This blog was initially set up as a means of communicating with my son's team. Since then, I've heard from other parents with similar stories. If you are living with challenges or journeying alongside someone who is, you are not alone. There are many of us. I'm a single adoptive Mom (http://richesofsimplicity.blogspot.com/) of a young man who lives with many abilities and many diagnoses. We have journeyed together through many challenges and a few adventures over the years as my son has tried to find space in this world that makes him feel more comfortable, an attempt made especially difficult when living with Attachment Disorder, PDD-NOS (Autism), Developmental Coordination Disorder, ADHD, prenatal substance exposure, etc. Some of the strongest elements used in this journey have been music, visual arts, therapeutic parenting, team-connection, boundary-setting, boundary-setting, boundary-setting, communication skills, community-building, continual lifeskills training, and elements of Theraplay. (Click here for some written resources.) On this journey, there is laughter and tears and growth and hope. The greatest of these is hope.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Pre-Adoption and Beyond
I adopted my son when he was 2 years old. His birthmom had been a drug user and street-worker. He was removed from her at birth, placed in foster care, returned to birthmom, then placed in 1 or 2 more foster homes before his adoption placement. The agency presented his adoption information at a meeting for a group of adoptive parents who were in the final stages of their acceptance process. The information presented was with regards to children for whom the agency had not been able to find forever-families for various reasons.
When I spent time with my son's pre-placement foster mom, she said that she kept his clothes in a room other than his bedroom. I never thought to ask her why. She also said that there weren't a lot of foods that he would eat aside from steak and potatoes and canned pasta. Foster Mom said he rarely cried when he hurt himself and, in fact, rarely cried at all. She also said that he loved going to the park but clung to her if other people were around, and that he loved putting on adults' shoes and tromping around the house, but hated wearing his own shoes and would throw them out the car window on occasion when they were driving places. I remember he broke a railing on the crib up in his room one time when Foster Mom and I were visiting downstairs. Another time, he grabbed a knife from the kitchen, ran through the living room, crawled under the dining room table, and put the knife towards an electrical outlet as though he were going to try to unscrew it. Needless to say, Foster Mom and I jumped in on that immediately with Foster Mom talking and distracting him while I crawled under the table, removed the knife, and was able to bring a smiling toddler out from under the table. He was a gorgeous child, and had the sweetest eyes and the sweetest smile.
My son spent a lot of his first few months after placement glued to me. I thought this was wonderful, that my adopted child wanted to be held/carried by me most of the time. He made it very clear, however, that any ideas I had with regards to playtime or activities were not acceptable to him. If I pulled out a puzzle to do with him, he shook his head and pushed it away. Any and all toys received the same response. I could, however, play with his fingers and toes so we counted his toes, counted his fingers, counted my fingers, pretended that toes and fingers each had their own sound, and bestowed many kisses on each of them.
He didn't cry in the mornings when he woke up; just sat in his crib until I came in to lift him out. Then one morning, I found a handful of empty banana peels in his crib. Another morning, I discovered one of my (previously-filled and fairly heavy!) crystal candy dishes in his crib; empty. One afternoon when we were out visiting, an aunt and I watched my son toddle over to the kitchen just after we had finished cleaning up from a wonderful meal. We commented on how cute he was and then we watched in horror and ran towards him as he lifted the lid of the garbage bin, scooped out a handful of coleslaw, and immediately put it into his mouth.
Over the years, there was much discovery of urine and feces throughout my son's room; urine on the floor, walls, and ceiling. There was urine on the window, out the window, and urine in the track of the window frame. And there was frequently urine in the closet; on the walls, on the floor, on the ceiling, in the corners, and yes, on the clothes. Feces was occasionally tucked behind furniture or inside my son's mattress but mostly it was found in the heating vent; daily.
Over the years, little piles of bits of food, wrappers, paper, q-tips, fabric, string, and indistinguishable balls of combined bits were often found behind furniture, under the bed, under sheets, and poked into holes that my son had made in his mattress. Behind his dresser, I once discovered a large hole that housed various items of clothing, an empty peanut butter jar, and a myriad of other bits that had been collected in short order and stashed in the newly-crafted hole. If there was a box of q-tips within his reach, the box would usually be emptied in one shot and the broken q-tip bits could often be found under his bed. My son said they were airplanes that had crashed.
Over the years, there have been many food issues. My son would often refuse to come to the table for meals, and wanted meals brought to his room. There have been many times when it seemed he was doing whatever he could possibly do to ensure he was not eating meals (being naked, refusing to come for meals, going in his room and not coming out, etc.), which would always be followed by him ranting about being hungry. At mealtimes when he did come to the table, he would usually be watching everyone else's plate while he ate from his own. His eating speed would increase if someone took another helping from a serving dish. My son didn't seem to have an understanding of when he was full, and he was eventually assessed for Prader-Willi. Test results were negative. He is capable of eating huge amounts of food without vomitting, though he then often ends up having abdominal pains and/or bowel difficulties later in the day/evening/night. And he has a mind-boggling ability to transport and hide food. He has inhaled a jar of peanut butter and washed it down with a bottle of pancake syrup quicker than you could say the word, "shudder". There have been many many unimagineable food combinations eaten by my son in huge amounts after eating a full meal and in the time it took me to take a quick washroom break. When my son was in Grade 2, he stated that he just wants to eat alone because when he eats with other people he always wants all the food everyone else has.
Over the years, there have been many clothing issues. My son has been naked on many occasions in our home and occasionally outside of our home. There were mornings where I had already dressed and redressed him a few times, carried him out to the front steps, then had quickly run inside to grab my keys and returned to the front door to find him undressed or in the process of undressing in the front yard. Clothing has been urinated across in the closet and in drawers ("Now I can't go to school because all my clothes have pee on them"), and occasionally torn, but mostly they have been stashed away down vents, tossed out windows, hidden behind toilets, hidden in the storage room, taken out with the trash, stuffed inside a ripped-open underside of a mattress or stuffed inside stuffed toys, or taken over to the local thrift store. Yes, we have tried many different types of clothing and fabrics. Pyjamas, on the other hand, were the clothing of choice for the first few years...but that's another chapter!
Well, my hands are telling me that's enough typing for today. This has been a very brief introduction, and will continue with other topics such as "stones" and "school" and "water" before fast-forwarding to the present update of where my son is at now and the successes and celebrations in his life.
For privacy reasons, I will only provide non-identifying information..but if you are alongside someone on a similar journey, my hope is that you will find hope and comfort and peace knowing that you and your family member or friend are not alone, and that there are many many joys and life gifts along the way...