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, January 30, 2013

Finding the joy

A women on one of my support groups was talking about feeling overwhelmed to the point that she found herself having no patience for her child and yelling at him all the time.  She was no longer able to be a therapeutic parent like she used to be.  In my response to her I realized that things really have changed for me over the years, and I don't think it's just because Bear is out of the house and Kitty is stable.  I really am in a better place emotionally.

I totally get it.  When my kids first got here, I was empathetic, calm and patient with them- maybe TOO patient.  I stuffed things down, let it roll off my back, and GAVE and GAVE and GAVE... until there was nothing left.  I was so burned out and overwhelmed that we were all miserable.  Here's what helped me:

1.  Understanding why they act the way they do.  It helps me a lot to know that it's not personal or malicious.  It helped to understand that my son is a scared little boy acting out of fear.  A lot of times with my daughter I repeat my mantra, "She's only 6.  She's only 6.  She's only 6!" (Chronologically she's 17, but emotionally she's only 6).  The books Beyond Consequences, Katharine Leslie's books and seminars, Can This Child Be Saved, The Explosive Child, and Stop Walking on Egg Shells, really helped with this.

2.  Lower my expectations.  REALLY lower them.  Quit waiting for _______ to happen before I do _____________.   Stop expecting them to grow up and change, or be able to do all but the most basic of tasks.  I found I was mad at her for constantly demanding the privileges of a teen, but not being able to consistently do chores or other responsibilities.  I had to forgive her, and let her know that I will no longer be expecting her to meet typical teen responsibilities nor will I continuously justify why she doesn't get typical teen privileges.  It really helped to have the validation of others, and I sought it out constantly for a long time, before I finally felt OK about this path.

3. Redefine Success. Like many moms, success for my children meant college, finding a career they loved and that supported them in a lifestyle similar to what they have now, finding true love, getting married, living near me (but not with me!), having children... preferably in this order!  Basically living "happily ever after." When I realized that this was not the path Bear and Kitty were on, or even capable of, I grieved. A lot. The I took a deep breath and redefined success for each of my children individually.

  • Bear may never be capable of living in an unstructured environment and having a long-term relationship with anyone (employers, friends, girlfriends...), BUT he has found a structured environment that works for him (even though prison is not what I'd hoped for him), and he got there without violence.  He graduated from high school, and college would not be helpful to him with the lifestyle he needs to survive. 
  • Kitty may never be capable of living independently, but she is happy living with us and has the option of living with her biofamily if she chooses to try independence.  If she lives with biofamily then her SSI money will be enough that she can live mostly independently (something she can't afford to do where we live because the cost of living is much higher). As long as she has someone willing to help her she should be OK.
  • Bob and Ponito are on the path I dreamed of for all of my children, but if they step off of it that will be OK too.
4. Grieve. Give myself permission to grieve for the loss of the children I had dreamed about, planned for, and the lives they should have had. If you haven't read the story Welcome to Holland, I strongly suggest taking a minute and doing so.

5.  Therapy and meds.  I'm mildly bipolar and I've definitely suffered from PTSD.  I don't take meds all the time, but when I need to I take them.  I saw a therapist who specialized in trauma, and did some EMDR therapy to help with the PTSD.  Learning about my own issues, including my own attachment disorder, and accepting and dealing with them has helped a lot too.

6.  Date night/ respite with someone who "gets it."  We are incredibly blessed that my mom, who mostly "gets it," takes the kids overnight almost every Saturday night, keeping them through church the next day.  Honestly Hubby and I rarely do much more than rent a movie and go to bed together, but it's a chance to recharge our batteries and remember that eventually the children will grow up and leave home, but our marriage, and each other, will still be there, but only if we prioritize our relationship.

7.  Discovered my Love Language.  This was huge for me.  Knowing what I need (Words of Affirmation), made it possible for me to focus on getting it.  I tried to teach my family to give me what I need, and they do their best, but they are overwhelmed and of course some of them are RAD!  Hubby is the son of a "strong, silent type", I think my father-in-law said maybe a sentence a year to me, and while Hubby's not that bad, and is a really good listener, Words of Affirmation is definitely not his strong suit.  I went outside my overwhelmed family to get what I needed.  I went to the internet, wrote and read blogs, found support groups, went to seminars and trainings... I also helped and mentored others.  It made me feel good about myself, and they gave me the words of affirmation that I needed.

8.  Set limits.  Once I knew what I needed, I stopped giving so much that I had nothing left.  I’ve always been a rescuer, giving even beyond what I could afford to lose.   I had learned the hard way to stop doing it with others, but had felt that shouldn’t apply to children, especially MY children.   I soon found that the kids not only NEEDED the structure and boundaries I set by saying “No,” but they also did better with them – they felt safe which allowed them to trust enough to feel loved.  (I strongly recommend reading the book, Stop Walking on Eggshells!  The first half helped me with empathy, but the second half gave great practical advice in setting boundaries.)   "Saying "no" is not being negative.  Negative is saying "yes" to things that are destroying you."  

9. Find Support from people who "get it." You Are Not Alone!! I found a forum for those who had adopted special needs children and through that made friends in the blogging community (Life in the Grateful House and Welcome to My Brain), joined a local adoption support group (COAC), then BeTA (Beyond Trauma and Attachment), and finally FaceBook groups. Now I moderate a FB group called Moms of Attachment Challenged Children and try to help others. This is a good post reminding us that we are an AMAZING PARENT!

10.  Choose joy.  Every day I try to focus on the positives.  It's hard as heck, but it is important.  I vent, but limit it to a maximum of 3 vents, even less if I can.  I needed lots of validation that what I was doing was the right thing.  Over time I eventually began to believe it, and that makes me feel better about myself.  I look back at the Godincidences (like reviewing my blessings) that came out of what frequently seemed like tragedies at the time.  I try to focus on how many of these “tragedies” have made me a stronger, better person.  Most importantly I focus on the positives and Choose Joy , like the little old lady in the nursing home.

A 92-year-old, petite, poised and proud lady, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o'clock, with her hair fashionably coifed and makeup perfectly applied, even though she is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today. Her husband of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary.

After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready.

As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of her tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on her window. "I love it," she stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy. "Mrs. Jones, you haven't seen the room ... just wait." "That doesn't have anything to do with it," she replied.

"Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn't depend on how the furniture is arranged... it's how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It's a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do."

Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I'll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I've stored away ... just for this time in my life. Old age is like a bank account ... you withdraw from what you've put in. So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories.

Remember the five simple rules to be happy:
1. Free your heart from hatred.
2. Free your mind from worries.
3. Live simply.
4. Give more.
5. Expect less.
Not easy, but Wonderful Advice....for all of us.

An amazing post about not letting grief steal your days, and one way a woman keeps mourning about the lives her RAD children could/should have had from stealing the joy in her life.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Why do adopted kids go back to birth families?

On a support board, a lot of us adoptive moms are dealing with newly adult children who are going back to biofamily... with some pretty severe consequences as the children discover that most of the reasons they ended up needing adoption in the first place.  One of the ladies asked WHY the kids go back to birth family.  My situation is a little different in that my children were not removed from the home for abuse and/or neglect, but were placed in foster care by biomom, for a lot of reasons I choose not to go into here.  The reality is though that my kids still FEEL the same way that kids who have been removed feel - abandoned, unwanted and unlovable.

Here's my response to: Why Do Adopted Kids Go Back to Birth Families?

1.  The biggest is that they want to negate the rejection/ abandonment.  They don't want to believe that the family didn't want them, because that means the child is unworthy and unlovable.  Going back "proves" that their family really loves them.

2.  Extreme denial.  My kids can dissociate from reality, and distort it to the extent that they rewrite history, and BELIEVE the new version.  They don't remember, or want to remember, the real past - good, bad and everything in between.

3.  My children have very black and white thinking.  People are either evil or on a pedestal.  The kids literally don't see the shades of grey that describes all humanity.  Most people are wonderful, caring, supportive, relationship possibilities (best friend, girlfriend, new mom..)... until Bear or Kitty flips a switch and ALL they can see is the person's flaws.  My son is especially bad about this.  He goes through girls like Kleenex, discarding them when they show the tiniest sign of imperfection (I believe my son thinks that love means they are instantly and totally devoted to him, anything less and he's afraid they will abandon him, so at the first sign of independence, he rejects them before they reject him) or they get too close (and he runs before they can see his flaws and reject him).

The kids have idealized many members of biofamily, and literally don't remember any of their flaws.  When Bear went to live with his bio Grandpa, real life quickly took over, BioGrandpa became human (worse, a human who had some authority over Bear), and Bear couldn't accept that.  In less than 6 weeks, he was ready to move on.

4.  Escape.   "My adoptive parents and everyone else are the reason things aren't going right.  If I can get away from them then my life will be perfect."  Hubby and I tell our kids that they have to work on their issues instead of running away from them, because the issues are inside of them, and will follow them everywhere.  They don't want to believe us.

Obviously these characteristics are all linked to each other.  

5.  One thing I firmly believe is one should never criticize bio family to the children, something I learned from my mother, who never criticized my father in front of me, despite a nasty divorce.  Knowing my children are idealizing their bio family doesn't change my belief, but it is a little frustrating to know that my lack of reality checks makes some of their fantasies possible.

I think they want to go back to biofamily to live the fairy tale/ fantasy they have used to escape over the years.  That little Orphan Annie reality ( that my "real family" is perfect, rich, will never make me do chores or be held accountable for anything I do (not that I'll do anything wrong, because it was everyone else's fault)...

We have to let them go.

It's hard, but I think we have to let our kids know that we understand this desire to reconnect with birthfamily, and let them go. I tried to make it very clear to my children that the door was always open... as long as they understood that the house rules haven't changed.

When the reality sinks in, a lot of these kids will come home.

Unfortunately they usually come home with the results of living this other life style:
pregnancy, drug addiction, off their meds, criminal records, health issues... feeling entitled to the freedoms they enjoyed (and suffered from).

For some children the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence - no matter which side of the fence they are on. We ran in to this with Kitty. Her perception of reality means the instant she walked away her memory of the other place become even more black and white. She instantly forgot all the good stuff (or bad stuff). When she lived here at home, she longed for the "freedom" of having no rules and structure - being treated like an "adult," without the responsibilities and accountability of  actually being one. When she was living with biofamily, she longed for the calm, supportive, loving environment (and the luxuries) of home.

Your decision is whether or not to let your child come back home - knowing they will bring this new baggage and possibly see your home as a revolving door or a way station.

We let our children know that very little has changed. They are expected to come home to mostly the same structure as when they left. If they can't follow the rules, then they will not come home. For our son in prison, he will need to go to a halfway house and get stable on his meds before we would even consider allowing him to come home.

It's not easy watching our children self-destruct, but I have to hope that when they get older and their brain is fully developed (about 25 years old?), that they will be happy, functioning citizens capable of healthy relationships with as few permanent scars as possible.

NOTE: When our kids approach times of transition (graduation, turning 18, moving out...) they tend to stress out and act out. This is a defense mechanism to distance themselves from us to try to make it hurt less. I try to remind myself of this, when mine are lashing out at me. 

More on Contact with Birth Family.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Bear Update

Bear will be accepting a... OK, I don't know what you call it.  A plea bargain I guess.  It's not ideal, but it's probably for the best under the circumstances.  He was a little confused, and I'll probably get this wrong, but basically he got 25 years.  5 in prison and 20 probation.  He only has to serve 15% of his sentence in jail (don't check my math... I got the numbers from him!).  When he signs the acceptance/ agreement next month, he'll have been in jail about 7 months.  He says because of his good behavior that counts double so he'll have technically already served over a year of his sentence. He thinks that means he only needs to serve about 9 months total.

When he signs the acceptance, he'll go through a medical intake at a hospital for 1-2 weeks (apparently all new inmates go through this).  At which point he'll finally receive a psychological evaluation and we assume get put on meds.  Depending on how fast the system moves, when the eval is done, he'll have been in the system for about 8 months.  Since he only needs to serve about 9 months, he and the system will have a choice at this point.

  • If it's only a couple of weeks until his time is up, they might just release him and add the missing time to his probation.  
  • He can serve the remainder of the 9 months in prison.  
  • He can go to boot camp, which is 6 months long, and the "extra" time will be reduced from his probation.
He's vacillating between completing the time in prison and getting it over with, and going to boot camp.  He thinks boot camp might look better than hard time (not sure to whom), but at the same time he's worried that he might get into trouble at boot camp (which is young adult offenders).

When he gets out he believes he'll be able to transfer his probation to another state, and he plans to go "home."  I had to ask him where home was.  I'll be honest, it hurt a little to have to ask.  Home is with his bio grandmother in Nebraska.  I'm OK with that.  

I did mention he might want to think about going to boot camp so he'd have more time to get stable on his meds before he goes to live with family, so he doesn't damage his relationship with them.  At that point in the conversation he was saying he didn't want to go to boot camp.  Maybe that will change down the road.  I think he'd benefit from the extra activity and extra time to get stable, but I can't make him.

I hope it works out the way he wants it to.  I'm really glad he'll be getting medical treatment soon.  After he's released, "someone" will help him get signed up for SSI benefits, and it sounds like he'll be willing to try to get therapy and plans to stay on his meds.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Books and Methods - Food/ Hoarding/ Diet

Atypical eating behaviors are common, especially in children with severe neglect and attachment problems.  Many of our kids have food triggers (especially if there has been a time in their life when they didn't have enough food), emotional eating, depression... and the child can develop significant eating and body image issues. They may hoard food, hide food in their rooms, eat as if there will be no more meals--even if they have had years of consistent available foods.  They may have failure to thrive, rumination (throwing up food), swallowing problems and, later in life, unusual eating behaviors that are often misdiagnosed as anorexia nervosa.

My Child Doesn't Remember the Neglect as an Infant, But His Body Does by Foster2Forever
My son doesn’t have a memory of being hungry as an infant, but his brain does. That baby’s developing brain was hard-wired with a terrifying memory of being hungry, not knowing when he would be fed, and believing he was going to die!
The fear response of fight, flight or freeze would kick in – and my baby would fight! – the only way he could as an infant – by screaming. As he got older, his fear response from hunger escalated from screaming to actual fighting!

Attachment and Eating Disorders (ED) - 
"Research indicates that higher levels of attachment anxiety increase risk for severe ED manifestations and adverse treatment outcomes." ~A Place for Eating Disorders within Attachment Theory’s FrameKelsey N. Wallour, BSFCS

Avoidant Attachment
Primary caregivers of children with an avoidant/ dismissive attachment tended to be emotionally unavailable or unresponsive to them a good deal of the time. This child can develop a feeling that they have no value and expects that they will be rejected and their needs neglected. They may learn to "shut down" their emotions and ignore their needs. Their interactions with food may also be avoidant in nature. Their issues with food may come from an overwhelming desire to elude emotions and feelings of fullness. This might lead to issues with anorexia nervosa.
 (This study mentions that adult patients with this type of ED may not do well in group therapy, but have enormous potential for personal reflective functioning and awareness).

When Kitty first came to us, we found that some of Kitty's "anorexic" tendencies improved dramatically as she became more attached and allowed herself to feel again. Both her physical and emotional feelings returned and once the dissociations improved, I think she started realizing that she was hungry (or constipated, or had food on her face, or needed to go to the bathroom...).

Anxious Attachment
The anxious/ ambivalent child’s caregivers were often unreliable and unpredictable. These children may come across as “needy” because they seek constant validation from others. Instead of dissociating from their needs, they constantly mull over their past experiences and memories which keeps them "agitated" and self focused. They often have difficulty recognizing the needs and emotions/ affects of others. Because they are highly dependent on external sources such as society and peers, the extreme fear of rejection from others worsens their desperate need for approval and high body dissatisfaction.

Anxious attachment patterns are more likely to lead to bulimic symptoms or binge eating disorders, because of their issues with interacting with others and their relationship with food. Their hyperactive/ hypervigilant awareness of stress can lead to a high state of reactivity. Their attempts at coping and self soothing might be bingeing or engaging in the binge-purge cycle.
(This study recommends group therapy in a safe and validating environment for it's adult patients with this type of ED).

Dr. Karen Purvis, PhD of TCU, author of The Connected Child, believes there is a strong connection between nutrition & healing the "kids from hard places."  She lists resources on her website: empoweredtoconnect.com

Control Issues -Oftentimes, trauma issues can lead to anxiety and control issues. Eating (or not eating) can be one of the few things our children feel they have control over. "Strictly regulating {their own} food and body weight offers a small sphere of control for people who otherwise feel out of control. When this is the case, unintentional weight gain may lead to thoughts of 'I’m losing control' instead of 'I’m fat.'"

Geraud said it’s common for eating disorders, substance abuse and mood disorders such as depression or anxiety to coexist.
“There are often pre-existing anxiety disorders in people who develop eating disorders, especially as children” she said.
Children tend to think in very concrete terms, she said, and when they have anxiety or other uncomfortable emotions and feel the accompanying physical sensations in their body, they may think that if they can change or control their body, they can prevent those emotions and feelings. Alcohol or drugs might be used for the same purpose. ~Lisa Geraud, senior clinical director at The Moore Center in Bellevue

Food Hoarding  - 

Trauma and Food Hoarding -
"Food hoarding is a common issue displayed by foster-adoptive children. Food hoarding can be central in a child’s world and resistant to change. Additionally, hoarding food behavior can bedevil and bewilder parents. So why does a child hoard food? Often food hoarding is directly connected to significant neglect that the child has experienced in consistently having their basic needs for life sustaining food denied or inadequately met. As a result, the child is forced to become prematurely self-reliant in meeting their own basic needs. For example, in a situation where the parent is chemically dependent resulting in inconsistency in providing and having food available, it would be reasonable that when food is available that a child would view this as an opportunity. It would be logical that a “survival mentality” would be for the child to respond to the availability of food in self-reliant ways which could include over-eating and hoarding food in secretive ways. In neglectful situations, food hoarding is a wise alternative to ongoing food deprivation."

Emotional Eating - 

Trauma and Weight Gain -
Emotional trauma is a very painful experience that can lead to weeks, months and even years of emotional distress. People will turn to a variety of things to help them cope with their intense feelings relating to the trauma. For some people, food becomes a source of comfort as they try to — literally — push down their feelings with food. Trauma and weight gain go hand in hand when the person suffering begins to emotionally eat. Sometimes this emotional eating, combined with the mental effects of the traumatic event, can lead to a serious eating disorder known as compulsive overeating.

Human Connection — Our kids often crave sugary, comfort foods to fill the gaps in human connections. Why Comfort Food Comforts.
Marythemom:  Caregivers also frequently emotionally eat - we use comfort foods as a substitute for the love our children cannot provide.  The average RAD mom gains 10-15lbs a year working with a RAD child.

Distraction/ Dissociation — A way of changing the subject or avoiding dealing with a trauma triggering issue.

Marythemom: When my daughter was having a particularly rough therapy session she would often try to dissociate (flight/ escape) using food. She would suddenly feel like she was "starving" and the session would become all about her wanting to leave and go to McDonalds. When she gets upset she still turns to food. I often mention to her that this feeling is based on her emotions, not actual hunger, and sometimes I can get her to recognize it.

The Addictive Brain - 
Professor Peter Cohen argues that human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections. It's how we get our satisfaction. If we can't connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can find -- the whirr of a roulette wheel or the prick of a syringe. He says we should stop talking about 'addiction' altogether, and instead call it 'bonding.' A heroin addict has bonded with heroin because she couldn't bond as fully with anything else.
So the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.
Marythemom - My son has an "addictive brain." We've seen evidence of it for years, and knew it wasn't the drugs themselves, because the addiction shifted often and he could stop seemingly cold turkey (drugs, alcohol, tobacco, but also sugar, sex, adrenaline, chaos...). A large part of  this is because of his attachment issues - the (in)ability to make human connections. 

Endorphins  — 
Your brain naturally produces these neurotransmitters in response to pain or extreme exertion to take the edge off and generally make you feel amazing. Really amazing. Experts actually compare endorphins to opiates because they deliver such intense pleasure, says psychologist Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., M.S., author of A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness.

We want to avoid drawing battle lines around food!


As with all behavior and emotional challenges, a child’s special needs and individual circumstances should be considered when designing interventions. Additionally, professional therapeutic assistance can offer help in the assessment and treatment of food issues. In an effort to understand the function of food issues, the following questions can assist in a parent’s understanding of their child’s food issues.

  • Could there be psychiatric or biological issues contributing to the hoarding/ food issue?
  • Does the child’s history reveal reasons for fixation on eating?
  • Does the child substitute a food fixation for a loving relationship with parents?
  • Are there things that trigger eating problems in the child?
  • Is the child displaying an emotional neediness in the way they eat?

Ways to increase endorphins (besides food):

Focus on increasing attachment. Here's some ideas - The Attachment Challenge
10-20-10 Each day, look for three moments of connection with your children.
     -10 minutes of closeness in the morning
     -20 minutes of closeness when you get home
     -10 minutes of closeness at bedtime

Not just running. Working out stresses your system, so your brain pumps out endorphins to cope.

Work out together:
In addition to being good bonding/ attachment activity, a small British study found that athletes who rowed together could tolerate twice as much pain (a sign that endorphins are present) as athletes who rowed alone. Working out with others can improve your endorphin flow.

Fewer meds:
A study took a group of children with ADHD, half of whom were on Ritalin and the other half did 20 minutes of exercise every morning that "bounced" their brains in an up and down manner (like jogging or trampolines). Both sets of children were sent to school and the teachers could not tell the difference! The exercise lasts a little less time than the medicine, but you can always repeat!

When you get a case of the giggles, your body releases endorphins that increase your pain threshold. So go ahead, laugh until it hurts.

Not only does playing with your child increase attachment - PACE (Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity, Empathy), but it's good for you as well! Don't forget to Play!

Kids live for when their parents step outside their comfort zone to join them in something fun.
Children with a history of trauma desperately need to play every single day. It is one of the ways they heal (write that one on your bathroom mirror and read it every morning). That is an area where I was painfully misguided when I first started therapeutic parenting. I took a stance of expecting them to EARN their play (AND I WAS WRONG!).
Now I know better, so I do better. -Christine Moers, Welcome to my Brain 
Make music:
Your brain spews out even more endorphins when you actively take part in creating music. If you're not a classically trained musician (just guessing here), tap, hum, or dance along to your favorite tunes. The sillier the better (laughing increases endorphins).

Eat hot peppers: 
Even if you love the taste of spicy foods, your body senses the heat and responds the same way it responds to pain. Enter, endorphins! Just be careful with this one - forcing a child to eat hot peppers (or anything) can be considered abusive.

Spritz lavender on your pillow everywhere. In a 2012 study published in Journal of Caring Sciences, women who sniffed lavender essence reported less anxiety than women who sniffed a placebo. The study authors say aromatherapy makes nerve cells release a mix of neurotransmitters, including (You guessed it!) endorphins.

I'm not sure how this would work with kids
Why would anyone in their right mind want to be repeatedly poked with needles? Research suggests the pain sends a message straight to the brain, which releases endorphins as a remedy. I'm not sure how well this would work with kids!

Interventions focused on neglect based food hoarding:

It is important to understand how the child’s food issues impact you as a parent. Become aware of your own food issues and explore if they influence your ability or willingness to look at the child’s problem with an open mind and creative flexibility. Also study yourself to determine if the child’s food hoarding personally threatens your role as a provider/nurturer.

Food baskets:
Provide food baskets in the home that incorporate the child’s input in creation and consist of snacks that are healthy and appealing to the child. The child should be told the food baskets will be re-filled and are a “better alternative” than hoarding. If the child hoards the food basket; set limits but do not discontinue. Some schools will also cooperate with food baskets; especially if the child is prone to take other student’s snacks.  (Can also use a fanny pack or cabinet/shelf full of appropriate foods.)

When packing lunches for school or events, pack a “special container” of food that can be removed and is with the child. This provides a traveling sense of food security and food availability for the child.

"Super Snack Day" (suggested by an awesome Trauma Mama):
First thing in the morning, tell him, "Since I am such a super, awesome Mom, I have noticed how hungry you've been lately. So today I have 15 snacks ready for you! (Show him the pile of small! snacks you've prepared). When you feel hungry, just say 'Mom, may I please have a snack?' And I will say yes!" This removes the need for begging or whining for food. If the child doesn't say, "May I please have..." then he's probably letting you know he really doesn't want the snack, instead this is more about being in control (fear and safety). You stay strong in a loving way and redirect the child to something else. Fluctuate the number of snacks available each day until the child trusts that you really will always feed him/ her and have food available. I have found you have to surprise them sometimes with how amazing and generous you are (while still being in control)! Obviously your goal is not to teach him to need 15 snacks a day, but rather how amazing and awesome his Mom is! :-)

Coupling nurturing with food:
Always positively reinforce any progress the child makes on hoarding behavior. If the child utilizes a food basket, nurture the child when they seek items from the food basket. Positively comment on how all family members are always fed. Weave this message into mealtimes and have this message commented on by various family members.

Teach food regulation:
If child has a tendency to gorge, set a “food time out” after a complete meal is consumed. Make certain this applies to all family members. The goal is to assist the child in learning to experience a sense of “fullness”. The “food time out” should not be presented as denying food but rather delaying additional eating for a prescribed period of time. Describe how the physical sensation of “fullness” feels. Fifteen minutes, after the completion of a meal, is an estimate of the time before fullness will be experienced.

Non- Trauma related Food Issues

Marythemom:  Sometimes it's good to remember that just because our kids have one or more diagnoses, doesn't mean they might not have other reasons for their behaviors and issues too!  Allergies, foods and meds have caused constipation, unusual reactions to medications, and behavior issues.  Some people find that changing diet can help alleviate some of these as well.  A gluten free/ casein free diet is often recommended, especially for children on the autism spectrum.  No red dyes, no processed foods, all raw foods, vegetarian, vegan... so many options!

Medications - Another common problem causing food issues for our kids is medications. Many kill the appetite (especially stimulants for ADHD), and some increase the appetite dramatically (many anti-depressants).

Nutrition/ Allergies/ Supplements

Diet can significantly impact the impaired brain. Neuroscience shows the limbic system is a hot spot for traumatized children (and stressed out parents).  When overused (typical for people dealing with stress/trauma) we can “burn out” the stress receptors.  Additionally we often crave the food(s) to which we are most allergic/sensitive.

Marythemom:  Sometimes it's good to remember that just because our kids have one or more diagnoses, doesn't mean they might not have other reasons for their behaviors and issues too!

Kids with Food Allergies - Safe Eats® Allergy-Friendly Recipes! 
You can search to meet your special dietary needs, or you can browse by category. The "free of" boxes indicate that the recipe can be made without those allergens (it may require substitution to make the recipe safe for your particular needs).

Feingold diet.

Dr. Bernui of Hendersonville, TN was one of the recommended practitioners in Jenny McCarty's 2007 book Louder than Words: A Mother's Journey in Healing Autism. He and other holistic practitioners are investigating nutrition and require much more lab work than what we may be used to:

Dr. Daniel Amen (publisher of SPECT scans of addicted and recovering)

Gut and Psychology Syndrome - Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride –  Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAP Syndrome or GAPS) is a condition which establishes a connection between the functions of the digestive system and the brain. Describes how it develops and how to treat it effectively with a sound nutritional protocol. Natural treatment for autism, ADHD/ADD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, depression and schizophrenia.        Videos

Is This Your Child? By Doris Rapp - In this breakthrough book, Dr. Doris Rapp offers a simple yet effective approach to handling "problem" children. Is This Your Child? shows parents how to identify the common foods, chemicals, or common allergic substances that could be the culprits that cause some children or adults to feel unwell or act inappropriately. If your child is always sick, hyperactive, a slow learner, or cranky, the first question you should ask is not "What drug should be prescribed?" or "What have I done wrong as a parent?" Instead, find out the cause.

Love Me, Feed Me: The Adoptive Parent's Guide to Ending the Worry About Weight, Picky Eating, Power Struggles and More by Dr. Katja Rowell - who is known as the feeding doctor. 

Our kids can be so complicated!!

Books and Methods Review - School!

This amazing chart can be used when meeting with teachers to explain attachment disorders.  Details on it's use and ways to make presentations about your child are available here.
The most important thing I've learned is that my children need relationships and emotional healing WAAAYYYY more than they need an education.  Think about it, do you really want to raise a well-educated psychopath?

I'm a firm believer that what happens in school stays in school.  We have enough problems with relationships at our house; I don't need to fight the school's battles as well.  Advocate to make sure they get what they needed, but leave the rest to the school.  Family relationships are way more important, and you're not able to work on that if you're fighting about school.

Homework is NOT your problem.  If I force my kids to do their homework then in their mind it becomes MY problem (meaning no longer theirs!).  Also, the school doesn't get an accurate picture of my child's issues (Like most kids of trauma, my children have severe executive functioning and memory issues, which means they canNOT get/stay organized. A lot of times my child understands the assignment at school, but has forgotten it by the time they get home, or they can do something laid out very concretely, but in the homework they are supposed to apply the knowledge they learned - which process to use - which they just can't do!). My son would act out to hide the fact that he couldn't, or didn't think he could, do his homework.

 I need the school to grasp and acknowledge my child's academic issues, and they won't get that if I walk my child through the homework. I do give my child adequate time to do homework and offer support and help (if they ask for it and remain respectful), but I will tell my child to put it down and walk away if it's obviously triggering him/her.  Maybe I encourage them to come back later.  Maybe not.  It depends on what's best for the emotional health of the family as a whole.

A good resource for Adoption Awareness in School Assignments.

Some advice on Advocating for Yourself, Your Family, Your Family, and Your Child - In That Order

Advocating for Your Child
When advocating for your child in school you need to use key phrases, like 

"My child has a right to a  Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), this (issue) is preventing him from being able to access that education." 

"These behaviors are caused by my child's Disability. In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), My child cannot be discriminated against/ punished/ reprimanded/ denied access to his FAPE for symptoms related to his Disability."
"My child has a right to be in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). The LRE for MY child to be able to learn and receive an education is in a smaller classroom with more INDIVIDUAL (one on one) attention. My child cannot learn in a large, chaotic environment like a general ed classroom therefore that is a MORE restrictive environment for my child and as such not APPROPRIATE. 

10 Smart Responses for When the School Cuts or Denies Services

Wrightslaw - go immediately to and become familiar with your child's rights!! 

Due Process - If the school is breaking the law then you can file a grievance or file due process - this is like suing the school. You may need an attorney for this. Most schools will offer mediation before it gets this far.Disability Rights Advocate
If the school is breaking the law then you can probably find a free Disability Rights Advocate 

  • If you Google (or Bing or whatever!) {Your State} Disability Advocate or Disability Rights you will probably find several state agencies.
  • You can also get free advocates through NAMI (National Alliance on Mentally Illness)
  • Your local MHMR (Mental Health and Mental Retardation agency) has changed its name to be more politically correct, but usually if you search {Your State or County} Mental Health and Mental Retardation you will find whatever they call it now and if you use their services (they usually provide doctors and psychiatrists that accept Medicaid) then they often provide family support - which can include an advocate
We have also used private Special Education Advocates/ Attorneys. Sometimes they will offer one free meeting.

Put EVERYTHING in writing. The school is required to respond. Keep it short (hard for me!) and stick to the facts. Tell them what you want to have happen. If you must speak to someone on the phone, document the conversation during or immediately afterward (do not delay - it's amazing how much detail you forget - and how much more readily people will accept a "transcript" over a "Someone said that my child couldn't be moved."  l  

A fantastic article about how to write a letter (or an e-mail) that will get your point across effectively.  
"When you write letters to a school, these letters will be read by strangers. Many important decisions about your child's education are made by strangers. What impression will your letter make on a stranger? Will the stranger see you as an angry, negative complainer? Or will the Stranger see you as a rational, thoughtful parent who is expressing valid concerns?When you write letters, keep this "stranger" in your mind’s eye." 

Get ORGANIZED and keep EVERYTHING! E-mails, school behavior reports, transcripts, psych evals, documents. Get letters from his doctors, caregivers, therapists... Get these Organized and keep them updated (you'd be amazed how many times the school will say, "Well we don't have access to, or record of, that, let's wait until it can be found..." When you open up your 3 ring binder and pull out a copy of your child's behavior reports, that medical report that you had put in to their records at his last IEP meeting, your list of topics you want discussed at the meeting (I usually send out a copy of this before the meeting and ask them to make a copy for everyone!)... it keeps them from slowing down the process. 


New School Year Letters.  I send a letter every year to my child's teachers telling them a little about my child and what works and what doesn't.  

Ask if you can make a presentation to all of your child's teacher or even the entire school about your child's disabilities in general.

Details on the use of the chart at the top and ways to make effective presentations about your child that teachers will actually read are in this awesome post written by an amazing fellow trauma mama at Serenity Links Coaching.

I have given a few school presentations, but have never actually blogged about them (working on that). I did however post the Spoon Theory which I think was helpful in making the teachers understand some of the difficulties with which my child struggles.

Some good articles:
Trauma Informed Approach to Behaviors in the Classroom
About Parenting article - Preparing the School for your Child with RAD 
Nancy Thomas - Letter for Teachers
What Every Administrator & Educator Should Know: Separating
Difference from Disability 
Fostering in the Deep End Blog - Back to School with RAD
Attachment Disorder Maryland - School Interventions
Children of Trauma: What Educators Need To Know - good article to share with educators.
An Open Letter to Educators Who Work with Students Who Have Been Diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder or Have Suffered Early Trauma By Carey McGinn Ed.D., CCC/SLP
Children’s Mental Health Disorder Fact Sheet for the Classroom - Reactive Attachment Disorder

The Special Education System Really is Stacked Against Parents -

Why Texas parents have to fight even harder to get their child into Special Ed. 
Denied: How Texas keeps tens of thousands of children out of Special Education 

IEP/ 504/ Disability  

What is the difference between a 504 and an IEP?

What are my child's rights without an IEP?
In some ways your child has more rights without an IEP. Your child falls under the American's with Disabilities Act (ADA) which has stricter laws than an IEP or 504.

How do we get an IEP?
Requesting a special education evaluation for an IEP

Texas Project FIRST -  A project of the Texas Education Agency committed to providing accurate and consistent information to parents and families of children (ages 0 to 21) with disabilities. Including how to access ECI and the special education system.

My child has an IEP. How do I get them the services they need?

If your child has an IEP - the most important thing is DO NOT SIGN the IEP!!
  • you have proof that it says what the team agreed to (can't tell you how many times the school didn't include things agreed to in the meeting or added things in the "verbage" that wasn't agreed to).
  • if you can't come to an agreement, 
  • the school disagrees and refuses to provide what you know your child needs, 
  • the school claims they cannot provide what you know your child needs.

IEP/ 504 Strategies/ Accommodations 
Printable list of strategies for your IEP meeting  

IEP Goal Banks - 

Bridges4kids IEP Goals and Objectives Bank  which includes pages and pages of goals, including 384 goals under English and 298 Social/emotional goals!!!
Behavioral Goals for an Individual Education Plan
IEP Behavioral Goals 

Developing SMART IEP goals for behavior problems.
Social Emotional IEP Goals
Writing Measurable and Meaningful Behavior Goals
Effectively Addressing Behavioral Concerns within the IEP

More sample goals:
IEP/ GOALS/ Accommodations for Reactive Attachment Disorder
Sample IEP for a child with Autism/PDD
Social Supports Handout- goal areas for friendship and employment skills (teens).
Measurable IEP Goals - includes goals excerpted from an article on Wright's Law, plus some interesting links.
Self-help goals for those whose functional skills are profoundly affected by autism.
Sample math goals.

When it's not working!

Top 10 Most Ridiculous Comments heard at an IEP meeting

Marythemom:  I've heard so many ridiculous things at an IEP meeting (including a lot of these!).  We've had the "professionals" on the team intimidate our advocates to the point they shut down; they even made one cry (and she was a big city lawyer).  An assistant principal (who the meeting before compared the odds of our daughter - who had been hospitalized at least 4 times in the last few months for suicidal ideation - committing suicide-  to being struck by lightning indoors) ticked off our new special education advocate so much that her agency provided all their services pro bono, including the special education lawyer, when we filed due process - which is what they call it when you sue the school.  At school, Kitty tends to "act in" instead of acting out like Bear so we had a hard time getting her the services needed - even with written statements from 2 psychiatrists, 2 therapists, a skills trainer, social workers...

Special Education Advocate or Attorney
Be your own advocate -

Professional Advocates - There are many ways to find free or paid advocates.

  • Ask friends for help or referrals.
  • Look at local organizations or local branches of agencies and systems that you already work with. Ask if they provide advocates or Family Partners who can work as advocates.
  • Family Partner or Case Manager with your local MHMR. The term MHMR is no longer politically correct so all the MHMRs changed their names - unfortunately they all got to pick what they changed it to (ex. Community Services, Integral Care...). The good news is that you can still search for "Your County's Name MHMR" and it will give you the name of your county's mental health and IDD service provider. You have to be a client, but they do accept Medicaid and sliding scale fees. 
  • Some school districts have Parent Liaisons and/or a special education parent support organization. 
  • Use a search engine and type Special Education Advocate and the name of your state, city or school district to find professionals.
  • Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates - COPAA is a community that works to increase the quality and quantity of advocate and attorney representation
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness - NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. We are an association of hundreds of local affiliates, state organizations and volunteers who work in your community to raise awareness and provide support and education that was not previously available to those in need.
  • Disability Rights Advocates 
  • ...

Filing Due Process/ Mediation -When a dispute arises between a parent and the school in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting there are a few methods that can be utilized to work out the disagreement.  Most School Districts will have at least one Informal Dispute Resolution (IDR) system in place that can be employed to work out the dispute.

Mediation -A mediation is a meeting facilitated by a mediator used to find a peaceful settlement of the disagreement prior to starting costly litigation. If a resolution is reached at the mediation, a legally binding settlement agreement will be signed by all parties involved.  Once a settlement agreement is executed a new IEP meeting must be called to implement the services outlined in that agreement.  If a resolution is not reached the next step would be a Due Process Hearing.

Due Process -A due process hearing is typically held by the state department of education and presided over by an impartial hearing officer.  The Due Process complaint form must outline the complaint and the proposed resolution.   The other party has the right to respond and can file a Notice of Insufficiency (NOI) if they feel the complaint does not have enough information to proceed.  Since the School District will involve an attorney it is recommended that you consult with an experienced Special Education Attorney before filing for due process.

If the Parents file for due process they have the burden of proof and a resolution session must be held between the School District and the Parents prior to the hearing.  This resolution session can be waived if both parties agree and a formal mediation can be held instead.  If a settlement is not worked out in either the resolution session or formal mediation then the case would proceed to a hearing.  The hearing is similar to a court presiding and will include opening statements, presentation of evidence and cross examination.

Hearing Officer Decisions are final unless appealed to either State or Federal courts.  You can’t file in State or Federal Court until after going through due process.  Hearing decisions shall be made on substantive grounds unless procedural violations impeded the child’s right to a free appropriate public education, significantly impeded the parents opportunity to participate in the decision making process or caused a deprivation of educational benefits.

Least Restrictive Environment 

Least Restrictive Environment - Section 5A of IDEA 2004 (from 'To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled, and special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.'

Almost everyone you speak to, especially schools, assumes the LRE means a child should/ must spend the majority of their time in a general education environment, possibly with some inclusion help, but the reality is the least restrictive environment for your child may be what the school considers to be the MOST restrictive environment.

A Diary of a Mom said it very well:

Many of our kids get easily overwhelmed. Many of them have language processing challenges. Many of them have sensory issues that can make a typical classroom nearly unbearable. For some (and for many years, mine), trying to be taught in a class of twenty some-odd kids is like trying to learn French while your house is on fire. It simply isn’t possible.
The best part about inclusion DONE RIGHT is that it’s never an all or none proposition. It’s flexible, malleable, creative. It is, above all, INDIVIDUALIZED so that the needs of each individual are seamlessly incorporated into the every day routine of the group. And the best part? When generalized, the accommodations of individuals so often benefit the whole. Predictability? Visual prompts and learning tools? Movement breaks? Tools for emotional regulation? Social skills teaching? A little more time to process information? GOOD FOR EVERYONE.
But back to this least restrictive environment thing. Well, based on my experiences in the past and recent conversations with friends, it seems that the assumptions that we’ve begun to make based on that language have become a little, well, restrictive. We assume that LRE means the room with the most typical kids (or even just the most kids) in it. Well, no. It doesn’t. It might. But it might not.

Getting Financial Aide for a child going to college:

Some good books about kids of trauma and the school system:
Lost at School: Why Our Kids with Behavioral Challenges are Falling Through the Cracks and How We Can Help Them - Ross W. Greene  
From a distinguished clinician, pioneer in working with behaviorally challenging kids, and author of the acclaimed The Explosive Child comes a groundbreaking approach for understanding and helping these kids and transforming school discipline.Frequent visits to the principal's office. Detentions. Suspensions. Expulsions. These are the established tools of school discipline for kids who don't abide by school rules, have a hard time getting along with other kids, don't seem to respect authority, don't seem interested in learning, and are disrupting the learning of their classmates. But there's a big problem with these strategies: They are ineffective for most of the students to whom they are applied.
It's time for a change in course.
Here, Dr. Ross W. Greene presents an enlightened, clear-cut, and practical alternative. Relying on research from the neurosciences, Dr. Greene offers a new conceptual framework for understanding the difficulties of kids with behavioral challenges and explains why traditional discipline isn't effective at addressing these difficulties. Emphasizing the revolutionarily simple and positive notion that kids do well if they can, he persuasively argues that kids with behavioral challenges are not attention-seeking, manipulative, limit-testing, coercive, or unmotivated, but that they lack the skills to behave adaptively. And when adults recognize the true factors underlying difficult behavior and teach kids the skills in increments they can handle, the results are astounding: The kids overcome their obstacles; the frustration of teachers, parents, and classmates diminishes; and the well-being and learning of all students are enhanced.

  "Trauma in the Lives of Children: Crisis and Stress Management Techniques, 2nd Edition" Johnson, PhD

Help for Billy: A Beyond Consequences Approaching to Helping Challenging Children in the Classroom by Heather T. Forbes - is a pragmatic manual to help guide families and educators who are struggling with traumatized children. Based on the concept of the neuroscience of emotions and behavior, Heather Forbes provides detailed, comprehensive, and logical strategies for teachers and parents. This easy to read book, with tables, outlines and lists, clears the way for a better understanding of the true nature regarding traumatic experiences affecting the brain and learning. It is a must read for anyone working with a child in the classroom.

Financial Planning (including college) for the Adopted Child

Books and Methods Review - Bipolar Disorder

Anyone can develop bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression), including children and teens. However, most people with bipolar disorder develop it in their late teen or early adult years. The illness usually lasts a lifetime.

When children develop the illness, it is called early-onset bipolar disorder. This type can be more severe than bipolar disorder in older teens and adults. Also, young people with bipolar disorder may have symptoms more often and switch moods more frequently than adults with the illness. Trauma has been known to trigger early-onset bipolar disorder in children that have a genetic predisposition to it.

Bipolar mania, hypomania, and depression are symptoms of bipolar disorder. The dramatic mood changes of bipolar disorder do not follow a set pattern -- depression does not always follow mania. A person may experience the same mood state several times -- for weeks, months, even years at a time -- before suddenly having the opposite mood. Moods can rapid cycle too - minutes, hours. Also, the severity of mood phases can differ from person to person.

Hypomania is a less severe form of mania. Hypomania is a mood that many don't perceive as a problem. It actually may feel pretty good. You have a greater sense of well-being and productivity. However, for someone with bipolar disorder, hypomania can evolve into mania -- or can switch into serious depression.

The experience of these manic stages has been described this way:

Hypomania:At first when I'm high, it's tremendous ... ideas are fast ... like shooting stars you follow until brighter ones appear... All shyness disappears, the right words and gestures are suddenly there ... uninteresting people, things, become intensely interesting. Sensuality is pervasive, the desire to seduce and be seduced is irresistible. Your marrow is infused with unbelievable feelings of ease, power, well-being, omnipotence, euphoria ... you can do anything ... but somewhere this changes.

Mania:The fast ideas start coming too fast and there are far too many ... overwhelming confusion replaces clarity ... you stop keeping up with it … memory goes. Infectious humor ceases to amuse. Your friends become frightened ... everything is now against the grain ... you are irritable, angry, frightened, uncontrollable, and trapped.

Some people with bipolar disorder become psychotic when manic or depressed, hearing things that aren't there. They may hold onto false beliefs, and cannot be swayed from them. In some instances, they see themselves as having superhuman skills and powers -- even considering themselves to be god-like.

Bipolar Disorder can co-exist with other mental illnesses. The symptoms of Bipolar Disorder and many other diagnoses (ADHD, RAD, PTSD, trauma...) can be similar and/or overlap with each other. Overlapping Behavior Characteristics Chart. Diagnosis should only be done by an experienced medical health professional.

Children with mood disorders do better in a low-stress, quiet home environment, and with a family communication style that is calm, low-volume, non-critical, and focused on problem-solving rather than punishment or blaming. Stress reduction at school through use of an Individual Educational Plan (IEP) is also very important. Request an evaluation from your child’s school counselor or psychologist to get the process started.

Child Mania Rating Scale - 
1. Have periods of feeling super happy for hours or days at a time, extremely wound up and excited, such as feeling "on top of the world"
2. Feel irritable, cranky, or mad for hours or days at a time
3. Think that he or she can be anything or do anything  (e.g., leader, best basket ball player, rap singer, millionaire, princess) beyond what is usual for that age
4. Believe that he or she has unrealistic abilities or powers that are unusual, and may try to act upon them, which causes trouble
5. Need less sleep than usual; yet does not feel tired the next day
6. Have periods of too much energy
7. Have periods when she or he talks too much or too loud or talks a mile-a-minute
8. Have periods of racing thoughts that his or her mind cannot slow down , and it seems that your child’s mouth cannot keep up with his or her mind
9. Talk so fast that he or she jumps from topic to topic
10. Rush around doing things nonstop
11. Have trouble staying on track and is easily drawn to what is happening around him or her
12. Do many more things than usual, or is unusually productive or highly creative
13. Behave in a sexually inappropriate way (e.g., talks dirty, exposing, playing with private parts, masturbating, making sex phone calls, humping on dogs, playing sex games, touches others sexually)
14. Go and talk to strangers inappropriately, is more socially outgoing than usual 
15. Do things that are unusual for him or her that are  foolish or risky (e.g., jumping off heights, ordering CDs with your credit cards, giving things away)
16. Have rage attacks, intense and prolonged temper tantrums
17. Crack jokes or pun more than usual, laugh loud, or act silly in a way that is out of the ordinary
18. Experience rapid mood swings
19. Have any suspicious or strange thoughts
20. Hear voices that nobody else can hear
21. See things that nobody else can see

Bipolar – great source of information and support.  They have a support group for just about everyone – parents with adopted children, parents with teens, parents of kids in residential treatment…

Marythemom:  This is another book that should be in the bookshelf of all parents who are dealing with a child with trauma and mood issues.  It discusses not only how bipolar disorder looks in children (which is significantly different than in adults), but also other disorders and issues with similar symptoms that can mimic bipolar disorder.  (ADHD, PTSD, trauma…).  It also discusses medications and their effects.  This is a great reference book!
My children are also diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.  I’m finding it interesting how much overlap there is between bipolar and RAD.  This book has some spots that are dry and tough to read, but has also got some extremely helpful info.  And not just for bipolar disorder in kids.

AMAZON REVIEW:  For any caregiver experiencing life with a bipolar child, Demitri and Janice Papolos's The Bipolar Child will be an indispensable reference guide. The material is presented clearly, with lots of helpful charts and lists to aid in receiving proper diagnosis, treatment, and long-term care. All medical information is relayed with the aim of helping parents to ensure effective treatment for their children and includes journal-tracking formats to help caregivers provide accurate information to personal physicians. Importantly, many pages are devoted to discussions about the emotional upheavals that living with a bipolar child can bring, and how parents and children can cope most effectively. The book is filled with families' stories that do a beautiful job providing comfort and inspiration to others. A detailed chapter on hospitalization covers everything from insurance to types of treatments. The authors provide excellent information regarding improved educational practices, with step-by-step instructions for goal-setting with your child and communicating your child's needs to school personnel.

Intense Minds: Through the Eyes of Young People with Bipolar Disorder by Tracy Anglada.  Young people with bipolar disorder and adults who grew up with the condition speak out to share how they experienced the symptoms of this illness during their youth, and how it affected their functioning in school, at home and with friends. Their insightful comments, woven together by the author, form a stunning picture of the young person's internal experience. The reader will come away with a new understanding of these young people and a renewed commitment to make a difference by reaching out to help.

"Tracy Anglada has broken new ground with Intense Minds. While most books speak about the children and their feelings, hers is the first to capture the children articulating what they truly feel themselves: their impossible levels of frustration and irritability, their episodes of emptiness or manic energy, their severe difficulties in the academic environment, and their dread of night time due to their propensity to suffer horrific images and scenarios while sleeping.
Parent Review:  For those of you wanting to understand your teens and how they feel.  It SO helped me understand my boys and what they go through, especially at school.