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!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

5 things to ask yourself before adopting


5 things the adoptive parent should ask themselves before adopting a child over 5

Recently a friend posted that a friend of hers was writing an article.  She asked for advice and I went a little overboard with my answer, but I wanted to share it with you guys.  If you have advice for the writer of the article that you want to post in the comments then I could probably share it with her.  Just let me know!

  1. How good are you at accessing resources? - I wish I had them lined up in advance, but there was no way of knowing all we needed.  From the start, we needed experienced therapeutic parents willing to share and support.  Plus lots of  resources for the many special needs my kids came with, we uncovered, that developed...  including information about where to go to get the services my kids needed (school, medical, Medicaid, psychiatric, legal advice, psychiatrists and other specialists...).  I learned a LOT about trauma, RAD, bipolar disorder, FASD, abuse and neglect, therapies that work or don't... things they don't teach you in that short pre-adopt class.
  2. How strong is your support group?  You need people as committed as you are to making this adoption work.  You need people who "get it."  You need your significant other to be supportive and have your back.  You probably need a good therapist (for yourself).
  3. How stable/safe is your family?  It took a long time for Hubby to believe and understand how much RAD kids are manipulating and triangulating and he blamed my parenting at first.  We had younger biokids and they had to withstand a lot of abuse (from adopted siblings - verbal mostly) and neglect from parents because we were devoting our attention to the adopted kids.  We all suffered from PTSD and the biokids had to grow up faster.  Even though my biokids were younger chronologically they were developmentally/emotionally older than the adopted kids which added to the sibling rivalry.  You need to protect any pets too.  We had to isolate from  family members (and friends)  who didn't "get it" because they often made things worse.  
  4. How strong are YOU?  Imagine the hardest thing you've ever done.  Now multipy that by 10 and  imagine doing it every day 24/7 for the next 15-20 years, while everyone tells you you're doing it wrong and you're a horrible person.  You become a warden and a prisoner in your own home.  The instinct to give 110% to these poor defenseless children is overwhelming - but you have to remember what they say in the event of an airplane crash - take care of yourself first.  Can you make yourself a priority?  Can you handle being reviled and treated as the Meanest Mom in the Universe.
  5. Why are you doing this?  
  • If it's to save a child, don't do it.  You can't "fix" them.  You can make their lives better (maybe), but you didn't break them in the first place and a LOT of damage can be permanently done before the age of 5 (before birth too!).  
  • If it's to have someone to love you, don't do it.  If they are ever capable of loving you, great, but it's possible they won't.  
  • If it's to get to pick your "perfect" child that's past the potty training stage, definitely don't do it.  These kids are NOT going to be perfect.  They've been through major trauma at best.  Not to mention the potty training thing is not a given either (my 16yo still has the occasional accident and wet the bed until 14).  
  • If it's to replace a child or fill a void in your life, don't do it.  No one else can fill a hole in your life.  You need to be in a very healthy place in your life to be able to handle this child's needs and fill them.  Adoption is about the child
  • If it's because you think it's your duty as a Christian (or whatever motivates you), don't do it.  That's not going to be enough reason.  
  • If it's to save your marriage, DON'T DO IT!  This is one of the hardest things on a marriage - a lot of them don't survive.  

So why did we adopt?  This is what I wrote way back then when we first applied for adoption (and got turned down):

Motivation to AdoptMary has always thought about adoption as a way of adding to her family and helping others.  Her mother had often thought of taking in foster children, but didn’t want to do it as a single parent, and once married, didn’t think her husband could handle more children.  Mary did some adoption research in college, primarily focused on open vs. closed adoption, and transracial adoption.  When Mary mentioned the idea to Hubby, he thought about it, and decided it seemed like a good idea.  Early in the marriage, there was a strong possibility that Hubby’s brother’s ex-wife would lose custody of her three children (our niece and nephew and their infant half sister), due to abuse and neglect.  Hubby’s brother would have been unable to support the children.  She cleaned up her act enough that we decided she probably wouldn’t lose custody, but it did make us think more about adopting a larger sibling group.  We were initially worried that we wouldn’t be able to afford a large family, but that is no longer an issue. We did some research a couple of years ago into foster care and adoption, but decided our daughter was too little.  Mary got a job doing foster care homestudies with {a local foster care agency} on a contract basis for a while.  Last year, we called 1-800-TOADOPT and attended an orientation class in October.  We started Pride classes in January, and completed the training in March.  We feel more comfortable about our financial situation now, and have moved to a house large enough to accommodate several more children comfortably.  We feel that our oldest child is young enough to adapt to new siblings, and our youngest child is independent enough to accommodate the changes that come with having more siblings.

I don't think that's a very complete answer.  If I had to guess what it was back then, here's what I probably would have said:

  • My parents were into zero population growth so I didn't plan to give birth to more than one child, but wanted a larger family.
  • I grew up around adoption (step sister was adopted as an infant), and my mom frequently talked about the exchange students and other kids brought into their home when she was growing up.  Plus, she'd talked about doing foster care, but it never worked out.
  • I was raised to be a rescuer.  I wanted to save/rescue kids who needed it.  It made me feel like a better person.  I did the same with adults too, until I finally realized that it wasn't good for the people or myself (learned helplessness).
  • I expected it to fill my "love tank."  Not just love from the kids, but from others affirming me for being a good person.
  • I wanted to use my hard-earned skills.  I had an education (Psychology with a focus on child abuse and neglect, Social Work, Mental Health) and had acquired a LOT of knowledge on childcare and discipline (Bob was a HANDFUL!).  
  • This was something at which I thought I'd be good.   Honestly, I wanted an excuse not to have to go back to work.  My jobs were pretty stressful, none of them felt like the right job for me, and I didn't feel good about myself.  I also couldn't find a good job that matched my skill set - none of them met ALL my needs.
  • I felt that our family wasn't complete yet.  I had "baby fever" something awful.  Not for an actual baby, but for someone to love and nurture.
I probably didn't adopt for all the right reasons, but they were enough.  I believe this was the path (and children) that God intended for me.  I also don't think this path is ending.  I don't have "baby fever" any more, but I also don't feel that our family is done.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Bear on the bus


Bear turned 19 a few days ago (which signifies the end of our adoption subsidy with the state we adopted him from).  I was looking forward to "proving" to him that we will still love and care for him even though we're not getting "paid" for it anymore.  He gave us that chance at midnight last night.

He's been living with his biograndfather for the last 6 weeks since graduating from high school a couple of months ago.  He'd moved out of our home back in January (evil parents that we are, we'd insisted that he do a couple of household chores or lose his iPod -so he moved out).  6 weeks is the longest he's ever managed to live with someone (besides us), so we were half way expecting him to be moving on soon.

At midnight he calls and says biomom backed out of paying for his bus ticket to go live with biograndparents in Nebraska, and the biograndpa he's been living with had dropped him off at the bus station in the city where Biomom lived and then had driven home (2 hours).  I knew biomom had moved to Nebraska a month ago so he must be lying about something (well, probably everything).  {Sorry Biomom if you didn't want him to know you'd moved.  We didn't know that he didn't know.} 

Hubby was exhausted from teaching scuba all day, and had to get up at 5am the next morning and is a softer touch than I am, so while he did use this to force Bear to talk about some details of Bear's current life, Hubby went ahead and bought him a ticket.  Bear even said thank you, although he didn't apologize for yelling at Hubby, even after Hubby reminded him that it wasn't smart to yell at someone over a problem they didn't make, and when you want them to do you a huge favor!

Some of the info we got from Bear (very little of which I believe).


  • Is he signed up to join the Navy? - Yes, he's supposed to go at the end of the month (? since it IS the end of the month, I'm assuming he means August).
  • Is he still working at the marina near his grandpa's house?  - No, he got laid off and was doing construction work.
  • Why doesn't he have his own money to pay for this trip?  - He's had to pay $250/week to his Grandpa for rent, PLUS water (Bear takes at least one 45+ minute shower a day!) and food.  Plus $200/week for car insurance and he was only making $450/ week at the job he no longer has.  I don't know if he ever paid for the damage to the car he was borrowing.
  • Does he still have a phone?  - (He was allegedly calling us using the phone of a fellow traveler he met at the bus station!).  He's out of minutes, but can still text for free.  {Veriz*n has been calling our house often trying to reach him about his phone bill).
  • Is he planning to return to his Grandpa's house, which is where we sent his birthday card?  - Yes.
  • What is he going to do about being unemployed?  - He's planning on getting a job in Nebraska with his uncle.


His stories conflicted, weren't rational and were pretty much unbelievable.  In short, nothing's really changed. *sigh*

I had Hubby let him know that the benefits coordinator we had working on his SSI (who was supposed to send it in at the beginning of June, but apparently didn't!), now had some questions for him that I couldn't answer (his daily schedule for example).  He said he'd call her.  When his disabilities do qualify him for SSI, it will be interesting to see if the military catches on any time soon - assuming he really has applied to the military and they believe the lies he'd have to tell to be accepted.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Happy Birthday Bear!

Yesterday was Bear's adoption day.  Today is his birthday.  He's changed phones so many times that I have no way to contact him.  He texted Hubby a couple of days ago asking for money and advice on how to get a tetanus shot when he only has Texas Medicaid (he's in Oklahoma), so Hubby might have a recent number, but I assume if he wants to talk to me he will.  I told Hubby to text him and wish him happy birthday from both of us.

I bought him a birthday card, but it's still sitting next to me unsigned and unaddressed.  I need to put a check in it (not for the amount he wants) and send it.  I'm just having trouble doing so.  I read every single card in the store trying to find one that was appropriate (most talked about early childhood, partying or getting old) and that expressed what I feel.  Of course I know he probably won't read anything but the check.

The one I chose has cartoon dogs.

To Our Son

We've lectured and talked and given advice

We've worried and watched, and tried to be nice...

(inside flap)

We've listened and cared and we've understood

We gave you our love the best that we could

So what did we get for all that we've done?

(inside)

A truly remarkable, wonderful son!

Happy Birthday

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

Bear told Hubby he wants money to repair some damage he's done to the car he's borrowed and to buy a new 4x4 truck.  Ummm... no.  Even if we had $4K it wouldn't be happening.  I'm still not convinced he even has a valid driver's license.  Knowing he's driving while off his meds... terrifying.

We haven't heard about Bear coming home for a visit since he failed to show a few weeks ago.  I'm assuming he can't afford it.

Recently we heard from one of the families he lived with before he graduated high school.  They've discovered over a thousand dollars in electronics and stuff missing.  When he first called us from Oklahoma, caller id showed us the phone he used had the name of a relative of his latest girlfriend.  He denied it wasn't his though and then claimed it broke, and he was upgrading to a new one.  Since then he's called and texted us from at least 3 or 4 different numbers.

He still claims he's joining the Navy, and I do think it would be good for him, but even if he gets in they'll find out he lied on his application and he'll be discharged.  Still "3 squares and a cot" for awhile anyway.  Not totally sure where he's living or who he's living with.  He was with biograndfather last I heard.  Biomom lived nearby, although I've heard rumors she might be moving in with biograndfather as well.

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

I'm looking forward to continuing our relationship with Bear now that we are no longer "being paid" to care for him.  Maybe after a few years he'll start to believe we actually care about him.  That's assuming he bothers to continue the relationship once there's nothing he values in it for him.

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

I sent Biomom Bear's graduation pictures, but I haven't heard back from her.  Don't know if she's mad at me, or didn't get them.

  {Biomom, if you're reading this, will you  please contact me and let me know if you received the pictures or if I should send them somewhere else?}

Friday, July 20, 2012

Unconditional Love

I just finished reading the book Can This Child Be Saved?  Solutions for Adoptive and Foster Families by Foster Cline and Cathy Helding - (which I HIGHLY recommend and will be reviewing in another post) and at the very end it discussed "unconditional love."  It has always bothered me that I do not feel love for Bear.  I have tried to be very honest about that on this blog, and I feel I have very justified reasons for this, but I can't help feeling guilty about it.

After reading this book, I realized that I do feel unconditional love for Bear.  As many people say about romantic relationships, I am not "in love" with him, but I do love him.

The definition and application of the concept of unconditional love according to Can This Child Be Saved?:

"Unconditional Love Means

  • Acting in the best interests of the children to the best of your ability.
  • Modeling healthy relationships and setting limits.
  • Maintaining your commitment to the children, even if the children can no longer reside in the home.
  • Acting in a fair (but not necessarily equal) and loving way.
  • Expressing parental feelings for both the children and their behaviors.  Saying, for example, "I love you sweetheart, but I cannot allow you to hurt your sister.  It's my job as a parent to keep everyone in the family safe.  I wouldn't let her hurt you either.
Unconditional Love Does Not Mean
  • Allowing the family to be victimized by abusive children.
  • That any and all behavior will be accepted and tolerated.
  • Parents must take responsibility for the children's problems.
  • Parents must rescue the children from the results of their behavior.
  • Permitting an abusive or dangerous child to remain in the home.
  • Allowing children who have been victimized in the past to use that fact as an excuse or reason to  avoid responsibility.  (We empathize and show compassion for past hurt, but realize the children's situations have changed, and they are no longer being abused.  We should try to help them move on and leave the victim role behind.)
Modeling is the most powerful force in parenting.  By tolerating abuse from our kids (or adults), we are modeling that this is a healthy way to live and love.  There must be some limits to unconditional love or kids will put up with abuse from their spouses and think that this is the healthy way to love.  By not drawing the line with these kids, do we teach them all - birth and adopted - the script of living with folks who abuse us?"

Updated FAIR Club posts!

I've updated my posts on the FAIR Club, which is our preferred discipline method.  When I revamped the blog after my sabbatical, I'd put links to the FAIR Club articles on the sidebar.  I hadn't reviewed them in awhile, and I'd recently sent a lot of people to look at them.  How embarrassing!

I mainly focused on updating the "FAIR Club Intro" (aka How to Discipline Your Difficult Child (without spanking or spoiling) and "FAIR Club" posts.  Here's the posts again:


The FAIR Club

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Borderline Personality Disorder Letter to Non-BPD

I found this amazing letter from someone with Borderline Personality Disorder to those without.BPD.  I wanted to share it with you.  I hope that someday Kitty will be ready and able to access DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) and have the insight and empathy needed to be able to write something like this.

http://www.my-borderline-personality-disorder.com/2012/07/open-letter-to-non-bpds-from-those-of.html

An Open Letter to "Non BPDs" from those of us with Borderline Personality Disorder:

Dear Friends, Family Members, Lovers, Ex-lovers, Coworkers, Children, and others of those of us with Borderline Personality Disorder,

You may be frustrated, feeling helpless, and ready to give up. It's not your fault. You are not the cause of our suffering. You may find that difficult to believe, since we may lash out at you, switch from being loving and kind to non-trusting and cruel on a dime, and we may even straight up blame you. But it's not your fault. You deserve to understand more about this condition and what we wish we could say but may not be ready.

It is possible that something that you said or did "triggered" us. A trigger is something that sets off in our minds a past traumatic event or causes us to have distressing thoughts. While you can attempt to be sensitive with the things you say and do, that's not always possible, and it's not always clear why something sets off a trigger.

The mind is very complex. A certain song, sound, smell, or words can quickly fire off neurological connections that bring us back to a place where we didn't feel safe, and we might respond in the now with a similar reaction (think of military persons who fight in combat -- a simple backfiring of a car can send them into flashbacks. This is known as PTSD, and it happens to a lot of us, too.)

But please know that at the very same time that we are pushing you away with our words or behavior, we also desperately hope that you will not leave us or abandon us in our time of despair and desperation.

This extreme, black or white thinking and experience of totally opposite desires is known as a dialectic. Early on in our diagnosis and before really digging in deep with DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), we don't have the proper tools to tell you this or ask for your support in healthy ways.

We may do very dramatic things, such as harming ourselves in some way (or threatening to do so), going to the hospital, or something similar. While these cries for help should be taken seriously, we understand that you may experience "burn out" from worrying about us and the repeated behavior. 

Please trust that, with professional help, and despite what you may have heard or come to believe, we CAN and DO get better.

These episodes can get farther and fewer between, and we can experience long periods of stability and regulation of our emotions. Sometimes the best thing to do, if you can muster up the strength in all of your frustration and hurt, is to grab us, hug us, and tell us that you love us, care, and are not leaving.

One of the symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder   is an intense fear of being abandoned, and we therefore (often unconsciously) sometimes behave in extreme, frantic ways to avoid this from happening. Even our perception that abandonment is imminent can cause us to become frantic.

Another thing that you may find confusing is our apparent inability to maintain relationships. We may jump from one friend to another, going from loving and idolizing them to despising them - deleting them from our cell phones and unfriending them on Facebook. We may avoid you, not answer calls, and decline invitations to be around you -- and other times, all we want to do is be around you.

This is called splitting, and it's part of the disorder. Sometimes we take a preemptive strike by disowning people before they can reject or abandon us. We're not saying it's "right." We can work through this destructive pattern and learn how to be healthier in the context of relationships. It just doesn't come naturally to us. It will take time and a lot of effort.

It's difficult, after all, to relate to others properly when you don't have a solid understanding of yourself and who you are, apart from everyone else around you. 

In Borderline Personality Disorder, many of us experience  identity disturbance issuesWe may take on the attributes of those around us, never really knowing who WE are.  You remember in high school those kids who went from liking rock music to pop to goth, all to fit in with a group - dressing like them, styling their hair like them, using the same mannerisms? It's as if we haven't outgrown that. 

Sometimes we even take on the mannerisms of other people (we are one way at work, another at home, another at church), which is part of how we've gotten our nickname of "chameleons." Sure, people act differently at home and at work, but you might not recognize us by the way we behave at work versus home. It's that extreme.

For some of us, we had childhoods during which, unfortunately, we had parents or caregivers who could quickly switch from loving and normal to abusive. We had to behave in ways that would please the caregiver at any given moment in order to stay safe and survive. We haven't outgrown this.

Because of all of this pain, we often experience feelings of emptiness. We can't imagine how helpless you must feel to witness this. Perhaps you have tried so many things to ease the pain, but nothing has worked. Again - this is NOT your fault. 

The best thing we can do during these times is remind ourselves that "this too shall pass" and practice DBT skills - especially self-soothing - things that helps us to feel a little better despite the numbness. Boredom is often dangerous  for us, as it can lead to the feelings of emptiness.  It's smart for us to stay busy and distract ourselves when boredom starts to come on.

On the other side of the coin, we may have outburst of anger that can be scary. It's important that we stay safe and not hurt you or ourselves. This is just another manifestation of BPD.
We are highly emotionally sensitive and have extreme difficulty regulating/modulating our emotions. Dr. Marsha Linehan, founder of DBT, likens us to 3rd degree emotional burn victims.

Through Dialectical Behavior Therapy, we can learn how to regulate our emotions so that we do not become out of control.  We can learn how to stop sabotaging our lives and circumstances...and we can learn to behave in ways that are less hurtful and frightening to you.
Another thing you may have noticed is that spaced out look on our faces. This is called
 dissociationOur brains literally disconnect, and our thoughts go somewhere else, as our brains are trying to protect us from additional emotional trauma. We can learn grounding exercises and apply our skills to help during these episodes, and they may become less frequent as we get better.
But, what about you?

If you have decided to tap into your strength and stand by your loved one with BPD, you probably need support too.  Here are some ideas:

  •           Remind yourself that the person's behavior isn't your fault
  •           Tap into your compassion for the person's suffering while understanding that their behavior is probably an intense reaction to that suffering
  •           Do things to take care of YOU. On the resources page of this blog, there is a wealth of information on books, workbooks, CDs, movies, etc. for you to understand this disorder and take care of yourself. Be sure to check it out!
  •               In addition to learning more about BPD and how to self-care around it, be sure to do things that you enjoy and that soothe you, such as getting out for a walk, seeing a funny movie, eating a good meal, taking a warm bath -- whatever you like to do to care for yourself and feel comforted.
  •           Ask questions. There is a lot of misconception out there about BPD.
  •           Remember that your words, love, and support go a long way in helping your loved one to heal, even if the results are not immediately evident


Not all of the situations I described apply to all people with Borderline Personality Disorder. One must only have 5 symptoms out of 9 to qualify for a diagnosis, and the combinations of those 5-9 are seemingly endless.  This post is just to give you an idea of the typical suffering and thoughts those of us with BPD have.

This is my second year in DBT. A year ago, I could not have written this letter, but it represents much of what was in my heart but could not yet be realized or expressed.

My hope is that you will gain new insight into your loved one's condition and grow in compassion and understand for both your loved one AND yourself, as this is not an easy road.

I can tell you, from personal experience, that working on this illness through DBT is worth the fight. Hope can be returned. A normal life can be had. You can see glimpses and more and more of who that person really is over time, if you don't give up.  I wish you peace.

Thank you for reading.
More Soon.
 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

New School Year Letters

“The opinions expressed by this child are not necessarily those of his parents.” - note sent to teacher on the first day of school.


I've been telling people about the New School Year Letters I send every year to my kids' teachers (even Sunday School teachers).  I could have sworn I put them on my blog, but I could only find one year's http://marythemom-mayhem.blogspot.com/2010/08/better-letter.html, so I'm putting them here.

Main things to remember:
1.  NO MORE THAN ONE PAGE (this is incredibly hard for me!).  Teachers don't have a lot of time to read this stuff.  Yes, a lot of this is in your child's IEP (if they have one), but realistically not all teachers read these.
2.  Give enough detail about your child's history, diagnoses, trauma so that teachers know WHY? the child (and you) act the way they do, but they don't have to know everything.  Ask yourself why you're sharing that particular information.
3.  Tell the teachers what WORKS with your child (and you can mention what DOESN'T - especially if that's a typical first response).
4.  Make sure you give them contact information and let them know how and when to reach you.

{Biomom - I apologize in advance for some of the things written in these letters about you.  These were written quite some time ago}

Bear 2010:


Dear School Teachers and Staff,
My name is Mary Themom.  I am the parent of 11th grade student, Bear _____.  Bear is served by the district as a student with an Emotional Disturbance.   It is my hope that BEar will have a more successful school year this year.  To that end, I would like to share some information with you to help you understand Bear’s behavior, anxiety and issues, so you can better support him and provide a safe, appropriate learning environment.

Bear had a very traumatic childhood including abuse and years in foster care and psychiatric treatment before he was finally adopted as a teen (he is not always truthful about his past – feel free to confirm or deny stories with me).  He can be very charming and helpful, especially to those he considers weaker than he is.  He loves history and currently wants to be an underwater welder when he leaves home next year (we are working on getting him to finish high school with us). 

His current diagnoses:
·         RAD – a severe attachment disorder caused by his traumatic childhood that affects cognition, including cause and effect, memory, impulse control, and of course relationships.  Bear triangulates and manipulates (especially with “poor little me” stories) to get special privileges or what he needs to feel safe, while at the same time is terrified because he can’t trust anyone to control him (which he needs to feel safe).  Bear lives in a very black and white world.  Women are usually on pedestals and patronized, or totally reviled.   He doesn’t get that not doing something (like schoolwork) because he doesn’t like the person he’s working with (including teachers or the kid sitting next to him) is only hurting himself. 
TIP: Bear responds best when people enforce high expectations, but obviously care.
·         Bipolar – Bear is medicated for this, but despite his medications he still has major issues with irritability, “giving up,” withdrawal, sleeplessness, and distorted thinking.
·         Unmedicated ADD – unfortunately we have found no medications that work with Bear’s body chemistry.  TIP:  Keeping him active is the best way to help him focus and stay on task.
·         Cerebral dysrhythmia – brain injuries that affect his long term retrieval, memory, cognitive and processing skills - worsened by the many gaps in his education due to constant moving and trauma.  As stated in his FIE, he has great difficulty adapting and working quickly and efficiently when under pressure (which is always!).  He also will need projects broken down into small steps.
TIP: Bear has good communication skills, but his vocabulary and ability to understand things is often much less than he is willing to let on.  Be aware that he is very good at hiding this.
·         C-PTSD - Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – causes him to feel under constant emotional stress because he never feels safe, and causes him to overreact to things you or I might consider minor.  The majority of Bear’s issues and behaviors are caused by this constant fear, but he cannot admit that.
It is difficult to learn math and spelling when you feel you are in the middle of a war zone! 
If you have any questions or concerns regarding any of these diagnoses or his others, please feel free to e-mail me at  email@email.com  or call me at  (###) ###-####  .
WARNING:  Bear's history, treatment and diagnoses are incredibly complex, and staff and peers who are not aware of his issues giving him advice and support based on “normal” kids reactions and behaviors, often derail and set back his achievements and progress by allowing him to manipulate to gain privileges or sympathy, or avoid dealing with his issues in therapy.   In addition to structure, support, and therapeutic parenting from us, Bear has a therapist, psychiatrist, and team of trained professionals, including GOAL’s staff.
Bear requires close supervision due to his unpredictable poor choices and poor impulse control that have led to some serious and life-threatening consequences.

Bear REQUIRES a lot of structure and support to feel safe.   He NEEDS control of his environment at all times, and can go to extreme measures to get that control.  This is not always logical.  For example, if Bear is told he can go on a field trip if he has no attendance issues and behaves pleasantly with everyone for a week, but he doesn’t absolutely know for sure he can do that, then he might deliberately misbehave so he has 100% control over the outcome.  He might also sabotage himself because the trip actually scares him (he doesn’t feel safe in unfamiliar, uncontrollable environments).  If a connection is made at all, he will most likely say he didn’t want to go on the “stupid” field trip in the first place (sour grapes).  I have my suspicions as to why he is back at The Special School which is very structured and predictable with staff who watch out for him and keep him safe. 

Bear does not learn by watching others (modeling) and has great difficulty learning from his mistakes.  Due to his severe trust issues, he cannot ask for or accept help.  Bear is very skilled at “flying under the radar.” 
TIP:  Letting little things pass; giving multiple chances; allowing consequences to wait or build up; believing or appearing to believe his lies, triangulation attempts and manipulations … all push Bear’s already limited ability to understand the connection between his actions and the consequences, often causes him to disconnect and blame others – which further intensifies his trust issues and is teaching him that he can get away with dangerous behaviors.

Bear NEEDS consequences and to be held accountable for even small infractions, or he has shown repeatedly that he will continue to escalate until he gets what he needs. 

Please always notify Bear’s team regarding suspected or actual behaviors (ex. sleeping in class, cheating, inability to focus, lying, irritability, venting to others, drug and tobacco use, theft of small electronics, selling drugs and food, food issues, carrying weapons, psychosomatic pain, depression and withdrawal) and his ability to get out of classes (tardies, skipping, long breaks, walking out).  We need your help and input as we on various strategies to prevent this dangerous behavior, help Bear make better choices, and establish additional behavior interventions.  In addition to notifying Behavior Program staff, please e-mail his case manager Mr W ( email@email.com ) and Mr C with the Special School ( email@email.com ).

Again, please contact me for any and all concerns regarding Bear.  I need to be kept abreast of all situations, and I will do the same for you.  I am available 95% of the day.  I do work, but have flexibility on my job and can be reached by phone at almost any time.  I will return your call as soon as possible if I am in a meeting, or you can reach my husband, Hubby ______, at (###) ###-####
Yours in Partnership,    Mary Themom                    (###) ###-#### .                 email@email.com
******************************************* 
Kitty 2010:
Dear Teachers and Staff,
My name is Mary Themom.  I am the parent of 9th grade student, Kitty _________.  Kitty is served by the district as a student with an Emotional Disturbance (RAD, bipolar, C-PTSD), Other Health Impaired (medicated ADHD), and Learning Disabilities (cerebral dysrhythmia).  If you have any questions or concerns regarding any of these diagnoses or the others that she has, please feel free to e-mail me at  email@email.com  or call me at  (###) ###-#### . 
It is my hope that Kitty will have a successful school year.  Because she is quiet and a hard worker in class, Kitty tends to not always get what she needs to reach her full potential.  I would like to share some information with you to help you better understand Kitty’s reactions, anxiety and issues, so you can better support her and provide an appropriate learning environment.

Kitty is a former foster child, who was discarded into foster care at age 9, because she was “out of control.”   This was due to the lack of proper parenting provided by her mentally ill mother, abusive males, and Kitty’s untreated mental health issues.  It is rarely seen in her behavior at school now. 
Due to trust issues, Kitty’s reactions are often subtle at school, but believe me she is frequently under major emotional distress - at which point she “shuts down” (not learning or remembering!) and is extremely emotionally fragile and at risk.  Her Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – causes her to over react to things you or I might consider minor.  It’s difficult to learn math and spelling when you’re in the middle of a war zone!

 Some things to watch for:
·         Gentle teasing, constructive criticism, or even just the feeling of disapproval, is often perceived as yelling, accusing, and hateful.  Kitty has difficulty with teasing, (both peers and adults).  She “dishes it” (we are working on this), but she can’t “take it.”  Kitty’s usual response to this at school is to dissociate (freeze, change the subject, or tattle – based on her interpretation of events).
Tip:  Kitty responds best to caring structure.  If she doesn’t believe the person cares about her, she will attribute all sorts of negative motives to them (especially males).   
·         If Kitty’s speech or laughter sounds loud and pressured, she appears agitated, is overly sensitive, or she is popping her knuckles – she is very distressed and overwhelmed.
Tip:  A calm, quiet space so she can emotionally regulate, and a calm, supportive person can really help.
·         Although fairly stable now, Kitty has been both suicidal and aggressive.  Due to her attachment issues, the child you see at school is not the same one that lives with us.
Tip:  Please believe and support us when we tell you how Kitty is doing and notify us of any issues.
·         Kitty's distress frequently exhibits as physical illness (nausea, stomach aches, tiredness, ear aches, headaches…).  This feels very real to her, and occasionally it is real. 
Tip:  Ask her to rate the pain on a scale of 1 to 10, with over 5 or 6 allowed to go to the nurse.  (I believe this is in her BIP {Behavior Intervention Plan}).  Otherwise she will be in the nurse’s office frequently - days with substitutes almost guarantee this.   Calling me as needed is always fine
·         FYI, she has some bladder issues and may not be able to “hold it.”  I strongly recommend letting her use the restroom if she requests it.  We can keep a spare change of clothes at school if needed.

Please contact me for any and all issues with Kitty.  I need to be kept abreast of all situations, and I will do the same for you.  I am available 95% of the day.  I do work, but have flexibility on my job and can be reached by phone at almost any time.  I will return your call as soon as possible if I am in a meeting, or you can reach my husband, Hubby ________, at  (###) ###-#### .
Yours in Partnership,    Mary Themom                    (###) ###-####                           email@email.com  

******************************************* 
Kitty 2011:
Dear  Teachers and Staff,
My name is Mary Themom.  I am the parent of 10th grade student, Kitty _______.  Kitty is served by the district as a student with an Emotional Disturbance (RAD, bipolar, C-PTSD), Other Health Impaired (ADHD – currently unmedicated), and Learning Disabilities (cerebral dysrhythmia).  If you have any questions or concerns regarding any of these diagnoses or the others that she has, please feel free to contact me anytime (see contact info below). 
It is my hope that Kitty will have a successful school year.  Because she is quiet and a hard worker in class, Kitty tends to not always get what she needs to reach her full potential.  I would like to share some information with you to help you better understand Kitty’s reactions, anxiety and issues, so you can better support her and provide an appropriate learning environment.
Kitty is a former foster child, who was discarded into foster care at age 9, because she was “out of control.”   This was due to the lack of proper parenting provided by her mentally ill mother, abusive males, and Kitty’s untreated mental health issues.  It is rarely seen in her behavior at school now. 
Due to trust issues, Kitty's reactions are often subtle at school, but she is frequently under major emotional distress - at which point she “shuts down” (unable to learn or remember!) and is extremely emotionally fragile and at risk.  Her Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – causes her to over react to things you or I might consider minor.  It’s difficult to learn math and spelling when you’re in the middle of a war zone!
 Some things to watch for:
·         Kitty is often uncomfortable admitting she doesn’t understand something or is overwhelmed.
Tip:  Minimize Distractions.  Break down tasks into manageable parts.  Check for understanding often.  Peer Buddy or peer tutor.
·         Kitty has great difficulty with being organized and turning things in. 
Tip:  Have her check her backpack (sometimes the item is there).  Give gentle reminder to use organizers
·         Kitty often perceives gentle teasing, constructive criticism, or even just a feeling of disapproval, as yelling, accusing, and threatening.  Teasing and gossip (both peers and adults), are tough for her.  She “dishes it” (we are working on this), but she can’t “take it.”  Kitty’s usual response to this at school is to dissociate (freeze, change the subject, or tattle – based on her interpretation of events). 
Tip:  Kitty responds best to caring structure.  If she doesn’t believe the person cares about her, she will attribute all sorts of negative motives to them (especially males).  At school she wants to please. 
·         Kitty can be both suicidal and aggressive.  Due to her attachment issues, the child you see at school is not the same one that lives with us, unless the stress is so extreme she cannot hide it.
Tip:  Please believe and support us when we tell you how Kitty is doing and notify us, Ms. P, and Behavior Program staff of any issues, unusual behaviors, or concerns.
·         If Kitty’s speech or laughter sounds loud and pressured, she appears agitated, is overly sensitive, or she is popping her knuckles – she is very distressed and overwhelmed.
Tip:  A calm, quiet space so she can emotionally regulate, and Behavior Program staff can take her to Ms V (school guidance counselor) who is learning Kitty’s calming techniques.  It is difficult for Kitty to recognize signs of stress
·         Kitty’s distress frequently exhibits as physical illness (nausea, stomach aches, tiredness, ear aches, headaches…).  This feels very real to her, and occasionally it is real. 
Tip:  Per her Crisis Plan, contact Behavior Program staff who will ask her to rate the pain on a scale of 1 to 10, with over 5 or 6 allowed to go to the nurse.    Calling me as needed is always fine
·         FYI, she has some bladder issues and may not be able to “hold it.”  I strongly recommend letting her use the restroom if she requests it.  We can keep a spare change of clothes at school if needed.
Please contact me for any and all issues with Kitty.  I need to be kept abreast of all situations, and I will do the same for you.  Yours in Partnership,    Mary Themom                   (###)###-####                        email@email.com

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Cognitive Issues

It's been really brought home to me the last few days how much Kitty struggles academically.  Ponito got Hubby's hand-me-down phone, so he gave Kitty his old iPod.  Kitty is LOVING it and we're going to have to set quite a few new rules to balance her new obsession.  She's also been a lot more manic lately, and I'm assuming they're related.

Kitty says she's just happier because she's able to communicate with her friends and bio family, but admits she's got low level anxiety too.  I'm worried about the communication with bio family.  Her grandmother can be a negative person and she is giving Kitty too much info about biomom again.  This stresses Kitty out a LOT.  What worries me the most is that even with the relatively low stress of the Summer, she is still struggling.

It is interesting to watch her use the thera-tappers in therapy.  She goes from bouncing off the walls and from topic to topic to relatively calm the second the tappers start (last week she literally sagged and practically fell asleep).  Today she bounced back much more quickly as soon as the tappers were turned off, but was still hypo-manic.  Something else to mention to the psychiatrist in a few weeks.

One big thing I've noticed since she started texting is how bad her spelling issues really are.  She's 17 and a junior in high school.  The school has assured me she's mostly on grade level (although this year she failed the Language Arts portion of the TAKS - state standardized testing).

A few words she's asked me to spell (and spelled really wrong when I asked her to try herself first):

Thursday
tear
certain

She asks me to spell a LOT of words.  I guess it's not all bad that she's texting; it's more practice spelling than she'd normally get, although it doesn't really seem to stick.

Couple other things she's asked me recently that have me worried:

K:  How long is this movie?
Me:  How many minutes does it say?

K: 116 minutes

Me: How many minutes are in an hour?

K: 60

Me: So how many hours is it?

K: Wait, let me get my calculator.




With a little bit of help she was able to get the right answer (1 hour and 56 minutes), but wasn't able to figure out that this was almost 2 hours.


She found out the local grocery store was without power from 6pm to 12:30am.  She wanted to know how many hours that was.  Even using her calculator and helping her work out that 30 minutes was 1/2 of an hour and therefore was .5... I still had to tell her to subtract 6 from 12.5 (she was going to add it)... and she still used the calculator.

She can't read a clock unless it's digital, but I have to admit, Bob says she can't either (but I'm pretty sure Bob is just being lazy).

She leaves out most of the descriptive words when she asks a question, and gets upset when we ask for more information.

"I want to see the movie with that guy."
"When are we going to that place?"
These questions and comments are rarely in context.  They pop out randomly.  She doesn't even see that there is no way I could understand what she's talking about.  Every now and then I am able to make the intuitive leap and get what she's talking about, but I still have to ask her to fill in the blanks so just maybe she'll "get it."

The good news is she's starting to recognize and reword with only one or two prompts when she is making "command statements."

"We're not going back there, ever."
"You're taking me to ____________."
"I need ___________.  You're getting it for me."  (with prompts she changes it to "I want ___________."   Someday we hope to get it changed to, "Someday I would like to have ___________.")

Monday, July 9, 2012

Texas Trauma Momma Retreat

"REVIVE to SURVIVE" 1st Annual Texas Trauma Momma Retreat September 19-22nd.


I'm so excited!  I'm all signed up to go to the first annual Texas Trauma Momma Retreat.  It's super small this year, but that will probably make it more fun.  The important part is being surrounded by other moms who "get it."   Even more fun is there will be another one in April and all of us going to this one get to do that one for free!  I just hope it doesn't fall on Kitty's b-day.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Chores

UH OH!

You left it out
MOM picked it up
She's got your stuff
You're out of LUCK
To get it back
Must do a CHORE
Again it is yours
Just like before

Saw this idea on Facebook and loved it.  We've already implemented it.

Kids have been busy, and I've been tired so I was late getting the Summer Chore chart going, but this great idea, and a friend coming to the house to visit for the first time, were the kick in the pants I needed.

Kitty and Ponito have already had one round with the Uh Oh bucket.  They both "chored out" at least one pair of shoes (yes, I made them do a chore for EACH shoe).  The rest of the stuff was mostly deemed unworthy of a chore, so will be heading to Goodwill.  Means I'm doing a little more picking up for now, but is definitely helping clean out the accumulated junk they don't need or want.
Update: For future reference this doesn't work with Bear and Kitty - for them it's out of sight out of mind and they don't have the ability to choose to do a chore, especially not well - it's too overwhelming for them).

Last Summer's chore chart worked really well, but I don't have as many kids this Summer, and one of them is Kitty, so I have a feeling the house isn't going to look very good!

Last Summer I listed all the daily chores on one big list and the kids put their initials by them as they were completed.  It paid only a quarter a chore, but you could do as many or as few as you wanted (actually I think there was a minimum of 2) so if you did most of them you could make about $20/week.  The only other motivator was that no one could go anywhere or do much of anything (especially play with anything electronic) until the day's chores were done.

Not sure how to handle that this Summer.  I did decide that Kitty's chores will not change.  She can do chores from the main list if she wants to, but mostly she has regular chores that are hers alone (feeding the dogs in the morning, putting up the dry dishes, wiping the kitchen counters, emptying the kitty litter...). She does better with the consistent structure of these. 

This of course leaves the burden of the chores on Ponito and I.  Not sure how I'm going to handle that yet.

Ponito has had a REALLY laid-back Summer.  Mostly hanging out watching movies with his girlfriend (under my supervision of course).  He's going to be miserable at Soccer Camp next week.  I've seen the schedule and they're going to be running his buttocks off from 7am to 9:30pm... and he has no buttocks to spare!  He was in fantastic shape at the end of the school year, but he's been lazing around ever since.  Oh well, he'll figure it out!


I PO'd

Hubby got a new phone, so he gave his old one to Ponito.  Which meant Ponito no longer needed his iPod which has internet access and can be used for texting.  After MUCH discussion, we decided to give it to Kitty.  She's been fairly stable this Summer, and while I expect that to change when school starts, I am hoping she will be a little bored of the whole thing by then.

In the meantime she's obsessed.

I need to establish and maintain some ground rules though, because she's done NOTHING without the stupid thing in her hand.  She's only had it two days and has spent most of that time isolated in her room.  Even when she had a friend over, they literally sat and played on her iPod for 5 hours!  The friend was a boy so they had to stay in sight, but we have a lot of options besides sitting staring at a little screen.  *sigh*


When all of her friends were busy today, she called her biograndmother (ex-wife of the biograndfather Bear is currently living with) and read her the jokes from an app.for over an hour!


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

Bear was supposed to be coming home from Oklahoma yesterday - just to pick up some stuff.  He said he'd be here this morning, but no Bear, and no phone call.  He's gone through yet another phone, so I don't have a phone number for him.  Hubby does though and tried to text him around 3pm, but no reply.

I'm guessing he also was hoping Hubby would give him all his scuba equipment, but the more expensive stuff like the BCD actually belong to a cousin who didn't mind if Bear used it.  When Hubby reminded Bear of that, Bear may have decided it wasn't worth coming by or maybe didn't even come to town.  Don't know.

Bear's 19th birthday is this month, and I think he's hoping Hubby will spring for some of the scuba equipment.  Bear claims he's working at a marina in Oklahoma and could use it.  Money is tight though, especially now that we no longer have Bear's adoption subsidy to help.  I may have to go back to work, whether Kitty can handle it or not.

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

Kitty is stressing about Bear's visit.  Especially because he said "WE" are coming by.  She's worried the other person will be their biograndfather (who Kitty hates because she thinks he's mean).  I think that it's extremely unlikely to be the Grandpa and told her so.  More likely it's the girlfriend Bear left behind here in Texas, but it could just be a random friend.

Kitty is also not happy that I told her she has to be here while Bear visits. She's finally fairly stable though, so I think it's a good idea.  Not that they'll mend their relationship any time soon (if ever), but it's good for her to have some continued contact, and better now than when school is going.

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

Bear has been talking about joining the Navy (the date he's applying keeps moving back).  Will be interesting to see if he can get in.  Of course he'll have to lie a lot about his mental health, plus if they give him any psych tests, it's extremely unlikely he'll pass.  Supposedly the military doesn't mess with dishonorable discharges for this anymore (they just discharge you), but it's something to worry about.

It's really too bad.  Bear probably would do well in the military (assuming he were taking his meds regularly).  He really benefits from the structure.


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

A little after 4pm we finally heard back from Bear.  He had some things "come up" so he's not coming this weekend after all.  Would have been nice to know.  He texted Hubby he would come next weekend, but Hubby let him know that wasn't convenient for us (Hubby will be taking Ponito to soccer camp on Saturday).  Bob's bday is in less than 2 weeks and we still need to decide which weekend she wants to celebrate.  She wants to have a slumber party so no date night for Hubby and I.  *pout*  Oh well, we're so blessed that we get these on a regular basis.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Books and Methods Review - Methods - Equine Therapy


Kitty started equine therapy recently.  It's an interesting therapy.  We've done some volunteer work with a place that does equine therapy for kids needing more occcupational-type therapy and it is excellent for kids who need physical and speech therapy.  Kids with autism seem to get a lot out of it too.  The kind of equine therapy Kitty is getting is different.  For one thing, she doesn't ride the horse most of the time, and this therapy is specifically designed for kids who are emotionally disturbed.

The special school that Kitty goes to works with this program about 1 or 2 times a month so Kitty had been out before, and had already chosen a horse with whom she wanted to work.  (Bear worked with them for years through the school and wanted to do rodeo with them a couple of years ago, but it's a 45 minute drive one way so I nixed that idea). 

The fun part was I got to pick a horse too!  I won't participate most of the time, but I will get to ride occasionally (I really miss riding).  Don't worry, I chose a big horse that can support my not so petite frame!  :)

The kids get to pick the horse they want to work with and can stay with that horse the entire time.  Kitty picked one that is not a riding horse, so I guess she'll have to pick another one for actual riding, which I think will be about every 3rd or 4th session.  

Will be interesting to see if equine therapy is helpful.  I definitely saw some corollaries between what they were doing with the horse and what we are working with Kitty, and believe me, Kitty was not happy when I pointed them out.  

The first session they let the horse go wherever it wanted to in the round pen (no halters or anything).  She was supposed to get it to allow her to groom it and get it to follow her around – with no treats or ties.  The equine therapist got my daughter to notice that the horse was protective of its dominant side with my daughter (some horses try to stay safe by keeping their dominant side free in case they need to strike out).  The therapist pointed out that we can’t follow the horse’s wishes and just ignore the part that the horse is trying to keep safe because if we can’t touch their feet or groom parts of their body then we certainly can’t ride them and they can’t be productive and useful which means they aren’t earning their keep and aren’t happy.

The equine therapist asked my daughter if she had a part of her body she protected and didn’t want anyone near.  She replied her back.  Of course I would have said her heart, but that wasn’t the way the question was phrased.  Although it was implied, the therapist didn’t directly state the connection between how the horse was protecting itself and how my daughter protects herself.  Maybe the therapist didn’t want to push it or maybe she assumed Kitty would make the connection herself.

Maybe it was wrong, but I decided in the car on the way home from therapy to go ahead and clearly state the connection and that this is why we don’t give my daughter her way when it comes to leaving her alone and ignoring the parts of her that she wants to keep safe.  She didn’t say much, but she clearly didn’t like the idea that we might be right in how and why we parent the way we do.

Another thing I found interesting was how you get the horse to come to you and follow you around.  Some of it made sense.  We'd been taught at the equine therapy place where I worked that horses are pack animals and if you walk like you're a pack leader and know where you're going, then they will just naturally follow you.  Getting the horse to come to her though was counter intuitive.  Basically she was to stand off to one side and kind of behind the horse (out of it's line of sight), facing the horse and enthusiastically try to call it to her.  Words don't work with horses, so she was to use her will and movements.

That made sense, but what wasn't intuitive was how you rewarded the horse for first looking at you, and eventually coming to you... you turn away and "release" it from the discomfort/ pressure of your focus.  So she'd call and clap her hands on her thighs and make clicking noises until the horse looked around, and then turn with her back to it.  It worked.  She got the horse to come to her and follow her around the round pen, but definitely didn't have a good corollary in attachment therapy! 

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

Since Kitty's stated goal for after high school graduation is to be a preschool teacher, I decided to arrange for her to do an unpaid "internship" with a friend of mine who runs a home daycare.  At first the friend said just a couple of days a week, but Kitty has been so helpful that she's said Kitty can come any time she wants.  The friend was watching a neighbor's children too while their mom was painting a room in the house, and now the mom wants Kitty to come work as a Mother's Helper.

Kitty loves it, and seems to do very well with it.  My friend loves having her there.  I have frequently reminded my friend that Kitty should never be left alone with the kids (not that my friend can't ever leave the room, but that she shouldn't leave Kitty in charge for extended periods of time), because Kitty has said some things that concern me (she gets upset if she feels a child is being picked on or treated unfairly and I'm concerned what she would do to protect that child - some of the things she's said she wants to do to the "offending" child(ren) are very inappropriate).  

It's been a total blessing to have Kitty happy and supervised for 3 to 4 hours a day.  At home things are going OK, but Kitty is definitely regressing a little emotionally (or maybe it's just more obvious now that she's not as depressed and angry ALL the time).  I took her for an assessment with a new place for intensive outpatient therapy and he commented on her immaturity.  That's rare.  Usually no one seems to notice. 

I'm still worried about what's going to happen when school starts and Bob comes home from Grandma's for good, but for now we're in an OK place.