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

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Holiday (aka Traumaversaries) Trauma Tips - Updated

Holiday (aka Traumaversaries) Trauma Tips 

Between scary creatures and a sugar rush on Halloween, the start of many schedule changes with Daylight Savings Time, family gatherings on Thanksgiving stirring up feelings about family members not present (including bio), and feeling judged to see if you’re naughty or nice… there is no shortage of potential trauma and upset during the holiday season.  For parents of children with trauma and special needs, this holiday season can create significant disruption and spark some serious trouble.

Around here we usually hold our breath in October and don’t exhale until January,” says Barbara Streett, a parent of one special needs child, 10, and two neurotypical kids, 7 and 5, respectively.  “If it’s not one thing at this time of year, it’s most definitely another.”

This is a great article about why our children act the way they do on holidays. The following is a paraphrased excerpt from this article:
WHY: Adopted children have been abandoned causing deep shame and feelings of being unlovable and unworthiness of anything good. This has nothing to do with the reality that they are now in a safe, loving family. So they sabotage to gain control of what they know will be inevitable disappointment and if they trigger us into anger then it just validates their beliefs. 
WHY: "Big Days trigger Big Feelings. No matter the extreme (good or bad), it is all INTENSE and triggering." 
WHY: Holidays rarely have routine or structure and they are full of expectations and surprises (what is in the package? did she get something better than me? will I get what I desperately want? can I handle that?). The stress is overwhelming and scary! Children react to feeling unsafe by going in to fight/ flight or freeze mode (meltdowns, shut downs, attempting to totally control the situation which is impossible...). 
 WHY: "Big Days are a reminder of what should have been but wasn’t, all that was lost, all that will never be."
  • Limit the "runway." Downplay the hype and discussions of  expectations as much as possible. Avoid things like decorating for Christmas as long as possible. Not letting a child know you are leaving for a trip until the day before or even the day of prevents them angsting over it and sabotaging it.
  • KISS - Keep it simple! Keep things as lowkey as possible, don't make elaborate plans, instead schedule lots of downtime and avoid overwhelming/ overstimulating situations whenever possible (like shopping or parties). 
  • "We cast simple, manageable vision for Big Days: this is what we’ll do, this is who will be there, this is what we won’t be doing, this is about how long it will last."
  • Use calming techniques when you see a child getting overwhelmed or ramping up. 
  • Acknowledge and talk about the child's "Big Feelings." "We assure them that whether they get a handle on it or not, they could not possibly make us love them less, and if the worst thing that happens is they have a bad day, then no big deal."
  • Remember that we as parents are human too! "We’ll just keep working, keep trying, keep loving, and keep forgiving ourselves when it all goes sideways. You are not alone, know that.
Christine Moers says one of the most important things to remember, "YOU CAN'T LOSE CHRISTMAS!"
 "Trauma has jacked with the brains of our kids. In a stressful moment/week/season they get stuck in a part of their brain that was meant to only be visited on occasion, in extreme circumstances. Our kids also find themselves regressed emotionally and developmentally in those times. They can be, quite literally, a three-year-old in a 12-year-old body. 
Imagine a three year old kicking and biting and hitting two days before Christmas. Throwing toys and scratching up the family dining room set. Having a massive tantrum. Would we take Christmas away? Nope. That's crazy talk. A three year old cannot understand the magnitude of what they're doing when they feel out of control. We would redirect in the moment. When they are calm, we would reconnect with them and give them an opportunity to do the same. That is how we heal and guide young children. Our kids need the exact same thing. There is a reason they do these crazy things that are just so beyond description. They are camped in a part of their brain that wanted to kick them out long ago. 
Family celebrations and holidays are an opportunity to imprint into their minds and hearts: you are a part of this family. Period. Finito. You can never lose that. "
The challenges associated with holidays like Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s can be overwhelming for a family with special needs, but with preparation and awareness of the individual family member’s needs it can be done!

A few minor tweaks to holiday rituals can go a long way.
  • Instead of big family gatherings with lots of expectations, try downsizing!
  • Instead of big family gatherings, try spacing out visits with one or two relatives at a time.  Have some quiet activities for the child in case they become overwhelmed.
  • Try to stick closely to your child’s usual schedule - regular nap time, bedtime and meal times are important! 
  • If you are visiting, try sending family members a letter beforehand with some suggestions about how to make the child feel most comfortable (See appendix for sample letter.)
  • Set up a safe place in the house for your child to go if he or she just wants to be alone.  Stock this place with a few soft toys, a quiet activity or two and some books, maybe an MP3 player filled with soothing music.

    If you decide to travel, here’s a few tips: 
  • Take electronic gadgets AND the chargers.  There are inexpensive converters that can be plugged into your car allowing you to charge items that normally plug into the wall or even USB.
  • A personal DVD player or laptop stocked with movies and/or games.
  • Pack a personal back pack for child with new dollar store items, include a few favorite toys, pencils, snacks etc.  
  • A bag with new or rarely used items – like travel games and snacks, that can be introduced at various intervals throughout the trip.
  • Small heavy blanket, for sensory kids.
  • Travel pillow and soft toy/lovey.
  • Headphones.
  • Ask flight attendants and hotel about accommodation’s available to make your trip a family success.
  • Plan for frequent stops to move around (look for places with playgrounds).  Think about traveling at night, but if you travel during the day, try to stick as closely as possible to routines – especially mealtimes and bedtime.
  • Medications.
  • Visual pencil box for travel and helping child understand sequence of events.  These are simple pictures, stored in a pencil box, with Velcro dots on each picture.  The box has 3-4 Velcro dots (the soft side of the Velcro) on the outside.  Pictures are placed on the box so the child understands the order of activities.  For example: a suitcase (to show packing), a car, food (to show will eat lunch), then a picture of the destination (ex. Grandma’s).
  • Think about putting your child in respite and going without him/her! Just be sure it's not treated as a punishment for the child (it can be a low-key fun time with a family friend or relative). Trips can be just too overwhelming for some kids and can ruin the experience for everyone else.  "Re-entry" (coming back from time away from your child) can be super hard, but if it gives you some respite and a chance to recharge then most trauma mamas agree the re-entry meltdowns are worth it.

Remember, every child is different, and there is no flow chart for how this works.  The overarching goal: Be flexible, and remember that no tradition is more important than the comfort and happiness of your kids.

Holidays are supposed to be special times for the whole family.  Most of us grow up expecting them to be memorable and fun.  When we have children, we experience these dreams and expectations even more acutely.  It’s perfectly natural, then, to experience an emotional roller coaster when presented with the challenge of navigating holidays with a child with special needs.  One key to managing this inevitably frustrating situation is learning to let go.  Set realistic expectations and be flexible.

You have to be willing to modify certain traditions, or forget them all together,” says Barbara Streett, parent of a child with autism. “What you want or envision may not be the best thing for your child, so you have to change your plan accordingly.”

  • Holidays are about the kids, but a successful holiday doesn’t have to look like a Norman Rockwell painting to make the kids happy.
  • Remind yourself that it’s OK to let go of certain traditions that just won’t work… for now.
  • Allow yourself to be frustrated and anxious; there’s no shame in that.  When you feel frustrations welling up, take a step back and focus on what you’re doing.
  • Frequently remind your child that there is nothing they can do to lose Christmas.  This is frequently such a source of anxiety for children that they sabotage it rather than take that chance.  In the long run this “naughty” behavior will usually stop as the anxiety decreases.
  • Remember what your child’s “currency” is and use that to interact with him or her.
  • Streett is careful to add that especially at holiday time, the definition of a family meal should also be flexible.  “If your child doesn’t want to eat with everybody else, that needs to be OK; if the child needs to take a break, let him go,” she says. “The sooner you stop fighting the fact that these kinds of traditions must be set in stone, the more enjoyable the holiday will be.”
  • If your child tends to destroy gifts (very common when they don’t feel they deserve gifts or for now aren’t able to accept what they mean).  Try inexpensive gifts from the dollar store. The bigger the better.

At our house (2 siblings adopted as teens from foster care and 2 neurotypical biochildren), we realized our children were overwhelmed by the holidays so we started simplifying things with some new traditions:

Halloween - Children of trauma can be both attracted and triggered by the gore and scary fantasy associated with Halloween (not to mention the sugar rush!).  I love Halloween, but my kids just couldn't handle it.  We chose to turn off the porch light and have a small family Halloween party.  We ordered pizza and soda (a special treat), and I bought each child a bag of their favorite kind of snack size candy that was just for them (explained as, "This way you don't get a bunch of stuff you didn't like!"), made Halloween shaped sugar cookies they could decorate themselves, and watched a non-triggering Halloween movie (usually the "made for TV" Disney movies).  As they got a little better about handling the holiday, we left the porch light on and the kids took turns handing out treats to the little Trick or Treaters.  When they hit their tweens and young teens we dressed up and did a quick trick or treating walk of the block as a family.  They were allowed to have one or two friends join us afterward for a small Halloween party.  By their late teens they were told they were "too old" for Trick or Treating, and we went back to having a small party and handing out treats.

Our Christmas Traditions  For us, Christmas is very low key. We have traditions which seems to help anxiety levels, because the kids know what is coming next (helps them feel safer).
Jesus' birthday cake

Jesus’ Birthday party – To alleviate some of the building of stress and anxiety of waiting for Christmas and change the focus from the gifts, we celebrate Jesus’ birth on Christmas Eve with a birthday cake and Jesus gifts, which are similar to New Year’s Eve resolutions (everyone writes on a piece of paper what they are going to give Jesus this year, usually something we think he would want us to do – like spend more time with the family or give more time to those less fortunate.  Each person can choose to read theirs aloud and then we put the paper on the tree. Then we read last year’s gifts and see how we did. Afterward we all eat birthday cake (helps my antsy ones sit through this, knowing there's cake when it's done!).

Christmas Eve presents -  Before bed we open our Christmas Eve gift - usually a pair of PJs, and a book or stuffed toy – depending on the child’s age.  This helps the younger children wait (and makes sure everyone looks nice for pictures in the morning!

Three Gifts - A few years ago we decided to start only giving 3 gifts to the kids on Christmas morning. (It was good enough for Jesus!). It has helped me out in many ways (the kids are not quite as fond of it).  Usually at least two of the three gifts that the children get are “themed” gifts. So it’s more than one item in the package.  The cost of the gift seems to be largely unimportant – the most envied (meltdown inducing) gift was a box of highlights that one daughter got and the other (RAD) daughter didn’t.
Taken some of the focus off of gifts and put it back on the “reason for the season.”
Reduced some of the pressure to get the exact same number and equivalent gifts for each of my 4 children (I remember my sisters and I counting gifts on Christmas Eve – cost wasn’t as important).
Decreased the clutter. My adopted children can’t handle too much stuff in their rooms or lives.
Reduced the cost! Christmas is expensive enough with 4 kids.
Made shopping easier. It’s HARD to find presents for teenage boys (assuming that like us you do not want to buy expensive electronic stuff he’s only going to break or lose anyway and/or can’t handle).
Less wrapping!
Less time sitting watching everyone open presents (better for my kids with ADHD).

Scarlet Claus
Santa - My biokids (7 and 10) still believed in Santa when the older kids (11 and 13) came in to our home the month before Christmas. We made it very clear to all the kids that if they said they didn't believe in Santa then Santa wouldn't bring them presents. My insistence that Santa is real (HE IS!) caused some issues with Kitty, because she decided that made me a liar). Santa used to bring the best present, but we changed that approach when we realized we didn't want him getting all the credit! We wanted the kids to know that we were supplying the gifts that said, "We know you, we love you and we are giving you these things because we want to show you how we feel." Santa still brought stocking gifts (although the kids knew we added to those), but he started bringing "family presents" - gifts for the whole family to enjoy rather than for each child. Over the years, Santa has brought, a dog (a red husky named Scarlet Claus), a big screen TV, a Wii, a Clearplay DVD player with a bunch of movies they hadn't previously been allowed to watch...

Helpful websites:
Top Toys for children with special needs: - Model Me Kids® videos demonstrate social skills by modeling peer behavior at school, on a playdate, at a birthday party, on the playground, at a library, at the dentist, restaurant, and more. Designed as a teaching tool for children, adolescents, and teenagers with Autism, Asperger Syndrome, and developmental delays, the videos are used by teachers, parents, and therapists. Real children model each skill.

Sample Holiday Visit Letter – Adapted from article –
Holiday Survival Guide for Parents with Special Needs

Dear Family and Friends:

We look forward to seeing everyone for the holidays. I can’t wait to see everyone and celebrate
together. Before we gather this year, I would like to share with you about ______________ and let you know how you can support him and our family.

My son is loving, kind, and very affectionate. He loves to talk about his siblings, ______________
and ______________, and camping. He likes to play Candyland, Legos, and with his iPod.
He also has (attachment disorder/ autism/ sensory integration disorder...).

Holidays are a time of year that ______________ looks forward to. However, the extended
family and friends, decorations, and festive noises that the holiday brings can be frightening
and/or overwhelming for him. They also cause him anxiety because there are so many new things
happening that are different from his routine.  He is hypervigilant about new situations, and it reminds him of traumatic things from his past.  Please understand that this is not about his feelings about you or me.

______________ may need a quiet place to retreat to take in everything presented to him in this new and different environment.  Please have a quiet room available for ______________ so that he can have time to himself to process everything. This room should be off limits to everyone but ______________ and me (mom). ______________ is used to routine and all these changes can cause anxiety. Once ______________ can regroup, he may be OK to return. However, if something changes, we may need to leave suddenly.   Also, although we love being with family, we will need to leave at __pm to allow ____________ to stick as closely to his normal bedtime routine as possible.  Please support us in this.  It is very necessary to his well being.

______________  or I may appear bossy and controlling. This is to help him cope. ___________ needs structure, and often things have to be done in a way he is familiar with or else he may get stressed and frustrated. This does not mean you have to change the way you are doing things--just please be patient with ______________, and look to me (mom) to redirect this behavior.

People with (attachment disorder/trauma/ autism/ sensory integration disorder...) often have certain behaviors to help themselves feel more comfortable and safe. ______________  is not trying to be disruptive or defiant; he is doing this to regulate himself in his surroundings. Please be respectful of these behaviors and look to me (mom) on how to handle this.

_____________ often needs to get up and walk around (maybe even go to his quiet room) to regulate himself.   I ask that you not give this a lot of attention and continue eating and conversing.

Please do not be critical of mine or my husband’s parenting skills. Remember that ____________ needs to be watched more closely than most children are his age. Like all parents, we do our best but are not perfect. Holidays are filled with new sights, sounds, and smells packed into a busy and often frantic household with a big tree plopped down in the middle of it. It is very hard work to incorporate (attachment disorder/trauma/ autism/ sensory integration disorder...) into this. I said it was hard – but it can be done. We have been doing this for ____ years, and although it is not perfect, it works for us.

We are excited to share this holiday experience with you and look forward to seeing you,

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Response to an Anonymous Comment

"How can Kitty even be expected to attach to you when you spend so much time disparaging her? Didn't you once blog that your husband curses at her and calls her names? How is that in any way "theraputic"?
Every idea Kitty has, you shoot down and mock.
You constantly talk about Kitty's mental age but I don't know any actual good parents treat ten year olds the way you treat Kitty, typical or otherwise.
How is what you do attachment parenting?
I've been reading your blog for years and the way you depict it, your home seems quite unsafe for Kitty.
Your depiction makes it seem that you are forcing yourself on her to no avail whatsoever with little to no positive results. Isn't that the definition of insanity?
Your "Fair Club" seems UNfair and not based in any kind of science or reality, especially when it is only used sporadically at your own whim.
People feel sorry for Kitty because like it or not, your description of your parenting appears abusive, infrequent and unsafe.
All I can think is that Kitty must spend much of her life bewildered and frightened, a prisoner of your slap-dash, unbalanced "parenting". Your blog is a testament to that."

Wow, this was a particularly harsh comment.  I will address each part:

"How can Kitty even be expected to attach to you when you spend so much time disparaging her?"
-- I certainly don't spend all my time disparaging her!  This blog is my place to vent. I do speak up if it will effect her future (like choosing classes that won't help her with her future), but other than that I keep my opinions to myself around Kitty.

"Didn't you once blog that your husband curses at her and calls her names? How is that in any way "theraputic"?"
--No, I didn't blog that.  You must be thinking of someone else.  Over the years my husband may have said something not very nice to her a few times, and he's not always totally empathetic, but would never curse at her and call her names!  We rarely curse or call each other names in this household.

"Every idea Kitty has, you shoot down and mock."
-- I do get frustrated with Kitty's unrealistic expectations, and that's what I talk about a lot on here, but if it makes a difference, I don't mock her to her face.

"You constantly talk about Kitty's mental age but I don't know any actual good parents treat ten year olds the way you treat Kitty, typical or otherwise."
-- First of all, Kitty is 10 in a lot of ways, but definitely not in all ways, and one of the most important ways she's different is that she is a "child of trauma."  I try to parent her where she is, and I use the age "10" as a starting point, but the truth is I can never parent her like I would a typical 10yo.  Talking about her emotional age is more about helping me remember that she's not really 18 and remembering to parent her accordingly.
The main thing is therapeutic parenting is very different than "regular" parenting.  It's not intuitive.  I doesn't look like "good parenting,"  It is what my kids need.  Yes, I make mistakes.  There is no Dummy's Guide on how to parent Kitty or kids like her.  If you know of a book or resource that tells me how to be a "good parent" to her then I'd be happy to read it.  I'm doing the best I can.

"How is what you do attachment parenting?"
-- Kitty is attached now, although because of her history probably still "anxiously."  I don't really do attachment parenting anymore, just therapeutic parenting.  If you want a good description of therapeutic parenting check out Christine Moers' DVD - Chaos to Healing:  Therapeutic Parenting 101, Katharine LeslieDaniel Hughes, Denise Best, the Beyond Consequences books

"I've been reading your blog for years and the way you depict it, your home seems quite unsafe for Kitty."
-- I guess I don't express myself in my blog as well as I'd hoped.  My home is not unsafe for Kitty, or any of my children.  If my posts come across that way then it's because I'm not making it clear that most of my blog is venting and letting other parents going through similar issues know that there is no such thing as "perfect parenting" (and to share resources).  If you're really worried then try to comfort yourself with the fact that I have access to amazing, experienced therapeutic parents and lots of resources, and that Kitty (and therefore myself) is under the direct supervision of her therapist, psychiatrist, a special school for emotionally disturbed children...

"Your depiction makes it seem that you are forcing yourself on her to no avail whatsoever with little to no positive results. Isn't that the definition of insanity?"
-- Yes, that is the definition of insanity; however, I believe the only alternative is to give up on her, and I'm not OK with that.  I have to have hope.

"Your "Fair Club" seems UNfair and not based in any kind of science or reality, especially when it is only used sporadically at your own whim."
-- The FAIR Club is a combination of the many different parenting methods I've used and/or read about over the years.  It is designed to be used with both my neurotypical and not neurotypical kids.  It is definitely not perfect and probably time to update it, but I've never found any other discipline method that worked any better.  I've never claimed it would work for every child or parent, and often when people ask me how to use it, after asking lots of questions about their child, most of the time, we find that their child is developmentally too young or don't have the cognitive abilities to be able to use it completely.  Like every other parenting method, I hope that parents take what works for them and leave the rest.
We don't really use the FAIR Club anymore.  Not because it doesn't work, not because it's at my "whim," but because my kids haven't needed it.  Kitty lives a version of it daily because she needs the structure and support.  The other kids, Ponito and Bob rarely require much discipline anymore.  Coincidentally, we actually used the FAIR Club for the first time in years with Ponito earlier this week (post coming).

"People feel sorry for Kitty because like it or not, your description of your parenting appears abusive, infrequent and unsafe.
All I can think is that Kitty must spend much of her life bewildered and frightened, a prisoner of your slap-dash, unbalanced "parenting". Your blog is a testament to that."
-- Kitty came to us "bewildered and frightened" 7 years ago, imprisoned in a scary world she didn't make and had no control over.  Obviously this couldn't have had anything to do with my parenting, since I was not her parent.  Over the years we have worked hard to become the parents Kitty needs and to help her find new ways to cope and trust, and we're working on helping her accept her limitations (denying that she has any means that she feels it's her fault when she fails) and find ways to work around them.
I think the fact that she's attached to us and trusts us to the best of her ability, that she finally has access to and control of her feelings (physical and emotional), has processed some of her trauma, is properly diagnosed and medicated, has been out of the hospital and residential treatment and been stable for almost 2 years, is graduating high school, has maintained a job (even if I don't think it's the right one for her), no longer hates her siblings and grandparents - hasn't called them evil in years, rarely threatens violence or vengeance on others, rarely has meltdowns for that matter - even when asked to do chores which used to be a huge trigger for her!, will accept hugs from me and actually cares how I feel...
          ................ I think all that is a "testament" to my parenting and her hard work.  You can think I'm a bad parent, but you're wrong.
All I can say is that you don't live in my home, and this blog contains only what I intermittently choose to share here (which admittedly hasn't been much lately).  You'll have to take my word for it that I parent to the best of my ability and that's pretty darn good if I do say so myself.  This is not an easy path and Kitty has a LOT of issues that make her very difficult to parent 24/7, but she's come a really long way.  Maybe that's in spite of my parenting, and maybe there is someone out there who could do a better job of it, but I'm Kitty's mom and they aren't here.

"This sounds like a way for you to get your hands on Kitty's SS money.
Honestly, how do you live with yourself?"
Yes, we would be taking the majority of Kitty's SSI money.
1. If we didn't she would lose! her SSI benefits, because she can't accumulate more than a miniscule amount. Rent is a legitimate expense for SSI.
2. We're not rich. I haven't been able to work for many years because the kids need so much supervision, and when Kitty graduates high school she'll need even more supervision, because she won't be working. We need her income to contribute to the family. If/when she moves out either I'll go back to work, or we'll move to a smaller house.
3. We fully intend to save some of this money for her so that eventually she can use it to pay deposits and such if she ends up living on her own, or for "extras" if she ends up living in an assisted living situation.

"How do you live with yourself?" I'm fine with myself, because I know your judgment is inaccurate.

If you want to share your name and share your blog (or write one) about what an amazing parent you are to your kids who I assume are exactly like mine, then I'd be very happy to read it and respect any constructive criticism you may offer; however, until and unless you are walking in my shoes then please don't criticize me or presume to judge what makes me a good or bad parent.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Common Comment Response


I wanted to address one of the comments I receive a lot.

"If I was Kitty I would want to move out to get away from you.

Yes, what you see on my blog does appear controlling and restrictive.  There's several reasons for that:

  • I think people are projecting their own feelings or experiences on my children.  Yes, as adults or older teens being treated like a child would be demeaning and feel controlling.  I remember how I felt as teen, ready to get out on my own and try new things.  My mom was pretty strict and protective, and I wanted to rebel from that.  I lived in a big city and I look back now and realize how much my mom's rules protected me.  I had so many friends who got raped, pregnant, dropped out of school...  That being said, I did rebel against some of the rules, and I dealt with the consequences - which luckily weren't too severe.  I think how I parent 17yo Bob and even 14yo Ponito (which I don't talk about much on this blog, since it's not about neurotypical teens), shows that I can parent teens well.  HOWEVER!!!  Kitty is NOT an older teen!!
  • Kitty is at best age 10.  Yes, she gets jealous of the privileges her neurotypical siblings have, what little sister doesn't?   This doesn't mean those privileges are right for her.  RAD behaviors and teenage rebellion/ independence LOOK alike but they are NOT.  Kitty will not be moving out, because 10 year olds expect to have this kind of structure and support.  She may not always like it, but deep down she knows we love her and she doesn't want to leave, just like any other young child.  It is not appropriate or in Kitty or Bear's best interest to parent them like I would a child of their chronological age.   
  • I've been burned before.  I do base some of my responses on our prior experiences.  Honestly, we bowed to pressure a lot with Bear and gave him more freedom than he could handle, and he felt abandoned because of it!   He NEEDS structure and support and when we didn't provide it, he assumed it was because we didn't want to, instead of realizing it meant we were trusting him!  I think he was afraid to admit that he needed the structure and love, so he found ways to force us to give it to him!  I have become more structured, because I know it's what is needed and I'm learning to trust my instincts.
  • I know I tend to overplan and overthink things.  {I also tend to use more words than less!  ;) }  I like to have at least an outline of a plan, which I really am OK with changing.   I try to use this blog (and other resources) as a sounding board.  This blog is often where I experiment and "talk things through" before implementing them.  Although it usually hurts {a LOT} to hear, you guys give me some good feedback, and I listen. Sometimes I change my mind, sometimes I tweak things, and other times I stick with my first instinct. 

Senior Year IEP Results

Before the IEP meeting, we met with Kitty's special school principal and a teacher whose job it is to work on transitions.  Honestly it was the usual joke.  What do you want to be when you grow up?  Where do you want to live?  What do you need (in the 6 months left of school) to reach those goals?

Kitty's answers:  She thinks she wants to take a year off before starting junior college to travel.  She wants to become a flight attendant for awhile so she can travel, but she refused {as much as she will refuse any adult that's not us} to research the job requirements.  She'll stay at home while she goes to college, but eventually she wants to get married and have children.  She wants to continue working at GAC.

The special school principal did mention to her that she might be staying at GAC, because she doesn't like change.  He reinforced that it's a good idea to stay at home for awhile, and stated they will be helping her research the job requirements for being a flight attendant.

The main thing he said is that us making Kitty quit GAC would not get her what we were looking for - which was for the school to find a new job for her.  The vocational program would just drop her.  At the meeting, it was agreed that Kitty would work with her vocational teacher to try to get afternoon hours at GAC, but if not, then the school would fill the time with electives.  After having time to think about it, I'm hoping that she doesn't get the afternoon hours so she can try to get a little more out of these last 6 months of school.  She has the rest of her life to work.  I wanted her to try something new, and since she won't...

So nothing has really changed, except for some reason Hubby mentioned letting her start looking into getting her learner's permit.  That's ALL she got from the meeting.

The actual IEP meeting was a rubber stamp.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Kitty came home from school very proud of herself because she had "worked everything out" with her VAC teacher and the principal of the special school.  She had arranged to keep her current job at the GAC and the VAC teacher agreed to "try" to find her an afternoon volunteer job (even though that isn't her job), but if she couldn't, then Kitty would be given electives to fill the time slots so she wasn't coming home early.

*sigh*  Knowing that as usual Kitty had heard what she'd wanted to hear the day before, I went ahead and asked Kitty why she'd made this arrangement when it wasn't what we'd talked about.  She insisted (LOUDLY) that my only complaint about next semester's schedule was that she'd be home alone (possibly with Bear) so her solution "solved everything."

Working with someone with such a distorted perception of reality is SOOOO hard!

We continued the "discussion" at therapy.  The therapist correctly pointed out that we were trying to give Kitty facts and logical arguments when Kitty wasn't operating in her logical brain.  The problem is that MOST of the time Kitty is in survival brain. I get that, but what the heck are we supposed to do when what she WANTS  and what she NEEDS are the same in her mind.  When she instinctually responds to everything, and it's usually an automatic "NO!"

I would LOVE to be the nurturer, the one saying, "Poor Baby, is that mean old world being nasty to you?  Don't worry, Mommy loves you and she'll try to make it all better!"

The reality is that children need immunizations, they have to go to school and do homework, and they can't have cheesecake and ice cream for every meal.  Normally you can palm off most of the "blame" on the doctors and school boards... even nutritionists. Instead, I'm the only one who gives a crap about what happens to my child long-term.  No one else is willing to be the "bad guy" who gives my child consequences, to take the difficult task of teaching her the skills and techniques she needs for real life,  and give reality checks/ tell her like it is, that I can be the "nurturing protector." Instead, everyone else gets to have that job!  She has a 100 people getting to give her warm fuzzies, telling her the world is full of sunshine, lollipops and rainbows, and she can do anything... leaving me with the crappy job of having to force her to face the real world so she'll at least try to gain the skills and knowledge she'll need to have a life in the real world.

With most kids you can introduce reality in small doses; natural consequences helps them figure things out on their own; others gently (or not so gently) let them know that a career as a rock singer is unlikely because they can't carry a tune to save their lives; they have poor science grades, and so realize that neurosurgery might not be a good choice...  Subtlety and natural consequences don't work with Bear and Kitty.  They see the world  through a distorted perspective - They are told they are totally normal and their warped view of the world is constantly being reinforced by others (the few people who disagree with their version of reality are "mean" and trying to make the child mad or kill their dreams), add to that Kitty's emotional reactivity, distorted perception of reality, oppositional defiance, intimate relationship issues, mix in the fact that we're running out of time to access services...  I don't feel we have the luxury of letting her live in this fantasy world.

I feel like we often made this mistake with Bear - letting him believe what he wanted to believe (that he could and would do ANYthing).  That's all great, but without someone hitting him over the head with reality so he would accept some practical help... he ended up with a lot of unattainable and broken dreams and his reality check came with years in prison and a criminal record for life.


After a lot of tears, yelling and even a threat to move out (first one in years!)... Kitty finally heard something she wanted to hear - a "compromise" she could live with.

This time we wrote down the compromises we'd agreed to so that she wouldn't remember it incorrectly:
  • She needs a job some time between 2:30 and 6:30pm every weekday except Tuesday (when she has therapy).
  • She can work one weekend shift (Friday evening OR Saturday - not both!)
  • We (meaning the therapist, Hubby and I) PREFER a new job with new skills like keyboarding (although I'm sure Kitty only agreed to this because she knew it was a deal breaker not to)
  • IF the school can't find her another job, she can work DAY shifts at GAC.
  • She would research the requirements for becoming a flight attendant (her current employment goal)
My theory is that she'll only remember that we said she could work at GAC.

The therapist also had her agree that I could write:
  • That she will spend more time downstairs with the family (versus isolating in her room)
  • She will increase her time with Mom and Dad individually (going shopping with mom, eating out with dad...)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Anti-climactic Moment

Kitty has an IEP meeting on Friday, so I planned to discuss the Basic Plan vs Family Plan during her Tuesday therapy session.  She meets with her new psychiatrist (old one quit) on Wednesday and I thought it would be good for her to see Kitty in an agitated state (if Kitty was going to be), because Kitty presents well and most people don't believe me or all the documentation in the face of that.  I didn't want to deal with telling her that we weren’t going to support her working at GAC (Giant Amusement Center) during the IEP meeting.  I wanted a chanced to process it with her in therapy, since she hasn’t been willing to listen to my concerns before now.

Last week I gave Kitty’s special school principal a heads up that we were going to need to talk about job changes at the IEP meeting (among other things).  Don’t know why it didn’t occur to me, but unfortunately the school decided to discuss our decision to stop supporting her working at GAC on MONDAY.   She came home upset that I’d e-mailed her teachers against her wishes again.  We reviewed some of my concerns (focusing on the stress and anxiety that the GAC job produces, her isolating and shutting down and refusing to be part of the family) and she actually took it rather well.

Here's the points we covered that we will need to repeatedly remind her she agreed to:

  • We talked to her about the shutting down/ freeze/ isolating behavior she’s been increasingly showing, and her repeated statements that she’s not willing to deal with any issues or be part of the family because she’s not willing to take any chances about going back to the psych hospital.  She tried to deny that she’s been sleeping or isolating all day, and said she’d been out of her room more, but I pointed out that appears to be only because she lost her iPod on Saturday (and the novelty of having her Netflixs account on the TV - which she decided to do after losing her iPod).
  • She agreed to go along with us telling the school that we would no longer be willing to take her to GAC so that the school would look for another job for her that would start during the school day.
  • If the school was unable/unwilling to find her another job, she agreed to continue to work at The Book Store so that she isn’t coming home mid-day (because we are not comfortable with her being home alone unsupervised for long periods of time if I find a job and/or Bear ends up moving home).
  • Although I feel the stress would be too much for her and I’m unhappy that she will continue to miss so much family time, we did agree that if she went along with telling the school that she needed a new job, and she wanted to secretly continue to work at GAC, we would let her continue to work there. I HATE this, because I feel nothing will change, if she keeps this stupid job.

Not exactly what I hoped for, because I was really hoping to trigger a commitment from her to be a "family girl," but probably the best we were going to get under the circumstances. I did talk to her about the Basic plan vs Family plan, but left out a lot (mentioned it being a CHOICE to be part of the family and that family privileges included chauffering and cable TV).

I didn't even bring up the Boarder Agreement - honestly I never wanted that to be seen as a punishment, so this is better.  Now we can use it as a tool when she graduates high school.  Someone commented that it seemed like a document that was well over her head, and I agree!  The reality is that ALL legal documents are over her head, and yet as an adult she will be expected to sign them (the main reason we needed to get legal guardianship).  That's why she has given me Power of Attorney; she trusts me to explain documents to her and work in her best interest (kind of ironic!).  If Bear moves home, we'll have him fill out the Boarder Agreement as well.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Boarder Agreement


This Agreement is between__Mary & Hubby Themom_(OWNERS) and _Kitty Themom__ (RESIDENT) for the rental of a room located at __123 Bogus Lane, City, TX #####_.

The monthly rent is $__550__, payable on or before the __10th__ day of every month beginning upon graduation from high school.  Prior to graduation, all other terms in this agreement are applicable.
A security deposit of $__900__, including Last Month’s Rent, paid on __________________ (date).

The premises shall be considered vacated only after all areas including storage areas are clear of all RESIDENT'S belongings, and keys and other property furnished for RESIDENT'S use are returned to OWNER. Should the RESIDENT hold over beyond the termination date or fail to vacate all possessions on or before the termination date, RESIDENT shall be liable for additional rent and damages which may include damages due to OWNER'S loss of prospective new renters.

  1. SECURITY DEPOSIT:  After graduation from high school, an additional $100 will be added  to each months’ rent until the security deposit (which includes the last month’s rent) is paid in full (9 months).  This shall secure compliance with the terms and conditions of this agreement and shall be refunded to RESIDENT within 21 days after the premises have been completely vacated less any amount necessary to pay OWNERS; a) any unpaid rent, b) cleaning costs, c) key replacement costs, d) cost for repair of damages to premises and/or common areas above ordinary wear and tear, and e) any other amount legally allowable under the terms of this agreement. A written accounting of said charges shall be presented to RESIDENT within _21_ days of move-out. If deposits do not cover such costs and damages, the RESIDENT shall immediately pay said additional costs for damages to OWNERS. 
  2. LATE CHARGE: A late fee of $_50_, (not to exceed _10_% of the monthly rent), shall be added and due for any payment of rent made after the __10th__ day of the month. Any dishonored check shall be treated as unpaid rent, and subject to an additional fee of $_25__. 
  3. PREMISES MAINTENANCE:  RESIDENT shall maintain room and common areas in a safe, organized, clean and sanitary condition.  (See Premise Maintenance Agreement)  All residents have equal rights to use common areas (family room, front room, game room, dining room, kitchen, hallways, bathrooms, laundry areas, and agree to respect the rights of other residents in such areas. 
  4. RESPECT:  RESIDENT will respect other’s feelings and rights and as such will be respectful and pleasant to be around to other residents of the premises and their guests.
  5. PRIVACY:  Other than in emergency situations (which include protection of RESIDENT’S health and safety, suspected unlawful activity or violation of the Morality Clause, and/or prevention of property damage) OWNERS will only enter room upon verbal consent of RESIDENT.
  6. RIGHT OF ENTRY AND INSPECTION: OWNERS reserves the right to enter, for the purpose of purpose of inspection, establishment of order, repairs, maintenance, inventory correction, and/or in case of emergency or suspected abandonment. OWNERS shall give 24 hours advance notice and may enter for the purpose of showing the premises to prospective renters, caseworkers/ social workers, for smoke alarm inspections, extermination, cleaning, and/or for normal inspections and repairs. OWNERS are permitted to make all alterations, repairs and maintenance that in OWNER'S judgment are necessary to perform.  RESIDENT may not deny access to OWNERS or authorized contractors attempting to exercise the OWNER’s rights or perform the OWNERS’ obligations. 
  7. LOSS/ THEFT/ DAMAGE:  OWNERS shall not be liable for any damages to or loss of personal property in the common areas, outdoor areas, room, or garage/ storage facilities. RESIDENT is strongly advised to secure belongings and consider arranging for insurance coverage of personal property.  Use of furniture, equipment, fixtures, food/ consumables, personal items not belonging to the RESIDENT, and services not specifically deemed for common use will be considered theft and is forbidden.  Removal of common area or common use furniture, equipment, fixtures, or other property is forbidden. Violators will be fined $50 per day for each item in their possession and/or for replacement of item.  RESIDENT is liable for all damage that is caused to the room(s) or any furniture/furnishing/ fixture therein. RESIDENT is liable for the cost of repairing damage to the room(s) and building.  
  8. INSURANCE: RESIDENT acknowledges that OWNERS’ insurance does not cover personal property damage caused by fire, theft, rain, war, acts of God, acts of others, and/or any other causes, nor shall OWNER be held liable for such losses. RESIDENT is hereby advised to obtain his/her own insurance policy to cover any personal losses. 
  9. GUESTS:   RESIDENT’S privilege to have guests is subject to the following limitations:  a) Guest(s) staying overnight without the written consent of OWNERS (requested at minimum 24 hours in advance) shall be considered a breach of this agreement. b) Guest visiting hours are between 10am and 8pm – it is strongly encouraged that RESIDENT request permission from OWNERS prior to the guest(s)’ arrival and that OWNERS be on the premises when guests are visiting.c) RESIDENT may not pressure or force other household members to tolerate the presence of a guest; d) The presence of guests must not restrict the free access of legitimate household members to all common spaces and to any private space they may have or create any situation that infringes on the right of roommates to remain undisturbed; e) The presence of a guest may not exceed 24 consecutive hours without prior written request a minimum of 24 hours in advance.f) Guests of opposite gender to RESIDENT or who have expressed a preference for same-sex relationships must remain only in common areas, never in private spaces. 
  10. PETS: No animal, fowl, fish, reptile, and/or pet of any kind shall be kept on or about the premises, for any amount of time, without obtaining the prior written consent and meeting the requirements of the OWNERS. Such consent if granted, shall be revocable at OWNERS’ option upon giving a 10 day written notice or immediately if there is any abuse or neglect of the animal or the animal is, or becomes, aggressive, disruptive or destructive,  or any members of the household have, or develop, an issue with the animal. In the event permission is granted to have a pet and/or animal of any kind, an additional deposit in the amount of $_________ shall be required along with additional monthly rent of $_______ along with the signing of OWNER'S Pet Agreement.
  11. PARKING: When and if RESIDENT is assigned a parking area/space on OWNERS’ property, the parking area/space shall be used exclusively for parking of passenger automobiles and/or those approved vehicles RESIDENT is hereby assigned or permitted to park only in the following area or space __driveway spot farthest from the front door_. The parking fee for this space (is $________ monthly).  Said space shall not be used for the washing, painting, or repair of vehicles. No other parking space shall be used by RESIDENT or RESIDENT'S guest(s). RESIDENT is responsible for oil leaks and other vehicle discharges for which RESIDENT shall be charged for cleaning if deemed necessary by OWNER. 
  12. HOA: RESIDENT agrees to comply with all rules and regulations set forth by the Home Owner’s Association.
  13. COMMON AREAS/ CURFEW/ NOISE: Without prior agreement, common areas are only to be used between the hours of 7am to 9pm.  RESIDENT agrees not to cause or allow any noise or activity on the premises which might disturb the peace and quiet of another RESIDENT and/or neighbor. Said noise and/or activity shall be a breach of this agreement. 
  14. DESTRUCTION OF PREMISES: If the premises become totally or partially destroyed during the term of this Agreement so that RESIDENT'S use is seriously impaired, OWNERS or RESIDENT may terminate this Agreement immediately. 
  15. CONDITION OF PREMISES: RESIDENT acknowledges that he has examined the premises and that said premises, all furnishings, fixtures, furniture, plumbing, heating, electrical facilities, all items listed on the attached Property Condition checklist, if any, and/or all other items provided by OWNERS are all clean, and in good satisfactory condition except as may be indicated elsewhere in this Agreement. RESIDENT agrees to keep the premises and all items in good order and good condition and to immediately pay for costs to repair and/or replace any portion of the above damaged by RESIDENT, his guests and/or invitees, except as provided by law. At the termination of this Agreement, all of above items in this provision shall be returned to OWNERS in clean and good condition except for reasonable wear and tear and the premises shall be free of all personal property and trash not belonging to OWNERS. It is agreed that all dirt, holes, tears, burns, and stains of any size or amount in the carpets/flooring, drapes, walls, fixtures, and/or any other part of the premises, do not constitute reasonable wear and tear. 
  16. HOUSE RULES: RESIDENT shall comply with all house rules as stated on separate addendum, but which are deemed part of this rental agreement, and a violation of any of the house rules is considered a breach of this agreement. 
  17. FIGHTING:  Threats or acts of bodily harm are prohibited.
  18. ASSIGNMENT: RESIDENT agrees not to transfer, assign or sublet the premises or any part thereof. 
  19. ALCOHOL/ DRUGS:  In Texas, the possession and/or use of alcohol by persons under 21 years of age is prohibited. Distribution of alcohol by sale or gift to persons under 21 years of age is forbidden. RESIDENT is held accountable for what occurs in the room(s) and is therefore expected to comply with state law in the use of distribution of alcohol. Alcohol may not be consumed in the public areas. Kegs, regardless of contents or amount, are prohibited on premises.   Failure to comply means RESIDENT is subject to immediate termination of the Boarder Agreement, removal from the premises, as well a disciplinary or judicial action and criminal prosecution.
  20. THERAPEUTIC TREATMENT AND PRESCRIPTION MEDICATION:  RESIDENT agrees to attend recommended therapeutic treatment and take prescribed medication (as prescribed).  Failure to comply means RESIDENT is subject to immediate termination of the Boarder Agreement.
  21. MORALITY/ PORNOGRAPHY:  Inappropriate activities and materials such as pornography and media (games, movies, music, magazines…) designed for older teens or adults must be kept out of common areas and other residents of the premises must not be exposed to these materials.   Failure to comply means RESIDENT is subject to immediate termination of the Boarder Agreement, removal from the premises, as well a disciplinary or judicial action and criminal prosecution.
  22. FIREARMS/ DANGEROUS WEAPONS - Possession, storage or use of firearms or dangerous weapons are prohibited and subject to immediate termination of the Boarder Agreement, removal from the premises, as well as disciplinary or judicial action and criminal prosecution.
  23. PARTIAL INVALIDITY: Nothing contained in this Agreement shall be construed as waiving any of the OWNERS’ or RESIDENT'S rights under the law. If any part of this Agreement shall be in conflict with the law, that part shall be void to the extent that it is in conflict, but shall not invalidate this Agreement nor shall it affect the validity or enforceability of any other provision of this Agreement. 
  24. NO WAIVER: OWNERS’ acceptance of rent with knowledge of any default by RESIDENT or waiver by OWNERS of any breach of any term of this Agreement shall not constitute a waiver of subsequent breaches. Failure to require compliance or to exercise any right shall not be constituted as a waiver by OWNERS of said term, condition, and/or right, and shall not affect the validity or enforceability of any provision of this Agreement. 
  25. MEDIATION/ ATTORNEY FEES: If any legal action or proceedings be brought by either party of this Agreement, the prevailing party shall be reimbursed for all reasonable attorney's/mediator’s fees and costs in addition to other damages awarded. 
  26. REPORT TO CREDIT/TENANT AGENCIES: You are hereby notified that a nonpayment, late payment or breach of any of the terms of this rental agreement may be submitted/reported to a credit and/or tenant reporting agency, and may create a negative credit record on your credit report. 
  27. NOTICES: All notices to RESIDENT shall be served at RESIDENT'S premises and all notices to OWNERS shall be served at __123 Bogus Lane_. 
  28. CHANGES TO THIS AGREEMENT:  With 30 days written notice to Tenant, OWNERS may raise the rent, alter the terms of the agreement, or terminate the tenancy; 60 days written notice will be given to terminate the tenancy if RESIDENT has resided on the premises for at least one (1) year. Conversely, the RESIDENT MUST give OWNERS 30 days written notice of intent to quit the premises.
OWNERS agree to provide the following:

Electricity/ Gas
Sewer/ Water
Telephone (local)
Trash Removal/ Recycling
Food /Consumables – See Meal Plan
Transportation to therapy and medical appointments

Negotiated Separately:
Chauffer/ Chaperone services – including to work and to go out with friends
Eating out/ Snack food/ Take out/ Special meals
Vacations/ Parties/ Special Events
WiFi/ Network/ Cable
TV/ Electronics/ Appliances
OWNERS and RESIDENT agree to honor the following House Rules and any additional written Rules attached:
By initialing as provided, RESIDENT acknowledges the receipt of the following documents (copies of which are attached hereto) and are incorporated herein by reference:
______ House Rules           ______ Inventory & Condition Report
______ Furniture Inventory & Condition Report   ______ Repair / Replacement Agreement
______ Maintenance Request Form         ______ Inventory of Personal Property
______ Premise Maintenance Agreement         ______ Other: ______________________
______ I understand that I am entering into a legally binding agreement with landlord(s). I also understand that I, as an individual, am responsible to the landlords, the utility companies, and other tenants of the home.
The undersigned have read the foregoing Lease prior to execution & acknowledge receipt of a copy.
Dated this ____ day of ________________, of the year __________
RESIDENT Signature:
 ___________________________________________________ ___________________ Date
 OWNERS’s Signature:
 ___________________________________________________ ___________________ Date

KEYS AND ADDENDUMS: RESIDENT acknowledges receipt of the following which shall be deemed part of this Agreement: (Please check)

___ Keys #of keys and purposes ___________________________________________
___ House Rules ___ Pet Agreement ___ Other ________________________________

ENTIRE AGREEMENT: This Agreement constitutes the entire Agreement between OWNERS and RESIDENT.

No oral agreements have been entered into, and all modifications or notices shall be in writing to be valid.
RECEIPT OF AGREEMENT: The undersigned RESIDENT has read and understood this Agreement and hereby acknowledge receipt of a copy of this Rental Agreement.

RESIDENT'S Signature ___________________________________________________
OWNERS’ Signature ____________________________________________

Friday, November 15, 2013

Basic Package vs Luxury Package - Edited

Kitty has decided her coping strategy of choice is Freeze.  She's been isolating and sleeping to deal with the overwhelm mode that she is stuck in.  I'd prefer she is faced with having to change coping strategies, or even having a breakdown, now, rather than later when she's even more deeply entrenched in her current "coping" strategies.  Plus, status quo SUCKS!!!

This is why I decided that I want to risk overwhelm with Kitty now while she's still in school and has the support and services in place.   A meltdown could help her access more services too.  If we can demonstrate that she is struggling with life now, it will help demonstrably show how much she would struggle with living independently and working full-time. Add in relationships and possibly young children...

Plus we are going to have to start all over with a new psychiatrist and DARS case manager (both of whom have quit in the last couple of weeks. New people always have to be convinced that the child they see on paper is the same child they see in their office.  My kids really present well, especially Kitty who "Acts In" instead of "Acting Out," plus she has a high verbal IQ, and her processing issues don't show as much in a one on one situation.

As you know, I love me some Katharine Leslie, and I've decided to adapt her "Basic Package" vs "Luxury Package" for my sweet child who has informed me that she refuses to be part of this family because it might send her back to the psych hospitals.  The good news is this will hopefully force the issue with Kitty, while at the same time looking like we're helping her be independent (at the same time proving that she's not actually capable of handling independence).

The hardest part for me, as I write these documents (will post more over the next few days), is that I've already made the decision in my own head that we're going forward with this - we just haven't told her yet.  So I'm even more frustrated and irritated by her behavior.  We'll be presenting Kitty with her options next week in therapy.


"The Basic Package"
If you choose the “Basic Package”, we will provide a "structure and rehabilitation" environment (vs. "love and affection" environment).  This means we will meet your basic needs for food (anything beyond basic food will need to be purchased with your own money, and you will be expected to help prepare and clean up meals and snacks), shelter and case management.  We will provide affection (hugs, kisses, loving words) in response to your showing of affection, but only if it's appropriate (for example -  not if you kiss me on the back of the head, from behind the couch, after ignoring me all day or being nasty to me less than an hour before).

This doesn’t mean we no longer love you; 
it just means we will stop making the first move or tolerating hurtful behavior!!

This will be a “give and take” relationship.  You may no longer take more than you give.  Privileges must be earned – mostly through positive relationship behaviors (not chores or being “good”).  You will be given many opportunities to show your caring and loving nature, and can move to being a “family girl” when you’re ready!  You will be expected to be RRHAFTBA (Respectful, Responsible, Honest, positive Attitude, and Fun To Be Around)
You are choosing to no longer be part of the family.  Since you will still live in our home, this means you will need to sign the Boarder Agreement.  You will no longer be expected to do “family chores,” nor will you be able to participate in family meals or activities without prior negotiation.  The names "Mom" and "Dad" are loving nicknames.  You can call us Mother and Father or Ms. Mary and Mr. Hubby.

"The Family Plan" 
The Basic package plus "family perks.”
Family Perks - All the things that children don't need but come out of the goodness of a parent’s heart
Chauffer/ Chaperone services – including to work and to go out with friends
Eating out/ Snack food/ Take out/ Special meals
Gifts, clothing, items, shopping – more than the basic.
Vacations/ Parties/ Special Events
WiFi/ Network/ Cable
TV/ Electronics/ Appliances.
To qualify for the family plan, you need to be RRHAFTBALL (Respectful, Responsible, Honest, positive Attitude, Fun To Be Around, Loving, and Learning) and become a “family girl” with family-friendly behaviors and satisfy parental needs in some ways, most of the time.  It cannot be earned or forced; it is a feeling and a CHOICE.


Edited to add:  I did NOT give Kitty this document, for several reasons (see this post and this post).  I do feel better for having written it, and it has helped me clarify my thoughts and feelings.  I have given her a verbal watered-down version.  I'm not sure what we're going to do, but Kitty's therapist and I have agreed that based on all that's going on, this is too harsh and would be counter-productive at this time.  It may come up in the future though, for any of my children who need to understand the difference between Rights and Family Privileges.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Kitty's Senior year IEP meeting

Wow!  After the conferences I went to this weekend (future posts I promise!), I came home charged up with an unwillingness to tolerate status quo any longer.  Hubby and I both agree that Kitty's decision, that the only way to handle feeling overwhelmed, stressed and anxious by her life was to shut down and "freeze" at home and in therapy, is not acceptable.  His solution has been to spend an hour with her in her room (where she's been hiding with her iPod 95% of the time).  My solution is to give her an ultimatum - she has to choose the "basic plan" and be basically a boarder in our home (which means respectful of us, responsible for herself and maintaining her environment, and NO more family privileges- like access to free WiFi) or she can choose to be a "family girl."  (future post will show the documents I've devised).

Kitty has an IEP meeting next week.  This will determine what she'll be doing her final semester of high school, and transition plans (high school to real world).  I wrote this e-mail to the principal of her special school (she splits her time between the regular high school and a special school for kids who are "emotionally disturbed), in the hopes that he can use his pull to work behind the scenes and get some of the things the school district have fought us on. 

Hi {principal of Kitty's special school},

I have a few concerns I wanted to mention before Kittys’s IEP meeting on the 22nd.

  1. Immediate Health Concern:  Are you aware that Kitty does not eat lunch on B days because she doesn’t want to face the cafeteria?  Instead she comes home and gorges on the packaged food and candy that she gets from {special school} in addition to the food she would normally eat for afternoon snack.  Lately she’s been trying to skip dinner (although I usually have her eat a small portion) – I assume because she’s full from the sheer amount of food she eats at 5pm, but also because she’s trying to lose weight quickly.  We’ve discussed healthy eating a lot over the years, but she still thinks that because the pretzels/crackers are whole grain or it’s frozen yogurt versus ice cream, she can eat a huge portion or even the whole box.  I’d like to discuss having a tray brought to her or finding another way to get her meals.
  2. Transition Planning:  If someone could have some information available about Kitty’s options after graduation that would be helpful.  Currently we are planning on having her live at home and work part time while she takes a remedial class or two at {local community college}, but we’d like information about options like {local assisted living group homes for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities} or some place more appropriate.  I recently discovered that Kitty may qualify for the DADS program (the IQ cut off is 75 not 70 and Kitty’s full scale IQ is 74) and if someone could help us navigate this system that would be greatly appreciated.  Once again I’d like to mention that we’re very interested in the Super Senior program {students graduate with their class, but continue to attend the vocational program through the school} for Kitty.  We’re also interested in having a last FIE {Full Individualized Evaluation - school's version of an academic psych eval} done as well.
  3. OUR BIGGEST CONCERN:  Kitty is currently at her MAXimum stress level with school, work and family, and it has caused severe traumatic emotional debilitation (I realize that you may not be aware of this issue, as Kitty has always been able to hide her issues from the public – even when she was in and out of psych hospitals every other week for suicidal ideation and the psychiatrists were recommending she be homebound until residential treatment was secured, she was able to keep the school from seeing the majority of her struggles).   She has stated several times that due to her need to people please, she has chosen to sacrifice her relationships with the family and progress in therapy because she believes (most likely correctly) that any more stress/anxiety from ANY source will push her over the edge and she will end up back in the psych hospital.  

Currently when she is not shut down and isolating herself, she is lashing out and unable to handle even minor upsets without a major reaction.  Obviously we consider work and school to be important, but Kitty’s emotional/mental health must be a higher priority and she cannot learn and grow when she is overwhelmed and in her “trauma brain.”  Plus, there is a strong possibility that Kitty’s brother will be returning to the home from prison in a few months – an additional cause of stress for Kitty.  We agree that to prevent an emotional breakdown and return to the emotional stability that Kitty needs to function and heal, that stress/ anxiety needs to be lessened in some areas of Kitty’s life.

Obviously there is little we can do about the stress of school and family; therefore, we feel that Kitty needs a less stressful job that doesn’t activate her auditory processing issues (loud, chaotic environment), doesn’t trigger her trauma issues (alcohol, illicit behaviors, and social anxieties), doesn’t continuously overtax her skills and abilities (she feels devastated by her “failures,” every time she makes mistakes and needs assistance – which since her tolerance level is so low right now feels overwhelmingly frequent), and doesn’t occur during family time (Friday and Saturday evenings - she works 5-9pm Friday and Saturday only).
We realize that Kitty dislikes (is afraid of!) change, and she has learned a lot from her time at {Giant Amusement Center -GAC}, but we believe it is in her best interest, despite her current objection,  to have a job more suited to her aptitude and abilities, that will challenge her without incapacitating her.  We also realize that she finds her current volunteer work at The Book Store “boring” and unchallenging.  We appreciate that you have encouraged her not to quit – at least until the semester is over.

We know that next semester Kitty will have even more electives (due to the completion of Economics and Government).  She has mentioned she’d like to take a Nutrition class at {special school}.  Our concern is that the school will propose again that she come home at 2:30 each day (or earlier).  I know you appreciate why Kitty should not just get out of school early each day (she needs supervision and I may not be available, if her brother is home she absolutely cannot handle being alone with him, she WANTS a job or classes where she can be active and learning needed vocational and living skills…)

We are optimistic that you and the VAC {school's vocation} program will find a job that meets Kitty’s needs, whether it is a paid position or not.  I know there are a lot of small businesses around {special school} that she might do well at – including a florist and many food places.  I regret that we have to “force your hand” by no longer being willing and able to transport Kitty to GAC on Friday and Saturday evenings after this semester ends.  If you are unable to find another job that can get her on the bus in time to go home, Hubby and I are willing to pick her up from work (on school days), as long as she is done by 6:30pm (she has therapy on Tuesdays, so we have to leave our home no later than 5:00pm).  We are OK with her working the occasional Saturday with the same stipulation that she be done by 6:30pm.

Thanks for reading this huge e-mail!  Sorry it’s so long, but I wanted you to understand our concerns.  As always, please contact me with any questions or concerns!

Thank you,

Mary Themom
cell:  (###) ###-####

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bear "Pulled chains"

I'm learning so many new terms and concepts.

Bear "pulled chains" yesterday.  That means that he is finally on his way to prison.  He'd hoped not to go until his sentence was almost over so that he may not have to go at all or for only a short period of time.

He'll go to "A&R" first.
"Inmates with felony convictions and sentenced by the courts to the Department of Corrections are received by the Assessment and Reception Center (A&R), which handles ALL the inmates in the state.  Normally, there are over 1,600 inmates in county jails awaiting transfer for initial assessment {which explains why he's only just now going to prison even though he was sentenced over 5 months ago}.
The Department of Corrections’ philosophy is that inmate re-entry begins at entry.  As such, inmates serving 100 years or less undergo a complete needs assessment to determine what treatment the inmate requires to reduce their probability of recidivism.  Case Plans are established utilizing objective assessments; to determine the need for substance abuse treatment, cognitive behavioral programs, education, vocational training, sex offender treatment, etc.  {This is when Bear's mental illness will hopefully be re-diagnosed and he'll get back on meds}.  Inmates are also classified to Maximum, Medium, or Minimum security. The inmate’s custody level is determined utilizing the most serious current offense, seriousness of previous offenses; escape risk, number of prior convictions, and additional risk factors.  Placement of inmates at facilities is made to meet the department’s mission of protecting the public, staff and inmates."

Bear had one of his friends contact us from the jail, because he'll be incommunicado for awhile.  I'd just sent him a letter with a check (we pay for his hygiene and things like mail needs) so no idea how or when he'll get that.  Ooh, that reminds me, I hope Hubby hadn't just added to the collect call account.  :(

Bear recently asked us to send him a coat since this year is supposed to be colder than last year, but don't know if he can still get that in prison.  His family in Oklahoma is no longer visiting him so they won't be bringing him one (no idea what's happened to the many coats he already owned).  I was just thinking I'd buy him something cheap on eBay and have it shipped straight there (since shipping was going to be the most expensive part).

No idea how long he'll be in prison.  At this point, he could be home as early as March or maybe next August or even later.   He is considered to have committed a non-violent crime and there is lots of over-crowding in the prison system.  He is very confused about how much of his sentence he'll need to serve, and since we get our information from him, we have no idea either.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Job Corp

FYI, Gary Job Corp will not accept Bear because he's a convicted felon.  Gotta figure out a Plan B.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Posted by a friend of mine:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the children I cannot change,
the courage to help change the ones I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

Something I'm still working on!

Kitty remains stable, but during a recent minor meltdown I learned a few things.

One, at one point Kitty yelled at me for not calming her down.  I remember thinking, "How ridiculous!  She's 18.  She's stable.  It shouldn't be my job to calm her down... oh wait.  It is.  I took a deep breath, stuffed down my anger and frustration, hitched up my big girl panties, and calmed her down.  Changed the subject, distracted, and moved on.  Nothing was resolved, but it wasn't going to be anyway.

We officially processed the meltdown a couple of days later in therapy, where she made the second point clearer:

Two, she's deathly afraid of emotions leading her back to being unstable.  This is why she's been isolating more and more.  She's trying to turn off her emotions.  This is a terrifying life or death feeling for her.

Three, she blames me for trying to drag her back to the family and not allowing her to shut herself off.  I'm the evil witch who is trying to force her to be unstable.  No, it's not rational.

And therapy continues...

Kitty is doing great in school, as usual.  She attends a couple of classes at the regular school, including one mostly mainstream math class.  Most of the rest of the time she's at the special school for kids who are emotionally disturbed where she gets a lot of positive feedback as a Merit student (she has the major advantage on not having to overcome acting out behaviors like the majority of the other students).  She has one period every other school day where she is supposed to be at work.  Since the job the school found her is only on Friday and Saturday night, I found her an unpaid job at a neighborhood book store.  She can walk to it during the last period on A days, work for an hour and be back in time to catch the bus home.

She is bored with the part-time book store job.  They have her shelving books for the whole hour (the horror!).  She told me she was going to get her case manager to tell them she quit.  I asked her if she'd told them she'd like to do something else at least part of the time... of course not.  She reminded me that I had relayed a heads up (I'd had a conversation with the book store owner early on in the placement) that the job could be boring at first, but if she hung in there they would trust her with more.  She's decided she can't "hang in there."  I let her know that I understand how hard it is for her to ask for things and stand up for herself, but she needs to at least ASK for a change before she quits.  I also told her that if she still decides to quit she needs to do the right thing and give them 2 weeks notice.  When I asked her what she planned to do during that hour (since the school can't change her schedule until mid-semester and I do NOT want her coming home almost 2 hours earlier with nothing to do and potentially no supervision if I ever get a job), she said a teacher at the special school had a class she could jump in to, but she doesn't need school credit.  She needs job experience.  Need to write to her principal tomorrow.

Bear is still in jail.  It's expected that he will go to prison in about 5 months (don't ask me to explain what's taking so long, I don't get it at all!).  He's still off his meds, but thinks he'll get to see a doctor any day now (of course he's been saying this for over a year).  It changes often, but currently he thinks he might be released about a week after going to prison.

He's told us that he believes someone will come to our home to ensure that it is appropriate for him while he's on probation (no drugs or weapons), but he doesn't think he'll be here long -- just long enough to get a job and a place of his own.  *sigh*  He doesn't understand things like deposits, getting a job as a convicted felon, transportation...

I haven't told the girls yet that plans have changed and he might be coming home before they graduate.  I know they won't be happy.  Kitty has stated several times that she won't live here if he is here.  More therapy work, but honestly, this is a relationship that she really needs to deal with, so I think this is for the best.  Not that I was expecting her to be out of the house before he got home anyway.  Kitty is probably not going to be ready to be independent for a long, long time.

Not sure how we'll get the bathroom finished.  It looks worse now than shown here, because we have now removed all the old tile so it's open to the studs.  We haven't figured out where the money is coming from (I'm still unemployed), and we thought we had more time.  Bear cannot share our bathroom, both because of his history of theft and sheer logistics (6 people sharing one bathroom would be insane - especially since several of them take impossibly long times in the bathroom).

Bob is getting ready to go to college.  She's writing essays, getting recommendations, getting phone calls and letters from recruiters... it's not all she talks about, but apparently it feels like it to Kitty.  Kitty uses this as an excuse to avoid the family.  While I definitely try not to "rub it in Kitty's face," I refuse to avoid the topic.  Bob worked hard to get here, it's a BIG part of her life right now, and she deserves positive affirmation on the subject.

Ponito is not growing much and I'm a little worried.  At 14 he's only 5'4" and less than 100lbs.  Tall and skinny is normal for our family, refusing to eat is not (OK, it was for all the anorexics, but I'm really hoping that's not the issue here).  I'm worried he's stunting his growth and that this might be a sign of a serious problem.  It's hard to draw the line between encouraging him to have a healthy, filling diet and pushing him hard enough to cause an eating disorder (if he doesn't already have one).  He is under a doctor's care, but she doesn't know what's wrong at this point.  Kitty of course doesn't get why he's encouraged to eat calorie heavy snacks when she's not allowed.  Food is such a trauma trigger for her.

Future Kids - negotiations with Hubby are on hold now.  I was hoping to have a child(ren) in our home before Christmas so adoptions would be final before Bear was released (he'd told us it would be 10 months to a year before his release) to avoid complications with the adoption agency, but obviously that's not possible if he'll be home in 5 months, so we'll have to decide if we still want to adopt after Bear moves out again.

Hubby and I will be celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary in March.  Every year for Christmas pictures we get all dressed - usually in evening gowns if the girls can outvote the boys.  Last year I made their dresses to put in my design book and demonstrate my ability to make prom dresses.  It didn't get me any extra sewing business.  This year I want to wear a wedding dress for my anniversary, and if I'm going to all that trouble, I might as well make it for Christmas pictures, right?  Which means for the girls too.  Which means I have to make 3 evening gowns in the next 3 weeks.  Which means I'm a little overwhelmed so I'm procrastinating.  :(

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Current Med and Diagnoses Page.

I keep this one page document updated and with me at all times.  I also keep a copy in the front of the kids' 3 ring binders.  Their timelines are too detailed and long to keep printed out. I think of this as a summary.  

It's especially useful to have on hand when I need to fill out a health form for school, admittance forms for a psych hospital or residential treatment center, or new therapist or medical practitioner forms. It's also helpful to give to police officers and to child protective service workers (when we're reported for child abuse by a child who makes false allegations). I've even used it with a child's current provider as a refresher since they wouldn't have time to review my child's chart before an appointment, and that can greatly effect what they suggest/ prescribe. . 

It is amazing to me that people will usually believe information when it is in writing (doesn't seem to matter that I'm the one that wrote it!). If I verbally give the same information about my child, they often treat me like I'm overreacting, overemotional, overprotective, over controlling, have Munchhausen by Proxy...    
Another reason I like having this information in a document, is I don't have to repeat the information in front of my child, which can be a huge trigger for him/ her. 

Kitty Themom (K.) 8/8/13

Kitty Themom (K.) (birth name ___________ _________).  Born ##/##/##.  She is 18 and in 12th grade.  Placed for adoption in Themom home with her brother, Bear (B.) on 11/06.  K. is Caucasian and Native American (_________ – not a Federally-recognized tribe and K’s father is reported to be full Native American - tribe unknown).  Adoption finalized 3/08. 
_ISD School Diagnoses (4/8/13):  (07) Emotional Disturbance; (08) Specific Learning Disability - Basic Reading skill, Written Expression, Mathematics calculation, Mathematics problem solving; (09) Other Health Impaired
Diagnoses: Neuropsych assessment (04/17/12 – The Center -Residential Treatment Facility)
Axis I:  309.81  Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Chronic, by history
            296.80  Bipolar Disorder NOS, by history
            314.01  Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Combined Type, by history
            294.9    Cognitive Disorder NOS (deficits in processing speed, working memory,
executive functioning, and visual memory) - Cerebral Dysrhythmia (TBI) – right temporal lobe. - which controls memory, hearing, understanding language (receptive language), organization, and sequencing.
            995.54  Physical Abuse of Child, Victim, by history
            995.53  Sexual Abuse of Child, Victim, by history
            995.52  Neglect of Child, Victim, by history
            307.6    Enuresis, by history, resolved
Axis II:  799.99  Diagnosis Deferred (R/O Borderline Personality Disorder - Emerging)
Axis III:             Obesity
            327.3    Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder / Insomnia (diagnosed 4/13)
564.0   Constipation, chronic
                         Esophoria – an inward deviation of the eyes, particularly when tired
                           (diagnosed 5/12)
Axis IV:   Problems with primary support group
               Social Environment
Axis V:  GAF = 35-40 (4/17/12)
Mental Status Examination:  Mood: Stable | Thought Processes: Goal Directed   
                                                 Judgment: Significantly Impaired | Insight: Poor
K’s Emotional/ Social Developmental Age: approximately 6-10 years
   Previous diagnosis: 313.89 Reactive Attachment Disorder of Infancy or Early Childhood –                                                 not completely resolved.
11/16/2011 Neuropsych - ____ Center: 
Full Scale IQ -                                   ##       (4th %ile – Well Below Average),
Verbal Comprehension –             ##    (19th %ile – Below Average)
Perceptual Reasoning –                  ##      (25 %ile – Average)
Working Memory –                        ##       (3rd %ile – Well Below Average)
Processing Speed –                      ##      (1st %ile – Lower Extreme Range
7/26/12 Tested for Central Auditory Processing Disorder -scored within normal limits (better than 2 standard deviations below average for an adult - anyone >12 years of age) on 9 of the 11 MAPA subtests administered. She scored below (worse than) -2 SD on the Tap Test and SINCA (right ear) tests.  She is considered at risk for CAPD, but does not have it.  - All information must be presented shortly, simply and concretely in a calm, quiet, environment for Kitty to have maximum comprehension.  Kitty’s ability to handle stressful situations is low, particularly when aggravated by loud, chaotic environment, and she shuts down when overwhelmed. 

Current Psychotropic Meds:  T_____ 1800mg (mood stabilizer), S_____ XR 400mg (atypical antipsychotic), W____ XL 300mg, L____ 250 mg (mood stabilizer), I____ 4mg (regulator for ADHD), A____ 10mg (PRN sleep med), L____ 10mg (allergies).

---Page 2--- {I don't always include this page}

8/20/09 – 9/5/09  Neuropsych results from M RTC:  
P300 is absent.  (Means she has ADHD).
Cerebral dysrhythmia (brain damage/injury) in right temporal lobe.  {Temporal lobe controls your: Memory, Hearing, Organization and sequencing, Understanding language (receptive language).
Temporal lobe disorders: Exaggeration of emotions is sometimes seen with disorders of the temporal lobes.  Deep in the temporal lobes is the “limbic system,” a primitive system involved with emotions and memory (and to some extent sexuality).  Disorders here can turn anger into rage, sadness into suicidal depression, or anxiety into panic.  Electrical disorders in this area can result in atypical psychotic symptoms, inappropriate sexual behavior, and unusual fears.  Memory problems are common.  Temporal lobe patients are prone to “bad days” when their behavior is out of character.  They are unpredictable and may become depressed or explosive without provocation.
Right hemisphere disorders:The right hemisphere is important in visual spatial reasoning, visual memory, and organizational ability and pattern perception.  In addition, the right hemisphere is involved in the non-verbal aspects of communication such as facial expression, body language, gestures, and voice inflections.  Individuals who cannot express or comprehend such non verbal signals are at a social disadvantage.  Even with normal language, their lack of non-verbal signals makes their communication dull and ineffective.  If they cannot see patterns of social relationships or communicate effectively they may seem odd and be rejected by peers, resulting in problems that peak in adolescence.  Visual processing problems can produce learning impairments which impair schoolwork in math, science, and other visually learning classes. ~From Neuropsychiatry by Dan Matthew, M.D and Larry Fisher, Ph.D.