An idea and advice for special needs moms

28 07 2009

If you read my blog often, you probably know that my daughter who is 5 has chronic PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder.)  The chronic part means that she’ll probably always have anxieties related to certain situations.

One of the most disconcerting parts of PTSD is the anniversary effect.  For foster parents – this means out of the blue, life goes flipping crazy!  It took us about a week to realize that all of Alyssa’s major changes in life had happened right around Halloween.   She had been sketchy and nervous for about a week before a caseworker visit so we mentioned to the cw that she had separation anxiety and that she needed to tread softly.  Historically, caseworker visits had not gone well with the children.  The kids would get so scared, they’d freeze like a deer in headlights and wet their pants where they stood.  It took days of hugging and rocking and reassuring before things went back to normal. Alyssa has a defense mechanism of telling people what they want to hear when she gets scared.  She wants them to go away – and telling them what they’re asking gets them to go.

So, the caseworker came and it went like normal for those visits.  My sister was in the hospital, so I was heading out the door and Shaun was going to put the kids in bed.  Alyssa did not sleep that night or the next three.  She regressed all the way back to infant stage and blocked out the entire world.  She would not leave my side, even to go to the bathroom and when I turned my back, she grabbed my razor and tried to cut herself.  She would only play with some baby toys I kept for my nephew when he visited.  This was not normal anxiety – this was scary.  (Later we realized this had happened with her last foster parent as well before she moved in with us – on exactly the same date.  She had pulled large patches of hair out and had sores all over her head when she came to us.)

We called everywhere we could think of but on a weekend with a 4 year old child, there aren’t too many resources available.  There’s a crazy long waiting list for any children’s hospital equipped to deal with mental health issues.  We were told just to provide 24/7 supervision and to do what we could.

I did what I do – I got online and signed into a foster parent support group I was a member of.  One of the ladies who I love totally to death suggested a blanket that was satiny on one side and fleece on the other.  She said it was what calmed her children when nothing else would.

Children are incredibly tactile.  They will sit there and rub something in between their fingers for hours.  They love sand, water, hair, everything they can get their little fingers and cheeks on.

I gave Shaun a kiss, and headed out to the mall.  I got this blanket, a white noise machine that played jungle animals across the ceiling along with a lullaby, some pacifiers, and some aromatherapy stuff.

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It’s easy to find stuff to sooth babies.  It’s not so easy to find a blanket that is fleece on one side and satiny on the other.  I got it home, sprayed it with the aromatherapy stuff (chamomile and vanilla,) wrapped her up in it and sat in the rocking chair.

Thank God, the internet, and foster parent support group – she got two hours of sleep.  That blanket went with us EVERYWHERE for weeks.  She rubbed it, she sucked on it, she wrapped baby dolls in it, she wore it like a cape.  It still holds special honor in her bed by laying next to a fleece covered body pillow.

So, etsy family, I need you guys to make that more available!  Moms who need something to help with your child – try one of those blankets.  My friend said her children with PDD-NOS, autism, separation anxiety, drug addictions, and developmental delays all loved it.  It’s helped Alyssa so much that I’m going to be in the market for one for each boy come Christmas time.

The only thing that could make it better was if it were lightly weighted.  Weighted blankets help people with autism spectrum and anxiety disorders sleep better.  (Really, read the article linked.)  It’s like an all night hug.  I sleep better with tons of blankets – I have OCD which is an anxiety disorder – and it’s easier for me to sleep if I feel secure.  Speaking of that… etsy folks – anyone want to make a grown up blankie?  😀

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New boundaries, therapy edition

24 07 2009

The kids appt went well enough – everything is about the same.  The psychiatrist let us know that today was her last day and they should have a replacement by the time the next appt comes around.  It’s too bad, too.  I like this doctor (all three times we’ve seen her) but I understand the position she’s taking is much better for her.  Hopefully our next psych will work out as well.

The center we go to does monthly health screenings at the same time as the psychiatry screening and it’s done by a nurse.  She’s always a little aloof and distant but today it was just weird.  It’s hard when they fit both kids in at once because I can’t be with them when they do the health screening – I’m with the other one with the doctor.  They have this form they fill out every month and it’s a little intense for elementary school kids.  Stuff like “do you have discharge from your nipples?”

So the first thing that happens when I go in to check on Alyssa – the nurse comes out in the hallway and says “Alyssa says that a male cousin tackles her a lot and he does it because he loves her.”  Ok, they have to ask about this – I’ve actually counseled a number of children who were abused by a relative.

I asked her “did she say anything else about it?”

“No, she thought it was fun.”

I’m trying not to laugh at this point.  The nurse HAS to ask me about it.  Apparently, she didn’t ask Alyssa anything else after she said this, otherwise she would have known.  Alyssa has only one male cousin… and he’s two years old.  He LOVES Alyssa.  Alyssa was one of the first names he learned – right after Mama, Da, and Bob.  He calls me “Lyssa’s Mommy.”  Every time he sees her he squeals A-LYYYYSSSSA! and runs at her full speed.  If he sees me first, he goes “where’s Lyssa? An Cinny – where’s LYSSA?”

I filled the nurse in and she didn’t even smile or act like that fact relaxed her.  The rest of the visit was TENSE to say the least.  Like “did you know that LJ has been having pain when he pees?”  LJ was at the time giving her the silent treatment and staring at his shoes, only answering with a twitch of his chin.  “Alyssa says you gave her a laxative.”

Now – first of all, Alyssa does not know what a laxative is.  Second, she can’t tell last year from yesterday.  This is developmentally normal – and yes, if she’s constipated, I sometimes give her a dose of children’s medicine.  I’m allowed – they sell it, doctors recommend it, and I’m her mother.  She has a pediatrician she sees if it’s too often or if it’s abnormally colored.  Guess what, I don’t have to document it anymore and I really don’t remember if it was two months ago that she was last constipated or a week ago.

During this time, E is in with the psychiatrist, waiting on LJ to get done with the nurse.  He’s not allowed to talk today because he’s been willingly defiant.  So I hear the doctor in there asking him questions.  What part did you not get about me telling YOU that he’s in trouble and his punishment is to not be able to talk – which is his absolute favorite thing to do.  He’s sitting still and being quiet – just ignore him!  The kids are pushing boundaries BECAUSE of the adoption – they are testing me out as a forever mom.  I do NOT need people who should know better to undermine me.

Ethan does not (and did not) want to talk about Mom beating him up – which is what it felt like she was trying to get him to say while I was out of the room.  In my experience, that’s why caseworkers and therapists want to talk to children alone.  He wanted to talk about spider guts and how he stepped in an anthill outside when he was playing.  Those were the first words out of his mouth all at once. He didn’t even want to talk about his most recent reason to be pissed off – Alyssa gets to go to school and he doesn’t – or how he set a fire in the sunroom or how he’s been throwing violent tantrums.  I mean – he’s FOUR.  He’s supposed to be thinking and talking about spider guts.  You aren’t going to get him to talk about anything else by the time I get back.

I thought we’d stop playing these “are you abused at home” games once the kids were adopted – but apparently no.  At least now we don’t have three people a month coming into our house to ask them, but still their mental health workers get to quiz them every time they see them.  How long do I have to be their mom before people stop second guessing my judgment?

I know it’s just my perception because I still get asked when I go to the ER if my husband beats me.  I’m like “it’s a migraine… he didn’t cause THAT.”  It’s just something they have to legally ask so that they don’t come down on the wrong side of the media.  We all have seen the headlines and even judged people without the facts.  We have to believe that there are signs that point towards tragedy, and people are so scared of missing the signs that they lead this very scripted life.

What happens is that the kids end up thinking that they’re asking because I’m doing something wrong or that they need to be worried about.  My job is to give them safety and boundaries – that’s what they need right now.  They need to know that not only am I their protector, but I’m also the law-maker.  When I’m questioned in front of the children about such and such an event, they start thinking that maybe I’m not right.  Their experience has told them that adults aren’t right all the time and sometimes adults hurt little people.

Foster families are built on structure.  Everything is planned, everything goes on the schedule, there are rules for everything.  Everything is documented, everything is scrutinized.  Now that the kids are adopted, I’ve been loosening up the rules little by little.  Things like LJ can ride down the street on his bicycle instead of staying in the driveway.  The kids can spend the night at Grandmommy’s.  We can watch PG-13 movies when Shaun and I agree they’re safe (we don’t worry about curse words – we just don’t allow sex or violence on TV.)  I can walk out in the living room with only my nightgown and a pair of undies on – I don’t have to be robed from head to toe.  We can make stupid jokes when before we’d get disapproving stares from the caseworkers if the kids told one. We’re attempting this idea that we’re a “normal family” now.

The kids know this and they also know the “back-up plan” is gone now that they have forever family.  They’re testing the waters, seeing when how far they can go before they hit a wall.

Ethan hit that wall around noon yesterday.  He’s been skirting it for a week or two.  This morning, he had hit it by 7 am so I told him that I didn’t want to hear another word out of him for the rest of the day.  Then, I have to justify it to the center because if I don’t, I’m afraid they’ll make “that call.”

When we left, Alyssa immediately started in on me with the superiority BS and the defiance.  Before we even got out of the parking lot, I had to have a come to Jesus meeting with her.  Developmentally, this is on target, but damn.  If there was anywhere I should have been backed up on my choice of discipline, it should have been at the center.   Aren’t they there to make life easier on everyone?

So I’m not touchy feely baby-talk kind of mom.  Whatever.  That’s ok.  I tell em how it is and how it’s going to be.  There’s no hinting or “mommy would really like it if…”  These kids are too street savvy to fall for that pleasing adults bull.  It’s easier on everyone if we’re straight up about what’s the rule and what we can negotiate on.

One of the rules is that they don’t get to ask why I said something.  I don’t have to justify myself to a child.  I’m mom – that’s why. I know more than they do and I’m smarter than they are and think about more than they think about.  My decisions are based on reason and logic, but I’m not writing a thesis paper.  I don’t have to defend my choices and my choices are not theories and cannot be treated as such.  “Mine is not to reason why…”  They’re total noobs at this whole life thing.  They don’t get promoted until later on in life.

They better listen too because I control the video game system.  So, they’re adopted.  It’s not an excuse to get what they want.  Whatever –  “adopted” doesn’t mean I have to make up for something that happened to them.  I’m not going to let them use that term for pity or to be spoiled, just like I won’t let it be used against them by the school system.

I guess now I just have to set up the boundaries with the service personnel in our lives.  They didn’t get to go to court with us and they’re still in the habit of treating me like I have to answer to them.  I need to get it straight in my own brain that I don’t have to answer to them either.