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!

Friday, November 7, 2008

When the road ahead is not clear

Kitty seems to be spiraling downward and we're not sure what to do about it. She has so many reasons she could be stressed out we're not sure what, if anything we could/should do. It's getting worse and we're seeing behaviors that we hadn't seen in quite awhile - with greater frequency.

Yesterday she yelled at Hubby for "criticizing her" and because he told the school she needed to bring home a homework slip every day, even if she didn't have school work (so she couldn't "forget"). She ran upstairs and slammed her bedroom door. He went up to try to calm her down, and eventually succeeded - he thought. She came downstairs and ran right out the front door. He followed her. She eventually came back in and tried to lock him out. I unlocked it and she ended up slamming him with the door. She ran out back and climbed a tree threatening to climb on the rotted second story deck. Then she got stuck. She wouldn't accept help from Hubby, only me. I pushed a ladder over to her and went back inside to finish cooking dinner. She screamed and cried over the miniscule scrape on her hand and insisted we take her to the doctor because she was going to die. She did calm down and eat dinner. After dinner she did 4 pages of schoolwork (out of 18) and then went to bed. (Abriged to delete the tons of drama, yelling and emoting that accompanied all this).

The private school finished the paperwork required by the public school getting ready to do assessments for learning disabilities and special education services. In the course of this we found out that Kitty misses hours a day due to headaches, tummy aches... The girls started school a month late, and Kitty has been out sick with one thing or another (usually nothing major), and apparently she hasn't been doing make-up work either. I have to admit I'm a little angry with the school for not telling me that she was missing several hours a day. When they sent home work, Kitty didn't bother to get the slips signed and we still knew nothing about it. What if I hadn't started pushing for this testing?! Would I have even known there was a problem at school until it got worse?

Kitty's stressors

1. The 2 year anniversary - with her and Bear's adoptions this year I think things are feeling more "real." She hasn't lived in a house more than 2 years since she was 3 years old!

2. Birthmom having another baby. She misses birth family a lot. She wants to be a part of her new sister's life.

3. Trip to Nebraska (where the kids were adopted from). We've had to put off this trip so many times, but she knows we're hoping to be able to go this December. This would be the first time we've returned since their adoption. We plan to try to arrange for them to get to see biofamily.

4. Holidays are coming - these are never an easy time for anyone.

5. School work is getting harder. Although Kitty is technically in 7th grade, she is doing 5th grade level work. 5th grade is hard and requires a lot of generalizing and reading skills that I just don't think she has. Missing the first month of school doesn't help. Her poor reading skills are making understanding the directions almost impossible. Her school is not designed to do one-on-one work, but is really having to accomodate this alot.

6. Homework. Because Kitty is behind she is now expected to do 36 pages in her workbooks(last year it was only 26). She is unable to get this done at school, especially with her constant "illnesses." I think it may be causing the "illnesses" too. It might just be too many pages. Bob is all caught up already, but I may just have to intervene and get the number of pages reduced - she can work over Christmas break and Summer again.

7. Possibly something about school triggering PTSD. This could be that something about the new campus itself is triggering bad memories - it's in a little house that might remind her of another house from her past; the "joking and teasing" that she does with the boys could be overwhelming (the only other girl besides her sister is no longer attending the school and Kitty has very poor social skills); the honeymoon could be over with the teachers (Kitty sees everything as black or white, with people seen rarely she is charming and willing, unfortunately the teachers at school might be moving to the "Dark Side" now that she's known them longer).

8. Bob's issues. I know these trigger things for Kitty, and watching Bob "get away with stuff" and "cop an attitude" makes Kitty do the same. She is a big follower. Also the yelling and arguing could be triggering memories of people in Kitty's past.

9. Dealing with Grandma and chores. After over a year of Grandma being a primary caregiver any time we're not home, Grandma is definitely a member of the "Dark Side" if not actually "Darth Vader"! Kitty's Oppositional Defiant Disorder is definitely triggered by Grandma, and just like Hubby, Grandma doesn't have the advantage of attachment therapy like I do. I can tell Kitty to do a chore, and while she hates it, and tries to refuse, she will usually eventually sloppily comply ("Resistance is futile!").

Grandma has the added burden of actually wanting to get everyone to do their chores. She helps the other kids with chores, and even does them for them, but Kitty (and Bear) cannot accept help and can't tolerate having people in their room. We recently moved Kitty to the easiest chores that matter the least (ie no one sees the areas as often so a little less cleaning won't matter). Originally we gave her some of the harder rooms because she was the worst offender when it came to making big messes. We thought if it was her room to clean she would think twice about making the mess. Didn't really work.

10. EMDR therapy - At first this didn't appear to be having an effect on Kitty's behavior - even when I pushed and we talked about things she could never handle even the thought of before. I'm wondering if this is having more of an effect now. I keep forgetting to ask the EMDR therapist if we can move her appointment to later in the week so it won't effect school as much (it's on Tuesday nights right now).

11. Boy friend - Summer before last, at a day camp that was majorly overwhelming for Kitty, Kitty met a boy she liked. She called him obsessively for awhile, even though he never returned her calls and only talked to her briefly when she got hold of him. He attends the public middle school she would have gone to if we hadn't put her in private school. She occasionally goes through phases where she starts calling him obsessively again - having to remind him who she is each time. In the Summer he invited her to a pool party. I forget why, but for some reason she couldn't go. Now he's invited her to one of his football games, but they're on Tuesday nights - same time as therapy. Kitty is furious with me that I won't let her go. This boy will not talk to her if he knows we're home or his parents are home. I get the feeling that his homelife is not great. We've told Kitty that we'd be happy to have the boy come to our house, meet us, and hang out (Secret Parent Trick - provided her chores are done - wouldn't want him coming to a dirty house!). After that (assuming he is willing to meet us), if we do allow her to "date" this boy, we will always be in attendance. We will not be dropping her off at his house or at the football games. I do not know his family and doubt they would supervise her the way I want/need her to be supervised. In reality she is not "old enough" to date (emotionally/developmentally about age 6), but I'm trying to be reasonable.

12. Med changes. Kitty is not stable on her meds. We are still working at getting her off Geodon and have been increasing her Trileptal. The good news is that she appears to have finally stopped the nighttime enueresis!

13. Financial. It has been impossible to keep the children from knowing that we are in deep financial difficulties (constant debt collector calls take care of that!). While we do reassure them that we will not lose the house and we will have food to eat, we are not spending money on extras. While we are keeping track of their allowance, they have not been allowed to spend it in many months. Currently we are a one car family (and it only seats 5 - if you're math challenged like me that's one seat too few for a six member family). I'm sure this triggers memories/ issues of biofamily.

I talked with Kitty's attachment therapist (without Kitty there) yesterday. I told her all the issues we and the school had been having with Kitty lately and she reviewed the school's notes for the public school special education assessments. She feels that Kitty is completely overwhelmed and suffering severely from PTSD and that we have to make her life less stressful immediately. The question is - how?!

I left a message this morning with the private school to talk to her teacher about if she thinks something is triggering Kitty at school (and also to have them send home lots of work for Kitty to do - the school is closed Monday and Tuesday). Haven't heard back from them so I guess I'll have to wait until Wednesday next week (did I mention patience is not one of the virtues I possess a lot of?).

I dropped off the last of the paperwork with the public school for the assessment. I was really excited that our ARD was scheduled for November 17th. Until I found out that is just to formally give our permission for testing. Still, it's progress.

So I worked out a solution for dealing with Kitty, but Hubby is against a major component of it and I don't know what to do!

I want Kitty to come to work with me daily and do her school work. I think she will benefit from-
a. having me around (attaching/ bonding);
b. me being calm will help her regulate her emotions;
c. work is quiet and calm (no one pokes, talks, giggles or acts like a teenage boy - OK, most of the time!) so there should be no distractions;
d. I could read all directions out loud and immediately help with any questions she has (I literally have nothing better to do - I spend most of the day waiting for someone to e-mail me, playing Spider Solitaire, reading message boards and blogs, and of course blogging);
e. we could excuse her from all but the most basic of chores at home (laundry and picking up her room) with the "excuse" that she is not home to do them and has chores at the office (washing a few forks or running the vacuum once a week should be much less overwhelming);
f. she wouldn't be around Grandma as much (perhaps this would lessen the antagonism she's showing toward Grandma);
g. she wouldn't be around Bob or the other kids as much either, so she wouldn't have to witness them fighting (tonight Bob thought Ponito took her socks and demanded them back - somehow that ended with violence and one of his shoes in the toilet!), or deal with Bob's hormonal meltdowns;
h. the EMDR therapist has an office downtown so we could go during the day instead of taking up time in the evenings - we might be able to arrange something similar with the AT as well;
i. I could get a pretty good idea of how many pages of schoolwork is reasonable to expect from her.

Hubby does NOT want Kitty at work. He does not want her disrupting the staff (several times at work she's yelled, screamed and pitched major fits). He feels it will look unprofessional to staff and particularly clients. He worries that his work will not get done if he has to babysit Kitty (she hates having him supervising her - so that is usually what ends up happening if she loses control).

Last problem. Kitty will most likely HATE the idea and very likely WILL pitch those fits Hubby is worried about. While I could fairly easily take time off work, I feel that being home is not a good idea for Kitty - there are too many distractions (toys, TV, pets, and no Hubby for back up).

So here's my tentative solution.

Right now I have to put Kitty in the FAIR Club for her recent behavior with Hubby since it was so similar to the issues I put Bob in the FAIR club for last weekend (even though I know that hers was caused by her illness). So I'm thinking of giving Kitty a "Choice" - both options I can live with, but of course I'm hoping she'll choose to behave at work with me. Here's how I'm thinking of telling her.

I should put her in the FAIR club where she will have to do a major writing assignment and extra chores in addition to having to do all her school work. Since she can't behave with Grandma she cannot stay home with her on Monday and Tuesday so she can choose to stay home with Daddy and do her school work.

HOWEVER, I have decided to be a nice Mommy and give her another chance. I will not be giving her a writing assignment, but she will be on "probation." I've heard that she is having a lot of issues with being sick at school (headaches, tummyaches). I want her to know I'm listening and I do not want a sick child at school. Sick children should be with their Moms. My solution is to take her to work with me on Monday and Tuesday. If she does her work without argument or issue then I will allow her to go back to school on Wednesday. If I hear that she is having issues at school (sick or refusing to do her work) or at home (arguing with Grandma or another child, refusing to do her chores and/or homework) then I will immediately bring her back to work to be with me. If she behaves herself at work, then she can return to school. I think if she sees school as a reward for good behavior then she will work harder to keep it. In the meantime I will keep exploring and trying to remove all other stressors.


Anonymous said...

If you're not needed at work why don't you just stay home with Kitty and let DH run the office? This seems obvious to me so if it's not then please explain.

You could set up a special place for her at home away from TV, computers and other distractions (like windows) to keep her focused. Do it temporarily for now.

Alyssa's Mom said...

I am really curious as to why your hubby doesn't attend therapy with you & kitty? We all go, always, the three of us and have from day 1.

Like I said, just really curious.

Brenda said...

She does look very sad. That is a lot of stressors. My husband only went with us to therapy a few times because he had to use a vacation day each time and miss work. EMDR therapy did make my kids behavior worse before it got better but it was worth it.