Is Writing Difficult for Your Child?

The question of the day: is writing difficult for your child? And by difficult, I don’t just mean the content, thinking up the words. Is the actual physical act of writing difficult for your child as well?

When August was in second grade, I finally was able to get him an IEP. I’d been asking since the day he walked into the building. I knew he was going to need extra help. First of all, he wasn’t first language English so he was behind the curve right there. Second, after preschool and what I’d been seeing from working with him at home, I knew he was behind. Our IEP meeting included an occupational therapist and the decision was made to have her evaluate him. That was a God-send.

Her conclusion was that his fine motor skills were underdeveloped. Possibly from his early delayed development and possibly from his ADHD but she wanted to include OT with his IEP plan. I was find with his getting any and all help that was offered! She worked with him every couple of weeks. writing in shaving cream, strengthening exercises with balloons, all designed to help his writing.

After elementary school, this aspect of his IEP translated to middle school as a typing class. He was pulled out and given a typing class to make him better at typing to replace his inability to write well. Now this one I had mixed feelings about. Yes, the whole world lives on computers and smart phones. And he probably won’t ever miss not being able to write quickly or all that legibly I thought. But guess what you don’t have in prison? A computer or a smart phone.

And then his IEP was further modified so that when he did all his papers, he was allowed to go directly to typing them. Most of the time the requirement was there was a written first draft and then the students typed the final draft. Anything that lessened the anxiety of the part of school that stressed him out the most seemed like a good move. And when he finally got a smart phone boy was he ready!

But there’s also the content side of writing. Crafting stories with creative words and painting pictures on paper. Or being able to read something and then digest it and summarize what you’ve read into a paragraph or paper. This is a problem of a different kind for young writers. And often much harder to overcome.

August has been tested every which way over the years. He has never officially been diagnosed with a learning issue, I have always believed he has some sort of issue where language is concerned. I don’t know if it’s connected to his ADHD, or RAD or something completed different. But his reading has always been so hard for him. So being able to read and then write about what he
read was challenging. We even added extra tutoring at Sylvan when he was in
fifth grade to help improve his reading and writing. All that did was
exacerbate the rages and fights over school because of the added time spent in
“school”. I’m not sure it moved the needle much if any.

Not every child will develop a love for writing. But there are ways to help
your child improve their writing skills. If they have an IEP, they can also be
evaluated by an OT to check their fine motor skills. If they also have fine
motor skills issues, an OT can be added or, as was done with August, typing can
be introduced. The ability to write shouldn’t get in the way.

And of course you can find everything online, so here is a website
with some great games and ways to encourage writing for your child. It helps
with learning both content and typing skills.

Teachers say that writing is something that will be useful no matter what
career your child will choose. And it is probably true. So help your child
overcome their fears and insecurities. And help them learn to appreciate the
value of writing.

Until next time,

Shannon

 

How to find out what your child thinks of school.

For many years I would ask August at the end of a school day what was his favorite part of his day. That had to be quickly followed by, “Besides lunch and recess.” Otherwise, I got one of those two answers. Which was pretty predictable. For a child with ADHD and other undiagnosed learning issues as well as reactive attachment disorder, school can be a pretty tiresome and frustrating place. So I’ve put together some ideas on how to find out what your child thinks of school. In case you’ve experienced the same dilemma.

Every child usually has a favorite subject or a favorite teacher. That is the best place to start. Asking open-ended questions like, “What is your favorite teacher’s favorite word?” or “What did you work on in [insert favorite subject]?” These kinds of questions will hopefully get you more than one-word answers. And will then foster more questions and more conversation.

Asking questions about peers is also helpful. You might not be able to learn about specific children but you might be able to get a read of the room. Questions like, “Who said something funny today?” or “Who would you like to sit beside?” Now a quick word, this last question can be very helpful. August had a gift. He could seek out in any situation, the one child who could get him in the most trouble. Like a heat-seeking missile, he had the ability to find the one child he could connect with who had just as much ability to get into mischief as he did. He did it in school, summer camps, extra-curricular activities, you name it. It really was a gift.

I would recommend keeping some notes, particularly if some of the answers give you pause, to discuss at teacher conferences. You and the teacher can compare notes and it may give you both a more well-rounded picture of what your child is feeling about their school experience.

I found this article which has many more questions, some of them really funny! Whatever questions you ask, make sure your children know you are interested in more than their grades and their homework. Make sure they know you care about how they feel about being in school. Particularly with RAD kiddos, that may be harder to get to but it’s much better to put in the work than be caught off guard when the explosion happens, right?

Until next time,

Shannon

Talking to teachers about Reactive Attachment Disorder

https://youtu.be/xlyBfInS7ec Wouldn’t this be wonderful? For RAD kids, school can be a series of landmines. And teachers can set those mines without even realizing it and certainly without intending to. When August started in school I couldn’t get him and IEP for RAD; I had to get him one for ADHD under the “other health impaired” category. His learning issues didn’t show up on any tests. Yet his behaviors were classic RAD behaviors. It wasn’t until second grade that we found a therapist who gave us a proper diagnosis and fourth grade that we found a school who heard me and I started to find my voice for my son. Below is a letter developed by Nancy Thomas who is one of the most widely recognized therapists in the field of attachment disorder. I purposely do not advocate for any particular treatment on this site as I believe it is up to the parents and the family to decide what is going to be the best for their child and their needs. But this letter does lay out exactly what a teacher can expect from a child and how to respond and how to interact with a child and their family to hopefully get the best outcomes. https://www.attachment.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Letter-to-Teachers.pdf Going forward, we will talk about more specific issues. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments, share your stories and sign up by email if you’d like to receive these posts directly to your inbox! Till next time, Shannon  ]]>

AHHH…

“Here’s a nice way to warm up your body inside and out on a chilly morning: Start by sitting and rubbing your palms together, just as you would to warm up your hands outside. Rub, rub, rub for about 30 seconds (that’s longer than you think), then cup your warm palms over your eyes. Feels good, right? Relax and let the gentle heat from your hands soften your face. Feel the space between your eyebrows releasing, your jaw releasing, your whole face softening. Notice what’s happening with your breath during this nice hand-to-face contact. Is it flowing a bit more easily? Slide your warm hands down your face to your neck, rubbing the tight spots a bit. Then slide them down your torso and let them land on  your legs. Give the tops of your thighs a few rubs, feeling their strength. Then massage your knees in a circular motion, bringing some warmth to these joints. Take your hands around to your lower back, rubbing that broad stretch that tends to get achy. Now let your hands drop down to a comfortable spot on  your lap, take a big breath, and sigh it out. Close your eyes and just sit quietly, breathing your natural breath. Enjoy the space between each breath, when nothing is happening. Stay for as long as feels good. Then slowly open your eyes. Keep that sense of relaxation with you as your stand up and move into your day.” -By Cyndi Lee (cyndilee.com) Cut this out and put it next to your bed or tape it your fridge. Maybe the bathroom mirror if it’s the only place you can be alone! But make yourself this promise to make some time for yourself every day…you cannot be the best parent if you are not the best you. If you like this, please sign up for future posts with your email address and they will come straight to your inbox! And I love comments!]]>

What to Say when you Don't know What to Say

  •  Say nothing at all. Sometimes a lot of help is…well, too much. Particularly in the early days of a RAD diagnosis, there is a lot of confusion and chaos as decisions are made about what is best for the child and the family going forward. And with RAD being so unknown, many well-meaning friends and family can offer a lot of unsolicited advice. Being the friend who offers to talk about football, music, cooking, books or anything that reminds us of the happy things in life can be invaluable. Or maybe offering to just come and sit in the quiet. You have no idea how amazing quiet can be.
  • Fall back on a heartfelt cliché. Here’s the honest truth, not a fan of this one. Anyone who’s ever been in my life knows I hate birthday cards that rhyme so naturally clichés wouldn’t work for me either. But in a pinch, they work. A sincere, “I’m sorry for what you’re going through,” can go a long way for tired, sad parents. Don’t be afraid to reach out even if that’s the most you’ve got to say.
  • Acknowledge specific pain. Parents of children with RAD didn’t ask for this. And they didn’t cause this. And neither did their child. They are dealing with the results of either early abuse or trauma prior to the child’s adoption or early medical issues which prohibited infant bonding. But quite possibly the behaviors their child exhibits may cause shame as if they should be “better parents” and that they should be embarrassed over how their children are acting. This pain over feeling this way about their own children can be overwhelming. Listening to your friend or loved one and helping them take away its power will help it dissipate. 
  • Open the door to conversation. When a family has a child with any kind of special needs the instinct is to hide away. It’s just easier. So as a friend or family member, one of the nicest things is to keep them in the light. Don’t let them go down the rabbit hole of being consumed by the child or crisis of the moment. Giving the opportunity to talk of successes or accomplishments will help keep the balance and remind them that it’s not all chaos and disaster. 
  • Say (or text), “Dinner is on your doorstep”. So not everyone is a social butterfly. Some people would rather pull off their fingernails than initiate a conversation. If this sounds like you, but you’d still like to find a way to help out those families with a child with RAD, consider trading words for deeds. Taking a meal is a great option. If you have children of a similar age, offer to take the non-RAD kids for a movie or overnight. If you are a neighbor, shovel the walk when it snows. These may seem like small efforts but you have no idea how much relief they bring a family who is in crisis mode 24/7.
  • I’d love to hear other ideas you may have about what has helped you when you’ve needed it most. When you’ve got a child with RAD it can feel very isolating because the disorder is not very well understood. Thanks for reaching out. We love you friends and family!  ]]>

    A New Blog is Near!

  • Self-care
  • Education
  • Family
  • Well…everything else!
  • With these in mind, I have plans for four posts a week in the categories of:
    • All About Me Monday (self-care, balance)
    • Teacher Tuesday (Education, teacher information, homework ideas)
    • Whatever Wednesday (This will be topical information based on the week’s news, feedback from readers, information I get that I want to share, personal stories)
    • Family Friday (Marriage, siblings, mealtime, discipline)
    I would love your thoughts and ideas of other topics you might like to see. I will also start offering takeaways for teachers and parents as soon as I get rolling with doing four blogs a week! Whew! As always, thank you all for your support as I set off on this new adventure. It is truly a labor of love and I feel you cheering me on! Peace, Shannon  ]]>

    National Adoption Day

    eb944b59ce468f8c17c8d401a05c09d1Today is National Adoption Day. The pinnacle of National Adoption Month. As you may have (or may not have) noticed I have been on a little hiatus as I have been working on retooling the site. The ultimate goal will be to create a resource for other families like mine with children with Reactive Attachment Disorder.

    But back to today. The purpose of this day and month like awareness days/months for every other issue out there (World Toilet Day is tomorrow!) is to bring attention and hopefully get folks to consider action. Many cities across the county clear court calendars to hold finalization ceremonies for adoptions which can normally have a long wait. In 2016, over 687,000 children spent time in foster care and the average time in the system is two years. The average age of a child entering the system is seven. Of those in foster care, more than 20,000 aged out, meaning that at age 18 they were released from the system with no permanent home or support. On any given day, more than 438,000 are in foster care.

    Making the decision to adopt is not at all easy. For many it comes at the end of a painstaking journey of infertility. Which is what it was for us. Seven long years of heartbreak and loss and frustration. Friends and family who mean well but don’t know what to say. Baby showers and Mother’s Days going by again and again as horrible reminders of what was being denied to me. 

    Agreeing to move to adoption felt like being broken. Something God had built me for that everyone else my age was doing (and every 16-year-old on Jerry Springer) so easily and I had failed. It just didn’t seem like I could love and parent an adopted child the same as my own…boy was I about to get schooled.

    So we moved ahead. Three choices:

    • Private Infant
    • Foster Care System
    • International

    I couldn’t get my brain around a private adoption. The idea of getting a newborn was appealing but meeting the birth mother and at the time they were mostly open adoptions (a relationship with the birth mother was maintained, she had visitation, got photos, letters, etc.) was difficult for me. I could not get past feeling like I would just be a long-term babysitter.

    After attending classes about adopting from the foster care system, August’s dad was not comfortable with that option. The classes paint the worst possible scenario to show just how damaged children in the foster care system can become from repeated placements, attempts at reunification, abuse and neglect that got them removed in the first place and more. He did not believe he was ready to deal with that kind of trauma…again, little did we know what we were about to face.

    So international it was. Russia was picked because it was a country we’d probably never vacation to and because the child would most likely look somewhat like us so we wouldn’t automatically have to explain the adoption story every time we walked through the door. Of course we did, and August by the time he could speak in full sentences was introducing himself as, “Hi, I’m August, I’m from Russia.” So any attempt at secrecy was lost.

    Previous posts have obviously revealed that parenting my adopted child has been anything but a walk in the park. It has been the hardest thing I could have ever imagined. Nothing the foster care classes dreamed up came even close to what I’ve dealt with. This adorable round-faced stranger who spoke no English was placed in our care to raise and love for the rest of his life. This neglected, abused, damaged, traumatized child who would reject all efforts to care for and love him and instead grow up hardened and controlling and impulsive leading to such a difficult life.

    Would I change anything? Of course not. I am August’s mother. It is my greatest blessing. From the outside I am sure it is hard for others to see how the joys have so very far outweighed the trials. I am the proud adoptive mom of a beautiful, sweet boy. His name is August Mikhailovich Prokhorov, now August William Giles. He did not grow under my heart, but in it.

    If you are an adoptive parent or are adopted or know someone who is, celebrate this day and month. And please share your adoption stories…I love them!

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    The Future

    “When the past no longer illuminates the future, the spirit walks in darkness.” -Alexis de Tocqueville

    Parents of children with Reactive Attachment Disorder are no different. They have the same dreams for their children. Before they receive a diagnosis there’s no thought that the future might not include everything they are dreaming of. After the diagnosis, and as the reality sets in, the ideas of the future start to take on a very different view. What kind of therapy will my child need? Will my child be able to be in regular classrooms? Will my child be able to continue living at home? Will we have a relationship as our child becomes an adult? Will our child be able to heal? All of these questions and so many more have gone through my head over the years with August. Because of his violent and volatile behavior, I can add some even scarier thoughts. Is this the night the sheriff shows up to tell me he’s been killed? Will he get angry enough to physically harm me? Will I get angry enough to physically harm him? Will time in prison make a difference or make him a better criminal? I know as most parents do that at some point we have to let go and know that we have done all that we can do. What our children become is at some point out of our control. I have been watching on Facebook this week as many of my friends are moving their children to college for their freshman year. August would be a junior this year if things had gone as planned. I can’t even get him to complete his GED. He doesn’t see the point. I continue to ask and prod because that’s what parents do but I also know that it’s not my choice to make and if he doesn’t see the value nothing I say is going to matter. I have been thinking much about the future recently because I am considering the future of this blog. The last few months have been very cathartic. I started writing at a time that I needed to write for me. And if anyone found it helpful that was fine but it really didn’t matter. I needed to write. And it served its purpose. But over the years since August has been diagnosed I have had people tell me I should do this or that I should be a therapist for others who are dealing with similar situations. My experiences with law enforcement and the school system have shown much need for educating about children with RAD and I always imagined finding a way to work with these groups. So here’s the deal. Going forward I will still be telling my stories but I am going to fold this blog into a website designed for other families and anyone who is involved with a child with reactive attachment disorder. My vision is to create a community of resources for parents, teachers, law enforcement, extended families and others. There would be advice from professionals as well as hands-on tools that families can use. I have seen other blogs that are for home-schooled children or children with special needs that are mostly medical but I really want to focus on RAD because it is so very different from medical issues and from any other mental health issue and still so unknown. And that’s my plan for the future. If you’d like to be a part of it here’s how you can help. Please subscribe to my blog if you currently just read it off of Facebook or LinkedIn. I don’t want to bore you with the details but it helps. Please share it! You may not know anyone with a child with RAD but someone you may know might. If you are a praying type, always welcome. I hope you’ll stay tuned to see what my future holds as well as August’s.

    Map out your future-but do it in pencil. The road ahead is as long as you make it. Make it worth the trip.

    -Jon Bon Jovi

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