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

 

Humor is the Best Medicine

There’s times when you have to laugh to keep from crying. You know those times. You’ve been there. Or when something so incredibly bizarre happens with your RAD kiddo that you just have to bust out laughing. Because yet again it’s something you never thought would happen. But humor is the best medicine sometimes to help us deal with those times when things aren’t so funny.

Particularly as we move into the holiday season where we might be adding even MORE dysfunction to our lives, we need to keep our funny bones active! You need to be able to “go with the flow” and able to throw off some of the craziness that happens during the course of your RAD kiddo day. Not everyone has the ability to retreat to their gorgeous spa bathroom while the nanny takes over the bedtime routine with the kids. So what other options are there? There’s humor.

Finding something funny in every day is a great exercise for your brain. When you smile you look better. Laughter works out your core muscles. There are so many reasons why daily humor is a good idea! And an even better idea is when you can laugh with your RAD kiddos. Trading jokes, watching a funny movie, anything to lighten the mood of a particularly stressful day is a great way to help everyone release the stress.

So as we get into the holiday season, remember to laugh. Remember to smile at your children. Find a humorous book to read. Go get a joke book from the library and keep it around to share jokes after dinner. Keeping this spirit of joy and humor which I know can be hard, will go a long way toward helping the entire family survive and thrive this holiday season.

Until next time,

Shannon

Today Is Veteran’s Day

Today is Veteran’s Day which may on the surface have nothing to do with reactive attachment disorder. But there are so many lessons that the service of our veterans can teach our RAD kiddos. And the military can possibly be a good option for some RAD kiddos who will work well with the structure that the military provides.

Being a Veteran means subscribing to almost everything that’s the opposite of how a RAD kiddo thinks. Military service means being willing to sacrifice for a cause much bigger than yourself. It means living for the goal of the unit. And It means understanding that you are not the one in control. Your training and your education must be your highest priority. And remaining calm even in the most stressful situations is critical.

Now yes, Veterans sound super-human and many are. And that’s why we love them and honor them. Because our country wouldn’t be the same were it not for the amazing men and women who choose to serve. But I’m sure the RAD families reading out there might be laughing thinking that sounds like anyone BUT my RAD kiddo!

Would it be possible to impart some of these Veteran qualities onto our RAD kiddos? Could we use this day to explain how much the actions of our veterans are admired and revered? Yes, I think we can. If you have family members, still living or passed, use today or sometime this week to talk about their service and memories you have or stories you remember. If your child remembers them as well, talk about memories you share.

And if you can, have your family member talk about their service, what it was like and what it meant to them. Hopefully it’s someone that your child likes and looks up to. If so, then they can talk about why it’s important to have qualities of respect, self-control, dedication, a team player. Because a lot of times other people can reach your child when you’ve been saying the same things for years!

And many people have the day off today. So hopefully you can find some good time for self-care today. No kids to shuttle to school and activities. No homework to check. Don’t even have to get the mail! Find a few minutes of quiet time to read or reflect. Take a moment to say, “Thank you” to all those who have allowed us to have the life we have in the U.S.

Happy Veteran’s Day and thank you to all the readers who have served.

Until next time,

Shannon

Thankful for the Bad Times

We are into November which is the month here in the U.S. where we start to consider all that for which we are thankful. Many of my friends on Facebook do a daily post giving thanks for something in their life. It’s always something good. But for those of us with RAD kiddos sometimes thinking of 30 days of good things can be hard. So I thought it might be good to figure out how to be thankful for the bad times.

Thankful for the Bad Times? Yes it sounds crazy. But the bad times can be a chance to learn, a chance to grow and sometimes a chance to bond. They don’t always have to send you down that dark hole you think you’ll never come out of. Yes, sometimes they can be beyond awful. But families that work together can make the bad times a chance to connect and talk through the problems they have.

Here is my list of bad times for which I am thankful:

  • When August bombed so badly in sixth grade that we had to pull him out so that I got to homeschool him. That was terribly hard to do but I got more time with him. I was also not pulled between two schools so I was able to be more available for his brother as well.
  • When August went to residential treatment. While I missed him horribly and felt like a complete failure as a parent, it was a break our family needed. I was able to spend some quality time with his brother. August was able to get some intensive therapy. And we got Mia the dog which has been a wonderful addition to our family!
  • Almost all the times August got arrested. I have mentioned before that I have spent so many nights since he became an older teenager wondering where he was. And waiting for the sheriff to come up the driveway with devastating news. When he’s been in jail I’ve known he was safe, warm and getting food. It seems weird for a mother to wish her son in jail, but when the alternative is some of the places August has chosen, it’s the better of the two.
  • The times when I’ve stood my ground with August, hung up the phone or not let him in the house. See item two about feeling like a complete failure as a parent. But preserving myself and our family sometimes has meant setting boundaries that have been hard. After the fact August has understood why (I think). Though the rage and the hurt in his voice still ring in my ears. But the alternative was not being around now that he needs me more.

So maybe this year you can find a way to be thankful for the bad times too. I intentionally don’t put any religion into this blog, but this is a story that I came upon many years ago that fits so well with this theme that I am including it here.

Until next time,

Shannon

Election Day here in Indiana

It’s election day here in Indiana and many other states across the country. Did you vote? Do you have a RAD kiddo who’s eligible to vote? I was wondering about how elections and voting connect with reactive attachment disorder. Does it?

Elections and voting are about choosing. Making your voice heard. And letting your government know your opinions on the issues that are important to you. Here in my community we have two very different referenda on the ballot. One is to decide whether or not to bring a casino to our town. And the other is for a tax increase to support our school system. Then we also have a Mayor’s race which is very close including candidates from three parties.

But what does election day here in Indiana have to do with RAD? As I mentioned, elections and voting are about making your voice heard. Isn’t that what our RAD kiddos spend a lot of their time doing? And wanting to have choice, i.e. control? I wonder if election day isn’t a good time to talk about how we make choices and the importance of looking at the pro’s and con’s of an issue or a person before making a decision. Of course, our RAD kiddos are so impulsive with their decision-making and weighing the merits of their choices is rarely part of the process.

Elections are about understanding what matters most to you and your family. And sometimes it may be understanding about what matters most for your community which may make your life a little harder. The school referendum will mean my taxes will go up. And I don’t have a child in this school system. But this school system finally has a new superintendent after years of crooked mismanagement resulting in an FBI investigation and arrest. And even with this tax increase they are planning a $5 million budget cut that won’t require layoffs. However, it’s a smart plan which I could get behind. Some may not agree, but it made sense to me.

Helping our RAD kiddos understand how to make their big (and little) decisions by using our elections as an example may show them how to look at all sides of an issue. Because it can help them realize that things may not always look like they think they do. And it’s OK to stand up for what you believe in.

I hope you were able to get out and vote if you needed to. And that your kiddos are having a great week!

Until Next Time,

Shannon

A Story That Rang Too True

Well this isn’t at all what I was going to write about today. I had a light fluffy piece full of inspirational quotes planned out and in doing some research came across this old 20/20 story from four years ago. And it rocked me to my core. Here is a story that rang too true.

I don’t know how I hadn’t seen it before. It’s completeness in how it talks about reactive attachment disorder and all the ways parents and adoption organizations and therapists get it wrong was startling. And it’s thoroughness in how it shows what RAD kiddos go through was so impressive.

So here is the link to the story. It’s 40 minutes long so get settled in with time for watching the whole thing. What will jump out at you immediately is how little information the adoptive parents at the center of the story seem to get or take seriously about RAD. They talk about it initially as the cause of the first disruption. But they don’t talk about educating themselves about RAD. And I have a hard time believing that a therapist said, “Just love them enough.”

Second, there is a lot of focus on the concept of “rehoming”. That is avoiding child abandonment charges by finding a suitable family to adopt the children before surrendering your parental rights. And the end of the story talked about states passing legislation outlawing rehoming. But I’ve done some research and haven’t been able to verify states that have actual laws on the books except Wisconsin. But I also couldn’t find current information. But for information on rehoming and what it means, check out here.

This has really rattled me. I know this happens. The story that got a ton of attention of the woman in Tennessee who put her Russian adopted son on a plane back to Russia happened right about the time August got diagnosed. Because I remember his psychiatrist (the wonderful one that finally gave us the diagnosis!) asking if I’d heard about it and what I thought. I remember saying I can imagine the pain she was feeling and the despair but I can’t imagine making that decision.

I would love to know your thoughts on these issues. Particularly if you’ve adopted from foster care or adopted older children. Do you feel like you got enough training/information on RAD? If you got any, was it still not enough and why?

There’s so much to still understand about how trauma affects the little brains of these children. And how to heal what that trauma does. But we have to keep working at it.

Until Next Time,

Shannon

Did You Survive Halloween?

Halloween is always one of those holidays that can be some of the most fun or one that you absolutely dread. Scary stuff, loads of sugar, staying up way past bedtime…what could possibly go wrong? This year, with Halloween coming on a weeknight it adds to everything with then getting up and having to go to school the next day. So did you survive Halloween?

When August was little, Halloween was better than Christmas. Not something he’d ever experienced in Russia, the prospect of going door-to-door and having people just hand over candy? Too good to be true. He’d almost bathe in the pile of candy he’d have after the haul. I’d have to steal away a bunch of his candy and hide the rest so he didn’t fall into a sugar coma (unfortunately that also meant eating too much myself!)

I made August’s first costume. I had plunged into the mommy thing and I thought that came with some magical sewing skills I didn’t actually possess. So of course, I chose what I thought was a simple enough tiger costume with a velcro back closure, elastic arms and legs, a stuffed tail and a hood with ears. Doesn’t sound so bad, right? I was literally sewing him into it Halloween night. It wasn’t perfect, but he looked adorable and it was perfect for me to do it! And then his brother wore it, it had a good life in the dress-up box and then as costumes for a friend’s two children. So I guess I did OK!

When both boys were old enough to trick-or-treat then it got even more interesting. Because it added arguments over where to go, how long to stay out and negotiations over candy to the mix. Because one parent had to take the boys and one parent had to stay and hand out candy so some compromises had to happen. August has always had boundless energy and stamina so staying out as long as possible and running from house to house to grab as much as he could would always be his plan. Having a younger brother who wasn’t as quick and didn’t have as much staying power was just a drag.

Certainly the most frightening thing was when August was old enough to go out by himself. Trusting that August would be polite. That he would be respectful at those houses that just leave out the bucket with the sign that says, “Please take one”. That he will stay with the friends he leaves with and stay in our neighborhood. All those normal parent worries that are magnified times a million when you have a RAD kiddo.

So how do you handle Halloween? Have you ever just had to cancel it completely? Did you ever end up far away from home with a raging child and a long walk ahead of you? A meltdown in the costume aisle? RAD takes the joy out of so many occasions. Our visions of the perfect family holidays get dashed by one tantrum, one manipulation, one controlling behavior.

Halloween works the same as all holidays. Set reasonable expectations. Don’t fantasize a picture perfect day. Have a back-up plan. Make sure the family knows all the rules before setting out so there’s no attempts (well, less of an attempt) at negotiating when you’re away from home. And already have a plan for that candy!

I hope you had a great holiday! Now it’s full steam ahead into Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas!

Until next time,

Shannon

Handling Report Card News

Handling report card news was always a tense time in our house. Sometimes the results were going to be obvious based on behavior and activity I had seen during the quarter. Sometimes he was dancing on the edge and it was more of an unknown. But it might lead to a conversation that neither of us wanted to have.

August was not a great student. Let me rephrase that. He did well early on. Elementary school was good because he enjoyed school and was still interested in learning. There were enough other classes plus recess to provide the variety his ADHD needed to keep him stimulated. But starting with middle school, the wheels fell off. The temptations of cell phones and students who also weren’t interested in school began.

By the time he was into his teenage years he couldn’t care less about the value of an education. And that was reflected in his school work and his attendance at school at all. I was racing the clock to see if I could get him graduated before he turned 18. We tried private school designed for behaviorally challenged students. He got kicked out. He moved with me and enrolled in a new public school. Disaster. The plan was to try the alternative high school but he turned 18 and I’d lost the fight.

He’s had a couple chances during his multiples stints in jail to get his GED but he has yet to agree that getting even his high school diploma would be useful. And that’s now that he will be in the world with so many more strikes against him. Maybe as he matures his opinion will change. I continue to hope.

Now it’s not every child with reactive attachment disorder who has trouble in school. But there is a better than average connection between RAD and school problems. Behavior issues at school and at home will certainly get in the way of successful learning. But how can you help your child make that connection to what shows up on the report card?

Here are a few ideas on how to handle report card news with your RAD kiddo to make it less confrontational.

  • Praise the Positives: Find something good wherever you can. If your child is not doing well in core subjects but is great in PE or art, celebrate that! Yes, it would be better if they were getting those good grades in Math and English. But starting with the positive sets a good tone for the rest.
  • Make sure it’s a conversation, not a speech: Remember that your RAD kiddo is a control freak? A two-way conversation about the report card will have a much better outcome than you coming at them with, “What happened here!?!” You will certainly learn more and you may learn things you didn’t know (remember, from your great relationship with the teachers we set up at the beginning of the year?)
  • Emphasize progress and proficiency, not perfection: If you were a straight A student, good for you. But your child may not ever be. However, if they went from a C- to a C, do a dance!
  • Set a meeting with the teacher: If things really seem to have gone off the rails, then you need to hear first-hand what’s going on. And definitely include your child if it is appropriate. Also IEP team and any others that may need to be involved. Make sure your RAD kiddo knows that it’s not because they’ve done anything wrong but because you want to make sure everything is being done to make sure they’re able to be as successful as possible.

I think report cards are a great time to take a breath and reset the education clock. When the days are crazy and it’s hard to keep track of how things are going this will give you both a chance to talk and celebrate and make plans. So make sure there’s the celebration part! To help with that, here are some great ideas!

Until next time,

Shannon

Getting Your RAD to do Chores

As Dr. Phil says, “How’s that working for you?” For children with reactive attachment disorder, chores can be the hill they choose to die on. It is a hard concept for them to come to grips with for several reasons. They don’t feel like they are part of the family so they don’t feel like they need to contribute. Rewards don’t work because they only respond to immediate gratification. Their need for control means that they rarely like being told what to do. So what is the key to getting your RAD to do chores?

When August was young I probably used every reward chart invented to try and get some cooperation and help. Magnets with pictures, charts with bright colors, ones he could draw on himself to be proud of. Nothing worked. Waiting a week for a reward was an eternity for him. And he decided that the work wasn’t worth the reward or the wait. Now I did get the boys to clear their dishes from the table and put them in the dishwasher (no idea how!) And when they were older I did get them to figure out that if they wanted their clothes washed they needed to get them to the laundry room. But those were my two chore miracles!

When he got older I tried to have some conversations with him about the responsibility of being a member of the household and the family and what goes along with that. That was pretty much a non-starter. He got an allowance that came with some chores. But it seemed like there was always a battle to get them done. And he was the king of the path of least resistance.

Why do we have to clean our room

Now of course, some of this comes with every child. Rebellious teenagers are common no matter what the situation. But with our RAD kiddos it gets harder when they don’t feel connected to the family or accountable to a parent they haven’t bonded with. Talking back or refusing is nothing when they feel no regret or remorse. If they don’t care to make the family happy or the home better, getting your RAD to do chores may seem like an impossible task.

A lot of living with a RAD kiddo is answering the, “what’s in it for me” question. Because that’s the only thing they want to know. And while making chores transactional isn’t what we want to do, it may be the way to get things done until things get better. I found it makes for an easier conversation and less stress for all concerned.

Here is a list of three apps which help with this process. I have used Chore Monster with the boys and they loved it. Whenever either of them wanted money, I could load up some jobs I needed done in the app and they could go to work!

I would love to hear your ideas and success stories of how you’ve gotten chores done with your RAD kiddos. Let us all know what you have found that works!

Until next time,

Shannon