skills, note taking skills, homework, and organizational skills.  She brought out her laptop and pulled up a website that had articles about acquiring study skills.

Kitty decided to read aloud from the article about note taking, and I wondered yet again how she could be doing as well as the school claims.  She struggled with about every 10th word.  She'd never even heard of outlining (one of the suggestions).  Even after we described it to her she had no idea what it was. One of her IEP accommodations is that she's to be given the notes on class lectures and I was going to suggest she try rewriting those (another suggestion in the article), but she said the teachers never lecture.  Which of course is how she learns best.  She said mostly she is given worksheets with blanks to be filled in.  She was struggling with the word banks for the blanks because there were too many words so they were overwhelming.  So her teacher broke down the word banks into smaller groups (sounds like about 3 words for 3 blanks instead of all the words for the whole page).

Maybe my expectations are too high, but that sounds ridiculous for a child they say is mostly on grade level and are talking about being ready for junior college (although she's on the "high school track").

Kitty also stated that she has to write things down verbatim, doesn't know how to summarize, has trouble remembering to turn things in.  Kitty talked about going to one of those places that cost a lot of money (we eventually figured out she meant Sylvan learning center).  I told her those places weren't really for people with learning disabilities like hers.

I went ahead and reminded Kitty that Grandma is a certified teacher (including special ed) and could put together something specifically designed for Kitty, but Kitty doesn't like Grandma very much at the moment.  We talked about how over the years Grandma has tried to help her, but Kitty wasn't interested.  Kitty suggested a neighbor is a teacher and could help her, but I pointed out that this neighbor has 2 jobs and 4 kids and wouldn't really have time to help (not to mention she has an elementary education degree, not special ed).

We agreed that we would discuss her need for study skills at the next IEP meeting (again!), and the therapist suggested she practice for 20min a night.  Kitty was down on this idea until we talked about using a child development textbook and having her read and practice summarizing.

Kitty is still being told by the school that she can go to college and become a preschool teacher, and she walked away from therapy feeling the therapist agreed.

 ********************
I asked Kitty to wait in the lobby for a few minutes while I talked to the therapist (something I rarely do).  I wanted to talk about legal guardianship and whether or not it's the right thing to keep encouraging/ allowing Kitty to believe that she can become a preschool teacher.  The therapist pointed out that all work and study skills learned are good skills and she can use these in whatever job she ends up working in the future, and I agree...
                      ...BUT we learned the hard way with Bear that if we allow the child to focus exclusively on one career (in his case the military), then when it doesn't come to pass then they are at a total loss.  Bear just shut down and lost his way.  He couldn't accept this and find a new path.

***********************

After the therapy session, Kitty started asking what the therapist and I had talked about.  I tried to fob her off with telling her we'd talked about Bear (which we had), but she wouldn't let it go and since Kitty still seemed pretty calm and open, I eventually admitted that I'd talked to the therapist about whether or not I should continue to encourage Kitty in planning to work at a preschool by purchasing her a child development book.  Kitty was not happy that I still don't believe she can become a preschool teacher since she's "good with children."

I repeated a few of my concerns.  Having worked as a director of a child care center I brought up the fact that even as an aide the day care center will leave her alone with the children for hours (early morning and evening being the times it's most likely to happen) and Texas has HORRIBLE child to staff ratios (1 person as long as they are 18 with a high school diploma, can and WILL be left alone with 4 infants, 11 two year olds, or 15 three year olds, or 18 four year olds...).  The biggest one is that while if you're an accountant like my sister or an engineer like Hubby and you make a mistake... no one dies.  If you make a mistake with preschoolers then a child could DIE.  Kitty pointed out that could happen to anyone, but that was proving my point.  There are LOTS of reasons why I don't think this is a good career option for Kitty, but that's a big one.

Kitty tried to argue with me, but the reality is she has no good arguments and she knows it.  It's mostly that she doesn't WANT it to be true.  She quickly just said she didn't want to talk any more and she rode home in silence.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Legal Guardianship

Legal Guardianship FAQs

An “Incapacitated person” is “An adult individual who, because of a physical or mental condition, is substantially unable to provide food, clothing, or shelter for himself or herself, to care for the individual's own physical health, or to manage the individual's own financial affairs."



1. Ability to make informed judgment as to marriage  YES [X] NO
Kitty has no concept of what to look for in an appropriate spouse, and is very much a victim waiting to happen.  Bear chooses people based on how similar they are to him (like attracting like) and has been engaged several times - luckily his relationships never last long enough to actually get married.
2. Ability to make informed judgment as to voting  YES  NO
I'm not sure I have an opinion on this one!  Seems like they're just as informed as anyone else :^) 
3. Ability to apply for and receive governmental benefits  YES [X] NO
Absolutely not.  Neither one has the ability to fill out forms, and don't seem to know how to even start accessing services.  Bear reads and writes on a 5th or 6th grade level.  Kitty apparently can read and comprehend at a higher level, but writes at a 3rd grade level.
4. Ability to operate a motor vehicle  YES [X] NO
Hell no.
5. Ability to make decisions regarding travel  YES [X] NO
Budgeting, knowing where it is safe to go, getting a hotel room, purchasing tickets, feeling safe on a plane, train or bus...  Apparently Bear can do this.  Kitty never.
6. Ability to seek or retain employment  YES [X] NO
Kitty shows no interest in the actual process.  I don't think she could actually fill out an application independently or handle the stress of a "real" job.  Bear could at least seek and attain employment - he just couldn't RETAIN employment.
7. Ability to contract and incur obligation  YES [X] NO
Neither has an understanding of money or budgeting.  Bear always believes he's going to get and keep a fantastic job that will allow him to pay for contracted services.  When he gets money he is very generous and gives it away easily.  When he doesn't have money he demands others "repay" what he gave them (never agreed to prior BTW!  Kind of like "Indian Giving")
8. Ability to sue or defend lawsuits  YES [X] NO
Both have a concrete, black and white sense of right and wrong.  Neither have the processing ability to understand complex legal documents or concepts.
9. Ability to manage property or to make any gifts or disposition of property  YES [X] NO
Neither has an understanding of money or the value of property.  Bear doesn't understand what is wrong with "Indian Giving."
10. Ability to determine residence  YES [X] NO
Bear obviously cannot maintain relationships with roommates or other people he chooses to live with.  He has chosen known drug dealers as appropriate people to live with.  He cannot afford to live independently and has apparently slept outside and didn't eat when he didn't budget well or couldn't find someone willing to take him in.  Kitty would need to live with someone who could support her and manage her estate - she does not appear to have the judgment to choose appropriately.
11. Ability to consent to medical, dental, psychological, and psychiatric treatment and to the disclosure of those records  YES [X] NO
They can choose to have treatment, but they do not have a good understanding of their diagnoses, would have great difficulty understanding side effects and efficacy of different treatments, and both are in pretty severe denial regarding their health issues.  Both have strong psychosomatic issues and low body awareness (Bear has waited weeks to tell me he's peeing blood, but both would pop Tylenol for minor aches and pains all day if I let them).  When Kitty was tired of being poked and prodded at the beginning of the Summer for some pretty serious health issues, she began refusing treatment and denied she even needed them.  Neither can maintain their medications.
12. Ability to handle a bank account  YES [X] NO
Neither has an understanding of money or budgeting.  Both have serious learning disabilities in math.
13. Ability to make decisions regarding financial obligation  YES [X] NO
See #7, 9 and 12!
14. Ability to enter into insurance contract of every nature  YES [X] NO
See #3 and 7


Getting ready to start the process of legal guardianship for Kitty who is now 17.5 yrs old. Anyone have any advice? We need to do this as inexpensively as possible. A big part of me doesn't want to do it, but she has made it very clear that as soon as she turns 18 she's going to let the IEP team know that she wants out of the special school we worked so hard to get her into, and once she's out, we'll never get her back in (we had to file due process to get her in in the first place). Plus, she wants to be a preschool teacher and the school is wasting her time, trying to give her vocational skills to pursue this unrealistic goal.

She's just starting her junior year of high school. She was hospitalized 6 times during the first semester last school year, before she went into RTC for 4 months. They discharged her from the RTC because she didn't have the cognitive or emotional ability to work the program. She is not ID (intellectually disabled -the new PC term for mentally retarded), but has a low average IQ that drops into the 50s if she is overwhelmed or in a loud, chaotic environment. Emotionally and socially (but not intellectually or developmentally) she is stuck at 6 years of age. She cannot handle the anxiety from trying to be perfect around people who might figure out that she is an unlovable, unworthy, stupid, ugly, crazy mess (her beliefs, not mine).

Her current psychiatrist assures me she will sign any papers we bring her for legal guardianship. I was worried the pdoc wouldn't, since Bear's psychiatrist with the local MHMR program refused to do so for Bear. So this is comforting, but also really sad too.

Hubby and I discussed how long we would keep legal guardianship.  Many years ago my brother-in-law married a 24yo girl whose aunt and uncle had legal guardianship of her.  They gave permission for her to marry and removed legal guardianship.  When my BIL abandoned her and his children, she went back to the Aunt and Uncle.  When we talk about why we would take legal guardianship of Kitty, this is one of our big concerns:

Reasons for getting Legal Guardianship of Kitty as an adult:

  • To prevent her from getting control and sabotaging her special school placement
  • To continue to have legal input in planning her school transition plan
  • To be able to still legally have an input at her IEP meetings in her senior year of high school
  • To have input in where she lives senior year and after graduation
  • To help her get SSI income and ensure it actually goes for her support and living expenses
  • To help her find and keep an appropriate job
  • To ensure she continues to get the medical treatments, therapy and medications she needs
  • To help her make choices that lead to a healthy lifestyle (nutritious food, hygiene, chores/ clean environment)
  • To protect her from inappropriate relationships, particularly with those who would take advantage of her emotional immaturity, and to help her develop the ability to have appropriate relationships.
  • To stop her from attempting things she's not ready for and getting hurt and scared... or worse.  Especially from damaging her self-esteem, relationships or becoming suicidal.
  • Most of all, to continue to provide the emotional support she needs and will need